Tuesday, July 19, 2011

is it okay to actually use your art quilt?

Sometimes it seems to me that the simplest questions can be the most loaded, if you know what I mean. This time I get an inquiry from an interior decorator--"Do you make quilts for beds?" she asked. "Of course," I reply. After all, isn't that why people originally made quilts--to cover their beds. And certainly that is the reason that many people still make quilts. Just go to your local quilt guild if you don't believe me.

And yet, when I do a craft show I inevitably get asked again and again if my big quilts are meant to be placed on beds. Now most of these are just questions--making conversation. Speaking with the artist. No problem there really. Hey, I even have people who hang my potholders as wall art in the kitchen. Fine by me.

But when I wrote a blog post about a quilt I had made that the couple envisioned as either hanging on a wall or being used as a bed quilt, I received lots of e-mails advising me in all sincerity to not mention that the quilt might actually be used. I was told that I was hurting the Art Quilt movement by suggesting that the quilt go over a bed. Even devaluing it!!  These are not supposed to be your grandmother's quilts, after all. You can read the bog post HERE.

I got to thinking about this question. Now about half of my large quilts are put on beds and half are hung on walls. Nothing wrong with that. The quilts on walls certainly do look great--the colors blend from a distance. And I certainly know that not everyone can afford one of my quilts on their beds. But shouldn't it be an option? Does it make it any less a piece of art if it is actually used?

Blue hills is used on a bed. The couple wrote me that sleeping under it every night is like sleeping in the gentle calm of the ocean. Nice, isn't it.

Dreams of the dawn is hung in a large office entry way. But the companion quilt--dreams of the sky--is on a bed. The gentleman who owns it told me it is the best piece of art he owns. He uses it every day.

I think of other examples of art. Isn't the design for Central Park art even though it is used every day?
What about the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC? The lamps of Tiffany? Certainly they are not meant to just sit there--unplugged? Or an outfit by Chanel--would you just hang it up and never wear it? Indeed I wonder if the problems that the homes of Frank Lloyd Wright have in usability--I assume that is a word--may even detract from their artistic nature? Just a thought.

So why shouldn't we make art quilts that are put on beds? I glance through a magazine for interior decorators that specializes in fiber for interiors. Lovely rugs. Great pillows. But the bed covers are chenille bed spreads. Comforters with large designs. Throws. Lovely beds--but isn't there something missing? Such a large empty canvas that could be covered with art.  Are we as artists losing an opportunity?

Now certainly making a quilt for a bed does have specific requirements. For instance the quilt must cover the bed. The design must look great on the bed.  How does it drape over the edges? What does the design look like as you approach it? Does it co-ordinate with the bed itself? There do need to be concerns for durability in terms of the materials and techniques used. But that can't limit the nature of art can it?

So what do you think? Do you make quilts that can be used on beds? Do you use a quilt on your bed? Are we missing an opportunity or is this sacrilegious?


  1. Call it Yankee frugality but if I'm making a piece of art big enough to cover the average human, I'm going to use techniques that will stand up to Use, so my large works can go either way -on the wall or off to a picnic, or to bed.

  2. the reverse is that bed quilts are not art, which is proven false every time i go to my little local quilt guild for show and tell.

  3. Does it even matter what you, or any other quilter, intend for the quilt? Once someone buys it they can do whatever they want with it. What other people think of that choice should not matter. I am thoroughly in favor of using and enjoying the things of beauty in our lives, even if that means they do not survive in pristine condition for future generations to admire from a safe "look but don't touch" distance.

  4. Deb--I agree with you although I guess the thought of one of my quilts used for a picnic does cause me pause. Interesting concept. How far am I willing to go?

    Michelle--you put it so succinctly. Thanks.

    As Stephanie points out--in the end we really don't have control over how our quilts are used. Still I like to imagine them enjoying a well-loved and happy life. Thanks everyone.