Monday, July 18, 2011

Are you Identifiable?

As a quilter, is your style something that someone could walk into a show (or a blind room), and say, "I know exactly who made that". Or are your styles so varied that even you wonder how a particular quilt came out of your sewing room? These are interesting thoughts, perhaps more so if you make quilts for shows.

I am probing about this today because of something my husband said this weekend. We had a couple of his highschool friends over Friday evening to see the new house addition, and one of them wanted to see "The Quilter" - aka my longarm. He'd only heard of this type sewing machine, but couldn't envision how such a machine could take up an entire room. I was off with the kids, even unaware that the studio tour was going on. I had a quilt loaded at the time, but only a small part of a quilt is visible. Saturday he told me that he didn't know if it was a customer quilt or one of mine. He thought it might be mine since there was a lot of quilting on it, but it was not like anything I have done so he was not sure. I pondered about these words for a good while. Very interesting thoughts.

If you make quilts for show, or even if all you do is enjoy quilts at a show, do you like to walk into a show and know who made something before you even see the tag? More simply than that, are you able to identify a quilt's maker simply by the style, whether it be the piecing or the quilting? At one time, I may have thought no, but not anymore. Some quilters are very identifiable. I wonder if I will become one of someday, or even if I want to be identifiable.

This is one by Janet Stone. She's a lovely quilter (as verified by that very large ribbon!), and all of her works (that I have seen in recent years) have alphabet letters worked into the quilt. In some instances, you have to hunt a bit for them, but they are there. I have no idea what the rationale is, but that's not really the point. She's a good, award-winning quilter, and she has an identifiable theme to many of her quilts. What do you suppose judges think? If you were a judge and saw a quilt with letters, would this bias you in any way? Would you automatically think it is a Janet Stone quilt? Probing thoughts. (This post is merely for thought, not to cast opinions on how people choose to make their quilts. The ones I have shown here are fantastic works of art)

Another quilt...We all know the many works of Ronda Beyer. She, too, has a very identifiable style. When I think of her I think of bold colors, hand-dyes, lots of white background for showy quilting, lovely and whimsical applique. And of course the quilting is always over the top with an abundance of curved cross-hatching, feathering and fabulous fillers. Unique? Definitely. Creative and award-winning? Certainly. Identifiable? In my opinion, yes. Are other quilters at a disadvantage when good quilters are identifiable? Hmmm...More things to ponder.

The quilt that was on my frame when my husband did the sewing room tour was in fact mine. It's my Seaglass quilt that is nearing completion. I hope to have it ready for a show this fall. I had it on for a couple days to finish up a few open areas. When my husband said he thought the quilt may not be mine simply by the style, it made me think back to other recent quilts I have done. It made me wonder about the identifiability of one's works. I never really thought I was "Identifiable", but I definitely gravitate to certain types of fabric, and colors, and maybe some aspects of my quilting are if not identifiable, then at least kind of predictable. I don't want to be predictable (that is somewhat synonymous with boring!) The quilt below, the first of my own to longarm, is definitely me in the sense that it is symmetrically pieced. It has a bold center element. It has about a kazillion pieces - I have never shied away from intricate piecing, even as a longarmer where detailed piecing is not judged to receive as many points. I'm honestly not so sure what possessed me to use the sandy tones, but the quilting and piecing are somewhat traditional and symmetrical.

After that, I did this quilt, Primavera. It's in many ways, ALL Me. It's the jewel-toned hand-dye batiks. I was getting into the needle-turn applique, and loving it. Motifs are completely symmetrical, yet somewhat whimsical. It hangs on the wall across from my desk for me to see while I type, and I just love it. Ever have some colors that just make your heart sing? These are the ones. As I type on, too, I'll point out areas of the quilting that I think are becoming repeatable (or identifiable??) in my style. I like pebbles, and feathers and the way a viewer's eye focuses on the center because the radiating rays dray your eye there.

This quilt (Postcards from Venice) was admittedly a complete departure for me in terms of fabric choices. I do not do brown, but I loved the idea of making an inlaid floor, and the Stonehenge fabrics were perfect for it. It has more than a kazillion pieces, so again, nothing simple in terms of piecing and praying for a square quilt. It has curved piecing, paper piecing, and old-fashioned, sew, sew, sew, sew. It's quilted to the moon and back since it is a show quilt (4 ribbons so far and 2 more shows coming up). There are no shortage of feathers and other minute fills, and again, I chose rays out from the center. With such a prominent center medallion, did this quilt really need the rays? Or is this a predictable/identifiable style? That's for me to consider as quilting for future quilts is designed.

One last quilt (Intertwined), that is headed to it's first show next weekend. I'll show the quilt in 2 weeks, but here's the center. See anything familiar out of the gate?? Hand-dye batiks, jewel tones, lots of applique (and there is a ton of detail on the rest of it). The quilting is what I favor and love most - monochromatic texture using feathers, pebbles, and the becoming-popular rays from the center. This time, I added some fillers on every-other ray for more texture. The fact that the quilting that I gravitate towards is often similar, makes me really want to think hard when I am designing future show quilts (and there are a couple in the works right now). Or should I take the approach "If it works now, why change?"??? Is it better to stick with a style that may become Identifiable, or stray to different styles of piecing, applique & quilting just to mix it up a bit? I'm seriously pondering this.

So the quilt that was on the machine, which was not identifiable as having been made by me is this one...Back in the winter, I started this quilt. I have been dreaming of making a Sea Glass quilt for some time. I just love the many colors sea glass comes in. I have taken my kids looking for sea glass this summer 2-3 times at the beach, and they love it. Anyways, when I conceived this quilt, I really intended it to be a colorwash or watercolor style background (the waves I added were done after the fact). It is all batiks, some hand-dyes and some prints to add texture. It's the kaleidoscope block, which is not hard, but gives an interesting faceted appearance to the background. Maybe it does not have the detail of some of my other quilts, and it did not take 6 months to piece it. But appliqueing on 120 pieces of seaglass was not fast effort, even if they are machine appliqued (another departure for me on this quilt). Being traditional-minded, I almost never machine applique. Non-symmetrical, machine appliqued, and blue? Yes, I really do not like blue. My house has no blue in it, so this won't ever hang here. Someday one of my kids can have it though.I envisioned it having very asymmetrical, textural quilting, which it does. My pictures could be better. I suspect that I had to take them in a different than usual place because of my house's construction. The waves are appliqued from several different batiks, going darker to lighter at the peaks. They are quilted with a shimmery variegated blue thread in a wave-like feather motif. Different, yet still familiar for me.

Another peek at the texture I tried to create. It's random, yet follows the design somewhat. In my opinion, this may seem like easy quilting, but it is not. It is difficult to make a filler convey a message. You want it to scream "I am a flowing wave", but does it??

This is basically an art-quilt, so to speak, with 7" borders. I found it hard not to fall back into my old ways of semi-traditional & structured quilting for the borders. The feathers are a little different - an attempt to make them more wave-like. I love how the borders came out and can't wait to use this design on another quilt (a more traditional one!). And that is probably how designs quilts identifiable to the quilter :-)

The thing I did do, however, to make this quilt's borders a little different, and more whimsical is I made the borders asymmetrical. Two corners of the quilt have the quilting above for their borders, and the remaining borders are like what is below. I will bind 2 corners with scalloped binding for a real twist.

In closing, I hope I have left you with things to think about. Is your style in quilts and quilting predictable or identifiable? If you were making quilts for shows, would you want it to be? Of should we each be striving to reach outside of our comfort-zone box? The creative person in me feels the need to branch out to different realms often, but I definitely fall back to a comfort zone when I am not thinking about it. I never want to make quilts for show that might be viewed as boring, but identifiable might be OK, someday.


Elaine said...

I love the quilting in these quilts. I'm not one to recognize styles of different quilters at this point though.

Rebecca said...

I can reconize quiet a few of the top master quiters. Just like I can reconize Monet, Picasso, Renior. I know that I'm identifiable, that is why I like making up my own designs. My own set of finger
Your quilting is beautiful and interesting. I enjoy looking at your work.

Janet Stone said...

Well I felt compelled to comment on this post because first of all, that's my quilt! And thank you for saying nice things about me! I must say, your work is beautiful also. And I love blog topics that make you think. I have actually thought about this subject and wondered the same thing about the judging. I don't think all of my quilts have an identifiable style, but they obviously have a similar theme. From volunteering in the judging room at MQS this year, I realized that identifiable or not, the thing that matters most is the quality of the work, from the piecing or appliqué to the quilting and binding. And the judges have such limited time with each quilt, I don't think they have time to wonder whose quilt it is. I think we all have our "bag of tricks" in quilting that we rely on, but I think it's a good thing to try something different to grab the judges attention, whether it be in the quilting or the design. Even if a quilter has an identifiable style, I would rather see that than a person who makes quilts from a pattern of another quilter's design. By the way, there is no rationale to the alphabet thing...I just love letters!

Vivian said...

I don't think your quilts have a distinct design style because from what I've read on your blog, they often start with a specific theme and each of those have been different.

However, having virtually "watched" you develop as a longarmer, I will say that IMHO you ARE developing a distinct quilt stitching style. Your tops tend to be very densely quilted with the stitch motifs placed to hightlight the piecing or applique motifs (something I really admire in your work), often creating trapunto effects in the process and a lovely wholecloth effect when viewed from the back. You often make wonderful use of feathers and pebble stippling to add to that highlighting. Now that you have added the curved gridding to your repetoire, I expect I will see more of that in your future works too since it really compliments your feather work.

For my own quilts, I haven't developed a style because I pick my projets to try new techniques, layouts or block styles so the only common denominator in them is the chance to try something new.

Emma said...

Hmm, some interesting points. I recognise some quilters' work, and I'd like to think I could recognise one of your quilts - but it's hard to tell, since I know they're yours first. It would be nice to think I could become good enough to have a recognisable quilting style, but at the moment my quilts are far too varied.