Festival of Quilts 2019 - Part 1, the galleries

With Sara and Wedny FoQ 19.jpg

After a busy couple of months I was on the fence about going this year. I have been every year since, ooh maybe 2006/7 and had last year off and it went fine. I thought I would get a huge fear of missing out but it was alright mooching at home looking at others’ highlights on Instagram. In case you do not know FoQ, it is the largest UK quilt show and happens annually in the summer over four days at the NEC in Birmingham. It features a huge range of work, has ample shopping opportunites and workshops and lectures. It can swing from overwhelming, to inspiring to expensive (oh, the shopping area if you struggle with self-control). So this year, about two weeks before the show I decided I was going to try and lift my quilt mojo which has been a bit off lately, and arranged to meet my friend Wendy there who has recenltly relocated from Brighton to Sheffield. The logistics were not that easy, no trains from my local station that arrived before 11.30, so I had to go from Brighton the morning after Pride. Last year there were huge issues and people did not get home on the Saturday night and so had to wait for trains the following day but Southern got their act together and there was ample room on the 6.30am train, although lots of green looking faces still looking resplendant in sequins and glitter.

Lots of people go to FoQ for the whole four days, and while I have done this you can get round most of it in a day. No time for workshops, and it does lack the relaxed feeling of being able to return to work that has piqued your interest the following day, but it is possible - even with the seventy tea breaks I think Wendy and I had.

First we made a beeline for our friend Sara, who has a book out this summer on Bojagi and was curating a gallery. You can see us at the top of the post, co-ordinating with Sara’s piece of work we were standing in front of, and in height order to match the piece.

In case you have not heard of Bojagi it is (in Sara’s words)
’Bojagi, sometimes called Pojagi, is a traditional Korean textile art. Centuries old, it was originally textiles made for every day living with scraps of left-over fabrics artfully put together. They often resemble works of modern artists such as Mondrian and Klee. Today, the technique now produces beautiful textiles that are fast influencing textile art in the West, particularly amongst quilters.’


There was a diverse range of work on display, which I felt displayed the versatilty of the technique. Some of the makers were there answering questions that ranged from what materials were used to detail about stitches and construction. For me, I feel the awareness of the technique in the UK comes at a time that modern quilting is on the rise and there is a link between the design of the two, breaking down of grids and colour contrast, a foot in the past while taking the genre forward.

The piece below really caught my eye, I love the colours, those almost neon brights give the piece an energy. The number of colours and different shaped pieces mean I could have stood and looked at it for ages.

Its Cubism by  Yoko Kubota

Its Cubism by Yoko Kubota

Here you can see the textures and stitches close-up - mesmerising.

Its Cubism by Yoko Kubota (detail)

Its Cubism by Yoko Kubota (detail)

Remnants of Memory by  Youngmin Lee

Remnants of Memory by Youngmin Lee

Another piece that caught my eye is Remnants of Memory by Youngmin Lee. Using an eye- pleasing and interesting complemetary colour pallette, again the variation in scale and shape means you look over the piece for a long time. I particuarly like the areas where the same colour has been joined so you get the intereuption to the shape with the seam line, but the same block of colour fills the area. Connections are another great aspect of the show and I was so pleased to meet Youngmin, and not follow her on Instagram (her week travelling the UK after the show has to be seen to be believed, from the Lake District to Rye in one day).

Another gallery that stood out was the display of Baltimore Quilts from the International Quilt Museum. It was  a real treat to get up close to these and to see the stitches and fabrics. The information to go with the exhibition said that ‘Baltimore Album Quilts are a unique, regional variation of floral applique that developed between 1845 and 1854 in Baltimore, Maryland.’ All the quilts on display shared an aesthetic, but the individual motifs were very different, with some quilts being made by more than one person. These are two of my favourites.

 This quilt (below) was astonishing in its use of colour and pattern to create the pictures - absolutely beautiful, some had a relief built up. It is intricate and so lots to look at, and I loved the mixtures of plain and print fabrics, the latter of which has been fussy cut. I have also found a complete image with information here if you want to see the whole quilt.

Baltimore Album Quilt, Made by Elizabeth A. Gorsuch, circa 1845-1855

Baltimore Album Quilt, Made by Elizabeth A. Gorsuch, circa 1845-1855

 This quilt caught my attention as I adore the ship and lighthouse at the bottom. Borders also always impress me, imagine putting in all this work and then having the commitment to sew an intricate border as well, these quilts are large, often 100in square.

Thanks for reading so far… I will put up Part 2 in a couple of days, chatting about the competition quilts and shopping.