Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Rambling Rant on Quilt Show Manners

It was at least 15 years ago when I first went to a quilt show.  Now, I had a working knowledge of quilting prior to then, and had made several machine-pieced, hand quilted quilts by then.  But it was kind of news to me that there were people that made these things to display in shows, and not just for beds.  So the year I moved back to Maine, my mom and I drove to Augusta for the Maine Quilt show.

I think I am a piecer at heart, and may always be.  I love to see the intricate designs that are created with piecing.  Applique too, but that love developed many years later.  It was at that show that I first discovered that people actually quilt with a machine.  I was in complete shock, thinking how incredibly and horrendously ugly they were.  Hand quilting was, in a word, classic. And 15 years ago, the talent in machine quilters was nothing that it is today.  All I could liken the quilting designs to was a mattress pad.  And I was not shy in those years about vocalizing if I thought a quilt was ugly.   Little thought would have been made to whether the actual quilter may be nearby.  I was firm in my opinions and strong dislike for machine quilting, and I let it be known.  Tact is definitely an acquired skill.

I met a fellow machine quilter this past weekend at the Maine Quilt Show.  I have known of Teri for a few years from my going to MQX, but we managed not to cross paths until this weekend.  She is originally from Maine, but clearly has a preference for NY now.  Not sure I completely blame her when winter comes roaring in here.  I'm a bit of a Southern Girl, if the truth be told.  But in talking to Teri, I learned that there were people at the show making snide comments about her blue ribbon-winning quilt because she's not from Maine.  Being the master of quick replies (probably comes from needing to quickly discipline 3 kids), I thought "SO WHAT?"  Is there anything in the show guidelines that states that the quilter has to be from here?  Do we as a show, really want to alienate the out-of-staters that  (1) do actually send quilts here or (2) actually drive more than 3 hours to come to the show?  When the future of this particular show appears to be in question (given the state's guild newsletters), I think that the answers to these two questions should be a no brainer.  Isn't quilting multi-cultural, multi-age, multi-gender, multi-state?

I can accept when quilt show goers choose to comment that they may not like dense quilting.  Or that they don't like to see crystals on quilts.  Or that they prefer hand quilting.  As a former hand quilter, I completely respect and love a good hand quilted work.  One name: Linda Roy.  She's synonymous with fantastic in my book, and ranks up there with any of the great machine quilters.   I have spent enough time standing within earshot of my quilts the past 2 years to know that comments are made unknowingly, and that opinions are always present.  Usually they are well-edited, and generally kind.  But remarks like "that shouldn't have gotten a red ribbon" or "she shouldn't get that because she's not from Maine" are ridiculous.  You are not a judge.   I seriously doubt the Maine Quilt Show was named that because they intended to keep it exclusively Maine-made.

I wasted a little time this morning perusing through old show books.  I'm kind of a packrat when it comes to quilting this-n-thats, and have every show book from every quilt show I have attended.
The Maine Quilt show...

This year's show had only 18 out of state quilts, mostly in the judged category.  This is not a lot, but is between 18-20% of the judged ones.   Hardly any of the display quilts were not Maine-made.   I know for a fact of several people, including my family members, have driven from another state just to go to this show.  It's not just for Maine to enjoy.

2009 Maine Quilts had 25 non-Maine made quilts, mostly in the judged division.  This represents nearly 25% of the judged quilts.  That is not an insignificant number.  The winner that year was of all people, Ronda Beyer.  I was in awe of her quilt then (ok, and still - Darwin's Diamonds is impressive), but admittedly would feel a little jipped if someone of her talent swooped in and won it again.  Though there are many quilters way better than me, there is definitely a proud feeling of being from Maine, and winning here at home.  Maybe to alleviate this feeling we should have a "Best of Judged" and "Beat Maine Quilt".   Just a meager thought.

That is precisely what the Vermont Quilt Festival does.  I went to this show this year, and it's great.  Vermont attracts good talent, and shows many styles.  It's (IMHO) further in the sticks than the Maine show is though, being barely an hour from the Canada border, yet it only hosts 27% VT made quilts (this year).  New England and other states are very well represented.  They have a Best of Show, Best VT Show (aka Governor's Award) as well as a dozen or more specialty awards.

I send quilts all over the country to shows, and sincerely hope that there are not too many people saying "oh, goodness, she shouldn't win.  She's from ME?  Where's that?..."

'nuf said.  Go to your next quilt show praising the person from out of state for wanting to send his/her quilt there.


Emma said...

It's a fraught issue. In most (if not all) Australian states anyone can enter a quilt in any state's show, as long as they're a member of the host state's guild. With far fewer (and therefore much larger) states, distances mean most people only get to their local show, so this rule increases the number of better quilts we get to see. What bothers me is that the Best of Show goes on to represent the state around the country and compete for Best of Australia, even though sometimes it is not representative of that state. I agree that a Best of Show plus a Best of State could be the solution.

JL said...

Great idea Margaret! I will therein post that there will be a Best of New Hampshire entry beginning next spring when we return home to New Hampshire.

JL said...

Great idea Margaret! I will therein post that there will be a Best of New Hampshire entry beginning next spring when we return home to New Hampshire.

Patty Ashworth said...

The Georgia quilt show is hosted by the Georgian guild. You have to be a member to enter, but you can live anywhere. I would love to enter some of these shows just to have my quilts seen. Not to bump anyone out of the running because of where we happen to live. I don't usually win any ribbons, but my quilts are fun to look at. Isn't that the real reason why we go to shows? And to see what else is going on in the world is kind of nice without having to travel to every state to see what is there. Pick a best from Maine and recognize the others. We are all making quilts, and friends. Fabric brings us together. Lets not have it tear us apart!