Posts tagged ‘quilt police’
Get ready to gaze upon the pretty…
This was truly an international show. The quilts came from all over the United States, plus Canada, the U.K., Australia, Germany, and South Korea, and the quality threshold was extremely high. The winners list is practically a who’s who of quilting greatness, and has professional pictures of all the ribboned quilts.
The Best of Show ribbon went to Marilyn Badger, who longarm quilted the 2008 Quilter’s Heritage Celebration and 2009 Quilt Odyssey Best of Show quilt, “Awesome Blossoms.” This year’s quilt, “Filigree,” is an exquisitely pieced Judy Niemeyer design, but what takes it to an entirely different plane is the quilting. Marilyn is from the same town as Superior Threads, and she’s certainly supporting that local business: the quilt contains over 15,000 yards of thread, including all that gold metallic quilting:
While my personal preference is not to see quite so much dense overall quilting on a quilt, I have to say this is done absolutely masterfully. Plus, the gold metallic thread makes the quilting simultaneously pop yet not compete with the fabric choices and precision piecing. I have used very little metallic thread in my own quilting, so I will have to keep this in mind.
There were only five categories in this show: Bed quilt – pieced, bed quilt – appliqued, wall quilt, wall quilt – pictorial, and “Grand Geometrics – The Amish Way,” which I think was kind of an awkward nod to the fact that we were in Lancaster. The small number of categories meant that group quilts and solo quilts were judged together, and that wall quilts were judged together regardless of technique. There were no miniatures, which was disappointing; I have no intention of ever, ever making a miniature quilt, but I always enjoy looking at them and saying, “yeah, I’m never going to do that.”
There were twice as many applique bed quilts as there were pieced bed quilts (note to self: make a pieced bed quilt before next year’s show) and the level of the applique quilts was glorious to behold. It was immediately obvious that several of the entries were magnum opus quilts, the kind of life’s work projects that represent years of loving effort. ”Ships at Sea” by Thomas Eugene Smith impressed me with its masterful execution of unusual subject matter (and by a man! I could hear viewers exclaiming — I suppose it is still unusual, at least in traditional quilts,) and “A World of Santas” by Susan J. Dicks displayed more lovely gold metallic quilting (by Jamie Wallen) to complement its charming appliqued Santas.
The pieced bed quilts as a group were not as uniformly outstanding as the appliqued ones, but there were certainly standouts. One of my criticisms of the display in the convention center was that the lighting was poor over some of the bed quilts, and combined with the way the displays were roped off, some details were very difficult to see. Both the ribbon winners for Best Longarm Workmanship and Best Machine Workmanship were in this area, and I have no idea what the judges saw because I literally couldn’t see the quilting. I can only imagine it was pretty darned impressive, because “The Sampler” by Barbara Persing, which I had seen and marveled over at the 2009 Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza, didn’t win any ribbons. Then again, it was hanging on the dark side of the moon in the convention center, too.
My other big complaint about the quilt display: there were two special exhibits owned by the National Quilt Museum that were “no photography.” That fact alone is not my complaint; my problem with it was that there was inadequate signage to indicate this. As a veteran white-glover, I will tell you that for the most part, quilt show goers are a law-abiding lot (the exceptions deserve their own post someday.) If people know the rules, they are happy to follow them. Over at Liberty Place, the Pilgrim/Roy Challenge had two tiny signs indicating “no photography” — and they were placed several quilts in from the entrances! The first quilt was an absolute knockout by John Flynn, very photogenic, and the attendee would encounter it before she would encounter a sign indicating she wasn’t permitted to photograph it! I felt terrible having to inform people, as part of my white glove hostessing duties, that they couldn’t take pictures there, because they were uniformly embarrassed and apologetic, when they had no reason to know they’d done anything wrong.
The situation was a slight bit clearer over in the convention center with the Burgoyne Surrounded exhibit; there were a few more signs, but they were still small and not at all eye-catching, at least not when compared with a big shiny quilt. On Saturday, I encountered a hostess who had discovered her secret purpose in life by unleashing her inner Dirty Harry on those who would dare to photograph a quilt. Not only did she shout at several hapless picture-takers, at one point she barrelled over to a group of us who were innocently looking at a quilt without any electronics in our hands, calling “Stop! No pictures! No pictures allowed!!” and seemed on the verge of enacting a body cavity search when she couldn’t find the source of what she’d perceived as a camera flash. I hope she got back safely to her job at the TSA. But most people, including AQS staff, seemed far more polite and reasonable, and hopefully next year’s signage will be less ambiguously placed.
But back to the quilts! There were several lovely wall quilts, including some by usual suspects like David Taylor, Sue Reno and Esterita Austin. Standouts for me included Lee Jung Sun’s “The Flight of the Phoenix” and the edge finish on blue ribbon winner “Alpha Block Celebration” by Janet Stone. There were twice as many wall quilts as bed quilts in the competition, due I’m sure in equal parts to American quilting habits (we finish more quilts if they’re smaller) and ease of display (we can hang more quilts if they’re smaller.)
Surrounding all these beautiful quilts were — astonishingly enough — vendors! What a pleasant surprise! In my next post, I’ll discuss how some of them managed to twist my arm into exchanging money for pretty pretty things. Against my will, against my reason, and even against my character, I assure you.
Before I write about the vendors, I have to do some addenda to the Quilts post. First of all, since I don’t get down to the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival in Hampden, VA, I really appreciate that the ribbon winners from that show are exhibited at QFNJ. The Best of Show quilt, “Circles of Life” by Linda French, was unbelievable. It is quite possibly the closest thing to a perfect quilt I have ever seen. The applique! The piecing! The trapunto! The quilting! The only word that is adequate to describe it is, “swoon.”
I wasn’t familiar with Linda’s name, so I Googled her; she’s apparently a professional longarm quilter, and this quilt is just sweeping the awards this year. Her website doesn’t display previous show quilts, so I don’t know if I should have already known her name or not, but after this show year, everyone will.
I was happy to see that Sieglinde Schoen Smith has a new show quilt this year, “Once Upon a Christmas Night.” I didn’t get a picture of it, as it was mobbed with people gaping in awe at all the perfect details, very reminiscent of “Mother Earth and her Children.” (An image of it appears here, about halfway down the page, with the rest of the winners from MAQF.) I did, however, have to ask people to stop touching it (I’ve been White Glove committee chair for the past three guild quilt shows, when I happily embrace the role of Quilt Police) and finally just found the white glove lady and sent her over. This particular quilt has little Advent-calendar-style doors that open to reveal surprises underneath, and people’s curiosity was getting the better of them.
I completely understand the desire to touch quilts; they are a tactile art form. But each person’s oils and exertions add up with all the others, and can easily damage the quilt over time. I’ve heard of one guild that displays an example quilt at the entrance of each show that viewers are invited to touch. The binding is incomplete so the batting can be seen; examples of hand and machine quilting, applique, etc. are on display so it acts as an educational item. But whether it’s an uncontrollable desire to touch something tactile, an inability to view displayed quilts as art worthy of preservation, or just a sense of entitlement that the rules shouldn’t apply to them, people can behave very badly at quilt shows. The people who arrive first thing in the morning with their big styrofoam cups of coffee and are just incensed that they can’t sip them while touring the show are the only ones I’ll specifically mention right now, but believe me, I’ve got stories.
There were many memorable quilts. Up until this point, I’ve focused on the ones that were memorable for their visual impact and flawless execution. However, some quilts at every quilt show are memorable for other, quirkier reasons. I have been, for many years, collecting photographs of quilts I’ve seen at shows that contain nudity, guns, or toilets (I have yet to find one that hits the trifecta; any takers?) I’ve had to become more selective of the nudity quilts, as that’s become more common and not always well executed, but the guns and toilets rarely disappoint. As someone who has herself won a Judge’s Choice ribbon for a quilt that featured a labeled anatomical image of the human brain in applique, I am hardly one to question someone’s choice of subject matter in a quilt, but I have to say, this was definitely the first time I’ve seen an appliqued Superman drinking a beer:
This was one of several small quilts on the Oktoberfest theme from the World Festival Quilt Challenge, but it was by far my favorite. See how the foam is done in little seed beads? That’s dedication.
I have also now crossed a cultural threshold. While I’ve seen many, many Harry Potter quilts, Wizard of Oz quilts, Gone with the Wind quilts, I can never again say that I’ve never seen a Twilight quilt:
You can’t quite see it in this picture, but she used glitter on Edward’s face so that he’s all sparkly. Now, I am the last person on Earth to make fun of someone for being a fan of something; I’ve attended three “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” conventions, and at the last two I collected actors’ autographs on muslin squares for when I make my Buffy quilt. I just hadn’t seen a “Twilight” quilt before, let alone one with glitter on “Edward’s perfect face.” All right, so I’m making a little fun. Then again, I have seriously considered buying this shirt.
Next post: Vendors!
Kathy and I attended Quilt Fest of New Jersey in Somerset, NJ yesterday. I didn’t win any ribbons for “Blue Butterfly Day” or “Kyoto Ink,” but they looked great hanging and were in very good company. I look forward to reading my judges’ comments; I already have in mind what a few of the “needs improvement” areas will be, so I’ll see if they agree with me.
I actually liked the second-place quilt, “Medea Escaping” by Marilyn Belford, better than the Best of Show. The use of fabric to create color blending was breathtaking, and her raw-edge applique was impeccably executed. It’s an enormous quilt, yet it hangs perfectly square and flat, while still having some dimension in the quilting. Truly masterful stuff.
The Best of Show quilt, “Butterfly Dance” by Anna Faustino, just wasn’t my cup of tea. The metallic thread couching was well done, and the color and design were lovely, but it’s one of those quilts that’s been quilted so densely that it hung like cardboard. Plus, I admit I’m just sick of those heat-fix crystals. When Sharon Schamber and Renae Haddadin put them on the front and back of their multi-award-winning quilts starting about six or seven years ago, I thought they were gorgeous. Now I feel like too many quilts took a tumble through the Swarovski factory on the way to the show. Maybe I’ll be ready to see them again in another ten years or so.
The “Tri-State Quilt Competition” was actually only a fraction of the quilts on display; as with other Mancuso shows I’ve attended, the bulk of the display quilts were from various touring collections and special exhibits. I usually enjoy the Hoffman challenge, but the 2009 challenge fabric was, shall we say, more challenging than usual? A mint green and brown paisley wouldn’t be my favorite fabric ever under the best of circumstances, and being confronted with a wall of it bordered on nauseating. I loved this quilt, though:
The bodies of the bees were made of corduroy and velveteen to create that lush, matte fuzziness of real-life bees; the juxtaposition of the realism with the fanciful pieced designs was really delightful.
I have to say, a lot of the art quilts just were not doing it for me this year. This is a little internal war I have with myself whenever I go to a quilt show. On the one hand, I am so glad that nontraditional techniques have been embraced by the quilting establishment. I’ve read about the controversy when Carol Bryer Fallert won at Houston with a — gasp! clutch pearls! — machine quilted quilt in 1989. (Perhaps I should put “quilt” in quotation marks, as every right-minded member of the Quilt Police knows that only hand-quilted quilts deserve to be called quilts. Sniff!) Ahem. Anyway. I’m glad that those of us who machine quilt, use fusible web or Paintstiks, etc. can all play in the sandbox too. Which is why I get uncomfortable when I find myself standing in front of a quilt at a show and thinking, “That’s not really a quilt.” I don’t want to be a part of the Biddy Brigade, but at the same time, I don’t want to be so open-minded that my brain falls out.
Ultimately, I think the techniques that rightly give me pause are the ones that use artistic expression as an excuse to be sloppy. I’ve seen raw-edge fusible applique pieces that are peeling off, embellishments hanging by threads, applied color that has rubbed off onto adjacent areas, and chiffon overlays that have shredded. I don’t think the show organizers are manhandling the quilts; I think that some of the art quilts are just a little too ephemeral. Some years back, Quilters Newsletter magazine sparked quite the riot by publishing an article that suggested that fusible web shouldn’t be used in heirloom quilts because it tends to degrade over time. Angry art quilters wrote in, saying that the magazine was threatening their ability to sell pieces to museums and collectors by publishing this information.
As a scientist, I say data is data. While conclusions drawn from it may be colored by personal prejudices and preconceptions, if the data was properly collected, it stands. But rather than being informed by the data and making future choices accordingly, some decided to attack the data — or the choice to make the data public, which is really worrisome. Problems with “modern art” being made of unstable materials are nothing new; The New Yorker had an article last year about Christian Scheidemann, an art preservation expert who specializes in modern art and who has had to restore works made of materials such as latex, elephant dung, and tree stumps. As the author says, “the notion that a work of contemporary art might be built to decay makes many collectors and institutions understandably skittish.”
Having said that, though, it was a great show. I’m proud to have had my quilts hanging in it. And I have to completely endorse the Viewer’s Choice, despite the fact that our attendance on Sunday precluded our getting to vote. ”Crazy Sheep” by Debora Konchinsky, which also won for Best Hand Workmanship, would have been my choice, too:
I am not a crazy-quilt person and never have been, but this was so delightful and fascinating I defy anyone with an esthetic sensibility and a heart not to be charmed by it. A full list of the ribbon winners, with much better pictures than mine, is available here.