I recently had the privilege of visiting the Quilt Show at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas. I discovered that this is the largest show hosted at the convention center, a feat that is quite amazing to me as I never dreamed the following this industry boasts. When I walked in to the show I was struck with amazement. I had always pictured quilting a hobby that matriarchs passed down from generation to generation. I did not realize that this was more than just a past-time, but it was a form of art that paralleled other mediums of art in its own unique way.
What struck me the most as a first timer, was the intricacy that goes into many of the quilts that were on display. From the distance, the quilt work was magnificent. As I would stand back and view the art, I was amazed at all of the vibrant colors. The closer I would get to the piece, the more amazed I was at the details of the stitching. With other mediums of art there are techniques used to give an artwork depth and clarity. I discovered these same illusions are intricately crafted by the quilter to give the appearance of depth and in some instances motion in the work.
As I walked from booth to booth, I was struck by the diversity of people who embrace this form of art. Men, women, and children from all walks of life seem to pour themselves into the craft and produce amazing works of art. And to supply the industry, there were a whole host of suppliers on site sharing their wares. I saw everything from batting suppliers, to fabrics and threads; I even saw a booth dedicated to magnifying glasses and other ocular enhancers to help the artist get closer to their work.
Of particular interest to me was the machines that were used to assist quilters in fabricating these brilliant works of art. Having never quilted before my closest experience to quilts were those on the beds at my grandmothers house. I never imagined that there was an entire industry behind quilting. The machines they were using called “Longarm” quilting machines seem to be the industry favorite. Apparently there are four main manufacturers of Longarm quilting machines. These bodies of these machines are casted with aluminum or similar material and vary in length. There are other manufacturers besides these major manufacturers; however, A1 Longarm Quilting Machines are esteemed as the “Rolls-Royce” of the industry amongst the other top-line quilting machines. Apparently many of the sewing machine companies have seen a market and attempted to make similar machines. In my opinion, the longarm machines that are higher quality and better built using cast aluminum are much better than their plastic counterparts.
Having never quilted before I was amazed at just how easy it was to operate these machines. I could quilt a design with regular stitching that looked professional my first time doing it! I noticed that no matter how fast I moved the handle bars of the machine, the stitches were even and the machine compensated for my speed of use.
I discovered that there were programs that come with the machines that would allow you to produce a prefabricated design too! As an artist and business owner, my mind already went to thinking about ways to use my computer to design some really cool things. Can you imagine using your Bamboo or graphic pad to robotically quilt designs for output to your longarm quilter?!? I am sure it is a matter of time. Perhaps one of the innovators Â at A1 will come up with something along those lines! I would be glad to take a royalty for the idea. ;o)
But I think the take-away that I got from the show overall was the diversity and beauty of the quilting world. I was truly impressed with the amount of time that some of these works of art must take. Having met many of the quilters and speaking with those who are forerunners of the modern quilting world I was humbled to be in the presence of so many brilliant artisans.
I look forward to visiting again.