Monday, March 15, 2010
Traditional or Modern?
Kathleen Tracy commented about a survey published in a quilting magazine. The survey said baby-boomers prefer modern fabrics, modern quilts, and modern [machine] construction techniques.
Okay, I wonder what percentage of North American families eats a majority of their meals from fast food outlets or buys partially advanced-prepared foods. Do those diets assure them of good health?--I doubt that the fact that they do it means those should be the focus of public policy for everyone.
Likewise, the fact that a survey says a group of baby boomers do not like traditional quilts or hand-piecing or hand-quilting does not mean that the findings would be identical if we were able to take a truly unbiased survey from a scientifically balanced population of quilters. (What I'm saying is not what Kathleen said; please read her blog post.) I have not seen the survey or the results of the survey; I've seen only Kathleen's post. However, her post has spurred me to post about what I do believe about the current state of quilt making.
I do know that the quilt magazines to which I've had access over the last few years are giving a greater focus to modern prints and quilts constructed of rectangles. These quilts and their patterns certainly play an important role in drawing young quilters into our art and craft. By young, I'm thinking "quilters who weren't even born when I began teaching quilt-making classes over 30 years ago. In fact, the modern rectangle quilts may also do a good job of drawing in older quilters who didn't find traditional quilts appealing.
I suspect that many of the quilters who responded to the survey don't even quilt--which is great for the many professional quilters who quilt for others for pay. Many of us remember well [or even own] those great books from the '80s by Shirley Thompson that carried titles such as, It's Not a Quilt Until It's Quilted. I'm one of those for whom "quilt" means it's been quilted.
I'm a baby-boomer, but the results of the survey were far outside my preferences. I love traditional patterns, although I also love to include "surprises" or something that hints that the quilt is mine, and not just a repetition of the work of someone else...For that matter, a majority of the patchwork patterns I see published these days seem to be closely copied from traditional quilts. (And I'm happy that quiltmakers/designers as well as quilt shops are earning money with those patterns.)
I love hand piecing and hand quilting--but it's been years since I've been able to manage the time to do either. I realized decades ago that there were so many quilts I wanted to make that I'd have to find acceptable ways to speed the quiltmaking process. For me that has meant trying to perfect machine piecing (which I do on a 90 year old treadle and 59 year old electric machines) and machine quilting (which I do on 40 and 50 year old machines).--It's not that I wouldn't love a well-functioning long-arm machine too, but I haven't found one that fits into my limited budget.
Those decisions to use machines were prompted by the recognition of my own mortality and the number and variety of quilts I really, really want to make. I do sometimes take some "modern" steps--fabrics with "modern" designs--meaning they're more reminiscent of the 50's or 60's than earlier decades or centuries--but in all honesty, those quilts aren't nearly as satisfying as the ones that reflect earlier times.
Because so much of "tradition" is still feeding my soul and allowing the products of my efforts to bless others, I will continue to make traditional quilts (usually while listening to traditional and classical music).
What matters is that quilters have the freedom to work in a variety of styles and that we have the opportunity to make quilts that help feed our souls and enrich our lives and the lives of those who receive, view, and touch [gasp!] our quilts.
About 25 years ago one of the owners of a chain of fabric stores for which I taught, Bill Chandler, returned from a national quilt show and remarked, "I couldn't help noticing that everybody there was happy. At every other fabric market I've attended, everyone is complaining and worrying about how they'll stay in business. I didn't hear any of those kinds of remarks at this show."
Yep.....still quilting.....still happy.......