Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Quiltcon Nashville 2019

 My blogging spree at the beginning of the year came to an abrupt halt when I went to Quiltcon in February. This was followed closely by some intense family time, which was then followed by a lot of travel. Quilting was interspersed through out, but blogging was not. Quiltcon Nashville is pretty old news at this point, but I’m going to throw my impressions up here, anyway. It's a rather exhaustive post that matters to no one but me, so feel free to skim or skip.

This was my “Hello, Quiltcon” photo I posted on IG, taken by my 7 year old on a day where I had just come from laying face down on a massage tabletop an hour to get some therapy work done, which always makes for a puffy face. But I digress!

I made one attempt to go to a past Quiltcon (Savannah), but in the wake of my my husband’s accident preceding it, I had to back out. Last year, after another Quiltcon came and went, my online quilt buddy, Tracy Loukota, and I began toying with the idea of going to Nashville. I lived in Nashville for the four years of high school and always enjoy getting to visit again (sorry, Tracy, I had to say that one more time!). We hemmed and hawed about going, and finally decided we just couldn’t make it happen.

But . . .

Long story short - about a week beforehand we changed our minds and went!

We didn’t take any classes, we just went to meet each other in person, finally, and to have a look around. My reaction to the experience is mixed. Overall, it was positive and I’m glad I went. The best part was definitely the people! Admittedly, I was a little nervous to be meeting online acquaintances in person. But, as with my previous experiences, it was fantastic. Tracy and I roomed together and were basically joined at the hip for 3 days/2 nights. I also managed to meet up with two more ladies I have known online for quite a while: Kelly Young of My Quilt Infatuation and Janet Middlekauf of Simply Pieced.

Even the strangers Tracy and I met were wonderful people and added a lot to the experience. While wandering the show floor, this lady, Erika from Colorado, overheard me mention “Liberty of London” and we struck up a 30 minute conversation about Liberty. Unfortunately, she isn’t online with her quilting at all, and we have no way to keep touch with her. But the old scrapbooker/photojournalist in me knew I wanted to remember her and the moment we shared, so I was all awkward and made her take a picture with me. 

We also shared a breakfast table at Biscuit Love with a nurse who was in town for another convention, met a very enthusiastic 14 year old quilter and her mother outside the show, and had good experiences with all our Uber drivers. 

And then there was the ice cream.

jeni's splendid ice cream, just a few doors down from anna maria horner's craft south.

But we're here for quilts.

Here are some of the quilts that caught my eye. Warning: absolutely horrible photo snaps. The setting for the quilt show is one of the worst places to view quilts, and not just because of the lighting. I've tried to provide links to better photos of the quilts from other sources, when possible.

and this is one of my first impressions to share about quiltcon - it's not a great environment for viewing quilts. it's a cold and stark, neutral atmosphere that does not flatter or enhance the quilts. i much prefer seeing quilts in the settings we normally use them in or photograph them in for sharing. i saw quilts here that i really liked when viewed online that were not as well exhibited in this setting.

I get all the reasons for the way the show was presented, but I was also struck with how the setting affected my perceptions of the quilts. A neutral setting (the drab curtain dividers the quilts hung on) allows you to focus on the quilt alone. At the same time, I realized that seeing the quilts in their natural settings and true contexts (in homes, with people, or even outdoors like we usually see on social media) greatly enhances the perception of them as snuggly, comfort objects made to be used and loved. Quilts I'd seen online came across completely different to me when they were hanging in the show. The entire atmosphere of the convention center hall is rather anti-quilty. It had to be a large venue to accommodate the number of quilts and people and this was a large, industrial venue, not a quilt's "natural habitat". 

This beautiful quilt of Daisy's didn't photograph well at all for me - you don't get the wonderful colors coming through a bit.

This one reminded me a lot of the quilts I made for my boys because of the color palette.

Color and the repetitive, simple shapes attracted me to this one.

Sometimes it was a portion of a quilt, rather than the whole, that appealed most to me.

Wild Goose Riot
Tracy and I particularly like this scattering of triangles. We decided we like a scattered, random kind of look with a variety of sizes in a quilt. This was her personal Best in Show and one I like a whole lot, too.

the charity quilt color palette for this year, set forth by the modern quilt guild, was not a favorite for me. i thought it was okay, but it didn't wow me and is not one i'd choose to work with. 

however, there were lots of cool designs. i was greatly struck by this improv wonky plus quilt from the edinburgh modern quilt guild. i like the choice of block they worked with and the layout. and the fact that even the white sections are pieced wonky plus blocks is really cool. not something i'd probably do on my own, but easy to accomplish when many hands are working together. i recently visited edinburgh, home to several of my ancestors about 4+ generations back, and loved finding there were so many quilters there, which i was unaware of.

i really loved this quilt. yes, it's quiet and the color palette is subtle, but up close it's really nice. not every quilt has to be loud and colorful! this one is composed of the maker's husband's old dress shirts. it's really fantastic and just the sort of thing i'd like to make from my family's clothes someday. this kind of quilt has always appealed to me. i love the repurposing of family clothes into a comfort item like a quilt. it's like wrapping up in a piece of them.

the feature artist for the show was sherri lynn wood. i found her quilts quite interesting and thought this bereavement quilt very nice. the explanations for her process behind each quilt went shed so much light on what she was thinking as a maker. sometimes this adds a lot to my feelings about a project, as they did here. 

this quilt was clever representation of a phone screen and apps. i particuarly liked the mottled, mixed background of the "screen" color. it's rather like what i've done with some of my stella grande quilts.

quiltcon is a show put on by the modern quilt guild, and as such, has a very particular flavor of quilts on display. there is plenty of variety within that catagory, but it isn't particularly well rounded or inclusive of multiple quilting styles, many of which could be called "modern" by some. here is what we saw a whole lot of:
  • all solids quilts
  • any prints in a quilt were either anna maria horner or alison glass, but these were few and far between
  • super dense quilting, preferably matchstick lines exclusively
  • political or statement quilts, but only of a specific leaning
  • geometrics and improv
now, i did find plenty of quilts to look at that i liked a lot. absolutely.

but it did make me feel that if i want to call myself a "modern quilter" that there is basically only one way to go about it. i love solids, geometric, and improv. i play with them myself. but is there really only one "modern" way to do this? and what about branching out from matchstick quilting a little more?

the political side of it was especially one-sided. maybe this is because only people with certain political views make those into quilts? or is it because only quilts with a certain leaning were accepted? the political nature of these quilts did not bother me, but the lack of variety did. it was as if only one perspective was welcome and the way the write-ups were written it was expected that all quilters would share that view. it made me want to go home and make a quilt that said, "everyone is welcome here." 

perhaps i shouldn't have been surprised to find this, but i was. and it left me less happy about the show than i expected. tracy said we would likely find the houston quilt market show more our thing in general since it wouldn't be as narrow.

the vendor's booths at quiltcon were a lot more inclusive and varied, less strictly "modern." there were definitely prints for sale everywhere! here are a few appealing quilts i found:

this was a sample quilt in a seller's booth. lovely movement in the triangles, impactful but not complicated.

i thought this was a really nice house quilt. i like the spacing of the houses and layout in general more than when the houses are just laid out like blocks in a grid.

the new ruby star society looks like it's going to be as good as the former cotton + steel was. i loved this star quilt (maybe a lonestar?).

the bibliophile in me swooned over this "personal library quilt" pattern. i'd make it in brighter colors, myself, but the idea is fantastic. many of the spines have titles from the maker's own books.

that was my quiltcon experience. the time tracy and i spent eating and putting about nashville (not much thanks to the weather) was really great. i loved seeing my quilty people and meeting new ones.

will i go again? i really am not sure.
i may have gotten it out of my system for a while.
i definitely won't be having any fomo over not being there in the future. 

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