Forty-some years ago, while my children slept, late at night, I would spread my fabrics and sketchbooks out on my dining room table and work on the designs in my head, for ways to combine art and design and fabrics. I wasn’t quite sure where I was headed, but I had seen things others were doing that inspired me and though I had studied drawing and painting and printmaking, I knew that fabric was my medium. Little did I suspect how long I would follow that path or where it would lead. Then it was just my late night guilty indulgence that fitted in between children and family and daytime job and kept me feeling that my education had not been in vain and my creative side was still alive somewhere inside me.
Early last spring I got a call from Becky Navarro, the head of special exhibits at the International Quilt Festival, inviting me to share a special exhibit with Maria Shell, a well-know quilt artist from Alaska and my fellow member of the Cloth in Common, International Art Quilt Group. We had been selected as “Rising Stars.” I was amazed and confused and very honored. Rising Star—me? It made me laugh! It has been a very long, slow rise if that is the case. And never have I thought of myself as a Star. Maybe a lifelong learner, maybe lucky, maybe persistent. I’m quiet and spend my days pretty much alone in my studio in the woods, and I’m 73 years old for goodness sake (!) but if they want to call me a rising star, I think I’ll take it.
So I arrived in Houston late on October 30th, shared a ride to my hotel with two quilters from Connecticut and checked into my hotel room, with a view of the stadium out my window, where the last game of the World Series was playing out down below. I texted this photo to my son, who I knew was watching the game on TV back in Oregon.
It all seemed a little surreal.
I headed to the convention center the next morning where I was taken to our exhibit. My quilts had been shipped months before and were beautifully hung, with Maria’s in our exhibit. Here’s the view of the exhibits, from above. Our exhibit is somewhere out there in the middle.
It was beautiful! Twenty three of my quilts.
For the next three days I wandered through the vast center, viewing all the exhibits and periodically returning to our exhibit to visit with people who stopped to look and to give several scheduled gallery talks. Though the QuiltFestival is primarily a show, rather than a sale, quilts can be listed for sale. To my very great and pleasant surprise, 9 of my quilts were sold. I had the pleasure of meeting some of the new owners.
This is the lady who purchased “The Moon is a Mirror”
And this man, who lives in Utah told me he he knew exactly where this scenery is
and he purchased “Utah Train” as a gift for his wife.
The annual International Quilt Festival is held every year in Houston, is the largest exhibit of quilts, both traditional and art quilts, in the world, and draws thousands of visitors from around the world each year. Part of the thrill for me was seeing old friends, meeting online friends going back twenty years, sometimes for the first time face to face, and meeting quilters and artists whose work I have long admired. Every time I entered or left the convention hall I stopped to admire the exquisite display of blue and white quilts hung in honor of the 45th, sapphire anniversary of International Quilt Festival. It was breathtaking and a tribute to the history of what began as “women’s work” of creating beauty in the useful objects of home and now encompasses both that sturdy tradition as well as its evolution into the realm of fine art.
As I made my way around the exhibited work I marveled at the creativity, beauty, humor, heartfelt messages and all the glorious color. Making my way around the work presented by our professional organization, SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) I was enjoying, especially, the retrospective exhibit called “Layered and Stitched” when I came upon a quilt by my first art quilt hero, Jean Ray Laury, “Listen to Your Mother.” It was her work, 40 years ago, that showed me what was possible for me. She is gone, but it warmed my heart, and almost made me cry, to see her cheerful, witty work lives on and still delights viewers at the biggest quilt show in the world. I was proud to know my work was hanging alongside hers.
The whole thing is now a very sweet memory—something I will be forever grateful for. The people that put on this amazing show are the best of the best. Every detail is perfect and they are all the nicest, most efficient, most really, really good at their jobs people you will ever encounter. They did it. They made me feel like a Star.