Wednesday, April 13, 2011

International Quilt Festival Cincinnati 4

The big show in Cincinnati, largely made up of traveling exhibits, was heavily weighted toward the art end of the quilting spectrum, but the approach of the show organizers lags behind at the traditional craft end.  I've always been amused/annoyed at the ladies in white gloves who tend the exhibits at big quilt shows, generally volunteers from local guilds.

I think attendants at quilt shows can be helpful, if they have information to share that you can't find for yourself in the program or from the signage.  But at the big shows, they aren't provided with this information.  All they can do to make themselves useful is turn the quilts over so you can see the back.

I generally don't want to see the back of a quilt, any more than I want to see the back of a painting.  But the white glove ladies sure want me to see it.  We were looking at a quilt intently the other day when a lady perkily came up, said "do you want to see the back?" and when we said "no thanks" proceeded to turn it anyway.  "Oh isn't this fantastic?" she exclaimed, as she flipped it to reveal -- a backing made of fabric printed with dogs!!!  Wow.

I know these volunteers are well-meaning, and perhaps they think it's really nifty and original to buy dog fabric for your quilt backing.  I also know that many visitors to the big quilt shows are much more interested in execution than in design.  They like to ooh and aah about the density of stitching or even better, be dazzled by thousands of Swarovski crystals on the back of the quilt.  Quilting will probably never escape the traditional craft bias that is the polestar of the majority of practitioners (and show visitors, and therefore show vendors).

But I sometimes cringe at how that bias slops over into the "art" exhibits at the big shows.  I happened to be standing in the "O Canada 2011" exhibit area when a volunteer began to comment on Pamela Allen's quilt.  "You may not like the aesthetics of this piece but you've got to admire the workmanship," she chirped. 

Pamela Allen, A Very Stingy Tooth Fairy (detail below)

The rest of the remarks were helpful, as she pointed out the dental mirrors that provide a halo and other interesting details.  But having started in a very deep hole, I doubt she succeeded in digging herself and Pamela back to anywhere near ground level.  With friends like this....


  1. "Oh isn't this fantastic?" she exclaimed...

    I made a lap-type quilt for my grandma. I did a navaho rug pattern on the front. Cream, brick and charcoal. She had many friends in both the Hopi and Navaho tribes in Arizona. At the last moment while trying to decide what to back it with, I found a kokopelli print.

    When I gave it to her, she glanced by the label I had sewn into the back and said, "Oh I LOVE this fabric!!! And promptly folded it so only the back showed. To this day my husband needles me about this. Sure could have saved some time on that quilt. LOL.

  2. Speaking as one of the white gloved ladies who worked this show, I have to say I cringed when I read your post. I'm a member of a local guild and an art-quilter but I'm in the minority. I have learned that what interests me does not interest many of my fellow guild members and I can live with that. Sorry that you can't.

  3. Hi Anonymous -- I can live with the fact that my tastes and interests are apparently different from those of the majority of people who attend these large shows. One of the ways I live with it is to notice and comment on the differences.

  4. There's a big difference in my eyes between stating observations and being condescending and denigrating. I'm not like 95% of the quilters I'm around but I'd hardly characterize them this way - "perhaps they think it's really nifty and original to buy dog fabric for your quilt backing."