Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Quilt Museum in York, UK

It’s lovely to find a quilt museum – they are pretty rare!  But my home town of York, UK, has one – and, it’s just around the corner from where I worked as a teenager in my parents’ hairdressing shop!!   Yes I was into fiber back then!  Mainly  just washing  fiber but occasionally curling it, and, I’m afraid to say, sometimes frizzing it!!  Don’t do too much fiber frizzing these days, thank goodness(!)  though I do like to dye it.

So every time I visit York I love to pop into the museum to see what’s hanging!  And there’s always a great mix of old and new.  It’s a beautiful old historic building with a lovely garden outside…and a nice little tea and cake shop next door – so many pleasures!!  And 29,999 other folk have discovered that too!  

Apparently the museum is supported by the National Lottery and there is an annual competition to find the most popular facilities and they asked me to solicit votes for the museum.  So please…click on this url to vote: http://www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/awards/best-heritage-project/

and, if you’re in York visit the museum!!  You can then walk up Colliergate, the site of ancient fibre frizzing!  I also worked in the chocolate factory (big surprise!) and I think you can get a tour round there!!  Furthermore my old school (Bar Convent) is now a museum too!

Just a quick note…but thanks for reading!!  Elizabeth

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Machine Quilting Patterns

I’m frequently asked how I choose a machine quilting pattern.  

I think that the pattern should relate to the image whether literally or thematically or abstractly – or even abstractedly for that matter which I often am when quilting away!!

So the first thing I do is think about what image or kind of mark relates to the piece, and then I sketch it out on a piece of paper.  Sketching first helps in three ways:
Firstly you can actually see what it looks like!!  I find it hard to make a visual decision without an actual visual image.  I was asked last week did I want 12” or 18” tiles in my kitchen (assuming a square room that sinks in the middle, the dishwasher occupying pride of place in the pit of doom (!), can actually be tiled of course).  I had to go into the kitchen and mark out with tape what each tile pattern would look like.
Secondly: machine quilting is like drawing with a needle, so it’s good to practice drawing with the hand first.  The muscle memory transfers from hand to needle and your pattern will flow more smoothly from your machine!  
Thirdly: you can work out how you can use a continuous line (as far as possible) so as to save stopping and starting within the quilt.

Plus it would be great to build up a nice little file of possible quilting patterns (if you were a lot more disciplined than I am!).

So here are some examples that I’ve used in the past:

Bricksbricks 1


bricks 2




I’ve used this one for buildings a lot!! you can make the shapes squarer, or more rectangular… I show the first three rows, obviously you can keep on adding.  And I’ve not closed the shapes so that you can see the pattern as you zig zag across.  With this pattern you can build a nice wobbly grid without having to go in two directions, both horizontal and vertical aspects are done at once.









Now the above are all fairly literal, but if you made a quilt about a peaceful scene, you could quilt with peaceful lines, or if you wanted to make one about energy, you make lightning sort of zig zags.  I made a quilt about looking at the light coming through a cathedral window, and I quilted the piece with the words to a medieval chant.

So next time you’re thinking about machine quilting…get out your sketch pad, THINK, and draw!!

And now for a nice cuppa tea to celebrate a holiday weekend!  If you have been, thanks for reading!  and please do share any quilting patterns you think  have worked well for you.  If you send the image to me at the email address indicated on the side bar, I’ll put the sketch or picture in a later blog.  Thank you!!  Elizabeth

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The B(l)ooming Quilter, or, The Dog that DID bark!

diamondpane I was asked a few months ago if I would join the Board of a group called Boomers in Athens to help decide the best way to spend a grant given by the Institute of Museum and Library Service to investigate “boomers” and their activities.  I had vaguely heard of “boomers” but wasn’t sure if they were something to do with lighthouses or the neighbour’s dogs who are always called Boomer for some unfathomable reason, except when they get two of them and then there’s Boomer and BJ (i.e. Boomer Junior).  I suppose if they got three there would also be a BS…….

However, back to the Board invitation. Since I had just been turned down by the library board to which I’d applied to be a member, a board with a lot of responsibility but little money, it seemed fun, if a little ironic, that I would be chosen for a well funded board with a very interesting mission.  So I agreed.  The main idea is to show others what sorts of learning and enjoyment are available to people of a certain age.  Since many in this group are discovering the joys of art, particularly fiber art, it seemed a good idea for me to volunteer to do something about this activity.  Especially as the general public think quilts are mainly boring utilitarian things one can make (or, far more easily, buy) for the bed.  They don’t realise the potential that cloth, scissors, needles and thread have  for all kinds of physical and mental development, not to say a whole load of satisfying fun and fulfillment.  Let’s face it by the time you’re into midlife there begins to be a need to make things that say something about yourself, to engage in an activity that forces you to explore what you really feel about things.  You’ve had the formal education, found a mate, had offspring (two or four legged!), got the wheels and the roof, the annoying boss (I had many and most (but not all!)  were definite proofs of  the Peter principle), a selection of electronic appliances etc and now you’re looking for something more.  It’s time to see if there are any wings in that chrysalis!

It was decided that we would embark on a series of “community snapshots” to reveal some of the possibilities available and, with the lure of a free lunch afterwards, I volunteered to do the first one.  I gave an abbreviated version of a Power Point presentation that is part of my lecture/workshop series: Inspiration to Design.  
So here it is.  Be sure to note the built in technical difficulties!!  They were the hardest bit to add in – I can’t tell you what we had to do to get the dog barking at the electricians half way through.  You didn’t know that a webcast should include workmen and a dog???  Not sure if the dog was a B, a BJ or simply BS though!


All comments will be very helpful for future “snapshots”, and any questions will be answered (minus the dog!)

If you have been, thanks for reading!   Elizabeth

PS at the end of the video conference, there’s a photo of me and my good friend Julia – I’m the old duck on the left and she is the young vibrant lady on the right!!  Taken outside the King’s Arms by the River Ouse in York! If you persevere through the audience’s questions, I’m afraid you look at this picture for a long time!!  Which is very boring, and we need to figure out how to adjust that in the conference format, if that is possible.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Exercises for the Quiltmaker

"Sitting still is highly dangerous."  says James A. Levine.  Have you ever noticed that painters stand up to paint?  They back off from the easel, squint at it and then lunge forward with the brush?  And what about sculpturers?  forever hammering away!    Compare these artists’ physiques  to the comfortable “traditional”  (as Mma Ramotswe would call it!) build of the average quilter…..and think about it!!

Let’s take the Seven Steps to a Successful quilt that I detail, sometimes (I worry) ad nauseam (!) in one of my workshops and figure out how each could be done from a Standing Posture! Standing steps not sitting steps.

Content conception (no, not contented conception that’s something else and you probably don’t want to stand for it :)).    If, you’re trying to think what to make a quilt about, go for a walk!!  Walking in the forest yields so many possibilities for nature, walking through the shops gives ideas for still lifes, walking through the square by the outside cafes gives ideas for groups of people, walking through a junk yard yields beautiful abstracts.  Stand to take a picture, or make a sketch.  Do it quickly!!

Calculations: you need a sketch, a working plan.  When you get home from your perambulations, firstly take some concrete blocks and raise up all your tables to standing height.  Carry out all the chairs and put them by the road for the sedentary!!  Now rearrange the studio!  Oh no, not just one room!! Aha!! that’s the old idea.   Your planning and sketching table should be on the top floor of the house, if not in the attic space!! (but only if you can stand up of course), your fabric dyeing area should be at the bottom of the garden.  Fabric to be kept on the first or second floor, sewing machine on the ground/first floor.   And the Design Wall in the garage.  Now you’re ready!!  Sketch out all the possible ideas from your walks through forests, parks, neighborhood bars and other playgrounds!   In fact it’s even better if you have  to step up a couple of steps to your sketching table.  Now I think about it you should have a set of those kitchen steps (just 2 or three treads) in every space you use.   

Compass and capacity: so how big do you want your quilt to be?  First measure the ratio of length to width on your sketch…then pace this out on the front lawn.  I think it would be good to roll up sheets to lay them out to indicate the edges of the quilt.  Then, quick!, upto the bedroom windows and look out down at the projected layout…does it look right?  No? Then downstairs quickly, rearrange and up again to reassess!  NO helpers allowed on this one!

Chiaroscuro: it’s important to get the values right so when you shade the sketches…do it on a large sheet of paper.  Really put some elbow grease into the dark values.  A ten step value scale should be enough.  After each value  is laid down. back off about ten paces to asses, then quickly dash back to muscle in the next value!  Results guaranteed!!!

Colour: And now for the colour scheme.  This means another walk – down to the art museum, note the colour schemes you love, over to the fruit and vegetable outdoor market, great source of colour.  Then a quick hike up into the mountains, or along the beach to see what nature has to offer.  Then into the botanical gardens – outside and inside, ignore those benches!! They’re for the non-quilters!!  You’ll come home with nice strong legs and lots of ideas for colour.  Then head down to the bottom of the garden to start dyeing (note the “e”!).

Critique:  so now you have your chosen sketch, values shaded and and your fabric dyed in the hues you adore (not Hughs, please!), all beautifully ironed (standing position only!) with the water spray bottle kept at the other end of the room and returned to its proper position after each use.  The fabrics are laid out in value order, the sketch is ready.  Now for the critique.  Assess each of the design principles one by one, and between each run around the outside of the house 3 times thinking harmony harmony harmony, or tension tension tension!!  Make adjustments as necessary (to sketch, to breathing, to dress..)

Construct:  Oh the joys of manual construction!  First a quick stretch…put your hands on the sewing machine and walk backwards as far as you can while still gripping the machine.  Then walk forwards, pick up the machine with both hands and slowly raise above your head while you decide whether to piece, applique or glue.  People who are glueing must then gradually descend into a deep squat whilst continuing to support the machine above their heads.   

Finally, the quilt is finished!  And you are……………not!! you’re in amazing shape!!  Spread the word…..

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!!!  And do please send more ideas, quiltmakers love to exercise their ingenuity!   Elizabeth

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The battle of the beleagured quilter

Job never had it as tortuous as the quiltmaker!! 
I don’t know whether it’s just me but it seems that the fabric, the machine, the thread, the needles, even the dratted pins have become  as stubbornly resistant to simple straightforward commands as the most truculent teenager testing the totally tolerant.   Every  needle suddenly has decided it’s a poker, or has the desire to become a  drill, hammering its way through the fabric.

all that glitters is not gold

And this is regardless of size, in fact some of the little ones are veritable Napoleons determined to blast through to the Moscow of the inner workings of the machine.


The fabric is  shredding itself madly along the edges while maintaining a concrete like  substance not 3 threads away!  The thread only has to look at the oncoming drill needle to dissolve into shreds and shards of its former self, making sure to do this well within the bowels of the tension system.

Black & White,no grey 72

The pins glue themselves magnetically to everything in sight except the fabric and develop mysterious rust spots, strange kinks, blunt noses and even lose their heads!!  Then you see these rolling heads all over the carpet, but no bodies attached when you finally manage to pick them up!  And while a headless pin is awkward to use, a bodiless head is of no more value than an ice cube in Siberia. Furthermore, they jump!!  As fast as you pick them up, they’re leaping off your hand ready to wink at you from the floor “maybe I’m a pin!!, come get me!”


The needle has developed a strange desire to push as much cloth through the needle plate as it can, rivaling the packing of carry on bags to avoid extra fees at the airport.  If not burying cloth like a demented dog with a bone, then it’s folding it into little Fortuny pleats – perhaps this is the long lost technique!

  Irons no longer smooth out the world’s creases, they’re just namby pamby, lily livered, luke warm successors of their furnace-like forebears!


The scissors are sharing an invisibility cloak between them, except the ones that were used to test the cuttability of pins by enquiring baby engineers! 

I keep wondering how Job actually made it through, did he emerge from the whale with a finished quilt, oh no! that was Jonah!! Where are my patience and fortitude now when I need them the most?  I think it’s time for a cuppa tea, don’t you? (or maybe something stronger?)





And, if you have been, thanks for reading!!! Let me know if  the instruments in your life are as rebellious as mine!!


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

10 ways to fritter and 10 ways to stop! Confessions of a champion fritterer!


Oh let us count the ways of frittering away time!
1.  I must just check my email, there might be something important.
2.  I’ve got to make that phone call to the plumber.
3. A cuppa tea/coffee/water/beer/coke (name your poison)  would be nice and would help me focus.
4. I need to get this fabric tidied up from the floor, I can’t work in a mess.
5. I need to clean the bathroom before the guests get here.
6. I’ve run out of fabric! (you’d be surprised!).
7. I’ll just have one game of Scrabble/Solitaire/etc etc that won’t take long.
8. What were those exercises the physio told me to do before getting on the sewing machine?
9. Must put a new blade in the rotary cutter, oops now I’ve cut my finger, need a band-aid, oh while I’m in the kitchen I should just put the rice on for dinner…and is that the phone?
10.  Gotta write a blog!

…………………….and I’m sure like me you could add a thousand or more possibilities to this list!

Ways to spend more time in the studio:

1. Daily Time.   There are two problems with time in the studio: one is not spending enough time (average amount of time), and the other is spending very erratic amounts of time  (large standard deviations of time).   So it’s a good idea to begin by whittling down the standard deviation, because research shows you make more progress with short daily practices, rather than  one weekly  long practice.   

To develop the discipline of a specific amount of time each day, first calculate how much time you spend in the studio over a week (or maybe a month! but I hope not!).    For example: if in a given week you might average one hour per day in the studio, but if we take a closer look at the data we might find that the one hour per day is actually an average of three days with zero time, three days with half an hour and one day with 4.5 hours.  More progress would be made and more learning take place if each actual day were one hour.  It’s the same with piano practice – I know we’ve all tried it – making up for not practicing all week by one mammoth practice at the weekend!  alas, not very effective, sleeping and eating likewise!  

I suggest that the first week you just keep a note of how much time you’re in there, figure out the average  and make that the goal for each day the following week.

2.  Amount of time. so how much time does it take to make progress?  As far as we know, the more time you put in the more progress you make, I don’t think anyone has really calculated what the actual “learning curve” would look like for complex creative tasks and I’m sure there’s a great deal of individual variation anyway.  Also, how can you measure success?  Now if you were a rat learning a maze there would be masses of research to turn to! but fortunately ….you’re not…because rats can’t read!   So I would just begin with the amount of time that is comfortable, and try to increase it in very small increments…every increase will help. Small increments would be as little as 5 minutes per week.  In 3 months that would be an hour, in a year 4 hours!  Every single artist who has ever written about or been interviewed about their creativity and their success stresses “time on the job” as being the most important thing.  Not innate talent.  In fact if you look at early drawings by many of these folk, they’re no better than average.  (Not all of course, there are a few who seem always to have had some special gift, but they are very rare).
Either note the time, or set a timer when you go into the studio, and you can’t leave until the time is up – unless the house is on fire!!!  No excuses!!

3.  A specific planned time.  This really shouldn’t be too hard, all of us had to be at school on time, and later at work on time.  Now you are your own boss, you can set the time, set it to whenever you want, but set it you should if you want to get more work done.  Write it in your diary, on your calendar, tell people you will be unavailable at that time.  Commit to that time.

4.  The list.   It’s hard to get going from cold…remember the old car engines where you had to manually feed in extra juice and then let them sit quietly and “warm up”, well ,we’re not that different.  One way of warming up is to make a brief list of what you hope to accomplish this studio session.  Note: not a great detailed fancy list!!  just about 10 seconds worth of jotting down.  THEN start with the Most difficult thing on the list.

5. Leave a start the previous session.  Take a leaf from a writer’s book and leave something obvious from the day before so when you walk in it’s right there ready for you to get moving on.  I like to leave something in the sewing machine….

6.  Inspiration…..but sometimes you don’t have a piece in progress…in this case it’s good to have an inspiration notebook, or box or file (whether real or virtual) to refer to.  However, sitting looking at “inspirations” can lead straight back to frittering!  So it’s good to have a plan for how you’re going to look at them  For example you could say “I’m going to look through till I find 6 ideas that just jump out at me, then I will look at those six together and narrow the field to three…then I will take each of the three and see if I can develop 3 quick sketches” – or some such way of setting parameters for yourself.

7.  The random start:   some people prefer a more spontaneous start.  Painter Willem de Kooning would often start a painting by making random marks onto a canvas, for example a friend’s name written backwards……if you like to start “randomly”, you can still have a list of ways to be random!  Beatle George Harrison would flick through one of his mother’s romance novels for a telling phrase with which to start a song!  You could reach into your scraps for a shape, or two shapes…put them up and begin there.

8.  Staying on task. so you’re stuck in this studio for a predetermined period of time?  How d’you stay on task?  I find the best way is to give myself little goals and rewards.  Now I don’t mean piles of chocolate or food pellets, but rather the reward of an easy activity following a difficult one: for example if I will spend 10 minutes trying to resolve a difficult section of a piece, then  immediately afterward I can spend 5 minutes on tidying up.  Note I don’t say I have to solve the difficulty – that might lead to me accepting a solution that is not a good one….I have to put the time in.  It might take 2 minutes, it might take 5 lots of  10 minutes…

9. Prepare.  Making art, doing anything creative is still work!  You can’t just potter around and expect to get anywhere.  Now it’s fine to just potter as long as you’re not deceiving yourself that what you’re doing is work!  but pottering time should come after work time (remember those little rewards that are contingent upon the appropriate behaviour?!).  The best way to do focussed work is to prepare and prepare well.  Right now I’m cursing myself because I deviated right off the bat from an inadequately sketched value study and now I’m in deep doodoo (or rather dontdoo!) because I can find no piece of fabric that works!  and I’m up to my armpits in discarded fabric to prove it!!!  A value sketch or a collage mock up either in paper or in fabric of the main shapes and values saves you a Lot of time.

10.  Most important: don’t panic and don’t despair!  At least now I no longer panic and rip everything off the wall telling it to leave home and never darken my door again…I’ve learned that sooner or later (usually later if I’ve not taken my own advice in good prep) I will find the right shape/value/color etc for a given area.  I must just keep working on or around the piece and keep coming up with possible solutions being as open and as loose as I can.

Okay! well you’ve got my ten ideas for developing and using studio time wisely, please tell me yours!  Don’t worry about giving me more ways to fritter away time though, I’m already champion fritterer!

And if you have been (frittering!), thanks for reading!!  I look forward to the comments!  Elizabeth

Friday, May 6, 2011

On line classes

When Carol Miller, Dean of quiltuniversity.com first contacted me a couple of years ago about teaching an online class I must admit I thought oh that would be boring!  I’d never get to meet the people or travel to the places.  I wouldn’t be able to judge exactly how to respond by how a person presented themselves and their questions, I certainly wouldn’t be able to assess the strengths and difficulties of a proposed design.  and sitting at the computer to write 4 lessons of 10-20 pages each would be deadly!  Plus my awful jokes look even lamer on paper than they do in real life peg legging their way around the classroom.
Well I was totally wrong.  it’s amazing how well you can get to know someone virtually, their words and their phrasing, their manner of presenting their questions definitely convey a sense of the person.  The designs, value sketches, color choices, fabric mock-ups and finished quilts all speak very loudly.  And it’s so much fun firing up the computer in the morning and having conversations with people all over the world.  While most students are in English speaking countries, I’ve had people in class from every continent (except Antarctica – please sign up next time!), all the European countries, most South American ones, Africa, the Far East and several places I’ve had to look up on the map.  
And online classes are so much more egalitarian; let’s face it you do need a substantial income to attend an actual workshop even if you seek out the most economical way, sleeping in a  12 bed dorm room with 11 people snoring, 10 people going to the bathroom at 4 am, 9 people talking in their sleep, 8 people setting off early alarms, 7 people having exciting dreams (“Yes, oh yes”….or “No, No No!”), 6 people farting, 5 people forgetting to switch off phones, 4 people singing (or rather crowing!) at dawn, 3 people arguing together, 2 people cooing and a partridge in a pear tree.   Oh yes, I’ve been there.  Actually the last dorm room like that I slept in had no air conditioning and all the heavy breathing led to so much condensation the walls and windows were streaming!!  ah, the joys of economical living.  But an online class costs little more than a new quilting book, you’ll get just as many pictures, lots of chat from other students and one on one questions with the author.  Now how many authors of actual books can you email with a question?
Another positive of online classes is that you don’t feel like you must make a quilt or quilts to justify having taken the class.  I’ve heard people leave workshops from major seminars and conferences saying “my thousand dollar quilt” holding up some tiny piece!  Actually these days probably nearer a two thousand dollar quilt.  With an online class you can do as much or as little as you feel like and not feel guilty at all!!   Definitely Innocent till proven guilty.
I’ve heard people criticize online classes in general but I can only think that they haven’t actually taken one.  As well as being much much less expensive, you don’t have to worry about lugging equipment, tusselling with traffic, parking and the security people, eating food you don’t like etc.  All the many negatives of travel these days.
  Of course there are cons: I think the biggest one for the student  is actually time management.  It’s hard when you’re at home and surrounded by all the Usual Suspects and Chores to give yourself time to take a course.  But I think if you say: “I’m going to dedicate these 2 specific hours each day to it” that would work.  The con for me is that I don’t get to visit places I’ve not been before.  But next year I have gigs in a couple of places I’ve not visited, and I’m still hoping for an invitation from coastal Maine (in summer!), from British Columbia, or the Maritimes in Canada, and from Hawaii!!  You never know!
I’ve just finished teaching two online classes: Inspired to Design, and Working in Series and each of these is going to start up again soon (see sidebar for details).  Inspired to Design covers all the basic steps of designing a strong composition, from the first inspiration, through to the final quilting.  It is best to take this class first.   Working in Series is for people who are fairly confident in their ability to pull a design together but want to find their own voice, develop a strong artistic identity and a sense of direction and purpose.  This class also addresses some advanced concerns in composition and design in a Master Class approach.
People tell me that as well as the lessons and the ability to see the work of many other students in the class, they really appreciate the individual critiques I give at every stage of the process.  They like it that I’m not too warm and fuzzy!!  Well, I reckon, most people want honesty and those that don’t can’t hit me over the head when they’re hundreds if not thousands of miles away!! Another distinct advantage to the virtual classroom!
So, if you have been, thanks for reading! and if you can’t take an actual class, think about a virtual one.
PS If the classes are already closed or full, don't worry - they'll be offered again in a month or so.  I'll put them up on the side bar when the dates are known.  Thank you!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Entering shows: to do or not to do? Looking for power!

electricfieldsElectric Fields 

Why should one enter shows?
And, which shows (given the increasing number and cost) should one enter? Despite the cost and the time involved I do think there are a number of very good reasons to enter and I always encourage people to do so.

1. Shows are a great way for the public to see the art that is being made by ordinary people every day.  It’s very sad but common that people think that you have to be special or uniquely gifted in order to make art or understand art.  And most people are really delighted with really original art, not the slick tasteless mush that they see on tv or in motels, restaurants and the like.

2. Shows are very helpful for you to evaluate your work. It often isn’t till you see your piece across a gallery, nicely lit and in conversation with other art works that you can really judge it.  Frequently a piece really surprises me by looking a lot better than I thought, sometimes the opposite and I make a note to give it a swift and merciful end when it arrives back home!

3. Entering shows encourages you to make better work.  You know it’s going to compete against others in the jurying process and that pushes you to do the best you can.  When you’re tired and frustrated it’s all too easy to say, “oh no one will notice that awkward bit”, or “I’ve messed around enough with this corner, I’m going to call it done”.  Never talk yourself out of

4. Entering shows forces you to finish work too!  All artists start a great many more pieces than they finish!   Life just gets in the way, or we hit a bit of solid granite when trying to dig down to the core of what we want a piece to say, the old horse baulks and the evidence is consigned to the “finish it later” bin under the cutting table ( my love of mixed metaphors is really brimming bright today!).   But knowing there’s a show coming up, and you need 3 pieces (while I have heard apocryphal tales of getting into a show with just one piece, all the jurors say they can get a better sense of the work when there’s more than one example), can get you mining that FIL bin and work out the problems.


5. It’s better buzz than either champagne or pot if you get in!

Brighter at the Top

But, which shows to enter?

1. Are they looking for work like yours?  Read the description of the show carefully so that you know what kind of work they want.  Do they want recent work? What is the cut off date for making it?  Do they request a particular size?  Is there a specific theme?  If you have your quilts listed on an Excel spread sheet you can easily do a data-sort on any variable.  Look at past catalogues – if you can, always enter shows where the quality seems to be slightly better than where you think you are.

2. What are the costs?  I no longer enter Visions because  of their $75 entry fee.  Show entries used to be about $25, but have been creeping up every year, I just was asked if I wanted to enter one whose fee was $40 and I’m guessing that soon all the others will be creeping upto that figure.  The problem with increasing the fees is that you exclude people.  Soon the only people entering will be well off, middle aged, probably of a similar cultural background, and thus the homogeneity of entries will be increased.  Which is not good.   Also if the entry fee includes a “membership” this is of no value if one lives too far away to reasonably participate in what the venue has to offer.  This again decreases  the variety of people (and thus quilts) that will enter.  To the entry fee you need to add two lots of shipping: there and back, and probably some kind of insurance (whether you buy it by the piece, or for the whole year) to be able to calculate whether the entry is worth it for you.

What will you get in return for your entry fee?  A worthwhile show should be able to tell you how many visitors they expect, how long the show will be up, what hours the venue will be open, what sales they generally make, whether there will be a catalogue, what prizes there will be, and how much publicity the organizers plan to get.


How I would improve shows
if I were King – or Queen – actually  I wouldn’t  care what sex or no sex as long as I had the Power!

Battersea Power Station

1. I would make sure that there was always a catalogue; if a print version was too expensive, or even a CD, then I’d put the show up online – after all they have all those digital images.  I would pay the person who uploaded them with a free inclusion of their work in the show.

2.  I would have a scholarship fund for art school students so that they could enter inexpensively – I’d love to see just what some of those young folk would come up with.  And it would encourage young people to think about fiber.   If you subtracted one $500 Second or Third place prize you would have enough money for scholarship entries for a lot of students.

3.  I would find ways to get more visitors – I know masses go to the Big Shows, especially on Opening Night, but after that, in most venues it gets very quiet.    Get the buzz going…every community has organized groups of this that or the other, encourage a group to visit.  Offer them a Special Talk.  How will you pay for a special talk?  with the one thing that you have available – free inclusion of one piece by that person into the show.

4.  I would tell the jurors to pick the 50 or 60 (or whatever number is required)  Best Quilts regardless of who made them.  This rule of one per person does not speak to excellence in art but rather to everybody getting a prize in nursery school.  I’m so fed up with shows/catalogues where half the pieces simply do not deserve to be in there. And I would give the jurors ample time to decide which pieces they wanted to include – this tachistoscopic flashing of images that jurors describe make no sense to me.  I would also not feel that the jurors needed to agree.  

Okay that’s enough of me wittering on….how would you improve shows if the Power came to you? Let us dream together!  And, if you have been, thanks for reading!!  Elizabeth

PS.  you might want to consider entering Art Quilt Elements: online registration begins June 1st and I’m honoured to be one of the jurors!