Monday, November 05, 2007

My Quilting Dogme


If you watch European movies at all, you probably remember the "Dogme" movement from a few years back. A group of Scandinavian directors came up with a list of fairly arbitrary rules, a "dogma," about what would and would not be allowable in their films. Because the rules they chose were pretty spartan -- no background music was allowed, for instance, unless it was music that the characters in the movie would hear -- most American audiences hated Dogme films. I kind of liked them, though, and I especially thought that the IDEA of the dogma was kind of interesting.

Regardless of what the rules are, actually, I tend to enjoy artwork that is created within a set framework. Whether its the limited vocabulary of shapes available to a traditional Haida artist, or the self-imposed mathematical obsessions of a piece by Sol Lewit, it's fascinating to see an artist react and respond to, and be inspired by, the constrictions of their own dogmas. (Of course, available technologies, as well as the cultural norms of artistic training and consumption, create subtle dogmas for EVERY artist. But we won't go there.)

The point of all this is that I've been thinking about my own dogmas lately. Mind you, I've never sat down and said, "The following are going to be the rules of my quilting." No, my dogma has evolved over time, according to what specific kinds of work I enjoy doing, and according to what I like my final product to look like.

I imagine most people who have made more than one or two quilts have their own dogmas, though they might not think of it that way. Some people only do hand quilting, some people are only interested in applique, some people really only want to work with batiks. Whatever. It's their M.O., their style, their artistic choices.... their Dogma!

My Dogme

I use Simple Geometric Shapes. Almost everything I've made has been an arrangement of squares, rectangles, and triangles.

I do Simple Straight Pieceing. People do tremendous work with paper pieceing, in which cut paper shapes are used as a foundation that adds a great deal of precision and allows the pieceing of very intricate patterns. But for some reason, I haven't been tempted by this technique yet.

I create Simplistic Quilting Patterns. This has more to do with my skill level than conscious choice. But, that's part of where dogmas come from.

I make Nothing Figurative. My quilts are relentlessly abstract by design. Anything pictoral has to come from the fabric.

I use No Photoimages. You see an increasing number of quilts incorporating photographs that have been printed onto fabric. But, you won't see this in my quilts.

I use Jewel Tones. I tend to use bright, saturated colors, along with very light fabrics that bring them into relief.

I use Single-Color Prints. I tend to gravitate towards fabrics with a pattern in a single color, rather than fabrics with a multi-color pattern. The exception is with batiks, which I love and which -- contrary to many other peoples' dogmas -- I will happily use side by side with conventional prints.

I use Straight Cotton. No silk, no wool. Very occasionally flannel. Anything else goes into the bin for "other" fabrics with the corderoy, jersey knits, and fake fur.


Longtime readers may know my ancient kittygirl, Yoyo:

But I don't think I've ever introduced my step-kittyboy, Caliban:

They are showing off progress on the "Indigo Stars" project, which has really been flying along. In fact, I've made a bunch of progress on several projects. I'll brag about it in a few days!


loulee1 said...

Your stars look great, no wonder the kitties are so keen to pose with them.

Su Bee said...

I like your dogme's - and it certainly pays off 'cos your quilts are stunning. And the catme's? Very cool!!!

Rebel said...

I don't think I've been quilting long enough to have a dogma. But I love your Catme pictures!!! Glad to see they approve of your work!

Rebel said...

I meant to ask you - did you go to your guild meeting? Next time it's at night, would you let me know, I think I want to start going to a guild.

Andrea said...

Great post ! you've got me thinking about my own habits. Love your cats - I have 3 myself. looking forward to your bragging - lol!

Ming said...

This is an interesting post and it makes me think. What are my "rules", or do I have any?....hmmmmm

Lisa said...

I am still figuring this out. I have finished only three quilts, with four in progress.

I think I am learning that the process of piecing is almost as (or perhaps more) important to me than the finished quilt.

My work life has me working on long term projects with lots of group involvement. I don't ever complete a project on my own. I design software that others code, test and document. They comment on my design, then I comment on their coding, testing and documentation. It's a long sometimes difficult interaction to complete something.

I like making a quilt block at the end of a work day. A quilt block is doable in an evening. It gives me the satisfaction of having finished something on my own. I like the colors. I like the validation of seeing that the points match, and that the block measures the right size. I like that no one judges that block more critically than I do, and I say when it is good enough.

You might think I would be driven to finish quilts in the same way, but I don't seem to be. It's the finished block that does it for me.

So I am not enamored of strip piecing or chain piecing. So far, I haven't tried to make a quilt where I repeat the same block more than a few times. I have an inkling that there are a lot of sampler quilts in my future.

Time will tell.

~m2~ said...

i just posted yesterday about how cats are drawn to quilting - mine jumped on my lap with an 18" hoop on it...

do you hand-piece? (sorry if you have gone over this already, it's my first visit...) i picked up an old hand-quilting project that was hand-pieced. there is something very calming about doing it all by hand, rather than machine. sometimes, it's okay to take it slow :)

cool to meet a guy quilter.

atet said...

Isn't it interesting how we develop our own "rules" for quilting? Thanks for sharing your set of rules! Those new blocks are lovely!

Michael5000 said...

@loulee, su bee, rebel, andrea -- Aw, thanks. The cats are really keen to be anywhere that they'll be in the way.

@rebel -- we'll talk about guild!

@ming -- I think everybody has some rules. But I might set my boundaries a little narrower than most...?

@lisa -- See, I'm the opposite. I don't think I've ever made a sampler. And, although I didn't realize it until you mentioned it, I don't even do many quilts structured in blocks. Most of mine are either one-patch or in some crazy idiosyncratic construction. Maybe I need to make me some samplers!

@m2 -- Oh heavens. Working on the machine is plenty enough "taking it slow," the way ~I~ do it. I consider myself really zipping along right now, but three of the projects I'm actively working on are three, four, and seven years old. Which is to say, no, I don't hand piece. And I keep the hand quilting to an absolute minimum.

Thanks for saying hi! It's fun to BE a guy quilter.

@atet: Thanks!

CROQ Zine said...

Yeah! I love the concept of dogme for quilting! :) Having fun reading your blog.


p.s. congrats on your interview with Diane for Craftypod!