Karen writes about life as a Quiltmaker in Austin, Texas; surviving in an empty nest, marriage, cooking, gardening and (did I say?) Quilting...

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Making it to "The Show"... a Quilt at IQA Festival

What a whirlwind! It's taken a few weeks for me to finally calm down enough to try to write about my feelings and the incredible events.

The  that I made for Mom and Dad was accepted at a special exhibit at this year's Houston International Quilt Festival.

I entered the quilt into the exhibit sometime in June. A friend in the quilt guild passed along to me the call for submissions. Festival was looking for quilts to show at an exhibition of "Traditional" quilts. When I first looked at the requirements, I was pretty surprised to find that indeed my quilt might qualify. Even better, the exhibition was not judged, simply a "special exhibit", and best of all, NO entry fee was required! The only requirement was that the quilt be one that had won an award at a Texas Quilt Guild in the last few years. 

A few clicks, an attachment of a picture of the quilt, and the submission was made. I soon forgot about the entry. Imagine my shock at getting a phone call one Saturday afternoon in late September, from an IQA staffer. She asked a few questions, (What award had the quilt won? ) and informed me that my quilt had been accepted for the special exhibit, and advised me that I'd receive an acceptance letter with instructions for shipping the quilt to the show in a week. I was stunned. I told no one, I almost thought it was some sort of a fluke...surely someone would sort out the error. The letter from IQA (International Quilt Association - the organization behind the annual International Quilt Festival) arrived as indicated. A never spoken dream of showing a quilt at Festival was simply made, with an email, a letter and a phone call. One sticky detail was yet to be ironed out. I would have to "borrow" the quilt back from Mom in order to ship it to Houston....

Would Mom allow me the use of the quilt? What kind of condition would it be in? Could I make time to make the trek to Dallas to retrieve it in time to make the show deadline?

The pieces fell into place much more easily than I originally guessed. Mom simply required that it be "back by Christmas"...I was a bit surprised that she let go of the quilt so easily...
I found it in lovely shape, though I just had to wash it once more to try to remove those stubborn marks that gained a minor critique at the Austin Area Guild Quilt Show where it won an Honorable Mention in 2008. Some of the marks stayed - they will probably always be there, though they are now faint. Packaging the quilt and shipping it was done with only a brief amount of concern... I somehow felt comfortable that it would make it to back to it's place of creation (Houston) without problems...

I put together a trip to Houston with my friend Cindy, who had never attended Quilt Festival (I can't remember how many years I'd been going... at least 10 or 12. I had not attended last year, and will never miss it again. The rejuvenation of the creative spirit that results from viewing the great works of so many quilters keeps one's spirit and mind working through even the toughest of years.

Cindy and I planned a two day visit - one day to view the vendor booths, and a second to take in all the quilt exhibits. We decided to check out the commercial goods the first day, and to take notes and decide upon purchases to be made after viewing exhibits the second day.

We arrived without incident, leaving early on a Thursday morning, arriving in Houston just in time for the opening of the doors. Entering nearest the vendor end of the building, We stuck to our guns, working the vendor booths with all the diligence of women at the grocery. No booth was left unseen. No tool, fabric, pattern or new gew-gaw was not paid due attention. I took notes on what booths would be revisited on Friday afternoon for those all important purchases. But as we worked our way through 20 aisles of the huge convention center steadily towards the exhibit area, my own level of tension mounted.
Houston Skyline - from the Convention Center

I was pretty convinced, based on some pre-show buzz that the show was continuing it recent track of becoming a venue for "contemporary" quilting. Machine quilting, "Art" quilts, and very untraditional works were fast becoming the majority of works presented in both the judged show, as well as the special exhibits. To try to keep hand pieced and hand quilted works in the mix, the show had fairly recently added a "Handmade" category, specifically to try to keep somewhat traditional quilt entries in the show, even if only in a more and more limited way. I was sure that this special exhibit had been added (late to the show, and not detailed in the program at all!) to try to add at least some traditional, although, contemporary works. The show has always had some exhibition of vintage or historical quilts. I was sure that this exhibition would be probably be stuck somewhere at the back of the floor... a quiet respite from the "buzz" of the modern works.

After all, the exhibit, entitled "Texas Guilds' Awarding Winning Traditional Quilts" must surely be a sleeper of "Sunbonnet Sues" and Dresden Plates sleepily dozing amidst a world of modern quilt chaos...

Imagine my surprise, when I purchased a program which indicated that the exhibit was near the front of the show floor. At around 4 o'clock, we had worked our way through the entire floor, and decided it was time to spend time "looking" for my quilt. At the show, the vendor area is divided by a wall from the exhibit area.

As we rounded the "wall", and I almost died from shock. There was my quilt... paired with a lovely Pieced colorwheel quilt - literally the first quilt you saw as you rounded the corner from the vendor exhibit hall.

"50 Years of Love for Nancy and Harold" (left) at the entrance to the special exhibit: Texas Guilds: Award Winning Traditional Quilts"

My quilt (and it's neighbor) served as the introductory quilts at the entry to the special exhibit! "50 Years of Love for Harold and Nancy" - MY QUILT, (myhusband reminds me is it now "Mom's Quilt"), was literally only yards away from the Best in Show Quilt... not to be missed by any one of the 50,000 plus quilters who would enter the exhibit hall to view the top winners at the show over the entire week of Festival.

I had to sit down. A convenient bench allowed Cindy and I to sit just a few yards in front of the quilt and watch admiring quilters. I can't tell you how hard it was to keep from just pulling out the hankie and losing it in front of them all! Cindy, her first time at quilt festival must have been impressed at my ability to stay upright! I had to resist the urge to yell out "THAT'S MY QUILTS"... to the meandering crowd...

The following day, we spent the day looking at the "real" show entries... the money winners, (Did I mention that my quilt was literally only a few yards away from the "Best In Show" winner!?), the incredible, emotionally stunning beauty, the great political statements, the humorous experiments, the quilts that make you cry.... all of them, showing themselves to us in all their glory... along with my best work to date...perhaps the best quilt I will ever make. And quite possibly the only quilt I may ever see shown at such a prestigious event....
We ran into guild members, friends, many who gave me congratulations, and said they were so happy to see my quilt there... what a great, affirming day for any artist.

The quilt arrived back in Austin this past week. More carefully packaged than I was able to do. None the worse for wear, but ready to resume it's gentle life on Mom and Dad's bed, where it will be by Christmas time.

I thought you'd like to see once more their photos... One taken just prior to their wedding in 1953, and another, at their 50th wedding anniversary. What more could I ever need to inspire the creation of a great quilt?