Tuesday, 17 July 2012


Well now, is anyone up for a little controversy?  In it's mildest and politest form may I add.

 It's about the genre of Life Painting and whether or not you think it should be on a quilt. 

 As well as the three pieces I've done for the Redditch Needle Museum for the Orientation Exhibition, I was planning to do a couple more for the larger venues, as the exhibition travels around the country.

These were going to be on my current theme of Life Stories.  It's a rich seam (pardon the pun) for me and there's loads more I want to do and say.

 In one I was going to explore the life of a geisha and contrast it to our own tea ceremony with cup cakes and a proper teapot!  The other was going to be called "Still Life" about zen and meditation.

Two very well known art magazines have been in touch recently to ask me about doing articles on me and my stitching.

I was over the moon! Who wouldn't be?  But then I was told that it wouldn't be possible to show any images of my work because there was an "editorial" ban on putting nudes in the (quilting) magazines.

So, then I got to thinking.  Life Painting is a perfectly acceptable form of art, and is widely seen in art galleries across the world. There is nothing shameful in the human body or it's portrayal of it.  Throughout time people have been painted without clothes on. Indeed some of the worlds greatest paintings contain nudes and it is still a universally  established art form in our time with exponents such as Hockney, Bacon, Dali, Freud....the list is very long! 

So why on earth shouldn't there be quilts with life paintings on them in quilting magazines?

Presumably the editors of magazines are aware of all these things; perhaps they have visited cities like Rome, where the churches are adorned with naked people. But, of course, the magazines are theirs, and they can do precisely want.

But, my current work is based on exploring the female form, and using it to express my art - confronting people with reality, and fighting back against the images forced at us by the media, about what is and is not a perfect body; challenging and throwing realism to the fore.

 So, I'm hesitating.

I can't seem to divorce what I sew from what I want to say about female issues.

To do an article about my work without  including images of what I do, seems odd. It's also rather unfair to deny me the opportunity of speaking to the quilting world at large.

It seems to me that the "Fine Art World" calls quilts craft, and denies the fact they are a growing art form, and yet the quilting world does the opposite, and accepts them only as a craft, and won't accept the art.

Any thoughts?


  1. Dear Annabel, This is quite ridiculous! If those magazines won't show your nudes then more fool them. It just goes to show that at times the quilting world has a very narrow mind. You must make the work that you want to make regardless of the magazines. I'm so pleased that you posted all the images here so that visitors to this blog can see your work. If the editors weren't serious then this would be funny. Let's hope they never go to the National Gallery, British Museum etc. etc. they will be horrified! Don't be disheartened.

  2. Your work is amazing. The first time you posted the photo of the woman with the cupcake and vase, my friend went wild and wanted to buy it. I love your "real" nudes and the top most piece is spectacular - as are they all. Shame on the magazine. How can they heap accolades and refuse to show your work. The world needs to see these.

  3. You already know what I think Annabel - but it is worth repeating. I would stick to your guns and refuse to do what would be a heavily censored article about your work - and what is the point of that? I am amazed by the editors attitude ... it illustrates very clearly how far we have to go in getting the mainstream quilting organisations to embrace Art Quilts in their entirety..... all rather depressing and disheartening.Lets start our own magazine! - anyone know much about publishing??

  4. I am at a loss to imagine how anyone could write an article about your current work but not show images of the quilts. What did they propose - were they going to describe them for the readers to imagine or just show heavily censored details? What a ridiculous situation. Trouble is of course, if you don't agree to be featured you are presumably preventing a large number of people becoming familiar with what you do. Cutting noses off faces springs to mind - bit of a Catch 22 Annabel!

    PS I quite like courting a bit of controversy - how exciting to know I have a quilter friend who has her work censored in order to be suitable for public consumption!

  5. Spot on article. This type of nonsense is why I call myself an artist, rather than a quilter. And it has been going on for what, forty plus years? I think we are supposed to be grateful that people don't say 'is that really a quilt' in public very often any more... It's your choice, Annabel, but it's difficult to see how they can write about your art without any illustrations...

  6. Crikey, thank you everyone. I just popped to the kitchen for a sarni and am now confronted with lovely messages of support.

    You are all right of course, but Linda has it in the Catch 22 reference. If I'm honest, of course I'd love to have articles in magazines, and for what I do to be more well known, but at the end of the day it's about principles.

    I have done other pieces which are not about Life and they could be used to show machine skills etc, but both writers actually made mention of Life 4, and how it was the quilt that interests them. The Life pieces are my art and of course I can't do an interview about them without showing them. It's personal, they're part of me. So big gulp, the answer will be a sad and wimpering "no thank you".

    1. No no no no, what on earth do I mean "sad and wimpering no thank you"? A robust and confident "no thank you"!!

  7. Um, how to put this? Pink them! Do whatever the pink speaks to you and they can catch up when they are ready. Things like this really annoy me, but hopefully my choice of rude word won't offend your readers :) I heard several quilt show visitors expressing concern about one of my quilts a while ago, and that wasn't even a nude, she was wearing a 2 piece bathing suit. I've also had a lot of comments from people who feel there should be no nudes in art at all and who avoid art galleries because of it. I don't know if I would do the article or not, it seems it is likely to be a bit lame if the quilts can't be shown.

  8. At a girl Annabel - good decision and the result will be good ... life is like that I think x

  9. bloody ridiculous - give them the malcolm tucker response. this is why i don't use the word 'quilt' anywhere near my work anymore - it attracts the quilt police and smartypants remarks. i was told that i was a very lucky girl for winning a textile art award a couple of years ago - as if i had pulled the wool over the judges' eyes because the piece wasn't 'properly bound'

    you make art using fabric and paint and stitch - real art has no rules, no boundaries and no shouldn'ts. this makes me sooo angry - so, no sad and whimpering, be honest and confindent knowing there is an army of us behind you wielding pitchforks and roaring 'art' and 'freedom' at intervals xxx

  10. Briony posted on FB. She can't get a comment on the blog for some reason so I said I'd copy it for her here:

    Argh, won't let me post comment on your blog any more? You write so eloquently about the art/craft/quilt divide and I'm really saddened that firstly the frankly ridiculous rules preclude images of your amazing work (and underlying messages) but also that you won't be able through this avenue to open this up to the wider quilting world at large. What on earth do they think will happen if someone, gasp! catches sight of a quilted nipple?? How about you go back to them with a proposal for an article debating this very issue? Your very own controversy corner if you like.

  11. This is insane... but that being said there is something for having your work out there and having people learn who you are and what you are about.

    In the US - when the media decides that seeing a nipple or butt crack is too much for my delicate mind to handle they generously apply either a swath of ribbon or black bar across the offending parts. This of course instantly relives me from having to make the decision to close my eyes, so I am not offended! THANK GOD FOR THE MORALITY POLICE.

    What would happen if you added these ribbons and/or black bars to your pieces, making sure that your article states that they needed to be added because your work is being censored for publication - and if they would like to see the full piece in all its glory they can visit your website, blog or any of the other locations where it is not censored.

    Keep up the good work (and the good fight!)
    :-D eirdre

  12. I kinda agree with Deirdre's suggestion - participate, but use a few strategically placed black bars / ribbons in apparently offensive places. And ... make sure your web or blog address gets included in the article, so that folks can choose for themselves to see the actual art.

    I've often thought that one of the reasons "quilts" aren't considered fine art is because there are so few nudes depicted. Maybe the next big show call should be all about nudes?

    Stick to your principles.

  13. Hi Annabel, I've been pondering this all afternoon while I've been quilting. If you do decide to decline the magazine features then you must tell them that it was on the grounds that you didn't want to be compromised in the selection of your work that they illustrated the piece with. It's not that your other quilts aren't good enough to stand up on their own, but just that the Life pieces are your most important series at the moment and really ought to be there as they represent you best.

    I'm confident that it would be much less likely we'd be having this conversation if it were a drawing or painting magazine as they are so used to featuring life drawing or paintings with nudes. Maybe it's because your quilts don't show the human form in a classical way, I don't know, but I think you should stand your ground and I hope you won't feel put off completing the rest of the series as planned.

    I have been wondering who the people are who they are trying to protect. Maybe if the quilts had erotic undertones or explicit poses this would be understandable, but a middle-aged naked woman sat side on to the viewer at a sewing machine? I love the quilt, but it's hardly risque! I'm presuming that these vulnerable quilt magazine readers aren't out and about this early in the day as they're still fumbling around getting washed and dressed in the dark for fear of glancing down and catching sight of a bit of flesh.

    If you need any kind of reassurance that there's nothing wrong at all with your choice of subject matter then you must check out the paintings by Jenny Saville. Massively successful, much admired, hugely collected and presently enjoying an exhibition in London.

    I know it is tough to turn down exposure from magazines as they can be so useful in helping to get your name out there to a wider audience. For me, I wouldn't put up with such censorship and I'd sleep better knowing that I hadn't compromised, even though it meant no feature. Especially as the quilts are intended to be all about the pressures put on women to be good, quiet, unquestioning, etc. etc. Enjoy the irony.

    I always love to eavesdrop at quilt exhibitions to hear what the visitors are saying about my quilts and I can't actually remember whether this was said while I was lurking next to mine or one of Linda's, but two ladies were studying the quilt in silence. Finally one said to the other, 'Hmm,......not my cup of tea'.
    All I could think was thank goodness!

  14. Well apart from the fact I agree with most of the previous comments, I must say I want to know which magazines they are. Laura is right about the tough decision to turn down the opportunity re exposure [now there's an apt word] but truthfully some publications probably aren't really worth considering anyway, especially when they reveal themselves to have such weak attitudes. Well, you have decided that yourself. Best to be brave, every time. Great to see the quilts again, all together, too.Any time you fancy a model...

  15. Briony said:

    Bah, still can't post. But completely agree with Laura, I was wondering the same thing - does the apparent horror about nudity come from the lack of fine art training/exposure and therefore life drawing? I know that my drawing skills came on leaps and bounds once I started a life class, am sadly rusty now. I'd be interested to know which publications too, but am sure you are far too discreet to say!

    Are you a member of the quilters guild? I'd really like to see this debated further in the quilting community and maybe time for an article in the quilter?? At least the guild embraces contemporary through Contemporary Quilt, so this is something that should've addressed.

  16. Steph??? Really??? Always need models. I can't keep using the same ones! I shall be back in a bit with a full response but I just wanted to say thanks again for your responses. Gotta go to bed - didn't sleep well last night and I'm dozing off on the chair again! :)

    1. Hi Annabel

      I am a relative newcomer to the world of patchwork and quilting and initially perceived the community to be inclusive and welcoming of the progression of the craft.

      My first experience of 'division' if that is the correct term was that which is caused by the traditional versus contemporary versus art. Me thinks I have now seen a new extension of this which is just as unnecessary.

      I have read all the comments with great interest.
      Firstly, I am glad to hear that you have said no. Due to being a stubborn a**e, I mean person, I don't like to be told what I can and can't do especially if what I am told not to do doesn't make any sense.
      Secondly I agree with Laura's comments regarding the subject matter. If your works of art ('cos that's what they are) offend certain peoples delicate sensibilities then god help them if they happened to glimpse anything a little more daring. Personally I think we are bombarded/surrounded with more unsavoury and revealing images everyday in the media.
      Thirdly, I think it is a great idea for the guild to raise this issue in the magazine - I am intrigued to know if they would write an article but object to publishing pictures of your work to illustrate the point!
      Lastly, I too would be interested to know which magazines feel that your work is important/good enough to feature and discuss but not include pictures of. I don't think I would be buying them in the future. Maybe you should send them copies of the posts here 'for their education' of course.

      Take care


  17. What is our world coming to when our QUILTING magazines are censored! Holy Crap! Just like on TV...if someone doesn't like it, change the channel...if someone doesn't want to see a nude, don't go to museum...no one is forcing anyone to look at a particular quilt or read an article. For heaven sakes!! Keep your work coming!!! There are many of us who appreciate what you do!!

  18. Privately owned companies have the right to do what they want, they are making a business discussion regarding their audience. That pesky amendment, but it works in other directions. There has to be other venues where you will get the exposure (hmm is there a pun here) by people who will appreciate the driving artistic force. Gook luck with this

  19. Sorry it's taken so long to reply. This is because I've been on the floor where I fell after reading Laura's comment about folk fumbling around getting washed and dressed in the dark. Phew, that made me giggle so hard that I think I've lost at least 275 calories. (A Magnum's worth at least)

    First of all, thank you for all the wonderfully thought through and supportive comments. I have as you already know, decided not to do the interviews simply because I feel I cannot divorce what I say from the way I say it. The sewing is a means to an end and an article without the images would be pointless. There are plenty of other people who can do articles on free machining. If my work is different in some way and I'm worthy of an article in a magazine, it must be because of what I choose to say?? The images are part of that. I try to make them stand alone as a painting so they are understandable without the text and the sewing, so it's a nonsense not to show them at all. I will wait and go all zen like and maybe some magazine somewhere, will be brave enough to take the plunge!!

    Thanks once again - you're all fabulous!

  20. Your work is stunning and is art! Do not be discouraged! I came against a similar issue in my photography. I do pinup work with REAL women of all sizes and shapes and a lot of people did not want to publish my work.

    Your skill is evident and keep creating. The fiber arts are tough in the art world. So many people believe that fiber is "craft" and not art. But I believe whether you paint with threads or fiber, you are an artist. You are an artist if you make art, and art is your call not theirs.

    Again, please keep creating, your work is beautiful and I love that you use real women, you are truly an artist.

  21. I wonder if the magazine is published by an organisation that has agreed to no nudity and so dictates to the editors. Who knows what laws there may be about nudity in some American states - some seem to be pretty conservative about many things. (I'm guessing this mag is an American one as most quilting mags are published there) - May be ones with depictions of nudes have to go on the top shelf!!
    I think you have to decide whether you can show your pieces censored with an editorial explanation as to why and references to your web-site where they can be seen properly or say no with a full explanation as to why to the editor. You may be able to use the opportunity to further your cause in high-lighting the way women, naked or otherwise are viewed by society. However, the editors may not agree as I am sure they will be able to use your words to suit their editorial style and you will not have the right to use your wording. It may be their priority is with the medium rather than the message.

  22. Kathy Nida (a US quilter) works with mostly nudes in her quilt. There was a bit of a furore last year when someone kicked up a fuss about one of her quilts being shown in an exhibition - think it made the TV news there. Quilters Newsletter Magazine published some photos of the exhibition and then got a letter from some woman complaining about it - she thought it was something that you would find in Playboy magazine!! She has a post up on her blog today about how Quiltmaker magazine has printed letters in their latest issue from people supporting her right to make art...
    Her blog is at kathynida.com

  23. Hello and thank you again ladies. Yes Jill, I think you're absolutely right; the priority is the medium. Thank you for letting me know about Kathy Nida, Claire. I couldn't access her blog today - I think you might have to sign in or something. Trouble is, if you're an Editor, I'm told one of the things that's the bane of your life, is the person who writes in to complain - perhaps endlessly going on and on week after week; they have to be dealt with and it all takes time. It's a much easier life not to have to deal with complaints, and start a furore.
    Thank you also Ariana - I will indeed keep going!! I have written to say that I shall not do the interview and in my view it's censorship of which I can't approve - no matter what you do to get around "the problem" I haven't heard back so guess that's it now. Nice lady, but not for me right now.

  24. I've read both Kathy's blog, and yours here Annabel, and I love your work. I live in Scandinavia. Nude art in public spaces is so common here, we laugh at the anonymus "male" sculpturs in US. In my capital, Oslo, we have a park full of nude sculptures, all made by Gustav Vigeland (1869-1943). Male and female, young and old, thick and thin, and all nude and well equipped. There is nothing more funny than walk among the tourists, watching their shocked faces, hearing their "oh, look at THAT!!" If you ever come to Oslo, you just have to go there. The park is open to everyone, no entry fee. Or you can visit their web: http://www.vigeland.museum.no/en/vigeland-park/vigeland-park
    Why not nude in QUIlts, as long as we have in all other form of art?
    You are both so great artists, just keep going, I love your work.

  25. Hi Annabel, Kathy Nida's site is password protected, you have to enter "I am over 18" to be able to read the posts...

  26. Annabel: Your Life series is stunning. The quilt magazines here in the US tend to be very conservative. QNM has shown my work (nudes) and supported the art side of the argument very well. The other quilt magazines have published work from exhibits I've been in, but not mine or the other work with nudes in it. The US has some major issues with nudes at the moment...it's very frustrating being in the quilt world and doing nudes, but I belong to a women's art group where even paintings and drawings of nudes are a controversial topic in some parts of the US, so it's not just quilts.

    Keep making your beautiful art. PLEASE tell the magazines why you're saying no. I don't think they'll go for the black-bar option, and I would say that conflicts with the message of your work. I think they're crazy for wanting to do an article on you and ignoring this huge and amazing part of your work.

    Kathy Nida

  27. Gosh, vrgnamgnta, I'm astonished! Really? I'm at a loss on this one, and certainly wouldn't wish to be rude, but, Really??

    As for telling the magazine, well I did of course. It was difficult to shout all the way down from the very top of my high horse, but I managed!

  28. Thanks for the link again Claire, I got it to work fine of course, once I realized what I had to do. Doh! I see now too that vrgnamgnta is Kathy (hello Kathy!) Thank you again for the posting - perhaps you'd care to join us as we start our own magazine - as suggested by Hilary. I've already decided that she can be Editor and I shall make the tea!

  29. I wonder is there some hangup about women depicting nudity. The quilt world is very conservative about what they expect to see in shows, just listen to the comments as you wander round viewing the work.
    I have made a piece which is a self portrait from a photo and how my boobs have dropped and I am now able to hold up a bath towel with them, never mind the much talked about pencil. It causes a bit of hilarity in my talks, no one has objected. However I have had objections once or twice to me depicting the unpleasant side of being an alzheimers sufferer.

  30. (posted by Annabel obo Judith who wanted to say the following)

    Dear Annabel,

    I read your blog about the nude quilts, and wanted to post a comment, but couldn't as the site wanted a "profile", none of which made any sense to me. Don't know what I am failing to understand. So here's the comment I'd have liked to post:

    I'm a member of Cwilt Cymru exhibiting group, and last year we had a showcase at Festival of Quilts with Scottish and Northern Irish quilters (it was called Spirit of the Celts) Two of our quilts, by Dorothy Russell, showed nudes. Photos of both have been printed in a German magazine article about the exhibition, with no apparent problems. Is it just puritanical Britain? Some years ago I heard a well-known quilt teacher describe Judy Chicago's textile and ceramic art work "The Dinner Party" as pornographic..... Judith Barker

    Good luck with the quilts.