When an exhibition of minimalist, hand-stitched quilts from Gee's Bend, Ala., went on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2002, the collection of 60 quilts by former slaves and their descendants served as a catalyst for a new generation of modern quilters.
"These quilts opened up new possibilities of what quilts could be," writes Rachel May in her new book, "Quilting With a Modern Slant: People, Patterns, and Techniques Inspiring the Modern Quilt Community" (Storey, $19.95, 224 pp.). "[B]eautifully designed and functional, with improvised patterns and strong color combinations."
Like the quilts from Gee's Bend, May offers encouragement to the next wave of modern quilters. She profiles more than 70 contemporary quilters and shares their works, tips and motivations. For Kim Eichler-Messmer, inspiration comes from film, contemporary painting and Asian ceramics. Vanessa Christenson said her imagination is stoked by fashion trends. And for Kyoung Ae Cho, nature is what influences her work. "Even disaster can be a beautiful natural phenomenon," Cho said.
Though "Quilting With a Modern Slant" contains specific instructions for beginners, such as how to create a four–patch block and cut seam bindings on the bias, it reads more like a coffee table book than a do-it-yourself guide to quilting. As a quilter, I found inspiration in the book's modern adaptations of ages-old techniques I have already tried: improvising versions of the traditional log cabin pattern, dyeing fabric with avocado pits and streamlining color and pattern to where it moves into minimalism.
There are more thorough books on quilting for those interested in the basics -- May includes an extensive list of quilting books in the bibliography as well as a list of quilting websites -- but quilters and novices alike will enjoy this book for the inspiration that can come from trying something new.