Tuesday, August 8, 2023

EQA (European Quilter Association) at FoQ (Festival of Quilts, Birmingham)

 Last Thursday I got up almost as early as I would have, had I been going to early shift at work. However, I was more fortunate, took the train to the airport, boarded a plane to Birmingham, and got to spend four lovely days at the Festival of Quilts, 20th anniversary edition. 


It was the first time for me in a while as I hadn’t been back there yet after the pandemic, so I assume 2019 was the last time I was there, just before I went on to South Africa. This year I did not enter a quilt myself, as I am still not convinced that shipping to FoQ after Brexit has become feasible again. One member of the German Guild’s report on her difficulties in getting her quilt there on time, indeed, at all, has merely increased this conviction of mine. I was there mainly for the EQA meeting and exhibition, and as writer for the German Guild’s magazine, looking for interesting topics and possible future interviewees.

It was interesting to be back and see the differences. It feels a lot better with the additional space in the aisles between the vendors. The ventilation system must have been improved dramatically because it was almost drafty and sometimes near on cold in the halls, which I don’t remember from earlier visits, which used to be a bit stuffy, very crowded in the vendors’ area, and not a whole lot of space between display walls for the exhibitions of the competition quilts.

A number of the interesting vendors I would have liked to shop with were not there – some of whom I know have gone out of business. Overall, supplies on offer did not fulfill my needs, I only bought a few pieces from Leah Higgins and four African fabrics fat quarters.

One thing I noticed was that there seemed to be fewer international visitors. I believe last time I was there I could hardly move from one place to the other without running into several people that needed talking to, this was not the case this time around. Yes, I did meet some people, but it didn’t seem so numerous. And I must say, I was not particularly impressed with most of the First Prize winners. I am not sure whether that results from the fact that by now I have seen so many quilts in my life that not much will give me a ‘wow’-effect-reaction. Similar as with the yearning to be able to listen to Johannes Brahms’ Requiem or Antonin Dvorak’s 9th Symphony for the first time again and repeat that feeling of awe and admiration.

But as I said, I went there for the EQA-meeting, and although we had some serious business to attend to, 


we had a good time together. 


The exhibition had been put up by a few other international representatives, 


I came when the festival had already been officially opened, and stayed on to take the exhibition down after the closing on Sunday afternoon. When I remembered the amount of work (and anxiety!) that had gone into preparations for this particular exhibition earlier this year, I was very pleased that the final effect turned out to be so convincing. We were showing a carpet of flowers, and visitors were delighted at the overall appearance.

Taking it down is always so much faster than putting it up!

Finished - Mary Hunter (2nd from left) took them directly to the
airport and proceeded to put them up in Ireland the next day,
i.e. yesterday. That must have been the fastest turnaround of any EQA exhibition

 The future of EQA-exhibitions at FoQ is everything but certain, and we are trying to figure out how to proceed from here. It will take negotiations with many players, everything burns down to the question of costs, and right now we don’t even know whether we will be able to go back next year. It is rather difficult to integrate the amount of volunteer work, outside effects and appearances created by that in quilting communities – how much of a pull factor is a small quilt hanging in Birmingham for an ‘ordinary’ quilter to come and visit, and does that justify the amount of hotel costs we have been granted so far? – with a strictly business-oriented organization that sets up the festival. We will see.

A bit of 20 Perspectives was thrown in as well – 


Allison James (left) and Ildiko Polyak (middle)

and I met Joe Cunningham in his exhibition, whom I will visit in his gallery in November, 


so it was a time with many different and interesting encounters.

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