Friday night, I had the great pleasure of going to the premiere of the documentary film Stitched. Our Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild was invited to both the movie and the IQF reception after the movie. It was so nice to get out for the evening with my quilt ladies and laugh a lot, cry a little and watch a certain quilting TV personality let loose on the dance floor at the party afterwards.
Stitched is truly a documentary in every sense. It's a no-frills look into the lives of three prominent art quilters: Hollis Chatelain, Randall Cook and Caryl Bryer Fallert, and an in-depth look at the largest quilt show in the world, the International Quilt Show in Houston. The film follows the cast from the early stages of their entry pieces to the last day of the IQF show.
The filmmakers do a very good job of exposing just enough of the quilters' past and present lives to give us a sense of what motivates them to create and perhaps why they have chosen fiber as their medium. They all three have a common vision, which is to create complicated and perfectly beautiful pieces in hopes of winning Best Of Show. We are instantly invested in their stories and rooting for each one. There is great balance in communicating the honesty of the artists' passion for their work while not allowing them to appear desperate or out of touch. The only disappointment I found with getting to know the cast is that I would have liked to know Randall a little better. He seemed to me to be the most guarded of the three, which makes me more curious about him and a little sad that he may feel he can't be more open about who he is.
This film gives the average quilter a backstage view of what it's like to judge the 600 quilts that get submitted to the show each year and how they are divided into judging categories. We also see the divide between the traditional quilters and the art quilters. There are wonderfully humorous moments during some of the interviews with groups of older, traditional quilters and their opinion of art quilts. And the controversy created by Randall's 2007 IQF entry is fodder for some funny and surprising dialogue. There are few, if any, awkward, preachy moments like in a lot of documentary films which, for me, means there was no obvious bias nor underlying objectives or crusade for the filmmakers.
Stitched is an honest look at a hobby taken to a higher level. With a $10,000 award on the line, these three quilters take their passion for quilting and fiber art to a level that goes beyond just creating for pleasure. And while they may say the reward is in the creating, the undercurrent of competition among the three is palpable. I don't want to be a spoiler, but the ending is just what it should be - unexpected, sad and joyful all at the same time.
I got a chance to speak with the filmmaker, Jena Moreno, at the show on Saturday. I was very interested in why she chose quilting to document and how specifically she chose Caryl, Hollis and Randall to follow. She told me she knew nothing about quilting, but she's based in Houston and knew of the quilt show that is now in its 37th year. When she spoke to the IQF administrators about who she should interview, she was given the names of previous Best Of Show winners. After interviewing several, they chose the three because of their openness, their willingness to share their process and their ability to articulate their thoughts and feelings. Jena and her team now go to Paducah for the American Quilter's Society Show April 27- 30 for several screenings of the movie and hopefully large sales of the $20 DVD. She was blown away at how many times the audience laughed and the response they've gotten at the Cincinnati IQF show.
Would I buy this DVD? Yes. In fact, I could kick myself for not buying it Saturday at the show. I'm not a huge fan of the art quilts, but I'm fascinated by the process. Watching these quilters constuct and sweat over their pieces is something every quilter can relate to, regarless of whether it's traditional, art or modern. We're all quilters and it all comes from our hearts.