Wednesday, June 15, 2011

On the cutting edge

Looky here: according to The Telegraph, quilting may be the next Big Thing.

I have a few thoughts I'd like to air, some general and some more personal.

First, I love the exposure this article gives to new waves of quilters.  I bristle slightly, however, at the idea that the craft's communicative possibilities, past and present (its capacity to be something more than decorative), are somehow "dark" and weird.  (See the article for context!)

It seems to me that depth of meaning is a latent part of any form of creative expression; whether a particular item (text, painting, quilt, whatever) achieves that depth of meaning is another matter, but I have yet to encounter a handmade object that didn't communicate something about its maker.  Being human, those makers are complex -- sometimes joyful, sometimes troubled -- and mortal. 

One of the things I love about quiltmaking is that it produces inherently intimate objects: each inch of a quilt has been handled multiple times, stitched, transformed during the making, and a finished quilt anticipates many more intimate encounters with human bodies -- laps, legs, tummies, hands, cheeks, toes.  An old quilt carries with it a history of encounters of with life and corporeality.  It is a beautiful, meaningful thing.  It is pulsing with life and intention -- and neither life nor human intention is uncomplicated.  There is nothing aberrant about sorrow or anger or even violence (unfortunately); they are part of human existence, and they are inevitably part of the fabric of quiltmakers' lives.  Beauty and complexity are compatible; any quilt enthusiast understands that!

Okay, I'm off my high horse -- and I do realize that the journalist in question needed a "hook," something sensational to write into her story about a craft that many general readers still see as decorative and quaint: in this case, she wanted to expose quilting's dark underbelly (!).

But back to the appeal of quilts.  Cats, dogs, and babies get it: they always gravitate to the hand-made objects.


When I wanted a wool-filled comforter for Miss F nearly 2 years ago -- certain that it would solve all her sleep issues (!) -- I was driven to make my first vaguely quilt-like thing. It was a completely improvised, whole-cloth blanket of sorts, stuffed with wool and quilted in an odd, irregular way.  And even before it was finished,  it drew her (and our cat Penelope) like a magnet.

When it came to binding the quilty-thing, I stumbled across Heather Bailey's tutorial for continuous quilt binding -- and EUREKA! a whole world of online creative stitchery opened up to me.

I think my skills have come a long way since then, and the possibilities for challenging and beautiful projects seem endless -- but the qualities that attracted me to the craft initially are still absolutely central. 

So will quilting be the next big thing?  And wouldn't you like to know more about the U of Glasgow researchers' findings re: the health benefits of quilting?!?  I know I would!

2 comments:

Still a Brooklyn Kid said...

The little one is so cute. Maybe she's the Next Big Thing!

Prof. S said...

Yes indeed, BK!