Thursday, 18 March 2010

V and A Quilts exhibition - review links

Sally Ward has compiled an interesting links to reviews on her blog Textile Hunter - click here to go straight to the relevant post (Sally's blog is also in my bloglist on the right and is one of the best ways to keep up to date with textile events of all kinds).

I find some of the points of view about the world of quilting rather odd. Quilters seem to have been invisible to society at large, because the quilt revival is a very new thing apparently. How strange. There are surely enough of us that we can't be such a tiny minority.

From The Guardian -

Curator Sue Prichard thinks this enthusiasm is partly due to the global downturn. "I started on this project in 2004. Now there is a huge revival of interest in traditional crafts. There are a lot of women out there who are really keen to learn new skills and step away from their computer and their Blackberry." She thinks many people will come not so much to marvel, but to gain inspiration for their own handiwork.

Oops, I thought the first Festival of Quilts was in 2003, the Knitting and Stitching Shows had been featuring quilting for at least a decade, and Quilts UK, the largest national quilt show before FoQ arrived, celebrated its 10th anniversary in 1998 (I still have the anniversary keyring that was given away with the catalogue - and every quilt show catalogue I've attended - the keyring was in my pocket as I walked around at the V & A yesterday...) I think there is a great deal of inspiration to be gathered from the V & A's exhibition and I hope visitors go away inspired. But I continue to be puzzled by the way that quilting is being promoted as a new revival (perhaps the lifestyle sections in the press have got bored with raving on about knitting?)

Ooh yeah, there are many, many quilters who wouldn't for a minute think that quilting is a reason to step away from the computer - rather the opposite, given the amount of quilting info and contacts on the internet.

Times Online -

We’ve had subversive cross-stitchers and club nights for knitters, and now quilting is having a makeover. Frankly, it rocks.

Well, quilting does, but it's the "now" bit that grates somewhat. Why is the world of mainstream journalism only just realising that quilters are here - already here?

The Financial Times -

Anyone seeking proof that a “slow design” movement, is, paradoxically, gathering pace should visit the Victoria & Albert Museum’s first major show of British quilts, where the lost art of easeful living will be celebrated in fabric and stitches.

Like the slow food crusade, slow design is a reaction against modern fast-lane lifestyles. It champions low-tech procedures and craft production methods, espouses environmental concerns and counters today’s throwaway culture with a make-do-and-mend mentality.

Quiltmaking is a perfect example of slow design: stitching itself can be a calming activity.

"Low-tech procedures"? At my workshop today, quilters of various ages were equally at home with the latest in computerised sewing machines and dab hands at using specialised cutting and measuring equipment.

My impression is that journalists feel a need to conform to their readers' notions about what quilting might be - a kind of domestic, tedious, necessary (all those make-do-and-mend references) activity, no doubt with everyone working out of those dressmaking scrap bags that few people have any more (when people suggest I must make my quilts from my dressmaking scraps, I usually point out the kind of clothes I and they are wearing) - rather than presenting it as the creative craft that it is.

Short interviews with some of the contemporary artists and quilters included in The Independent are from a different viewpoint. Grayson Perry writes -

It is a category of traditional object that also looks like a painting, so it translates very well into the art gallery context, in the same way as the pottery does. It is a real object; you could sleep under it if you wanted to, in the same way that you could put flowers in my vase.

I find this is much more to the point about quilts and quilting. They are real, they are tactile, they can be used.

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