creativity The Creativity Project

The Creativity Project Week #51: Survey Results

Survey Results The Creativity Project Week #51 Kim Smith Soper Leland Ave Studios

This week, I’d like to start with a thank you.  To everyone in this community who has read an interview of The Creativity Project, found a new artist to follow, commented on my blog, sent me messages, or recommended this series to a friend – Thank You. When I embarked upon this journey at the beginning of the year, I knew it would be a lot of work.  However, the support you’ve given me, and the people that shared their words in this space, have made it all truly worth it. From the bottom of my heart, I cannot thank you enough.

Week #51 is a very special week as this week is all about you — the community of makers. A total of 444 of you participated in The Creativity Project survey over the past year.  You provided feedback and thoughtful comments from every corner of the United States and around the globe.  You were different ages and quilt at different skill levels. You work in different mediums and have different levels of engagement with various quilting communities. But no matter where you’ve come from, or how long you’ve been doing it, you were willing to be part of this project and share your thoughts on what drives you to create.

Thus, in spite of our differences (and our differences of opinion in how we answered the survey questions), what I’ve found is that overall, there is way more that make us similar than sets us apart.

For this week’s project, I will share how you answered these questions about creativity as well as some comments that reflected the general thoughts from the community. Thank you one last time again for taking the time to participate!  Welcome, and I hope you enjoy!

Please describe your gender.

Please select your age range:

In what region of the United States or Internationally do you live?

Which of the below best describes the level of creativity in your childhood home.

It was not creative at all!We were creative, occasionally, when we had to be. . .We were pretty average, as far as creativity goes.When we created it was encouraged and happened pretty regularly.We were always creating something, going to museums, and creativity was a passion.

Not a surprise, almost 80% of you came from creative to above-average creative households.  You give some credit to the environment you were raised in for shaping your creativity in some ways today. For the 20% that came from less creative households, you show that the inner creative can find us no matter what the environment!

Do you consider yourself to be a “quilter”?

Yes, I do.96%
No, not at this time.4%

The overwhelming majority of you identifies as a “quilter” – which makes sense, as this is a project that started about quilting. For the 4% that don’t: is it because you are more of an admirer than an active participant? Did you just begin quilting, so you’re not sure if you can call yourself a quilter yet? Or, do you work in other mediums that are more dominant? Whichever it is, I’m glad you feel welcome here as part of the community, and thank you for participating in the survey.

Do you consider yourself to be an “artist”.

Almost 90% of you “feel” you are an “artist”; however, only about 40% feel comfortable owning the label.  Is it more about ourselves? Or is it more about the medium we’ve chosen? Some of us don’t feel comfortable using the title because the term “artist” connotes a certain skill level that we feel we haven’t yet achieved.

But does some of it also have to do with the medium in which we work? One of the goals of this project was to try to understand better what makes something “craft” versus “art” and who traditionally have been the gatekeepers that determines that designation.  If we’re honest about quilts and quilting, there have been many quilts that rise to the level of “art.” However, it’s traditionally been more difficult for this medium to get its true due. Perhaps more of us will feel comfortable calling ourselves artists once quilting is more widely accepted in the fine art world.

How would you describe your overall quilting aesthetic?

I am a modern quilter.16%
I am a modern quilter with a traditional background/traditional leanings.33%
I am a traditional quilter above all else.4%
I am an art quilter (at least most of the time).5%
My style cannot be categorized. I make what I love and it is never the same.41%

This was a fun question just to understand how we define ourselves as quilters and which styles we’re more drawn too.  Almost 3/4ths of us struggled with defining ourselves just with one style!

I believe that having a craft makes me more compassionate.

Strongly DisagreeSomewhat DisagreeNeutralSomewhat AgreeStrongly Agree

Almost 76% of us answered this question positively feeling like that was some correlation between the process of craft and compassion.  Interestingly enough, this question generated more comments than any other question in the survey (132 responses!).

Some of you clarified your thoughts about compassion that the act of creating makes you vulnerable and challenges you and therefore made you more compassionate to others who do the same.  

  • Being creative calls me to try and experience new things, which in turn challenge me and cause me to stretch the limits of my capabilities. This can be, in one sense, painful and through this experience I am more easily able to relate to the struggles of others.
  • I never valued the effort it takes to really work with your hands until I became a quilter. Whether you spend time creating a homemade meal, lay bricks for 10 hours a day or piece a quilt, the intensity and heart is real.
  • Having a craft connects me to a community that is diverse and outside of my day-to-day routines. There is vulnerability in putting your work out there to be viewed and judged publicly.
  • Having a craft makes me appreciate other people’s efforts/crafts. I know how much time and thought I spend, so I appreciate others efforts.
  • When you become used to failure and are not frightened by it, you can understand/deal with it better in others.

Some you wrote about how when you’re making for others, you think about the recipient whether it be a family member, a friend, or a part of a charity and how your work will be received.

  • It gets my focus and anxiety off myself and onto the person I am creating for
  • Often what I make with my hands goes lovingly to someone…today I made a cuddle blanket for my 6month old grand daughter. She grabbed it with her hands put it to her face and as she rubbed on her face a big smile came over her face. I say that gifting and seeing the pleasure or creating for others gives me a calmer more compassionate nature.

Some of you shared how being a part of a community via craft opens you up to others as well.  

  • I joined a quilting group when I was very sick with Rheumatoid arthritis and everyone embraced me and nurtured me. I found a group of women who were constantly giving of themselves, doing charity work and making comfort quilts for the less fortunate people. this expanded my network and For the past 25 years I have enjoyed these wonderful people.
  • What makes me more compassionate is not the craft, but the community I share the craft with. I am very active member in my local guild which has been part of the reason I continue to Quilt.

On the other hand, some of you felt that one didn’t necessarily have to do with the other.  

  • I feel that I am compassionate and don’t think that creative crafting has anything to do with it.
  • I don’t see the relation between crafting and being compassionate.
  • I have never considered a link between creativity and compassion. It doesn’t really ring a bell for me.
  • I don’t think these are causal, but merely correlative. I know many people with crafts who are not compassionate, and many people who are very compassionate and do not have a craft. I think perhaps, specifically quilting, attracts the more compassionate.

When I create, I am making with intention.

Strongly DisagreeSomewhat DisagreeNeutralSomewhat AgreeStrongly Agree

Over 86% of us felt that when we make, we are making with intention. And we had A LOT of thoughts to share about intention and how we define “intention”.

  • There’s always a purpose when I create. That purpose, however, may be extremely different every time – a paid project with a deadline or just “exploring” with fabric is usually done with same intensity and heart for me 🙂
  • Sometimes the intention is mundane, using up scraps, sometimes the intention is to express an opinion or remember something I saw or felt.
  • Sometimes I create just to see if the idea in my head can be made in “real” life. So I guess that might be intention?
  • You have to decide to sit down and make. It’s not a “maybe” scenario.
  • Even when I don’t have a clear plan, the intention to create instills purpose into whatever I’m working on.
  • Some creativity is mindless and letting go. Other times it starts with a plan but art comes and develops from letting things progress naturally and being able to change.

When I create, I am feeding a spiritual/higher purpose.

Strongly DisagreeSomewhat DisagreeNeutralSomewhat AgreeStrongly Agree

Some of the questions were written to be intentional vague. While I am pleased to see that 68% of you agreed with this statement, candidly I was more interested in understanding how you defined “spirituality” or a “higher purpose” when it came to your work.  

Some of you on both sides defined spirituality in the traditional sense and either accepted or rejected this statement based on that definition.  

  • I am using my God-given talents.
  • Nothing religious but it feeds my soul and makes me happy, grounded and calm.
  • I’m a Christian, and believe that my creativity emulates God’s. He made me to be this way. I cannot be otherwise, though insecurity and fear will stop me in seasons.
  • I feel I am doing what I was created to do and I think that anything I create reflects in a small way the creativity of a creator God. (I’ve never put that in writing before, but I think that’s an honest answer to your question.
  • I don’t believe in sky gods

Others had a more non-denominational view of spirituality and saw making as a way to connect to prior and future generations through the process of craft.  

  • I never feel alone when I create. I am fed with knowing that in my heart I am holding the memory of my grandmother close. She had such an astounding talent behind her sewing machine.
  • I come from a large web of women who have created; particularly sewing, weaving, and quilts. I feel a strong connection to them when I’m creating, too, especially when I’m using things that belonged to them.
  • I’m an atheist so no god or higher being for me. Crafting does help me feel a connection to those before me and those coming after me. I regularly wonder what my daughter will create as she ages and progresses. I know my grandmother taught me to crochet and I’ve extended my love of craft so far past that one skill.
  • I struggle a lot with what my purpose really is, and it generally comes back to me thinking that I’m supposed to be using my talent to help people, so I try to do that thru my creative work.

Some of you took a more “zen” approach to this question and approached making as a way of meditation.   

  • I am feeding my own soul.
  • The Master Creator is the Source of all Creativity. Read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.
  • I believe that is the ultimate goal – to allow the spiritual energy to guide me.
  • It is a way of taking time out from the world and being quiet in my head but using my hands to create…kind of a meditation.

When I create, it is done with some sort of ritual/practice.

Strongly DisagreeSomewhat DisagreeNeutralSomewhat AgreeStrongly Agree

This question was interesting as there was no strong answer from respondents. The comments were interesting to learn about all of your creative spaces and how you begin your process. Some of you are very deliberate in the steps you take to get yourself into a creative mindset.  Others jump right in – either because that is “their process” or because of factors such as limited time to be creative. Whichever your process or “lack of” process, it was interesting to get inside your works spaces. ☺

  • I just sit down and start to work.
  • There is some sort of ritual taking place as I gear up to create. The music playing is a wide assortment of genre, depending of project and my mood. A full cup of tea and yes my “Dam%$t” doll is always close by, a gift from my daughter who heard me one too many times!
  • Maybe if I did it would ease my creative stress.
  • Yes, I make sure I am fully alert and awake as much as I want to jump in my room as soon as my feet hit the ground. I am have made some errors being hasty.
  • Although I don’t feel bound by rituals or traditional rules, I do actually enjoy some of the routine — washing fabric, pressing it, cutting it, … all the way to binding it. So a good part of my creativity is expressed through ritual processes.
  • I’m not sure I’ve ever given this much thought until I saw this question. I do have common tendancies that occur when I step into my creative space. There’s small space prepping busy work, there’s time to look at fabric and let my mind wander, there’s intentionally in setting a goal for time (sometimes I have 5 minutes to work, sometimes there’s 50). I tend to follow similar routines without realizing it.
  • I have two small kids, so I wish there was a lot more ritual to my creative practice. Mostly I do laundry.
  • I do have a fairly organized creative space/studio with which to create. Usually my design process is the same: sketch/doodle, pull fabric, start assembling. I like to incorporate breaks into my work which allows me to take pictures (very helpful for remembering my design process), examine my work and what is needed next and ask What IF?
  • I just go for it… lol
  • Bit like baking really, there are steps you need to follow to get to an end product!

I have a support system in place that allows my creativity to flourish.

Strongly DisagreeSomewhat DisagreeNeutralSomewhat AgreeStrongly Agree

Thankfully, the majority of us feel that we have a strong support system in place to help with our creativity.  In reading through your responses, who makes up that system could be a variety of people and communities, both in real life and through online communities like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.

There are also many of us that even with these built in support systems are still searching for our tribes. How can we connect to others that share the same craft and passion?  Making this difficult is that many of us are natural introverts that can feel self-conscious about reaching out to others. Hopefully, part of this project will help encourage people to reach out to each other and be less afraid to do so.

  • I have a supportive partner who understands I must have time for creating, particularly because I watch my small child at home during day.
  • There are people who like my work, but I feel very alone in finding support.
  • I haven’t completely owned the concept of being a guy who quilts and makes stuffed animals. As a result, I haven’t exposed myself enough to have a bigger support system.
  • I don’t quilt with others or belong to a local guild. I read quilting blogs and books voraciously and watch videos when I’m looking for help with a skill. I am an independent member of the Modern Quilt Guild mainly because I like to keep current and am curious.
  • I consider myself lucky not to have huge family obligations or burdensome overhead that would curtail my Making practice. I recognize my privilege…
  • More and more. I have always had the creative support of my mother, who lives across the world, and my sister. I have gathered a small but sturdy network of other creatives that have my back. Getting my family on board has been harder, because I am a somewhat private person, till I am ready to show and share. My husband has supported me financially and with lip service about being creative, but it wasn’t until he saw me complete a very involved and large quilt that he finally “got” what I was trying to do, and what I got out of it. After that, he has been much more helpful with clearing time away for me to create, and reminding me to take the space I need.
  • My husband is an artist and works in the art world. He always reminds me, “an artist needs materials.” No shaming for a fabric stash in our house!
  • Wish I had more of a circle or critique group who understand me.
  • Only Instagram.
  • My partner doesn’t always understand my need to ‘go to my room’, but he knows it makes me a happier person.
  • IG is totally my support system.

I belong to an online community that shares my passion.

Strongly DisagreeSomewhat DisagreeNeutralSomewhat AgreeStrongly Agree

Most of us have (77%) found some sort of online community to be a part of, whether it be Instagram or Facebook via our guilds or private groups.  There’s also a lot of love for Ravelry for those of us that also work in knitting or crocheting and many of you asked where the “Ravelry” is for the quilting community.  Many of you mention the positives of being able to connect to an online community, especially those of us who might live remotely, where joining a guild in real life might be more difficult. On the other hand, many of you also make the observation about some of the pitfalls with social media as well when it comes to the anonymity it provides of those to judge.  Social networks can also arouse some anxiety as it’s often just the “highlight reels” vs a true representation of the process. Some of your thoughtful comments below:

  • I feel blessed to have found such a vast, supportive community on Instagram. I have also started joining various sub-groups on Facebook.
  • Though we wouldn’t recognize each other at an event unless we planned a meet/greet, the groups I belong to are the biggest cheerleaders in the world!
  • I create alone. Don’t like the idea of possibly being judged by belonging to a “community”.
  • I’m in some facebook groups that talk about crafting and gardening. I follow hashtags on Instragram for quilting and half-square triangles, which can be inspiring.
  • I have an Instagram account and have enjoyed seeing so many beautiful things that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. I find I need to be somewhat restrictive with what comes up in my feed, though, because I can get overwhelmed with the volume.
  • As with most communities I feel like a satellite but I’m there
  • Absolutely. I started with Flickr friends and groups, went on to bloggers and instagram friends. I joined swaps and bee’s charity groups and quilt alongs and it was tremendously instrumental in spurring me on, especially since I didn’t know a single quilter in my town until a few years ago.
  • Luckily Facebook has plenty of quilting groups to share with. Ravelry is an incredible support for knitting and crocheting. I’ve often wondered why the quilting community doesn’t have a social media page like Ravelry.
  • I love Instagram and seeing so many inspiring finished works and works in progress. But I find it hard to build relationships on social media—the kind of relationships that lead to deeper conversation about our craft. The best online community I have is the one created by my real world guild.
  • A lot of this online community is great, but a lot of is about keeping up with the joneses and this/that new fabric/book/pattern release.
  • Instagram is why I continued quilting.
  • I love the online community if quilters- between blogging, IG and FB- it is such a kind hearted encouraging group of people from all over the world.
  • I am not a huge fan of social media, I do however have the exception of IG and the quilty community I have found there. Most people are so welcoming and helpful. I find it very encouraging and so nice to find like minded peers on there as I don’t have any quilty friends in my everyday life.

I belong to an in-person community that shares my passion.

Strongly DisagreeSomewhat DisagreeNeutralSomewhat AgreeStrongly Agree

In an ideal world, we would all have a variety of communities and support systems to help foster our creativity. However, we know that due to a multitude of factors this isn’t always the case.  Whether it’s due to geography, lack of other quilters in the community, or just a plain old issue of not meshing with other personalities – finding a tribe in real life can be difficult. The 47% that have feel very strongly about it.  We <capital> L, Love our guilds! Hopefully the rest of us can make this a goal for 2019 as well.

  • I belong to an amazing modern guild with creative, helpful (as in, jump all in, no questions asked, when I ask for help. I also have a supportive small group of quilting friends far away that support me.
  • I belonged to a guild and a bee until this fall. Though I know I will miss the general people of the group, I just don’t have it in me to play personality games. Life’s too short and there is no room in my heart for bullying.
  • While I have some friends who are Artists of some sort another, almost none of them on the ground are textile people…
  • Returned to the States last year after living 7 years abroad. Feeling isolated. Haven’t established a community.
  • I’m in rural America and I’m super introverted.
  • The Seattle MQG is a great guild. Friendly, talented people, led by a board that provides us with speakers, workshops, BOMs, and other ways to learn and grow.
  • I am part of a large traditional quilt guild that meets on a monthly basis as well as a small quilt group that meets weekly. I also regularly travel & teach, and love connecting with new quilters. These in person connections are incredibly rewarding and help motivate me to keep creating and putting my work out there!
  • I have no people (in-person) in my life who sew. Sad, eh?
  • Not currently, but I plan to check out the local MQG chapter.
  • Finding my local modern quilty guild was SO exciting. None of my friends are interested in sewing/ quilting. Being able to chat with quilt friends about fabric, resources, techniques, etc. has been liberating, informative and inspiring.
  • There isn’t a strong quilty community where I live. Certainly noone close to my age (34)!
  • Think this is the best thing about crafting. I’m in a good few quilting groups which all have different functions. One of the guilds I’m in covers all areas (modern, traditional, art etc.) and is very open. There are a number of older quilters in this group who are amazing, and very talented. If it wasn’t for the guild I never would have had contact with this older group and think it’s so beneficial and educational.

At times, I have used admiration of other quilters’ work to push me in my own work and self-discovery.

Strongly DisagreeSomewhat DisagreeNeutralSomewhat AgreeStrongly Agree

While we may not unanimously agree on anything (which is a good thing), we feel very strongly (95%) about how others’ work influences our own and pushes our creativity.  We seek out and appreciate beauty and strive to make works that reflect that beauty.

  • There is SO MUCH BEAUTY in the quilting world. I think part of my responsibility as a quilter is to view as much quilting work as possible, learn about the works, study the features and honor those artists by letting their works be real inspiration.
  • After my last visit to the Nat’l Quilt Museum in Paducah I came out with every intention to teach myself thread painting. This struck me when I saw the thread painted gears quilt. My father was a novice woodworker and clock maker…when I saw that quilt it was as if he was standing next to me. He understood my creative process more than any human being. Seeing other artist creations leads me to thinking outside my box and makes me yearn for my paper and pencil, sewing machine and stash!
  • I draw great inspiration from seeing other quilters’ creations online, in publication and at quilt shows/venues. I remember attending my first large international quilt show and returning home crying as the quilts were so incredible and I had no idea how they were created. It pushed me to take more classes to learn new techniques. The next year I returned and I started recognized the techniques used in some of the award winning quilts. 3 or 4 years later, I built up the confidence, courage and skill and was thrilled to have 1 or 2 of my quilts juried into that show. A few more years and I won an Honorable Mention ribbon and then this past year 3rd place! While I try not to compare myself to other quilters–I do compare myself to where I was 1, 5 or even 10 years ago– and as long as I am growing/making progress–I am a happy quilter!
  • Absolutely! Seeing the beautiful creations other quilters have dreamed up and created is very inspiring and reminds me that I can push beyond my boundaries and explore more challenging concepts.

When I create, I am usually challenging myself.

Strongly DisagreeSomewhat DisagreeNeutralSomewhat AgreeStrongly Agree

In addition to the previous question, we are also generally a group that tends to push ourselves creatively with our projects.  We’ll try new techniques, new formats, different styles, non-traditional materials, or even new themes. We also acknowledge that challenging yourself can be taxing and we will cycle in less challenging projects after something particularly difficult.

  • I’d like to say that is 100% accurate all the time, but I think we all go through an ebb and flow of being challenged (pushing yourself) and feeling challenged (letting self doubt creep in and give up/change course needlessly/etc).
  • Absolutely! I read directions and rethink how I can do something differently. Whether it be to save fabric, or time or well…..just because I can! There are quick quilts for that ‘get her done’ occasion, but I devour time and creativeness to challenge myself to create something I haven’t done before. And you know what I discovered? It’s better than eating a piece of chocolate!
  • I like to try new things and we very process oriented. Each work I try to improve on my “process” or techniques.
  • I always try to do something new, even if working in a series.
  • I like to try new techniques whether sewing, quilting, embroidery or knitting.
  • It depends on the day honestly. Challenges are saved for good days. The meditative qualities of practiced skills make the worst days bearable.
  • When I’m creating with intention, I make a point of challenging myself to create quilts that no one else has created, usually with the goal of translating textiles to quilts.
  • I never want to make the same thing twice (no to series). Tapping into newer concepts keeps the fun and intrigue present, while quilting the end product is always a humbling.
  • This is a weakness of mine. I am not challenging myself as much as I could—and I think it would help me improve.
  • First and foremost, I create for myself. Not in a selfish way, but in a self-exploration, self-challenging kind of way. I want to see where I can take my creativity. What new concepts I can explore. And then I want to share those with the community in the hopes of encouraging others to explore their own creativity.

I look to history to inspire the work I create.

Strongly DisagreeSomewhat DisagreeNeutralSomewhat AgreeStrongly Agree

Much like the question about whether you have a particular ritual or practice, this question had a fairly spread response.  As with the spirituality question, I tried to keep this question open to the responder’s interpretation of history. Whether it was the history of time, of quilts, of textiles, or of your family/ancestors, I was interested to learn how you defined history and how you looked for inspiration.

  • I look to past artists and events as well as present artists and events.
  • With a background in Art, and a long history of quilting and studying quilting, how can I not?
  • I feel a strong connection to my ancestors when I quilt. I also like reading about the history of quilting and how it’s been used for various purposes, like political purposes.
  • I do look to history to inspire my work. When I first started quilting, I was purely focused on my idea of ‘modern’ quilting being all straight lines and negative space. I didn’t have enough knowledge to know how much the modern quilting movement is based on ‘traditional’ quilting methods. The log cabin is a classic example of this. It lends itself to so many variations and iterations that it will continue to provide inspiration to anyone interested quilting. I am also amazed to see the prolific use of solids in certain areas of ‘traditional’ quilt making, the use of negative space…and usually i am most inspired by the fact that these very intricate designs were sewn by hand and cut by scissors. I am drawn to the precision in historical work, much the same as I am in my own.
  • It inspires me to keep going. Others before me have.
  • I love old old old quilts and I think there is a lot to learn from traditional quilts.
  • Nah.
  • If I am creating for my family I try to incorporate something that reminds me of my Nana who has inspired me to #tryallthecrafts
  • History inspires everything we do in life. In quilting, most blocks have been done by someone before us. That’s one of the main things that bugs with the “modern quilting” scene – sometimes people think that they’re inventing a new technique or block, but look at history and its already been done.

And my personal favorite:

  • I always thought I hated history. Then I began looking to women creators and the history of their projects. The lasting impact of their work is inspiring to me.

It is important to me that I quilt because it is traditionally an art form associated with women.

Strongly DisagreeSomewhat DisagreeNeutralSomewhat AgreeStrongly Agree

And now the most “controversial” (and possibly misinterpreted?) question of the survey.  This question — asking about working in an art form traditionally associated with women — generated a lot of strong responses.  As you can see, this question more than any other, had respondents disagreeing with the statement. You also had some very strong thoughts and comments to share.  It was really insightful to read all of your responses, and I only wish we could have continued this discussion in real time.

Before we dive in, I think it might be helpful for me to share the reasons behind why I asked this question, and my thought process behind it.  

I would hope it’s a fairly non-controversial statement to say that quilting has historically been primarily a women’s medium. For centuries, quilts have been hand-made items that are used to provide warmth and convey a personal story.

I would also hope it’s a fairly non-controversial statement that the effort and the creativity that goes into creating a quilt is on par with, or even surpasses, some mediums that are more traditionally looked at as “art”.  However, while quilting is starting to get recognition in the fine art world, it is still generally looked at as more of a “craft” with a utilitarian purpose (“nice blanket!”) than something its creator labored over to express an idea or evoke a feeling.

One of the things I keep asking myself is “why”? Why is it that painters and sculptors get to, by default, call themselves artists; but if you quilt, it’s a hobby? And how much do traditional gender roles, and who participated in quilting vs. who traditionally made “art” (and judged what “art” is), factor into these designations?  For example, the most expensive quilt ever purchased is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars (and that’s an anomaly!), while the most expensive paintings are in the hundreds of millions. Why?

In essence, I asked this question because it is about the history of the (primarily) women who have participated in this medium and giving them their due as artists.  It’s about women today actively choosing to quilt. Period. Not because they HAVE to quilt. But, instead, because they CHOOSE to. They choose to quilt because it unites them to their forebearers who came before them.  By choosing quilting, they are elevating the art form and the craft and hopefully bringing some overdue recognition to the women who have been keeping this medium alive for centuries.

I am not advocating we be exclusionary by gender either. The medium of quilting is open to everyone, and quite honestly, the more widely practiced it is as an art form, the sooner it will be elevated in the art world.

I also respect anyone that firmly believes they were drawn to this medium because they enjoy working with fabric, and that it has nothing to do with its history as a women’s medium. This question is not meant to be insulting to feminism. In fact, it is because I value the contributions of women of the past to this medium that I actively choose to keep their traditions and spirit alive. It is this very feminism that draws me to quilt and to study our choices to quilt.

In no way is this question to be misinterpreted in being reductive in how I view women and their own agency in making choices with what they want to do with their time and their talents. I merely wanted to generate a discussion around the topic and perhaps shine a light on something we might have been doing subconsciously without giving direct thought to our choices.

One last thank you for letting me share that! Hopefully, we can continue this conversation into 2019!

Here are a sampling of the comments that were representative of all that were received:

  • The fact that it is typically women doesn’t factor into my decision to quilt, it’s just a bonus that I’ve met mostly amazing women.
  • It’s not because women have quilted that I feel compelled to quilt. I am greatly inspired by this art form and many of those inspirations come from women quilters. I hope to be a quilter that provides inspiration to future quilters (of all genders).
  • My mother quilted and I can sense that she would be delighted with the work I am now producing. I guess because I was exposed to quilting all my life, and felt it was accessible and achievable, I sought it out when I was ready, and had the time to devote to it. I’m a feminist but have no strong drive to quilt because it is associated with women. My father supported all my earlier creativity, and my art teachers were men, so I’ve never put a gender to my work.
  • This construct leaves me ambivalent. I have always considered myself a feminist who pushes against traditional roles, but I am drawn to what was considered female domestic arts, and still observe sexism around that choice. Some days I feel agressive about re-defining those perceptions, some days less so….
  • Well that depends on where you live, in Egypt the Tent makers are all men, doing what is in effect quilting. One of the most prolific pattern printers of Northj Country quilts in England was a man in early 20th century, so I can’t honestly say it’s because it’s associated with women.
  • Certainly quilting has many men who are great at making quilts and textiles.
  • Dont really care about this, wish people wouldstop saying its a woman hobby.
  • Gender has nothing to do with the importance of my passion!
  • Really?
  • Um, no.
  • I don’t quilt because I’m a woman, I quilt because i enjoy it. Just like I enjoy shooting guns, which is generally considered a man’s hobby.
  • I sew because I enjoy it, not because it is primarily a female endeavor. As a feminist this question is insulting.
  • I think that’s what got me so interested in the beginning, as I have had a family history of women quilters. During the depression my great grandmother would ride a bus a few hours away to a upholstery factory and stay for a week or two at a time. Arriving home, she brought scraps home and out of necessity, she and her daughters created warmth for the cold winters.
  • It is an amazing women-driven industry. I just wish that women were more confident about their talents, and realized the significance of what they’re doing.
  • Being a male quilter it can be an awkward space to be in at times, there can be an unfair recognition of male quilters because they are not the usual demographic of the medium. I like to appreciate the skill and creativity that is in a quilt and I am continually inspired by antique and vintage quilts of which the majority were made by women whose talents were dismissed as merely “women’s work.”
  • This is a sticky one for me, as I’ve known three male quilters personally. They created in some ways differently than my mom and I, with a bit more abandon, a bit more innovation. During my childhood, my family y had a quilted potholder and baby bib and pillows business, and I listened constantly to women saying: 1. I could do that, just draw the appliqués and make it at home! 2. “Real” quilting is done by hand, Not machine! 3. Too expensive, it should cost a dollar like it does at the church bazaar! Women aren’t always the nicest when it comes to being traditional or valuing what is considered to be a woman’s art. If it is done by a woman, is it craft? If it’s done by a man, is it art? Blurry to distinguish sometimes, but I am glad that it is changing and improving.
  • I like that its primary women in quilting, and sometimes actually resent men who are in it – especially those I feel are attention-seekers. I know that is crazy but that is how I feel. I think the bonds that form between women quilters are special, and I like having a space with no pushy men in it. (That said, we have a man in our guild and he is lovely.) I recognize this is not entirely a logical thing.)
  • I appreciate that quilting connects me with the women in my family who quilt (and who I don’t have much else in common with). I also feel like I find a lot of mentors in my guild and I love seeing a traditionally female craft being valued so highly.
  • I quilt because I love working with the medium of fabric, and creating something useful feeds my inner need for practicality. I find it actually very detrimental that it’s an art highly associated with just women. No other woman in my family quilted before I did, so at first I found it very jarring when others would say “oh, my nana/aunt/cousin quilts”. Or my least favorite — but you’re so young, wouldn’t you rather be doing something else with your time? Being a traditionally older woman’s craft makes it very easy for people to dismiss out of hand, and it makes it very easy to diminish the effort and artistic qualities.
  • Yes!!! It’s ok for men to join, participate, share, but please don’t steal our history and past thunder.

And there you have it, folks! The results of the 2018 survey! I’d love to hear your thoughts! Were you surprised at any of the responses? Did you take the survey earlier in the year — and have you reconsidered any of your opinions after reading a year’s worth of interviews? I’d LOVE to hear!

Please share your thoughts in the comments so we can keep the discussion going! And thank you again for making this possible. It’s been a great year! See you next week for the final installment of 2018!

You Might Also Like

  • Yvonne from Quilting Jetgirl
    December 21, 2018 at 11:14 am

    Thank you for sharing a roundup on the survey!

      December 21, 2018 at 1:27 pm

      Thanks Yvonne! It was incredibly insightful to get so many responses and comments. I can’t thank everyone enough for participating!

  • Bernie
    December 21, 2018 at 5:58 pm

    I did take the survey at the beginning of the year and it is great to read the general results of it.

    I think my favorite line is this:
    “It is a way of taking time out from the world and being quiet in my head but using my hands to create…kind of a meditation.”
    This resonates with me because it is exactly how I feel but have never thought it through or articulated. I have such a difficult time getting out of my head but when I am sewing or quilting, I am using my hands and only thinking about the steps or the process. it is very meditative and I think this is precisely why I need to do it. I a thankful to whomever it was that wrote that bit.

      December 28, 2018 at 2:01 pm

      Thanks for sticking with it! i know it’s a long read. There were so many great comments that people shared. I’m glad you connected with it.

  • Jen Broemel
    December 22, 2018 at 8:44 pm

    Very interesting! We all make, create and quilt for different reasons with different intent. The beauty is that despite these differences we can not help but come together to do this thing we love!!!

    I’ve loved reading the interviews every week! Thank you!!!

      December 28, 2018 at 2:07 pm

      Thanks Jen! so glad you enjoyed. Finding out the “why” vs the “what” was a fun project and I hope to continue in some way going forward too.

  • Kirstin
    January 12, 2019 at 8:02 pm

    Thanks for the hard work in putting this survey together and compiling the data. It was a very interesting read! I’m curious as to what is next. Will you be using the information to inform your own creativity and work?
    I loved this project! Thanks so much!

      January 13, 2019 at 6:05 pm

      Thanks so much Kristin! It was certainly a larger project than I anticipated for 2018. But I definitely got so much out of it that it was all so worth it. As far as what’s next – I don’t think I’m done with exploring the process of creating yet! Stay tuned for more things to come….