Thursday, May 21, 2015

Quilt Outlaws -Alibi

Originally published May 21, 2015 via alibi.com


“Do you like quilts?” asks Linda Hamlin.

“Well,” I say, “there's comforter men, and there's quilt men. And I am definitely a quilt man.”

Hamlin is a member of the Albuquerque Modern Quilt Guild. She and one of the guild's co-founders, Lois Warwick, have met me at Hip Stitch (7001 San Antonio NE), Albuquerque's first “sewing lounge” and home to the guild. They're hosting a collection of 20 quilts selected at this year's QuiltCon in Austin to be displayed at the 10th biennial Fiber Arts Fiesta this week. The Fiesta will be the first stop on the collection's worldwide Modern Quilts tour.

Spread out before us is “For Tanya,” an improvisational piece by Emily and Miriam Coffey. Unlike traditional quilts—where a strict pattern is designed and adhered to—improvisational pieces start with a patch of fabric and build from there, allowing the pattern to grow organically.

This piece is made up of countless little blue and orange rectangular scraps—some no larger than your fingernail—coming together to create the impression of a sunset reflecting off an ocean. “It's a tribute to a friend of theirs who lost her life to cancer. This was one of her favorite things: sunsets over the ocean,” Hamlin tells me. I heroically withstand the urge to wrap myself up in it and take a nap. It looks very warm.

The subject of traditional quilting versus art quilting brings me back to a conversation I had yesterday with Judith Roderick, featured artist at the Fiber Fiesta, whose silk-painted quilts will be a part of a 40-year retrospective exhibit.

“Most people are relating to the quilts that people make to put on beds—that their grandmothers made—and that is still a valid form of quilt-making. But more and more, art quilts are becoming just as valid.” The implication is that there are quilters out there who don't think it's so valid.
To find these Quiltsnob Traditionalists—bristling with menace and clutching their wicked, titanium-coated topstitch needles while grinding their teeth and hemorrhaging from their eyes—just Google “dumbing down of quilting.”

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