11 February, 2010

What Does Modern Quilting Mean to Me?

Over at The Modern Quilt Guild this week they've had a series of posts from some significant bloggers in the the modern quilt movement. I've rather enjoyed the conversation, so I decided instead of just commenting on all the posts, I would create my own post. So, what does modern quilting mean to me?

Central to modern quilting, I believe, is the idea of Freedom. Unlike traditional quilting which can feel very restrictive in both construction and design, modern quilting is about freedom. Freedom to throw tradition out the window or tweak it with fabrics, layouts, and improvisation. Freedom to try something new in colours or construction. Freedom to do what you want without fear of the quilt police knocking down your door.

Improvisation is also central to modern quilting.  This doesn't just mean the wonky log cabin. Improvisation is about starting a quilt and seeing where it goes, without a detailed plan. Maybe you could also talk about process here.  When I was asking you about The Whys of quilting, process was something that was central to me at the end of that discussion. I think modern quilting stresses the process as much as the final product (regardless of your technique) and improvisation is central to many a modern quilter.

Even when a modern quilter is using calm colours or simple designs, The end result is always something quite bold.  It might the fabrics themselves, or the final design, but when I think of modern quilts, subtlety does not come to mind.

I know that there are many traditional quilters out there under the age of 40. And there are modern quilters out there over the age of 50. But when I think of modern quilting I tend to think of youth. Perhaps it is because there is an energy to the work and the movement? It might be because most (but not all) of the bloggers I've encountered are closer to my age than my mom's age? But that youthful enthusiasm and energy has, I think, a powerful influence on the quilting world as a whole.

It would be remiss to not mention the role of technology in modern quilting. I don't just mean the design software. Blogs, virtual quilting bees, Flickr, and Etsy are all having a powerful influence on quilting. Have you heard of Web 2.0, where we the readers are also the content providers and help determine the present of the internet? Well, technology has allowed us to have Quilting 2.0 as well. Not only are we connecting and working together in a way that wasn't possible beyond the traditional guild, we are also working with each other projects, lending opinions through workshops and our blogs, and generating a never ending cycle of inspiration.

Finally, I want to highlight, that for me, it is important not to throw out the baby with the bath water. That is, there is a lot in traditional quilting that shouldn't be thrown away just because we like a modern aesthetic. This includes basic technique - we still want a quality piece at the end, not just one that looks good in a small on-line picture.  It also includes colour theory and design basics. We're modern and it is up to us to push the boundaries a little. Like modern architecture though, the building still has to stand on its own.

In a somewhat contradictory twist to this conversation I will be attending my first guild meeting tomorrow, a traditional guild. I'm quite excited about it, and it seems that this guild has some modern tendencies and vibrant members. With The Modern Quilt Guild springing up across North Amercia, maybe one day there will be a Calgary chapter?


Anonymous said...

Thanks Cheryl for posting this! I enjoyed reading it. You've captured exactly the spirit of modern quilting! Hasn't this been fun!

Oh, and you should think about putting a ning group up to see if there is any interest in a Modern Quilt Guild in Calgary. . . Email us if you need support!


jacquie said...

great post cheryl! i feel like we are sisters in this philosophy. right on!!
being one of the 'oldsters' of the movement, i get a lot of energy and inspiration from the youngsters...makes me feel a little hipster and maybe even a little bit 'cool.'

felicity said...

A beautiful articulation of what Modern Quilting is - thank you, Cheryl!

live a colorful life said...

This has been a fascinating week and topic. Your post was well thought out and extremely well articulated.I'm one of the over-50 modern quilters, but I still have one foot firmly planted on the side of traditional construction techniques, with an eye toward modern aesthetics.

Thanks for writing this.

Cristin said...

Well said! Were you an english major? :-)
I agree that FREEDOM is a key to modern quilting... and a splash of great fabric doesn't hurt either!

Angie said...

I'm glad to read that you are joining a traditional quilting guild. One thing that has bothered me about this modern quilting guild movement is the assumption that there isn't room for a modernist in a traditional guild. I actually don't know, because I haven't been in any guild yet. I will try out the traditional guild before attempting to start a modern guild in my new city.

Andrea said...

I think you should start the Calgary Chapter....

KatieQ said...

As someone who has crafted, sewn and dabbled in fiber arts for many years, I am delighted at the resurgence of crafting and sewing in younger women and men. I think young women are making a major impact on the quilting world and it is reflected in the newer fabric lines and threads that are being introduced.

Although I may not always wish to reproduce many of the modern quilts I have seen, I do enjoy the clean, crisp lines and bold use of fabric. I particularly enjoy seeing how people have examined traditional methods and reworked them to suit their own aesthetic.
I like the way modern quilters use bright solid colors with bold geometrics and stylized florals. Years ago, no one could have predicted the revolutionary impact of the rotary cutter on the quilting world. I think that young quilters today are having an even greater impact by their use of technology to bring new methods and approaches to the quilters everywhere.

My size 11 feet are still planted pretty firmly in the traditional quilting world, but my exposure to modern quilt styles and methods has changed the way I look at fabric and re-energized my approach to quilting. I am very grateful to all of the young quilting bloggers who share their energy and talent and continually inspire us. Luckily, there's enough room for all of us.

elle said...

Well said, Cheryl. I believe that what the modern quilter of 1870 made has become traditional today. So modern to me is fresh, innovative and not 'just because'. A modern quilter is secure in her basic traditions but free to add, take away, multiply and divide. She's free to use a bit of magic as well. Free to be innovative but not at the expense of colour theory, good construction techniques and with an understanding of design ethics. Not so much a neccessity, but more about FUN!

M. said...

Excellent "explanation". You hit the nail on the head (for me anyway) and did a much better job than I did trying to describe it.
Cristin above asked if you were an English major...this does come across very well thought out. So were you and English major ?? :-D

Nanci said...

So well written Cheryl...I never think of it as tradition or modern and I just do it. I love the freedom as you so susinctly wrote as being the word of our work.
I've never been to guild, never taken a lesson, but by following all the blogs I do, I've learned so much in the past three years.
It's why I stop by with my coffee cup in hand so often!

chq said...

I'm glad you have added your voice to this conversation...good points, all of them!

Alissa said...

Really really well said and I loved reading your thoughts. It's been so much fun reading along throughout this conversation.

Cheryl Arkison said...

Thanks for all the compliments ladies. I am a freelance writer on the side, so my English classes are paying off, just a little bit.

This entire discussion has been great, I've really enjoyed it.

PS KatieQ, I have size 11s too!

Victoria said...

Very well articulated, Cheryl!
I especially like the nod you gave to knowing tradition in terms of creating well executed work. I remember my 7th grade English teacher trying to explain why e.e. cummings could get away with lower case letters and lack of punctuation, where we would get points taken off if we did the same. Her answer was that, "One needs to truly know the rules before one can break them." I never forgot that, and feel that a good knowledge of traditional quilt making only strengthens our ability to create modern and improvised quilts.

I've enjoyed reading your thoughts as well as the thoughts of others. It's wonderful seeing this movement grow, and a truly exciting time to be a quilter!

Anonymous said...

It has been so fun to read everyone's thoughts. Why don't you start your own guild?

brzeski said...

Quilting 2.0 - that's awesome. Completely sums it up.

vishal said...