This article by me was posted on QuiltQua.com today under: Articles.
In the Fall of 2007 I saw two quilts shows in Tacoma. I drove down I-5 from Seattle to view the internationally acclaimed Gee’s Bend quilts at TAM (Tacoma Art Museum). Then I walked a block to the Washington State History Museum to see a show of contemporary quilt art.
At TAM, I paid my money and went straight upstairs to the Gee’s Bend exhibit. The show spanned early quilts to ones that had been made in the last decade. The most graphic of the quilts were my favorites. I was surprised that the craftsmanship of the quilts hadn't improved much over the years. Some of the newest ones were just as slipshod as the vintage examples— with sloppy stitching and bulky seams.
Down at the History Museum, I was wowed. The contemporary quilts were exceptional in all ways. I liked the innovative use of colors, shapes and finishes. In fact, I was so inspired that I went home and immediately mimicked one of the patterns for a pillow top.
Not being impressed by the Gee’s Bend show troubled me. If everyone else was gaga about the work, I needed to give it more consideration. I decided that the exhibit had given me a gift—permission to be as messy as I wanted with my quilts.
I’ve taken this signal to heart personally. In the last year I have abandoned my rotary cutter. Instead I cut my fabric with scissors, sometimes merrily whacking away. I piece randomly. I want to sew fabric together until I know I am done—like Jackson Pollock who threw paint on his canvas.
There is real excitement in approaching a quilt project with a vision instead of a pattern. I often think for a long time about the fabric before I make my first cut. Other times I get experimental and just want to see what will happen when I start piecing willy nilly.
The acceptance of imperfection pleases me. It allows me to appreciate anything that I create. “Keep moving forward” I say to myself instead of being overly critical of my work. I am not perfect and neither are my quilts these days.