Category Archives: Snark

Artistic Endeavors – Opinions

Skirting the issue that what IS art is a matter of opinion all by itself, I’ll close my year of artistic endeavors with opinions on art related issues.

First, the question of who owns rights to a quilt has vexed commentators. The saga of art collector Will Arnett and the quilters of Gee’s Bend shows the unequal level of business savvy between those who license quilt images and the quilt makers who were happy to get $200 for a quilt. Some Gee’s Bend quilters filed lawsuits challenging their handshake agreements with Arnett.

As a general matter, copyright is inherited, like any part of one’s estate—an immaterial heirloom. In some countries, like Australia, artists receive royalties on a resale, so if a quilt were purchased for $200 and next sold to a museum for $20,000, the artist would benefit, receiving some percentage of the increase. In the United States, at least for now, there are no resale royalties; copyright can police only the most egregious instances of appropriation, paying scant dividends on use of images of the work. But at least, as Ms. Pettway [one of the quilters] puts it, “it acknowledges the quilter.”

More generally, ownership of a work of art is a slippery concept.
“The first lesson that prospective art buyers have been learning is that artworks aren’t yours to do with whatever you want.”

Then, there’s copyright on a painting (or other work of art.) “When you buy an original painting, you buy the physical object to have and enjoy. In most circumstances, you own only the artwork, not the copyright to it.”

Melanie at Catbird Quilt Studio had a recent post about the whole copyright/cultural appropriation debate.

Joe Cunningham takes on Calvin Klein and a host of condescending attitudes towards quilts and their makers. He begins his rant with,
“Even today, when the walls between High and Low art are beginning to crumble, when the divisions between Art and Craft have less and less meaning, there is such a long way to go before quilt artists can get anywhere in the art world that I am resigned to the concept that I will not live to see the day when a quilt artist can be seen as an artist pure and simple.” He then moves on to a recent Calvin Klein ad campaign that features quilts as floor coverings, and A.P.C., a French company that sells limited edition quilts made in India.

Another choice quote, “Sophisticates justify using old quilts and the graphic ideas they contain using statements that imply that quilts were once made in a long ago, grandmotherly place, and that these sophisticates are now using them in this fun, quirky way to simulate some sort of interest in the past.” I’ll leave the rest of Joe’s spot on comments for your discovery.

I want to end with an opinion on the role of fear in art making. Julie Fei Fan Balzer addressed this topic in an Instagram post. “This quote [Fear tricks us into living a boring life.” – Donald Miller] struck such a chord with me. I get a lot of art related questions that I think are motivated by fear: “What will happen if I do xyz?” “What should I use to do xyz?” “How should I do xyz?” The fact is: I know nothing more than you. In fact, I might know less. I didn’t go to art school. I just tried things. Some of them worked. A lot of them failed. I used up tons of precious art supplies doing stupid things. I still do! I burned time and wasted effort and I’m so glad that I did. All of those failures, all of that waste, all of the mistakes — they all made me fearless in my art making. Experience has taught me that I can paint it over, flip the page, throw it out, learn to live with it, scrape it off, and sometimes even “fix” it. It’s all okay. So if you’re staring at a pile of art or craft supplies, throw away the fear. It’s time to find out what happens if you {insert your own adventure here}.”

She has done a podcast on artistic fear you may want to listen in on. The meat of her discussion begins about 1.5 minutes in. Of course, the book Art and Fear is a great resource on this topic.

I have enjoyed sharing my discoveries with you and hope to feature new ones in 2019 every so often, as the spirit moves me.

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Fun While It Lasted

With QuiltCon West underway in California it seems a good time to declare that I am over modern quilting, as defined by current modern quilt practitioners. Back in 2012 I had high hopes for a bolder, less pretty, more personally defined approach to quilting. I read and was inspired by many of the blogs that sprouted daily, and joined a local modern quilt guild. I made several quilts in the spirit of modern quilting.

Now, four years later, I say goodbye to all that. My local modern guild limped along on life support for two years, and finally vanished without even a whimper. Many of the blogs I enjoyed have ceased publication or have devolved into advertisements for fabric collections, patterns, and other items for sale. I gather it’s called branding, which I always associate with cattle ranching. Certainly there are outstanding exceptions, but many modern quilting books either lack substance or recycle “traditional” quilt book topics like half square triangles with new fabrics. Modern quilters jump from one “must have” fabric line/pattern to another. The owls, the deer, sheesh! What happened to the originality? I see a lot of “me too.” And the workshop lineup at QuiltCon West features a lot of traditional topics – hand applique anyone?

It may be that I’m holding modern quilters to higher standards than I do traditional quilters. Yeah, probably. I just had such hopes for self-determination – design your own quilts, make them with less expensive solid fabrics/vintage sheets/whatever, learn to sew and FMQ in a month. Then, the marketing juggernaut struck. And who wouldn’t be tempted by the chance to make money from your hobby? BTW, I’d be interested to learn of quilters who support themselves on modern quilting.

I do treasure what I’ve gained from the moderns. The bold, off kilter designs were a shot in the arm. The exuberance of new quilters who had no idea something might be hard was a spur. The sheer thrill newbie quilters got from their first efforts reminded me how fun quilting can be. You can see from the winning quilts at QuiltCon West that plenty of great quilts are being made; not all has been drowned out by marketing. I still think, though, the definition of modern quilting remains as slippery as ever.

Here’s some of my modern quilts that were most directly inspired by the modern quilting movement. One, Breezeblocks, is even very close to the original in Quilting Modern. I still treasure that book.

Curves Ahead 2Curves Ahead (based on Pinterest pin)

Spring@60MPHSpring @ 60 MPH (layout by Timna Tarr)

Where did all the hexies goWhere Did All The Hexies Go? (from my head)

107 pyramids107 Pyramids (based on a drawing by Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr)

boxed-trianglesBoxed Triangles (from scraps)

Color SlideColor Slide (my own invention)

Impact 2Impact (concept from Terry Aske)

tipsy_lampshadesTipsy Lampshades (concept from Quilting Modern)

WPMWPM (layout based on Esch House Quilts design)

Breezeblocks_quiltedBreezeblocks (based on Quilting Modern)

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Scrooge’s Holiday Decor

Even though Scrooge lives at my house (Scrooge, c’est moi) I succumb to a bit of holiday cheer in the form of seasonal quilts.  I made them, so I might as well get some use out of them. Please note that my holiday quilts have no angels, snowmen, snowflakes, ornaments, or Santas on them. They are piecing exercises that happen to be made in green and red fabric.

The first one, a table runner, used up the leftover half square triangles I made in a class on pressing.

IMG_6762

Here are the rest of the half square triangles. My points have never been so perfect since.

press4success2a

The second one was my first experiment back in 2011 with less than symmetrical log cabin type piecing. I won a gift certificate to a local quilt shop and happened to go shopping when the holiday fabric was in stock. I liked the holly leaves.

XmasBoxesAside from My Brain On Xmas, which I meant as irony, I haven’t gone near a holiday theme since.

My Brain On XmasIt says something that I gave away over half my Christmas stuff to a thrift store last year. I did keep the beautiful and sentimental ornaments, but I feel so much better with all that stuff out of the house.

And don’t get me started on Christmas sweaters. I’ve never owned one, though as a girl I had a red felt poodle skirt decorated with sequin trimmed reindeer. I found out sweaters are now being made deliberately ugly. Yes, hipness is now involved. Tipsy Elves promises ugly and tacky sweaters. My Ugly Christmas Sweater features sweaters with the likeness of Donald Trump and other presidential candidates.  Yet other sites offer vintage ugly Christmas sweaters. I find it bizarre that people are willing to pay good money for ugly drek, but I realize that applies to products far beyond sweaters.

Well, I feel better now that some of my pent up Scrooge-ness has been let out.  I am still very much in favor of Christmas cookies, though.

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Art Speak

I’m not called the Snarky Quilter for nothing. And nothing sets off my BS meter like art speak – that self-important, pretentious twaddle so beloved of art marketers and performance/installation artists. You know, those folks who have a truckload of dirt dumped on a gallery floor and call it art.

Here’s an example I came across on Kathy Loomis’ blog, Art With A Needle, on The Mending Project installation by Lee Mingwei:

“…installing the thread was a serious production; “We were very intentional about making it look unintentional,” said Marcus Siu, the art handler who got to do all the hard work. “It’s a very Zen process,” Lee agreed.

Oooh, I’ll have to remember “intentional about making it look unintentional” when someone dares to suggest one of my creations looks like a hot mess.

9_2013_dyeing2Like this fabric I dyed, which to me epitomizes a lurid and throbbing hot mess. I think I put this on the back of one of my more arty quilts.

 

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Thoughts On A Quilt Show

On a bitter cold day in late February a friend and I took in a quilt show. Both of us had quilts entered and of course we wanted to check out the competition and be inspired.

We were thrilled that both our quilts were hung in prominent, well lit spots. Some of the other 200 quilts on display weren’t as fortunate. There were lots of different types of quilts to admire, though almost no modern quilts. I don’t know if that reflects a lack of interest in modern quilting in our area or if modern quilters simply don’t enter this show.

I took fewer pictures than is my wont, partly because I didn’t see a lot that was new to me or so exceptionally well done that I had to record it. Here are photos of quilts I really liked that sported no ribbons.

November in Indigo and Walnut by Judith Kessler SmithThis one featured natural dyes, hand made snowflakes and 3D leaves.

painted_quiltThe quilting on the butterfly was like zentangle, and the colors were hand painted. Maybe the thread tension was bad on the back, but I wasn’t able to check that out.

art_deco_guyThis quilt wasn’t heavily quilted, which may have turned off the judges, but I like the guy’s style, even though his face is blue, orange, and green.

touch_of_chartreuseI included this paper pieced quilt so you won’t think I’m all about the arty quilts. I find that chartreuse refreshing.

All of the above quilts looked technically well done to me and had a spark of originality. I notice that three have a similar color palette, so maybe those are the judges’ least favorite colors. The ribbons graced the Judy Niemeyer pattern quilts, the needle turn applique quilts, and bog standard log cabin quilts. Yes, some of the quilts that won ribbons were lovely, but many of the judges’ choices were mystifying.

The most head scratching was the winner in the art quilt category. It was large and depicted an imaginary land, complete with water, lighthouse, very large tree, houses, hills and a host of other details. Almost every inch was covered in some form of bling applied with a heavy hand – buttons, rhinestones, angelique, crystals and more. This choice confirmed my hunch that most quilt show judges haven’t a clue how to judge art quilts, where design is probably more important than technique. I believe they felt that due it its size and amount of embellishment this quilt deserved first place.

Certainly any award winning quilt should be technically well made. Heavens knows I saw enough quilting and binding that made me shudder. And when I disparage the binding on a quilt you know it’s bad.

It may be that show judges need more education and guidance on how to judge a quilt’s design. It’s yes/no when it comes to straight edges, square corners, sharp points, even stitching, etc. Art quilts don’t lend themselves to such criteria, and their design is critical to judging them. The art quilt category had the third largest number of entries in the show, so I think this issue will grow.

So why enter art quilts in a general show, you ask? There are shows devoted to just art quilts or modern quilts, but ecumenical shows serve an important purpose.  I want show goers to see all the permutations of quilting, not just a small slice. Traditional and art quilters may find inspiration where they least expect it.

I’ll close with a photo of my favorite quilt at the show. It won a second place ribbon in its category. There’s a small boat thread painted under the breaking wave.

Weather the Storm by Elizabeth Bauman

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Oh No, It’s Still In My Stash

A review of my January 2014 post about fabric I hoped to use over the year reveals that I have failed abysmally.  Only one, Migratory Lace, made it into anything I did in 2014. And what’s worse, I’ve rewarded my irresponsible behavior by purchasing more fabric.

orange peel pillow detailMigratory Lace in a pillow with another hard to use fabric

Evaluation of the elements common to my always-a-bridesmaid fabrics reveals the following: they are prints in colors that clash with everything else in my stash, and at the time of purchase I thought they would make a dazzling quilt.

I seem to have the same problem when I buy new clothes. The top I thought would breathe new life into some old pants turns out to be a shade off, or too short or long. Even if I buy nothing but black, they are different shades of black.

So why do I keep repeating this mistake? I think it’s because enough of my impulse purchases have worked out to make me think lightening will strike twice.

I have learned that I’ll always find a use for solids, even browns, and need to keep my supplies of black, white and gray topped up. Same goes for batiks that don’t have a strong pattern. And I seem to work McKenna Ryan fabric into lots of quilts. I’ve also learned to steer away from many of the modern print fabrics. They are enticing, but the color palettes don’t seem to work with anything but the rest of their collection.

I have a weakness for ombre fabrics, stripes, and the Grunge line from Moda’s Basic Gray.

little-black-dress-grunge-cotton-fabric-grey-4Stripes I like have been hard to come by lately, but I found some ombre fabrics last year. This is the Gelato line by Daiwabo, a Japanese company. And I just bought a jellyroll (my first one ever) of Caryl Bryer Fallert gradients.

19 Gelato kit finalThis year I’ll see if I can arrange some fabric swaps, or put the old stuff on a quilt back.

 

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Bah Humbug

We’re approaching the time of year when I can dread snow and “the holidays.” I saw the season’s first flakes a few days ago, but the brunt of the white stuff went elsewhere. Lucky Buffalo. I can hear the snow gods now – we’ll be back.

That brings me to “the holidays.” I know many (most?) people will recoil in horror at this, but I hate “the holidays.” Christmas trees and model train sets are fine. Festive meals are fine, too. It’s the incessant music everywhere and the push to buy, buy, buy that make me bonkers. Plus, everyone whines about how stressed out they are with all the holiday doings.

So, let’s talk about making, rather than buying, gifts. Let’s be real and not fantasize about making a king size quilt for each of our loved ones. Instead, why don’t we contemplate smaller items that might actually be useful.

I’ve already written about two handy quilted/sewn items that would make nice gifts – a fabric bowl holder for the microwave and a smartphone/tablet stand. You probably have all the materials for these already.

fabric bowlsphone stand rear view

I found several possibilities on Robert Kaufman’s free patterns website.  Sandwich sacks, totes (including a sewing tote,) beach towels, purse organizer, duffle bag, dog bed, tablet case, camera case,  zipper pouches, a variety of pillows, etc. There are lots of Kona solids based quilts as well. And don’t forget to check out the free patterns offered by other fabric companies as well. Of course they want you to buy their fabric, but you can probably pull together fabric from your stash.

ShimmerCargoBagTabletCasetote_webBeachToteLondonCallingPurseInsertB

On the receiving end, your loved ones may be happy to give you a rainbow selection of thread or a workshop you’ve been wanting to try. Maybe a handy person will put together a design wall for you. For myself, I’m hoping someone will finally put the little drummer boy out of his misery.

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