Monday, February 16, 2009

Amish & Mennonite Quilts Across America

I Netflixed the DVD of Amish & Mennonite Quilts Across America. See, Netflix has this neato feature where it suggests films like the films you add to your queue. So I added The Art of Qulting, American Quilts, and A Century of Quilts due to their inclusion in the listing of quilt-related special events accompanying the Bowers Museum's exhibit American Quilts: Two Hundred Years of Tradition, which I've discussed previously.

Amish & Mennonite Quilts Across America is NOT being shown at the Bowers. But it did pop up as a suggestion on Netflix. Smart Bowers. Bad Netflix. I know my mom always said, "If you have nothing nice to say, keep your trap shut." But she usually said that right before launching into a tirade enumerating all of the not so nice things she had to say.

First of all, from a purely aesthetic perspective, this video looked like it was made by your uncle with his home video camera. The lighting is tragic. The focus is myopic. I defy your uncle to edit something as badly as this is edited. For example, a person will be talking about a specific quilt and instead of just showing the darned quilt, it cycles through a number of quilts NONE of which could possibly the the one the person is talking about. So sad. I was SHOCKED to discover this was made in 1995. The quality of home video in 1995 was better than this.

Second, the "experts" are all quilt sellers hawking their wares. So it kind of seems like a series of those poor quality local advertisements you see on local stations in non-prime time. This is as much my problem with commercialism in art as it is the producer's selection of characters . . . no, in 1995 there were non-commercial quilt experts out there, weren't there? Regardless, rather than focusing solely on the traditional Amish quilts that really gave Amish quilt makers their reputation, most of the interviews focused on quilt store owners who exploited Amish and Mennonite women's labor to produce handmade quilts from fabric and patterns supplied by the owners. You can see the puffy polyester batting and the shiny, unnatural fiber fabric. This is not the stuff of the 1971 Whitney Museum Exhibition.

All my crankiness aside, there were a couple of quilt hawkers who specialized in antique quilts that really were quite impressive, though I'm not sure any one of them would make watching the whole sixty minute nightmare worthwhile. And the, possibly spurious, explanation of the different colors used in traditional Amish quilts varying by the sect of Amish due to the colors of clothing women were permitted to wear was interesting. If you've got Netflix and use it so much that it feels like the movies are free, and you don't mind wading through some tragically bad footage, you might see a few quilts that spark your interest enough to pause and sketch. Otherwise, there are a lot better quilt films out there.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Inspiration Photographs and The Law

On my Other Blog I posted about intellectual property issues related to using photographs for inspiration. It's the continuation of a train of thought that was most recently sparked by the composition class with Katie Pasquini Masopust.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Act Swiftly Awesome Pachyderm

I have about a zillion baby quilts in the queue right now including one based on the Wes Anderson film The Darjeeling Limited. Now, if you've seen that movie you know I need elephant fabric. In it's current iteration I'm making a medallion quilt and one of the borders will be of some elephant print. Yes, if I were SERIOUS I would applique those bad boys, but (A) I'm not serious, (B) it's a baby quilt, not Quilt National, (C) there's enough going on with other applique and piecing on this bad boy, (D) I'm aiming for a completion time this side of the recipient's graduation from college . . . I could go on.

Currently I'm torn between the smooth lines of the topmost print available at SuperBuzzy for $17.95 per yard and the sheer economics of the following print available at eQuilter for $6.71 per yard.

I could wait until Marimekko unleashes it's spring collection which includes the following large-scale elephants as noted at the Always Mod blog via True Up. It's WAY too big to use as a border, but maybe replace the current medallion center with it? Or use it as a back? Or not blow $44/yd fabric on some kid I hardly see once a year whose parents would probably be just as happy with a commercially made quilt from Pottery Barn Kids (shudder)?

My frugality aside, the elephants in the fabric from eQuilter do have more detail and personality in common with the elephants painted along the interior of the train than either the SuperBuzzy or the Marimekko elephants. And their scale is right on for a border at 1 3/4 inches. Now I just have to do the math to figure out how much fabric I need to order. Thanks for helping me work that out!

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Bowers Museum Quilt Exhibit & Events

Last fall I went to the Bowers Museum's exhibit American Quilts: Two Hundred Years of Tradition which runs through March 15, 2009. Maybe I'm just jaded from all the no-money-fun in Washington, D.C., but I felt that the $12 admission price was a bit steep for what it was. Now, granted, I only went for this exhibit and didn't wander into any other galleries. Maybe $12 was a paltry investment for the opportunity to see two quilts Joe Cunningham called, "once in a lifetime quilts" - the indigo whole cloth quilt on the right when you walk in and the broderie perse lone star quilt that's on a wall diagonally facing the entrance. They were both amazing and were definitely things to see in person as photographs, if available, wouldn't do them justice.

I am not trying to talk you out of going to see the exhibit. Rather I would like to suggest one way to make the price of admission a little more worthwhile: go on a day that the Bowers is putting on a companion program. There are nine upcoming quilt-related events at the Bowers including a night of music with that very same Joe Cunningham. All of the programs are free with paid museum admission and to members. I've compiled the museum's descriptions of all of the programs below and added my two cents where I can't help myself (which is pretty much everywhere).

And if you're not in the area, the list contains some information about a few quilt films that you can rent or watch online.

It's All About Quilts!
Sun, Feb 8, 1:30PM

Enter into the delightful, curious, and unique world of quilting at this all-day event. Quilt makers, quilt vendors, quilting guilds, quilting shops, and quilting demonstrations will all be here to share their expertise, impress you with their creativity, increase your knowledge, swap stories, and have some good old fashioned fun.
Admission: Free with paid museum admission and to members
My Two Cents: I'm in a quilt guild in Orange County and I haven't heard a peep about this. Makes me wonder who organized this event. I'm not sure what the general public is going to get out of quilt vendors and shops hawking their wares. But if I can doff my cranky pants and don my optimist overalls, I bet quilting demos would be entertaining for the whole family and I bet you could eavesdrop on some quilters walking around the exhibit and get a LOT more information than the signage provides.

Sunday, February 15
12:45 pm-1:15 pm
Join us for some rollicking good tales with quilts at the heart of the matter in the Anderson-Hsu-Tu Gallery. David Whiting and Diana Spirithawk of the South Coast Storytellers make historical folktales come to life when David's animated, humorous style mixes with Diana's intimate characterizations and warmth.
Admission: Free to members and with paid museum admission
My Two Cents: Cranky Pants: I am not entirely convinced that this isn't entirely unrelated to quilts, but because they're telling stories in a room full of quilts they're trying to market it as somehow quilt-related. Optimist Overalls: if you're into storytelling, you can make a day of storytelling, quilts, and all the other stuff the museum has going on.

Film: Quilts in Women's Lives
Tue, Feb 17, 1:30PM

This award-winning film by Pat Ferrero presents a first-person narrative of seven renowned quilt makers who reveal the passion and values behind the continuing tradition of quilting. 28 minutes.
Admission: Free with paid museum admission and to members
My Two Cents: There's a lot of information about this film at Cranky Pants: There's also a fourteen and a half minute "clip" of this 28 minute film at Optimist Overalls: You can't rent this film on Netflix.

Sunday, February 22
1:30 pm
Quilt curator Julie Silber, from Northern California, shares slides and real-life examples of some funny quilts from the 19th and early 20th centuries. In some quilts, it's just the images that are humorous; in others, it's the words. Sometimes it's just the idea that is so amusing. American women have always expressed themselves in quilts — their accomplishments, tragedies, loves, losses, adventures, passages, and even their humor. Following the lecture, Silber will do independent quilt appraisals. To reserve space for an appraisal, please call 714.567.3679.
Admission: Free to members and with paid museum admission; lecture only $8
My Two Cents: Julie Silber is, to paraphrase Christian Siriano, kinda a big deal in the quilt world. She's a co-owner of The Quilt Complex, though she's probably better known as the curator of the world renowned Esprit Quilt Collection in San Francisco. If you're serious about quilts, this is the day to go to the Bowers.

Film: The Art of Qulting
Tue, Feb 24, 1:30PM

This film explores the myriad of techniques and artistry reflected in contemporary American quilts, celebrating quilt artists as they transcend classic quilts by taking traditions of the past to create new traditions. 60 minutes.
Admission: Free with paid museum admission and to members
My Two Cents: This was a program on PBS in 2007. If you're not into quilts per se but you are into contemporary art, this is the film for you. Very cutting edge stuff, even if it is two years old. Cranky Pants: You can rent this film from Netflix. Optimists Overalls: If you don't have Netflix, it is a whole hour movie, so that's pretty cool?

Film: American Quilts
Tue, Mar 3, 1:30PM

Examining quilts from three perspectives—as historical records, symbols of family and community, and works of art—this film celebrates the artists, quilts, and powerful stories woven into them. 80 minutes. Admission: Free with paid museum admission and to members
My Two Cents: I think this is actually America Quilts, which was a program on PBS. If you're more into history and anthropology than art or quilts, this might be the film for you. Cranky Pants: This film is available on Netflix. Optimists Overalls: If you don't have Netflix, it is a whole hour movie, so that's pretty cool?

Film: Hearts and Minds
Thu, Mar 5, 1:30PM

Pat Ferrero’s documentary film explores the intrinsic relationship between 19thcentury quilt makers and the social history they produced in their work. The film conveys the social atmosphere experienced by both the celebrated and average American woman within the context of 19th century events, including industrialization, abolition, the Civil War, westward expansion, and the temperance and suffrage movements. 60 minutes. Admission: Free with paid museum admission and to members
My Two Cents: NOT to be confused with the 1974 documentary about the Vietnam War. I can't find a darned thing about this film ANYWHERE which I blame on its title. This also means you're not going to find this on Netflix or, quite possibly anywhere else. And it's a whole whopping 60 minutes. So this might be a worthwhile use of your admission fee.

Lecture: A Musical Quilt Show
Sat, Mar 7, 1:30PM

Through songs and quilts, Joe Cunningham tells the intriguing story of quilter Joseph Henley who lived in 18th century England. This unique, full-of-quilts-and-song show, vows to be unlike anything ever seen. Admission: Free with paid museum admission and to members; Lecture only $8
My Two Cents: I can vouch for Joe Cunningham in terms of his storytelling ability, his indefatigable charm (you should have seen him handle the hecklers at our quilt guild lecture - man, those menopausal women can be FEISTY (I can't WAIT to have that as an excuse), and his musical chops. I have never seen his performance of Joe The Quilter, but everyone I have talked to who has said it is too fun to miss. If you like acoustic guitar, folk song, storytelling, you'll love it whether you like quilts or not.

Film: A Century of Quilts
Tue, Mar 10, 1:30PM

This rich and beautifully crafted documentary celebrates the art of quilting by featuring selections from the best 100 quilts of the 20th century and the stories behind their creations.
77 minutes. Admission: Free with paid museum admission and to members
My Two Cents: This was a PBS documentary. You can rent it from Netflix. And, I don't mean to be a party pooper, but it was playing continuously when I went to the quilt exhibit last year, so this might not be a "special event" so much as something they run all the time. OR, if I wanted to be REALLY cynical, I could tell you that one of the five films the Bowers it touting as special events is probably playing continuously in the gallery RIGHT NOW. I suppose if you REALLY want to see one of these films in particularly (the elusive Hearts and Minds springs to mind), then plan to go the day and time they're officially playing it.

The moral of the story: go to one of the live events like Julie Silber's talk or Joe the Quilter's performance or the big quilt show-esque monstrosity that started this list and you might just get one of the films to boot. I've put Julie and Joe on my calendar.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

My Other Blog

Recent Fiber Related Posts from Gnomicon (a.k.a. my other blog)
  • Fabric Fabulousness - Gushing about the Barnslig fabric designed by Eva Lundgreen for IKEA
  • Oh Deer - a comparison of Jay McCarrol's animal prints to Michael Miller's animal print
  • Crafty Round Up - why I didn't just post it over here to begin with?

Here's a link to all of the Gnomicon posts about fiber arts.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Zig Zag Mendocino

Via Whip Up I found a quilt is nice posted a tutorial for a zig zag quilt for which she sells a kit in her etsy store. The tutorial does a great job illustrating how to quickly piece two half square triangles. More importantly, it has made me fall in love with the Mendocino line of fabrics by Heather Ross for FreeSpirit. How did that line slip past me last spring?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Fiber Arts Calls for Entry

Fiber Arts Calls for Entry is a great source for hard data on getting your work out into the world. It is focused on its mission and very thorough about each call. I am hard pressed to think of another resource for this sort of information. Granted, their broad definition of "fiber arts" might require you to slog through some posts that don't apply to your medium, but I'd rather a resource like this be overinclusive than underinclusive.