Three years ago I wrote a little wish list for 2017 in my notebook (my 40th year) and at the top it said "visit Quilt Con with a purpose".
I didn't make it to Savannah in February as we were in the middle of a house renovation, but I have just got back from my first Spring Quilt Market in St Louis, Missouri.
Market is essentially a trade show for businesses in the quilting world where shop owners and distributors buy for the next seasons. It is hosted in Houston every Autumn and moves around US cities in the Spring.
It was a huge opportunity to see how the industry works and to meet people, many who I have only known virtually until now. I also had a secret project to pitch, and had received some export funding to do this from UKTI.
The day before market opens there are a series of schoolhouse events, every 30 minutes for the whole day. You sit in a classroom setting and the fabric designer, or company rerpresentative talks through their new collection and answers questions. I hadn't realised there were so many - at least 15 every half hour, so it was hard to decide where to go. In the end I opted for the designers whose fabric I love and then proceeded to have a continuous series of fan girl moments. It was a bit like the fabric Oscars and I missed having my friends there with me to share the excitement. Fabric matching with Anna Maria Horner was a highlight I hadn't planned!
Crisis of Confidence
After my first day at market I did have a slight panic and crisis of confidence. It was quite overwhelming to see all of the talented designers doing their thing and I wondered "what am I doing here?". I rang my husband Paul and he was very sweet and encouraging, then I had a good sleep and a huge American breakfast and decided to be brave.
For the past 6 months my studio has been working on a quilt project that I took to market to pitch. The ethos behind it is to 'Cherish the past, Adorn the present and Create for the Future'. We have created designs, samples and a lookbook and this was my chance to get some feedback from those who know. Thankfully I got a really positive reaction and can't wait to share more details as they emerge, but for now I can't say anymore, except watch this space.
The lovely folk at Aurifil asked me to do a demo on the booth on Saturday afternoon. It was also filmed for their Facebook live audience. I watched Pat Sloan on Friday which made me very nervous, but I felt proud to have given it a go afterwards. I was sewing up my sloth picture, made using Carolyn Friedlander fabrics and talking about using all the different thread weights in my textile art. I had a few technical hitches, and haven't watched it back but the team were encouraging and it's another challenge faced! Rob Appell of Man Sewing also came by after and told me about his studio experiences. We all have to start somewhere.
I left St Louis knowing that I have found an industry that I love and believe in. Market is a trade show yet the community spirit, which to me is the backbone of quilting, was evident everywhere. Here are just a few examples:
Kristi, Erin and Hilary at Aurifil took me from booth to booth introducing me to their industry friends and sharing their knowledge with me. The rest of the team are amazing too.
Pat Sloan and Jane Davidson had the splendid sampler quilt on display - a project which has engaged hundreds of quilters worldwide, including quite a few of my friends in England. Social Media is such a powerful tool for connecting like-minded people and made quilt market less intimidating for me as a newcomer.
Richard Dunn and his Moda crew hosted a party for over 800 shop owners as a thank you for their continued support (I did take advantage of the free bar!) They champion independent retailers as opposed to large chain stores and keep the industry alive at a local level.
Anna Maria Horner talked to me about setting up Craft South and creating a local meeting place for like-minded people who benefit from their craft.
April Rhodes shared stories of her first market, her own insecurities as a designer and how feedback from customers is so important.
It's a weird reality chatting with people you admire hugely, but when you have a shared passion then somehow it is ok.
It was also so nice for me to talk to people about our studio in England, all of the lovely people I have met so far through teaching and our plans for the future.
If all goes well I will be back at Quilt Market soon, hopefully with my a friend or two in tow next time. Thanks for reading and please comment if you would like to.