I am writing to you this
weekend from my hotel in Birmingham England, after attending the largest
annual quilt festival in Europe.
Bonnie McCaffery met me here, and we've walked the show and filmed
several videos, reviewing quilt exhibits and interviewing artists.
I've met many old and new friends, including many of our European
One of our interviews was with Kaffe Fassett and Brandon Mably, in an exhibit of Kaffe's beautifully modern quilts made of his yarn-dyed stripes and shot cottons. After years of making quilts using his flower prints, these quilts have a decidedly modern feel.
We also interviewed AIDS activist Mary Fisher, whose powerful quilts include portraits of African children who are HIV positive. Her work in Rwanda and Zambia is parallel to the projects we support through Engineers Without Borders.
eQuilter sponsors the Pictorial Category here, and we have a delightful video with the winner Stephanie Crawford, whose Chinese-themed triptych was inspired by her son's residence there.
We also were lucky to find a translator to interview a 75 year old Russian male quilter, whose appreciation for women is reflected in his body of work. His muse is his wife - a fashion designer. They do not, however, share their fabric stashes. Ha!
Some of the trends I am reflecting upon, from this side of the pond:
There is a steadily growing presence of male quilt artists, and their work tends to be bold and unique. Large pixilated portrait quilts were a standout at this exhibition. Asian-themed quilts or quilts by Asian artists, caught our eye and our imagination here. Group quilts are busting out of all the previously-held ideas of what it means to be a 'group quilt'. More than ever, three-dimensional details and embellishments are defining the most unique quilts, and sometimes the whole quilt is a three-dimensional expression of fiber art. Text, letters, words, and fonts are all being used to convey visual ideas…sometimes that is the only design motif on a quilt! Layered images, discharged textures and thermofax screenprints are being expressed in more sophisticated ways.
I find it so delightful to discover British, Celtic, and European themes in the quilts at this show. These are themes that we seldom see in Houston (understandably so) and in particular I am personally drawn to the Scottish themes. Next week I will be traveling throughout Scotland, and will be photographing lots of art, color and design inspiration. I am hoping for good weather, and I'll be posting my itinerary on Facebook.
Fans of Oliver Twist threads will be happy to know that I got tired of waiting for our distributors to expand their stock, so I went straight to the source here, and we'll be carrying an expanded range of their gorgeous hand-dyed threads in the near future.
Tonight we are going with a large group of quilters to Stratford, to the Royal Shakespeare Theater! Kaffe told us that they had designed costumes and sets for a previous production, which must have been an incredible experience.