Doug and I were lucky enough to have a mini-vacation, just the two of us. QuiltCon, the very first national conference of the Modern Quilt Guild, was held in Austin, Texas this past weekend and we decided to go as an early celebration of our 20th wedding anniversary (coming up in May). I spent three days at the conference while he spent three days hiking and exploring, then we spent the last two days together. Wow.
There just isn’t another way to express it. Wow to Austin. WOW to the conference. And W_O_W to leaving the kids behind for five days.
Austin, as you may know if you’ve been, is utterly amazing. It’s funky, it’s hip, it’s granola, it’s grounded. It’s young in demographics and spirit. It’s casual. It’s food and music and great artsy and vintage shopping. We had a blast. We ate and shopped our way through the Texas capital. What’s not to love?
The conference, though, really defies description. I’ve been to quilt conferences before so I knew generally what to expect. But given this was the inaugural Modern Quilt Guild conference, no one really knew how this would be received.
Overwhelmingly well-received it was. Over 1500 tickets were pre-ordered, with walk-in ticket sales each day in addition to that. The vibe was friendly and excited with a little bit of “what have we created here?” mystification on the side. The collection of modern quilters, who have affiliated mostly online so far (though also in smaller, locally-based Modern Quilt Guilds all over the country) were now gathered in one place, in celebration of the modern quilts of today and the modern quilts that are to come.
Denyce Schmidt as keynote. Amy Butler. David Butler. Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr. AnnaMaria Horner. Jacquie Gering. Jay McCarroll. Angela Walters. And many many more.
These are quilting rock stars, artists who define the medium today. And they were there among us, sharing their thoughts, their processes, their guidance. It’s hard to describe how it feels when AnnaMaria Horner likes your quilt design and wants to take a picture of it. Really Anna? You like it? How could that be? Well, yes, of course you may take a picture of it.
The most fascinating talk I heard was not from anyone famous (though after what she pulled off last weekend, she is famous in my eyes!), but from Heather Grant, the conference Director of Marketing and Programming. She gave an eye-opening lecture on modern quilting by definition and by practice, how it came to be and where it is headed, and how it fits with traditional quilting.
Heather stated that one of the seminal contributions to the development of modern quilting was when digital cameras dropped in price to under $200, around the year 2000. The affordability and more widespread use of digital photographs allowed modern quilters to connect all over the country (and world, for that matter) in ways that had been impossible before. Yes, of course! Why didn’t I think of that myself?
She emphasized the very young age of this category of quilts, as well as the role social media has played and currently plays as the genre grows and evolves. We’re not much more than 10 years into this, so it’s somewhat mind-blowing to consider this is history in the making. That was quite an eye-opening, sobering, yet so exhilarating revelation. Where will the next 10 years take us?
Otherwise, I left the conference with my head bursting at the seams with ideas and inspiration. At the same time, it caused me to question myself, my work, and my aesthetic. Not in a bad way, as in doubting my skill or value, but in a “how do I and my work fit into this movement?” Or more importantly, I ask myself how I *want* to fit into this movement. Coming off QuiltCon, anything seems possible. It will take some time to mentally sort through though, that’s for sure.
Much like my sewing table after unpacking my bags.
Can you give me a minute? This may just take a while.