Sunday, March 10, 2013

all quilters welcome.

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Every now and then, a little controversy blows through blog land. 
I usually stay out of it.  In the past I've been pregnant, or with a new baby, or just too busy with the stuff of life to chime in.  Or I'm not on Instagram and I miss it.

But the quilt blog world is a small place (part of its charm in my opinion).

The other night my dear friend posted about how her quilts were received at Quilt Con (which I didn't go to -- I'm a stay at home mom and just can't justify gallivanting off to expensive things like this even if they sound fun).  I didn't enter any quilts.  I think I was trying to keep up on my laundry or something when the announcement came around.  But I read my friend's post, got defensive for her (I am nothing if not loyal), and then got thinking.  And I did a bit of exploring.  And heard a few rumors about how the show was judged and how it didn't work(ed).  

I re-read the comments that were given back to my friend on her work, and I was frankly flabbergasted.  Then in the comments, I read that her experience was not unique and I was frustrated.  Not because I think that I am a qualified quilt judge (not at all!) but I was disappointed for another reason that I'm going to try to explain here...


I was a high school English teacher before my son was born.  I made it my personal crusade to try to teach my students to write.  I doubt very many of you have ever tried to teach high school students (from a small farming community, half of whom learned English as a second language), to create a cohesive piece of academic writing, but it is exceptionally challenging.  I judged every draft of my student's work.  My feedback was definitely not all positive, but it was constructive, and it gave them a chance to improve, and after meeting with me or reading my grading notes, they felt confident to bring me their next draft until it met the goals of the assignment. 


Because I live forty miles out of town, and have two small children, I do not belong to a quilt guild.  There is an active traditional one in a nearby town and one day I plan to join it.  I've thought about starting a modern one, but due to the aforementioned factors, I let it go for a thought down the road (I really was just wanting to find more local sewing friends!  It is so nice to sew with people in real life!)

But now, this little "modern quilting" judging hub-bub has got me feeling a bit reactionary.  I used to see myself as a modern quilter, when their definition sounded like this: 


  • ..."Modern quilting is sometimes difficult to define because in many ways the definition is as individual as the quilter - changing from quilter to quilter. In addition to reflecting the individual personality and personal style of the quilter, it also reflects the current aesthetic of the day.  Modern quilting is also about the attitude and the approach that modern quilters take. It respects the amazing artistry and talent of the tradition of quilting, while allowing the quilter to challenge the "rules". In fact, if there were one rule in modern quilting, it would be that there are no rules.  The concept of modern quilting is not meant to divide or segregate. It is meant to welcome new quilters, of all ages, to the world of quilting in a style that they can relate to. In many ways, modern quilting takes us back to the basics of the early quilters, when women of the day used the colors and styles of their time to express themselves creatively.

or this:

  • Modern Quilting is a twist on traditional quilt. For each person this may have a different meaning. For some it is modification on the methods or materials they use in their quilts. For others it maybe the use of modern fabrics. Others may believe it has to do with the look of the quilt or a way of sharing the art of quilting. Around the internet you can find many definitions of modern quilting... Our guild is accepting of all members definitions of what a modern quilt is and what modern quilting means to them.
But now that it is this...

  • We define modern quilts as quilts that are functional, include bold colors, and are inspired by modern design. Minimalism, asymmetry expansive negative space, and alternate grid work are often a part of modern quilt compositions, as are improvisational piecing and solid fabrics.

...I'm out.  
Too narrow of a definition for the range of quilts I like to make.

Though, perhaps an even better idea than distance, would be for the rest of us to take back the old definition.

All quilters welcome here.  


P.S. I originally didn't know who the judges were, and still don't know them, but I am familiar with some of their work.  I think they're talented women with much to offer the textile/craft world.  I just think the way the comments were done left much to be desired.  

52 comments:

Poppyprint said...

My sentiments exactly. I identify with all types of quilting, and I make all types of quilts.

Wendy said...

Ditto! Who decides what is modern from one person to the next. I identify with all types of quilting and I make different types of quilts. I let my muse decide the direction I go when working on a quilt.

Martina said...

So agree with you! Thanks for sharing!

Little Island Quilting said...

Well said

Alyce @ Blossom Heart Quilts said...

I definitely agree!! I was very surprised to hear there were only 2 judges for such a big event. And why accept quilts that "aren't modern" and not up to par?! I do not cast aspersions whatsoever to her quilts - I think they're beautiful, especially the applique quilt - but why accept them in the first place, only to cut them to shreds?! To make a big, grand show I think... I'm very disappointed.

Belinda said...

Ditto, ditto, ditto!

Donna said...

Yes.

Cindy said...

I agree! I hadn't realized they changed the definition - seems rather narrow to me. I've never been a fan of quilt judging. Maybe some kudos for workmanship, but design judgements seem so subjective. I think the beauty comes from within the quilter's heart and i would hate to see that squelched fearing someone else's opinion.

Jennie said...

I've always felt "out" because I use pre-cuts (in my last locale, it was definitely frowned on), or because I can't do wonky stuff, or truly scrappy. Or I don't like Kona cotton, so there must be something wrong with me.

Really, it's ridiculous. If people want to make quilts with negative space and wonky stuff, by all means do it. I don't always care for it, but it's not my quilt and no one is forcing me to use it. Just as I wouldn't hang certain art work in my home, I can still appreciate and not be limited in what others like and hang in their homes.

All quilters welcome in my world too.

Dana Gaffney said...

This is heartbreaking, I remember the first quilt I put online in one of the blog shows, it was hard to push that publish button with a little dark voice in the back of my head saying "you're not good enough". I'm afraid if I had received comments like that I would have given up. No juried shows for me, I believe that the time, effort and commitment that goes into a quilt makes they all beautiful.

Amy said...

I think we all share several common bonds. love of fabric and creating and giving.
no matter what colors,prints or lack of. I think as women we should encourage others to be creative and give praise even if the design is not to our tastes. Even if we use modern fabrics and modern piecing techniques. we still do it one stitch at a time.

Amy Friend said...

Well said.

Julie said...

Hi Tracey,

I agree with all you said. I am sorry that Angela had that experience too. I hope that if you ever get a chance to visit or join a local MQG you will find (as I have) that it is very different from the national MQG definition. Our local guild is accepting of everyone and everyone's quilts. I am certain that most of the things we see in our show and tell would have been cut to shreds at Quiltcon which kinda makes me think I couldn't care less if I ever go there. :)

Hugs,
Julie

Cheryl Gomez said...

I agree Tracey. I got very defensive when I read that post as well. I went to Quiltcon as I happend to live in the area and found it very accepting and wide ranging. I am very suprised at the comments that were left to Angela and it is perhaps why I am hesitant to enter into a show.

KerryQ said...

Bravo. I thought the whole idea of the modern quilt guild was to throw the windows and doors open to allow fresh ideas and perspectives in, not keep them out. I hope the MQG has a Quiltcon post-mortem and changes this.

Tricia said...

Not a fan of that new definition ---way too narrow...it has changed recently as I've found out as well.

Megan said...

I'm so conflicted about the modern movement right now. My local mqg experience has been similar to Julie's - our members are so welcoming and supportive, and we embrace all types of quilters and their projects. But the somewhat exclusive attitude of the formal national movement is troubling.

Svetlana said...

Amen to that!!!

Wendy said...

There was a time I defined myself as "modern" when it came to quilting. Now I just call myself a quilter. I hate the division that is happening in the quilt community. I hate the judgment, the raised brows, and the fact that now quilters seem to be having to prove their work worthy AND modern to be part of the modern quilt movement. It is sad to me that something which is so clearly personal is being so criticized. I read Angela's post...it made me sad. A critique which is all negative is hard for anyone to hear - why did they not include some of the strengths of her work? Because, frankly, her quilts were gorgeous to me.

My quilts are not perfect - not even close. I chose fabrics I love, I experiment a little, something I just follow the pattern. But, I make what I love and that is what I am going to continue to do.

And now I'm going to give a site a bit of a plug because I have found it to be a place where sewists of ALL genres, experience levels and ages are accepted. A very friendly place in the quilting universe: Threadbias!

Jessim said...

I prefer the old definitions too. Under the new one, I am most definetly not a modern quilter.

I am part of a traditional guild, but we have a modern "small group". Our small group has studied many people who do "modern quilting" and we jokingly define it as "don't put borders on the quilt".

I do wonder though, if you use this definition "Our guild is accepting of all members definitions of what a modern quilt is and what modern quilting means to them. " How do you judge a show? Presumably every quilt there is the pinnacle of what the submitter thinks is modern quilting. If they didn't think so, they wouldn't have submitted it.

A narrow definition allows people to submit works that can be judged and upheld to that definition. (I think a huge part of the problem is that definition wasn't really shared before people submitted their quilts and many of the quilts juried in didn't meet the definition. That leads me to wonder why they were juried in at all.)

In terms of constructive feedback, I agree with you. The way the judges chose to express their feedback, well, it isn't how I would have gone about it!

Funky Kim said...

I'm going to go read all the posts you have linked. I'm nosy like that. But I am also glad that I have been oblivious to all the drama.

I do like all quilters welcome. And that's part of my trepidation as to joining a quilt guild. I live in the city and there are many guilds for me to choose from.

I do appreciate you taking a stand. I also like reading your blog. I cannot remember how I found you, but I've read you for a while now.

Have a great day!

Angela Nash said...

You've got it! Not sure where the corner turned in the MQG, although a comment from a friend last year makes me think she saw it coming.

skullymom said...

Well said.

I agree that most people in the guilds are very welcoming. However, there is a definite clique - especially in the LAMQG - that I feel want to be very exclusionary. It's very sad, because isn't that why they made their own quilt guild - because they didn't feel welcomed by traditional quilters?

Anne said...

When I read the comments of the judges, I was pretty confused. They didn't even try to give her anything positive at all, why didn't they simply "disqualify" the quilts and then keep their thoughts to themselves?
Almost all the winners were abstract as well as contemporary.
It's kind of like comparing The Pieta to contemporary abstract statue and saying that the Pieta sucks because it's not modern.
The results of this? Many of us who are not able to design our very own unique quilts and produce it and then quilt it with a unique pattern, well we will probably never submit a quilt to any show, ever.
And honestly, I'd love to see the last quilt that each of the judges made. :)

Little Miss Shabby said...

Love it Tracey!--I think our tastes in quilt design and fabric choices are pretty similar and I couldn't agree more!

Heidi Staples said...

Very well said. Things like this just leave me feeling deflated -- who wants to put themselves out there when you have to worry about this kind of pressure? It's the opposite of everything a community is supposed to be.

Katie B said...

Oh, Tracey. You're such a good friend. Everyone needs a friend like you who will call someone out as a douchebag when necessary. :)

And well said. We just started a MQG where I am, and everyone has been really kind and open--I think part of modern quilting is not being tied down by a definition! It is an evolving thing, and I think it's kind of anything goes! We have one woman in our new guild who has been a member of a traditional guild for years, but she has never participated in the show & tell there because the other quilters are too judgmental. How sad is that?!? I hope that modern quilting can be as far from that as possible--we can appreciate all styles, fabric choices, and skill levels without being judgmental, don't you think?

Anna said...

Great post...thanks for sharing. I have really struggled with this idea since hearing how "Modern quilting" is defined by the MQG at QuiltCon. In my opinion, it is too narrow of a definition. I'm just going to continue to make what I love...to heck with the definition! Guess I am not a modern quilter and I guess I am also okay with that!

audrey said...

Great post! The winners I saw come from QuiltCon did not wow me in the least. No offense to the creators of these quilts but they're not my style and frankly I think that has a lot to do with quilt judging no matter the category.

If they had specific types of quilts they were looking for they should've said so up front rather than accepting entries that had nothing to do with what they define as modern then tearing them to shreds because of that. Such a poorly ran judging process if you ask me.

Jennifer said...

I am like you Tracy. I am usually preoccupied with other things (life and quilting wise) to partake in a lot events that happen online. tis to the point that I miss out on a lot of the cool things that go on too.

I did read Angela's post and I also commented as well. I too was a bit taken back that a few others and Angela received negative feed back from the judges. It totally changed my view of how the Modern Quilt Guild operates. I guess you can say I found it a bit hypocritical to boast about free form and open mindedness and then to put on a show where they tore their contestants to shreds.

MuleHill said...

As a perennial outsider myself, an occasional foray into opinions is interesting. I have no valuable insights because I come from the Zelda Rubinstein school of "All Are Welcome." Live and let live. Thanks for the heads up.

I won a ribbon in a different art form. Every aspect of the show was quite professional. Perhaps that is part of the problem here. They're just beginning to learn the ropes (I'm assuming). They should be concerned about public perception (unless they think Us v. Them is pure sexiness).

I hope your friend gets something positive out of the experience. Maybe some new pals and an appreciation of the support she's receiving now.

Chin up, folks. We're all free to do and say as we please. Continue calling yourselves Modern (or Mod). No one owns the word. Or, come up with a new one.

By the way, at first glance, I thought you were correcting the grammar of the mission statement. :0D

amy g :) said...

Well posted - my main problem isn't that criticism was offered but that it didn't seem to be constructive (which is um, the whole point of criticism?) and seemed a bit unprofessional/inappropriate. I think part of the problem is that no matter who the jurors are, the selection is usually indicative of their taste and many of us might not agree (this would be the case even if there were different judges)...though if they were going on those "new" guidelines, we are going to have some major issues/backlash from the Modern community, because that's not really a good capture of what Modern quilting is! Just a subset of it...and there's nothing wrong with that subset, but why does it need to be so limiting?

Sarah Craig said...

It seems to me that judges in a quilt show should put aside their own personal preferences and judge each quilt with an unbiased eye. When I go to the AQS shows, I may not "like" a winning quilt, but I can usually see the skill of technique that caused the judges to choose it. And yes, criticism should always be constructive. Otherwise, it's just something that should be kept to yourself.

I am a modern quilter in the style of the old definition - no rules, accepting of a wide variety of styles and quilters. And I too hope that the MQG does a little revamping before the next QuiltCon....

Katy Cameron said...

Several things have caused our little fledgling MQG to fold, I think this put the tin lid on it!

Rachel M said...

Thanks for posting this Tracey, it has been an interesting read. I didn't realise that the definition of 'modern' had got so narrow, it makes me wonder if 'modern' will look dated in a few years time!?

karen said...

Piling on to say I agree and am equally flustered by such a pigeonholed definition of the modern quilt movement. Personally I've always thought of "modern quilting" as less the aesthetic of what the quilts look like - tho for sure there's a difference between traditional fabric and modern fabric... But I think of it more defined by who is making the quilts, how the quilts are shared (I.e. blogs), how the makers have learned the craft and the techniques used to make the pieces. Sure - wonky, asymmetry, negative space are sometimes a part of it but should not be the hard standard by which to judge all modern quilts.

The quilts your friend submitted were tremendous pieces of art - in particular the appliqué quilt. The critique that it is too personal is really infuriating... Because this is a personal hobby and art is an expression of ones personality. I would think ALL of the winning quilts should be personal. It should be a requirement. You should see love in a piece and I saw it in hers.

Siobhán said...

What a wonderfully written post! I got back into quilting in the last few years after a 10+ year hiatus, during which time the online quilting community has hugely blossomed. I find myself captivated and scared. Amazed and impressed and so inspired by what others are making, yet daunted by what seems to be such strident views on what constitutes modern quilting. I have to keep reminding myself--why do I care?? I will admit that some of the winning quilts didn't do much for me, there was one that won a ribbon that I thought was amazing. Art is subjective. Quilt what makes your heart sing, with fabrics that make you happy.

Francine said...

When I looked through the many blog posts and pictures about Quilt Con, I got a different idea about the attitudes there than what your friend got from the judging. Everyone seemed so awed by the quilts on display. I'm sad that she experienced the harsh judging, but so relieved that she knows she is talented and will keep quilting. Thanks for sharing.

Carolyn said...

I am the newly elected President of a guild and our group is a amazing group of talented women ranging in age from their 20s-80s. the quilts they share are "modern", traditional, art quilts, applique, and range from complicated construction to simple blocks all are appreciated and it is wonderful. that being said we do have a few QUILT POLICE who focus on perfect points instead of embracing the friendship that sewing with friends brings. You can be a traditional quilter one day and a modern quilter the next...it depends on the project and how terrible to pigeon hole an art form

pamela said...

way to go, tracey!!!! we're all just wanting to have fun & enjoy the uniqueness of our craft :) i was reminded of sally field standing on her soap box in norma rae :) have an awesome day!

Colleen said...

Thanks! I appreciate the comparison of definitions. I have felt something was a little off and now I understand it more. I always thought Modern quilting was not about judging each other but respecting each others creativity. I also wrote about my own judging experiences and posted the comments I received. Feel free to stop by and check it out. http://cyarnell.blogspot.com/2013/03/judging-quilts-not-ourselves.html

Candy said...

Tracey you are a good friend and I hate that your friend felt defeated. I know an award wining quilter who shares her judges comments and it is amazing how varied they can be. That being said I looked up the qualifications of the judges at Quiltcon and could not find that either are certified judges. If Quiltcon plans to enter the big show world, hand out ribbons and awards it should evaluate the training and certification of their judges. I hope you and your friend will continue to make wonderfuk quilts just for the sheer joy of it.

Candy said...

Tracey you are a good friend and I hate that your friend felt defeated. I know an award wining quilter who shares her judges comments and it is amazing how varied they can be. That being said I looked up the qualifications of the judges at Quiltcon and could not find that either are certified judges. If Quiltcon plans to enter the big show world, hand out ribbons and awards it should evaluate the training and certification of their judges. I hope you and your friend will continue to make wonderfuk quilts just for the sheer joy of it.

Margo Brown said...

I normally read blogs and rarely comment...but this one just pulled me right in.

One of the regular blogs I read is from a "modern" quilter in Alberta. Have you ever looked at a quilt and just had to gasp over the beauty of it? This gal is one of those quilters and her quilt as well was turned down. I was gobsmacked to say the least.

It's these things that make me want to stay in my own internal self and create on my own for fear of those "quilt police". Once in a while I do step out, but no matter how "great" my quilts will become in the future, I don't think I would ever have the courage to have it "judged".

Sad really as there are amazing, talented people out there! I admire all of you and the work that you all do, in whatever form it is! You all encourage me, motivate me and push me to try new things and work towards improving my skills. Thank you all!

pinksuedeshoe said...

I'm out too.I don't need to be a part of an organized national/international group to make quilts. I'm fine with inviting over my friends when I can to sew. I don't want to be a part of a national group where we have to have budgets and committees and a leadership just to make stuff. Great post. :)

Jules said...

amen!

ChristaQuilts said...

Thanks so much to adding to the conversation. I just hope it gets back to the organizers so they can learn from us and make a better judged show next time around.

I went to QC and personally loved every quilt that was there for one reason or another.

Seems to me part of the definition of modern quilting when I first "joined" was that the MQG was not going to decide what was modern and what was not.

I think we all as quilters can define it for ourselves. We will do that by the work we make and the conversations we have about it.

Heidi Grohs said...

Super sad that one of my most FAVORITE quilts wasn't received well. I saw Angela's applique quilt quite a few times on Intstagram AND in blogs over the weekend with quotes like "finally seeing this in person..and it is even more incredible". I am sooo disappointed for her. Such harsh criticism. Quilting and art is so subjective and I just don't see the objectivity in judging quilting in the first place unless we are critiquing actually piecing and quilting skills. The art part shouldn't be critiqued. *sigh* Another reason why I don't tag myself as a modern quilter.

grammytheyeti.com said...

It's funny...I follow the blog of the individual you speak of here you are blogging about her. You're right - it's a small community. I too was offended by the judges comments. While her 2nd quilt was not to my personal taste, I truly appreciated all the effort & love she put into it. But the 1st one that was applique? I just don't understand the intent of the judges. I guess all the gray around the image wasn't enough negative space for their tastes.

I just recently (about 2 years ago) took up quilting. And I think no definition of a modern quilter could be better than "Learned on YouTube". Jenny Doan from Missouri Star taught me just about everything I know. I follow blogs to learn tips & tricks, joined a BOM club, and I take Craftsy quilting classes etc. I know several quilters at work and I'd call them all snobs - they are either of the new Modern quilting ilk or wouldn't dream of backing their precious quilt with a bedsheet from Walmart. Just from what I've learned in the blogs, I steer clear of these folks.

As far as judgement, the only opinion I care about regarding my quilts is the one from my grandson as he drags it around the house, uses it as a superhero cape or drapes it over chairs to make a fort. Quilt snobs need not apply. And like you, I'll also skip the quilt guilds.

Caro said...

Just saw your post and I agree. When there are such defined rules, it doesn't allow full creativity to take place. Good gravy, Mabel, who would want to be part of a group that does that? If you don't fit "in the box", you're excluded. Just wrong in my opinion.

Jamie Mueller @ SunFlower Seeds said...

AMEN SISTA!!

Bouts Choisis said...

I seem to have missed all the blogging about the judging at Quilt Con but having explored a bit this morning - the judges' comments I've read are rude, make little sense and certainly aren't constructive in order to hep the entrants "grow" as quilters. I'd also not seen that new definition of "modern" and feel that it is extremely narrow and will stifle creativity. Why is it necessary to put us all in boxes? I like patchwork, quilting and lots of different fabrics. I like lots of different quilts and different designers. I like to do (and make) what I like :-)

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