Yes, it has. I don’t know exactly how long ago I last posted, and if I check I’ll just feel worse so we’ll just agree that yes, it’s been a while since I’ve posted here. For me, life falls into one of two categories as far as blogging goes: either I have so little going on that I have plenty of time to write blog posts but not very much to write about, or life is so hair-straight-back busy that I have tons of content and no time to write about any of it. The latter problem has been in effect for the past couple of months. It’s been a whirlwind, but I’m going to try to catch up.
The major event on my calendar in the first half of the year was Quilt Canada, which took place on the last weekend in May. It was an experience, I tell you, being on the inside, so to speak, rather than (as in the past) a yearning aspirant who dreamt of having a quilt in the National Juried Show and perhaps rubbing shoulders with the giants in Canadian quilting. This year, I made it happen. I wrote about that here. And I got to attend the show because it was in Vancouver and I could stay with my Mum. I thought to myself that the show wasn’t likely to be any closer than that for a long while, so I’d better jump on it. But it was so overwhelming that I’ve been hard-pressed to figure out how to write about it, and everything that has happened since is now stuck in the blog-post queue waiting for me to get Quilt Canada out of my system, so here goes.
Before I even saw the show a couple of things happened. One was that the day before the show opened, I got an email saying I’d won a prize and could I come to the awards ceremony that night? Well, no, I couldn’t. I’d spent quite a while trying on clothes in a store that afternoon (I never try on clothes, I hate clothes shopping, but I had fun that day: kudos to Blue Sky Clothing for their clothes and their incredibly friendly and helpful staff). My patient Mum sat on an uncomfortable stool while I dithered, and she put her neck out. Really put it out. She was largely helpless for the rest of the day so no, I wasn’t going to leave her to go to an awards ceremony. Thank you to my cousin Val for offering to stay with Mum instead of me, but in truth I was exhausted and didn’t want to have to trek into the city that evening.
The next day, the other thing happened. I was assigned a volunteer spot assisting Janet Harper, who was the head of the volunteers for the show, and together we greeted and directed the volunteers to their assignments the whole of the first morning. But that’s not all we did. We also answered endless questions from show-goers who were lost (there was a distinct shortage of signs telling people where to go), from show-goers who didn’t know which line-up they should be in, and from show-goers who wanted us to tell them why the line to get into the show wasn’t moving (for the first half hour it was because the show wasn’t open yet, but when it did open, there were hundreds and hundreds of people in the line-up and it took a long time to process them all through the doors and into the show). People asked us where the bus for the field trip was, where the washrooms were, where they could charge cell phones, where they could find chairs (the first day, there just weren’t any chairs), and on it went. Janet was constantly being called away to put out fires and trouble-shoot, so I did my very best to get people where they needed to go. It was intense, challenging, and sometimes hilarious. I’d met Janet at a retreat for the Fibre Art Network back in the fall so knew she’d be capable and calm and she was. What I hadn’t realized was how much more fun it would be to have a friend on hand right from the start: at the past two CQA shows I’d attended, I’d known no one and felt a bit like someone with her nose pressed up against a window watching other people at a party. Not this time; I was in the thick of it and happy to be there.
I was released after four hours and finally made my own way into the show. Of course I headed first for the National Juried Show to find my quilts and find out what I’d won. To my amazement, “Sunlit Flowerbed” had won second place in the Art/Abstract category. I was downright gob-smacked. And thrilled! A prize! An actual prize! At the National Juried Show! Turns out I was good enough after all! The funniest thing about the prize is the red and white rosette, which is HUGE. As my dear husband commented, it’s bigger than the rosettes we used to win at draft horse shows. I collected my prize certificate and the generous financial reward from the show office and walked on air for the rest of the afternoon. Unfortunately, I was so tired from the morning’s volunteering that I couldn’t really absorb much of what I was seeing, but I enjoyed myself immensely wandering around.
I didn’t have my camera with me that first day, not wanting to have to worry about it while I was volunteering, but I did take it the other two days. And the second day I took my cousin Val and my Mum with me, and we met up with my uncles, who treated us all to a wonderful celebration lunch. Of all the great things I saw and happy moments I had at this show, the very, very best thing by far was having family with me to celebrate and I am so grateful to the four of them for coming to the show with me that I can hardly express it. I was happy that Mum’s neck pain backed off enough that she could come (at least she said it wasn’t bad, but she’s pretty stoic and may have been a lot more uncomfortable than she was letting on). It was tough to see my family leave after a few hours, but I understood: not everyone has the stamina for eight hours of a quilt show.
And this was not an average quilt show. As well as the National Juried Show put on by the Canadian Quilting Association, there were nine concurrent shows. NINE. So it was more like ten quilt shows under one roof than a single show. The Fibre Art Network was debuting a new exhibit called Conversations, where two artists collaborated and talked until they had a common theme that they could express any way they liked in a pair of related pieces. If you want to see the pieces from that exhibit, click here. The Vancouver Modern Quilt Guild had a show, as did a group from Nunavut, and there was one from Taiwan, and several others. There was so much to see that I missed one whole section altogether, the Trend-Tex challenge, for which people had bought a pre-chosen palette of five fabrics donated by Trend-Tex as a fund-raiser for the CQA. I thought I’d have time to see it but when I finally got there on the last day, it had just been taken down so people could take home their own pieces and the pieces they’d bought. Rats! And then there were the vendors. I don’t know how many there were, but there were a lot. And some of the booth displays were so beautiful that they deserved a lot of attention too.
Would you like to see some photos? Of course you would.
First, thanks to my FAN newsletter pal and enabler Alison Cowitz for this photo she took of me with “Sunlit Flowerbed.” I labelled the photo “beam” in my files, because of the smile.
It was fun to hang back and watch people looking at my pieces. I’d had a short conversation with the CQA person who handed me my prize package: she told me she was an NJS tour leader and had chosen my piece as one of the stops on her tour. I happened to see her leading a group through the show just at the moment when she reached “Sunlit Flowerbed.” I hung back but listened to what she had to say. You know, I can barely remember any of it but it was illuminating to hear what this woman saw in the quilt and why she considered it a success. I thanked her when she was done and she very gracefully offered me the chance to add something to what she had to say. Do you think I could think of a single thing? Nope.
Here’s a small crowd gathered around “Vertigo."
The hanging crew did their best with the conditions they had to work with, but it was difficult to hang all the quilts to advantage. One problem was that the black curtains over which the quilts hung were sheer, and the lights behind them were very visible and distracting. You can see what I mean in the photo above. But oh my goodness were the quilts ever dead-straight. It’s always perplexing when quilts at a show are hung crookedly but the hanging system at this show was well-thought-out and the tops of the quilts were precisely horizontal. Kudos to Kim Carlson for overseeing this part of the show.
On the other hand, a black background created problems for my quilts. "Vertigo" (below) has a border in two colours, burgundy and black. The burgundy sections showed well but the black ones completely disappeared against the curtains (as did quite a lot of what I was wearing, which is fine). And the lights, again, were a problem, as was the proximity of the edge of the quilt to the gap in the corner and to the gap between two curtains on the left side (check out the left bottom of the photo below). And mine was not the only quilt that tended to be covered up by the curtains, which were so light that the slightest breeze caused them to billow out and fold over the edges of the quilts.
(Ack! In jeans again, even though I’d sworn I’d never wear jeans at a show in which I had pieces on display. Never mind. For some reason, it hadn’t occurred to me that anyone would want to take my photo. Thanks to my cousin Val for taking this one with my own camera.)
Poor old “Through the Garden Fence,” which has a wide black border, more or less died at the show because the border, an essential element of the design, completely disappeared. I took the shot below from about fifty feet away: you can see what I mean. And the gap in the curtains behind the quilt looks like a design element, a vertical line of light running up behind the quilt.
Sigh. Oh well. I’ve yet to have quilts in a show where I was really happy with the hanging decisions, but I realize that it’s difficult to make every quilt look wonderful. The galleries, however, tend to do a very good job, spacing the pieces comfortably, paying attention to the lighting, and treating each piece like a work of fine art. Which is what I think my quilts are, and I know many others feel the same way about their own work. I had one telling moment when I was helping to take down quilts at the end of the show (this was my other volunteer assignment, to be part of the take-down crew). I took one quilt off its curtain and laid it down on a sheet on the floor and almost gasped. When the quilt was lying flat, it got the full benefit of the overhead lighting and it just came to life. A quilt I’d barely paid attention to when it was hung was suddenly revealed to be incredibly beautiful, with detail and richness and subtleties of colour that just weren’t apparent when it was vertical. That was a lesson to me: lighting really, really matters. But I don’t know how an organization that has to work with what’s provided in a venue such as the Vancouver Convention Centre can overcome this kind of problem: installing proper lighting for a show like this would be a huge headache and probably cost an outrageous amount of money. So I sympathize.
But enough about me and my quilts at the show. I can see my own quilts any old time. I wanted to see what other people were doing. Unfortunately, I didn’t note titles of works or names of artists as I took photos, so I can’t attribute most of these properly: my apologies to all the artists whose work I’m showing here.
I love the wavy texture in the quilting around this puffin, which to me suggests both wind and ocean.
I would never attempt a mosaic piece like this elephant, but isn’t it stunning? The title is “Colourful Dream” and the artist is Lise Belanger; she won an award for excellence in quilting on a domestic machine for this piece.
The quilt below was a crowd pleaser: it won viewer’s choice, a prize that was richly deserved. “Ice Fishing” is a group quilt, made by Brigitte Villeneuve, Diane Cote, and Doris Boivin, and depicts an ice-fishing “village” on the Saguenay River. It was fun to spend a lot of time looking at the details in this quilt: every corner seems to have a different vignette or story. There’s a lot going on! The quilt is about five feet across. My mum loved this one.
Those are a very few of the quilts I noticed in the National Juried Show: I think I was too overwhelmed to take many photos. Though in my own defence, there were so many people at the show that it was difficult to get a clear shot of any of the quilts in the NJS, which was crammed into a fairly small space.
Then there were these, from the Vancouver Modern Quilt Guild.
One advantage of the overhead lighting, which you may have noticed in the pieces above, was very apparent in the modern quilts: because the light was falling across the quilts, rather than directed toward them, the texture of the quilting was highlighted. I noticed the texture of quilts at Quilt Canada much more than I normally do, and I’m sure that the overhead lighting was the reason.
Look at the bottom of this photo. See what I mean about the curtains moving in the breeze?
I enjoy quilts like the one below, in which areas of the pattern “drop out,” creating new shapes in the resulting negative space.
Another concurrent show featured several triptychs from Nunavut. These two examples were especially eye-catching.
Even the vendors’ booths had some beautiful pieces. I apologize: as with the quilts, I didn’t note the names of these vendors and I regret that now, for my sake as much as for the sake of the vendors.
This boro hung at a booth devoted to Japanese quilting, particularly sashiko.
And at the Quilter’s Dream Fabrics booth, which displayed the most luscious linens, silks, and shot cottons, a low-volume (muted colour) quilt in a similar palette caught my eye. I love the circular quilting crossing all those straight lines. I spent more time in this booth than in any other, and did more dedicated stroking of fabric here than anywhere else as well.
Here’s another low-volume quilt that I really liked, not least because of the botanical details embroidered onto the surface. Different booth, though.
Below the sign for Carola’s Quilt Shop (in Gibsons) was another mosaic quilt that appealed to me. I like the toothed arcs in the quilting too.
I’d be willing to bet that this confection in wool is a Sue Spargo design: the wool felt shows up the quilting incredibly well.
I don’t know why I was drawn to this piece, which is so muted and so small that I had to weave my way through the booth to get right up close to make sense of it. It’s a forest scene, with houses. I love the irregular lines in the hand quilting.
Are you tired yet? I was.
I'm dissatisfied with what I’ve described and shown you here because it’s so sparse and random, but really, it would be impossible to do Quilt Canada justice in one blog post. I think I remember reading somewhere that there were more than four hundred quilts among the many shows. And honestly? I think that perhaps nine concurrent shows is too many. Even though I visited the show on each of the three days it ran and spent several hours each day looking at the quilts, I didn’t see it all and I can’t remember very much of what I did see. Clearly I need to get into training if I’m ever going to go to the International Quilt Festival in Houston, which I think is the biggest show there is. I just checked the numbers for the upcoming show in November: 1600 quilts, 1000 vendors, 550 classes. I can’t imagine.
Speaking of vendors, perhaps you’re wondering whether I bought anything. Well yes (cough), I did. I spent almost all of my winnings on fabric and rotary cutter blades. My dear husband told me not to stint: “You’re investing in yourself,” he said. What a guy.
I’m glad I entered the National Juried Show. I’m glad I made the trek to Vancouver to see Quilt Canada, and that I volunteered to help with the volunteers and with taking down the show. I’m supremely glad that my family came to the show with me. And it was a totally different experience for me, compared to my previous couple of National Juried Shows, because I knew so many people. Thanks to the Fibre Art Network, I knew many of the people who had quilts in the various shows (FAN members won nine of the 36 prizes in the National Juried Show, I’m proud to say). And to have so many friends in the crowds of people milling through the show was wonderful. Will I do it again? Almost certainly, though I’m not sure I’ll be flying off to Ottawa next year to see the 2019. But hey, you never know . . .