Bright Lights

deer crossingMy parents live in a rural area in Southern Utah, about 40 miles from…well…anything. It’s a lovely area, mostly nice and quiet, with the expected wildlife like coyote, snakes, rabbits, squirrels, pheasant, elk and of course, the deer that wander all over and sometimes visit the yard. When we lived in Las Vegas (and when I’ve returned to the area on vacation since then), it was always imperative to plan arrival times at their house for the daylight hours, at least for me. See, if I headed for their house in the late afternoon, I was always sorry, because I’d be driving through the countryside on these twisty, curvy, two-lane roads at twilight or after dark, sharing road space with the deer.

If I didn’t time it right, I’d arrive at their house completely stressed out with aching knuckles from gripping the steering wheel so hard, just waiting for that deer to jump out in front of the car from the side of the road. What a great start to a vacation, huh? I never hit one, but I was always just sure that at some point I would, and I’d be facing those scared, shining eyes across the hood of my car as I came around a blind turn and the headlights landed on a family of deer standing in the road. My parents’ house is great, except for the getting there part!

There have been a few times in my life where I’ve felt a strong kinship with those deer though. I remember the talent show in high school, where I stood there with my platter of cookies that I’d baked, because I didn’t sing or dance or act or twirl a baton, and baking was the only thing I could think of as a “talent.” Yep, I’m sure I looked just like those deer as I stood on that stage.

I remember standing on another stage, this time in Lyon, France at the Quilt Expo in 1996. There was a show and tell gathering, where you brought your quilts or wearable art to show to the audience gathered in this giant hall. Anyone could go up on stage and share what they’d brought, all you had to do was fill out a card and stand in line until it was your turn. Judy Murrah, of Jacket Jazz fame, was the emcee, and would read what you wrote on the card as you walked across the stage and showed your quilt.

I’m not sure what convinced me that I wanted to go up there since I’ve always had a major case of stage fright, but somehow I found myself up on that stage showing off my own Jacket Jazz jacket for all of the thousand people in the audience to see. My best friend Dawn was in the audience way in the back in the standing room only section, and even from there she could see that “deer in the headlights” look that I was wearing along with my jacket! I think I literally shook inside my shoes for a good hour after I clambered off the stage and made my escape.

And then there was last Friday. One of the things that happens when your book is published by AQS is that you are expected to teach at one of the AQS shows around the time the book is published, and I guess if all goes well, they’ll have you back for another round (or two, or more). I’ve been talking with the AQS show director about when this might happen, and she originally said that she had me on the schedule for the Paducah show in 2010, which sounded great since I didn’t have to panic about it quite yet. It was sort of “off in the distance”; in mind, but not right up front where I might start to get worried about it.

I mean, I’ve taught classes before obviously, but I think there’s a HUGE difference between teaching at the Gussy Goose in Stuttgart, or teaching for the local quilt guild, and teaching at one of the biggest quilt shows in the U.S! 😯 So yes, I knew I was headed for this major thing, and I’ve been working on developing workshops that are related to the subject material of my book, since that’s what I thought AQS wanted for the shows.

Friday night, I got an email from the AQS show director saying that I’d be teaching at Des Moines in October, 2009, instead of Paducah in April, 2010. Not only that, but instead of 3.5 days full of classes related to my book, the show director only wants 1.5 days of classes related to the book, and will look at other classes that I teach if I submit them. Eeeek! There it is again, that deer imitation that I do so well.

I sat here, staring at the email, truly wondering what the heck I was going to do. Could any of my current workshops be reworked to fit into a national show format? Is there anything else I have waiting in the wings that would be suitable? I want to teach the full 3.5 days, since it’s such a long way to go for me from here, so I needed to fill out my class offerings with other techniques. I tend to teach long classes with multiple sessions which is not what you get to do at a national quilt show. Three hour focused sessions is the mainstay. I’d been developing book related workshops, but now they didn’t want as many as I had, and oh, by the way, they need my class descriptions NOW, since the registration guide has to be ready by April!

Stuff for new classes

Since imitating a deer wasn’t going to fix it, I got to work. I spent the weekend pulling it together, and reminding myself that I really can do this! I worked on a couple of new workshops and reworked some current ones, so I’ll share some pics in the next few days. And of course, I’ll let you know how it all goes with the show director, but at the moment, I’m making plans to be in Des Moines in October! Want to join me? 🙂

Quilt shows and the fall of traditional quilting

During my travels on the Internet this morning, I thought I’d stop in at IQA and see if the entry form for the 2008 show was available yet, thinking I might be able to finish up The Misery Quilt in time to enter, and wondering in the back of my mind what category I’d enter it in. It’s beyond “traditional,” what with the embroidery already there, the original layout, the mixed techniques, and the embellishments that I plan to add later.

…there were only two lonely categories for traditional quilts, one for appliquéd quilts and one for pieced quilts…

The entry form wasn’t there yet, but I looked at the page with the winning quilts from the 2007 show, and I was quite surprised when the categories for art quilts just went on and on and on, in multiple (but seemingly) minuscule variations for different sizes, types, and styles, and then way down at the bottom, there were only two lonely categories for traditional quilts, one for appliquéd quilts and one for pieced quilts which were not even further divided into “small” and “large.”

I didn’t enter the IQA show last year, but seeing the winners page reminded me that I’d been meaning to go on about this very issue for quite some time, ever since I read Paula’s post that referred to Jeanna Kimball’s post about judging the Houston Show in late September, 2007. Jeanna Kimball is a traditional quilter, obviously a good one since she’s out there judging, and she made some interesting observations about the number of traditional quilts that were entered in the Houston show:

One element of the contest, however, surprised me a great deal—I still can’t get over it. The last time I paid attention to quilt contests, the categories with the most quilts seemed to be traditional quilts.

It is not so any longer. The entries have dropped so low in traditional pieced and traditional appliqué that there is only one category for each—no longer are there two categories with one being large quilts and the other being small. What happened!? Where are all of the traditional quilts?

I have to second that question, but I’m afraid I know what happened to the traditional quilts. The quilters who enter the larger shows have discovered that traditional doesn’t win big. Oh sure, if you have the best traditional quilt in the show, you get the first place award in the traditional category, but when was the last time a quilt from the traditional category was awarded “Best of Show” with the big money attached? Truthfully, I don’t know the answer to that, but I’ve watched (and entered) the major shows since 2001, and my overall feeling about it just from what I’ve seen and experienced is that it’s been many years. Read More

To write an artist’s statement

Material Marquetry

I’ve been sitting here for at least an hour, probably much longer than that actually, trying to write an artist’s statement for a quilt I’d like to enter into a juried special exhibit. I’m beginning to think it’s a completely wasted exercise, right down to entering the dang thing to begin with. The quilt in question: Material Marquetry.

The exhibit: In the American Tradition V.

The point of the exhibit:

This special annual exhibit features the very best in contemporary traditional-based quilting. You are invited to submit work for consideration for the fifth year of this very special exhibit, In the American Tradition. We are looking for both contemporary interpretations and traditional quilts, either by hand or machine, appliquéd, pieced, or wholecloth.

Material Marquetry seems to fit right in, contemporary quilt based in tradition that it is. So where’s the issue, you ask? The “write an artist’s statement” requirement for entry seems to be beyond me. Here’s the assignment:

The artist statement explains the artist’s impression for creating the quilt and/or how it relates to the theme; concise, well-written, and no longer than one-half of an 8.5″ x 11″ page

What the heck do they really want here? Is this artist’s statement to be used in the jurying process, or is it for the end viewer’s benefit? I feel like the most that I could say would be stating what the viewer can already see for themselves, Read More

Gaudynski Workshop, Days Two and Three – Newsworthy Quilting

We worked on more freehand feathers in the morning on day two of the workshop, and I discovered that it wasn’t just me having trouble with the feathers on the inside curves looking deformed, it was a common problem. I can make great feathers on the outside curve of a spine, but the inside ones look like awkward thumbs or something! It’s just a practice thing, but Diane did say that the inside curve is a trouble spot for many, so I felt a bit better about it. Diane talked about adding tendrils and extra flourishes to feather designs, and briefly touched on a couple of other freehand, non-marked designs.

It was tempting to just follow her around…just to hear every word she said!

We also learned more background and filler patterns, like Dianeshiko (a sort of curved pattern built on a grid that looks like overlapping circles), Tsunami (wonderful filler with wavy lines, a brand new technique not in any of her books!), Bouncing Bananas, Headbands, Clamshells, Ripple Stipple (another new background filler), Spirals, Mosaic Meandering, etc., etc., etc.! I think there’s never a reason to use plain old boring stippling again! Throughout the workshop while we worked on designs, Diane would come around and talk with everyone personally, helping with machine issues, or giving advice or feedback. It was tempting to just follow her around to everyone else, just to hear every word she said!

Silk Dupioni

Some of the students were at Hancock’s Fabrics at 8:00 a.m. on day two of the workshop, begging their way in the door before they were open to shop. We were in class during opening hours, but Hancock’s was happy to let them in early evidently! Some of these ladies bought assortments of silk dupion fat quarters that were half price, so Dawn and I made the mad dash to Hancock’s ourselves on the lunch hour to get some. What a steal! Read More

Quilting workshop success stories

Day one of the Gaudynski workshop started out quietly, since we mostly just talked our way through to lunch. Diane has so much quilting knowledge in her head, and she started the workshop with a bit of lecture, and introductions. Every time a student would introduce herself, Diane would talk about something the student said and more quilting knowledge gems would just spill out of her. By lunchtime, my notepad was filled and my own head was stuffed full of new tips to make machine quilting easier and better.

I don’t know what it was that Diane said or did exactly, but it all finally clicked into place.

After lunch, the serious quilting started. Now, I’ve bought and read and re-read her books, and I’ve had success with some of her techniques, but I’ve never been happy with echo quilting. Actually, to be honest, I’ve hated it the few times I’ve tried it, partly because I just couldn’t get it to look right. Wouldn’t you know that was the first thing she wanted us to do. But after the way she explained it and demonstrated echo quilting, and had the students practice it, I was able to finally get it right! I was so thrilled! She used it as a warm up to all the rest of her techniques, and it really did help to get that one basic thing right.

You know, I’ve always kind of wondered why quilters need classes so much. Really, I have, and I’ve sometimes felt somewhat superfluous in workshops as an instructor, when I’ve mostly learned from books and I felt like everybody else could do the same if they only tried. So now I finally get it. I’ve never taken a workshop like this Read More

Visiting, quilting, shopping

Okay, I’m sure you all thought I fell off the planet, but I really am here, life (and quilting) just got in my way for a bit. I spent ten days in the States last week and the one before for a machine quilting workshop with Diane Gaudynski at the Museum of the American Quilter’s Society. The workshop was absolutely incredible! By the first day at noon, I’d gotten my money’s worth I think, and it only got better from there. I learned so much that I’m still just digesting it all (and hoping I’ll remember it all, as well!).

It’s really hard to shop at Hancock’s in person, I think, since there’s just so much fabric there.

So, let me back up a bit, and start at the beginning, and hopefully tell all in the coming days. I had to fly into Nashville, and my buddy Dawn met me at the airport. We crashed in Nashville for the night (I do mean crashed, since I’d just come off an international flight, and she’d driven in from South Carolina, no small thing in one day). We headed for Paducah and Hancock’s Fabrics the next morning. It’s really hard to shop at Hancock’s in person, I think, since there’s just so much fabric there. It’s all arranged by manufacturer and fabric line, instead of color. Read More