Lone Stars III
Quilting has evolved from utilitarian craft to an expressive art form.
By Steve Bennett
The quilt is more than a security blanket. It can be a family heirloom, a work of art, a snapshot of history, a tangible connection to a person or place long gone, a political statement, a therapeutic release or, in the case of the quilting bee, a community project. Perhaps most of all, it is an expression of pride. To be sure, it is all of these and more. Most owners of a quilt passed down through generations wouldn't take a million dollars for it.
“I haven't met a quilt I didn't love,” says San Antonio quilt artist Leslie Tucker Jenison. “The quilt and quiltmaking is really a good lens to look at history, especially women's history, although there are men quilters nowadays. But it has been and remains basically a women's art form.”
Quilts, notes Nancy O'Bryant Puentes, co-author of a trilogy of beautifully illustrated books on nearly two centuries of Texas quilting, are linked to the entire life cycle, “from conception, to birth, to death.”
“And,” she adds, “they seem to fill some primal need not only for cover, but for self-expression.”
Basically, a quilt is three layers of fabric, stitched together (although some say two layers will suffice).
Quilters come down on two basic sides: those who believe traditional methods and patterns constitute the quilt, and those who create “art quilts,” often abstracted or touching on headline events, which can involve many artistic processes, including dyeing, batik, painting and embellishing surfaces with everything from sequins to buttons. Traditional quilters generally disdain the art crowd, while art quilters cling to the notion that anything goes. Both, apparently, are right.
Today, the art of quilting, which dates back to ancient Egypt, is big business. Some 21 million quilters in the United States spend $3.6 billion annually on their passion.