‘Thoroughly modern Judy’ eschews vintage for vibrant

Judy Kiser’s quilt titled “Love” was accepted into the recent QuiltCon, the inaugural modern quilting show in Austin, Texas. The Grand Junction quilter’s entry was exhibited in the “Use of Negative Space” category, because of the four large quadrants of solid color with four different quilting motifs. Laurie Marks of Grand Junction did the quilting on a longarm machine. (The quilt was made from a pattern by designer Tula Pink.)

Jean Rostveit of Grand Junction did circular quilting on “Annabel,” pieced by Judy Kiser from a book titled “Best Quilts for Kids 2011.”

“Mazed,” another modern quilt pieced by Judy Kiser was quilted by Sharon Olander, a longarm quilter in Grand Junction. Kiser became interested in the modern quilt movement less than two years ago. (“Mazed” is from a Kristy Daum pattern.)

“I’m excited because it’s something new and different,” says Judy Kiser of Grand Junction, when talking about the modern quilt movement. “I was ready for a change.”

Yesterday, she dreamed about vintage textiles.

But yesterday’s gone.

Today, Judy Kiser fills her head, and her iPad, with images of modern quilts. Fresh, bold graphic designs in bright, clear solid colors captured this Grand Junction woman’s attention less than two years ago, when she was first smitten by the modern quilt movement.

“I was ready for a change,” says Kiser, an antiques dealer since 1994 with an extensive collection of antique quilts. “I’m excited because it’s something new and different.”

Last month, she attended the first modern quilting show on a large scale, called QuiltCon, in Austin, Texas. More than 650 quilts were entered, and from those, about 200 were juried into the contest.

One of them was a modern quilt titled “Love” pieced by Kiser and quilted on a longarm machine by Laurie Marks of Grand Junction.

“I feel very honored that mine was chosen,” she says.

This is the first time Kiser had entered any quilt in a national show.

She based her modern entry on a pattern by designer Tula Pink with letters spelling “LOVE” in the intersection of four large quadrants of solid fabrics, referred to as “negative space” in the art world. Each of the quadrants featured a different quilting motif.

It was displayed in a category for large quilts called “Use of Negative Space,” which QuiltCon organizers described as a design element that “organizes the composition of the quilt.”

Modern quilts in general are defined as primarily functional and inspired by modern design, with such characteristics as improvisational piecing, minimalism, expansive negative space and alternate grid work. “Modern traditionalism,” or the updating of classic quilt designs, also is often seen.

This movement started online through social media and grew quickly across the country through blogs. In 2009, the Los Angeles Modern Quilt Guild was formed with 21 quilters gathering in person.

Since then, similar groups have organized in major cities across the U.S. under the umbrella of the Modern Quilt Guild. Founder and Executive Director Alissa Haight Carlton lives in L.A. and spearheaded the first quilt conference and show.

Conventions now are planned every two years, with regional quilt retreats called Sew Downs scheduled in the off year in five U.S. cities.

National challenges, exhibits and an interactive website also are in the works. 
    Interested? Check out modern

Kiser came home from the first QuiltCon full of ideas for more modern quilt projects and photographs of her favorite designs.

For example, the best-of-show quilt was a modern version of an old-fashioned double wedding ring pattern in the category of “Modern Traditionalism.”

It was made by Victoria Findlay Wolfe, a member of the New York City Metro Mod Quilters.

“I loved it,” says Kiser, who attended QuiltCon with friend Marcia Lackey of Grand Junction.

Classes at QuiltCon were sold out, but Kiser was able to attend a demonstration by one of the contest judges, Rashida Coleman-Gale of Atlanta, who designs collections for Cloud9 Fabrics. The company produces only organic cotton fabrics.
This move Kiser has made from traditional to the modern aesthetic is a departure not unlike notepad to iPod. She continues to be a vendor at Talk of the Town antique mall on Interstate 70 Business Loop and regularly scours for colored glass treasures at yard sales, estate sales and auctions.

She began quilting 27 years ago while living in Glenwood Springs, joined Sunset Slope Quilters in Grand Junction in 1993 and made traditional quilts into the mid-2000s.

“I’ve evolved since then,” she explains of her new-found affinity for geometrics in clear green and turquoise that “spoke” to her in Austin.
    Linen and Japanese fabrics were
popular as neutral backgrounds, adding a special texture, she says.

Excited to be on the cusp of this modern quilt movement, Kiser plans to travel May 9-11 to Salt Lake City for the annual Home Machine Quilt Show. For the first time, that event is sponsoring a category specifically for modern quilts.

No doubt she’ll be front and center photographing her favorites for even more inspiration.

After all, anything less than modern is, well, so yesterday.

Email Sherida.Warner@


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