i had an unscheduled day out yesterday, thanks to our last minute decision to cancel our planned festival because of the weather forecast. i know loads of people with young kids left this particular festival early last year because the weather was so dreadful and i didn't fancy being part of the action replay. the promised rain did materialise and on balance we're happier to be warm, dry and relaxed at home than we are disappointed to be missing out on festie fun.

my added bonus was that i got to swap one kind of festival for another and headed off to birmingham for the festival of quilts. i've not been before and i have to say it was pretty overwhelming. there's only so much embellishment one woman (well, this woman) can take in one day! there was a lot there in the way of both quilts and shopping that was not to my taste. there's so much exciting work going on online - in both modern and traditional styles - that i tend to forget the things that put me off the idea of quilting before i somehow fell into doing it. those things - notably fabric and colour choices - were visible in abundance at the festival, although considering the average age of the audience i shouldn't be surprised that i found a lot of it rather old fashioned.

but that's not to disparage the time, skill and effort that went into all the work on show, i can still appreciate those things even though i don't necessarily share the aesthetic. in particular there was some beautiful hand quilting that was astonishingly accomplished and patient. and thanks to the size of the show there was still plenty to inspire even this picky bugger :P although i think that seeing so many quilts en masse dilutes the power of the individual pieces somewhat, which is a shame.

i did take pictures but i'm wary of publishing them here, not least because i didn't spring for a show guide so i can't properly credit many of the competition entrants, so i'm limited to namechecking some of the better known quiltmakers who merited a place in the whitewall galleries, although i think i was actually most impressed by some of the entries in the children's classes, particularly the under-9s, which showed real originality along with surprisingly skilful use of tools and materials.

a few recurring themes emerged in what caught my eye; texture, printing and limited colour palettes being the main ones. it was the printing that really appealed to me in chrisine restall's persephone quilt (you can see work from the same series under "gallery 3" on her website), and i noticed a lot of text scattered around the festival. i find it can be quite jarring to be addressed so directly, so explicitly, through the work (as opposed to a title, caption or description posted alongside) since i'm in a different, nonverbal, mode when looking at quilts or pictures. but that arresting quality can be used to good advantage if used sparingly i think.

i found susan brandeis' use of layering computer-printed fabrics to produce an almost hologramatic sense of depth totally mesmerising. her imagery is that of encyclopaedias, landscapes, aerial and satellite photographs, which had me hook, line and sinker. i just glanced at her work as i was passing by, but it drew me back to look closer, then to take in the whole from a distance, then back up close, i literally couldn't get away!

if anyone knows of jacqueline heinz's website please let me know, i can find odds and ends of her work googling, but no homepage. her work reflects her background as an aspiring feltmaker (no surprise that it appealed to me really), the use of raw fibre along with her restrained palette and wonderful sense of movement provided a welcome oasis of calm in a visually frenetic show. i also found lesley alexander's strongly textural work - inspired by that perennial student favourite peeling paint ;) - incredibly refreshing, plus she loves pintucks as much as i do! (actually, i've never sewn a pintuck in my life, but i have the feet, the needles and everything, i really must get round to playing with them). it was great to have a chat with her about going to art school as a mature student, it's strengthened my resolve yet again, just in case i was beginning to waver.

as for shopping, i was reasonably restrained, i should just be thankful i'm on more of a spinning/weaving kick right now. i bought some of the japanese yarn dyed fabrics i noticed on a few of the stalls - neutral, textural, interesting weaves, and something i would never have bought online, i can't imagine how they would translate on screen. also a book on hungarian indigo dyeing from the hungarian patchwork guild. i just love blue and white fabrics, i'm irresistably drawn to them, but this was a tradition i was utterly ignorant of and the fabrics themselves (which were also for sale and i think i deserve a medal for resisting) are just beautiful. ooooh look! you can buy the fabrics online :D

i couldn't bear to post something this long without pics so i've included some shots from another day out. my always-temperamental sx-70 gave up the ghost a little while ago. my always-wonderful fella got me a new one for my birthday.