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What is an Art Quilt?     Home     


All quilts are  art quilts, traditional quilts included, in that they were made with the creative ingenuity of some, perhaps anonymous person for use as a bed cover.  But in this time, many artists have been inspired and chosen quilting as their art form.  These quilts are hung on the wall, rather than used as bed covers.  An art quilt is like a traditional quilt in that it is made by putting three layers of fabric together and fastening them by some sort of stitching.  The quilt form functions like a canvas and the  colors and textures of the fabric are like the paint.  Other traditional 2-D media like printmaking, collage, drawing and photography can all be incorporated into the art quilt as well as the more domestic arts media such as embroidery, knitting, crocheting, lace, applique and patchwork. 

I remember a Christmas time during the mid-eighties when we had guests in our home and we were all exchanging gifts.  My husband at that time gave me a new iron and I was very pleased because I needed it for my art quilts.  But when I opened the package, there were some little giggles from some who thought that I was getting a rather mundane gift.  They did not know that this was an art tool!  Thinking about all of the women who came before us, who did large amounts of utilitarian sewing--making their families clothing and bedding as well as at times taking in sewing to earn extra money--they were greatly relieved when the sewing machine was invented and they could make the things they needed much faster.  And then mass produced clothing and bedding became available and women's lives changed forever.  In a way, sewing itself lost it's meaning!  But I remember watching my grandmother sewing and cooking and canning and knitting and crocheting and embroidering---this was at a time when she could have gone out to the store and bought any of the things that she was making herself.  I learned so much by watching all of her very creative processes.  She made me dresses often.  She would start by drawing a pattern onto newspaper and going from there.  She knitted all of her many grandchildren red mittens with a string between them that would go through the sleeves of a winter coat so that they would not be lost.  She would always start by looking at your hand and then she began to knit.  When she cooked, she rarely used a recipe, but could make the most delicious cassaroles from whatever she found in the kitchen.  I loved her food!

When I was a child, I always thought of myself as an artist.  Even though my grandmother probably never gave it a thought that she was so very creative; she did it naturally and did not seem to need credit for it; when I look back on it, she had a profound influence on my life and my work.  It was not just the materials and techniques that I saw her use, but her attitude about taking whatever was at hand and making something wonderful from it. She trusted her intuition and her instinct and went ahead and  made the stuff!  She did not worry about what anyone else thought about her mittens or the small outfits she made.  I am sure that there were lots of little flaws in the things that she made, but that was what made them so special.

So what does all of this have to do with the definition of an art quilt?  To me, it is a matter of having the willingness to express my own ideas, to make the quilt that is in my heart, to make it without a predesigned pattern, and to allow it to unfold in a way that provides surprises along the way.  Many of the tools of domesticity such as sewing machines and irons that were a necessity in earlier days can now be put in the same category as paint and brushes. The making of a quilt as a bed covering is no longer something that we have to do!  But we can still make beautiful quilts for our beds AND/OR we can take the art medium of the quilt as well as all the tools that go with it and combine them with what are thought of as "art tools." 866-292-3247 To Top of Page
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