Monday, October 11, 2010

Making Quilt History One Show at a Time

If you've been to more than one national or international quilt show, you know what to expect -- amazing, mind-blowing quilts; inspirational vendor displays and unlimited shopping opportunities; and life-changing special quilt exhibits.

Thus it was at this past week's third annual AQS Quilt Show and Contest in Des Moines, Iowa. Contest quilts came from 40 states and five countries; winners came from 18 states and 1 country. Vendors came from all over, as did the special exhibits. And there was also the always-terrific, prolific, prodigious display from the Des Moines Area Quilt Guild.

Aside: Lest you think hand quilting has finally lost out to machine quilting except for major hand quilting or hand workmanship awards, check out the Des Moines winners, especially the Best Wall Quilt award:

Even in a job where we see quilts day in and day out, the show displays never cease to make us stop, take a deep breath, and appreciate the creativity and artistry of the quilt makers who enter the show.

And every once in a while, something special comes along. AQS tries to bring the best of these once-in-a-lifetime exhibit experiences to every show. Des Moines 2010 was no exception, but I had a personal favorite: Men and the Art of Quiltmaking, curated by Joe Cunningham. Joe is the author of the recent AQS eponymous book describing the quiltmaking art of 30 guys who make quilts. (Call 1-800-626-5420 to ask about buying a copy.)

The exhibit wasn't the first display of quilts made by men, and it wasn't intended to make any statement other than to represent the book, says Joe. It was history-making, all the same. None of these quilts had ever been seen together before and it is highly unlikely they will ever be together again. Voila - history. Furthermore, several of the artists were on hand during the show to discuss their work. This may be common at gallery exhibits, but not so much at large quilt shows. Voila - history encore.

The longer we have a robust quilting tradition and open venues in guilds, clubs and shows, the less "rare" will be any of the anomalies that have flavored the c. 1976 quilt revival -- e.g., 3-D quilts, art quilts, quilts by men, quilts from specific materials, etc. So it's one for the history books each time an exhibit is mounted for us to behold, admire, draw from, and remember.

Join us for the next piece of quilt history making in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, March 16 - 19, 2011. Enter or attend; either way, you'll be a part of creating quilt history.

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