Guild member, textile artist and quilter Annette Morgan shares with us her view of contemporary quilting and the founding of the Contemporary Quilt special interest group, which enjoys its 20th anniversary this year!
Can you tell us the story behind the founding of Contemporary Quilt?
Coming from a City and Guilds background, which I obtained in 1994, I was aware that there was little available in the way of groups specifically for quilt makers within The Quilters’ Guild, who had an artistic bent. Many new ideas and techniques were becoming available for quilt makers during this time; for example, we had come through a period where people realised that machine quilting was not as easy as it looked, and it was being seen as acceptable at the major quilt shows.
The group Quilt Art had been founded in The Guild, but by that time the group had parted ways with The Guild, and so I asked the Trustee Board if I could start a new national group. At that time the Quilt Studies group was the only other special interest group. The go ahead was given, and we had our first meeting in London, with some travelling quite a distance to be part of the inaugural meeting. From that date on we met to have speakers talk to us about their work and working methods, and our first exhibition was planned.
In your opinion, what are the key elements that define a contemporary quilt?
The word contemporary can mean different things, but as there was already a group in The Guild called Quilt Art, we felt that the word contemporary would work for us. The early members of the group felt that we needed to be called Contemporary Quilt without the use of ‘group’ in the title.
In my mind ‘contemporary’ in this context means work that is ‘of the now’, using methods which might not be seen in a traditional quilt, such as;
- An original design by the maker.
- Use of methods by the maker to colour fabric such as painting, dyeing, screen printing.
- Use of methods to create texture such as using non-woven fabrics, embellishments, and other materials.
- Stitching may include hand stitching and machine stitching in the same piece of work, using non-traditional threads, or non-traditional methods.
Above all I believe that a contemporary or art quilt should be well made – a grounding in traditional quilting methods is helpful, these techniques can then be built on in a maker’s work, and in their own style.
Is there something that contemporary quilts seek to convey that you think is different to other styles of quilting?
Really, I think it is the originality of the work, both in design and technique, and for makers to be seen as artists. Sometimes heard at textile and quilt exhibitions is the phrase “this really is art!”.
What do you think is the main benefit of being a member of Contemporary Quilt?
For me, it is the camaraderie of like-minded people getting together to share ideas and techniques. To be seen as artists and to be able to exhibit our work to promote contemporary work. The Guild has many local Contemporary Quilt groups across the country, bringing people together, who have local meetings and exhibitions. There is an excellent regular newsletter with articles by leading teachers and makers as well as reviews about exhibitions and information about forthcoming exhibitions and challenges.
Is contemporary quilting increasing in popularity?
Yes, I think this has been seen in the growth of The Guild’s special interest group, Contemporary Quilt, with over 700 members, and also in the number of contemporary entries in shows such as the Festival of Quilts.