Today I must confess I got my dander up. Now that is truly a wonderful opening sentence which I never thought I could use in my blog. I don't even know what dander is--can it go up?--maybe like the hair on my cat's tail. Do I get my dander up or does my dander just go up? You tell me.
Anyhow, my latest issue of American Craft Magazine came. Now I don't know about you, but I associate American Craft Magazine with work that is so finely made that it seems impossible that a person could actually do it. As was noted in this issue about Paul Stankard--known for his intricate recreations of botanical scenes in paperweights--he truly "minds the details." I think of the brilliant ceramics of Cliff Lee--he can spend years perfecting the right ancient Chinese glaze--and then render perfect dragons arching around vases with necks so fine and thin it doesn't seem humanely possible. As is explained on his home page, he is taking time honored techniques and making them his--saying something new with them.
I think of my friend Kari Lonning with her exquisitely made baskets of dyed reed--hairy baskets, double walled baskets. They tell stories of distant landscapes, different events all clearly identifiable as made by Kari. The amazing wrapped and woven glass sculptures of Jeanne Heifetz--not a single hole in the piece. Gorgeous dreamy work that again you can't believe a person actually made. You get the idea.
So when I turned to the article about the quilt maker Malka Dubrowsky in the magazine I was more than a bit taken aback. The picture of her with a quilt draped over her shoulders outside. The many designs she created of hand dyed fabric--perhaps a little too reminiscent at first glance of the quilts of Gee's Bend not only in their designs but also in their lack of sewing technique--and don't get me wrong, I love those quilts--great article about how they used fractals as a design element in the SDA Journal--but some of them are sure not square. Big hand quilting stitches-(as you may remember my grandmother took out stitches that were too big.) Machine quilting that displayed its own problems. Here is my blog post about my grandmother's oak leaf quilt.
Now I must admit that in looking at Malka's work a second time, I did find intrigue in some of her designs. Her colors were nice and bright. Clearly from the home page of her web site she is going for a "down home" quilts on the front porch look. Check it out at http://www.stitchindye.com/ Her blog had some interesting points as she discusses a bit her thought process but... http://stitchindye.blogspot.com/ And I will be the first to admit that I liked how "hand-made" her work looks. Very cozy. To some extent similar to the concept that I am trying to achieve in my work. I also have the feeling that she is a great businesswoman and I do always admire that.
But unlike the work of a Cliff Lee or Kari Lonning I really don't think she is taking a technique and by her attention to detail and skill making it her own. I don't even really think that is her purpose in making the quilts. There has been an interesting discussion both on the Studio Art Quilt Association (SAQA) forum and in the Surface Design Association magazine about the problems that quilts have getting recognized as "art." Maybe I am wrong--maybe quilts should just be quilts--fun and funky and functional. But I think they can and should be more. Whether the quilt is meant to be functional or a wall hanging, I think it can also convey that additional artistic something that takes us beyond the realm of cozy and functional to that place of "take your breath away."
And I guess I felt a bit betrayed by American Craft Magazine--aren't they supposed to be promoting the best in American Craft--not just something that they consider to be fresh? Shouldn't they and by implication we be pushing the limits of what we can say with quilts just a bit more? Shouldn't we be trying to respect the craft in fine craft? Or am I wrong--is that so yesterday? What do you think? Where do you see the place of fine in fine craft?