Just because a quilt was made recently doesn't mean it's Modern-with-a-capital-M. Modern quilts often have one or more of the following traits:
- A sparse appliqué or pieced design
- Dense quilting, often in straight lines, usually by machine
- Solid fabrics, and/or trendy prints, often large-scale prints
- Low contrast
- Lots of neutrals: greys, whites, beiges, etc.
- Conceptual. A Modern quilt can be much more than the sum of its (relatively few) parts.
- None of the above!
My friend Saraj joined me for the show, flying down from Northern California. We gawked and shopped for two days, knocking ourselves out. Here are some of the delightful surpises we encountered, from the juried show and the vendor booths.
1. The movement is huge - Since the founding of the Modern Quilt Guild (MQG) in 2009, the Guild has grown to 10,000 members!
2. The enthusiasts are diverse - The show was thronged with people of all ages, from tattooed young women with piercings and assymetric haircuts, to new mothers (and fathers) pushing newborns in strollers, to not-visibly-tattooed mature women with symmetrical coiffures (such as moi). The mix of ages (and hair) created a fantastic vibe.
3. There are Modern groups around the world - The show featured dozens of twin-size group challenge quilts, made by MQG chapters not just from the US, but also Australia, Brazil, Canada, even South Africa. There are more than 150 MQG member guilds! Here's a locator. Learn more movement history here. Below is the Pittsburgh guild's submission:
Next, Calgary's teepee-themed quilt, with its makers before quilting...
The Seattle Modern Quilt Guild's entry was a jawdropper:
5. One big concept is empowerment. When I walk around art or traditional quilt shows, I often find myself thinking, "I should retire from quilting right now, because I could never make something that incredible!" Have you ever felt that way? I thought so. By comparison, many Modern quilts seem...well.. doable! No wonder young women are drawn to them! If you're 6 months pregnant and start on a Modern baby quilt today, you will probably finish before your baby hits kindergarten. Here's an elegant, almost-hexagonal "Bullseye" quilt by quilter Vicki Reubel:
The bullseye actually has 7 sides! When you look closer at the quilting, you see it's not so simple. Check out the closeup here. If you're making a baby quilt, you could use the same basic idea - one giant shape - and vastly simplify the quilting.
On the other hand, another hexagon-themed quilt at the show defied most of the rules at the top of this post. It's in a category of it's own! The quilt was made by Wanda Dotson, a wonderful quilter who blogs here.here, She coined the term "Liberated Quiltmaking," which is in the title of her two collectible books. It was a huge thrill to come across Gwen in her exhibit area. Following her around the room were mobs of starstruck quilter/paparazzi, snapping pictures and calling"Gwen! Gwen! Smile! Gwen! Stand here! Stand there!" I didn't know what to stare at first - Gwen-in-the-flesh, or her iconic quilts, which I have spent so many hours over so many years staring at in books and online. Here's a bit of both:
7. Speaking of strong women - We found Hillary. Not campaigning at the show; Ms. Clinton was depicted in the "Hillary Quilton" by Diana Vandeyar (mentioned in Saturday's LA Times, here.). Here's the quilt with Saraj, who is a marathon runner (so, like Hillary, she also has mega-tenacity).
|(I didn't see any other quilts about any of the other Presidential candidates.)|
8. Music Inspires Modern - Moda Fabrics had this stunning David Bowie quilt in their booth. It was made by Holly of This is what I Do. (The link has a much better picture of it.)
Stacie Dolan from Massachusetts made the next whole-cloth machine-stitched quilt, a tribute to Prince. It's densely machine-quilted with text.here. The first one was made by Chawne Kimber.
|(Yes, the word "black" is backwards in this thought-provoking quilt.)|
The caption along the bottom reads,"In essence, I am a sophisticated cotton picker." What a great use of text, a terrific sense of humor, and a bitterly ironic allusion to African-American history, and the history of the cotton industry. In short, it's brilliant.
11. No BeDazzlers! - Modern quilters don't do a lot of embellishment. I didn't see ANY beads, buttons, hot rhinestones, nuthin', not on the quilts, and not in the vendor's booths.
12. Sew many zippers! - Modern quilters must be making a lot of handbags. We saw purse zippers galore in the vendors' booths, but not on quilts. The zippers came in all shades of the rainbow, especially neons. I was particularly struck by the designer zippers at Micasroom.com including lace zippers, print zippers, and fascinating zippers in which the interlocking "teeth" are giant colorful spheres.
13. Similarly, batiks - Many vendors sold batiks, but I don't recall seeing many/any in the show quilts.
14. Abundant kooky animal prints - Saraj found this groovy badger fabric, in several colorways. There were also vintagey polar bears that I should have purchased.
[Update, 3/3/16: I made a handbag out of it:
I loved these traditional-motifs-plus-animé-cats fabric:
16. Moda makes a fabric with fake selvages -OK, you have to be a stitcher to find the following hilarious. In one of the vendor booths, I spotted this bolt. It's got all the same stuff you see on selvages, but blown up and all over. Modern quilters enjoy making things out of selvages. (See my selvage-and-denim pillows here). With this fabric, we can make bigger things.
18. The quilts of Molly Upton - Molly was a fiber artist who lived from 1953 to 1977. She worked with garment and home decor fabrics - velvet, corduroys, polyesters, stuff that quilters today would sniff at. Upton turned dross into gold, creating innovative pieces that foreshadowed the art and modern quilt movements by four decades. Learn more here, (underneath the info about Gwen), Below is one of her category-busting pieces from the show. It's sort of a cross between Chagall and Ann Brauer. Here's a wonderful appreciation of her work.
So that's my report from the front lines of the Modern movement. Did you go to QuiltCon? What surprised you? Have you made a Modern quilt? Are they growing on you?
UPDATE: Part II of this post is at http://gefiltequilt.blogspot.com/2016/02/quiltcon-2016-20-more-pieces-of-modern.html.
UPDATE, 2/25/16: A deep look, with behind-the-scenes stories, from Quiltcon is at Sewingreport.com: http://www.sewingreport.com/2016/02/quiltcon-beyond-the-obvious/.
UPDATE: 2/27/16: Fabulous shopping at the show: http://catherineredford.com/what-i-brought-home-from-quiltcon/?utm_source=wir&utm_campaign=qd-brc-wir-160227&utm_content=823633_QR160227&utm_medium=email.