The Art of Quilt-Making

Art Quilts

The concept of the "art quilt" emerged in the 1960s and 1970s when quilts began to be recognized not just as functional items but as forms of artistic expression. This period saw a significant shift from traditional quilting patterns to more innovative, creative designs that emphasized personal expression and artistic quality.

In the earlier part of American history, quilting was a practical craft, primarily creating warm bedding. These quilts often contained elements of the quilter's experiences and heritage, but their primary purpose was functional. However, as time passed, quilts began to be seen more as a form of artistic expression.

The influence of Black Southern quilters has extended far beyond their local communities. Their approach to quilt-making, which often involves improvisation and a deep connection to community and history, has inspired quilters nationwide to explore more personal and expressive forms of quilt-making. This has helped elevate quilting to a recognized form of fine art, where quilts are valued for their craftsmanship, artistic vision, and cultural significance.

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Art Quilts Today

Today, art quilts continue to evolve as artists experiment with new materials, techniques, and concepts. They are exhibited in galleries and museums and are considered collectible items. Quilt artists draw on a rich tradition, including the influences of Black Southern quilters, to create works that are deeply personal, culturally resonant, and visually stunning. The art quilt movement has helped to redefine quilting as a sophisticated art form, showcasing the potential of textiles as a medium for artistic expression.

Meet Fiber Artist, Renee Fleuranges-Valdes

Renee Fleurange-Valdes
Renee Fleurange-Valdes

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background as a quilter?

Born and raised in a small town in southern New York, I am the youngest of 4 girls. I was exposed to quilting as a teenager, but never made the time to learn the art. That is until I was in my mid 40's. Like most, I made bed quilts and baby blankets for the family until there was no more family to gift my treasured art. When I turned to art quilting my world changed and I fell in love with the ability to create anything my mind could imagine, and I haven't looked back since.

When did you first start quilting and why??

In late 1999/early 2000, I needed something to relieve the stress of corporate America, so I turned back to fiber which I had enjoyed as a teenager. Influenced by a friend's mother, I tried my hand at traditional quilting, but quickly tired of squares and triangles and quilts that looked like every other quilt. So I began experimenting with art quilts and fell head over heels in love! I love working in bright-colored fabrics and quickly realized that I wanted to add that extra bit of pizzazz to my work, so I started following a few free-motion quilting aficionados on social media. I took a class at my local quilt shop and the instructor said it took about 500 hours before muscle memory took over. So in the evenings, I would sit and just play, trying my hand at the quilting designs I had seen at shows, online, or in quilt magazines. 

Well, the instructor was right, soon enough sitting at the machine and just letting my mind go was the best therapy ever! My son kept asking me why I was refusing to sell my art. Since I had no justifiable answer, I finally took the plunge and the response was more than I would have ever imagined. What could be better, than doing something I enjoyed, something folks enjoyed looking at, and getting paid for it to boot! So here we are... Quilted Artistry by Renee was born.

What inspires your designs and creative process?

Now that is an easy one. Life's Joys!! I don't dwell in the past and am the glass-is-half-full type of person, so my art seldom focuses on the dark side of life's experiences. Most definitely, I like showing joy. That is why you see so many dancers in my work, because how can you not smile while you are dancing and swaying to the music. Take a look at my Simple Pleasure Series well... it is nothing but a celebration of pure and simple life! 

When I retired I started asking myself who was I, now that I was no longer an 'IBMer'. Both my MaskTime! and Pathway series had been created when that is how I described who I was. MaskTime! explored the various masks we wear while at work, while dealing with life's unpleasantness, and when we choose not to show our true selves to those around us. Pathways was an exploration of how I had let my career and personal life lose focus. It showed how at times we may float along until we are ready to take the reins back, and take control. But once I retired and that world was no longer a force in my life, I got to explore things that both brought me joy and showed the world what was important to me. That was the birth of the Curvy Lady Series.

Women Dancing by Renee Fleugrange-Valdes

In the middle of my career, I had an executive tell me my weight impeded my advancement. 'People see someone overweight, and they see someone who is lazy. Especially women.' That conversation stuck with me for years. Both you and I know that isn't true, but that is how people saw me and others like me.

So I decided I wanted to bring light to the power that many women with curves have shown and used effectively, the power of self-determination, the power of good, the power of life, and the characteristics they exemplified. Hence the birth of Passionate, Innovative, Powerful, Eloquent, Resilient, Valiant, Dynamic and Invincible! Each looks at the characteristics of a few well-known women with curves who have made a mark for themselves and others.

Becoming An Art Quilter

For those looking to delve into the world of art quilting, resources abound. From online art quilt tutorials to workshops and exhibitions, the community is welcoming and rich with knowledge. Whether you're wondering about the best materials for art quilts or seeking inspiration for your next project, the art quilting community is a wellspring of creativity and support.

Resources such as online tutorials and workshops offer guidance for beginners. The art quilting community is a vibrant source of creativity and support, making it an inviting field for those interested in exploring the intersection of textile, history, and personal expression.

Start by taking a class with Renee Fleurange-Valdes. She is an international teacher. Visit her on social media and learn more about her classes on her website.

Renee Fleuranges-Valdes

Quilted Artistry by Renee

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