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Friday, 5 March 2010

Sometimes it’s good to be wrong

Apologies if you are a fan of quilting, but for years I just didn’t get it as 'art'. I had it in my head that quilts were 'granny blankets' from a pre-duvet era, favoured by ladies in rocking chairs who passed their days patiently stitching hexagons together into symmetrical pastel patchworks, which usually ended up in the spare room to keep visitors warm as they slept.  An important homemaker's skill and well-loved craft, for sure, but art?

Boy was I wrong.

When in California recently, I wandered into the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, lured by a pretty scarf in the shop window. The main exhibition on at the time was called ‘Poetic License: The Art of Joan Schulze’, displaying 40-years of 'art quilts'. As usual, my curiosity got the better of me, and I had to have a look.

And am I glad I did.

 'An Angel Equation' - image reproduced with the kind permission of Joan Schulze

Inside I discovered a retrospective of Joan Schulze’s prolific career as a fiber artist, a stunning collection so far from my naïve image of ‘quilting’ that I was genuinely shocked. Moody digital photographic images on silk, fused with painted textures and markmaking, stitch and funky storybook collage in a palette of breathtaking colours. It was nothing short of exquisite, and has changed the way I look at quilts forever. And I think that is much of the point of art - to make us question our own views and preconceptions.  I might even buy myself a sewing machine.

The exhibition is on until May 9th. Do go and see it if you can. Peer at the work from up close, squint and stare, stand back and breathe it in. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Books of the week this week
ART: 'Layered, Tattered & Stitched' - inspired by my new-found interest in all things stitched(!) I bought this great book which is full of gorgeous fabric art project ideas
ADVENTURE: 'The Wild Places' - written by an old friend of mine, this book is breathtaking in places.  As urban society encroaches ever further into the countryside, this dreamy book explores the few wild places left in Britain
STORY: The School of Essential Ingredients - read this in one sitting on the plane back from the US.  A delicious novel for foodies


  1. Gorgeous, so bummed i missed this one when i was there...great post by the way...i certainly see quilting art in a totally different way many great things out there...head= spinning on what to look at next - its all so inspirational.

  2. i LOVE quilts and didn.t take offense ONE BIT. i actually laughed out loud at your impression of quilts. very funny beth.
    so happy that you have changed your mind.
    sewing can be a HUGE art form.
    sad i missed that one too.

  3. ahh fabric. another addiction of mine! wishing i made it to this exhibit. so glad you enjoyed it. thanks for sharing your book with me so i could have a peek at the amazing quilts.

  4. I have never made a quilt but I will check out this exhibit since I am so close! Thank You for the post. And no I do not have a Japanese background but I remember when I was little thinking I was supposed to be Japanese. I just love the concept of Wabi Sabi. Beauty in the imperfect. Thank you for visiting my blog!

  5. it's really amazing to see where 'quilting' is going these days...

    the gallery show my work is in had two examples of 'quilting' that were traditional and mixed media/textile that were fantastic. i should have taken pictures of those to share with you =-(

    if you ever need tips in sewing, let me know; i've been sewing since i was 6 years old!

  6. You'll have to add Quilting Arts to your list of magazines to check out.

    I love fabric but I am yet to find a way to really incorporate it into my creative work.


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