Thursday, 11 December 2014

Modern Quilting, Modern Woman. Or not?

My friend Crystal (aka Two Little Aussie Birds) has been running a fantastic series on her blog called Modern Quilting Modern Women. In Crystal's words, 'this series on Modern Quilting, Modern Women celebrates what makes us who we are. How our craft defines us and gives us a creative outlet which pays respect to our mothers and their mothers before them'. Crystal has interviewed some amazing and very influential quilters as part of the series - they are wonderful posts to read, and offer a lot of food for thought. 

Crystal's series has really made me start thinking about my own experience as a quilter and where I fit in the quilting world, and whether I really need to work that tricky little question out at all. I've been slowly writing this post over the last couple of weeks, so it is a pretty wordy post. I've been doing a lot of thinking about these questions (especially 2 and 3), and it's turned into a bit of a self analysis of sorts. It might be confusing too - I'm feeling a bit confused right now and it's really me just thinking aloud. Be warned it may bore you to tears ;o)

1. Tell us about how you started quilting and how you found modern quilting.
Although I've always dabbled in some kind of creative outlet (mostly cross stitch for many years, but a little bit of sewing when I was younger and had access to my mum's sewing machine), I only got my own sewing machine four years ago for Christmas. My youngest child had just been born and I thought it would be fun to start making clothes and soft toys for her. I made a few bits and pieces for Zoe, but then discovered a few free quilting patterns online and decided it might be fun to give quilting a try. I bought a Flower Fairies panel and some coordinating fabric and started my first quilt, without having any clue what I was doing - and the part made quilt top is still sitting in a box somewhere in my sewing room. I decided I needed to learn a bit more about how to actually make quilts, so I bought a beginners guide to quilting magazine and learnt the basics. I have a background in science and maths, so the calculating and precision in quilting really appealed to me, and I found it way more fun than making clothes, so I pretty quickly decided that quilting was something I preferred to do. I shudder when I look at my early fabric purchases now - but it wasn't long before I discovered the amazing online world of modern quilting/modern fabric and fell in love. Completely and utterly. I am completely self taught thanks to the phenomenal amount of knowledge quilters are willing to share in the form of online tutorials, and my fairly hefty collection of quilt books. 


Now, I'm nothing short of obsessed with making quilts, and my nights are spent playing with fabric and thread. It has become my stress relief, my happy place, something that is mine amongst the chaos of raising three small children. And it's slowly becoming my job, as I've started designing for magazines and teaching patchwork and quilting in a local fabric shop. I've never been happier. 

2. What does it mean to you to be a modern quilter and a modern woman? 
I think when I began quilting (around three years ago) I did strive to be 'modern' in what I made. I was very influenced by what I saw other modern quilters doing, and gained a lot of inspiration from the work of others. That hasn't stopped entirely, but lately it has become a choice of whether to spend time quilting, or whether to spend that time reading blogs/IG/Flickr - and most of the time the sewing wins out.  

The other thing is that over time, as I've become more confident with my use of colour and design, I've become less obsessed with trying to fit into any particular aesthetic and just started making what I love. I don't claim to be original with my designs or use of colour - but I like pushing myself to try something new with each project I make, whether it be a new palette, a new piecing technique, or trying something new in terms of how I quilt a quilt.  


If anything, I identify more as a modern quilter than anything else. But having said that, at this point in time (as in literally today) I've decided to completely abandon trying to fit in to any particular brand of quilting and just be happy making what makes me happy and just call myself a quilter. And right now for me that's enough. I can see the importance of defining modern quilting (and I am a founding member of the Tasmanian Modern Quilt Guild), but I don't want to feel limited by defining myself as any particular type of quilter. I'm feeling quite confused by what can be construed as 'modern' in the quilting world at the moment anyway, so I'm quite happy to just keep doing what I do and to hell with trying to define myself.

3. Which quilt that you have made represents you and why?

My most recent finish - my kaleidoscope star quilt which I've renamed Galaxy (thanks to treadlemusic - who incidentally is a no-reply blogger so I haven't been able to thank her for the name idea!!) represents me as a quilter. I poured my heart and soul into this quilt from start to finish, and I am not ashamed to say I am SO proud of it. This is the quilt I entered into QuiltCon (my only entry) and this is the quilt that got knocked back. And I guess this is the quilt that has made me decide that I don't need to define myself as a quilter (modern or not). I don't know whether this is a modern quilt or not to be honest - but it represents me as a quilter more than any other quilt I've made. The fussy cutting, the pops of colour in the stars, and the ridiculous amount of free motion quilting make me happy. 



From the very start this quilt was destined to be a show quilt - the very first time I've deliberately embarked on a quilt project intending to enter it into a show. I have to admit that when I was making it, I wasn't really thinking about whether it could be called modern or not, so it may not have been the best quilt to make with the deliberate intention of entering it into a modern quilt show. I guess  my use of negative space and use of different sized stars in the quilt could be interpreted as modern - but maybe not according to the MQG's definition. I don't know. I'm a bit disillusioned and confused as to what is considered modern right now. I've always felt I fit into the traditional side of modern quilting if anything, and I wasn't expecting it to be accepted, but I was fervently hoping it would be. 

To be brutally honest, I want people to see this quilt. I know it's a really good quilt. It is the best representation of me as a quilter in terms of my skills, and I want people to see the amount of detail I've poured into it both in the piecing and the quilting. I think that's why I'm disappointed it didn't make the cut. I realise it isn't a reflection of me as a quilter that it didn't make it into QuiltCon, but it has really made me question what is 'modern' - because the only reason I can see that it wouldn't be accepted is that it isn't a modern quilt. Okay rant over. I just needed to get this off my chest peeps. 

So on a happier (less whingy) note, I'll get onto the last question...

4. How do you connect with other modern quilters?
Up until the beginning of this year, I only connected with other quilters online - at first by connecting with people via my blog/reading other blogs and then late last year through Instagram. Early this year I approached one of my local fabric shops, Frangipani Fabrics, with the idea that I'd like to start teaching patchwork and quilting classes, and this was where I started connecting with other local quilters. Frangipani took a massive risk taking me on as an unproven teacher - but I feel like I've found my home there. I absolutely love teaching people how to make quilts, and being able to share my passion for it. My co-workers have become close friends of mine, through our shared passion for quilting. Most of the classes I have taught have run over a few months, so I began to get to know my students really well, and I am now proud to call lots of them my friends.  

A few months ago the Frangipani crew and I, along with a few other local quilters, started the Tasmanian Modern Quilt Guild - so that's become another wonderful way to connect with other modern quilters. We have been completely blown away by the response, and already have close to 60 members (not bad for our little island state!).

If you've managed to get all the way through this post I think you deserve huge congratulations. Thanks for reading my ruminations, and please don't judge me for being my (too) honest self! I think this is the scariest post I've ever written and it's taking a lot of guts to press the publish button, believe me.

Massive congratulations to all of you who have had quilts accepted into QuiltCon - I am so excited about seeing them all hanging in Austin in a few months, and I can't wait to meet so many people who I've been friends with online for the last few years. 
xx Jess

41 comments:

Sarah Fredette said...

I love, love, love Galaxy (and the name too!!). It's so hard not to be disheartened by the QuiltCon news - I think a lot of us are going to spend the next few days reflecting. :) I think that Modern is a spectrum, and what the powers that be were looking for was a tiny little sliver of Modern. But maybe we (as a community) need to get more than two terms to describe quilters. Trying to be either Traditional or Modern is hard. Just keep making quilts you love - and enter Galaxy into other shows!!!! Just because the few people at QuiltCon didn't want it as part of their show, doesn't mean others won't!

Barb N said...

There is a fantastic show in Salt Lake City in May - HMQS Home Machine Quilting Show at www.hmqs.org. I plan to attend and would absolutely LOVE to see your quilt hanging there. It would shine in any show you entered.

wobblybobbin said...

Oh, how timely :) I was just scrolling through the QuiltCon "accepts" and "rejects" last night, and there does seem to be a pattern to what was accepted. I thought, "wouldn't it be fun to try next year - I just have to use mostly solids, and lots of negative space"... (And grow a ton in skill!) but none of those things are my style. Thank you for the wake up call of how -not fun- that would be.
I can't wait to hear about all the shows you enter that gorgeous quilt in - it does need to be seen up close and personal, by a lot of people :)

Jennifer said...

Jess- this is a lovely honest post. Thank you for sharing it with the world. <3 <3

Leanne said...

You know you are one of my favourites, you are a great quilter and designer. I love Galaxy and I do think it is a modern quilt, the QuiltCon folks just had a lot to pick from. Don't give up and do keep entering shows. I am looking forward to discussing this with you more in person.

Amy Friend said...

I agree with Leanne completely. Love your quilt and you are very talented.

Renee said...

I totally agree with what you said here. And especially the line "disillusioned and confused" on what modern quilting it. The quilts I entered were some of my best yet, and by far my most modern--and still rejected. If those quilts aren't modern enough (tons of negative space, mostly solids, etc), then I'll NEVER be modern enough for the QuiltCon show. Your quilt is stunning and I really feel like it embodies the whole idea of making a traditional pattern modern, I'm disappointed it didn't get in, but I sincerely hope it does amazingly well at the next show you enter it in! Sending you hugs!

Lynz said...

You are right, it IS a good quilt. A BRILLIANT quilt, in my humblest of opinions. But I am a modern/traditional quilter and for me this sits right in the middle of the two. I think the Quiltcon peeps were indeed looking for a very specific type of quilt this year (I personally think so there was NO question about it being a modern quilt show - they appear to only have taken VERY modern quilts) and yours just didn't fit their very narrow (again, my humble opinion) criteria. You love it, I love it, WE ALL love it - Galaxy rules!

Debby said...

I think your quilt is absolutely beautiful. Make sure others see it. It is definitely a modern quilt.

Ruthann Grace said...

Well written and thought out post. Galaxy is truly, truly, truly an amazing quilt and should be seen......and I am sure it will!

CapitolaQuilter said...

Your quilt is gorgeous and I hope that you find a show or shows to share it in. Sorry it won't be Quiltcon but I'd love to meet you. To me finding your own quilting voice and the freedom to express without judgement is important I'm glad to find online and in person inspiration and encouragement

Corinne said...

I love your post. I think there are a TON of quilters out there that feel exactly like you do. I had similar feelings and reflected on it a few months ago. I've decided that while I have my modern tendencies, I am also pretty darn traditional. I consider myself a "New Traditionalist." :) At the end of the day I decided to do what you said, make what I love and stop defining myself. Galaxy is AMAZING and I envy your free motion skills. I hope you enter it into more shows, because it deserves to be there. The modern quilt world is a strange beast because it encompasses all the quilters who feel like they don't fit into the "traditional" quilt world and who want to draw inspiration from people with a similar aesthetic. At the end of the day, our group is still super diverse with different definitions of modern. Your work is amazing and I look forward to seeing more!

Laura Links said...

Love your post. Love your quilts even more! I can't believe Galaxy wasn't accepted for Quiltcon and I'll be very interested to see what quilts actually were accepted.

Nana said...

Wow, how I love this hexagon show quilt!

Nana

Julierose said...

As a 71 yr old quilter of many years-(-but not a lot of experience with difficult patterns--mostly for grandchildren's bed quilts and parents--)I think that to have to define yourself as "Modern" or not is rather limiting. I think your Galaxy quilt, if as you say, represents the real you and what you like -- that is enough. I am not saying that the Modern movement is not wonderful, but it is not for everyone. And to have to mold yourself into what they (whoever "they" are lol) would not be my cup of tea. March to your own drummer, quilt what you love, life is short...hugs, Julierose

Danielle said...

Very well said Jess. If not at Quiltcon, then your quilt will be seen at other shows and I'm sure it will be much loved and admired. It's a wonderful quilt and you should be really proud. xxxx

Danielle said...

Oh and I wanted to add, just keep making the things you love! That's what gives you the greatest joy - if others like it then that's great too - but first and foremost to make a great quilt we have to make the ones WE love, not the MQG peeps.

greeneggs said...

Thanks for this post. I love your quilts, and find them incredibly inspiring. I think Galaxy is stunningly beautiful. Thank you for sharing your talent and creativity for these past years. I, for one, have taken much joy from your work.

Patchwork and Play said...

You already know my thoughts about this Jess! But I now feel there will be many more awards and recognition for you in the future, knowing you have only be making quilts for four years! I have been at it for nearly 30 and will never have a quilt in a show (not even the Melbourne Show!) Keep doing what you love and your star will shine!

Peaches1003 said...

I love your quilt. I think it is AMAZING. Don't be disheartened by your quilt not being chosen - that doesn't take anything away from it. One day I hope to be able to quilt like that (first I need to get a machine that doesn't throw s hissy fit at more than two layers of fabric..)

kimberlier said...

Wow!!! I am blown away by your free motion quilting. It gives me hope. :) It is a beautiful quilt and I enjoyed reading your post. Thank you for sharing.

Mary said...

Hi Jess! Susan @patchnplay sent me here. I follow you on IG. Honestly, I haven't paid much attention to the whole Quiltcon show until today. I am not sure what they were looking for...your quilt is wonderful and modern. Like Susan, I have been quilting for about 30 years and have worked in quilt shops and for a top designer. I enjoy dabbling in all forms of quilting and am not at all inclined to pigeon-hole myself as a modern or a Tradtional quilter. There are things to love about both. It's important to do what makes you happy!

Michelle@factotum-of-arts.com said...

I love the quilting in your Star quilt, in fact, it is inspiring and something I would like to inspire to become with FMQ. I do not think you should let the fact that your quilt was not accepted define this quilt not being amazing. It is!! It may not fit in this show. I would love to see you submit this to another show. She can quilt has the dates for AQS shows....your quilt is amazing.

Lisa J. said...

The quilt is amazing no matter what category it fits into. I see traditional and modern elements. I appreciate reading your thoughts about entering your quilt. I think many of us are confused about what is traditional and what is modern and where do we fit into that mix. I enjoy your posts and thanks for sharing the link to Two Little Aussie Birds. I am in a fledgling small group exploring Modern Quilting and these posts will certainly give us food for thought.

Jessica said...

Love you!! And girl, this quilt is amazing. I know exactly how you feel about wanting people to see it and see you as an artist. That being said, it could just be that really, it IS "modern" and just didn't fit with the show's aesthetic. Not that I know what that is, or think there should necessarily be "one style" of modern quilting (and not that they picked quilts that way...) but there you go. :)

Sue said...

Hi Jess - Thanks for the honest post. I have read a few posts this morning from the ones who were picked and was wondering if there were others on the other side. I read "Former QuiltCon Juror Tells All" by Latifah Saafir, which was interesting.
I can't say how impressed I am with your piecing and quilting skills. Please don't be disheartened.

Carla said...

Your quilts always inspire me. Always so lovely

Farm Quilter said...

Galaxy is stunningly gorgeous! Your piecing is perfect and the quilting is fabulous!!! I am always surprised at which quilts get chosen and which do not for shows...many times it makes no sense to me!! I hope you enter Galaxy in the Houston International Quilt Show, the Paducah show and the Birmingham, England International quilt show!! It is a show quilt of the highest standards.

Nicky said...

Stunning quilt , awesome quilting - you are a fabulous creative quilter - don't doubt it! Whether it's modern, traditional or somewhere inbetween is not the most important thing about it. You are forging your own unique place in the quilting world - own it!

elizabethdee said...

I loved Galaxy as soon as I saw it. I read your post about making it and came back to your post a number of times, because I wanted to see the quilt again, and again, and again.
The decision from QuiktCon must have stung, and I know in your shoes I would feel bad too. I'm not involved with QuiltCon, or any other quilting world, but I have been part of awards juries in another creative field, and I hope I can offer you something useful, just as your blog offers beauty, inspiration and practical advice. Here goes: you'll never know why your work doesn't make it one place, so don't use your energy trying to draw a conclusion. Better to spend it entering your work elsewhere, over and over if necessary, and in the process inure yourself to taking a No personally. Let the application/submission process become mundane, and use your emotions and hopes for making personal and beautiful quilts, like Galaxy. You're an extraordinary quilter. Your quilts will make it into shows. (Hey, JK Rowling got multiple rejections on the first Harry Potter.) you keep doing what you do!

patty a. said...

You are in the same boat as me. My quilts are not traditional, but they are the not the stark, no prints, minimalistic, simple quilts MQG has come to embrace. The rest of us non-traditional quilters don't have an organization that embraces our work. Do we need one? It would be nice, but I am so over the petty competition to win a prize or get my face in a magazine with lame child like work. The quilting in Galaxy is amazing! And don't tell us about JK Rowling and her rejections people! Don't tell us our feelings are not valid! Who are you to judge us. We have already been judged by the quilt police!

LynCC said...

QuiltCon knocked THIS quilt back?? That is so bizarre to me, and a tremendous loss to that show on several levels. I think the "Modern" movement is starting to cut itself off by being far too constrictive. When you define a genre that narrowly, after so many years it just starts to stall and seem like the same style regurgitated in whatever the clique fabric of the month is. This quilt definitely should be shown!!! It's magical and will impress anybody who sees it. It's one of the quilts that would constantly have a gathering of people staring closely and intently to soak in and study the quilting play and the fabric play. I hope you enter it in other shows. It would be welcome in "traditional" shows as well as in MQX shows (focused on machine quilting both domestic and longarm)!!! Paducah, definitely, and I hope you try out some International shows with it. Who cares about prizes and face time in magazines if you have to form fit and give up life with your family? But being part of the magic of a nice show is FANTASTIC, and Galaxy would definitely boost whatever show it is in.

Katy Cameron said...

So here's the thing, when you put something subjective to be judged by someone, you are always submitting to be evaluated on their whims. It may be that they have consistent whims, or it may be that today they're happy and like bright colours, and yesterday they were a bit down, so shades of blue and grey were doing it for them. I'm quite sure the jury couldn't consciously articulate what drove them to make particular decisions either, especially with around 1400 quilts to wade through.

Your quilt is beautiful, your work is exquisite, but you didn't satisfy the whims of this particular jury. There are loads of shows out there, but the challenge is that they are expensive to enter, between entry fees, shipping to/from etc, so if it's a route you want to go down, set aside a bit of cash for it.

When I used to do camera club competitions, there were people who'd been at it so long that they knew the whims of each judge - one favoured wildlife, say, another favoured architecture, and they would enter accordingly. I had neither the time nor inclination to be working these things out, and just entered whatever I happened to have sitting around to start with, but as I started winning, I started to take photos specifically to enter into competitions. Eventually I realised that I'd started to take photos to fit camera club judging criteria and I lost all joy in it at that point. I still have the 3 cups that I won, but I then didn't pick my camera up seriously again for a good 2 or 3 years, and I'm only now starting to do so again.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, you can tailor your makes to win competitions, but you might lose all joy in it and that would be a terrible thing.

Sarah said...

its a really stunning quilt, and such a shame more people wont see it, but dont be disheartened. keep feeling proud of it, it deserves that! it just didnt quite fit a narrow criteria thats all.

Deb said...

This is such a beautiful quilt. Im sad I won't get to see it in February. You do beautiful work Jess and despite the fact you didn't get in, don't doubt yourself. You need to make what pleases you, not what will or will not appeal to a jury. Once you start doing that, it doesn't become fun anymore.

Newbie Jen said...

Jess, I really enjoyed reading this post. While you are struggling a bit at the moment, trying to figure out where you fit in, I know that the reason all your followers LOVE you and love reading this blog is because you don't restrict yourself to just one type of quilting. Please keep making what you like, what you love, and don't give up. Your quilts are beautiful and so inspirational to us. Please don't let one jury dissuade you. Who knows what they were thinking or what they were looking for this year. I'm still scratching my head over my entry.

Chin up, Jess. We adore you and your quilts. Just keep quilting....

Dianne said...

I was once told that being in a state of confusion was a good thing as it meant that one was in a period of growth. Of course that means there are growing pains but the end result is you being more fully who you are. A good thing indeed! Thanks for the post :0)

Margaret said...

I have grappled with the "what is modern?" question a lot over the last year. I don't think that it has to be minimally pieced, with loads of white blank space to really be modern. Modern is an interpretation. And like you , I had my modern interpretation not accepted at one show last year, but kept on trying and have received ribbons for the quilt. Your quilt is a creative expression, and should be entered in other shows...MQX, HMQS (both in the modern category) as well as any of the AQS shows.

Farm Quilter said...

Please check out this quilt show: http://christaquilts.com/2014/12/10/enter-your-modern-quilts-into-nqas-46th-annual-show/

I expect to see this quilt with many ribbons on it!!!

Two Little Aussie Birds said...

Thank you for posting your thoughts on this. I really enjoyed reading all about it. Don't be disheartened. I don't think it means that your quilt isn't modern enough, I can't imagine just how hard it would have been to choose just 300 quilts from over 1400 entries! You are amazing, don't you worry about anything else! Hope you had a great Christmas :) Looking forward to catch up in February!

Jessica said...

I've loved watching your progress on this quilt and can only imagine the disappointment of having it knocked back from QuiltCon. I agree with you that it needs to be shown and I'm really hoping you'll enter it into Modern Quilt Show Australia in May. We were honoured to have your quilt in the show last year (Australia's First Modern Quilt Show) and on a personal level I would really love to see this one in person. Chin up tiger (: