Monday, 20 August 2012


I spent yesterday with Lois at the Quilt show at the NEC. The Wednesday group that Lois belongs to, had an entry in the group competition. They didn't win, but that's not really the point.

The show is a fascinating event. I have no idea how many people are the least bit aware of this activity, certainly before I first went last year, I had no idea that so many people were involved in making quilts. I didn't attempt to count how many entries there are, but it runs into hundreds and the audience into thousands. Not only that, but people come from all over the world, both to exhibit and to visit. The audience was mostly european and about 99% female.

The security guards were mostly male and made pointless sexist remarks when we arrived,

'the men's creche is over there, the dancing girls arrive at three,' quite unnecessary. Quilting as an activity must in some way select its participants. A huge proportion of the audience seemed to have the same affect. Shirley Williams the day she did go to the hairdresser might be an appropriate image. Full of understanding, good humour and reliability.

This sense of of homogenaity is less obvious in the quilts. Some have obviously been designed to look like an archetypical quilt, other stretch the art form in every direction. Any subject can be imagined as a quilt, a brilliant set based on the large Hadron Collider, for example. The winner in the group category had a series of pictures of a sort of spoof olympics, based around quilting, the funniest cartooning a play on words on tacking, a term used in stitchery and also sailing.

There were some sailing boats too, though I wouldn't want to sail several,of them. They look like sailing boats, but the masts are in the wrong place, so they would be very hard to steer. The boat in the picture would be pretty good at going backwards. On the other hand an image of a boat on a quilt, is not really expected to win the olympics.

To my mind the art fell into three categories. The first might be called quilts designed to look like quilts. The second is art, in which the artist feels able to tackle any subject, but happens to like quilting as a medium. The third, is the second one, but taking the possibilities of the medium into the art - tackling a subject in a way that could only be done with fabric and stitching. I rather liked those.

As well as the exhibits there was a massive commercial show, not just the makers of sewing machines, but a vast complex of stalls selling things you might use to stitch better or more easily, but also an amazing array of art and craft with a predominantly textile underpinning.

Some of these devices could have multiple uses. I bought a neat wooden stand that is supposed to be used for holding an embroidery ring, but in fact will hold my iphone and allow me to set up a standard position for photographing documents, a copying method I find is rather quicker and less fussy than using the scanner that is built into my printer.

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