From the Sea to the Ceiling, Quilt Festival Celebrates Sapphire Anniversary

Girls Just Wanna Have Funds, by Kim Ritter and Kay Hendricks
Girls Just Wanna Have Funds, by Kim Ritter and Kay Hendricks Photo by International Quilt Festival/Houston
We actually think every year at the International Quilt Festival/Houston is amazing, but things get even more special during milestone years.

"We really try to do something kind of spectacular, something that will wow people. Five years ago we did a red and white exhibit, quilts were suspended from the ceilings, with more quilts below those," says Rhianna Griffin, director of new media for organizer Quilts, Inc., about the 40th Anniversary Ruby Jubilee Quilt Festival.

Griffin says event goers were blown away by the display, with all eyes on the ceiling, so they're doing it again for the 45th year.

"We decided to go with a blue and white theme, in terms of color scheme; they range from antique quilts to modern quilts and they cover just about every technique and style you can imagine," says Griffin. "The common denominator is blue and white and it’s going to be really remarkable, really eye catching, you have to look up to see it."

The "Sapphire Celebration" is just one of 37 curated exhibits at this year's festival. We'll highlight a few of them here and then point you to the special exhibits event page to read about the rest.

click to enlarge Aquaman: King of Atlantis, by Katalin Horvath. - PHOTO BY INTERNATIONAL QUILT FESTIVAL/HOUSTON
Aquaman: King of Atlantis, by Katalin Horvath.
Photo by International Quilt Festival/Houston
It turns out that a Venn diagram of Comicpalooza and the International Quilt Festival/Houston does intersect, and that's a good thing.

"We know a lot of people are making quilts that are an homage to superheroes, anime; we even have a quilt that was created in honor of the Order of the Phoenix from Harry Potter. About a year and a half ago we decided with Comicpalooza to put out a call for these types of quilts and they helped us promote it," says Griffin, who says they debuted a quilt show at Comicpalooza earlier this spring. "We had a great response there. People go, 'Oh, that's a quilt?' A lot of it is comics, superheroes and other interesting characters. There's a quilt from Legend of Zelda; it's kind of all over the map, some pop culture."

So look for Katalin Horvath's Aquaman: King of Atlantis in the "Quilted Comics & Sci-Fi" exhibit. Then be sure to stop by to see "Merging Cosplay with Traditional and Modern Quilting" for a look at 16th to 18th century garments by Casey Renee Cosplay, surface designs by quilter Christine Zane, and patterned pixel art by Quiltoni's Toni Smith.

We need more of Bob Ross these days; the late artist had such a soothing voice and it was easy to get lost watching him paint those amazing landscapes. Every year Cherrywood, a company that produces hand-dyed quilting fabric that looks like suede, creates a different challenge and this year it was inspired by Ross' television show, The Joy of Painting.

"They put forth a theme and a specific palette of fabrics, and then quilters create something with them for the theme," says Griffin. "At the end when they’re displayed, they’re hung in a grid system, but the color scheme is all the same. It’s like a really cohesive exhibit. It’s just a really joyful, happy exhibit."

There are also more somber exhibits that touch on loss and mourning (Día de los Muertos), hope for long-term survivors of HIV, the preservation of endangered animals and plants, veterans who use quilting as therapy for their post-traumatic stress disorder, and a remembrance of the victims from 9/11.

We'll have a chance to view quilts of all sizes, too. Quilter Shruti Dandekar will be showing a 210 inch by 86 inch quilt that commemorates the coronation of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, a warrior king from India in the 1600s. Sisters Andera Blackhurst and Ellen Carter will display blue and white traditional quilts that are in miniature.

click to enlarge Through Her Voice (detail), by Maggie Dillon. - PHOTO BY INTERNATIONAL QUILT FESTIVAL/HOUSTON
Through Her Voice (detail), by Maggie Dillon.
Photo by International Quilt Festival/Houston
"A Better World" is devoted to those difference-makers here on Planet Earth who have made sacrifices or risked danger while trying to make the world a better place. Co-curated by Susan Knapp and Lyric Kinard, the entries include depictions of Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala, The Mustard Seed Project co-founder Marna Williams, Civil Rights activist and musician Nina Simone, and "Mama" Efua Dorkenoo, who worked for more than 30 years to end the practice of female genital mutilation.

In addition to the exhibits, a vendor area with more than 1,000 booths, an interactive booth hosted by the Quilt Guild of Greater Houston, open studios, and meet the teachers opportunities, the International Quilt Festival/Houston also has two new offerings.

Bluprint, an online community for quilters, is hosting a lounge area with screenings of their classes and a chance to participate in the filming of an upcoming episode of True Up.

Also new is the nearby Inspiration Station with continuous video content from Bluprint classes and a chance to meet Angela Walters, the Midnight Quilter, during an "ask her anything" Q&A on November 2 from 3-4 p.m.

click to enlarge Written by Teresa Duryea Wong. - PHOTO BY SCHIFFER PUBLISHING
Written by Teresa Duryea Wong.
Photo by Schiffer Publishing
Author Teresa Duryea Wong also has written a new book, Magic & Memories: 45 Years of International Quilt Festival, about the founders and history of the festival. From its earliest inception inside a Houston antique store with CEO and founder Karoline (Karey) Bresenhan, and soon assisted by cousin Nancy O'Bryant, the Houston festival has become the largest annual quilt show in the United States. Wong will be on hand for a luncheon lecture on November 1 from noon to 2 p.m., as well as for a free onstage interview with the founders followed by a book signing on November 2 at 3 p.m.

The International Quilt Festival/Houston is scheduled for October 30-November 3 from 7-9 p.m. Wednesday (preview night), 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenida de las Americas. For information, call 713-781-6864 or visit quilts.com/quilt-festival-houston. $12 to $50 (free for children age ten and younger).                                   
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Susie Tommaney is a contributing writer who enjoys covering the lively arts and culture scene in Houston and surrounding areas, connecting creative makers with the Houston Press readers to make every week a great one.
Contact: Susie Tommaney