“Twelve by Twelve: The International Art Quilt Challenge” is officially available March 1 in bookstores, but it already available online here at a very good price.
Two word summary of this review: Buy it.
I have had the book here awhile, thanks to Lark sending a preview copy, but it has taken this long to work my way through it. That’s a good thing! Twelve artists from around the world challenged each other every other month to create a 12×12” art quilt with a theme chosen by one of the members of the group.
Sure the whole group challenge thing has been done before, but what makes this group and their art stand out is the joy and camaraderie revealed in this book. Each chapter features one of the twelve artworks almost full-page sized and the artist of that artwork writes the chapter. Running along the bottom half of each page of the chapter is one of the other artworks with a short artist statement.
Either (or maybe I should say either/or) these are twelve of the best artist/writers around or they had a superlative editor in Valerie Van Arsdale Shrader. Each chapter is unique, personal, useful, engaging, and just down right interesting. I kept being distracted by the other artworks on the bottom half of the pages until I finally worked out a system.
First I went to the back of the book and read all the artists’ biographies. Then I read all twelve small sidebars listed in the back. The sidebars are full of useful stuff such as Demystifying the Thermofax, On Sketchbook and Journals, and Twelve Reasons to Blog.
THEN I looked at and read about all twelve art quilts for each theme and THEN finally I read the chapter by the one featured artist straight through. That’s why I gave such a hearty thumbs-up to this book; it’s just full of interesting information and insight.
The chapter written by each featured artist clearly points out both the why and how of working in many different styles. Some artists looked to traditional patterns, some researched word associations, and some looked to contemporary and historical issues related to the theme for inspiration. Each chapter points out the richness and detail of the featured artwork that might have escaped our first perusal.
At first glance you might think some of the artwork is a bit traditional to be called art quilts. But it is so disarming to read the artists’ own critiques of their artworks and to see how artists progressed throughout the challenges. I think Terri Stegmiller said it best, “A major benefit I have gained … is the drive to try and push myself beyond my normal limitations.”
I hear again and again that people just want how-to books. I beg to differ. I think many readers delight in insights about how fiber artists work, what their studios look like, how they came to be artists, and their joys and challenges in life and in the studio. I felt as though I came to know each of these artists through their sharing this two-year-long online collaboration.
Visit the Twelve by Twelve artists’ group website here and their blog here for more information about the group and the twelve artists that include Deborah Boschert, Gerrie Congdon, Helen L. Conway, Kirsten Duncan, Terry Grant, Diane Perin Hock (founder of the group), Francoise Jamart, Kristin La Flamme, Karen Rips, Brenda Gael Smith, Terri Stegmiller, and Nikki Wheeler.