Friday, August 07, 2015

The Festival of Quilts, Part One ... Through Our Hands and The Wall of Keys

(Above:  Detail of The Wall of Keys, currently on view at The Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, England.  Click on any image to enlarge.)

Last Monday I flew from Charlotte to Toronto and caught the overnight flight on to London.  I had two checked bags ... each with nearly twenty-five pounds of tagged keys inside.  With them were packets of paperwork and photos printed to explain to TSA what they were ... an installation headed to The Festival of Quilts in Birmingham, England.  Yes, both tags were inspected!

From London I took the Underground to Euston Station and then a train to the NEC (National Exhibition Center) in Birmingham.  I arrived mid-afternoon ... pulling both suitcases.

(Above:  My luggage in the Through Our Hands exhibition area ... obviously ... before the show! LOL!)

Halls 7, 8. and 9 were still very much a "construction zone".  Staff people were erecting more walls.  Electricians were feeding cords for lighting into booths.  Signs were being erected.  All the carpeting was covered in plastic.  There was a subtle buzz of excitement in the air ... or maybe that was just electric drills hard at work!  A nice lady was applying touch up paint to the area for the Through Our Hands exhibition.  Otherwise, no one else was in the space.  I had time to organize my baggage ... depositing all the keys in one suitcase which I left on site.  I then headed into the city.  Mathias picked me from there.  I got a great night's sleep!

Before leaving the NEC, I took this picture ... knowing that this aisle would soon be filled with great quilting exhibitions and lots of people enjoying all the work!

Amazingly, I was the first from our group to arrive the next morning!  This was great.  It gave me a chance to look around ... even out into the loading dock where lots of cargo vans were busy being unpacked.

Now wouldn't this be a great delivery if this van pulled up in front of your studio!

The empty aisles from the night before started filling up.

People were busy opening boxes and pulling off plastic wrap.

Others were sorting bolts into various containers ... some upright, some horizon, some on shelves.

Everyone was very, very friendly while hard at work ... and, for the most part, wearing safety vests!

I stayed pretty far away from the people who weren't wearing safety vests ... like this group of judges.  It was the day before the opening and important decisions were being made!

Annabel Rainbow and her husband came within the hour.  One of the first things unpacked were these two bars of chocolate.  I knew I was in the right place!

Without delay, Annabel pointed out the corner display area in which I was to install my Wall of Keys.  This is how it looked at around 10 AM.  I got to work.  So did everyone else!  I absolutely love the energy that hangs in the air before a big show opening.  Excitement seemed to mount with every passing hour.  More and more people came to fill vendor areas.  It was wonderful!

(Above:  Installing the keys!)

Believe it or not, my corner is right across the aisle from Philippa Naylor's solo show.  Her husband volunteered to snap a few photos!  (Thank you!  I would have totally forgotten to do this!)

It took approximately nine-and-a-half hours to nail these 1800+ keys in place.  I didn't expect it to take that long but it did.  Why?  Well these walls are wonderful in the sense that they are strong and made of wood and well constructed, but they are also very thin and hallow.  It took ten or more taps with the hammer just to puncture the wood and often more than twenty taps to secure each nail.  I also seemed to hit my thumb pretty frequently.  One would think I'd remember where my thumb was and avoid it ... but ... by 7:45 it was pretty sore.  I finished with fifteen minutes to spare before the NEC was locked down!

That was just enough time to take a few photos!

What a transformation!

I'm really pleased with the way I let the keys seem to flow down onto the base of the display area!

Looking up isn't a bad view either!

I've got signage on both corners ... including the fact that this installation is funded in part by the South Carolina Arts Commission which receives supported from the National Endowment of the Arts and a generous award from the John and Susan Bennett Memorial Arts Fund of the Coastal 1Community Foundation of South Carolina.  Thank you!

Now ... the NEC was closed to exhibitors and vendors at 8 PM but the work continued into the night.  By the next morning, the plastic was off all the carpeting.  Everything was vacuumed and the trash had been cleared away.  By 10 AM the crowd of anxious quilters was very dense.  Wheelchairs were allowed in first.  In fact, the man with an actual racing flag told them to "start their engines" and then whisked them in!

As an exhibitor, I was already inside.  I found a good place, slightly out of the path, and shot a video.  It is HERE.  Tomorrow is Saturday.  The crowd is supposed to be lots larger.  It's hard to imagine!

(Above:  Maker, Making, Made ... the Through Our Hands exhibition at The Festival of Quilts.)  

Soon the Through Our Hands exhibition was filled with people!

I have the fabulous Annabel Rainbow (above) and Laura Kemshall (below) to thank for inviting me to be an affiliate artist in this international group!

The show includes both these talented ladies doing "performance art" pieces ... working one their art quilts in public while answering questions and generally entertaining the people who queue up to watch!

The new publication, Portfolio, which features work from both this exhibition and the earlier show at the Bilston Craft Gallery, is available at the show but also on-line ... and it is WONDERFUL!

At the time of this writing, the first two days of the Festival are now over.  I presented my TEDxColumbiaSC talk, Precious, in the lecture theater on Thursday and my new lecture, Beyond a Series, in the smaller hall today.  Both went very, very well.

(Above: Elisabeth Nacenta de la Croix, Kate Crossley, and Maggi Birchenough ... the SAQA Volunteers that were in the booth when I visited.)

I also attended a SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) Regional "Meet and Greet" this afternoon.  I've not in the region, of course ... but it is so interesting to see how this region operates.  The region includes all of Europe and the Middle East.  There were art quilters from Ireland, Switzerland, Israel, the Czech Republic, etc.  So many verbal language sharing one common way to communicate ... through the art of quilting!

Tomorrow I'm sitting on a Luane Rubin moderated panel discussion! How exciting.  I will also continue blogging about the fabulous things I'm seeing and people I'm meeting.  I'll safe that for another day ... as I'm official "caught up" after a month with no blog posts!

The Wall of Keys, as seen during the Festival of Quilts, was funded in part by the South Carolina Arts Commission which receives supported from the National Endowment of the Arts and a generous award from the John and Susan Bennett Memorial Arts Fund of the Coastal Community Foundation of South Carolina.


Yael said...

Dear Susan, thank you for this wonderful photo story!

The key installation turned out to be absolutely gorgeous! Almost 2000 keys - you are unbelievable! Not only are you always exploding with artful new ideas - you are so diligent to execute them, such a hard worker, never wasting time, non stop being creative, and "making" and "doing". And still finding a niche in your busy schedule to write and tell about all your adventures, and to document them.

I enjoy reading all of it, and I take small little helpers from you. Some inspirations, some hints. Like staying focused on keeping my hands active, my mind and soul too, not eying the couch and falling into the trap "I am getting older, I deserve to rest". Oh, yes, resting place is still far away. I made some lovely fiber bowls, tempted by you, I thank you for that.

I am wondering what you will come up with using the gloves? I can not imagine, but I love to be surprised. Big hug! :-)

Ada Plouvier-Kopitopoulou said...

I love your keys wall. Fantastic, the corner boot shows it off really well! Interesting blog post, all the hectic before a big exhibition. Success at everything you are doing in Birmingham !

Anonymous said...

Wow, the way the keys seem to flow down the wall and onto the floor of the space is fantastic - and the thought of spending over 9 hours to get them looking like that...mind-blowing! I must get to the NEC one of these years - it just always seems to be when we're on holiday!

Maggi said...

So lovely to see you and know that you recovered from the content tapping on Wednesday. The wall of keys looked so good.

Julie said...

I loved seeing your Wall of Keys close to. Quite a feat to hammer all those nails in. I hope you don't mind, I've 'borrowed' your photograph of the crowd waiting to come in as it has me in it. Not sure what I was doing in the second photo ;-)

Wanda said...

Yes, I read your blog backwards (started with part 2) but who cares....I am so blown away. And yes, I know I wrote that comment on part 2 but it's really how I am feeling. Through your blog, I actually could FEEL the energy, creativity and, of course, the work. I repeat myself yet again....if you go next year, I want to go too!!!


WOW! I don't even know what to say...I'm kinda crying? Which is weird..but for some reason this post made me beyond happy and speechless.

Joyofquilting said...

I went for three days and loved every minute.
Your post shows just how much hard work went into the show preparation. Thank you and Well done - everyone.