This is a bit of a random muse but I woke up to it and felt I wanted to share it with you.
Back in the 1960s and 1970s my father occasionally “did” a trade show. And you can bet they were as every bit as boring and stodgy as you might have imagined – a bunch of men in business suits standing around or schmoozing. I’ve seen pictures. Ugh. International Quilt Market is absolutely nothing like that. It is vibrant and fun and colorful, to say the least. Oh, and there are more women than men but there are definitely men.
I have now been to two Quilt Markets and one Quilt Festival. Let me explain the difference. The Quilt Market is open to the trade – shops, manufacturers, designers, etc. Pricing is wholesale. Quilt Festival is open to the public and pricing is retail. Not every vendor that is at Quilt Market is at Quilt Festival.
The thread of Quilt Market and Quilt Festival that is binding to me is my mother, or the memory of my mother, Betty Alderman.
Yesterday, I was surprised and pleased to hear my mother referred to as a pioneer in this business. And, I guess she was.
Here is a picture of my mom at the 1994 Quilt Market. She is on the right. I can only guess at the names of the two other women in this picture. I may find out later today. This picture is from 20 years ago. This was not her first Quilt Market.
Betty Alderman (on the right) at the 1994 International Quilt Market
In 1997, mom and I self-published a pattern booklet called, “A Century of Sunbonnets,” which is now out of print but which can be found sometimes on the internet. It was incredibly successful for us. That year, I was able to go to Quilt Market with mom and we did what is called, “Schoolhouse.” These are sessions that run all day long and designers, authors, vendors, etc, present a new technique, product, book, etc. It helps them build sales and it educates, informs and entertains the rest of us. Mom led the session while I paraded the quilts around. I loved it and so did she.
Mom had been part of a group that came out of The Quilted Apple, a Phoenix, AZ quilt shop, a shop that eventually would become known as a percolator of designers. My mom was one of those. Another employee, among others, was Val Sparks. Val and my mother became fast friends as she did with many of the other employees. In 1997 Val was at Quilt Market.
Though I don’t have a picture of Val from that time, at least not with me, I can tell you she hasn’t changed much and she is delightfully funny and kind.
I had not seen Val in many years. The last time was in my hometown when she and Diane Ebner flew into Rochester, NY and drove with my mom to the Pittsburgh version of spring Quilt Market. There is more to that story but I will save it for the book that I hope to write about my mom.
Here is a picture of me, Val and Diane, taken yesterday at the Olfa booth. Sorry that it’s a bit blurry.
Betsy Alderman Lewis, Val Sparks and Diane Ebner at the Olfa booth, International Quilt Market, Pittsburgh, NY 2014
After the 1997 Quilt Market, I always had a tug to go again but I really couldn’t justify the cost of going when I wasn’t really much involved in the Betty Alderman Designs business at that time. So every time my mom went I was just a bit envious. I knew the fun, and hard work, that was going to be involved and I wanted to be there. Well, I never made it again with my mom.
But, last fall there was an exhibit of mom’s work at the Houston, or fall Quilt Market. It was a display I put together to share a portion of my mom’s work with the world. It was a deeply satisfying, meaningful, and loving project for me. It also gave me an opportunity to study my mother’s body of work. It gave me an opportunity to reconnect with some of my mom’s old friends who I continue to value as friends of my own. One of those friends was Val Sparks.
Val and I have been communicating back and forth for several months now (she’s in Phoenix and I’m in Palmyra, NY).
Now that I am carrying on the Betty Alderman Designs business, I was able to attend Quilt Market this year as a designer. Of course, I am also attending to gather information for this blog that Sue and I write.
So, I have come full circle a bit, I guess. Quilt Market is the binder that holds me to the past (my mom and Val) and the future with Sue Knapp and all the plans that come with that. Val and Sue, two friends from my past, met up in Pittsburgh yesterday. Perhaps you would like to see them all together? Great! Here’s the picture. Oh, and that’s Judy Niermeyer in the middle. More on that later.
Jeanne Knapp, Sue Knapp, Judy Niermeyer, Diane Ebner, Val Sparks, 2014 International Quilt Market, Pittsburgh, PA
So what’s the surprise? The surprise is how Quilt Market has connected me to some very important people in my life who also were connected to my mom who I miss deeply every day. To walk aisles with Sue and with Val and Diane was to hear a rich recounting of stories about my mom, stories of past Quilt Markets my mom attended and stories of pranks and jokes that my mother participated in, which I knew existed, even if she tried to be proper in front of us kids most of the time. My mom loved to have fun. None of these stories were requested. All of a sudden, something would just remind them of my mother and they would tell me a story. I loved it.