Behind the Drapes

…at a quilt show, that is.  For the past year I’ve been embroiled in co-chairing my guild’s show.  It opens April 5 and closes on the 6th.  So, what’s the big deal, you think.  Just collect a bunch of quilts, stick them up in a room, and invite people in to look at them.  If you want to get fancy, give out ribbons.

quilt show sign

Oh how I wish it were that easy.  I suppose it should be, but… First, you have to find a place to hold the show that’s available for more than a weekend.  Most places charge, often by the day, to use their facilities. Yes, that includes churches. Usually you’ll need to use the place for more days than the show itself.  There’s quilt intake, judging, and setting up the quilt display before the show even opens.  And that means either your guild has a bottomless checking account or you have to charge people to look at the quilts.  And if you’re going to charge, then you need to throw in a few extras – raffles, auctions, vendors, special exhibits.

Then you need to decide what kind of show you’re going to have – exhibit only or judged.  And if judged, are you going to use categories or a points system?  Categories are a special form of hell, as quilt techniques and sizes get mashed together, despite the best efforts of organizers to group by pieced, appliqued, mixed techniques, and the like.  Instead guild members insist there be a category for, say, crib quilts, or large bed size.  That leads to large bed size pieced, large bed size appliqued, large bed size mixed, and so forth.  And someone will always complain that her quilt was put in the wrong category.

So, use the points system, you say.  That’s what we’re trying for this show, but we’ve found some people object to this approach and refuse to enter their quilts.  I’ll let you know how well this works out after the fact.

What else goes into putting on a quilt show?  There’s finding vendors willing to pay for space, publicizing the show (and creating all the bookmarks, flyers, etc.), lining up the pipe and drape on which to display the quilts, setting up a show registration system, arranging labels for the quilts, putting together the program, finding volunteers to help with all this plus staff the show itself.  And then there’s the ancillary stuff – the raffles, auctions, etc.  I don’t have space here to share my to-do list with you.  Suffice it to say I’ve told my husband he won’t see me from Tuesday until Saturday night.

So why do it?  It’s something to bring guild members together, though as with all such endeavors a few are doing most of the work. We hope our show will raise money the guild can use for workshops, speakers, and other endeavors.  We’re really watching expenses because our past shows haven’t been especially profitable. Part of our raffle proceeds always go to a local charity. Our show allows local quilters to strut their stuff and maybe win a ribbon or two. It gives us a chance to have small exhibits of modern and art quilts.  More generally, it gives the non-quilting public a chance to see what all this quilting stuff is about.  And finally, it always seems like a good idea at the time.


Filed under Quilt Shows

4 responses to “Behind the Drapes

  1. I feel your pain! I chaired my guild’s quilt show that we had just two weekends ago. I gave up trying to figure out how many hours I spent working on it over the past 18 months. Luckily, we have a show in odd years only, so we have time to forget (sort of like giving birth!) how painful the process is. But, it was a great show, so we’ll probably do it again. From the comments above, it looks like you had a great show, too. It takes a great team to put it together.

    • Maybe we should form a secret society so we can regale each other with stories like “remember the year all the quilt labels had the wrong entry numbers?” Or reveal closely guarded secrets about the judging process. Well, I still remember the pains of childbirth and putting on a quilt show, and have no plans to repeat either. Glad your show was great and hope you’ll be rarin’ to go in 2015.

  2. You and Judy and Jackie (the three J’s!) did a super great job on the show!!!! Thank you for taking on such a big task. Nailed it!

    • Awww, I’m blushing, Kelley. And let me give you kudos for handling the entries and organizing them on a super spreadsheet. and for holding my hand as I tried to navigate mail merge.

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