QuiltCon 2019: Show Recap

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!

Mary Fons, editor of QuiltFolk, starts a tour of the Sherri Lynn Wood exhibit.

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.

Lectures

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? 

Mary Fons: “The ‘F’ Word: Why Don’t Quilters Talk About Feminism?”

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.

Silver Lining by Sherri Lynn Wood

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. 

Sherri Lynn Wood and Mary Fons

Classes

Beginner Lino Printing with Karen Lewis

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…

My first longarm class – Quilting Mashup with Sarah Thomas a.k.a. Sariditty

Exhibits

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:

Something’s Are Not Easily Seen: Poverty by Kathryn Upitis
Hunt by Carolyn Friedlander. The careful craftsmanship of this quilt up close was perfection.

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.

Activist ABCs by Bianca Mercado, Social Justice Sewing Academy. 1st Place, Youth Category.

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!):

The City Zoo by Zoe Sutters. 3rd Place, Youth Category.

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!” 

Laura Preston of Vacilando Quilting Co. talking to some young show attendees.

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!”

Karen Bolan talking about her Folded Flyers.

Some trends that I noticed:

Trend #1: Straight line quilting, which may be a marker of modern quilting at this point!

One of my favourites with straight line quilting: Catching Modern Dreams by Stephanie Ruyle. 3rd Place, Piecing Category.

Trend #2: Curves. In the words of Libs Elliott, “curves are the new HST.”

Modern Times by master of curves, Jenny Haynes.
3rd Place, Modern Traditionalism Category.

Trend #3: Tiny Piecing. Kitty Wilkin is a master of tiny piecing and her 100 Days project and new sampler pattern highlight this skill.

100 Days of Sew Smaller by Kitty Wilkin, Special Exhibit.
(I’m not touching it, just holding my hand up to it for scale.)

And here is the Best in Show – a group quilt headed up by Leanne Chahley (@shecanquilt):

Smile by Leanne Chahley with Stephanie Ruyle, Felicity Ronaghan, Kari Vojtechovsky, Melissa Ritchie, Diane Stanley, Marci Debetaz, Debbie Jeske, Karen Foster, Hillary Goodwin

Charity Quilts

Here are our guild members in front of our charity quilt:

Inset by the Maritime MQG.
L to R: Gillian Noonan, Shelly Stephen, Julie Delnegro, me.

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.

Brisbane River Dreaming by the Brisbane MQG

Craft South

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
Modern Sewciety podcast host Stephanie Kendron with Anna-Maria Horner, Kim Eichler-Messmer, Tula Pink, Sarah Nishiura, and Carolyn Friedlander. Photo courtesy of Jenni Smith.

Listen to the podcasts here:

Live Modcast from Craft South: Heidi Parkes & Tara Faughnan

Live Modcast from Craft South: Denyse Schmidt, Sarah Bond & Sherri Lynn Woods

Live Modcast from Craft South: Sarah Nishiura, Anna-Maria Horner & Kim Eichler-Messmer

Live Modcast from Craft South: Carolyn Friedlander & Tula Pink


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.

When You Don’t Feel Like Sewing

One of the hardest things about this year has been transitioning into quilting as my only job. When I started in 2016, it was an accidental business that was subsidized by the part-time job that I started at the same time. After 20 months of doing both things part-time, I felt that I wasn’t doing either thing to my fullest ability, so I had to make a choice. I chose this one — the one that was more creatively fulfilling, the one that worked better with the structure of my family life. But it was also the one without a consistent paycheck, the one that left me constantly questioning whether I was good enough.

Watercolour teacups, prompted by a CreativeBug class with Lisa Congdon.

After the Our Song, Your Reflection crowdfunding campaign was over, I was pretty exhausted and in need of a break. I didn’t sew for a long time, nor felt the desire to do so. I needed to reclaim my evenings. I needed a new hobby because my hobby had turned into my job.

Foliage with gouache paint in the style of Matisse, prompted by a CreativeBug class with Lisa Congdon.

Luckily, an email landed in my inbox earlier this month – a three-month CreativeBug subscription for $1. And there was a wealth of stuff there that I was happy to binge watch classes by Arounna Khounnoraj of BookhouJen Hewett, and Lisa Congdon.

And while I didn’t find my “sewjo” there, I was happy to explore new-to-me and re-discover ways of creating that weren’t directly related to my day job. I have always been a serial creative dabbler, I had most of the supplies already for creating my own rubber stamps and screenprinting ink, watercolour paints and paper, brushes, etc. It’s been energizing and exciting.

Carved rubber stamp, applied to a H&M dress for our neighbour’s 7th birthday.

Another thing that was also fun was inviting my kids into my creative world. Up till this point, I had it guarded from them — it was my little sanctuary that was away from the everyday. But now that there old enough to be somewhat reasonable about the materials and techniques, watching them derive joy from what also gives me joy is priceless. So much of their world is digital that they were so mesmerized by the mechanical nature of the sewing machine.

They were happy to paint cards for our family birthdays. And happy to stamp a favourite animal on a “fast-fashion” dress for their friend. Having them create something on a regular basis is something I need to work into our lives.

Watercolour geodes, from a class with Emma Whitte of Black Chalk Co.
The two kids’ versions to the right.

This week, I got a glimpse of my sewjo. I tried my hand at needle-turn applique and I think I’m hooked. Although I have a ton of other sewing work to do, I want to bring this exploration into a full quilt.

If you’re missing your sewjo, I encourage you to not worry about it and do something else. Explore some other creative endeavour, read a book (I would do this, but I don’t like reading!), spend some time outdoors, veg out for awhile. Cheryl Arkison has some fabulous tips to offer when your sewjo is gone (spoiler: #1 is to turn off your phone and the news), so go check out her post. And dabble away at where your creativity takes you.