QuiltCon's Lasting Impressions

Guest post by Linzee McCray

Churn Dash 2 Complementary by Martha Pederson

Churn Dash 2 Complementary by Martha Pederson

QuiltCon 2015 is winding up. Though I couldn’t help but see some of the quilts that were on the edges of the exhibition, near the vendor booths, I decided to save the main part of the exhibition for last. In addition to the quilts accepted for exhibition and judging, there were special displays, including Quilts of Gee’s Bend, Bill Volkening’s quilts from the 1970s, a sampling of the Modern Quilt Guild’s quilts of the month and of Do.Good.Stitches charity quilts.

The Rabbit Hole by Nydia Kennley

The Rabbit Hole by Nydia Kennley

Quilts submitted and accepted for entry were juried in a number of categories: Piecing, Applique, Improvisation, Minimalist Design, Small Quilts, and others (you can see them all here http://www.quiltcon.com/quilt-show/categories/).

Lite Brite by Maria Shell

Lite Brite by Maria Shell

Walking the aisles was both inspiring and intimidating. There were so many ways to consider the quilts, from the concepts behind them to the workmanship and skills used to create them. It was impossible not to think “I’d love to make a quilt like that,” and then wonder if I was capable. It was humbling to remember that while some quilters have art backgrounds or are graphics professionals, others have no formal training. Every now and then I’d see a proud quilter posing in front of her or his piece, a soothing reminder that even quilts that make artful use of color and design might have been stitched by someone who reminds me of my next-door neighbor. Part of what I find so engaging about “successful” quilts is seeing simple, accessible materials—needle, thread, and fabric—wielded by quilters with an eye for color and design. It makes personal, visual expression seem possible for those of us who don’t paint or draw.

For Tanya by Emily Coffey

For Tanya by Emily Coffey

When it comes to personal expression, there was one quilt in particular that exemplified what is most interesting to me about QuiltCon. Penny Gold’s quilt Self Portrait, Year Two (Beneath the Surface) shares her stark reality of having lost a child: it’s unlikely that this quilt would be welcome in a traditional quilt show. (Click here to view the quilt.) While quilts usually evoke color, warmth, and a soothing tone, this quilt bleakly, bravely, powerfully expresses Gold’s pain. In the same way that Jacquie Gering’s 2013 Bang, You’re Dead quilt, a handgun dripping blood, stirred controversy, contrasting a quilt’s soothing qualities with harsh reality only serves to strengthen its message. Congratulations QuiltCon, for including the quilt and giving us pause, challenging our expectations, and helping continue the conversation about what a quilt is, should be, and can be.

Gina Pina Hometown Quilt

Gina Pina Hometown Quilt

QuiltCon 2016 will be held in Pasadena, California, Feb. 18-21, 2016.


QuiltCon: Panels and Patchwork

Guest post by Linzee McCray

Vanessa Christensen class "Working with Ombre Fabrics", student work

Vanessa Christensen class "Working with Ombre Fabrics", student work

For day two of QuiltCon, I wasn’t up for the 7:45 a.m. yoga session, but did enjoy the Maker to Making a Living panel at 9 a.m. on Friday. Four industry professionals whose experience ranged from a few to 40 years shared their career paths, their aspirations vs. the reality of “making it” in the quilt industry, and the challenges of small-business ownership. While each panelist (Denyse Schmidt, Mary Fons, Heather Givans, and Brenda Groelz) looks for personal fulfillment and a life filled with making things, they acknowledged that making money to pay the rent (or “buy the kitties food” as moderator Jacqueline Sava called it) was of equal importance. I loved hearing these women riff off one another’s comments and acknowledge the satisfactions, but also the hard, hard work that goes into making careers like theirs happen.

Panel: Maker to Making a Living

Panel: Maker to Making a Living

Next up was one of my favourite lectures: Modern Materials: Quilts of the 1970s with Bill Volckening. This Portland resident found his first quilt rolled up under a table in an antique store and though he didn’t buy it at first, he couldn’t get it out of his mind and returned for it. He was initially seduced by the colors of the quilts of this era, but also became intrigued by the fabrics themselves—Dacron, polyester, and some quilting cottons—and the context in which they were stitched. (He compared one quilt to the painted bus used by The Partridge Family.) A number of quilts from his collection are on the show floor, so it’s possible to admire them in person. They’re pretty wild.

Log Cabin medallion, unknown maker, c.1975 from the Bill Volkening Collection

Log Cabin medallion, unknown maker, c.1975 from the Bill Volkening Collection

Tile Blocks, unknown maker c.1977 from the Bill Volkening Collection

Tile Blocks, unknown maker c.1977 from the Bill Volkening Collection

Woven pattern, unknown maker c.1979 from the Bill Volkening Collection

Woven pattern, unknown maker c.1979 from the Bill Volkening Collection

Grandmothers's Fans, unknown maker c.1979 from the Bill Volkening Collection

Grandmothers's Fans, unknown maker c.1979 from the Bill Volkening Collection

At noon I gave a talk about UPPERCASE and expanded on the story I wrote about feed sacks for issue #24. Audience members ranged from people who had never heard of feed sacks to two women who had worn feed sack underwear as children. I shared a photo of a doily crocheted from the strings used to hold feed sacks shut and an audience member recalled a relative knitting a pair of socks from the strings she’d saved.  Another pulled the loveliest piece of feed sack material from her purse—the pink, grey, and gold apples had such a contemporary feel.

Feed sack example shared by an audience member.

Feed sack example shared by an audience member.

All day long I ran into people who wanted to talk—about quilts, about feed sacks, about fabric, about a quilt they’d seen on the exhibition floor. Those conversations are the real highlights of QuiltCon. Even after the convention center doors closed for the day, Austin was full of people talking about textiles in hotel lobbies and over dinner and drinks. The quilts and the lectures and the workshops provide fodder for getting a conversation started, but the shared love of stitching keeps them going.

On the scene at QuiltCon

Hi there! It's Saturday evening here in Perth and I've had a very busy time at the Writers Festival so far. I'll try to put together an update soon (please join me on Instagram to see what I've been up to). In the meantime, this guest post is from Linzee McCray, reporting from QuiltCon 2015 in Austin, Texas.

Phew! That’s really the only way to sum up the first day of QuiltCon 2015. It started the day before, when nearly everyone on the airport shuttle was going to QuiltCon. Though we didn’t know one another there was an excited exchange of information about lectures we were attending or workshops we’d gotten into: there was the immediate sense of camaraderie that comes of being with those who share a similar passion.

View from above of the quilt exhibition hall.

View from above of the quilt exhibition hall.

I started Thursday by attending the awards ceremony. Though it was delayed due to technical difficulties, Modern Quilting Guild board president Jacquie Gering used her good humour to keep the crowd from getting restless. It also provided the perfect opportunity to meet the quilters around me. I chatted with Candy from Virginia, who is a grants-writer and Girl Scout leader with a fondness for African fabrics in her modern quilts. Soon she was photographing the tote bag of the woman in the next row, also stitched of African fabrics, and sharing fabric sources and design inspirations.

Jacquie took the podium once more, and before announcing the winning quilts, she  shared statistics on who was at QuiltCon 2015. Attendees came from 48 U.S. states and 15 countries and were part of 109 Modern Quilt Guilds worldwide. Two quilters from Sangali, India were recognized for traveling 9,134 miles to be there.

Best in Show: "i Quilt" pieced and quilted by Kathy York from Austin, Texas. Image courtesy the QuiltCon website.

Best in Show: "i Quilt" pieced and quilted by Kathy York from Austin, Texas. Image courtesy the QuiltCon website.

Then it was time for the awards ceremony. More than 1,300 quilts had been entered and 359 of those accepted for exhibition in Austin. There were squeals of joy as Jacquie announced winners and those in attendance came on stage for group hugs and photos. The Best in Show quilt was the last announced: “i quilt” by Kathy York. (You can see all award-winning the quilts here.) 

Modern Traditionalism: 1st Place winner "Long Island Modern Sampler" Pieced & Quilted by: Kim Soper from Centerport, New York. Image courtesy the QuiltCon website.

Modern Traditionalism: 1st Place winner "Long Island Modern Sampler" Pieced & Quilted by: Kim Soper from Centerport, New York. Image courtesy the QuiltCon website.

Those attending workshops were already in classes, learning about appliqué, curved piecing, fabric dying, and screen printing. The rest of us ventured out to lectures, the quilt exhibits, and the vendor hall, where it was hard to know where to look first. In addition to buying fabric, patterns, and books, it was possible to get a sewing-related tattoo or wave a ten-gallon hat from atop a giant aqua sewing machine (courtesy of Austin’s Stitch Lab).

Kathy Mack, Bainbridge Island, WA; Susan Hogan, Dallas, TX and Cheryl Jennings, Austin, TX

Kathy Mack, Bainbridge Island, WA; Susan Hogan, Dallas, TX and Cheryl Jennings, Austin, TX

My UPPERCASE name badge garnered comments. In the conference “swag bags” were complementary copies, donated by Janine, and many who had never before seen it loved it and stopped to talk with me about it. (Remember, until March 31 there is a special QuiltCon discount for new and gift subscriptions and renewals.)

Lectures scheduled throughout the day varied from how-tos (ways to improve your machine quilting or your creativity) to business matters. After wandering the vendor hall I attended a panel discussion about publishing your work, and a session titled “Quilting and the Copyright War” by Rossie Hutchinson. The thought-provoking conversations that resulted continued over lunch with friends I knew best from email—what a treat to be face-to-face with them.

The day ended with a party at Austin’s Mohawk bar, at a party sponsored by Moda fabrics. People lined up along to the block waiting to get in, and though the night was cool, the outdoor areas were filled with QuiltCon folks, taking in the Austin evening sky and chatting more about their workshops, favourite lectures, and meeting friends old and new.

Jacquie Gering seems to have set the tone for the conference at the morning’s session when she said “These days are about celebrating who we are and what we make.” The celebration is definitely in full force.

Meet UPPERCASE's QuiltCon 2015 Correspondent, Linzee McCray

Alas, I can't be in two places at once, so while I'm over here in Australia, Linzee McCray is in Austin experiencing QuiltCon and will be our correspondent on the scene. -Janine

Linzee McCray

Linzee McCray

Greetings! Linzee McCray, here. I’m a quilter, knitter, embroiderer, and a former weaver and spinner. I’m also a long-time writer and editor who’s had the good fortune to focus on textiles, fiber, and craft for nearly a decade. So I’m especially excited about covering QuiltCon 2015 for UPPERCASE.

I pitched my first modern quilting story in 2009, when I noticed that while traditional quilt guilds had been around for decades, blogs and Flickr were changing the status quo. If modern quilters—those interested in functional quilts influenced by modern design—couldn’t find like-minded sewists down the street, they sought them out online. In January, 2009, Jacquie Gering’s virtual quilting bee, Project Improv, drew 225 participants via her Tallgrass Prairie Studios blog. In October of that same year, the first Modern Quilt Guild meeting took place in Los Angeles. Quilters from geographically diverse regions, including Denyse Schmidt on America’s East Coast and Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr in the Midwest, were designing quilts with a modern feel, too. All this coincided with a rising interest in handmade goods and DIY.

Linzee's string-pieced quilt

Linzee's string-pieced quilt

Not surprisingly, fabric-lovers are a tactile bunch, and the opportunity to both touch quilts and meet face-to-face with other quilters spurred the growth of the Modern Quilt Guild. Today, there are more than 100 groups around the world, as well as many individual members. In 2013, the Modern Quilt Guild organized the very first QuiltCon in Austin, Texas, to bring many of them together.

Mod Nine Patch Pattern by Elizabeth Dackson, pieced by Linzee.jpg

Mod Nine Patch Pattern by Elizabeth Dackson, pieced by Linzee.jpg

I missed that first QuiltCon, which is why I’m especially looking forward to this year’s speakers, workshops, and exhibitions. If you can’t make it, I’ll share some of the excitement and eye candy with you.

Vintage feed sack crazy quilt

Vintage feed sack crazy quilt

If you will be attending, I hope to say hello in person. In addition, I’ll be doing a demo on Friday at 12 noon in Exhibit Hall B, sharing information about UPPERCASE, including a special QuiltCon subscription discount, and expanding on the story about feed sacks that I wrote for the latest issue. Join me to learn more about this remarkable bit of history, which touches on issues of recycling, early marketing to women, and of course, fabric. (Feed sacks so fascinate Janine that she had 10,000 tiny pieces of vintage feed sacks applied to each cover of issue #24. Janine is sending along 10 copies of that issue—come to the demo for a chance to win one!)

BADbandana

UPPERCASE reader and supporter Don Moyer has very successful track record on Kickstarter. His CalamityWare plates and BADbandana projects highlight his complex and fun illustration motifs on usable everyday items such as plates and bandanas. His latest campaign launched a few days ago already surpassed its goal, but with 19 days to go, there's plenty of time to make a pledge to preorder these bandanas featuring "early video games meet folk-art embroidery, plus energetic monsters".

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Quilted Austin

Good morning from Austin! The QuiltCon judging is complete and I have a few hours to explore this morning before heading home. The people, the quilts and the food have all been terrific!

Last night we had the chance to visit a very happy place that opened its doors specially for us: Bunnys Designs. A small put well-stocked fabric store specializing in Japanese imports. Lots of giddy squeals of delight!

Just a tease....

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Got it covered...

Scenes from my printer, The Prolific Group in Winnipeg, from earlier this week. Thank you to all the busy and skilled hands who applied tape and pasted 10,000 little bits of fabric onto each cover! Thank you to Chris Young for the photos.

Sample copies are on the way to me and shipping is in progress. If you missed being on the first round of mailing, don't worry: you can still subscribe now and your copy will ship just as soon as it arrives at the fulfillment warehouses.

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