Art quilts

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Art quilting uses a wider range of techniques and accepts fewer design constraints than traditional quilting. Here's a short list of the differences:

• Art quilts' designs almost always take their cues from traditional paint on canvas rather than traditional quilt design.

• Art quilting doesn't shy away from realism or from abstraction.

• Art quilting involves paint, fiber, embroidery, weaving, any type of embellishment, and any kind of technique. Traditional quilts may use any kind of technique, but they're typically applied to traditional designs.

Improvements in weaving, dyeing, printing, thread, and construction find places in quilts of all kinds. Today's traditional quilters use computerized sewing machines, machine quilting, rotary cutters, acrylic rulers for every conceivable corner and curve, mylar and freezer-paper templates, several types of glue, and on and on.

Traditional quilting, however, incorporates more new techniques and leaves behind more old constraints with each passing year. Increasingly, the name "art quilt" is a distinction between the quilting done by your grandmother and the quilting done by your sister.

The term "Art" is unfortunate. "Art quilting" implies that traditional quilting is something less than art, which is ridiculous. Traditional quilting is art; art quilting is art too.












Yes, but is it quilting?

In 2010, one of the winning quilts in the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas, was a controversial work made by the artist Randall Cook of upstate New York.

The work showed a nude man whose buttocks were so emphasized in paint that they almost resembled a pair of breasts.

That quilt, and the reaction of traditional quilters, was part of the wonderful 2011 documentary Stitched, by Houston Chronicle reporter Jena Moreno.

It is true that gay themes are not part of traditional quilting. Still, as the line between art and traditional quilting continues to fade, the subject-matter distinction is fading as well.