Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Thinking about Quilt National

I think the jetlag is still taking its toll as I am still very tired everyday around dinnertime and beyond. So this post is taking a super effort on my part tonight! Pictured above is the Dairy Barn, the beautiful building where Quilt National is exhibited every two years. You can click here to read more about Quilt National if you are interested.Above is a very poor photo of my quilt hanging in Quilt National - the best I could do with the lens I had. What follows below is something I jotted down the other day regarding my experiences at Quilt National and the SAQA conference. It's quite long, so feel free to skip over it. I just included it because I know there are some people who would like to read it.

I sit here surrounded by three newly purchased ‘art quilt’ books from Studio Art Quilts Associates (SAQA), seven yet-to-be-devoured textile magazines and journals, the Quilt National catalogue, about 100 postcards and business cards from quilt artists and many pages of notes from the conference. I have just returned from attending the opening of Quilt National 2009 (and the SAQA conference) so I also have my many memories – of meeting so many textile artists, many of whose names were very familiar to me from various quilt publications going back many years, of discussions surrounding many aspects of making, exhibiting and selling artwork, of the artists-only preview of the Quilt National and the subsequent grand opening. I feel partly like a child set free in a toy shop, but also very much a novice privileged enough to peek into a world of experienced, well-established and widely recognised artists.

This was a humbling experience. It was amazing to see how many wonderful people are busy doing many different wonderful things with their quilts. I treasure my collection of Quilt National catalogues and spend many happy hours paging through them, but I realise now just how much better those quilts must be ‘in real’. It was such a privilege to be able to see this year’s exhibition in the Dairy Barn, to be able to view the quilts from all angles, and of course, to get ‘up close’. I’m not sure if I will be quite so content with simply paging through my catalogues in future! Unfortunately I found myself quite overwhelmed by the hype of the exhibition opening, and would love to have the chance to go back now and take more time viewing each piece.

The SAQA conference was timed and located to tie in with the Quilt National opening, and I must admit I approached it with some trepidation. This was my first conference/workshop. I have not made workshops a priority in my quilting life, and have mixed feelings about the value of (techniques-based, in particular) workshops. I attended workshops and lectures dealing with pricing, sales and commissions, marketing and self-publishing. I think one of the big things I got out of this was realising that my own thinking in relation to these topics is not too far off the mark and that the things I have debated in my mind or with my husband are similar to what many other quilt artists are busy with.

On of the highlights for me was a panel discussion by Susan Shie, Therese May, Dominie Nash, Robin Schwalb and Sally Sellers. It was reassuring to hear that even these artists struggle with thoughts like ‘I will never make another good quilt ever’, frustrations surrounding creative dry spells, questions about what to do with bad, or old work, and concerns about the balance between being distracted or inspired by the work of others, and how far to let yourself be influenced by other artists

Some of the workshops and lectures were quite intense, particularly those related to marketing. I can’t see myself acting on all the advice received, but as a first step in the right direction, I have noted a few things I intend to begin with. For example, one piece of noteworthy advice I intend to act upon is ‘you gotta have a story’ – figure out how to say what you do, briefly, without downplaying it. This is part of packaging yourself and your work to make it more marketable. I think I will also make a point of developing my mailing/contacts list – to include friends, family, and any one who has any interest whatsoever in my work. It was stressed in one of the talks that the people you know are your biggest asset, and I have been amazed time and again in my short quiltmaking career to see how true this is.

I realise too, that this was the biggest benefit of a conference such as this – the networking opportunities. It is wonderful to be inspired by other artists and also to have the opportunity to inspire others.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Ruth

Thanks for the insightful comments about your experiences at Quilt National and the SAQA conference. Most valuable - almost like being there.

Margery G