Collection Focus: 40 Layers of Quilting, by Jo Avery


I have been making quilts for the last 30 years and have explored most patterns and techniques in that time. In the first decade of this century I lost my interest in quilt making and it was the emergence of Modern Quilting that drew me back to it.

The aesthetic was exactly what I was looking for: fresh, bright, clean colours, new interpretations of traditional blocks and techniques, but still with the intention of producing a quilt for the bed, not a work of art for the wall. Modern Quilting has evolved somewhat since then and so has my quilt making but the fundamental principles remain, to make a useful quilt with a modern aesthetic.

But that doesn’t mean that a smaller, wall hanging quilt can’t be classed as Modern and, as a ‘Modern Quilter’ I consider my quilt ‘40 Layers of Quilting’ to fit in the Modern category.  I was given the task of representing my QGBI region (16) by producing a quilt for the Spotlight Gallery which celebrated the Fortieth anniversary of the Guild in 2019. Each of the quilts would afterwards be included in the Guild’s permanent collection.

The size was determined by the organisers and the theme was the number Forty but the aesthetic was completely up to me. I wanted this piece to reflect my current style and at that time I was experimenting with improv piecing layers to achieve something that looked a little like sedimentary rock. I took this as the starting point to create this piece with the ambition to cram as many different patchwork and quilting techniques and motifs into the space allowed. Improv piecing is one of the main techniques included in a description of Modern Quilting and it’s my favourite way to create quilts. I also love to mix different techniques together like adding needle-turn applique details to piecing and mixing hand and machine quilting, so this work really reflects my own particular style.

I’m not a huge fan of placing all quilts into neat categorisation boxes but for the sake of argument and this text I have been considering whether this is truly a Modern quilt or whether it veers into ‘Contemporary’. It’s a busy quilt and a long way from some of the other aspects of Modern Quilting:  Minimalism and Use of Negative Space. However, Maximalism is also now an aesthetic embraced by the Modern Quilting movement and one I am particularly drawn to. The clean fresh colour palette, use of traditional techniques in a modern style, improvisation, maximalism and any embellishment kept to a bare minimum are all aspects that place this quilt firmly in the Modern category.

Jo Avery

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