Quilts exhibitions are alien realities for most males. It means diving deep into a world of women, mostly 50+ years of age. I have visited Quilts exhibitions all over the world, from USA to Switzerland, from France to Australia, from England to Indonesia. I have seen Japanese and Indian exhibitions, wonderful creations from South Korea, from Germany and the Scandinavian countries.
For me it is similar to visit art exhibitions of any kind. I happen to love modern art, wild and unpredictable, color compositions, abstract, non figurative. Often shocking and surprising. Installation and video art.
Quilts are the same. Classical motives, especially close to the origin of quilting itself, among the Amish People. Different techniques, Double Wedding Ring, Log Cabin, Trip Around the World, Jacob’s Ladder. Sophisticated and intricate Japanese quilts full of extreme detail, light colored Indian pieces and modern, non figurative and seemingly out of shape quilts from Korea. It is a true art experience and I thoroughly enjoy it.
But more and more it is also this encounter with a uniquely female culture with an amazing history of women that fascinates me. In times of less freedom and less emancipation than some places today, women expressed themselves through compositions of colors and fabrics and intriguing sewing, the process of binding several pieces of fabric together with embroidery, the special art of quilting is elegant and beautiful and very, very time consuming. The results are amazing, fascinating, often great pieces of art.
Quilts with hidden patterns of embroidery, giving coded messages about safe places to stay, helped fleeing slaves on their way to freedom. Women came together in closed circles to do quilting together, away from male dominance and often abuse and exploitation of all kinds. They came together in a feminine fellowship unknown and inaccessible for men, a sisterhood of the deepest engagement and solidarity, often life saving, dignity saving, giving strength and identity and pride.
Today at “Salon International des Arts du Fil: Pour l’Am❤️ur du Fil” in Nantes, West France, we are around 5000 women and thirteen men. This is by the way rated as a very high representation of male individuals.
Are we welcome? Let me say it this way: We are not unwelcome. Not at all. We are just fundamentally uninteresting. We are totally overlooked, ignored, not paid attention to. There are no men on the stage, no male Mayor to open the event, no men at all.
A long line, no, a river of women in front of “Quiltmania”‘s Boot. This is Ingunn’s favorite quilt magazine.
It is a fabulous feeling to walk around like this, bumping into so many handbags and elbows and other parts and trying to move through the crowd of experienced, dedicated, targeted and rather uncaring ladies. To see their friendship and laughter, to listen in to the conversations around specially interesting quilts and follow their never stopping flow, a river of mature women-hood from boot to boot, from exhibition hall to exhibition hall, until we all congregate in the enormous line in front of the cafeteria.
I love it and I learn from it. For hours and hours I am dwelling and contemplating on the harsh realities of women, still in a majority of territories around the world. Dominated and led by elderly, lazy morons of all kinds and versions – us – males. This is one of the areas of life still totally dominated by females, female art expressions, built on female history of the proudest kind.
Ingunn took some years to accept that I really enjoyed our many experiences at quilt exhibitions around the world, and not only was the humble donkey carrying loads of quilt books, magazines, fabrics and tools. It is amazing how heavy some feet of fabric can become, if you add enough of them.
I had to talk with this guy, David Butler, another of the 13 men today. He is of course married to a quilter like myself, but unlike myself gifted as a designer and rock musician, touring with his own band “Black Owls” and here to sell his book about quilt fabrics in dark colors, made for guys…..We shake hands in an understanding kind of way – we both know a hidden world from the inside and have both learned to love it! Of course I bought his book!
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