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Art Quilt



What is an Art Quilt?

The word "quilt" is derived from the Latin word culcita, which means a stuffed sack, mattress, or cushion. A quilt is a bedspread or blanket made of two layers that is filled with a material, such as cotton, wool, feathers, or down, and is stitched together, usually in a decorative design. Art quilts differ from the main category of quilts. While they can be created using any of the standard quilt making techniques including applique, machine embroidery, or piecing, they differ in that they are created to evoke emotion, make a statement, or give over meaningfulness in the eyes of the viewer.

Quilt and Art Quilt History

The early nineteenth century saw a major boom in quilt making. This was the beginning of the "Pioneer Era" with settlers moving west and developing new frontiers. The popular "Country Fairs" began to appear, where quilt makers could receive prizes for their valuable quilts. Also popular during this time was the "Quilting Bee", an important social event in which colonial women would gather early in the morning for an all-day quilting session. It was during this period - when quilts began being displayed in quilting bees and county fairs - that quilts ceased to only serve the functional purpose of keeping one warm. These quilting bees and county fairs elevated quilt making to a skilled and respected craft.

Early settlers who had to weather the cold winters would have never dreamed of taking a valuable quilt - one that could save one from freezing in the harsh cold - and mounting it up on the wall! Today, however, quilting has taken on a new form, having evolved from being only functional to being revered as a form of art.

The art quilt grew out of the great quilt revival that began in the 1960s and continues to the present day. Various public exhibitions also played a major role in the development of the art quilt. The earliest shows highlighting the works of non-traditional quilters took place in the 1970s. In November 1975, for example, the Boston Center for the Arts unveiled Quilts '76, an exhibit featuring contemporary art quilts. In 1976 the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New York, now called the American Craft Museum, presented The New American Quilt, the first major museum exhibition of non-traditional quilts. Quilt National, started in 1979, was the first ongoing exhibition of non-traditional quilts; it was initiated in 1979 and has been held every other year since. In the 1980s the art quilt was also given a boost with the launching of The Quilt Digest, a journal dedicated to quilting.

Art Quilt Styles

While a painter uses a canvas on which to express his or her creativity, a quilt artist does so with a sewing machine and fabric. In an art quilt exhibit, one can find self-portraits, photographically realistic still life quilts, impressionistic quilts, jagged-edged abstract quilts, and modern art quilts. Art quilting has become another medium in which the artist can make a statement and inspire. The styles that can be seen in art quilting are as varied as any other artistic medium. Art quilting has grown into a highly respected craft. With many museum exhibits worldwide, and journals and books, art quilting is becoming as common an expression of creativity as pen to paper.






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