Go Tell It!


So, while I was at QuiltCon I was lucky enough to do a short interview with the amazing Quilt Alliance for their Go Tell It! series. I was given three minutes, had a mic clipped to me, and was told to go, to talk about my quilt In Defense of Handmade.

If you’ve read any of my previous post you know that is a dangerous thing to do. So here is the interview, by which I mean monologue.

If you’ve ever wondered what my lectures are like, just imagine something like this going on for an hour…

Once again I say that I need to do lectures on a quilt cruise so we can have classes in the bar; a couple of drinks for the students might not be a bad idea, but I digress…

Yay talking quilts, and art, and capitalism, and politics!!!

You can also see the interviews with Jacquie Gering and Victoria Findlay Wolfe. I seem to be keeping some awesome company…


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15 Responses to Go Tell It!

  1. 1
    Jean says:

    I would enjoy the full length lecture.

    • 1.1
      Cher says:

      how terrific to see all the interviews they did and especially to hear you speak Thomas. Thanks so much for posting this.

  2. 2
    Patti. says:

    I love what you said. Many years ago someone said, ” that looks homemade, not handmade”. It was quite derogatory, as if only the look mattered, not the love or care or intention. That quote kept me from hand making things for almost 20 years. Now I don’t give a hot flying fuck what others think, it’s the intention and education of myself behind each quilt I make. Consumerism, pretense, and “the next best thing” is crazy out of control right now. Okay stepping off my soapbox….

    • 2.1

      Paaaaty, kickass! Not giving a “H.F.F.” is something I wish I had achieved years ago – I look at all the quilts I could have made…
      The fact that I’ve also arrived at that juncture has freed me up to do a lot of things, some that failed miserably but some that have succeeded beyond my dreams. Here’s to the HFF virus spreading!

  3. 3
    Joanne Jones says:

    Love it (the quilt and reasons for making it)!

  4. 4
    sarah says:

    awesome. pure genius!

  5. 5
  6. 6
    isabel says:

    Loved your lecture at Quiltcon! It was a high point for me among quite a few high points.

  7. 7
    Sally Nicol says:

    Your quilt is beautiful and the message behind it is powerful and thought provoking.

  8. 8
    Peggy says:

    Thomas you said more in just a few minutes than most can say in weeks. Very interesting.

  9. 9
    Rossie says:

    I can’t help but feel that this quilt would ring truer for me if it wasn’t made using your own fabric lines. Can a quilt make a anti-capitalist statement while simultaneously promoting a commodity? Can you speak to the fabric choices and how that emphasizes or detracts from your message? -R

    • 9.1
      thomas says:

      I have so many responses to this question, but I shall limit myself to a few. First, I would not so much call this a “anti-capitalist” statement; the point of this quilt is to call in question the blurring of the lines between craft and commodity, handmade and mass-produced. To generalize that point to simply anti-capitalist actually underplays the complexity of the issues at hand.

      Now when it comes to using my own fabric, I absolutely take pride in the designs I make, and love working with them. Part the reason why I design the fabric I do is because I want to sew with it. That collection was an exploration of my own aesthetic and conceptual history with the idea of decorativeness, which felt like an excellent pairing with the nature of a barcode. I like the intellectual dissonance between the notion of the decorative and the limited formal identity of a barcode.

      But beyond all of that, I find the idea notion that every time I use my fabric that I am explicitly promoting it to be a distressing proposition. If that is true, then by implication everything I do in this community would likely have to be seen as promoting some commodity or another in that that same logic quickly reduces me, in my own person, to a commodity. While at some basic level that is likely true, and is the cost of being a professional here, I find that position enormously alienating.

      But all of that seems to me to be partially beside the point; reading this quilt simply as “anti-capitalist” really does just miss the point. I obviously don’t have a problem with the selling of stuff in general (though I do have a fraught relationship to it), what bothers me is the way the aesthetics of handmade and homemade have become readily marketable terms for selling a wide array of things (from decor to food to clothing) that are resolutely neither handmade nor homemade. Fundamentally this quilt is about language; capitalism is simply one means by which the process plays out.

    • 9.2
      thomas says:

      Finally, there is also one very practical reason: I have lots of it. I wish I had a great stash, but seeing as I netted less that 10K last year doing this (that covers three fabric collections, a bunch of magazine work, and the first half of my book advance) I simply do not have a fabric budget. I firmly stand by my choice of Frippery for this quilt, but on a very basic level I make a huge quantity of my fabric choices the same way makers have throughout the quilting tradition: I use what I have and what I can afford.

      • Rossie says:

        I understand that the quilt is not mainly or specifically making an anti-capitalist statement. I wasn’t trying to reduce it to just that, but hoping to talk about that narrow point in relation to fabric choice.

        I’d really like to chase down the history of “fabric line + white” quilts because it’s my hunch that this look originates with quilts created specifically for market booths and also patterns made to promote specific lines of fabric. They always rub me funny and I wasn’t sure if you were speaking to the trend in your quilt or not.

        Have you seen “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold”? It’s a pretty hilarious take on people-as-commodities. It addresses the alienation inherent in being part of a market (a very modern predicament if ever there was one).

  10. 10
    Aileen says:

    Thanks for a really interesting explanation of the inspiration and thinking behind you quilt design. I actually came across your interview from another quilt blog and it was great to hear a quilter engage in a discussions bout wider political themes in the craft.
    This seems to happen very little in the quilting world I’m familiar with (I’m purely a hobbyist when it comes to quilting so my connection with the quilting world is more of an observer) and whenever political issues are raised, they to be met with a lot of cold discomfort rather than engagement. Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for raising some important issues about the commodification and commercialisation which seems to be taking over the whole notion of hand made and hand crafted. I agree that it exploits notions of environmental sustainability that underpin some of the attractions of the handcraft movement.
    Also that’s one gorgeous quilt!

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