Politics and Passion at 25th Pacific International Quilt Festival
Story and photos by Diane Andrews

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Politics and Passion at 25th Pacific International Quilt Festival

Fabric artists from around the world converged at the 25th annual Pacific International Quilt Festival held at the Santa Clara Convention Center, 5001 Great America Parkway, October 13 – 16. It is the largest quilting and textile arts gathering on the West Coast, and each of the more than 800 quilts and wearable art on display depicted a personal story, reflecting the politics and passions of the artists.

"I'm an artist and I've been quilting for 30 years, but I'm super inspired by coming to this show," said Kathy Hilliard from San Diego last Friday.

Beyond the U.S., the international quilt competition entries were from Australia, Canada, Germany, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom. "War and Peace" by Israeli Miriam Mayner reflects her belief in "peace as a basis for humanity." For "Gathered Consciousness," Australian Cindy Watkins used fabric created by Aboriginal artists to depict a young Aboriginal girl.

The Best of World winner was "On This Winter Day," by Nancy J. Prince and Linda French from Orlando, Florida. Reminiscent of a Currier and Ives lithograph from the 1800s, the 64" x 84" winter snow scene is made of approximately 75,000 yards of thread and seven million long-arm machine stitches. It encompasses 2,000 hours of work over seven years. The artists wrote that "'On This Winter Day' is the ultimate great escape and allows us to step back in time to a simpler way of life."

"I like the descriptions with the quilts. They give meaning to them," said festival attendee Gledy Marquez from Sunnyvale.

Marquez particularly liked "David" by Gilli Theokritoff from the United Kingdom. The 76" X 78" quilt is made of approximately 14,000 one-inch, mosaic squares, creating an image of the head of Michelangelo's statue of David.

"We're now celebrating 25 years of the Pacific International Quilt Festival. It's the largest and most diverse quilting and textile arts event on the West Coast, offering everything for the quilt and wearable-textile artist," said David Mancuso, President of Mancuso Show Management, the Pennsylvania-based organization that founded the festival.

The festival included hands-on quilting workshops, lectures by renown fabric artists, tours for out-of-town attendees and the opportunity to mingle with some 200 venders selling everything from fabric by the yard to state-of-the art long-arm quilting machines costing thousands of dollars.

"I get so excited by all the color and the creativity. This is where you get a lot of ideas you can take home and use with your ideas," said quilter Kathy Clansky from Sunnyvale. "We learn from each other."

Seasonally appropriate, "The President's Quilt," belonging to the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles (SJMQT), portrays 42 American presidents. Museum volunteer Barbara Goetz and Curator of Collections & Exhibits Nancy Bavor talked about the SJMQT.

"The museum is the oldest quilt museum in the U.S. It encourages not just interest in quilts but in textile arts in general," said Goetz.

Bavor encouraged visiting its current exhibit: "California Art Quilt Revolutions: From the Summer of Love to the New Millennium," on view through January 15, 2017.

"Everybody needs to come see it. They are part of a continuum of quilt-making legacy," said Bavor. "The artists in the exhibit help show that today's artists are part of that continuum."

The Pacific International Quilt Festival (www.quiltfest.com) returns to Santa Clara October 12 – 15, 2017. The San Jose Museum of Quilts &Textiles (www.sjquiltmuseum.org) is open year round.