Quilt to Last

Published in The University of Warwick student newspaper, The Boar, in November 2012

The relationship between art and crafts is constantly debated and revised within the creative world. Leamington’s latest art exhibition at the Pump Rooms engages with this by presenting a great variety of quilts in terms of shape, size, subject matter, medium and stitching techniques in order to focus on the aesthetic, but also the political, nature of quilting and craftsmanship. This directs the viewer to approach the quilts as pieces of art, rather than functional items coming from an archaic crafting history. However, the craftsmanship and obvious crafting skill that goes into making one of these beautiful quilts is not ignored, as the exhibition includes a film on how quilts and patchwork pieces are made alongside displays of quilting fabric samples that visitors are encouraged to touch.

This exhibition, entitled Through Our Hands, includes work from ten top international quilt artists and teachers, which makes for a vibrant collection of techniques and modern subjects, and undermines traditional prejudices about quilting being a fussy, old fashioned, and predominantly functional craft. Though I feel they still play around with the ‘woman question’ attached to the creation and use of crafts – for a start, all the artists are female, and their work depicts mostly domestic or ‘familiar’ scenes. This however is not a criticism, because although the exhibition can be seen to (re)define quilting as a form of female expression, this focus on the domestic and the feminine ultimately serves to present everyday details as beautiful, something poets and artists alike have been doing for centuries. In addition, these familiar scenes are often pushed into an almost supernatural sphere, and ‘unpicked’ so as to focus on the potential of quilting for conveying, and experimenting with, shape, colour, form and feeling. Through Our Hands is definitely a successful stand for modernising quilting as an artistic form and process.  Continue reading