This year, the Modern Quilt Guild is hosting QuiltCon in Raleigh, North Carolina. I’ll be staying home and enjoying the lectures virtually with my 4-month-old, but I thought I would share some tips to guide you as you wander the halls of the quilt show.
Don't underestimate the power of purpose. You can greatly improve your experience of large conventions like QuiltCon by packing for comfort, preparing your schedule, listing your priorities ahead of time, and being open-minded and flexible as needed.
Take a few minutes and consider my recommendations below before setting off to Raleigh for an unforgettable event.
1. Walk the Quilt Show Solo
Now I’m not saying don’t walk the quilt show with the friends you’ve waited a year – or more! – to see. I’m only recommending that you find some time over the weekend, between walks with insta-friends and sprees through the vendor hall, to see the quilt show alone.
You’ll look at the quilts a little differently when you don't have to simultaneously navigate a conversation or keep in step with others. Give yourself the freedom to pause and inspect the quilts that speak to you, read the artist’s statement with extra care, and learn if your understanding of the design was the artist’s intention. Then graze passed the quilts that just don’t do it for you without feeling like you have to explain why.
There’s no pretense and that’s the best way to experience art.
It’s an inexplicable thing: what happens in the space between you and a quilt the first time you look at it. It’s personal and unique. Prioritize some time for these moments.
Bonus: It’s also a great way to recharge your social batteries.
2. Have a Quilt Journaling Strategy
There’s nothing that disappoints me more than browsing photographs of a quilt and not knowing who made it or what it was called. So my second recommendation is to create a logging system and be consistent.
For example, take two photos of each quilt: one of the quilt top and one of the artist’s statement. If you are consistent in the way you take your photos, you’ll be able to match the quilt to the artist’s statement with ease. This will be particularly helpful when you're browsing photos to vote for the People’s Choice award (you’ll need the quilt’s ID to do this!). Here are some other options for keeping a record of your favourites:
- Create a "QuiltCon" album on your phone before hitting the aisles.
- If you’re low on phone storage, find the artist’s Instagram handle (often found on the artist’s statement), browse their feed for the quilt you love, and bookmark their post for viewing later.
And if you want to share your favourite quilts with your followers or subscribers, be sure to credit the quilter in your posts - this is a must!
Check out Holly Anne’s blog post on her QuiltCon experience in Atlanta and how she photographed her favourites here.
3. Browse the Keynote Speaker’s Quilt Exhibit…Twice
Once for context and once with more context.
Keynote speakers often get a portion of the quilt show floor dedicated to their body of work. I recommend that you make a pointed effort to browse each of the pieces in their exhibit and read the artist’s statement before attending their lecture. You’ll be gifting yourself with a deeper understanding of their work.
Achieving depth of meaning can often be the result of multiple encounters with a person or piece. Your first interaction with the artist’s work on the quilt show floor will set a foundation on which the lecture’s content can flourish upon. A second visit to the exhibit with the artist’s verbal depictions fresh in your mind will grant you an entirely new experience - one that inspires more questions or one that answers them.
Even if you’re familiar with the artist’s work through social media, books, or podcasts, nothing compares to seeing their pieces in person. (The scale of the quilts, whether large or small, are one of the first things that surprise me.)
This year the Modern Quilt Guild will welcome Jacquie Gering as the convention’s keynote speaker. Browse her website and artist statement here.
4. Wear Comfortable Shoes
Concrete. Need I say more? Don’t let achy feet dictate your pace or your attitude! Pack your orthopedic insoles or Dr. Scholls’ jelly inserts – you’ve come a long to enjoy the show, so gosh darn let yourself enjoy it!
5. Document Each Checkpoint
Can you browse an entire quilt show in a single swoop? It’s likely you’ll have to keep a brisk pace if you’re only planning to purchase a day pass. See Recommendation #4.
But, if you’re not in a rush, it’s likely that you’ll be browsing the quilt show between various other commitments, like lectures, workshops, or social events with friends and colleagues. In this case, you’ll want to note where in the countless aisles of quilts you had to step away.
Many times, I would return to the quilt show, and be dead certain of where I stopped, only to hear myself say, “I’ve seen that already,” and “Definitely been down this aisle.” And while it’s not so bad if you walk an aisle twice, you definitely don’t want to miss walking down one! Avoid this by snapping a picture of the row you end on, by making a note on your phone, or by crossing off the categories/exhibits you’ve seen on your event map.
6. Don’t Be Shy, Check Out The #partyintheback!
The artist’s statement will often recommend that you check out the the back of their quilt if it’s particularly special. Don't be shy about asking the white-gloved volunteers to help you do this.
If you're lucky, you'll come across a volunteer who has done the browsing for you, and will stop you in your tracks for a must-see quilt back. And you'll be glad they did!
7. Consider Starting a Quilt Collection
This recommendation is directly inspired by my trip to QuiltCon Atlanta last year. Teresa Duryea Wong – accomplished author, historian, and one of my favourite speakers – presented a lecture titled “The Calling of Quilt Collectors” where she explored various quilt collectors, their motivations, and how their affection for the craft gave it recognition on the fine art stage.
It may surprise you that some of these quilt collectors are our peers. And they’re not collecting antique works, they’re collecting your work, today’s work. They are making the distinct choice to validate the value of a quilt made in the present day. A small act of service demonstrating the worth of textile pieces to fellow artists and the art community.
I can’t underplay the sentiment behind quilters supporting the work of their peers, it’s truly special. So, if you have the will and the financial means to purchase a quilt made by one of your peers or one of your favourite quilters, be sure to inspect the artist’s statements to see whether the piece is for sale.
Illustrations by saydung89 via pixabay.com