Thursday, June 01, 2006

If you can't sew, at least you can read about quilting...

You’d never know that this blog is intended to be about quilting. You haven’t seen any here in a long time, right? Work has taken over my life lately, so my sewing table has become a repository for papers-not-yet-filed . The quilt that I so happily sandwiched to prepare for quilting is still folded up, waiting for stitching time. But I’ll get my work done, see Caroline through her last days of 4th grade, wrap up PTO business ... and then I’ll get back to it. Frankly, I’m gonna go crazy if I don’t.

But even while my days haven’t allowed for any quilting time, I continue to be inspired and enlightened and entertained by the quilting stuff that lands in front of me.

I’ve just finished the most recent issue of Quilting Arts magazine. I thought this was a great issue, better than most recently. What a great article by Liz Berg! I wish they’d give her a long-term series so every issue had something by her. And I couldn’t stop gazing at the quilt by Tom Russell – such gorgeous use of color and design and embellishment!

Like others (from what I’m reading on the Quilt Art list), I’ve been increasingly dismayed at the evolution of the magazine, seeing work that looked the same, over finding articles explore things that were too far afield from quilting to suit me – book stuff, doll stuff, paper collage. Of course, I totally get that those techniques a) involve fibers and fabrics and other supplies that most art quilters have and love; b) are useful to learn for application in art quilts; and c) are of interest to many quilters who might want to try doll-making, book-making, etc. Still, I’ve done the book thing and I don’t want to do the doll thing, and I’d really rather see pictures and articles about creative use of techniques on art quilts. And I still want to see work that looks DIFFERENT. I don’t want to see everything hand-dyed and surface-painted and burned and embellished with beads.

From the discussion on the Quilt Arts list, it’s clear to me that I’m not the only one reacting this way. Quite a few folks have posted there to say that they’ve had mixed feelings about the magazine over the last year or two. Obviously, the Quilting Arts people can’t please everyone. And it’s still one of the best options out there for folks who aren’t that interested in traditional quilts, and a gorgeous magazine over all.

One of my personal disappointments is that the work shown in the magazine is almost always made completely with hand-dyed/painted/decorated fabrics. There are very few pieces that feature commercial fabrics. I love seeing commercial fabrics used creatively in art quilts, so I miss that. Maybe that’s one small aspect of why the work shown in the magazine recently seems to show less variety in my eyes. (I also can see that someone selling their work for big bucks might not want to worry about even the glimmer of a copyright issue from commercial fabric, however unlikely such a complaint would be. Still, I’m drawn to the quilts with more pattern and texture and that so gorgeously use printed fabrics.)

There’s really only one thing that bothered me in this issue. Last issue, they printed a letter to the editor which was strongly critical of the magazine’s evolution, and especially unhappy about its featuring so many projects or articles about "non-quilt" things, like the dolls and assemblages and books. Personally, I applauded the editor for publishing the critical letter, and noted that like various folks expressing ambivalence about the magazine on the Quilt Art list, I agreed with some of the sentiment.

Well, in this issue, they printed what they described as a representative sampling of letters responding to that original critical letter. They actually printed six letters, most of which soundly criticized the original writer. One, I thought, was even sort of snide and insulting to the poor woman. But it wasn’t the letters themselves that surprised me: it was that the QA folks chose to print SIX in reply. It looked so heavy handed as to be a purposeful slap at that original writer. Printing two or three rebuttals, at most, would have been sufficient to make the point that there was more disagreement with the view than not.

At any rate, despite the uncomfortable impression of those first few pages, I loved the issue and will be looking back at it again a lot, I know. I’ve already filled a few notebook pages with ideas after looking at it the first time.


  1. Anonymous4:48 AM

    While I agreed with the letter writer to Quilting Arts on the basic issue of content, she was pretty snotty about it and so totally off base in her request, no, DEMAND, that she either be refunded her entire subscription price or be given a free extension that she deserved to be smacked a bit. I have had plenty of magazines I didn't like and either didn't resubscribe or cancelled (depending upon how much time was left)but I would never ask for a refund on something I had already received and read....that's like buying a dress, wearing it to a party, and then returning it to the store for a full refund because you *don't like it as much as you thought* (when in reality, it had served it's purpose and you wanted the money).

    Tho, I DO agree that 6 rebuttals was a bit overboard....kind of like saying "hey you stupid b****, you are the ONLY one who feels this way."


  2. Maybe that's what bother's me...that the printing of it to begin with and the printing of 6 response letters feels like there's a spark of "so THERE!" to it that feels uncomfortably malicious and gleeful for a high-class magazine. But maybe I'm just projecting. :-)

  3. Well, maybe those of us who agree with the original letter writer need to write. Is it possible that we let the original letter writer speak for us and didn't back her up - but we should do it in a nice way!!

  4. I so agree with you about the lack of commercial fabrics in current art quilting. I miss them too! Especially when they are so wonderful. A few years ago, I heard a lecture by Diane Hire in which she spotlighted the 25 (or so) art quilters she felt were really at the top of the game. I don't remember exactly who or how many, but very very very few used commercial fabrics. (Maybe Freddy Moran and Paula Nadelstern.) Don't you just adore what Terry Grant is doing with printed fabrics? She takes them to a whole new level by combining them with surface techniques.

  5. I use a mix of handpainted and commercial fabrics in my qork. Sometimes I see patterns that I justs don't want to recreate or do myself. I don't see a problem with it. Copyright and selling-wise, how different is it from a traditional quilter who sells her work using all commercial fabric or an artist who specializes in collages using torn out images from magazines? I just don't see the big deal. In the end...isn't it about the final, gorgeous product?

    As for QA Mag, I love it, but I agree, but unfortunately it says Quilting Arts--not Art Quilt Magazine, so it doesn't have to be specific to art quilts. Perhaps we need our very own magazine specifically for art quilts.