Sunday, July 17, 2005

Process or Product?

I am going to get myself in trouble today.

I was browsing the newer blogs on the Artful Quilters Ring and came across Rian's Pages. She is making a wonderful design based on a leaf and is struggling with sewing many pieces together so that they lie flat and continue the lines of the design.

Now, I can tell that Rian really knows how to sew, can make a perfect seam and can design beautifully. What I am wondering is, why is the process so important (and difficult) that she must struggle and fuss when she knows she can fuse this piece so quickly and efficiently and still have the wonderful finished product she designed in the first place?

I am not picking on Rian, I am merely observing a 'thing' that I see happening all over quiltdom.

We are somehow stuck in the process.
Which is more important? The process or the final product?
The beautiful design will be the end result and the way we get there shouldn't matter, should it? Are we trying to prove that we can sew?
We KNOW we can sew. Big deal.
I know, I have been there. I struggled to make seams line up and points match perfectly, but in the end, I quilted over the thing and that caused stress and distorted things to the point where the design was altered and it lost the pristine qualities of the orginal design.
Once I switched to fusing, I was able to keep my design flat and lined up and just as it was in the original drawing...all without pulling out my hair. And a lot quicker too.
I guess we have to ask ourselves, are we seamstresses first or artists?
Rian's initial drawing tells me that she is an artist. Sewing shouldn't hinder that fact.
If this weren't a wall quilt, I wouldn't have commented on it at all. Functional quilts are entirely a different thing. They should be sewn, and should be admired for the workmanship involved.
Workmanship often comes up when we talk about quilts, but what about design? Which is more important? In my mind, the design is paramount to the technique. Whatever it takes to arrive at the perfected design is LEGAL, and needn't be painful.
OK, I am ready to be run out of town.

17 comments:

  1. I'm so with you on this one!! Even thought my hubbie continues to think of it as cheating!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have only made one quilt so far, a ABC twin sized quilt for my grandaughter that I designed myself. I cut out and fused all the letters and the objects, that represented the letters, like an apple for the letter A. Wonder Under- best invention ever. If we ever get our new house in order, I will be going on to do more quilting. Come to my Blog and see what I have been up to instead of quilting. http://sulustars.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  3. Mrs. Mel I think your forgetting that most quilters are so annal and need to follow the "RULES".Even if there' an easy way and their life depended on it no or most would never change their method. I'm a quilter but thank god i did other fiber work first as I never became so locked into the correct way to do something. Hence I'm never popular on quilt rings or in quilt groups.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Right on, Mrs. Mel! It's only about the "rules" when you are making baby quilts that are going to be washed a zillion times. One of my favorite books is Barbara Olson's Journey of an Art Quilter. In it, she talks about forgetting the rules and getting on with the art. She started fusing and called it "getting a life."

    Thanks for a great post.

    ReplyDelete
  5. You knew I was going to have to stick my foot in my mouth on this one. Completely agree it is about the design not the technique. However, I think the process is more important than the product for me. The way I work is so low tech it is practically stone age but it gives me the results that I want....and completely absorbs me. When I can hand quilt over fusing, well maybe but until that fusible is invented...still working by hand. There is still something very meditative, a zen-like quality to my process...but then I always was a little weird.

    ReplyDelete
  6. But wait! You're forgetting that for some people, the piecing process IS a big part of the excitement! The challenge of piecing fabric together, the zen of sitting at a humming sewing machine, watching the lines go together and lay flat... It's not always easy, just as creating a good design or finding the perfect "zing" colors isn't always easy. But that doesn't mean it must be avoided! It's just not your cup of tea, Melody, and that's fine! Some of us love the instant gratification of fusing AND the slow, painstaking process of piecing complicated designs...and maybe part of it is just because we can! Or, to see *if* we can. So, maybe Rian is struggling, but maybe she's enjoying the struggle and will be especially proud when she achieves the look she wants.

    Isn't this one of the amazing thing about quilting? There are so many different techniques, and such a variety of tastes. There is something for everyone. But just because you CAN fuse somehing doesn't mean that it's always better, or preferred by the maker. It's YOUR preferred method. That's fine! But some of us like piecing, too, and not just because we haven't figured out that the image could easily be fused.

    I've just come from a 2 day workshop with Karen K. Stone, piecing really intricate New York Beauty variations. It took me two days to do 2 blocks. Would it be faster to fuse the pattern? Sure! Would it look the same? No. Not better, not worse, just different. I LOVE the blocks I pieced. And I loved the process.

    Piecing today, fusing tomorrow... it's all good.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I have to agree with you that for quilts that arn't to be washed or worn fusing can be the way to go. I've seen so many of my students struggle over a brilliant design only to chuck it because the sewing was getting in the way. Fusing can be liberating! Design over process any day!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I don't think Rian should have to defend her use of piecing instead of fusing. We should all be free to use whatever techniques we want. Artists should use whatever they feel comfortable with, to create the look they want.

    Piecing looks different than fusing, and it has a different texture.

    I think it is as unfair to criticize someone who isn't fusing as it is to criticize someone who DOES fuse.

    Robbi

    ReplyDelete
  9. We're all at different stages, different skill levels, and strive for different looks. I don't see it as 'first you learn to piece anally, then you learn to fuse and are liberated', one does not necessarily lead to the other, one is not better than the other, and one is not following the rules and the other breaking them.

    The struggle to learn and perfect a technique is part of the process of being an artist, isn't it? Perhaps you, Mel, have mastered the piecing part and discarded it for fusing, a technique that better suits your style. Gabrielle has mastered hand applique and it suits her style magnificently. I'm not sure yet what technique might end up being my preference, but will struggle with them all until I find it.

    Great topic, great responses.

    Fabienne

    ReplyDelete
  10. How about a test? After reading both this post and Rian's too, I'm thinking that maybe it would be fun to come up with a design (like Rian's incredible Maple Leaf - thanks for the Canada nod) and try multiple methods. For example, make the design into a four piece set - one pieced, one fused, one painted on fabric, and one whole cloth quilted with the design. Oh, the possibilities! And the potential for fun and/or swearing! Whee! I think this may be just what I need to disconnect myself from the knitting needles and head back to the quilting studio. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I have to jump back in to the fray here. I left the first comment agreeing with Melody and I still do. I think some of you really missed her point. She is not saying do a wedding ring, monkey wrench or whatever kind of traditional block you want to piece as a fused quilt (although you could and I'm sure Mrs. Mel has). I felt that she was saying that if you are going for a painterly quality in your work, why try to painstakingly piece the thing when you can get a much more painterly feel by fusing. At least this is how I feel. since taking Mrs. Mel's class last year and one with Sue Benner, also, it just opened up new ways for me to do the kind of work that I had been longing to do.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Can't let this pass either...painterly quality has nothing to do with technique but instead with composition and design....the way you use color not the way you construct. We just gotta have differnt approaches to include something for everyone. Fusing is a great technique but I am not sure it produces more painterly work..it just allows you to work faster than other techniques. Putting on my Kevlar vest.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Before I met you, Melody, I would have been doing the same thing Rian is.....knocking myself out.

    Now, I would fuse....I LOVE to fuse....And I got more complements on the pieces I did in YOUR workshop than I have had on anything before.

    I plan to help keep Wonderunder in business.....

    teri

    teri

    ReplyDelete
  14. I think that at times, it is the process that is more important and sometimes it's the design. To me, at this moment, it's the process, the actual doing that is important. Quilting is the only daily activity that gives me any kind of feeling of accomplishment. That's what I need at the moment. I cherish the actual process of creating something with my hands.

    I am sure though that there will be other times when design will become more important - in my photography, this has already happend - and not so much the workmanship.

    And I disagree with Robbie, I do not feel that you were critizising Rian, rather you took her as inspiration to pose a very valid question.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Ok, lots of great comments - but so far I don't think anyone has mentioned the one thing that stops me from using more fusing - it makes the work so dang STIFF!! Can you fuse and still get the sewability of pieced/appliqued work? I'm using wonderunder/vliesoflix, which is allegedly quite soft...

    ReplyDelete
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Hello,
So nice of you to drop by. I love your comments, and if you would really like a reply, please email me at fibermania at g mail dot com