Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Productivity and excellence

Sunday afternoon Tetsu took me a small local quilt show. Obviously even though the quilt group wasn't very large, the members' level of excellence was quite a few notches above mine! The tiny, tiny pieces. The even tinier hand quilting stitches. Just amazing. Made me want to rethink my own hand quilting techniques and strive for something better.

The theme seemed to be Sun Bonnet Sue and the little Amish dolls (and the stuffed pumpkins) that the group had made were all over the place and so artistically arranged. There were so many of them that that must have been a requirement for taking part in the exhibition. Make a doll. Another probable requirement was to make a very small applique block of Sun Bonnet Sue or a flower (or both?) because there was one wall just covered with a grid of all these little applique block frames. A lovely little assortment and very well planned.

There were some amazing quilts exhibited. Some were the often seen samplers or postage stamp quilts, many were made of traditional patterns. But I can assure you that not one of those quilts ever saw a sewing machine. As I've mentioned before, machine piecing and machine quilting are just not accepted in Japan as real patchwork. This red and white heart quilt had really postage stamp size pieces and every one was hand pieced and every one had been quilted with an criss-cross. And this was a huge quilt too! Even Tetsu commented that the person must not do much more than quilt all day and everyday.

Well, I didn't take pictures of everything, but here are a couple close-ups of some of the more oriental looking quilts. There was a simple quilt that had the added attraction of sashiko stitching in the open spaces.


This colorful applique quilt was labeled as "A trip to Kyoto" and there were detailed blocks of different Kyoto sites this block being the pretty kimonoed girls called maiko-san.

One very lovely quilt was made of antique kimono fabric. I liked the way the tiny quilting stitches in dark thread accented the beautiful hand painted panel.



My favorite was this lovely combination applique and piecing in the taupe colors. This to me is very typical of Japanese quilters. The subtle colors and blends, the detailed applique and tiny piecing. The fabric looked like it was actually for kimono. And then the infinitesimally tiny quilting stitches and quilting lines. Tetsu thought that this was a carpet it was so tightly quilted!
Can you see the quilting lines in this? Look at the interesting way the trapunto was added to give the quilt more interest. Just here and there at random intervals. Probably this is white yarn threaded through the quilting spaces, but it is very effective and a wonder to imagine all the work that went into this quilt.

I enjoyed this exhibition immensely but I did come away thinking that all the time and work that was put into these quilts probably didn't leave the quilters with time to do anything else. Tetsu and I pondered about the ladies who had made these pieces of art. Older women (my age and older). Probably no one in the throws of child raising would have the time for any of this. Well-to-do ladies whose husbands work late or have temporarily transferred to another city.

And I also thought that though the handwork was exquisite, it was a lot of time and effort to spend on each quilt when there are so many people and organizations and loved ones that need quilts and gifts of time. There is much to be said for the speed of machine piecing and machine quilting too. Even using the sewing machine I don't get all the quilts made for all the people I'd like to.

I wonder what a good balance is between productivity and excellence. Though come to think of it, machine work has its own standard of excellence. It was good to visit the exhibit and think about what is important to me when making quilts. If nothing else I'd better be careful that I don't end up with nil productivity and slap-dash "excellence".

15 comments:

Quilt Pixie said...

Some wonderfully peices, but yes, they do make one think about the balance of productivity and excellence... guess we all ahve our own balance points. :-)

Love the idea of a piece of yarn for a trupunto line...

Julie said...

Beautiful quilts, though. I am with you, I like to give quilts to others. To each his/her own. I am glad there are people willing to put so much work into a single piece of fiber art!! But it is not for me.

Rhonda said...

The quilts were beautiful. Thank you for showing them. It gives me something to think about. Living here in Texas and recently retired, I have alot of quilting time on my hands and never enough to finish all that I wish to. I machine piece and have my projects machine quilted. It's faster but I do enjoy hand-quilting on ocassion.

meggie said...

The work in those lovely quilts is amazing. Such patience!

Chocolate Cat said...

What beautiful quilts. It must of been such an interesting show to attend.
I am having trouble finding the right balance now with quilting v real life (quilting is losing!) let alone attempting to find the time involved in those pieces.

Nancy said...

Thank you, friend, for taking me along to this show. The work is exquisite and reinforced something I've been thinking of blogging about -- the whole idea of quilting as something to be done quickly. I feel a bit of a rant coming on and may just get that particular post written soon!

Have a lovely day.

June said...

I'm sure that it has been debated since quilting began. Do I make a masterpiece, or do I make quilts to be used? The debate will go on forever, I think. One must decide what is important. I once heard of a masterpiece used by the recipient to catch the oil when he fixed his car. 'nuff said. The quilts you photographed are truly beautiful!

Marilyn R said...

Thank you for the quilt show! The quilts shown were truely works of art!

Mary said...

I love to finish things so I machine piece and machine quilt.

I love to do handwork so I keep little projects going that allow me to embroider, bead, or hand quilt but aren't so large that they don't get finished.

There's a best way for me to do each project I approach and I try to do my best quality work regardless of whether it's by machine or hand.

Of course, I don't make heirloom quilts.....

The Calico Quilter said...

Love the look of the sashiko stitching. Are there traditional patterns used for the layout? How large are the stitches - do they compare with hand quilting or are they larger? I would love to see more on this!

Janet C said...

Such lovely quilts and exquisite workmanship! Thanks for the 'tour'.

Shasta said...

These are such beautiful quilts Tanya, thank you for sharing them. I would like to think that these women do have real lives, and maybe they have more self-control and can focus on one quilt at a time. I think that maybe it is my UFOs that keep me from making many masterpieces!

Clare said...

Beautiful work. Reminds me very much of French quilts where everything is hand quilted/appliqu├ęd.

If I strived for excellence I'd never get anything done. Scrappy and happy is my motto.

Connie W said...

Such variety in the quilts. I like that flower with the stitching around the edges. Are the Amish dolls still popular in Japan these days? They were very popular here several years ago and I saw them in craft shops and at craft shows. Crafts seem to have seasons. Actually I don't know what is the most popular these days as I don't attend so many craft shows anymore.

Karen said...

What beautiful quilts! Very inspiring.