Sunday, August 27, 2006

What I Didn't Like In Seattle

OK! It is now but six (6) days until the Ducks host Stanford University for their home game opener, so we stand trembling on the very cusp of the 2006-2007 quilting season! Yes, it's a powerful moment for me as well. I'll pause a moment, to let you regain your composure.

... ...

Now, as it happens I will be in Section 36, Row 87, Seat 33 of Autzen Stadium next Saturday, so I will not be able to, uh, "kick off" the quilt season at the same time as the game itself. But, I will definitely make a point of doing a little token quilting before I leave, or after I get home, just to get some momentum going.

I'll need momentum. It's going to be an even more challenging quilting year than I had expected. But more on that, gentle reader, at the end of this post.

Pacific Northwest Quiltfest

First, I want to tell you about my trip to the Pacific Northwest Quiltfest, a show held in Seattle every two years. It is probably the highest-level show held in our region -- the "Pacific Northwest," whatever that means. It attracts the highest level of work, which is juried by a professional team of quilt mucky-mucks.

Frequently Asked Question: "Did you have a piece in the show?"

Answer: No, of course not. Nothing I have ever made could survive a professional jurying. I am still at least two or three years from even thinking of submitting something to a show of this caliber. A good goal might be to sneak something into the PNWQF in 2010.

So, the show was basically a very large room full of extremely well-made quilts. Extremely well-made quilts, and lots and lots of people who get excited by extremely well-made quilts. The joint was packed. And yet, it could be a lonely place -- if, for instance, you were being confronted once again with the fact that you share your hobby overwhelmingly with people of the opposite sex who are at least 20 years older than you.

[The gender aspect of this situation, by the way, was made quite graphically clear by the restroom situation in the exhibition hall. I provide these two photos as documentary evidence, as one or two or you will accuse me of exagerating, otherwise. You will probably need to see the full size images (click on 'em to bring 'em up to full size) to read the signs.]

But mostly, I was in a big room with lots of really, really amazing quilts, which was great. For quite a while, I replicated my experiment from the Sisters Quilt show earlier this summer, and did a little study of my own aesthetic preferences. That was still an interesting process, since with the much greater range of quilts at this kind of high-level show, there was also a greater range of Stuff I Liked. It was a good way to gather lots of ideas for future projects. More ideas for future quilt projects than I'll ever possibly be able to use, in fact, but that's cool. Better to have too many ideas than not enough, right?

After a few hours of photographing my favorites, I went back and photographed a selection of my least favorites. I didn't do this for myself, mind you -- I actually have a pretty solid understanding of what I don't like. No, gentle reader, I did this for you -- so you can see some of the kinds of quilts that I'm never going to tell you about otherwise, and so as a reader of this blog you can have a stronger sense of the context in which my quilts are made.

You're welcome.

Quilts That Just Aren't My Thing

But first, it's really important to me to make really, really clear that these are all, by any reasonable standard, very excellent, rocking quilts. The craftsmanship ranges from awesome to otherworldly, and the design, fabric choices, and quilting patterns on each are all impeccible. If you really like these quilts, or God forbid if you made one of these quilts, my hat is totally off to you. I just don't share your taste.

In fact, I'm not even going to try to be entertainingly bitchy.

I furthermore encourage anyone reading this to use my own work as examples of crap quilts in their own blogs, or better yet to write scathing comments in this blog explaining why my stuff sucks, particularly in comparison to the pieces shown here.

Having said that, let's proceed to the first group. The problem here, I guess, could be summarized as too grandmotherly. Not that I have anything against grandmothers, but usually we don't decorate the same way. I am not sure that I need to elaborate on this, but in general anything that pours on the flowers, hearts, or domestic scenes, or uses the palettes of the first half of the 20th Century, has an uphill battle to win my affections. The one on the upper left is traditional and, within that tradition, exquisite (the palette is also pretty bright, which helps). I could look at it for a long time, admiring it as a quilter, before noticing that it doesn't do much for me as, well, a person. If you follow me. With the other two, the lack of gut appreciation jumps out a little faster, but even here... damn, look at the quilting on the one on the right! Man! I would give my left, um, let's say pinkie, to be able to quilt like that.

It's a little harder to put a finger on what I fail to respond to in this second set, especially since I promised not to be entertainingly bitchy. They fall into a genre that some women would call "funky," having never listened to or even heard of Rick James. Know what I'm sayin'? There's an exhuberance there that doesn't quite do it for me. The one on the left further has words on it, which for me almost always reduces a quilt's impact. Couldn't tell you why. The one on the right -- which was a very difficult piece to make, incidently, and one where the artist did amazing work and suceeded impeccably in bringing her vision to reality -- is also figural, which brings us to the next set.

This one is easy -- I don't like figural quilts. Which is to say, I don't like the literal representation of humans or animals in fabric. Now, if you're thinking "what about the cow quilt?" -- well, that's different. It uses pieces of fabric on which figures are represented, which doesn't bug me. It's using the fabrics to create figures that I don't like. It requires a lot of skill, and it's very popular -- figural pieces often win "viewer's choice" awards at quilt shows -- but it just ain't for me.

My loss.

I guess this fourth set is also figural. There's also an added element here of sentimentality. They are twee -- not like, say, Tullycraft is twee, but like an after-school special is twee, like a cross-stitch of good advice in a perky rhyming couplet is twee. Which is fine! Really! I'm just saying, it's not my deal.

Why This Quilt Year is Going to be Even More Busy Than I Expected

So, at this juncture, I am going to shut up before I alienate more people that I already have. But first, I need to tell you why this quilt year is going to be even more busy than I expected.

When I was in Seattle, I ran into the new president of my guild, who told me that the featured artist for next year's guild show is going to be, instead of an accomplished master quilter, a group of quilters: "the men of the guild." Gulp. The men of the guild total about 5, out of 300+ members, and one is 11 years old. There's Tony, who does amazing work, and two others who I don't believe are particularly active, and then there's, well, me. So, it is a hugely unexpected and intimidating opportunity to have some of my stuff shown very prominently! I'll need to work my tail off this fall.

In the meantime, let's all enjoy the last week of the summer quilting hiatis. Thanks for reading.

p.s. The best thing about Seattle was actually that I got to pay visits to Shanthala, Jenn, and Jim. Hi guys!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Coming Soon...

Part of taking quilting more seriously is jumping through the necessary hoops to get my work shown publicly. Having quilts in shows will, I figure, get me out there meeting people and ogling other people's work, which is a good thing in itself. It will also pressure me to do good work, and to produce enough work so that I'll have pieces that are worth putting in shows. And, with any luck it will get me some of those kudos I so need. (Really, I'm a craven praise junky. Flattery is always welcome.)

This fall, I'll have four pieces in shows:

Log Cabin, as I've already mentioned at least six times to everyone who knows me, will be at the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in Golden, Colorado from August 15 to October 21.

Marsha and Charlie's Wedding Quilt will be at the Columbia River Gorge Quilt Show in Stevenson, Washington from Sept. 14 to Sept. 16.

Partway Around the World II will be in the Sea of Quilts 12 in Coos Bay, Oregon on the weekend of Sept. 16 - 17.

And if I can work out the logistics, Winter Quilt will be in Quilts by the Sea during the Bandon, Oregon Cranberry Festival, Sept. 8-10.

(Hmm, these four quilts make an interesting illustration of my last post. But I won't belabor the obvious.)

So, with all of this happening, and with the start of the new quilting season right around the corner, I've been thinking of goals for the coming year. Here goes:

Goal One: Have two strong pieces ready to enter in the Guild Show in April. Probably those will be Labyrinth and Batik Stained Glass Window. BSGW is in good shape, with the piecing finished, but I want to take my machine quilting up several notches, so it will take a lot of time to get over the finish line. Labyrinth, on the other hand, is only partially pieced, and isn't even entirely laid out, and is in any event on such a massive scale that it will be a real challenge to finish.

Goal Two: Really improve my machine quilting a lot. I've already enrolled in one class for September, and might take a second as well.

Goal Three: Apply those machine quilting skills. I would like to go back and totally requilt or overquilt some of my older stuff, particularly Two Complex Shapes (shown), which I think could be showable if it was well-quilted.

Goal Four: Work on the Restoration Quilt I talked about a few weeks ago.

Goal Five: Make a few baby blankets as needed. This will of course depend on who gets pregnant, and how well they time the blessed event around my schedule.

Goal Six: At least one charity quilt. Got to start small -- some people do dozens of charity quilts in a year. I'll explain more about that when the time comes.

Goal Seven: Finish The Four Seasons. A minor project I started in 2001. Enough already.

Well, there. Now I've done it. I'd be happy to entertain friendly wagers ($20 maximum) as to how many of these goals, if any, I am able to complete. Happy August.