Over the past weekend I was apart of a display at quilt show at local country fairground. It is a large event with mutiple vendors, hundreds of quilts on display from guilds, clubs, small groups and individuals. The venue was packed with quilt lovers. As I looked around and at the display of my work; ” I realized I am not a quilter….really not a quilter.
Show Logic Quilt shows are designed to be moveable. The booths are curtain and rod structures designed to hang quilts quickly and easily. Traditional quilts are rectangles and are usually porportioned to the size of a standard bed. The booth system was designed for these kinds of quilts. Hanging a show is a matter of matching a number. So if you are entry number 2 in group B your quilt is assigned to panel X.
Although quilt guilds and groups try to make an exhibit pleasing, there are often quilts( like the ones on the right) that have no visual relationship hung right next to each other. The panel itself does not help the quilt lay flat for viewing and there is no way to center the quilt in the frame of the wall.
Education and History: One thing that quilt shows do well is tell the story of quilting. An example at this show was a series of coffin quilts which told the storiesof soldiers in the war of 1812. The quilts were used by the young men sent to war to place on a their cot. It was a way to have a little bit of home near them in tough times. The name Coffin Quilt was given when the quilt was hung over the coffin of a dead soldier as his body was sent back home.
The coffin quilts were displayed in a large space where the “walls” seperating the booths where taken down . Standing at the center of the area was a volunteer who told the story of the quilts as people walked through the exhibit. Each quilt had description next to the quilt. It was a look into the past that connected quilts to the important work of women in this culture. It was also a showcase for the craft of traditional quilting.
Not a Quilt: The work I showed was not a quilt at all. My kimono “Happy Coat” was hung with a group of kimono’s that had been altered in a variety of ways; although most of the rest of groups kimonos still were functional. Several of these kimonos where hung on stands provided by the artist designed to display the full coat. They showed pretty well.
As I looked at the display I noticed my kimono was not hung with the oversized insert that I designed to give the illusion of arms streched out inside the coat. After asking why the insert was not used; I was informed the show staff insist that all “quilts” are hung on a rod. I had not thought of compliance with a hanging system when I added the insert.
My artwork did not have the correct label next to it. Traditional quilts are often titled after the pattern or block name. Titles are so important to my work this really did not help the viewer connect with what I am creating. As luck would have it I found the correct title card next to another kimono I had on display. I discovered the error when two women asked why title didn’t make sense.
Another hint that I was in the wrong venue was the display. The black panel of fabric had openings. A quilt that is a large rectangle would have hidden the crack in the background. My short irregular shape made the crack in the drapes more noticeable. The lighting was barn like so there was always a portion of the art hidden in shadow.
My Learning: I had a created a piece of art designed for a gallery setting and placed it in a craft show. A quilt show is a wonderful place for the art of traditional quilting, but is not a place for the work I do. This will be my last “quilt show”.
In the next couple of posts I will be sharing feedback from a gallery setting and some thoughts on connecting with the modern quilting movement.