Come Quilt With Me

I’m on a bit of a textile / patchwork / quilting bender for all my blog-posts this week. All because I’ve been bitten by the #TextileBug.

Thanks to yet another Twitter-bred innovation, I was part of a workshop on Quilts given by @MaryLD on Saturday5th February. I missed the original tweets that started the ball rolling but it was something along the lines of @Elana wishing she knew more about sewing or quilts and @ClareConway suggesting her mother could show her. This turned out to be the incredibly talented @MaryLD and next thing I knew @Clarabel was giving my a cyber-poke-in-the-ribs to wake up and smell the fabric-fumes! All of a sudden, there were six of us [@C_bunni_crafts, @GingerPixel, @Elana, @Mollydot, @Clarabel & yours-truly] all agreeing to descend on @MaryLD’s crafting studio; armed only with a notebook and an open-mind. @MaryLD dubbed it “Twillting”!

What followed is hard to do justice to in words; except to say that, for me, neurons I hadn’t used since my college days were suddenly flickering and charging up.

Mary talked about her crafting journey – how she reached the point she is at today and the various milestones along the way. One of those milestones was a City and Guilds Course she did a few years back and she spoke about the impact this had on her crafting.

She showed us some of her quilts and spoke about the ideas behind them. One such quilt was made as part of an Easter Challenge (see left). All participants were given some challenge fabric – a fairly innocuous white fabric with small black flowers. Mary used it as appliqué tulips on blocks of brooding black and gray, which she then set-off with blood red accents and sashing. To finish off she used crucifixes for the quilting  – the stitching that tie the three layers of a quilt sandwich toghether (see right). She called it “Good Friday?”. I loved this; the adjudicators, she says: … not so much!

With her friend Liz, Mary talked about where a line between Art and Crafts might lie. If an Artist does not touch every part of the making of his/her art-work is it really that Artist’s work? We also talked about whether a crafter should be content to stick with a pattern, or a kit. This has given me plenty to mull over since.

If an object has an every-day function – a quilt for a bed, a shawl for your sholders – can it be Art? A urinal that has been taken off a wall and put into an Art Gallery has been called art. If you take the same quilt and hang it on the wall does it become Art just because the Artist says it is; or because the maker has a reputation as an Artist?

All of this pre-supposes that we consider “Art” to be superior to “Craft”. Why is this? Is it because we only call things Art if we can only respond to them on a spiritual or intellectual level? The Arts and Crafts movement of 150 years (or more) ago and the Bahaus Movement wanted to put artistry in to mundane everyday objects; but also make these objects repeat-able – something that could be mass-produced so that the masses could be uplifted by Art in their everyday lives. Has industrial design de-valued craft?

If a knitter/crocheter makes a garment can it ever be Art? The nature of knitting and crochet is that we generally start with a pattern and our creative input can be limited to chosing the yarn to use – barring any errors we may make that evolve into “design opportunities”. While I consider myself as an advanced knitter/ crochetier I am at the level of Master-Craftsman when I apply my knowledge to re-engineer a pattern. For now, I’m content to knit/crochet to make beautiful things that I or others can wear. Things that I know will be admired by others for their craftsman-ship.

I’m not sure I will want to take my knitting/crochet to “the next level” as a means of expression for the artist within me. The closest I got to this was my Rainbow Rush socks: when I dyed yarn to reflect my local landscape and then chose a pattern which best showed off the dyed yarn.

Having attended Mary’s Quilting Workshop, I can see how quilts could open a whole new (or old) window of creative drive in me. But first, I need to acquire in-depth knowledge of the craft. Only then, can you use it as a basis to for expression. When you are immersed in a craft it is already second-nature and a natural tool to express whatever is within. I have much yet to learn.


3 Responses to “Come Quilt With Me”

  1. Crafty Blog Update 5th-13th February « Irish Knitting & Crochet Says:

    […] me Oxter has a knitter’s catwalk; talks about quilting and is spoilt for […]

  2. Bionic Laura Says:

    That sounds like such an interesting day. It’s always good to hear about what brought people to their art. Oddly enough I saw that urinal you speak of just last week! It’s a very good question about art versus craft. I think the every day things that people make can and should be beautiful as well as having a function. I once saw an art installation about design and art in everyday things and how important it is, it definitely struck a chord with me.

  3. Sinéad Says:

    That sounds like a fascinating day. Definitely lots of food for thought! I look forward to seeing your quilts flying off the machine!

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