Talking About “Modern”


Something happened yesterday that I think is worth pointing out: The national Modern Quilt Guild changed its “official” definition of modern quilting.

The new definition, as stated on the MQG website, is as follows: “Modern quilts are primarily functional and inspired by modern design. Modern quilters work in different styles and define modern quilting in different ways, but several characteristics often appear which may help identify a modern quilt. These include, but are not limited to: the use of bold colors and prints, high contrast and graphic areas of solid color, improvisational piecing, minimalism, expansive negative space, and alternate grid work. ‘Modern traditionalism’ or the updating of classic quilt designs is also often seen in modern quilting.”

Modern Mirage

I’ve been surprised by all the talk on blogs recently about the MQG’s definition of modern quilting being too narrow, or excluding certain types of quilters. I don’t think that was ever the intent of anyone on the MQG board. I believe that the previous definition, as stated on the MQG’s website, was never meant to be exhaustive. After all, the previous definition did not mention Modern Traditionalism (my favorite area of modern quilting), but QuiltCon had an entire category devoted to Modern Traditionalist quilts. In fact, the Best In Show winner was a double-wedding-ring design that came from that very category. I was in Austin and saw the wide variety of quilts that were shown at QuiltCon. So while I think the previous definition needed work, I don’t for one minute think it was intentionally exclusive.

Sparkler quilt

But I’m very glad that the MQG has now made the effort to clarify their definition. I think the change more accurately reflects what is happening in modern quilting, and the fact that the leadership was willing to make the change shows that they’re trying to be responsive to members’ concerns. Are there some people out there who don’t consider the type of quilts I make (and love) to be modern? Of course (and I’m fine with that). Do I agree with all of the judges’ decisions and critiques from QuiltCon? Nope. One of my quilts placed, but I got critiques on my other two quilts that I did not agree with at all. But that doesn’t change the fact that I have always found the Modern Quilt Guild to be 100% welcoming, both to me—a primarily “modern traditionalist” quilter—and to many other types of quilters. That includes events with my local chapter and the nationally sponsored QuiltCon. In fact, many of the ladies in my local guild don’t even exclusively make modern quilts—they are just as likely to dabble in traditional quilting or many other types of sewing. Every local guild is different, but to assume that the MQG in general is only interested in a few types of modern quilting or is trying to exclude certain quilters baffles me. Why jump to negative conclusions?

Chicopee Square Quilt

The only reason I am posting this at all is because I don’t think this particular viewpoint has gotten much play in the blog world. I would hate to see all this talk of narrow definitions and exclusivity dissuade anyone from checking out their local Modern Quilt Guild chapter.

In the end, it’s really up to all of us to collectively define modern quilting—and I think the MQG is showing that it understands that and is willing to listen to what we’re saying. I’m closing comments on this post because I’m not interested in furthering any more controversy or inviting negative comments. I just wanted to put my side out there. But if you have specific questions or feedback about this post, please feel free to email me. And thank you for listening!

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