Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Talking About Art Quilts

Gayle Pritchard speaking at the Textile Museum, Washington, D.C.

While most of us who make art quilts love all types of quilts, not all art quilters enjoy studying about all types of quilts. For me, though, research and study have always been a part of the equation. I was a kid who read encyclopedias, after all.

Writing, teaching, lecturing and making art combine every one of my passions. First, they all connect into my deep love of history and family genealogy, providing a way to "leave a trace" of my life. One of my favorite writing books, Leaving a Trace by Alexandra Johnson, dovetails perfectly with my passion for research and writing about my life, and the lives of others. It's a great read, and has terrific prompts which I have used repeatedly in making art.

In my office, in fact, all over my house and in every closet, I have stacks and stacks of research material about quilts, art and history. Did I already mention my passion for reading non-fiction and doing research? For many decades I have collected material and put it into files by category. I have hundreds and hundreds of early quilting books and magazines. From these materials, I have pulled information of interest about trends, people and events, and put them into files. I did this long before I even had an inkling that I would ever write a book about the subject, but the passion for organizing it all really helped when I actually sat down to begin writing. Even though my book, Uncommon Threads: Ohio's Art Quilt Revolution, is about the evolution and emergence of the art quilt movement in Ohio, I discovered through my research how inevitable the emergence of the art quilt was, and why specifically Ohio became the epicenter for the early movement.

Luckily, I am a people person. This engages my desire to teach others what I have learned, either through writing, giving lectures or teaching art workshops. When one has a passion, it is a joy to share it with others. That is precisely what I will be doing tonight, in Columbus, Ohio.

I have lectured almost non-stop on the subject of art quilts since my book came out several years ago. The audience is always full, the questions many, and the response gratifying. No matter where I have been, and almost without exception, regardless of the audience, one question continually arises: What is an art quilt? My simple answer: an art quilt is the end product of an artist's idea.

I am pleased that interest in the subject of my book has not waned. Tonight I will be with the Columbus Metropolitan Quilters at 7:00 p.m. If you are in the area, check out their website for location directions, and please come by. In the fall, I will be speaking in the Cleveland area, and invite any of you to come for a listen. Event listings are always on my website. If you can't attend in person, I have two NPR podcast interviews, one from the Diane Rehm Show, and one from WXVU in Cincinnati, Ohio (click on "Uncommon Threads" to listen.) I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

One final thought to all of you artists out there: remember to document your work. You don't have to organize your scribblings, (an abhorrent idea for most,) but please keep your papers. Trust me, some crazy research buff will want to look at them some day.


  1. Hi Gayle. Have a great trip to Columbus! I know your talk will be joyfully received there!

    And thanks for your note about "The Artist as Qultmaker XIV" show entry deadline being Sept 29, 09, and that the entry form is at www.favagallery.org, with a link at the bottom of the front page.

    I plan to enter and encourage all art quilters to do so! It's one of the very best shows!

    Oh, and excellent advice about keeping records of our artmaking, etc! Thanks!

  2. Thanks for your good wishes, Po friend! And thanks for the FAVA show update. All art quilters: go to the website and download the pdf, or email me, and I'll send it to you. As curator, I hope to see your work.

  3. Best wishes for your lecture tonight. I know it will be super and well received. When I read your book it made me sort of wistful about the 1970's and the wonderful feeling of discovery and interest in the textile arts.

  4. I'm home and tired, but enjoyed the evening. I know what you mean, Terry. I always introduce my lecture by saying that we, right here, right now, are in the middle of a quilt revival that started after World War II. We're all part of history, and a history that will be studied in the future by people who haven't been born yet!