Someone asked me recently, “Do you think ‘traditional’ quilts are boring, now that you make ‘art’ quilts?” I’m certain she was sincere, but my first thought was, “NO!” I have such a high regard for the “traditional” quilt-makers, as they continue a beautiful, time-honored, and under-valued art form in an often quiet and unassuming manner.
I love the old patterns. I was raised with them… Dresden plate, appliqué tulips, double-wedding ring, log cabin, 9-patch, along with numerous others, hold a special place in my heart. I watched my grandmother, mother, and 2 aunts work on quilts, and those pieces are infinitely more dear to me than my own work. Sitting in adjacent chairs, I can just picture their work-worn hands gently moving over the fabric, sometimes talking quietly, sometimes laughing out loud over some antic, but always filled with love for each other, and love of what they were creating for their family.
Thinking of that question for the last week has allowed me time to ponder more deeply…perhaps my Grandma Broyles, who, in her prime, was always cutting a quilt, piecing a quilt, and quilting a quilt, and whose work was almost perfect, might actually like MY quilts? She was a perfectionist, as was my mother, and I have to think they might actually scoff slightly at what I do! They might think it is “art” but not anything they would recognize as a “quilt.”
So where are we as quilters AND artists? I heard Nancy Crow at the Muskegon Museum of Art recently say, “I’m offended that people say I’m an ‘art’ quilter. That is like saying, ‘He’s an ‘art’ sculpture, or she’s an ‘art’ weaver.’ He’s a sculpture. She’s a weaver. Art is art, whatever the form. Making quilts is art.” And yet I often encounter under-currents of distrust and even animosity from one camp to the next. Why is that? My theory is that there is plenty of fabric to go around…make what YOU like! Try new things. Or not!
Do I love the Dresden plates and 9-patches? Absolutely! Do I also like to make them and then slice them into unrecognizable “patterns” that become other motifs? Unquestionably! Do I have to reconcile or justify it? Nope. I just love and appreciate the traditional, as well as jumping in and tinkering with it to make it mine, and make it new.