The Cottage Orné Quilt

The Cottage Orné Quilt
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Wednesday 24 August 2016

Admiring Australia!

In my last post on British patchwork traditions, I mentioned that exciting work is going on in Australia at the moment and here I must mention someone who I have never met, but whose work and quilting philosophy I find refreshingly different.  She is Marg Sampson George, an Australian quilting inspiration and I do wish her influence would spread beyond Australia and land here on our little island?

Of course the quilts inspired by Marg are made in a very different climate than that of our misty shores and this is what I love, the fact that they are traditional yet reflect the time and place where they are made!

In March last year there was an exhibition of her and her students quilts at Quilts in the Barn. The work is joyous and innovative and draws heavily on British traditions - Averil Colby's book is apparently Marg's favourite!  However, no one could confuse these quilts with that of 19th century England.  They are colourful, zany and altogether magical and no two pieces are remotely similar! 

The quilts Marg's students make are guided by their personal choices of fabric and placement and are very different to an enormous amount of quilts all based on the same design made with mostly reproduction fabric. No one should decry the effort and workmanship that goes in to the making of these reproductions and of course every quilter adds something of herself to the mix, but it is such a change to see work that is so individual yet not "modern" as in art based!

Just as an example, the picture below is of an old English quilt which has been very much copied and/or adapted and the majority of those made stick very closely in colour and pattern of the original -  

but this is how Marg's turned out -

How wonderful is this?

Marg has a new book out which I would heartily recommend and this coming from one who now rarely buys a quilting book.  Here is the link

Updating tradition is something dear to my heart, but not so that it is unrecognisable?  This has always been my aim when making and designing both embroidery and quilting projects and I hope that my designs draw on our rich British tradition of textiles, but by using fabrics of our time, I am pin pointing where and when they were made for the future!  I know that it is increasingly difficult to buy fabric that does this, but it is possible and this should be actively encouraged and included in any lesson or course on the craft.

Why do I feel so strongly about this? Well reproduction fabrics are confusing, they can be produced many times and give no clue where in the world they were made or where they are used - it could be Australia, UK,  Holland or North America, so if you use them, no matter how skillfully, no one will be able to tell where they were made or by whom?

Then they are the colours!  Fabrics now are made for the international market and look quite different depending on the light of that country.  In the UK, colours that look wonderful in Australia, can look garish here? 

We know of course that commercialism has taken over and now patchwork and quilting is big business.  There is no turning back from this, but it has changed my beloved craft immeasurably.  The upside is that many more people participate but there are so many downsides that I cannot begin to list them.

Brexit is very much on our minds here in this country at the moment and no doubt will be the reason for all sort of excuses for economies and cut backs!  It will certainly make imported fabric and all the gadgets that are now deemed essential for making more expensive?  So perhaps this would be a good time to stop buying new and use what we have and so return to the ethos of the craft! After all many of us are initially attracted to it because we enjoy the thought of using up and re-cycling, maybe we should stop buying so much and start using up?  Struggling with not quite enough fabric to finish a certain area, very often forces us to make innovative decisions and that can lead to much more interesting and less co-ordinated quilts being produced.

It's a thought?


AnnetteJ said...

Mary, I totally agree with you. We live in the middle of Alberta, Canada about an hour East of the Rocky Mountains. What looks wonderful and cheerful in hot climates just doesn't translate well into our environment. We spent a few holidays in the furthest SW corner of Arizona and while we were there, I was entranced by the colours but knew they would look out of place in Canada. Often we hear quilters moan about their large stashes of fabric but now with rising costs and a pensioners income, I'm very happy to have a stash to draw from. This is a world wide phenomenon not just a European problem. Oh...and I'm grateful for an ample stash of reproductions!

Sue said...

Mary I have messaged you about Marg Sampson George coming to Cowslip early next year and will be interesting for me to work in MSG colour palette at her workshops as it will be completely out of my comfort zone. I happy to give it a try and think I might struggle as I believe you should work with the fabrics you love and for me it's reproductions. It dosen't mean I'm doing anything wrong by using fabrics I like I just love the look of an old quilt.

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