Tag Archives: Quilt genres

What is a Modern Medallion Quilt?

Or more to the point, is there such a thing as a “modern” medallion quilt? What characteristics would make a medallion quilt “modern?”

To define one more time, a medallion quilt is one which is designed with a central block or motif, surrounded by multiple borders. Borders may be plain, elaborately pieced or appliquéd, or a combination of plain and fancy on the same quilt.

First, do me a favor and google “modern medallion quilts.” Look at Images. What do you see? I’ll wait…

My questions about modern quilts have to do with how those called “modern” break from the definition above.

To try to answer that, I checked again on the website of the Modern Quilt Guild, to see how they define the term “modern” as it applies to quilts. Their definition has evolved over time, which is natural and right. Currently it says this (emphasis in bold added by me):

… several characteristics often appear which may help identify a modern quilt. These include, but are not limited to: the use of bold colors and prints, high contrast and graphic areas of solid color, improvisational piecing, minimalism, expansive negative space, and alternate grid work.  …

The growth of the movement was facilitated by four factors: the cultural shift of quality design being recognized by the general public, affordable digital cameras, the changing fabric industry and the rise of social media.

Let’s take this apart, starting with “bold colors,” “high contrast and graphic areas of solid color,” and “minimalism.” This quilt was shown in 2012 on the See How We Sew site. It is an antique Amish medallion quilt in the pattern called “Diamond in a Square.” It was made around 1925. Modern…

What about “improvisational piecing“? The Modern Quilt Guild site gives a nod to the quilts of Gee’s Bend. Many modern quilters also are inspired by Gwen Marston’s “liberated” quilting. But in her book Liberated Medallion Quilts, Marston argues that liberated medallions are traditional. Her book begins with photos of a mid-1800s Welsh quilt and of a Martha Washington quilt made around 1800. Want more examples? See the search results from the Quilt Index on medallions from 1800-1849. Or look for examples on the Smithsonian site. Many early examples of medallions could be described as improvisationally pieced. Modern?

So perhaps what we are left with, at least with regards to modern medallion quilts, is that they are related to the use of digital cameras and social media.

I make medallion quilts. I do not think they are “modern.” Nor do I think they are “traditional,” by and large. They are expressions of me, not of an aesthetic imposed by a particular time or trend.

I do not accept the label “modern” as it applies to medallion quilts. I haven’t seen one yet that is new in that regard.

When we are willing to stop labeling our work to fit genres, trends, or styles, we are more free to express ourselves. When we are not dependent on public opinion, we can delve into and expose the deepest parts of ourselves. When we don’t care about whether our quilt will win at an AQS show or an IQF show or a QuiltCon show or a bloggers’ quilt festival, we build our artistic power.

Are you willing to stop labeling quilts? To stop labeling your quilting? To build your power?

Your comments, agreeing or disagreeing or questioning, are welcome. You are welcome to share or reblog this post as well.