Over the last decade, it has been interesting to watch how what we call the ‘modern quilt’ has evolved. Without a doubt there are tenets of what qualifies as a modern quilt, and as different voices add theirs to the movement, something a bit more dynamic, if undefinable, is emerging. We see it in the submissions to QuiltCon. Last year when the selections for QuiltCon Together were unveiled, a number of them had us asking each other: ‘Is that modern?’
On this point, Irene Roderick has become a well-known and respected name within the modern quilt community. But she has expressed that she sometimes feels her quilts don’t fit ‘nicely’ under the modern umbrella. Jacquie Gering has been heard to say that the quilting world is a three-legged stool (traditional, modern, and art quilts). Roderick’s quilts aren’t ‘traditional’ by any stretch of the word, and she has had several quilts hang at QuiltCon over the years. But do some of her quilts fall under the ‘art quilt’ umbrella?
What does it mean for a quilt to be an ‘art quilt?’ Aren’t we trying to show and teach the world that quilts themselves are ‘Art?’ For over 30 years SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates, Ltd.) has been promoting and championing ‘art quilts,’ as well as quilts as Art. Modern quilters feel comfortable around many of the quilts that SAQA has celebrated over the years but there is still a distinction between SAQA and the modern movement.
At Curated Quilts, we feel a measure of responsibility for shaping what it means for a quilt to be a ‘modern’ quilt. We do so carefully and with an open mind. As humans, we tend to categorize things. But it’s quite possible that in the process of categorizing we miss the remarkable and unintentionally exclude what would make the modern movement infinitely better. In that spirit, we share some quilts that hung at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas that flirt with the boundaries of what is modern.
Multitasking by Kathleen Boveé
Multitasking is part flying saucer, part assembly line. The use of softer colors for the background paired with the bolder colors and hard shapes on top of it creates a 3D floating effect. This quilt was inspired by a class taught by Maria Shell and her techniques for making print fabric out of solid fabrics, and by a class taught on how to use a Quick Curves ruler.
Markings in Black and Redby Irene Roderick @hixsonir
Each of Irene Roderick’s quilts tell a dynamic story. So many of them are reminiscent of a bustling cityscape. Roderick says about this quilt, “This work is based on the human urge to use mark making as part of spiritual/ritualistic practices, map making, storytelling, recording of history, decoration and daily communication. I began this series while in isolation during the pandemic, listening to the constant refrain, ‘we are all in this together.’ In this red and black quilt, made during the early days of sheltering in place, news reports were of loss and political sparring.”
Cloud Surfing by Shannon Fraser @shannonfraserdesigns
We feel seen by this ethereal piece, as though the quilt knows more about us than we know about ourselves.Cloud Surfing moves in slow motion. Fraser used the Drunkard’s Path Rulers by Jenny Haynes (@pappersaxsten) to make this quilt. This quilt is a pattern that can be purchased on Fraser’s website.
Media Bubble by Beatrice Gilbert
Gilbert says about this quilt, “The pressures in our culture are so varied and urgent. Some choose to cocoon in a media bubble to gather and process the deluge of data we receive. This quilt was designed in symbiotic waves. First the linear pathways, then color values assigned to create movement and vibrancy, then the addition of shapes: linear, circular, the unexpected; and then ghost quilting to extend the form of the appliquéd shapes into the solid perimeter.” It’s easy to be mesmerized into your own little quilt bubble while looking at this quilt.
Friend by Hideko Kawai
Though this quilt leans more pictorial than modern, we were blown away by the detail in it. It is a fantastic use of maximalism and encompasses an incredible amount of movement and energy. Kawai says about the quilt, “This quilt was made to represent my wish that all of us help each other to make a happy and joyful world. I used a lot of bright colored fabrics to express such a world.”
By Brittany Bowen Burton