Thursday, May 29, 2014

Design Aesthetic - Moving target or clearly defined

This past weekend, the lovely Latifah (The Quilt Engineer) put out a call on Instagram asking people to name three quilters that inspired them using the hashtag #thisquilterinspiresme. I expected to be inspired by what I saw...I was and would agree with many, if not all of what was coming across my feed.

Yet, there was something else that I noticed too.  Nearly all of those mentioned had a clear design aesthetic (commanding sense of color, meticulous use of negative space, etc., etc.); you could spot their quilts from a mile away.  Yet when examining my own body of work, the same was not true.

How important is it to have a particular design aesthetic?

While it might be easier for their work to be recognized, and seems obvious that they have the ability to hosts workshops, and lectures as their style is clearly defined and marketable. It is brand-building of the simplest form, after all. Where does this leave the rest of us?

Having studied Art History in college, I know that Artists styles change through the years. They might have started as a Realist painter, then moved onto Impressionism.  Eventually, they would find or create a look all their own.  I imagine the same can be said of quilting.


Yet my ISFJ brain continues to look for answers. I wondered if those who have a particular design aesthetic feel trapped at all.  For example, what if Quilter A whose work using solids is known world-wide, all of a sudden decides to make a scrappy quilt using nothing but prints.

  • Would that quilt be easily recognizable as belonging to them?  
  • Do they make other quilts; but never shown them on social media? 
  • Would they even want to step outside their design aesthetic in the first place?

Don't get me wrong, I admire those that have a story and stick with it; and who knows maybe one day we will all find our stories. In the meantime, I am happy exploring all avenues of my own aesthetic, whether that is making pixel quilts one day, modern traditional quilts the next with some improv thrown in for good measure.

So what do you think.  In looking at your body of work, is it easily identifiable? Are you creating your own aesthetic, or are you happy with the freedom to just make what you love at a certain moment in time?



  1. I think both are perfectly fine. Some folks may find a comfort zone or just feel they haven't explored a certain style enough yet. Other who my be trying to find a style may try loads of different things.

    I have a fine art degree and specialized in printmaking and painting. Looking back at my work (and my quilting for that matter) I can see that I've tried a certain asthetic for one to three projects, probably felt happy with it, and then moved on to something different. Probably the only thng that somewhat unifies my work is bold, bright colours. I can see this in my sewing too, I tend to use a lot of solids and really like rainbow effects.

    With social media being what it is I think it is less important to have an identifiable style but to instead have an identifiable presence. If you unify your social media streams people will still all of your stuff together, even though it may all look different.

  2. I like creating whatever comes to mind, I'd never discard an idea because it's not 'me'.

  3. Ditto what Andres said. I like to try lots of things. Probably my quilts are somewhat recognizable because of all the color I use, but it's almost always someone else's pattern.

  4. You know, just recently I saw a post from a quilter I like who has a very defined aesthetic and thought "ho hum". How many quilts of a certain type CAN one make? Doesn't it get boring for the quilter? I think that unless you are trying to stick to a certain way of doing things, as an artist one's aesthetic is bound to evolve… creative types are inspired by the world around them and each other (eg. Picasso and Braque). But everyone's evolution goes at it's own pace too. I think quilters (or artists of other mediums) have to do it for quite a while to develop an aesthetic. I've painted my whole life and I see many more stylistic similarities in my paintings than I do in the quilts from the last 3 years. Obviously my goal is not to become a brand - I wonder if becoming a brand stifles your ability to try new styles because you think people won't like/buy it. It's a very interesting question though Kristy - glad you posed it. I wish more people had answered so we could see what a wider group of quilters think.

  5. I think along similar lines to Ann above. If you are in quilting because it's how you make a living, it seems you need to have a look or a style. For me it's a hobby so I make what I want to. I think for us amateurs it's also about learning and what will you learn if you are just repeating the same techniques?


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