Quilt Show and Museum, Paducah KY
It was time for a big shot of inspiration, time to get away from the unpacking and shifting and sorting and get a new perspective. So it must be time for the big quilt show in Paducah!
My first time here, and I must say I was impressed by some things. First, the town of Paducah is effectively doubled by the influx of quilters and quilt enthusiasts and vendors, and it seemed that every single person from the town rose to the occasion. Seemed that absolutely everyone pitched in and helped. Everyone appeared to be fed, watered and housed in style! And better yet, with good humor. It was impossible not to see how tired the people at Hancock’s of Paducah were, and yet they could still talk and laugh with their customers. And find fabric, no matter how displaced.
The downtown area, which is where the main activities of the show take place, is very much human scale, and very walkable. Like so many of our smaller towns the older buildings had been repurposed with great style and imagination. And of course, quilts everywhere.
The museum was much smaller than I expected, and so, of course, I asked. The museum was designed to be inviting, not intimidating, to beckon people in, not push them away. It is unimposing, unassuming, without grand landscaping but with picnic tables and plenty of parking. This limits the number of quilts that can be displayed at one time, which is actually probably better for the textiles themselves and opens up the possibility of seeing something one might not have noticed if overwhelmed. Many quilts I had wanted to see weren’t displayed, and yet I felt completely satisfied by what I did see. Satiated. I had time to linger and really, really look at them. No photos allowed, and no program that I could find, so I must rely on my not-always-trustworthy memory.
One special exhibition was titled “The Gala of the Unexpected” and several of the exhibiting artists had certainly risen to the occasion. One “quilt” was made from chicken wire and flattened beer cans, but I can’t remember the artist’s statement. One was made from items from the artist’s house, sparked by the idea of “feedsacks” and using modern flour sacks, trash bags, shopping bags and other interesting materials, items that were on hand. My favorite was a take on a traditional block quilt made entirely from duct tape. Quilts have definitely left the bed and assumed a place on the wall!
The miniatures were amazing. Really amazing.
The antique New York Beauties exhibit was almost emotional as much as visual. There’s just something about antique quilts that grabs me by the heart. Maybe because they are often so imperfect. Maybe the spirit of the maker is embedded in the materials, so touched and handled by human hands. Several of them made me just take a deep breath …
The show was the gargantuan event we have come to expect from the national shows, and the winners were the usual suspects. A notable exception is fellow Athenian and modern quilter Sylvia Schaeffer, who won yet another ribbon in a major show, this time for “Celestial Orbs”. It’s always fun to see what people are doing, and some of it is quite impressive indeed. But none of it warmed my heart like the imperfect old quilts by anonymous makers, and so that’s what I’m going to hold close for this show.