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Number Twenty * November 15, 1997
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THE TRAVELING QUILTER: A Letter From Houston
By Corinne Appleton
[Editor's Note: The Houston International Quilt Festival, with its attendant Quilt Market, is one of the biggest quilt events in the world. Like all large public events, it is often an overwhelming experience, leaving attendees feeling "quilted out," yet full of their own rich impressions and emotions based on their personal experience of the show. It is in this spirit that TVQ presents Corinne Appleton's highly subjective and, we think, entertaining review.
This review was originally written as an e-mail letter to a friend after the Festival, and so contains a good deal of personal information that we have chosen to leave in, despite Corinne's protestation that it may sound "a little me-me-me-ish." Corinne is a quilter whose work is frequently displayed in quilt competitions around the country. Unfortunately while at the Houston exhibit this year she suffered from a bad virus, but that didn't dampen her enthusiasm, or her perceptions.]
Having heard others are giving Festival mixed reviews, I can only comment from my perspective, so here goes: I've only attended the show for two years now but I thought this year's IQA show was a good bit stronger than last year's exhibit. That was pleasing since I hated to have my work juried into a show and then learn that the jurying was almost a joke as they had so few entries that they accepted almost/all of them. (That was a recent tidbit that came to me about last year's show.) On a personal note, my quilts were hung in excellent positions and showed very nicely. --Then they went and rearranged the miniatures and WOW did I hear grumbles. (Including my own!) I thought it was a lovely compliment that my large quilt, Playing the Field, was hanging with the winning quilts in a double bay. Then people began 'consoling' me because it didn't have a ribbon on it <vbg>. Honestly, I found that a hoot until I realized they were serious; then I began telling them I'd had ribbons on both of my entries in '95 so I really didn't mind "sharing." In truth, a ribbon this year would have been a nightmare of stress and my body was saying "enough already" as it was.
I no longer bother to question or guess at the judges' ribbon choices; it's not worth it and a ribbon doesn't make a quilt more or less appealing than it would be otherwise, IMHO.
On the other hand, the status accorded a winning quilt and its maker(s) can make for some fun times: Mary Sorenson is a friend whose skill in teaching hand applique has taken her nationwide. The mouth on the woman has probably helped too <g>. Unfortunately, Mary has always been too blinkin' shy when it comes to exhibiting her work. Fortunately, Cindy Blackberg may have had something to say about that when they partnered up and began a series of quilts for their handwork retreats. I am tickled-to-the-toes, truly delighted to report that the ghost I saw walking towards me on preview night turned out not to be a supernatural being but just the super being that is Mary. She and Cindy took the blue ribbon in the small traditional applique category! Vicarious living has its merits; Mary was overly calm (-shock?!-) that night so the joy of exclaiming with pleasure (okay, --screeching) fell to others. Despite a scratchy voice, I gave it my best shot ;)
The Quilt National pieces were the treat I'd most been looking forward to and while it was fantastic to see them in the cloth, I am still grumbling about the "No Photographs" policy. I purchased the book months ago (as I always do) but the photography in it can't compare to what I can often get at a show -- be it a detail shot or the full quilt. I think the printing process might be the problem. Anyway, I was caught unaware by their policy and admit to trying to sneak a shot or two. My upbringing must have overruled my quilt mania because the resultant photos showed signs of a shaky hand. (Breaking the Rules!) It makes me a little crazy to be in a venue where you can photograph everything else and then suddenly you are confronted with some of the work you most admire and WHAM! -- the door slams shut. I don't know about you but I love to pour over my photo albums and drink in all that talent. Possibly because I've been injured or sick at the show for each of my visits, I rely on my photographs to give me more 'time' with the quilts. A barking seal cough and congested sinuses do not invite lingering and intense scrutiny. I missed both of my classes and the (Jean Ray Laury) Silver Star Salute dinner.
My travel buddy, Patricia --- aka Pat of "She snorts, she snores, she mumbles, she thrashes..." fame, proved her worth <g> when it came time for her to fill me in on what I missed. Her recital of the events and speeches at the Silver Star Salute evening has me determined not to miss the event next time around. Jean Ray Laury's husband made the DH hall of fame by having every woman at the dinner presented with a rose. Of course, his wife is in a different hall of fame courtesy of the invaluable contributions she has made to the quilt/art world.
There were two Virtual Quilting exhibits by members of the QuiltArt list I joined last summer. One was a quilt, Tales of the Boomerang Gang, composed of many fascinating and often highly detailed finished blocks/quilts by individual list members. It was a whet-the-appetite kind of experience; I'd like to see more work by a good number of the participants. The other QA group contribution was an exhibit, which now that I think about it, might have caused some comment. The aprons: Ruth Reynolds coordinated the Cyber Fyber '97 Art Apron Challenge. These aprons were not quilted -- or at least they didn't have to be and I can see where they might have raised eyebrows with folks looking for a 'quilt' in them ;) . I found them especially interesting because I had visited them on the web and they hadn't shown too well; seeing the real thing felt like someone had brought the projector into focus in a movie theatre. And it was a good movie.
A note from a friend got me thinking about aspects of the show I had ignored - Like all the wearables! ... I have next to no interest in 99% of what was displayed so I simply hurried by them. Now I'm wondering why there were so many and why they seem to be adding more each year. I'm not overly fond of quilted clothing unless it is outerwear for a northern climate!
The majority of us look like snowmen with additional padding in our clothes and I often feel the drape of a garment is ruined once it has a batting added to its construction. My first Fairfield Fashion show viewing did nothing to diminish that opinion. Most of the outfits that were at all fitted didn't *fit* the models at all. A lot of what I saw in the convention center had more to do with appliqued embellishments and patchwork pieced into jumpers, dresses and vests than it did to do with quilting. Enough already. -- I guess it would be fair to say that I am unhappy with the amount of space devoted to wearables. And dare I say it? -- I'd like to see this trend reversed. But I suspect the likelihood of that wish coming true is slim. IQA added a category for wearables this year and there were more entries juried into it than several of those devoted to plain old quilts.
If I'm going to gripe -- and gripe I occasionally will-- I might as well mention that I thought the Fairfield show would be signifigantly more interestng without the commentary. The non-stop recitation of fabrics and trims and beads and threads "provided by" XZY Company or ABC Importers clued me in to the fact that the designers get freebies. It also gave me a headache after the seventh mention of the bead supplier. (Maybe that's why I bypassed the audio tours Quilt Festival was pushing this year <g>.)
There was one 'wearable' of a sort that I wish I'd seen. On our first afternoon in town, Pat took a machine quilting class from Larraine Scouler of Australia. She came back to our room totally jazzed and anxious to hit preview and find appropriate fabrics to use putting into practice Lorraine's methods. She went on at equal length about both the teacher and her techniques. Pink and blue streaks in violently red hair? This was someone I wanted to meet. And I did; unfortunately she had changed clothing which apparently neccessitated another change because the stripes of pink and blue were gone : ( But the personality wasn't and we had a grand time. Larraine is a hoot; I can see taking a class from her just to enjoy the show. And I'm not just saying that because she knew my work and deemed it "just wonderful" and "tremendously fun, even if you have to use cats!" She does have that one failing, I'm afraid <g>.
Tactile Architecture was interesting but I was sidetracked and surprised by how many of the quilts had hung in the IQA show last year. (Or was it Paducah last spring?) Last year I was quite enamoured of this particular exhibit so it was a shock to see 'repeats'. I didn't realize that this was an option for us and in all honesty, it is something I should pursue. On the other hand, it made for rather disappointing viewing when you walked along wide-eyed expecting a crop of new work.
The Teachers' Showcase is always a treat; the diversity is wonderful and you get the chance to see quilts that you may have seen in print even a few years ago but never seen in the cloth.
And speaking of teachers, I had a bit of fun with a teacher-turned-author whose book premiered at the show. Barb Vlack is an expert on using the Electric Quilt program; she has taken her wisdom and turned it into a book. Too Much Fun! is an excellent companion to EQ3 and the Block Base programs. Not too many manuals on computer programs make for interesting reading when you're nowhere near a computer! Penny McMorris and Dean Neumann were wise enough to install Barb in their booth where she demo-ed EQ3 and accepted accolades.
After repeated attempts to say "Hi" to Barb -- with whom I had corresponded online -- I was getting a bit crabby as every time I opened my mouth someone beat me to the punch. So I got devious. With my hand hooked into the neckline of my shirt -- thereby obscuring my nametag -- I interrupted a worship session that had gone on for far too long <g>. In a quasi-obnoxious manner, I asked Barb if she knew "anything about some book some lady wrote that's supposedta explain this thing?" And, for good measure: "Do ya think it'd be worth anything?" The gentleman who had been piling on the praise looked at me as if I'd grown horns, while Barb schooled her features to reply. At that point I let my hand drop and my nametag was exposed. Barb Vlack's eyes can open verrry wide; fortunately so can her mouth. She mock-strangled me as she laughed and my horns disappeared. It would have been fun if I had been able to keep that nametag concealed until Barb managed a reply, but I didn't think she deserved to be that sorely tested. She did an admirable job under trying circumstances and as much fun as I was having, any more would've been too much fun! (groan)
The Japanese showcase, Honoring the Seasons, was both lovely and lively. I do enjoy the quilts made by the Japanese that turn up at Houston and Paducah. I've found that I'm drawn to them; the difference in color usage between east and west is particularily fascinating. But I'm not interested in any of these books that go for a strictly styled ethnic look. The Jill Liddell/Patchwork Quilt Tsushin books of a few years back and the New Wave Quilt series hold much greater appeal for me. This exhibit included some funky little (8" x 9"?) quilts hung on a folding screen that were much brighter and cheerier than what we usually expect from the far east. I loved them! Do you think that could possibly have anything to do with my obsession with Keiko Goke's work?!
The vendors were as numerous and overwhelming as last year. But I got smart in between shows and made notes to get to certain booths early. My travel partner and I helped clean Melody and Laura out of Artfabr!k's supply of Kaffe Fassett stripes before mid-morning Thursday. By that statement I don't mean that Pat and I emptied our wallets there; our shuttle bus gang from Wednesday night before memorized Artfab!k's booth number after I passed my bag of goodies around. I had also indulged in a chunk of Melody's gorgeous fabric even though I'm doing/dyeing my own more and more. I had *really* indulged in her and Laura's threads because those I'm not doing on my own. It just occurred to me that if I charged a modest finder's fee for sharing my shopping secrets I could likely earn enough to purchase the embroidered 'thingy' of Melody's that fell in love with me. This 'thingy' is a piece of textile art that decided it wants very much to live in my humble little home. -- Can't say that I'd protest <vbg>.
A major self-help purchase was The Quilter's Computer Companion. What an excellent and indispensible book! Judy Heim teaming up with Gloria Hansen was a gooood thing. It's the kind of book you open just to take a peek at the contents and then find you've read a chapter before you know it. From newbie to know-it-all, IMHO it offers something for everyone. I picked that puppy up at the Art/Quilt booth along with a few other books and then scolded myself thoroughly for adding all that weight to my luggage :) .
And finally, -- 'cause my carpal tunnel syndrome is screaming and you may well be too -- I have to mention the wondrous Kaffe Fassett quilts and book. I had this book ordered locally long before it was published and my copy sat here at home while I was off meeting its authors. I didn't realize Kaffe Fassett would still be there and was mightily ticked that I hadn't brought my book for signing. Not that an autograph is usually a big deal to me but his work has been a part of my life for many years; since long before I began quilting I was a major KF fan. So I bought another copy of the book. (Insanity strikes!) Luckily, Pat had borrowed my first copy and was so impressed that she insisted on buying it from me. I thought she was just trying to help me out of the hole I'd dug but she proved otherwise by dragging me to his booth and heading for the cashier <vbg>.
Liza Prior Lucy is responsible for the book's exsistence; I gather she pestered KF relentlessly. For that I worship her <g>. Besides, she can really keep things hopping on the QuiltArt front when she chooses to! The quilts that Liza (mostly) made for the book were luscious! I will always be a soft-to-bright pastel lover at heart no matter where my quilts may lead me. Since I'm in a severe slump where that issue is concerned, I think I'll give myself permission to ease off and make one of the quilts from the book. Or maybe just a pillow. I've never made a patchwork pillow. Some would say I've missed a rite of passage but I don't feel deprived <vbg>. Anyway, the great man himself was undoubtedly overwhelmed by admirers but I do have the satisfaction of knowing that while he likely won't remember my face, he said he will remember my tale. Not many people come to him to offer greetings and explain how his needlepoint "Victorian Kittens" caused their cat to be renamed the Victorian Kitten after she nearly died having absconded with and eaten yarn from the kit!
Overall, I'm sure I could look through the Festival program and say "didn't like that" to probably 50% of the exhibits. But...there are soooo many of them and between what I did like and the shopping -- never mind the missed class opportunities -- I think you would have to try pretty hard to convince me that I made a mistake in booking my room for next year's show.
Now I'll let you go and I'll sit here being really uptight as the day has passed with no sign of Fed Ex or UPS with the quilts I need to turn in tomorrow for Quiltfest Jacksonville. AAARGH! (I can't even make frantic phone calls because I've had not even a squeak of a voice for five days now.) Five entries in the darn show; two of which I opted out of just after the program had gone to press and now the other three are AWOL. This isn't happening in the same time frame that I expected after the past two years' experiences. My face is going to be red if I sneak in to see the show.
UPS is (supposedly) bringing my quilts home from Pacific International Quilt Festival -- and that reminded me that I had a nice bit of news awaiting me upon my arrival home: A cyberpal white-gloved my quilts and dashed to a computer to tell me that one of them was awarded an Honorable Mention. Kind of fun to get home with your ears popped beyond popped and boot up the (misbehaving!) computer and see that news :0!
I'm outta here.
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A Judy Martin Book & Tool SPECIAL!!! Just for YOU, for Christmas!
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2. Shapemaker 45 tool @ $12.50
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5. Rotaruler 16 @ $19.50
6. Sizemaster 90 ruler @ $19.50
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