The approach of Halloween is all around Houston as haunted house tours and popup costume stores have appeared along all our major freeways. The impending costume holiday triggers a different event in me, the upcoming International Quilt Festival.
Let me explain.
My mother and stepfather were sales reps for quilt fabric manufacturers for many years and recruited me to assist at the Quilt Market. The market is a weeklong trade show that is the largest of its kind in the country. If you own a quilt or fabric store, you have to be there. All I cared about was if it fell on my favorite holiday, Halloween. It always did.
As an artist, however, my mother new to keep me coming back (I was cheap labor), she had to show me the artistic side of this massive festival. The quilts on display each year are nothing short of stunning. The amount of time, skill and planning to create these works of fiber art are jaw-dropping.
Trying to convey my amazement to friends fell not on deaf ears, but on preconceived patchwork quilted visions of grandma’s guest bedroom comforter. That is not the case, trust me.
Heights artist and quilter Kim Ritter recently contacted me about her quilt being selected as part of “Quilts: A World of Beauty.”
“(It) is the annual judged show of works by members of the International Quilt Association (IQA),” Bob Ruggiero, vice president of Communications Quilts, Inc., said in an email. “We had over 600 entries this year, which were juried down to about 340. They compete for a total of nearly $100,000 in cash, non-purchase prizes, in 22 different categories.”
The awards will be given out at the Winners Circle Celebration, sort of like the “Oscars for Quilting” at a ceremony held Oct. 29.
“Winners know they’ve won ‘something,’ but not what or what place,” Ruggiero said. “The top eight winners know they are in line for a major prize because IQA pays for them to fly in and for hotel accommodations.”
Ritter’s entry for the show is titled “Intergalactic Quilt Festival” and shows the quilt festival at the George R. Brown Convention Center with science fiction overtones. It features two of the IQA founders, Karey Bresenhan and Nancy O’Bryant Puentes, soaring over the scene in flying saucers.
Ritter told me she uses a variety of unique approaches in creating her quilts. She starts with a sketch, then moves to markers, transfers her designs to her computer and mixes in photography for backgrounds before finally printing with archival ink onto fabric. Then the quilting begins.
Ritter is also featured with friends in a special exhibit titled “Women of the West” sponsored by Quilter’s Rule.
The Homestead Act of 1862 gave women who were single, widowed or divorced the chance to own 160 acres of land in the Great Plains. These pioneer women used their art, music, writings and sense of humor to create a new life. The American Indians were greatly impacted by westward expansion. The inclusion of beadwork in this exhibit acknowledges them. This exhibit features works by Ritter, Janet Bodin, Susan Ennis, Ginny Eckley and Kay Hendricks, paying homage to the pioneering women of the past.
Ritter joined quilters Eckley and Ennis along with doll maker Bodin for the western-themed exhibit. Ritter even got her mother, Hendricks, involved. Hendricks has been making and collecting western beadwork for 40 years.
The “Women of the West” exhibit will be in Hall E at aisle P off of Main Street. Look for the red carpet. Ritter and Eckley will be giving exhibition talks and tours at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Oct. 31-Nov. 2.
More about this talented group can be found online at https://womenofthewestgallery.com, including their scheduled times and locations. Ritter can be found at her studio #306 on Second Saturdays at Silos at Sawyer Yards.
The International Quilt Festival takes place at the George R. Brown Convention Center, 1001 Avenida de las Americas, from Oct. 31-Nov. 3. Classes and events begin Oct. 28, and preview night is Oct. 30. All details, including tickets and class enrollment,, can be found at www.quilts.com.
Cohen is an artist and founder of First Saturday Arts Market and the Market at Sawyer Yards. Find him at ArtValet.com.