I had the privilege of attending QuiltCon 2019 in Nashville last month. Now that I’ve had some time to re-integrate into reality, I’ve put together a recap of my first-ever quilt show experience!
From the moment I set foot in the registration lineup, I knew that I was amongst my people. I belong to a number of communities, but as with many other subcultures, there is a way that quilters are that no one else understands. I was warmly welcomed by people whom I have never met or had any pre-existing relationship with. Any awkwardness of “Um, I don’t know you,” is thrown by the wayside and you are automatically called “friend.” I know this is not true of all quilt shows, but I certainly felt this sentiment at QuiltCon. To quilt is a need that resides deep within us: It keeps us sane, afloat, human, and adds so much value to our lives. This as a common denominator is the start-up of friendship.
I had a show lecture pass so I could pop into any and all of the lectures that were ongoing. I took away a lot from each: Mary Fons, Sherri Lynn Wood, Heidi Parkes, Ginny Robinson, Sarah Bond, Megan Callahan. I was thoroughly moved by Mary Fons lecture, “The ‘F’ Word: Why Quilters Don’t Talk about Feminism.” Her sensitivity and in approaching a potentially contentious topic was admirable. She remarked that as a quilting community, we have built a “safe space” — so why can’t we talk about ideology and differences in our belief systems?
Sherri Lynn Wood’s keynote lecture traced, in reverse chronological order, her trajectory as an artist. At the time of the lecture, she was in a creatively stagnant phase, having not produced any work for about six months. This was comforting to hear — not every moment of every day can be creative and productive. Not even every week or month. Her stories were what I needed to hear. Every artist’s journey is long. The long-game is where the magic happens. A special exhibit of her work was on display and it was great to see the work both before and after hearing her speak about it.
I had the opportunity to jump in on a guided tour of some quilts by Mary Fons before the show floor opened on the last day of the conference. She walked us through the Childress Collection exhibit (Marjorie Childress is a prominent collector of antique quilts) and Sherri Lynn Wood’s work. As Mary started taking about SLW’s work, the artist herself was lurking about taking photos of the exhibit! She end up taking over the tour and we got to hear from the artist herself about her residency at the Recology Centre in San Francisco, where she made everything and gathered all her tools from a dump.
I banked them all of my workshops together on Thursday and Friday to free up my Saturday and Sunday to walk the floor and meet with people. I took a wide range of classes including “How to Quilt a Minimal Quilt” with Season Evans, “Beginner Lino Printing” with Karen Lewis, “Improv Applique Curves” with Nydia Kehnle, and “Quilting Mashup” with Sarah Thomas. I was so excited to meet all four of these artists/designers and learn such diverse skills. Some people space out their workshops so they have sufficient energy to give to them. Not me! I could have taken workshops all day, everyday. In fact my Friday was three workshops, three hours each and I felt like I could keep going…
There were so many wonderful quilts to see. With over 300 on the floor, it truly was an inspiration. There were two that I was dying to see in person, and they didn’t disappoint:
Among the Youth Category, there were many social justice quilts coming out of the Social Justice Sewing Academy. I had a fly-by greeting with fellow HGSE alumna Sarah Trail, who heads up this organization. As a creative person, I want to see other people see themselves as creative, especially young people. Because when you can say, “I create,” it means that you have a voice. You have agency. You can make change and not just consume what is available to you.
I also love this quilt by Zoe Sutters, who started when she was four. She won a 3rd Place ribbon for this work (she’s now six!):
One of the most rewarding things was to watch artists talk to attendees, just by happenstance. They were like impromptu artist talks. I was walking around with Laura Preston of Vacilando Quilting Co. and these teenagers were admiring her quilt. I had the opportunity to say, “Here’s the artist – talk to her about it!”
This happened again with Karen Bolan, who’s intriguing 3D flying geese had everyone wondering, “How’d she do that??” Karen showed us and then again, I jumped at the chance to say to the next spectators, “Talk to the artist about it! She’s right here!”
Some trends that I noticed:
Trend #1: Straight line quilting, which may be a marker of modern quilting at this point!
Trend #2: Curves. In the words of Libs Elliott, “curves are the new HST.”
And here is the Best in Show – a group quilt headed up by Leanne Chahley (@shecanquilt):
Here are our guild members in front of our charity quilt:
There were so very many of these wonderful collaborative pieces. Amongst my favourites was the Brisbane MQG’s quilt, which acknowledges the indigenous owners of the land on which they now reside.
Lastly, I had the opportunity to attend a live podcast recording at Craft South. Stephanie Kendron interviewed superstars Anna-Maria Horner, Kim Eichler-Messmer, Tula Pink, Sarah Nishiura, and Carolyn Friedlander. It was an inspiring experience, to say the least. You can read all about my experience on the Craft Industry Alliance blog.
“The path is less important than keeping on going,” said Horner. “And if it stops making sense, stop doing it.”— Anna-Maria Horner
Listen to the podcasts here:
I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn from my peers at this conference. My attendance at this conference was made possible through a professional development grant through Arts Nova Scotia.