This spring there was an amazing quilt exhibit at the MFA. Quilts and Color contained 60-ish quilts from the collection of Paul Pilgrim and Gerald Roy collected over five decades. Evidentially they couldn’t afford to collect they type of art they wanted to collect, so they started to buy antique quilts. These quilts were awesome! And it was such a treat to have a quilt exhibit in such a prominent space at the MFA, with excellent lighting and displays. I regret not posting these pictures while the exhibit was going on, but I think a lot of people who saw the exhibit realized that yes, quilts can be art. As for me, I was incredibly inspired by this exhibit. The colors, the patterns, the fabric – there was nothing I wanted more after seeing the exhibit than to go home and start playing with fabric.
What struck me most about these quilts was, despite the majority of them being made in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was how modern they were. I see these patterns all over the internet on blogs, pinterest, and flickr being hailed as “modern.” True, the fabrics are wildly different – if you looked closely at the quilts in the exhibit you could clearly see clothing scraps of all types and remnants of household items, while today’s quilters seem determined to never veer from a “fabric line” – but the patterns are very very similar. After my make-10-quilts-for-Project-Linus experiment, I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes a quilt “modern” and thinking about what kind of quilting makes me feel most comfortable. If today’s quilters are using the same patterns as our quilting ancestors, they’re not really “modern” patterns are they? But does choice of fabric on its own make a quilt modern? I’m not sure and I find this idea that fabric alone making a quilt modern to be kind of uncomfortable. It seems that every day there’s a new “pattern of the moment” and quilters all rush out to buy the fabric to exactly match the sample pattern. Is this a modern quilt or just a copy? I realize I’m asking more questions than I have answers to, but posing these questions is really helping me wrap my head around my own place in the quilting world. To be honest, most of the time, I don’t feel like I fit into the modern quilting world as it’s presented. While I admire a lot of what’s being done, I can’t afford expensive designer fabrics and patterns and I’ve never been good at doing what everyone else is doing just for the sake of doing it. I like putting my own spin on things.
More to come on this.