Art Scenester: Fiber Arts Fiesta

Modern Quilting Takes Center Stage At Fiber Arts Fiesta

Joshua Lee
3 min read
Quilt Outlaws
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“Do you like quilts?” asks Linda Hamlin.

“Well,” I say, “there’s comforter men, and there’s quilt men. And I am
definitely a quilt man.”

Hamlin is a member of the Albuquerque Modern Quilt Guild. She and one of the guild’s co-founders, Lois Warwick, have met me at Hip Stitch (7001 San Antonio NE), Albuquerque’s first “sewing lounge” and home to the guild. They’re hosting a collection of 20 quilts selected at this year’s QuiltCon in Austin to be displayed at the 10th biennial Fiber Arts Fiesta this week. The Fiesta will be the first stop on the collection’s worldwide Modern Quilts tour.

Spread out before us is “For Tanya,” an improvisational piece by Emily and Miriam Coffey. Unlike traditional quilts—where a strict pattern is designed and adhered to—improvisational pieces start with a patch of fabric and build from there, allowing the pattern to grow organically.

This piece is made up of countless little blue and orange rectangular scraps—some no larger than your fingernail—coming together to create the impression of a sunset reflecting off an ocean. “It’s a tribute to a friend of theirs who lost her life to cancer. This was one of her favorite things: sunsets over the ocean,” Hamlin tells me. I heroically withstand the urge to wrap myself up in it and take a nap. It looks very warm.

The subject of traditional quilting versus art quilting brings me back to a conversation I had yesterday with Judith Roderick, featured artist at the Fiber Fiesta, whose silk-painted quilts will be a part of a 40-year retrospective exhibit.

“Most people are relating to the quilts that people make to put on beds—that their grandmothers made—and that is still a valid form of quilt-making. But more and more, art quilts are becoming just as valid.” The implication is that there are quilters out there who
don’t think it’s so valid.

To find these Quiltsnob Traditionalists—bristling with menace and clutching their wicked, titanium-coated topstitch needles while grinding their teeth and hemorrhaging from their eyes—just Google “dumbing down of quilting.”

“It’s not necessarily that there’s a lot of angst,” Warwick tells me. “It’s that they aren’t comfortable with [modern quilting] because it’s so different from what they’re used to. It’s like everything else. They have to work into it. And some of them

This gradual conversion of the old guard seems inevitable because modern quilting is attracting slews of younger artists. The bright colors and striking patterns of the modern pieces have a leg up on traditional quilting (which is amazing in its own right) when it comes to captivating an inexperienced audience.

Of course, I say if you can yank it off the wall when the heat goes out, it’s a quilt. But I guess you can’t be sure until you see it for yourself, which you can do this Thursday through Saturday at the Fiber Arts Fiesta. Just be wary of violent Quiltsnobs.

Fiber Arts Fiesta

Thursday and Friday, May 21 and 22, 10am to 6:30pm; Saturday, May 23, 10am to 5pm

EXPO New Mexico, Manuel Lujan Complex

300 San Pedro NE,

Tickets: $5 one day, $8 two days, $10 all three days

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