What a Great Show!

September 12, 2011

I’ve just returned from teaching at Quilt Expo in Madison, WI and it was a spectacular show. My classes were filled with enthusiastic and eager students. The aisles of the vendor mall were filled with willing shoppers and the overall atmosphere was charged with excitement.

This show has really grown from it’s beginnings and has become a national level event. They even added 30 vendors since last year!

This year I was truly blown away by the quilts in the show. Even though there were entries and prizewinners from all around the country, the number of very talented entries from Wisconsin was amazing. I spent a lot of time admiring the intricate designs and stitching in the handquilted entries and then had to come back the next day to absorb all the inspiring creativity of the fiber art.

Since my latest passion is to make the machine quilting take the quilt to higher and higher levels, I was amazed to see all the new designs and innovative placement in these fascinating quilts.

That being said, I’m sure I’ll be hearing comments from friends and students saying there were too many art quilts and not enough for the average quilter. I’d like to share my perspective on this:

Quilt Expo is a juried show and each piece was chosen from pictures sent in by the maker. Many quilts didn’t make it in and therefore the ones that were accepted had to be a step above average to be chosen. I feel the fun of a juried show such as this is to see the “what ifs” and “I could nevers” so that we may all be inspired to try something new. The quiltmakers who were represented are not your average quilter and, as a viewer, we need to keep this in mind.

This is why we need to attend the smaller, local, non-juried shows and fairs as well as the big events. Most local shows are not juried and normal quilters can go there and see things that they may actually be able to make, as well as a few “jaw-droppers”.

So don’t be too quick to criticize the big shows for the lack of simple or traditional quilts, but enjoy each show for what they are and attend as many varied shows as you are able :-).

Well, that’s my opinion, what’s yours?


  1. Well stated. I love quilt shows, all of them. I am one of these people who takes lots of pictures and then goes back to look at them again and again for inspiration and enjoyment. I love your take on local versus the larger shows.

  2. I agree with you and Carolyn. I love all quilt shows and come away with different ideas and inspiration from all of them. Like Carolyn, I take photos and refer to them for inspiration over and over. It’s like looking at great art–you want to see it again and again. Let’s not forget, the quilting world is big enough for all of us whether we are art quilters or traditional quilters or a bit of both.

  3. There was a nice representation of all kinds of quilts at the show, but creativity in quilting is being seen now as the “norm” rather than the exception. I think that creativity in both “traditional” and “art” quilts only makes us all better as we are shown a myriad of ideas that we might have not thought about on our own. Even a non standard border made some of the traditional quilts “stand outs”.
    This is something every quilter can apply to their work.

  4. I am one of those who comes out of this kind of show disappointed. I have no art background and feel I could never even try to do most of what is shown. I do understand that these are a cut above the normal, but I truly like to be inspired by more of the traditional quilting. I love to see the art quilts, but not have them be the majority of the show.

  5. I’m a very new quilter. For any quilt I see my initial thought is “I could never”. That being said, I absolutely loved the show and especially your QAG class. There were “normal” quilts if you were looking for them. I especially loved the quilts made by the youngsters. Now, those I could do.
    Thanks for a great class and I look forward to more!

  6. I loved all the quilts. I find the show really inspires me. And I was one of the lucky people to take your french braid class. What fun! And you’re a fantastic teacher!

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