Art Quilt Thoughts

My website and blog both have Art Quilt terms in the title. I think about designs that are not block related and have made several quilts that do not use the block format. One of my favorites is What Comes Next, a quilt I made after I had a bit of time to think about September 11.

I have a couple of art quilt designs on the drawing board, but they have not yet reached their turn in line (noch nicht an der Reihe, as we say in German). Due to the busyness of life, I have been making block quilts and focusing on color for the past few years. This does not prevent me reveling in what other Art Quiltmakers are working on or developing my own designs for the future.

As part of this process, I read Quilting Arts and Cloth Paper Scissors magazines as well as other inspirational magazines, as I am sure many of you do. One of the things I noticed recently was how messy many art quilts are. I have a bias against messy, I will say up front. Collaging the box in September was exciting, but messy and I am sure I would have had some sort of medical emergency had I not swathed everything, including myself, in newspaper.

I don’t call myself an artist, because, like Wayne Thiebaud, I want to let history judge my work, but I do make art quilts.


I make quilts that do not use a classic quiltmaking design (block pattern, e.g.). These are my art quilts.

I consider the above quilt to be an art quilt, but it is also not messy. It does not have threads hanging off of it or blobs of stuff piled on the quilt. I can appreciate the design choice that includes dangling threads or dots of paint placed carefully on a quilt. I think the key is that these have to be design choices to further the ‘story’ of the quilt and not have been placed there to make the quilt ‘arty.’

Cinda Cawley (who kindly gave me permission to post her unedited words here) wrote in a post to the AQSG list, which says a lot to make me think right now:

“I went to the Quilts=Art=Quilts exhibit at the Schweinfurth Center in
Auburn, NY. Call me a Philistine if you must (I’ll readily admit I don’t do
Art Quilts myself) but I was very disappointed. I try to get to Q=A=Q every
year and I always find several things that blow me away (confirmed
traditionalist that I am). Not this year! Do you ever go to a guild quilt
show and feel like all the exhibitors took the same workshops? That’s how I
felt (with a few exceptions) about these quilts. It seems as if all the
artists were told “Take tulle, or some other transparent material, paint or
dye it, cut it into squares or rectangles, arrange randomly on a
background.” I love to see the work produced by the members of the Art Bee
in my guild because even when they start from the same place they end up
going in very different directions.”

I have been wondering if making art quilts is a default for people? Do some people just start in on art quilts? If so, do they know anything about design? I think design matters in art quilts, but what do other people think? Does anyone care about design anymore?

I think the underlying principle for any type of quilt is design topped off by technique. If it is a bad design, then no amount of dangling threads or dots of paint will fix it.