Sunday, March 6, 2011

Quilt Police! Whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna when they come for you?

Okay, y'all who know me personally know I am a rant-o-holic... I have a soapbox and I'm not afraid to use it! As my brother so delicately said (as has been joked about ever since...) when I get annoyed it's "screech first, ask questions later." I don't claim to be a patient person 100% of the time :D  So what am I standing on my soapbox and screeching about this time?

The dang Quilt Police. Or, the people who think they are. Ask them; they'll tell you!

So what brought this on? Well, first of all, I was watching my DVR-ed episode of Fon's & Porter's Love of Quilting and I've more or less decided I am not the biggest fan of Miss Marianne Fons. Her information is all right, I use some of her methods and some I don't. But I find her all kinds of snooty, at least as she hosts the show. Her way is the best way. Period. Tonight she was particularly eye-roll inducing so it got me to thinking about uppity "my way is the only way" kinds of quilters. For the love of Pete, if you fall under this category...  r  e  l  a  x. There are other ways.

But then I was bouncing around the internet looking for links to share on the newsletter for the shop and I stumbled across this rather irritating little nugget on another quilter's blog, in an article in which she discussed her opinions of a local quilt show she attended:

"I have to say, a lot of the art quilts just were not doing it for me this year.  This is a little internal war I have with myself whenever I go to a quilt show.  On the one hand, I am so glad that nontraditional techniques have been embraced by the quilting establishment.  I’ve read about the controversy when Carol Bryer Fallert won at Houston with a — gasp! clutch pearls! — machine quilted quilt in 1989.  (Perhaps I should put “quilt” in quotation marks, as every right-minded member of the Quilt Police knows that only hand-quilted quilts deserve to be called quilts.  Sniff!)  Ahem.  Anyway.  I’m glad that those of us who machine quilt, use fusible web or Paintstiks, etc. can all play in the sandbox too.  Which is why I get uncomfortable when I find myself standing in front of a quilt at a show and thinking, “That’s not really a quilt.”  I don’t want to be a part of the Biddy Brigade, but at the same time, I don’t want to be so open-minded that my brain falls out."

So. Someone has acknowledged the big, rude elephant in the room. Number one, how exactly does finishing methodology determine what contitutes a quilt? Artistic technique changes over time and norms evolve. Granted, this is difficult to accept in a lot of ways for all generations involved - there's the way it was being confronted by the way it is, there's the nostalgia and stereotype existing in contrast with the reality. I get it. Heck, I studied that in depth (that was my thesis in Anthropology for goodness sake!). But for people to discredit the art and deny a quilt the title of Quilt because it wasn't done by hand is positively ludicrous. It goes back to the shift in purpose and the evolution of the art - if a craft is to survive it cannot remain static; new method come in as others fade away or simply remain (the latter being the case with handquilting...I have a blog entry about handquilting even).

Her mention of Quilt Police got me to thinking about Quilt Police in general. Every quilter knows a Quilting Police Officer. This person is usually undercover, but they may be in uniform:
Maybe something like this?

But there are the folks that, on a consistent basis, are the ones to find and point out a fault in what you're making. They're the ones to tell you you're doing it wrong on the basis that you're not doing it their way, not because you're actually doing it wrong. They're quit to criticize, and on the flip side don't take it well if someone in turn points out a mistake they made. These are the people who discourage personal preference and improvisation because "everyone knows" that there should be 20 stitches per inch on bindings (which should all be cut to 2.5") or the pattern said "this piece shall be blue."

I've only been at this in seriousness for 2 years, and I consider myself a pretty confident beginner, but jeezy chreezy! I have some pretty strong perfectionist tendencies (ask mom...I can be meticulous...which is putting it nicely lol) but if that's how quilting is supposed to be, then cuff me, take me to Quilter's Prison, lock me up and throw away the key because I think that blows! 

We're all ready our own worst critics; we don't need another person assessing our artwork or our skills and telling us it's crap. It happens way too often; ask your quilter friends or read the blogs about the dark side of the Quilt Police in the blogosphere - I think everyone has (or will have) an unpleasant encounter with an unruly Quilt Police Officer. So how do you handle it? Well, I'm not the best person to ask, honestly. I'm a little too quick tempered to handle it with grace no matter how bad I'd like to. Usually I just say, a little sharply that "Yeah well, that's how I prefer to do it/Yeah well, I'm happy with how it turned out/Yeah well, I like these colors a lot, but I guess it's an acquired taste." Probably the better why to handle it is to smile nice and big and just let them know that the beauty of quilting is that every quilter has their own unique eye and taste in color and thank God there aren't any quilt police because there's just no "right" way :D

How do we stop Quilt Police? We don't! That behavior is part of any art - the gallery snobs, the cinematic elitists, the comedy purists - the line is drawn where criticism ceases to be kind, contructive and supportive and and begins to be elitist, tactless and know-it-allish. I know I find myself letting their negativity color my view of my work, and I know others do too. No one likes to be told their work or methodology is mediocre or sub-par, especially if it's something they're happily sharing at a quilt show, like the gal was talking about in the blog quote above. But that's where we have to take it upon ourselves to remember that the beauty of quilting is that everyone has a different vision and these Quilt Police hold no sway in the satisfaction and pride we have and take in our own work. We all have our Quilt Police moments. Not everyone will like everything you, me, our friends, professional designers make and that's okay...the key is being respectful of the fact that someone put love and effort into their work and that is reason alone to be tactful and just admire the meaning behind the piece for the person who made it even if you think it's bum-ugly :-)


  1. Go Lauren! Kick some Quilt police butt! ;)

  2. Where did you find the embroidery for the quilt police?


I welcome all comments and constructive criticism! All I ask is that you keep it clean and keep it kind.