I hastily put some thoughts down on paper on the airplane ride home from QuiltCon in Austin. While I won’t be able to get them in perfect order, it’s important to me that I share them here before I get caught back up in the world of small children and some new freelance research/writing projects. Blogging about quilts projects is often just recording objective information – where I found a pattern or what fabric I used. I’d like to try to sum up my QuiltCon experience and synthesizing information requires a bit more brainspace than I often have. Right now, I have exactly one hour to take my scribbles to the screen.
So, here’s my little debrief on QuiltCon 2015. I’d like to focus on four main ideas: how am I changed? what did I learn? what will I do differently now? and will I go back?
How am I changed?
Well, I now know – more than ever before – there’s somebody out there. My blog is as much a receptacle of the things I’ve made as it is a table where people – me and you – can sit and chat about the things we both find interesting. After a few years with young children and frequent moments of feeling isolated from the world, I am renewed and comforted by the realization that there are people on the other side of the screen. And that you’re all pretty darn cool. Whether you were at QuiltCon or not, I now have a more intimate sense of this quilting community that I’ve been lucky enough to find myself in.
What did I learn?
I attended an embroidery workshop, a binding workshop, and several lectures. My workshops were great for skill-building, but I found that I appreciated how the lectures inspired me to consider some of the larger issues related to quilting. Surprisingly, unrelated lectures often referenced similar themes. Three main ideas that resonated with me were learn your quilt history, just make the next quilt, and be ready for opportunity.
In Rossie Hutchinson’s Copyright War lecture, she mentioned that those of us looking considering copyright and publishing should “learn your quilt history.” This idea had come up earlier in the panel on how to get published. Both of the publishing panelists suggested quilters who want to get published need to be aware of what has come before in order to identify how we might be unique from others. During the Maker to Making a Living panel, Mary Fons referenced her interest in the history of quiltmaking and the textile industry and some of the things she’s learned from her studies. I realized then that even if I’m not actively trying to feed and clothe my children by making and selling quilts, I can enjoy a much richer quilting experience by learning more about general quilt history. And since I choose to put my quiltmaking online and share my voice in this community, I want to be good student of this art/craft.
Alissa Haight Carlton moderated the panel on Getting Published, and she shared that she didn’t go to art school and never felt like an “artist” when she started quilting. She simply made a quilt, then made the next quilt, and the next quilt, and the next… Her advice to those of us considering how we can find our voice wasn’t to analyze what else is out there or how we’re different, it’s simply to do what we do, again and again, and eventually our unique voice will emerge. There’s a lot of hard work in that suggestion, but the heart of the advice sounds easy to me – just make your next quilt. I love the simplicity of that.
The last idea that kept popping up in lectures was, “Like an itch, when opportunity comes along, scratch it.” The Women of Gee’s Bend referenced it (in their own, awesome, storytelling way). During the Maker to Making a Living panel, Denyse specifically said she felt she had met opportunity with just enough luck and instinct to be successful. It was clear that if you have any inkling of taking this craft beyond a hobby in any way, you just have to work hard, be yourself, and stay ready for opportunity (or those moments when you can create your own opportunity). Isn’t that great advice for any endeavor?
What am I inspired to do now?
I think I’d like to blog more thoughts. Now that I feel more comfortable with “whom” I’m speaking to, I want to engage in more conversations. I’m not sure how long this will last. This blog has always been more of a portfolio than a thought board, but I’m considering new formats that will allow you all to tune into whatever you find inspiring – whether that’s my thoughts or projects. You won’t be bombarded too often with wordy posts if you’d rather just see pictures of quilty things.
Will I go back to QuiltCon?
Probably. I’m always a student of something. I’m always looking to understand things more deeply. Or do things more efficiently. Or better. Right now, I’m home with my children during the day, and making quilts as a hobby is something I’ve selfishly carved out for me – and I choose to be a student in the quilting world.
QuiltCon gives me an opportunity to connect with other people who share a passion for this hobby, but it also gives me a chance to develop skills in workshops and think about bigger issues in the lectures – all in one trip. I realize it’s an expensive trip to make, but given what I get from the experience, it’s a deal.
So as long as I’m in this mindset, I’ll be back. And I hope to see you there next time!