Considered by some a hobby whose excitement is rivaled only by being tranquilized, quilting has quite a large following. What those naysayers may not know, however, is just how much patience, talent and creative vision this art form requires. And these ladies -- and the occasional male -- mean business.
In its 37th year, the long-running Quilt Show is in full swing at the Springville Museum of Art. Co-sponsored by the Utah Valley Quilt Guild, the juried show offers awards for exceptional quilts in a variety of categories including "best hand quilting" and "best group quilt" in addition to providing an avenue for quilters to display their passions.
"It's a long-term commitment from the quilters of Utah," said Virgil Jacobsen, curator of education at the Springville Museum of Art. "People come from all over the state to submit their work. We have a longstanding commitment to bring the very best of Utah's quilters to this wonderful exhibition."
Featuring enough fabric to warm a small town -- occupying seven galleries in the museum, with some 100 quilts submitted -- the artwork is brought in, sorted and juried. Soon after being screened, the pieces are divided to be hung and the artists' names are covered for objective judging. With quite a feat to perform, the three judges look at each quilt, give written feedback to every artist and select which works will receive one of the 19 awards handed out this year according to workmanship, design and color among other categories.
"It's not the largest show, but this is by far one of the more well-attended exhibitions," Jacobsen said. "There's a very loyal following. This is an exhibition that combines traditional quilting as well as machine quilting. It represents an almost unthinkable amount of hours spent in totality."
Megan Legas, a member of the Utah Valley Quilt Guild and liaison for this year's quilt show, also happens to be a quilter and 2010's winner of the "Excellence in Hand Quilting and Design" award for her piece "A Hike to the Altar." She, herself originally learning to quilt 40 years ago from her elderly landlady while she was a pregnant BYU student, is a believer in the old-school line of thought.
"The bulk of quilters in Utah County hire a professional quilter to put it together with a machine," Legas said. "I happen to be a throwback -- hand quilting is my favorite. Every stitch in the quilt goes in one by one and there are thousands and thousands of stitches in there. It's like reading a good book. You get to see the plot develop. If you have to ask how long making a quilt takes, it's probably not for you. I like the doing as opposed to the being done."
Legas said she's entered quilts into the annual show the past five or six years for two main reasons: she enjoys seeing her projects hanging in a beautiful gallery, and she seeks the critiques and advice received from the individually tailored opinions of the judges that help those participating refine their craft and view it from a new perspective.
"It's a long process and ... there are different aspects. The creative designing stage, deciding color, what fabrics to use and then the building process. As they say, quilting is taking perfectly good fabric, cutting it up and then sewing it back together. The planning is the creative part but it's the quilting detail and texture that draws you in."
While it's a predominantly female endeavor, Legas said quilting is becoming an increasingly popular art form -- not just a way to cover beds -- with a growing amount of male involvement and general appreciation. The show at the Springville Museum of Art has become something of a pedestal for these "fabric artists" to reach.
"The Springville show has evolved over the years ... [and] not every quilt entered guarantees you a place on the wall," Legas said. "It's juried for quality and, as a result, people send their best work and set the show as a goal to reach. As a guild we appreciate the museum. It's a beautiful place to display our quilts and they're really supportive of the show. Being in the museum validates quilting as an art form instead of just a craft."
The show is open to the public and for anyone wishing to see "behind the scenes" of the quilting process, a trunk show will be held Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. where six quilters will bring their favorite quilts to show and discuss.