01/07/17 - Crazy Quilts

Tags Art

I’ve always been interested in crazy quilts, particularly contemporary quilts that incorporate buttons, zippers, charms, and other items. My parents have a quilt my grandmother made that is quite orderly (all rectangles and squares, if memory serves) compared to modern design styles. I remember being fascinated by the Allie’s in Stitches quilting blog when I discovered it in 2008. Some of these blocks are a clash of material and subconscious, psychedelic chaos. But others have a very precise order. In the more orderly blocks, the color choice, the motifs and items incorporated, the composition of the block itself, the skill required to apply certain types of advanced stitching techniques can be really amazing.

I guess I have been thinking about crazy quilt design recently, in part because
- When I was looking for painting supplies I found my box of quilting scraps that were picked up at a Theater Center sale specifically for the purpose of experimenting with quilting squares. I think I brought my old Athena 2000 with me, though I haven’t used it in ages. The block base could be machine-stitched, but most, if not all, of the detail work is done by hand.
- Still thinking about Middens and collage, and some of these blocks are essentially fabric collage
- I discovered Piet Mondrian’s later compositions, which have a city map or quilt-like quality
- I’ve been messing with this phrenology head, trying to figure out how to handle it as a navigation element. I was originally going to do something with JQuery and hover, but now I’m interested in working without JS so it will probably be an HTML5 map with CSS tooltips. So instead of having a “quilt” background exposed on hover, I will just fill out the various spaces with interesting backgrounds as I have a corresponding page to link it to. That will give me more license to work artistically with the borders, anyway.

I also looked into crazy quilt-inspired paintings and exhibits. At first I was non-plussed that contemporary quilting appeared to be ignored as an art form, I could only find exhibits featuring Victorian quilts and American quilts from the 1800s and early 1900s (in other words, quilts with historic street cred), but I eventually stumbled across the Contemporary Quilt Art Association, which helpfully lists exhibitions involving its members.

Much of the mixed media I saw didn’t really capture the intricacies of a really good quilt block (if it ain’t broke, I guess) but the work of Lisa Chipetine is really what I think a crazy quilt distilled to canvas would feel like, particularly An Inner/Outer Body Experience, which combines the quilting aesthetic and anatomy as I wanted to do with the phrenology head. She employs a style called threadpainting and teaches workshops on it.