Note: This was originally posted on the Philadelphia Modern Quilt Guild’s website, written by yours truly. (Original Post)
As a kid, my Dad would take me to stock car races, and I would always pick the prettiest car as the one to cheer for. Driver stats? Who cares? If it was purple (and especially if it had glitter paint), it was the car for me. And occasionally the pretty purple cars won. But not often.
I approach the quilts I chose to make in a similar fashion. I’m not ashamed to say that I often just pick quilt patterns based upon what is aesthetically pleasing to me. (And thankfully, unlike a race, everyone is a winner when a quilt is finished. I win!)
However, there is something to be said about finding deeper meaning in our craft, and that’s why Thomas Knauer‘s visit to the Philadelphia Modern Quilt Guild (for our September meeting) was so refreshing. (And inspiring.)
To say his quilts have meaning is the understatement of the year. His quilts ooze with little details that make them special. Aesthetically, they’re beautiful, but when you hear the backstories, they really come alive. From the buttons that attach his Reunion quilts (symbolizing eternal family bonds, even when he is physically separated from his wife and children) to the fact that you can actually scan his In Defense of Handmade quilt with a barcode reader, his quilts were downright fascinating. The stories that they each carried were almost as important as the stitches. One of our guild members referred to him as a “mad quilt genius” (see below) and I agree, wholeheartedly.
He starts his book with, “I think of a quilt as bringing an idea to life, making that idea pat of a home. The concepts embedded in the making of a quilt become part of someone’s life, something they literally wrap themselves in. As such, quilts are somewhat unique objects, ones that are fundamentally interactive.” (Modern Quilt Perspectives, 2014) To Thomas, quilts are more than just the fabric and stitches that bind them – they are alive with stories and shared memories. After his presentation, we are all itching to do a workshop with him. Come back soon Thomas! (Please. No, really, PLEASE!)
Our guild members speak about his presentation:
Sarah Bond: “I was so fascinated by his approach because it is so connected to words and language. My process is so much more ruled by shape and color and often difficult to articulate in words. And yet I felt such an affinity to his concept of quilts connecting time and space.”
Andrew Joslyn: “Is it just me or is he kind of a genius?”
Stephanie Wood: “I love that he was first inspired to “make” by his daughter. And… so much of his art is from the heart and the soul and then he obsesses & it takes a turn toward the philosophical/academic.”
Sheila Randall: “I loved the love he gave to his quilts…especially the 4 that connect, shows heart.”
Pat Deck: “The thought behind his quilts is astounding. I was also quite taken with Lisa Sipes’ quilting. You can tell theirs is truly a collaborative relationship. My fave was the rainbow quilt quilted with a traditional double wedding ring design.” (Pat was referring to Palimpsest (Pride Flag)
Laura Moore: “It was really awesome. He thinks about quilting in a different way. Seriously, but creatively. Sort of a mad quilt genius.”
And then we got deep….
Bobbi Penniman: “I’ll feel like a shirker when my next quilt is just a quilt without any subtext and meaning. Then I’ll tell myself that’s ok, not everything has to have that depth, it’s ok to be pretty, serviceable, etc”
Pat (put it in perspective) Deck: “Sometimes a song is just a song. Not everything needs to have an academic subtext to be of value and worth.”
Kathy Bryson: “I thought he was awesome. I was tearing up several times. Gave me new thinking when I look at art.”
The conversation that flowed in our private Facebook group was awesome! Thomas really got us talking about what our own quilts mean to us, why we quilt, and what inspires us.
I cannot recommend his book enough. Many of the quilts he presented are featured in the book, however seeing the quilts in person was magical. Thomas also designs fabric and teaches regularly.
Want to check out the Philly MQG and join us for a monthly meeting? Learn more….