Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"Modern" vs. "Traditional"... Hm.

For those readers who are primarily interested in seeing pictures and descriptions of what I've recently made, I must apologize in advance for this post. It will (probably) not include any of that.

I'd like to thank Rachel (who's blog is Stitched in Color) for inspiring this spin-off post from her brilliant (and dare I say brave) post about things we all normally wouldn't say. It can be found here. It is very worth the read as are the comments, if you are so inclined. Rachel shared some real honesty about sewing/quilting trends, fabric lines, patterns, and the like - and then invited her readers to do the same in their comments... AND THE FLOOD GATES WERE OPENED! Okay, a little exaggeration there, but truly - these sewists and quilters have had a ton of real, meaningful thoughts they've been tight-lipped about and Rachel's post seems like it's been just the nudge we all needed to spill our guts!

I my comment, I shared 2 thoughts. One was about my desire for the quilting bloggers out there to share info. about their sewing machines... I mentioned this because it's not something I would probably ever ask in a comment on one of the blogs I follow, but you better believe I'm scouring all the photos of their studios for glimpses of the machine(s) they use!!!

The other issue I mentioned in my comment on Rachel's post was the discouragement I feel as  new quilter when I read posts about the "fresh, modern" style of quilting vs. the traditional (read: "unoriginal", "boring", "lame") style of quilting. On more than one occasion, I've read a post in a blog or photo comments on Flickr that have left me feeling none too hopeful about my own emerging quilting style and abilities. When folks out there write that using quilt kits and fabric collections rather than designing original patterns and selecting your own fabric is, well... "uncool", I have to admit it's discouraging. Perhaps they're not talking about beginning quilters... perhaps they're calling for established quilters out there to stretch their artistic selves... that's all fine and good, but for those of us who are not exactly savvy or experienced in this art form yet, it does little more than discourage.

Bottom line, here's how I see it - I look to quilting blogs for inspiration. Period. I'm not here just  for tutorials (though I appreciate them ever so much) or free fabric (not that I don't enter giveaways) - I follow blogs and peruse Flickr to see quilts and sewn items that are beautiful, that capture my interest, and that get my own creative juices flowing. I think the reason that I get discouraged by the types of postings I mentioned above is because the quilts that inspire me the most are what I would call "modern". The style is something I aspire to. When I read that using a collection of fabric or someone else's pattern to make a quilt is not REALLY "modern", it is discouraging because it removes me that much further from the style I aspire to. For example, at this point, I would never dream of joining a "modern quilt guild" even though I would love to... I feel that my quilting isn't "modern enough" due to the fact that I use "unoriginal" ideas to create my quilts. Another facet of this issue that puts me off greatly is that it reminds me a lot of 6th grade. I was almost a cool kid in 6th grade. I liked the cool kids' style. I talked to them. I asked my mom to buy the same jeans, black t-shirts, and button-up flannels that they wore (give me a break - it was the early 90's). If you put us all side-by-side you might mistake me for one of them. BUT - I wasn't.

REALLY??!?! Do we as adults need to recreate the adolescent angst we went through in childhood? In our creative community of all places? "Well, you call your style modern, but I don't think what you think is modern is really modern" That's clique talk... and it puts me off.
Here is a quote from the comments on Rachel's post that illustrates perfectly some of the thoughts and feelings out there which make me feel... well... bad, less-than, non-original, and totally unmotivated to create things which I would like to call 'modern':

"It's probably because I'm in art school and studying graphic design so I see what "modern design" looks like right now. There are quilt designs out there claiming to be modern but obviously, it's not. It's either too complicated, too messy, the fabric choices are incorrect...whatever. Before you call yourself a modern designer, you need to know what that even means!!!"

Here are a couple more quotes from the comments on Rachel's post that show me that I'm not alone in my feelings about this "Modern?" issue:

"Hey, sistas, put your big girl panties on and stop trying to 'prove' if modern quilts or traditional quilts are better. Who cares?"

"I hate that even though quilters are supposed to be open and welcoming to all, everything seems so clique-ish. I would love to participate in swaps, but you have to have participated in swaps before you can join a swap...really? "

Interesting quotes, huh?

I'd love to hear feedback from you! Do I just need an attitude adjustment?!?


  1. And I am just in awe of anyone who can make beautiful things, in whatever style they prefer. And I just come here to see what I only wish I could do. So, I this is probably not a helpful comment except to stay that isn't art about expressing yourself? This isn't about expressing anyone else's self, so it seems that artists and crafters should not be critical of others but just enjoy their own process of art.

  2. You are right on here. I am new to quilting and really had to force myself to post my first tries on my blog and fickr. They are really not well done and frankly eye sores, but I made them and they are loved by the receivers:)

    Let's just start our own quilt along swap thing...maybe call it "20 followers or less" or even better "tramodernquiltalongooza!!! Let me know if your in ;)

    p.s created post about machine asap :)

  3. "Tramodernquiltalongooza" - I LOVE it! I'm absolutely in :) I'm off to check out your flickr "eyesores" - I'm sure they're awesome, and most importantly (as you said) adored by their owners!

  4. I just tried to post a long comment and blogger ate it. Grrr...Will try again later!

  5. I think it's natural to try and put labels on things - it helps us describe them. At the same time, as a new quilter, I also struggle with the whole question of what my style is. I want to feel modern, but I also try some of the more traditional elements at times to build my skill set and push myself. I buy kits at times because I really like how the quilt was put together with those fabrics and sometimes I just don't want to pick my own fabric. I sometimes buy whole lines because I know the fabrics will match.

    I read blogs for inspiration as well. I'm looking for projects that tempt me to try something new - a new color combo, a new technique, a new pattern, anything I haven't done yet that is presented in a way that isn't intimidating and that looks doable.

    Thanks for expounding more on the modern thought. I followed you over here just to see what you had to say. :-)

  6. Thanks for adding to the discussion here. It's really important for people to realize how their words effect others!

  7. I went to one meeting of a modern quilt guild (the chapter local to me) and found that about 1/4 of the attendees did not appear to have sewed anything bigger than a tote bag, and quite a few had merely bought some fabric and thought hard about sewing with it. Many were only interested in fabric designer name dropping.

    (I quite honestly wanted to set the whole lot of them on fire by the time I left, and it turned out when I investigated that they were actively discouraging new members and shutting down discussion forums, because they wanted to stay small. I would be happier with this if I'd figured it out before wasting my time.)

    So, um, on the modern quilt guild thing, I think you'd find people at your experience and artistic level, if you joined one, but it's a crap shoot whether they're nice people or not.

  8. How about just making stuff that YOU like, in the fabrics and styles YOU like. People like to put labels on things and babble on but if YOU like to look at what you are making, it's all good!

  9. Interesting take on the debate. I agree with the comment before mine. Make quilts that make you happy - read blogs that you enjoy whether they are from a "big name" or not. I like vintage fabrics and vintage patterns; but, I also like more contemporary fabrics and patterns too. I like scrap quilts and I like planned quilts. I like piecing and applique - machine and hand quilting. There's room enough in the quilting world for everyone to spread their wings and follow their bliss!