Monday, August 11, 2014

Report on the 2014 20th Anniversary Quilt Study Group of Australia Seminar

The 20th Anniversary QSGA Seminar was held at the National Maritime Museum at Darling Harbour in Sydney, with glorious sunshine on both days. 
Seminar speakers (L-R) Michelle Watters, Jennifer Palmer, Jess Wheelahan, Nonie Fisher, Di Ford, Chris Jones, Margie Creek and Gail Chalker
The lecture theatre of the Museum was a most suitable venue for the seminar, easily accommodating more than 60 people who came from all over Australia and from abroad. Di Ford, the owner of the now closed Primarily Patchwork quilt shop in Victoria, provided a feast of quilts to illustrate her talk on Primarily Quilts – 19th Century Inspiration, her latest book published by QuiltMania

Gail Chalker introduced us to the inspiration found in the Greenmount Cemetery and sewn on Baltimore quilts. She asked the tantalising question: which came first - the headstones or the quilts? A visit to the cemetery and subsequent investigation have not given Gail a clear answer.

As Exhibition Secretary for The Quilters’ Guild of NSW’s first Quilt Show in the Lower Sydney Town Hall, Nonie Fisher had lots of history to share about the Guild's activities . She also spoke about her own quilting adventures, including using the first rotary cutter in Sydney. Many people recognised her very popular quilts, featuring applique and pieced work, that they had made in workshops at the Quilting Bee.

It was wonderful to have Jennifer Palmer present her talk on cataloguing and caring for quilts. Jennifer has vast experience in curating collections, including textiles, in many of Australia’s historic houses, museums and art galleries. She was keen to share her knowledge to ensure we could be confident our quilts were protected in the best possible ways.

Chris Jones and Margie Creek talked about the Miegunyah Quilt Project, and they even had one of the not yet researched quilts from the collection with them. This is such a worthwhile project and such an important collection of quilts that we felt privileged to have an update on progress.

SCQuilters (Southern Cross Quilters) is part and parcel of many Australian and NZ quilters on-line experience, so it was exciting to have a potted history of the group included in the programme. Michelle Watters, who has organised the annual retreat since the early days of the group, gave this talk.

Our final speaker was Jessica Wheelahan, who describes her quiltmaking as a collage of collected histories. She explained her design process from inspiration to final quilt, illustrating her talk with quilt after quilt – a most impressive accomplishment and a delightful way to end the first day of the seminar.

On Sunday night, we relaxed at dinner in the Novotel Sydney Darling Harbour. Margaret Rolfe was the after dinner speaker, and she delighted us with the history of the Quilt Study Group of Australia seminars, reminding many of us about previous seminars and the talks given by eminent researchers and quilters. No one present at one seminar in Canberra could forget the talk by Sheila Allen, who wrote The Diary of a Girl in Changi and made one of the blocks in the quilt. Not a dry eye in the house, as I recall.
Karen thanking Margaret Rolfe
Throughout the evening we enjoyed auctioning textiles and quilt-related items that had been donated to raise funds for the next seminar. For the first time, some of the more prized items were put up for silent auction, and the highest bid for any item was for a small but exquisitely embroidered Kantha made by Carolyn Sullivan. Many other items were highly prized, including a selection of French fabrics from Brigitte Giblin and some unique fabric designed by Jessica Wheelahan. Liz Bonner, Secretary of QSGA, added to the fun by re-offering fabric she had purchased at a previous Sydney seminar auction – a particularly ugly cheater fabric for making Christmas placemats. Bought as a bolt, she decided to add value to the fabric by offering it in bundles all pre-cut ready to sew. Daphne Massey bought 27 placemats and intends to make them up for the next church fete and Di Ford promised to bring her set of placemats back – value added - for the next seminar. Something about tea-dyeing them to death…
Auction in process with those Xmas placements on offer
Monday was another beautiful day by the harbour as we gathered for Uncoverings, where Trish Bloomfield, Melinda Smith, Carolyn Sullivan and Brigitte Giblin uncovered their collections of quilts and the stories behind them. What a wonderful visual feast it became for everyone, as quilt after quilt was uncovered with their owners delighting us all with stories of how and why they were collected or made. 
Trish Bloomfield showing her quilts

Melinda Smith introducing her quilt collection

Carolyn Sullivan and Karen Fail

Karen introducing Brigitte Gibson and her collection of French quilts

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