Thursday, 11 August 2016

Do I Make Modern Quilts?

I must admit that this is a question of which I have been a bit dismissive of in the past.

I would think:

"What does it matter?"
"Why are people getting so upset about quilting genres and their definitions?"
"If I make what I like, what does it matter if my quilts fall into the modern category or not."

Recently however, I have begun to get a better insight into the importance of this issue.

I absolutely adore my latest quilt design. I've called it Hunted.The Owl element is inspired by this amazing photo by Graham Jones.

I am really super proud of my own version of the quilt and I wanted to enter it into an exhibition- but the question was which exhibition should I enter it into and into which category does it fall into?

Understandably, quilting exhibitions want to compare like with like, so they like to place quilts in nice neat boxes.

But what if the quilts don't fit in those boxes. Take Hunted for example.

It's not traditional
It's not modern traditional
It's not improv
It's not an art quilt
It's not a contemporary quilt
and I'm pretty sure that it's not a modern quilt either!

As a quilter, I identify with modern quilters. I generally use bright, colourful modern fabrics, I don't like being restricted by a grid layout, I often use a solid background (but not always). My style while erring on the realistic side, is often quite graphic. All of these things would push me towards the modern category.

Another reason that I identify with modern quilters is that I learnt my craft from the internet. I followed blogs, used online tutorials and adapted techniques so that they suited me and my personality. Again, these are things which put me squarely in the modern camp.

But how I learnt my craft is not something that can be judged when my work is hanging in an exhibition. It is not something that can be seen just by looking at my work and as such it is not relevant when entering works in an exhibition.

This quilt is a wildlife quilt. The colours are realistic, as is the unstylised depiction of the animals. The subjects are depicted in a variety of low volume fabrics in addition to shades of tan and brown. I regard the background as negative space, but you might not agree with me as I have used a blender fabric, not a solid.

While I stressed about this question, I noticed that the Festival of Quilts in Birmingham has a "Pictorial Quilts" category. Perfect I thought! Then I saw someone state that it is widely regarded that pictorial quilts are almost always applique- hmmmm- really? I know of an awful lot of foundation paper pieced quilts that fall squarely into the Pictorial Quilts Category. We'll see if the judges agree with me!

If you are going along to the Festival of Quilts, keep an eye out for my Hunted Quilt. I hope you like it as much as I do!

As for me, I'll keep pondering whether my quilts are modern or not. I guess the answer is that some of them are, others aren't. Just to be clear, it doesn't bother me one way or the other, I'm just curious what others around me think. Sometimes it is super hard to be subjective about your own work.

For those who are wondering, the wee hunted mousie was the original inspiration for the woodland quiltalong. Sorry that I forgot to take close up photos of the complete mouse after it was quilted, this photo is the best that I have for the moment...


  1. I'm weighing in, just because. I wouldn't say your quilts fit squarely into the modern category, though they certainly do incorporate some of the characteristics. I would argue that they do qualify as art quilts, and most certainly pictorial, even if they aren't appliqué. Then again, Luke Haynes is a professional artist, and his work has been accepted into Quilt Con. He's even teaching there, I think. The truth is, the definition of modern quilting hasn't been a static concept.

  2. You make a very good point Afton and it is perhaps one of the reasons that I haven't taken classification too seriously in the past. The minute you create hard and fast definitions for a genre, you stop its growth. I have only been quilting for a few years but I have seen huge shifts in the quilts that are being made and being classified as modern. Why stop progress by boxing modern quilting into a hard and fast definition.

    1. This response rings so true for me. I've said the same thing so many times.

  3. Who needs classification...........your designs are fabulous, fun, cheerful creations......simple!

  4. I face the same problems as you are doing right now. I love piecing animal motives and when it comes to classification of an entry category, the quilts are accepted in the "pictorial" category, as long as you really can identify the animal as such, like your quilt. I love your quilt, very nice, but I am not in Birmingham this year, unfortunately. Good luck!

    1. Thanks Judy,

      It's interesting to know what is accepted in the different categories. I am still very new to entering my work in exhibitions and it's a whole new world to me!

      Wish I was going to the Festival of Quilts, but I have to wait a few more weeks before I fly off to the UK

  5. I understand about the need to categorize quilts for shows. But whether others call your quilts modern, pictorial, art or whatever, I just call them amazing!

  6. Have no idea where it should go, but it is absolutely beautiful!

  7. I can see your quandry and I do think the art category may be it! You do such beautiful work and are so, so creative!! Hunted is amazing!!! It's stunning and dramatic!! Good luck wherever you enter it!!!

  8. Just a 1001% NON authoritative perspective, this quilt strikes me as an 'Art Quilt'. Although you express your idea in a contemporary way to a degree... I think (as a whole) the way you are expressing your idea is more Artistic in your use of color,lines & over-all flow. What a conundrum for such beautiful artwork, whatever the category! Good luck <3

  9. I am new to sewing and quilting--and while I LOVE to learn techniques--I HATE to learn rules. I want a good foundation, but then I want my own creativity to flow through my projects. (This is true for all the different crafts I do.) The Woodland project is my first full-size "quilted" project and my friend (who is a traditional quilter and is teaching me some techniques) refers to me, not as a quilter, but as a FIBER ARTIST. A label that I can truly be satisfied with! Why don't they have a Fiber Art category to enter our creations in? You may be a quilter, Juliet--but I see you as just ONE of the truly awesome fiber artists I follow on Instagram!!!! Please, NEVER stop designing!

  10. Hi Juliet! I was at the festival of Quilts on Thursday and your quilt caught my eye I think because I saw your other owl on your blog before))) It's really great and it looked quite in place in the pictorial category, although I think it would be appropriate in the art and the modern categories probably as well - it's all so confusing and I found myself looking at the labels to make sure if it was still one category or already the next one)) I had the same doubts when entering my quilts for the Festival and thought it would be nice if the organizers did the sorting to make sure the criteria were the same))

  11. I loved your quilt called Hunted and specifically looked for it at The Festival of Quilts. Both my sister and I thought it was amazing. I am always confused about which categories quilts belong to - even though for 9 years I was a Quilt Angel at this Festival! I wanted to tell you that I have included a photo of your quilt in my blogpost about the FOQ and that I have attributed it to you.


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