Now that PIQF and Houston are over, I have been thinking a lot about quilt designing and quilt artistry.  Seeing the quilts in person and Instagram/FB posts, it starts to get overwhelming.  I find myself going back and re-looking at the pictured quilts, categorizing them and picking them apart.  What is special about each one, what “makes it” special?

From there I am thinking about the difference in traditional quilt and innovative quilt categories, the prevalence of photo realism, digital fabric print quilts.

Traditional quilts, pieced, common angles (30,45,60,90), usually cotton fabrics, distinct patterns/designs and sub-patterns and designs. Curved piecing to some extent.  Crystals and beads (although crystal use seems to be waning).  Interesting color combinations, pattern geometry, tessellation, 3-D effects. Applique, raw edge, fused, or machine/hand done. Machine quilted, hand quilted.  Quilted to death or not.  Texture from quilting, trapunto, pantographic, tied (heaven forbid 🙄) big stitches, micro-stitches, colored thread, mono-poly.  Usually bound and finished edges.

Innovative/Art quilts, all of the above, some, or none of the above.  Photo realism, collage techniques, appliqué, raw edge usually.  Let’s not forget embellished, painted, inked, rusted, dyed.  Beads anyone? Imagery, statement pieces, emotion grabbing pieces, also fun stuff, plays on words and ideas.

Photo realism, should it be a separate category? Maybe, it’s a collage, it’s made from fabric, it’s quilted.  I enjoy pieces that are a study in value and hue, sort of like a Monet painting.  This also opens up the category of pointillism, OY!  Fabric used like paint, to make a picture/quilt, like landscapes.  This flexibility of fabric is one of the things about quilting that really interests me.  The ability to use a piece of printed fabric to represent texture or shadow, or movement.  But what about quilts that are a digital fabric print that is quilted on?  Does the quilting actually add to the finished quilt, or does it serve to make it a quilt? This area is a bit gray to me.  I enjoy seeing the finished pieces, but rarely do I revisit and want to get up close and visually dissect it.  These quilts are often like posters of art to me.  I used to have a poster of Georgia O’Keefe’s Orange Poppy.  It was pretty, but then when I saw the real painting, I took that poster down, it was hollow and lifeless in comparison.

Lastly, I am trying to come up with inspiration for next year’s quilt.  Right now I feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of talent out there.  I am trying to balance my joy in creating with my artistic side.  How to combine them with out loosing the balance.  Self doubt figures in here, unfortunately.  The technical stuff, I have down, I can sew a 1/4″ seam with my eyes closed.  I’m mastering pattern creation with EQ8 and have a sizable stash of “inspiration”.  Maybe it’s that next step that’s scary, the falling-off-the-cliff step.  Is it time to start a masterwork, or think more? Do I need to make a few more sub-masters, to reach to top?  When I see the ‘best in show’ quilts, I feel that I am a fledgling, but when I see the quilts of my peers, I feel confident.  Practice or stretch?