Artist Statements

At the EBHQ Show the other day, I noticed a lot of quilts that were made because the artist had something in his/her fabric stash already. There was a lot of “I made this quilt because these blues had been in the drawer for awhile” type of descriptions.

So, you made the quilt because you had some fabric laying around?

You didn’t like the pattern you selected?

There was no challenge in the technique?

You weren’t inspired by the blue of the sky and sea and picked appropriate fabric that you already had?

I don’t think it is wrong to use fabric in your fabric closet. I don’t think it is wrong to be inspired by a fabric line. If I did think that you would all call me out and you should!

Often, I am in the process of making a quilt and not at all inclined to go out, buy some fabric, wash and iron it before being able to finish. By that time it is time to cook dinner or someone needs my attention and the quilt will languish. I like having fabrics on hand with which I can work.

I do wonder why anyone would make a quilt solely because they had certain fabrics? Where is the fun in that? Quilts require a lot of effort so to have one aspect be the sole reason you make one seems a little odd to me.

I applaud using what you have, but let’s think about the whole process and not make the process solely about destashing. Process is really important to me. Some questions that float around in my head are:

  • What am I trying to achieve?
  • What am I learning?
  • What do I have that is appropriate to use to make progress?
    • Why or why not is it working?
  • What do I need to change to make the piece work?
  • Where am I, after making some progress, based on what I started out to achieve?

Quiltmaking is not a life or death situation and if people want to make a blue quilt because they have blues in their stash, at least more quilts are being made. I hope that quiltmaking will keep my brain pliable and active as I age. I hope that all the different aspects of quiltmaking will provide a variety of opportunities to continue learning and growing.

Why do you make quilts?

Author: Jaye

Quiltmaker who enjoys writing and frozen chocolate covered bananas.

12 thoughts on “Artist Statements”

  1. I have made quilts solely to use a piece of fabric that has been giving me the stink eye from the shelf, or that I want to challenge myself to use. Usually they are being made to donate to one of the charitable causes my guild supports, or I’m trying to get more comfortable with a particular color combination I wouldn’t normally use.

    I’m curious if the show you were at was a more “community based” one like my guild puts on, where all members are encourage to submit a quilt regardless of skills/desire/inspiration, as we see a lot of similar artist statements like “I made this for my granddaughter who likes pink.”, versus a more “professional” show with large prizes for winners?

    1. In your example, you might be making stuff to use up fabric, but it doesn’t sound like you are making something because the fabric ‘is laying around’. It sounds to me like there is another element as well-new idea or concept, challenge to yourself. I think that is the difference. Of course, I get inspired by fabric, but I don’t just make something-anything to use up that fabric. I wait for the right pattern or idea to come along and combine the two.

      There is no judging or jurying at the EBHQ show. All members are encouraged to submit. There is a limit to the number of quilts, but I think it might be first come, first served. There are no prizes.

  2. As usual you give us food for thought. I will at times use “not my favorite” or want to destash fabrics to play with a new idea and concept. Especially when I am working out sizes. Those fabrics give me the freedom to play without fear. And I’ve made some quilts to test an idea, hate the result and the fabrics more and others love them and want to see a pattern. As one person said recently, we can see past the fabrics you use to other possibilities.

    In terms of the leftovers that I’m saving, such as my blacks and whites, I’m waiting for the right inspiration to come along that shouts “pick me, pick me” to use up those leftovers.

    1. You don’t sound like you are just making stuff to use up fabric ‘because it is laying around’. You might be saving fabric and getting inspired by it, but there is another element as well-new idea or concept. I think that is the difference. Of course, I get inspired by fabric, but I don’t just make something-anything to use up that fabric. I wait for the right pattern or idea to come along and combine the two.

  3. I love this topic. Sounds like a good discussion. I usually see many quilts at shows that says ‘we were in a guild workshop ….’ This needs some more thinking time, but I may post it over on Twilter’s group for discussion there.

  4. I think fabric talks to me… sometimes I wish it would shut up.. hee hee….

    But seriously every quilt I have made for myself is because a fabric or a technique has me intrigued. I made a my retirement quilt out of Loralie fabric based on nurses and hospital staff. In the FMQing I wrote out some of the names of the nurses I have worked with over 45 years of nursing… ( the ones that were nice and memorable for various reasons.) I used a technique taught by Karen Hallabee on the internet to make square in a square blocks that were just a little bit wonky but I had so much fun with the technique. ( )

    ANOTHER quilt I made from a panel of BOTANICALS by Judy Baker Monsanto. I had to go on the internet to buy a second panel since I had purchased the last panel and needed more. I used a twisted Kaleidoscope technique taught at the LQS. It is such a pretty quilt I only use it for special occasions….. so yes fabric inspires me but I also finding playing with a new technique also tends to get me going.

    I keep saying I want to make an art quilt but I know I will not till every bed I have has a quilt I have made on it. … so some day.

    1. You, however, did not say “I have this fabric; I had better use it up”. You also wanted to try a technique and that makes a difference. What I saw in the quilt descriptions was a need to use it up, not a desire to make something, learn something and create.

  5. Quilters shouldn’t be so shy, blaming design choices on convenience. Does anyone really work 3-7 days creating a quilt because they wanted to get rid of fabric? Art is hard work, and we should all be proud of the accomplishment, our own as well as others’. When was the last time you heard your painter friend saying, “This picture is because I had lots of paint to use up.” Who would believe that?

  6. Dag! I just wrote a long comment and then managed to lose it. Essentially, I’m working on a quilt right now–the VFW Star quilt–that started out as play. I don’t have a stash, so it wasn’t about using up fabrics in my stash, but even if it had been, I think the process would have been the same–I started out with the goal of “making” fabric a la Victoria Findlay Wolfe, then figured out what to make with that made fabric (stars), and then decided what to do with the stars (set them into wonky blocks) and what to do with the blocks (arrange them on an alternate grid), etc. I wonder if those quilters who just wanted to use up stash fabrics actually went through a similar decision process, but undersold it?

    1. Undersold is a good way to think about it. I have also realized that I value inspiration and design a lot more than others. Although, it may be that others don’t think about inspiration and design the same way I do and, thus, don’t think about it. I often end up making a quilt as a way of playing.

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