Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Exhibiting Your Quilt At International Quilt Festival in Houston

Quilt Festival is the biggest quilt show in the United States. It's a fantastic event held at the end of October in the Houston convention center every year. Exhibiting a quilt at Quilt Festival is a dream for many quilters.

I've exhibited work at Quilt Festival for several years and I think I have the hang of the system. I've heard lots of confusion about the details, so here's my overview. Obviously, don't depend on me as the expert. Check the official website if you have questions. But I hope this provides a big picture of how it all works.

First, there are two general classifications for quilts show on the show floor.

Judged Exhibition known as World of Beauty (WOB)
organized by the non-profit member organization International Quilt Association, IQA 

Special Exhibitions
organized by the company that puts on International Quilt Festival and Market, Quilts, Inc.,  quilts.com

The similarities between those web addresses (.org vs .com) can be confusing. Now you know to note the difference.

World of Beauty takes up about 25% of the show floor. Everything else is special exhibits as seen in this map from the 2019 show. WOB is the big block in the bottom center.

Quilts Inc also has a smaller shows and market events in other locations. Some special exhibitions are also shown at those events. This post focuses on entering exhibitions in Houston.

World of Beauty
  • This exhibition is juried and judged. That means you submit an image of your quilt to be considered/juried into the show. Then all the accepted quilts are judged (in person, not from images) and prizes are awarded. Entry info here.
  • There are three jurors and three different judges every year. They are announced and introduced at the Winners Circle event which occurs on Tuesday evening before Festival opens on Wednesday evening. 
  • There are eight big awards in WOB. Best of Show comes with a $12,500 prize! The Founders' Award and the World of Beauty Award win $7500. Contemporary Artistry, Machine Artistry, Innovative Artistry and Thread Artistry all win $5000. These seven prizes also include travel and lodging to Quilt Festival.
  • There are 22 categories defined by size, theme and technique. In each category, judges chose a first, second and third place. Honorable mentions are sometimes also named. First wins $1000. Second wins $700. Third wins $300. See the list of all the winners from 2019 here
  • You must be a member of International Quilt Association to enter WOB. You can pay your $25 membership fee as part of your entry.
  • Members can enter two quilts in WOB. Entry is $30 per quilt.
  • Official information about entry isn't released until sometime in March maybe.
  • Entry deadline is usually mid to late May. Acceptances are announced in mid-July. Quilts must be delivered by mid-August. Winners are contacted in mid-September (so they can plan to come to to the awards ceremony, if they wish. They don't tell you what you've won, just that you're on the winners list.) Quilts are returned by the end of November.
  • You pay to send your quilt to Houston and must also pay return shipping. IQA uses a formula including the size of the quilt and your location to determine what you have to pre-pay for them to send your quilt back to you. (It can be more than you think it should be.) Or you can send a prepaid label using your personal FedEx or UPS account. 
  • Your quilt must not include any "work for hire" to enter WOB. That means if you paid someone to quilt it, it doesn't qualify. 
  • Quilts must have been completed after January 1 two years before the show. (Quilts for the 2019 show had to be completed after January 1, 2017.)
  • There are lots of other rules listed clearly in the entry info.
  • Your WOB quilt may be for sale. If it sells, 20% of the price will be donated to IQA. (I've sold three quilts from Festival. There is a buying audience!)
  • More than 55,000 attend Quilt Festival. It's a great opportunity to get your work seen by lots of people!
Hey! It's me and my quilt, Day Break, which was part of World of Beauty in 2019 in the Whimsical category.

Special Exhibits 
  • Every year there are several special exhibits on the show floor. Entry info here
  • Quilts Inc organizes some special exhibits that return every year including Tactile Architecture, Hands All Around and In Full Bloom.
  • Quilts Inc also organizes some special exhibits that are one-time-only. In 2020, they will include Fine China and Math and Science. 
  • These special exhibits are juried and entries are usually due in mid-April.
  • Quilts Inc is currently updating their entry system and hope to have entries open in March.
  • Size and date requirements are listed for each exhibit. 
  • These special exhibits generally are not judged and are not awarded prizes. 
  • In the past, there has been no entry free for these special exhibits. You pay to ship your quilt to Houston. They pay return shipping. 
  • Quilts Inc also takes proposals for special exhibits by individuals, organizations and companies.
  • These special exhibits include things like the Cherrywood Challenge, collections from groups like Dinner at Eight Artists, and collections by individuals like the log cabin quilts by Amy Pabst in 2019. 
  • For more info about the proposal process you can email Special Exhibits Manager, Becky Navarro at beckyn @ quilts . com
  • Special exhibits by individuals, organizations or other groups generally require a sponsor or must pay fees for shipping, handing and hanging the quilts.
  • Studio Art Quilt Associates always has beautiful exhibits in a special gallery section on the show floor. 
The Studio Art Quilt Associates special exhibits in 2019.

I hope this is a good overview. Enter your quilts!

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

How Long Did It Take You To Make That?

People often ask how long it takes me to create a piece of work. In this case I have a pretty good idea -- about 10 to 12 hours. I know because I made it in about a day and a half.

Planted Perception, 20x20 inches

It was a learning experience. A few thoughts about how it came together.

My friend Brenda Gael Smith is an amazing artist and excellent curator. I was honored to be included in two of her previous traveling exhibitions. The organization, marketing, professionalism, exposure and good spirit in her exhibitions is unmatched. 

This piece, Rising Resting, was a part of Brenda's Matter of Time Textile Exhibition.

When she announced her Vision 2020 Textile Exhibition, I considered entering, but I wasn't excited by the theme and wasn't motivated to set aside time to make something to enter.

As the deadline neared,  I began to wish I had made something to enter. The feeling kept nagging. But I was busy with lots of other things -- some important things, some things probably less important than the attention I'd given them.

Coincidentally, a friend was visiting while she went through coaching training. I told her about my nagging feelings and she practiced her new coaching skills by asking just a few very specific questions that helped clarify what I should do. I should make a quilt to enter.

After a discussion with her on Tuesday night, I decided I'd give it a go. Wednesday was entirely free. I was busy from from 9 to 4 on Thursday. The deadline was Friday morning at 7 am. Very tight to create a 20x20 inch quilt from scratch.

I made some notes about the theme and the potential design. Leaning into a composition that I've explored regularly would give me a jump in the creative process. I decided to continue with my constructed cruciform series. It's a collection of fabrics in mostly rectangular shapes in a loose cruciform composition.

This piece, Shifting Shelter, uses this "constructed cruciform" composition.

This one too. It's Green Bowl (and features the same red stripe that shows up in this new quilt).

I planned to include an embroidered outline of a set of eye glasses. Part of me felt that was too easy and obvious, but another part of me thought it was an interesting shape and would lend itself to a variety of symbolic interpretations. 

I spent an hour or so on Wednesday morning painting a piece of cloth that would (maybe) become an interesting focus. I thought I had a plan. Then I began to pull together additional fabrics palette to go with the painted piece. 

Then this old fabric with vegetables jumped out at me. But but but... what doesn't it have to do with Vision? I kept trying to set it aside and it kept returning.

The majority of the day on Wednesday was spent fussing with the composition. The painted fabric was entirely rejected. I swapped out various fabrics. I kept slashing, slicing and cutting shapes that felt unique and said interesting things to each other. Eventually, I had to settle on a design and fuse. 

I felt rushed, but also satisfied that it was coming together. I didn't feel the design was fully refined, but I liked it. 

Then I added hand embroidery. Again -- leaning into my favorite stitches and not exploring anything new. Just the outlined eyeglasses, a few lines of Ys and a scattering of stars. 

Before the end of the day on Wednesday the design was fused and the embroidery was finished. I fused on a backing and would leave Thursday evening for all the quilting, photography and entry. Still tight, but I was too far along not to finish.

Quilting came together quickly. Thankfully, it's a small piece so I didn't even have to move my machine out into the dining room which I have to do with larger pieces. I outlined the vegetables and did simple stacked lines in most of the other areas. Not exciting at all -- it hardly adds any interest to the quilt. Some interesting motifs in a contrasting color in the background might have been a better choice. 

Lastly, I squared it up and zigged the edges. (That's actually one of my favorite edge treatments -- especially for small pieces. So, I didn't have to compromise on time with that choice.) I used my iPhone to take a picture. Not ideal, but generally adequate for entries (though not for print publication).

I wanted to come up with a title that would point toward the idea of different kinds of vision. But I also wanted to try to connect those ridiculous vegetables in some way. 

Some ideas...

I settled on Planted Perception. Plant... you know, like vegetables are plants?! But also you might plant a seed of an idea? A perception? 

For the brief artist statement, I came up this: 
The things and ideas we see, notice and perceive help tell the story of how we relate to the world and to each other.

It's a little esoteric and may or may not give a viewer any insight into the quilt, but it does express a concept I really believe.

It was not accepted into the exhibition. Sigh. I was sort of disappointed, but not entirely surprised. This piece of work is fine. I think it's odd and interesting. It would have been better if I'd given myself more time. That doesn't mean it would have been selected. Brenda has written about the selection process. If you're interested in that kind of thing, it's very insightful.

I learned a lot through this specific creative process. 
  • It's ok to be obvious. (The glasses are fine.)
  • It's ok to return to proven designs, motifs, palettes and techniques.
  • Plain background is boring. (Using just the tan fabric for the background flattens everything.)
  • I must make time for making art. I'm an artist first -- teacher and businesswoman after that. The art drives everything else.
  • Figure out what questions I need to answer to move forward. Or hire a coach.
  • I get to decide what's important. Try not to let too many outside influences impact my own priorities.
  • Too many hours of just creating with no time for managing stuff around the house and taking time to relax makes me irritable.
  • Planning and executing the free motion quilting in a way that compliments the design and adds something to the overall visual impact is an area I need to work on.
  • Deadlines are excellent motivators.
  • I can squeeze out more productive time during the day than I usually do.
  • Radishes are cool looking.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019 Quilts

New flash: I like making quilts! Here are the ones I made in 2019. You can also review the quilts I made in 2018, 2017 and 2016.

Three tiny floral embroideries.

Tree Lines, 30x80 This is quilt is currently part of SAQA's Connecting Our Natural Worlds exhibition. Process and inspiration pictures here.

Pondering, 5x7ish -- My donation to the Spotlight Auction at the SAQA Conference in San Jose.

Two 16x16 workshop samples for me new class Cups, Vases and Bowls. I'll be teaching this workshop at Craft Napa in January and at Quilters Affair in July in Sisters, OR. You can invite me to teach it at your guild too.

Day Break, 40x40

Spring Forth, 12x12 -- My donation for the 2019 SAQA Auction.

Grass Made It Possible, 50x30 -- You can read about the creative process and unexpectedly wonderful connection I discovered while making this quilt in this blog post.

Uprising 50x27 -- This quilt will be part of SAQA's Aloft exhibition through 2022.

Beach Exploration 15x75. I didn't blog about this piece, but you can read a bit more and see more photos in this Facebook post.

Vessels: Heartland 26x16x2 -- Lots of pictures about the process of creating this piece here.

Dusk Breeze 40x40 -- This piece was "finished" much earlier in the year but there were some things that I didn't like about it. Eventually, I went back and re-worked some areas.

Through and Through, 60x40 -- Peeks of this piece have shown up in my social media over the past few months, but I haven't shared the finished piece until now. Look for more details soon.

Right at the end of the year, I got busy preparing for Craft Napa and finished these 7x5 collage for the Vendor Fair night. (Unless you'd like to buy one now, that'd be super. $65 Email me.)They are all mounted on 8x10 mat board ready to frame.


Sprout and Soar


Sprout and Shine


Good Times

Dusk and Dawn



Tiny Blossom



That's 24 quilts not including the tiny embroideries. I consider seven of these major works -- which seems like a lot. I'm eager to make more in 2020.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Working in Three-Dimensions

I've been feeling a slight tug toward creating three dimensional work for years. In fact, a couple years ago, I experimented with small fabric bowls and especially like this structure.

So I finally came back to it with the challenge of using this format to create a wall-hung art quilt.

I planned to created a two-sided quilt, cut it up, sew it into small vessels then sew the vessels back together. I wan't sure how it would come together, but I knew the only way to find out was to work through the process. (As is true with most things.)

I shared most of this process on FB and IG, but now it's all in one place here in this blog post.

I decided to create a Kansas landscape and gave myself the parameter of working with only my stash of pre-fused fabrics.

I built the design of felt for batting thinking that would give the vessels more body and structure.

Lots of wrinkly bits!

Beginning to be tamed, fused, flattened.

Here are the front and the back side by side.

Next I needed to quilt the whole thing. I started with this "wheat" section leaving some long threads to add movement and texture. I had to stitch from both the front and the back to get the loose threads on both sides. Sort of tedious.

And then I cut it into 6 inch squares.

As I began to form the vessels, I marked the dimensions on the edges and hand stitched.

Here's the first one I formed. It's fine, but the center square is not an actual square. My angles were a little off which skews the shape a little. Maybe not a big deal, but I needed to find a way to get a better and more consistent result.

I wondered if just one stitch at the corners would work?

No. Still skewed and I didn't like the open edges.

Clips to the rescue. Plus measuring!

Then I just kept stitching One by one by one.

I was beginning to think about construction and pinning them to my design wall.

I was liking the way the design folded over the corners. I knew the horizontal lines of the original design would be angled because of the construction of the vessels -- but they still felt visually connected.

Then I considered angling the vessels to restore the horizontal lines.

Aha! I really liked this version and especially liked the possibility of the open squares between the vessels.

Eventually I finished stitching up all the vessels, then I stitched them together. In this time-lapse, you can see me measuring the positions for the joins and stitching them together.

Finishing this was so satisfying. It was a fun process. It's good to do something different. 

I titled it Vessels: Heartland. It's 26x16x2" here's the front.

And here's the back.

Some details.

I am delighted to say that it was juried into Art Quilt Elements which will open at the Wayne Arts Center in March.

I'm intrigued by this structure and have been thinking about what to do next. Actually, I even ordered some fabric with a new idea in mind. Then I got distracted by something else. So, stay tuned.