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.
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/).
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.
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.
QuiltCon 2016 will be held in Pasadena, California, Feb. 18-21, 2016.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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).
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!)
It's QuiltCon this week! Linzee McCray will be there representing UPPERCASE and will be sending in some blog posts from Austin. For event goodie bags, I've provided 1500 copies of both the current issue and favourite back issues.
The 300+ quilts that I judged with Carolyn Friedlander and Stevii Graves will be on display. I learned a lot about quilt-making in the process of judging, from the practical to the subjective. I've not actually finished my own quilt yet; I was there as the "outsider" to judge from an design perspective, but when I do dive headlong into quilting (which is inevitable) I will have a lot to live up to!
Three days, 300 quilts
- Dark fabrics show through light colours. Press your seams towards the dark and use white batting under white fabric to get a clean look.
- Binding matters! A poorly applied quilt edge can really make a difference in the perception of the overall quilt. There were some impressive examples of binding where the maker had matched the binding colours to the design. Unfortunately, there were also submissions where the binding was literally falling off. Facing the quilt was also an effective design choice.
- Machine quilting motifs should work to enhance the piecing and be harmonious... or completely contrasting with purpose and intent.
- Pet hair is never a good idea. A few entries caused fits of sneezes! A few entries were quite full of hair or threads and hadn't been properly cleaned before submission. It's hard to judge an entry when no obvious care was put into the submission.
- Creating a dynamic and unique composition is harder than it looks. The modern aesthetic pushes the use of negative space in interesting ways.
- Though pre-bundled fabrics have lovely colour and pattern combinations, unless it's a fabric challenge to specifically use a particular collection, try to mix up the fabric selections from beyond a single source.
- An extremely high level of craftsmanship and technique is possible—and breathtaking to see—but perhaps was more rare than I was anticipating considering we were viewing quilts to be judged.
- Be inspired by a variety of sources — quoting "Pinterest" as a design source is not very impressive. My favourite entries had interesting and personal descriptions of how the quilt's inspiration came into play.
- There was a deep appreciation and respect for all the quilts that were submitted, by the judges and from the entire team at QuiltCon (who where impeccably organized and efficient).
- Quilts in which the personality of the maker shone through were the most pleasurable to look at—and the most memorable weeks later.
UPPERCASE reader Erika Rier creates custom family portraits in a whimsical storybook style.
"Whether your family is two people or twenty people let me create a special illustrated image of your family in a setting constructed from meaningful symbols, images, and colours." She'll also do a portrait of your pets, too!
Most intriguingly, Erika is also available to make an illustration of your dreams!
I'm still accepting submissions for the UPPERCASE Compendium of Craft and Creativity! I've received 78 submissions so far and am aiming for 100 or more, so still a ways to go! The form will be open until at least the end of the month.
The beautiful images above were submitted by illustrator Sarah Amijo, from Jakarta. Here are some of her answers to the questionnaire...
Please describe your workspace:
I am most productive while working inside my studio apartment. I would do most of my sketches and outlining at night, and draw them the next morning. Natural sunlight does not only let me color more accurately, but it also gives me a much needed mood boost to color wholeheartedly. My workspace is surrounded by inspiring books and creative magazines to ensure ample source of inspirations.
Why are you a maker? Why are you passionate about your craft?
I have drawn hundreds of illustrations, but I still feel a great euphoria when I finish coloring any projects. Colouring feels a lot like giving an inanimate paper a breath of life, with my brush slowly filling the life force of the character stroke-by-stroke. I also feel no greater joy than when a customer picks one of my illustration as a representation of themselves or gift it to their loved ones. These feelings are the things that drives me to create more adorable character illustrations.
To see more examples, please see the updated Compendium page.
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".
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!
On Thursday, I received my sample copies of the lovely issue 24. It's my favourite issue ever. (Am I allowed to say that? I guess I feel that way whenever a new issue comes out!)
If you subscribed or renewed before January 6, your issues are on their way! For folks who subscribed after the mailing data was sent to the printer, your copies will begin be dispatched just as soon as inventory arrives in the fulfillment warehouses.
Not a subscriber yet? Now's your chance! Just click here to get started.
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.
The response to the Printmaking open call has been terrific... so much so that I'll have to close the call early: this Thursday! I have limited pages and I don't want to have to reject more people than I have to. There is no entry fee and is open to everyone: students, hobbyists and professionals. Enter here.
REVISED DEADLINE: THIS THURSDAY, JANUARY 15, midnight MST
NEW CALL: Make-Ready I'd like to feature some printmaking make-ready and printing tests in this issue as well. If you've happened on an amazing, serendipitous make-ready moment, please let me know by sending a jpg preview or a link to an image this week. It may be featured in the Sketchbook section in issue 25. Thanks!
There's an intriguing exhibition of show card art opening this Friday at Calico in Brooklyn, New York. Here's more from show curator, Meredith Kasabian, whose grandfather was a show card painter:
The Pre-Vinylite Society is a loose network of self-ordained sign enthusiasts and advocates for creative use of urban space. The aim of the Pre-Vinylite Society is to encourage sign painters, sign enthusiasts, artists, writers, business owners, and the general public to be more aware of their aesthetic surroundings and take pride in their neighborhoods by creating, commissioning, writing about, and appreciating quality signage and public art.
The name “Pre-Vinylite” is derived from the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of 19th century English artists and writers who rebelled against the academic conventions of their day. The name also connotes the period before vinyl technology nearly decimated the hand-painted sign industry in the 1980s and serves as a commemoration of this pre-vinyl era, but not necessarily a wish to return to it. Despite the emphasis on a bygone era that “pre” suggests, the Pre-Vinylites are not a society of Luddites, shunning technology or advocating for a return to a “simpler” time. Pre-vinyl does not equal anti-vinyl.
The Pre-Vinylite Society aims to inspire a sharper cognizance of the aesthetic built environment and a desire to create and appreciate new, forward focused art that respects the traditions and techniques of the past. Ultimately, the Pre-Vinylites believe that artistic vigilance in the face of mass conformity can deliver us from a homogenous existence.
The Pre-Vinylite Society Show Card Show
67 West St. #203, Greenpoint
January 9 - February 13, 2015
opening reception: Friday, Jan 9, 7-10pm
Preview works from the exhibition here.
I love paper products. Did you know that UPPERCASE started as a gallery/store and I used to sell my own greeting cards and handmade notebooks? I also sourced hard-to-find paper goods and would scour the web for interesting things to bring into my shop.
When I launched the magazine in 2009 (and then had a baby in 2010), my time and resources became very limited, so I made the decision to close my retail shop in Calgary in order to focus on the magazine. I don't regret that decision... with one exception. The miss the fun of ordering beautiful paper goods from around the world!
Lately I've been feeling a little too tethered to technology... that my brain is becoming dependent on a computer, laptop or phone. Though I could totally geek out on some productivity app (I have) or Google calendar hack to get it working just the way I want it (I tried), I decided to unplug and give analogue a go this year. Finding the perfect day planner is was no small task, though. I'm very particular about the typography and design that I have to look at day after day! I almost resorted to designing my own one-off custom planner. I used to do design a unique-to-me planner back in my freelance design days, print it double-sided on my laser printer and have a local bindery but a spiral on it. For the sake of time, though, I decided to look online.
I'm always seduced by Korean day planners. Their websites always include beautiful shots of the planners "in use" with decorations of stickers and washi tape and perfect printing that is oh so appealing. Once stumbling on this site, and after hours of comparing one journal to another, I decided on the Object Diary by Livework.
To kit up my planner, I purchased some decorative stickers and place marker stickers. I also got a sticky note checklist pad, so that I can move my list from one week to the next. There are always projects or errands that you know will likely take longer than a few days, so these I'm writing on the sticky list.
I liked that this journal has each day listed on the left hand page and that the right hand side is blank. I don't typically have lots of appointments in the day, so I don't need a lot of space there. I'm going to use stickers to call attention to big tasks (like the dot showing the day mailing data goes to the printer... tomorrow) and the flag that indicates when I want to have all the content for issue 25 assigned.
On the right hand page, I'm going to jot down larger tasks or goals for the week, as well as observations or notes about the week. If I write something down anywhere that is an actionable item that needs to get done, I'll put a little check box next to it.
The book also has a month view, where I'm using washi tape (from Omiyage) to block off time. The thin checked tape is my typewriter book final countdown to getting it done, the floral circle is the day that a new issue is released. Finally, the orange checked wash is showing my upcoming trip to Austin, Texas where I'll be a judge for QuiltCon. (Any of you going to QuiltCon? The judging happens a month before the convention, so don't be alarmed.)
It's not practical to try and keep all my to-do lists in paper form, and there are plenty of instances when digital is the only way to go. For that, I'm using Evernote for my ongoing project lists and details and I suspect that I will still employ Google for some repeating monthly tasks that could benefit from a digital reminder.
My intention with the tape, stickers and, really, the journal itself, is to take some daily time to think, plan, breathe and declutter my to do list so that I don't get feeling overwhelmed. I also want to record more of me and my thoughts in the planner... thoughts and ideas that get lost when they're dumped into the endless storage of the cloud.
By making the experience a little bit fun (pretty stickers!) and routine, I'll see how well this new system works out.
Thank you for including UPPERCASE in your life. I'm fortunate to be able to publish the magazine and follow my creative dreams. If you receive my weekly newsletter, it has been a privilege to email you each week and I hope that you have found my messages useful, informative, personal and inspiring.
It's hard to sum up this past year. In 2014, I experienced the very lowest points I've ever had since my entrepreneurial life began. Letting go of all three of my employees over the first six months, having my bookkeeper go missing in action right before tax time... there are lots of things I'd rather forget about this year.
But then again, those painful decisions and hardships led me here. On the other side.
In fact, the experience has been invaluable.
I'm so grateful for all my contributors, readers, subscribers, stockists, advertisers and social media advocates. Thank you for your talent, generosity and kindness.
Thank you to my husband Glen and my son Finley.
With all of you, I never feel like I'm in this on my own.
ps The next issue is on press this week! I can't wait to see this one in person—each cover will have a swatch of vintage fabric applied. Subscribe or renew before January 7 to be on the first round of mailing. The discount code "thankyou" is valid until December 31 midnight MST. Save $15 off orders over $80.