Today is about a special event, a passion, a new hobby and men.
The special event is Quilters Take Manhattan – the annual event held in New York City by the Quilt Alliance. Established in 1993 to centralize information about quilts and quiltmaking, Shelly Zegart and Eunice Ray of The Kentucky Quilt Project, and Karey Bresenhan and Nancy O’Bryant, corporate officers of Quilts, Inc. and founders of the non-profit Texas Quilt Search, established the Quilt Alliance with the mission of documenting, preserving and sharing the history of American quilts and quiltmakers. (Read the history of the Alliance here.)
The Quilters Take Manhattan event is a relatively new thing – this is the fifth year it’s been held.
The various events and happenings sound like a lot of fun – Pope Francis will be there! (Okay, maybe not at the quilting event but that’s only because the events he really wanted to attend were sold out.)
(And yes, Pope Francis will be in New York City the weekend of Quilters Take Manhattan.)
Moda/United Notions is a long-time sponsor of the Alliance because of Mark Dunn’s passion for documenting history, particularly the history of quilts and quilters.
One of the highlights of last year’s event was a presentation featuring some of Mr. Dunn’s antique quilts, a few of which have been reproduced as Collection for a Cause quilts.
That’s Mr. Dunn on the left, speaking with Amy Butler before the attendees arrived and the fun started.
One of the missions of the Quilt Alliance is creating a body of information about quilt-making by capturing the voices and stories of quiltmakers for the Quilter’s S.O.S. – Save Our Stories. A highlight of the event is the recording of an interview with a notable, acclaimed quilter. This Saturday, Edyta Sitar of Laundry Basket Quilts will be interviewed by Meg Cox, a journalist and author, and a member of the Board of Directors for the Quilt Alliance.
Seabreeze by Edyta Sitar – using her upcoming (and awesome) Silver Lining Shirtings.
The keynote speaker this year is Ricky Tims –
(Collage brazenly borrowed from Mr. Tims.)
That got me thinking about men in the “quilting industry”.
At first, it doesn’t seem like there are a lot. But just a minute into thinking about it, I’d come up with several names. Two of my favorite quilt books right now are by men who are well-known quilt collectors – New York Beauty by Bill Volkening and Unconventional & Unexpected by Roderick Kiracofe,
Then I thought of Jeffrey Gutcheon of Gutcheon Patchworks. He was a “famous quilter” when I first started quilting in the early 1980s and while I did once own the Perfect Patchwork Primer, I remember the name primarily because of his fabric – called American Classic. It was cool and different and amazing – definitely not my grandma’s calico.
And there’s Michael James – a renowned artist, quilter, author and teacher.
Michael James’ Rhythm Color Spanish Dance.
And I hadn’t even thought of “current quilters”. So I started making a list of all the male quilters I could think of. In no particular order…
- Joe Cunningham – Joe the Quilter
- Bill Volkening – Collector and Writer of Wonkyworld
- Kaffe Fassett – Kaffe Fassett Studio
- John Q. Adams – Quilt Dad
- Ryan Walsh – Ryan Walsh Quilts
- Bill Kerr – Modern Quilt Studio with Weeks Ringle
- Luke Haynes – LUKE Haynes
- Scott Hansen – Blue Nickel Studios
- Mark Lipinski – Pickle Road Studio
- Doug Leko – Antler Quilt Design
- Joshua Helms – Molli Sparkles
- Thomas Knauer – Thomas Knauer Sews
- Dan Rouse – Piece and Press
- John Flynn – Flynn Quilt
While looking for the links of the men on my list, I found a better list compiled by Raymond K. Houston – Nacho Grandma Quilts, Raymond lists more than 117 male quilters. I also learned that AQS had published a book in 2010 – Men and the Art of Quiltmaking by Joe Cunningham – featuring the work of thirty men.
I could only think of seventeen. (I really have to get out more.)
If you’re wondering where this is all going… at the United Notions Open House last month, Mr. Dunn talked about his new hobby – he’s started quilting.
So of course I had to ask for more details… specifics.
After 40 years in business, I have recently taken an interest in quilting and find it to be relaxing and therapeutic. I had someone sit down with me and teach me how to operate a sewing machine. For a man, that’s the fun of it, learning to operate the machinery. Then how to piece the fabric together becomes the challenge. But once I pieced together some pre-cut mini charms I was hooked. I feel men would enjoy quilting because it is challenging, relaxing, and fun. I appreciate the challenge of the geometry and the art of the craft.
I was recently at the National Quilt Museum and they had a class that included both male and female students. About 30% of the classroom was men and they were all enjoying it. Perhaps there are more men out there that want to quilt, but we aren’t catering to them. Educating new quilters and teaching greater skills to experienced quilters will ultimately lead to a stronger, more viable and diverse quilting community.
(I admit it, I’m wondering how fast he sews… there is a similarity between the foot-pedal of a sewing machine and the gas-pedal of a car.)
I also wanted to ask what he thought about the stereotype of quilting being a “woman’s interest” or woman’s craft. While there are more men in quilting, the quilting population and the quilting population are still a little skewed.
So I asked – most famous artists are men but not many men make quilts or do fiber arts. Why don’t more men – and male artists – make quilts?
I believe that quilting is perceived as a woman’s craft so therefore men typically stay out of creating quilts. Although I do feel that this stereotype is changing with the inclusion of more male artists in our industry.
And because there isn’t a single quilter – male or female – who ever has enough time to sew…
Finding time to sew is like any other hobby – if it interests you, you will make the time. Moda’s Marketing Manager raised five children, worked a full-time job, and still found time to be a prolific quilter. Perhaps it was the therapy she needed to handle all of that responsibility.
(Or if could just be that ModaLissa has super-powers.)
That’s it for today. I’ll be back Friday with a little bit more from the y-side of quilting.