It seems the folks who write about modern quilters use the same trite line about modern quilters: this is not your grandmother’s quilts. Such insight does not flatter the modern quilter. Modern quilters know they sit on the shoulders of those women. Without them, there is no modern quilt movement.
Even some contemporary quilters are guilty of this sentiment, naming books such as Not Your Grandmother’s Log Cabin.
The problem, I admit, is that modern quilting is often described as “non-traditional”. Traditional means perfect grids and sashing, etc. Hence, to describe modern, we have to describe traditional. And, that leads to —grandma made traditional quilts—and we aren’t grandma traditional.
Take the phenomenon of the quilters of Gee’s Bend. Their works were labeled “modern” because their works didn’t fit the typical traditional categories. They looked like modern works of art. They are cited as one inspiration for the modern quilt movement/the Modern Quilt Guild.
The annual Modern Quilt Guild exhibit of modern quilts is next week. The MQG has guidelines on What is Modern Quilting, and they do not want traditional quilts. Critics lambast the MQG because modern quilting, they believe, cannot be categorized and limited. Some think the MQG folks are arrogant and disrespectful of current traditional quilters as well as of quilters who don’t adhere to the modern aesthetic set by them. Who are you to set the rules for modern quilters? they ask.
Many of the original and contemporary modern quilters endured the wrath of the traditional quilt police. Those people were snooty and were critical of any quilt that didn’t meet the traditional model of quilting. They couldn’t fathom a quilt with irregular binding being in a quilt show. “That’s not a quilt”, they’d say. Expletives on quilts. GET ME the smelling salts. The anger and outrage was and is real.
For me, the modern quilt movement and the MQG gave me outlet for my non-traditional ideas. I have generations of quilters in my family. I made traditional quilts, but I always felt I wanted something more. When I saw quilts from Carolyn Friedlander, Cheryl Arkison, Amanda Nyberg, and Gwen Marston, I was knew I had found my tribe. I was happy and engaged in quilting. I could be creative and design my own quilts.
I embrace my grandmothers’ quilts as the foundation of what I want to do as a quilter. My quilts are different, but I steal from the Grandmas. My Mod Drunk quilt is a new way to present the traditional Drunkards’ Path.
“Not your grandmother’s quilts” implies a negative judgement on their work. I want that to stop.
Celebrate grandma. Celebrate modern.