03 June 2010

Hanging the 2010 QC quilt show

Why is this brave woman up a ladder?

When my youngest child graduated from high school, my family did not quite grasp why I was so estatically happy. Was I really surprised that my youngest, always academically capable, received his high school diploma? What they didn't understand is that the event signaled another transition - an end, or so I thought, to what seemed like a lifetime of volunteering. In America, civil society cannot be supported, evidently, without hours of unpaid labor, in the public school system, at museums, senior centers, etc. Is it like this in other countries? Are French mamans creating les cupcakes for le bake sale? Are Australians mums spending hours decorating gyms so that they resemble an unholy union between a Caribbean resort and Madison Square Garden? I was so happy to be leaving that life behind, or so I thought.

Alas, I celebrated too soon, as the volunteer life continues, and this morning found me assisting with the installation of my quilt guild's annual quilt show extravaganza.

Hanging the beautiful raffle quilt.

After a year of planning, things got off to an early start at the Arsenal Center for the Arts, in Watertown. First, members exhibiting quilt(s) drop them off between 8 and 9.

Are we organized or what?

A patient volunteer checking in a quilt.

Each exhibitor receives a blue index card for each quilt, and this must be presented after the show ends, to retrieve the quilt. The artist can assign pick-up to someone else, but that person must present the all-important blue card. This all ensures that quilts are matched with owners - if you'd spent 100 or more hours on a work of art, you'd want it back too.

Rolls of quilts are delivered to their assigned areas,
and kept clean on sheets.

The Arsenal Center is a tricky space to hang, in curator parlance, as it's not a series of exhibition rooms, but a collection of spaces enveloping a large performance theater. So, there are quilts displayed in the Black Box, the window-less area under the raked seating and stage, as well as quilts on the lobby landings, quilts in the entrance lobby, and quilts in the theater itself and even on the stage.

Each quilt has a rod pocket sewn on the back and each quilter provides a metal or wood rod to go through the pocket. The ends of the rods are hung using monofilament fishing line.

Some of the tools of the trade.

There are also few of the usual display systems or supports - no picture rails, etc. Quilters are very resourceful, and we use clips attached to the ceiling structure, as well as special hooks for suspended ceiling systems. The Arts Center staff helps and we all pitch in to trouble-shoot.

Quilts arranged on the floor,
in front of the wall on which they will be hung.

Hey presto! Quilts on the wall.

My team of four spent a good deal of time arranging the quilts assigned to our area, to make pleasing compositions of quilts that would complement each other, and not clash on the wall. We moved the quilts around on floor sheets and managed to reach a consensus.

One volunteer, teetering on a stool,
suspends the quilt while another checks placement.

My assigned area was the classroom space, which featured the smaller quilts. Once the room was organized overall, I worked with Nancy, the intrepid woman in the first image in this post, and hung over a dozen quilts. Total time: about three hours. Nancy was a pleasure to work with - a winning combination of good sense, a good eye, no pretensions, but plenty of patience.

Guild members ready the boutique.

Our guild show does not feature vendors, but we do have a great boutique. Quilters are often experts in other craft areas, and the boutique features knitwear, jewelry and other items reflecting a professional level of design and execution.

The stage, with quilts.

The Black Box. That's my quilt, at the left end of the row.

More about this year's show can be found at: http://www.quiltersconnection.org/quiltshow.html
As you can see, it's a lot of effort, but even this reluctant volunteer considers it time well spent.