I See Three Themes

I had some time to kill at the dealership while my car was being serviced, so I looked over the 430 small art quilts on offer at SAQA’s annual auction. The dealership seemed proud of its free wifi service so I put it to use.

The online auction runs from  September 16 to October 9, with quilts divided into three sections. Each artist donated quilt is 12 inches square, per the rules. Bidding on each section runs for a week, and the prices go down each day from the starting price of $750. I think any quilts left are offered for sale in the SAQA store.  Proceeds go to SAQA programs.

No, I didn’t make an auction quilt. For one, I have trouble working at that size to make anything worthwhile. For two, I don’t think I’d handle the ignominy if no one bought my quilt. Pity purchases by close relatives don’t count.

As I examined the pages of quilts I began to see some patterns in the subject matter. I decided to note the number of quilts with three subjects: birds, flowers/foliage, and trees. By my back of an envelope calculations 23 quilts featured birds, 29 featured trees, and 39 featured flowers or foliage. That came to 91 quilts or 21% of the 430 auction quilts. Birch trees, poppies and crows were especially popular.

hebert-messenger conrad-a-walk-in-the-woods miller-poppies welsch-lakeside-birches

ba16-mauann-t ba16-weinao-t

I suspect that abstract quilts were also well represented, but I zeroed in on the big three because they are used so often in art quilts. I’ve noticed the same subject choices in my master class. And yes, I’m also guilty of using foliage and trees. I draw the line at birds and flowers, however.

My lesson learned was to think twice before choosing overused subjects, unless I present them in a fresh way.



Filed under Art quilts, Commentary

11 responses to “I See Three Themes

  1. Pingback: This Year’s SAQA Auction | The Snarky Quilter

  2. Well, I see your point, My vote would be to NOT do in fabric something that could be better done in another medium, like paint. Fiber art should draw on the unique character of fibers!

    • I hear you. I have problems with why people make quilt portraits that are exact copies of photos. Now I could see making a portrait of someone using their old clothes, say, but to strive for duplication that runs counter to the nature of fabric seems odd.

  3. When the Texas Quilt Museum first opened, I went, and in the back gallery were a lot of small quilts that artists had donated. I bought one of the most expensive ones, and later talked to the artist, Sheila Frampton-Cooper, on the phone. She said, “Can I ask what you paid for it?” I told her proudly, “$75,” and there was a stunned silence on her end of the line. Now I know why! Most of the others were priced at $40, and they were from artists I had heard of. It would be interesting to know which strategy actually brings in a higher number of sales or more income, or if it works out about the same.

    • Well, I just checked the SAQA website to see if I could get information on what the auction raised last year. I didn’t find that out, but I did see that this year’s auction has already raised $9000 from the $1000 per quilt offer. It sounds like the quilt museum was offering bargain basement prices.

  4. It is interesting that you “zeroed” in on these three categories and you make good points… I submitted a bird piece for this auction! In this situation, as is often the case with me, the pieces I submit were made prior for another venue or it was tiny bits and pieces that would otherwise not have been made into anything (maybe ever!). I think most of us enjoy nature and all she offers and to capture her, or try to, in our art is natural (pardon the pun). I have been blown away by the diverse collection of art quilts created and offered at the SAQA auctions and I’m glad I could do what I love to help in some small way.

    • Certainly the majority of auction quilts have other subjects. What I see in the auction quilts on those 3 subjects is certainly better than some of the art quilts I see locally on the same subjects. I have no problem in using nature as inspiration. I just wish the artists would choose a sycamore instead of a birch, an anhinga instead of a heron, or a weed instead of a poppy. I know some do.

  5. I can’t imagine working in 12 inches but this is a neat idea for fund raising. I’m not sure what to think about the “big 3”–I wonder if these 3 are perennial favorites or if it’s some sort of trend.

    • Some of the artists manage to pack an amazing amount of content in those 12 inches. As for the topics, I would hazard they are used by many quilters, not just art quilters. Of course, the styles may be a bit different.

  6. jennyklyon

    I enter a quilt each year, prepared to purchase my own quilt in order to keep it from the “SAQA shop” which is the hall of shame to me. I consider it a donation to an organization I’m passionate about. And yup, I purchased last year’s quilt!

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