Well, it's all over!
Dorothy Stockell, Veena Sennick, Amber Siddiqui, Rohini Desai and I all arrived in Val d'Argents, France, for the 2018 European Patchwork Meeting, representing Guest of Honor the Kenya Quilt Guild. Dorothy and I flew into Strasbourg on Monday morning, were collected by Lysiane Held of the EPM, and transported smoothly to our hotel, the Elisabeth, in La Vancelle. Amber, Veena and Rohini arrived later in the day and checked into the Auberge aux Deux Clefs in Lièpvre. Pretty much exhausted from our travels, we had an easy evening and went to bed early.
On Tuesday morning, we assembled at the exhibition hall where the Kenya Quilt Guild's quilts would be exhibited. We laid all the sticks and quilts out on the floor, and began to finish Dorothy's hanging plan. Working from careful measurements which required a certain amount of space between the quilts, Dorothy knew that all the quilts we brought would fill the area of our display.
We did not expect to hang the show until Wednesday, but by Tuesday afternoon the two fellows doing all the hanging in that hall had completed displaying everyone else's works and they offered to go ahead and hang our quilts. With their experience and nifty two-sided step ladder, the job was done in no time at all under Dorothy's competent supervision. On Wednesday, we enjoyed a quiet day off in anticipation of the work that was yet to come!
On Thursday, we expected a low turn-out, so Amber, Veena and Rohini took off to visit other exhibitions. Dorothy and I were soon swamped--lesson well learned: the opening is when there is the greatest traffic! Dorothy, fluent in French, was able to talk to visitors easily and to explain the stories behind some of the quilts. I, with my stumble-bum French, was happy to stand mutely nearby my work and pass out business cards announcing my online patchwork quilt classes at Academy of Quilting, set to open in early October.
One of my quilts on display was All That Jazz. A few years ago, I discovered on YouTube some videos by Margaret Fabrizio about the Siddi women quilters of Karnataka, India. I was fascinated by the way the women constructed patchwork quilts entirely without prior piecing. I made a few of these quilts for myself, testing ideas about construction and design.
Later, I presented a lecture to members of the Kenya Quilt Guild about the Siddi women, and Margaret's and my own work completed with Siddi quilting methods. Dorothy was present that day, and readily understood that she could teach these methods to a self-help group of women, the Salama Mamas.
Dorothy carried quilts from the Salama Mamas to the European Patchwork Meeting, and she told everyone who would listen about them. Working with the Mamas led to modifications in both sewing and design. Dorothy helped the women develop a new way to finish the outer edges, the quilts have no batting but are constructed on Masai shukas (heavy blankets), and the hand sewing goes all over the place, but the resulting products are unusual and they were big hits at the show. Both quilts sold!
We carried on exhibiting and selling for four solid days, with each of us coming and going to support the others while still trying to see something of the rest of the EPM. We sold elephant challenge quilts with the proceeds going to support the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, and we sold giraffe challenge quilts with the proceeds to go to the Giraffe Centre conservation efforts. We sold some beaded bangles on behalf of the Guild, and we sold Kenya Quilt Guild calendars, theme "zebra," and that money goes toward Grevy's zebra conservation.
I discovered amongst the elephant quilts one made by my friend Donna Pido in memory of my ex-sister-in-law Lynne Leakey, who passed away suddenly of a brain aneurism a couple of years ago. Knowing both women made the quilt special to me. The Kiswahili phrase loosely translated to "Save Our Elephants." I traded the Kenya Quilt Guild sponsorship of an orphaned baby elephant for the quilt and packed it to travel back to Kenya with me.
In the end, we were five tired but happy and proud exhibitors. Our exhibition was the talk of the event, we made lots of new friends and saw some familiar faces like Frauke Schramm, Martine Chamorel, Lynn Edwards, Maggie Vanderweit and Dawn Willer who often works as an interpreter for EPM teachers. For me, the event was something like a homecoming, and I'm delighted I made the journey and was part of this fantastic effort!
Watch this space! We're working on other possible venues around the world, places where we can show off quilts made by Kenya Quilt Guild members!