Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Festival of Quilts in Birmingham

I have just completed my three days of visiting the FoQ as they call it here. Interesting. Fascinating. And completely exhausting. I could not possibly take another day, so it is just as well that my plane is leaving at 7.15 tomorrow morning.
The first time I had ever been to Birmingham was nine years ago, and it was here that my former life as an academic took a dramatic turn and eventually ended just over a year later. Despite having heard a lot of interesting stuff about the festival I had not been to see it, so I was very excited to be able to make plans to come here. I was lucky in booking workshops when early registration started in March, my travel agent got me a relatively reasonable flight and a better deal on the hotel rate than the festival rate would have been. And my husband was looking forward to taking our son on their first several-day-bike-trip while I would be away during the school holidays. 

So I arrived on Tuesday and had a day in the city of Birmingham on Wednesday. I’m not much of a shopper, but I did spend two hours in the bookstore as my very first idea of making use of this extra day by going to Hay-on-Wye and hit the bookstores there had not been feasible due to public transport connections. But I did a bit of roaming in the city, found the markets,

was glad I had bought an English umbrella on time

and finally went to visit the City Museum of Birmingham where they had an interesting small exhibition on African fabrics

and a wonderfully playful set of Egyption style rubber ducks in the gift shop.

On Thursday the festival itself opened. I began with a fun and interesting three-hour-workshop on “dye your own threads” with Lisa Walton.

Lisa Walton demonstrating
measuring threads into a skein

My first self-dyed threads in the hotel sink
Of course, the really testy part about this new skill, namely the rinsing/washing of the threads without getting them completely tangled needs to be done at home, and before that has happened, I won’t say anything as to how much of my own threads I will be effectively dyeing myself from now on. (Though I have stocked up on white thread supplies, which is indicative of my intention.)
In the afternoon I began working my way through the various exhibits, trying to do it as systematically as possible so I would not miss much. I was particularly impressed with the quality of solo-exhibits spread out through the booths in hall 7. I think if I had to chose a no.1 favorite it would be Pauline Burbridge’s
retrospective – of which there were no photos allowed, so all I can show you here is the entrance to it.

I saw a number of quilts I liked so it is rather difficult to present a selection here that would give a good overview of what could be seen. Therefore I restrict myself to five pictures of quilts that caught my eye for various reasons, without this passing any kind of judgement on the quilts that I am not showing here.

Cecilia Gonzalez Desedamas, Jazz Dots

Alicia Merrett's contribution to the Miniquilt Competition
Pamela Fitzsimmons, Werekata 2

Fitzsimmons, Detail
Winner in the category Pictorial Quilts:
Janneke de Vires-Bozinga, Graceful Dance

Neel Williams, Maledives 2

On Friday afternoon I took a class “Design Essentials “ with Sandra Meech

(and bought her new book afterwards) sincerely wishing it had been a class of at least three days instead of only three hours.
The SAQA “Meet and greet” therefore took place mostly without me as most of the people had left before I got there after the class was out, but I still managed to meet many interesting people then, at the hotel, and during my stint at the SAQA table for the wonderful exhibit “Masters 2”. It was nice to see Alicia Merrett again, such a pleasant re-encounter with Elaine Maunder who recognized me from behind after almost seven years, and I was glad to meet Maggie Farmer and Sandy Snowden, who had organized the meeting and the rota schedule for SAQA as British members of the organization. I was very happy to finally meet MagRamsay in person, had interesting conversations with Ita Liv, Eti David and Orna Ron from Israel (they saved my bag with 50 pounds worth of silk thread which I had left at the lecture theatre out of sheer exhaustion at the end of this third and last day – thank you very much!), got to know Martha Sielman,  the executive director of SAQA, and met Luana Rubin from the eQuilter  at dinner tonight.
It has been a wonderful three days, and I am absolutely ready to go to bed right now so I can catch my flight tomorrow morning.

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