Travel and Adventures, Quilting Industry

Chattanooga Quilt Week

Jemsy ready to see the quilts! (Ian was in the baby bjorn)

Jemsy ready to see the quilts! (Ian was in the baby bjorn)

Welcome back, my friends!

As promised, I've been pondering my time at Chattanooga Quilt Week 2016 last Wednesday. I loaded up the boys bright and early to make the familiar drive. I went to college just outside of Chatty, so I've made the trek up and down I-75 a few times. Podcasts. Always have podcasts because there is next to nothing of interest along that drive. 

Anyway, first stop: SPOOL. I was there, primarily, to see Kathy Nida's quilts (you can read all about that on last week's FriYAY Friends). SPOOL is also the home of the BadAss Quilter's Society, and both are run by the dynamic Maddie Kertay. I enjoyed the quilts, wandering through the store, chatting with Flaun and others, etc. I'm new to the community of BAQS, so I must confess it's been largely in retrospect that I realize what a cool thing all of this was. Maddie, I'm going to come back soon and get a selfie with you! 

First Stop-- Spool! 

First Stop-- Spool! 

After SPOOL I made my Mojo pilgrimage. My dedication to these burritos goes back to my college days when I was dating Hubster. They have the best food and the best atmosphere. In fact, we ate there for lunch and dinner on this trip! I got a mini Mojo with lime chicken, black beans, rice, mild red salsa, cheese, guac, and cilantro. Jemsy had a lily bowl. If you've never been and you're in Chattanooga, Mojo is a must!

The best burrito you will ever eat. 

The best burrito you will ever eat. 

We spent the afternoon at AQS Quilt Week. It was my first quilt show, so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. Let's start with the quilts. The quilts were AMAZING. Every last one of them was a work of art (see the Lion King quilts below for a teeny tiny sample) (I was mortified that my car charger was having issues on this of all days--my phone died after about five photos. But I guess it's healthy that I saw the QUILTS and not just my own photos). The skill and artistic expression represented was actually kind of overwhelming. Remember, it was my first show, so I'd never really seen quilts of this caliber in person before other than a few at a time in quilt shops and such. 

I think the SAQA exhibits were my favorite. As you know, my background is mostly in painting, so these works made a lot of sense to me while also totally amazing me. I love stories (my company name probably gave that away), so these quilts met that need as well. And the exhibit of quilts made from unexpected materials-- WOW! Within the main portion of the show, I expected to favor bed-sized, long arm quilted quilts-- things similar to what I often see on Instagram. Don't get me wrong, those were amazing, but I gravitated toward hand-quilted quilts. Something about the organic nature of those stitches captured my heart. I really want to start experimenting with hand stitching-- even though it would take longer. I also enjoyed the pictoral quilts like "Autumn Gold" by Lori Schloesser (a stunning hummingbird) and "I Love Lobstah" by Shelley Brooks.

If I'm really honest, I think attending Quilt Week both exceeded and fell short of my expectations. The quilts were beyond anything I've ever seen. I've seen a lot of cool quilts on Instagram, but I learned that photos just don't do quilts justice. They are 3-D after all, and pictures just don't capture the depth and texture of the real deal. I'm fascinated by patchwork-- especially by quilts  by folks with real skill and talent in piecing. But my leanings are toward the art quilt world (Even though I want my Modern Impressionist Quilts to be functional whenever possible). I learned about the beauty and flexibility of raw-edge appliqué, and I can't wait to try it out with a couple ideas I have. If I hadn't been so overwhelmed and if I hadn't needed be extremely focused to keep the boys cared for, I think I could have sat down and cried at the beauty of it all. 

I think where I was a little disappointed was with the culture and the people. I listened to a While She Naps podcast with Maddie Kertay last night in which she shared that when she started quilting in her early 40s, she felt "too young" to be part of the quilting world. Girlfriend, I'm 24-- how do you think I feel?? And that was the funny-feeling part of Quilt Week. Don't get me wrong, a lot of folks gave me and the boys sweet smiles, but at least 90% of the time that people spoke to me, their opening line was, "Wow, you have your hands full" (for those of you who are new around here, my oldest son is 20 months old, and the younger is 6 months. 14 months isn't Irish Twins, but it's pretty close-- especially when they look a lot alike). One lady made a little exclamation of surprise and delight to herself as she looked at a first place quilt, so I asked her about it, thinking it would be a good opportunity to learn from someone more experienced and to connect with a fellow quilter a bit. When she turned around to see who spoke to her, her eyebrows jumped up as she exclaimed, "You must be a modern quilter!" Now, I'm rarely speechless, but I really didn't know how to respond to that. I'm a white, middle to upper middle class female-- I'm sure there are plenty of times that people make snap judgements about me, but it's not something that I'm terribly aware of in my day to day life if you know what I mean. But for this woman to so clearly jump to a set of conclusions about me based primarily on my age/appearance really took me aback. 

Then there was the lady making less than generous remarks about the art quilts made from unusual materials (which were SO COOL! The Drunkards Path quilt made out of flattened beer cans titled "Not Your Grandmother's Drunkards Path" (I'm unsure of the quilter's name) made me laugh out loud while the leather quilt and crazy quilt took my breath away (I believe they were "Best Friends" by Cathy Wiggins and "Piecing the Past" by Annette S. Reynolds-- my records are incomplete since I lacked a working camera. Please comment if you have more accurate notes!). But to hear someone look at a quilt in this collection and say, "Well, it's a cool art piece and everything, but it's not a real quilt," just broke my heart. I wanted to take her over to the sign explaining the exhibit and make her reread it. I wanted to ask her how she would feel if someone said that her quilts were't "real art" (because, heads up, every quilt is art!). I wanted to educate her and open her eyes to what she was missing. 

I hope you don't read this and think I have nothing better to do than complain-- that isn't my motivation at all. If you're in the quilty world, you probably know that there has been a lot of discussion lately about demographics and a need for diversity (We love you, BadAss Quilters Society!!). I honestly expected to make at least one friend at this quilt show-- to be perfectly honest, I leave just about every place I go with a new friend because my boys are so irresistible (which I should also comment on-- the boys were very, very well behaved. Ian started crying once because he was hungry, and we stepped out of the show until after he ate and calmed down. Jem stayed in the stroller within the show as well. I truly feel like we did not distract from the experience of other quilters, other than perhaps in the general surprise of seeing someone so young with two babies). But only two people betrayed an assumption that I was a quilter, and even the few people who talked with me out in the hall while I fed Ian and let Jem stretch his legs didn't ask me about quilting. No one said, "Oh I'm so glad to see a young mom like you making time for quilting; we need more young quilters." 

I didn't feel exactly excluded, but I certainly didn't feel included either. I mostly felt dismissed and ignored. I left extremely glad that I had made the trip to see the quilts but also quite glad that I didn't join the AQS when I bought my ticket. The only sweet, quilty comment I received was when I test drove a Handiquilter Sweet 16 (and boy is it sweet!). One of the sales ladies said, "You're a natural; you should get one." Now, I know she wanted to make a sale (and she TOTALLY would have if I had that kind of money floating about, space or no space in my sewing room!), but I'm going to choose to believe her, too!

I don't have anything against the AQS (other than thinking it was dumb to pull Kathy's quilts, but as I mentioned Friday, I kind of see how it happened after my experience). I fully plan on attending future Quilt Weeks if they are close enough to me. But, good heavens, AQS needs some young blood!

I'm not going to start the "We're Practically Still Babies Quilters Society," but if you are a young or young-at-heart quilter, please hunt me down on Instagram @stringandstory so we can connect!

I'm going to keep thinking about all this... I hope you will, too. 

Have a great Monday, friends!



PS I shared some more thoughts in a Facebook video which you can watch here

Sunset as we drove home

Sunset as we drove home

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