Month: April 2014

Quilt Week 2014

with photography by Tony Youngblood

Paducah, Kentucky is a town of about 25,000 people that boasts a cobble stoned downtown, an arts enclave, and the “Wall to Wall Mural Project” of over 50 murals that adorn the floodgate. It’s also the home of an Artist Relocation Program that offers incentives to artists who will move to Paducah and hopefully contribute to its evolving scene. It’s just about two hours north of Nashville, which is just perfect for a weekend trip.


This sleepy artistic village is transformed each year for one week as Paducah dons the badge of “Quilt City USA”, and 40,000 quilters and artists flock to the Four-Rivers Area for workshops, contests, shopping, and a huge quilt expo. The show ran this year from April 23rd – 26th and included plenty for the palates of veteran quilters and those new to the craft. As a beginner quilter myself, I was thrilled to see such diversity in style and conception. The crowd was predictably retired, although part of me was surprised: there are a lot of young contemporary quilters out there, but I was the lone thirty-something last Saturday.

It doesn’t matter so much because there was tons to take in. The expo showed hundreds of quilts from the U.S. and abroad, most notably Japan,Egypt, and Australia. Contests were sponsored by machine and fabric companies such as Moda and Janome, and categories ranged from hand quilted bed quilts to miniature quilts.

One highlight was an Egyptian artist hand quilting at top speed, cutting fabric as he sewed. I pulled this video of the same guy off YouTube from last years AQS show.

He has been quilting for thirty-five years and works ten to twelve hours a day. Here’s a finished quilt made in Egypt in the same way:

Quilt Makers of Cairo Hand-stiched quilt.

Tent Makers of Cairo Handstiched quilt. They’re making a documentary about these guys! Stay tuned.

The studio quilt collection was definitely my favorite.  I veer toward these nonconventional beauties that do strange, amazing things with the color wheel, add texture, show stitches, and bend traditional block patterns. Artists often dye their own fabric, use silk screening, or paint the fabric using various media.  These quilts bring out something that I love about quilts in general: they’re recycled pieces of art, made from scraps. They grew popular because they were useful and inexpensive. While studio quilts are not known for their utility, they share the spirit of reuse.

Studio quilts also speak to me of landscapes. This quilt below made me think of my old neighborhood in Gowanus, Brooklyn. Intersected by the toxic Gowanus Canal, it’s a skinny slice of Kings County.

Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn

Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn

gowanus quilt

“Night Rain in Venice” by Fenella Davies (U.K.)

Modern quilts also tend to use mixed media. This studio quilt used what looks like brass.


“Alternating Currents” by Patricia Malarcher

Keep going for more studio quilts!


“Mimiquilt VI: Degradation” by Mirjam Pet-Jacobs (Netherlands)


“Hunted 2” by Bente Vold Klausen (Norway)


“Mid-century Modern II” by Serena Brooks


“Jardin du Wiltz I” by Anna Torma (Canada)

laura's favorite

Oh my! I didn’t get the name of this beauty! If you happen to know the artist, please leave it in my comments.

tesoro escondito

“Tesoro Escondido” by Patricia Kennedy-Zafred (Pennsylvania)


While these studio quilts left me in awe, I wished that there were more of them, and that they weren’t hidden in a back room. I might not have found them if my boyfriend hadn’t scouted the scene for me. The fact is that a lot of women and men are creating quilts that have a fresh perspective, but if you use the AQS show as a guide, the quilt world is not evolving as quickly as its quilters are. I’d love to see more studio quilts and untraditional perspectives like these. Then, perhaps AQS would draw a younger crowd–a crowd that will be its future.

Here’s the Best in Show. When I read that the entire quilt was stitched by hand, I admired the craftsmanship. It most likely is technically a masterpiece. But it doesn’t make me feel any kind of way.


“Elated” by Ted Storm (Netherlands)

Some traditional bed quilts and wall quilts really were thrilling. I especially loved checking out the Japanese quilts, like these ones.


“Oriental Puzzle” by Hitomi Kanzawa (Japan)


“Autumn Freshet” by Noriko Endo (Japan)

I like these because they engage colors and shapes that I don’t normally see together.


“Dotting the Inside Box” by Sandy Snow (Florida)


“The Road to Love” by Elizabeth Dackson


And check out this lovely echo quilting:


“Red Flowers in Hawaii” by Noriko Hasegawa (Japan)

The miniature collections didn’t get more fun than this one “For the Baby Mice”:

baby mice

And the quilt below takes a modern look at the traditional log cabin:

wonky log cabin

“Abstract 16” by Cynthia Felts (Missouri)

Here’s my final favorite:


“Spirit” by Georgia Spalding PIerce


Shopping was insanely fun. I scored some gorgeous hand-dyed and printed fabric from Quilt Tapestry Studio, met some very  passionate folks from Accomplish Quilting (they’re opening a store in Nashville, ya’ll!), fell in love with Australian Aboriginal and Robert Kaufman prints at Color By Hand, and discovered Tambani Applique Blocks. Tambani is a quilting and embroidering collective  in the northern part of South African from a culture that is rich in folklore. They make blocks that tell these traditional African tales. Their brochure says, “The women are poor, illiterate and unemployed. Husbands often drift toward the cities, many never return.” Not only do these blocks carry out their oral tradition, but they also employ the women who make them; they keep all of the profit.


I also picked up this stunning batik from . The owner, Mary Ogwell, is from Kenya and gave us a great deal because she was anxious to close up and see her newborn grandson in Phoenix.


Finally, a true highlight was getting on a long armer for the very first time. Someday, when I am making a living as a quilter, perhaps I will look back at the Paducah Quilt Show as the day I found my calling!


As soon as I got home, I started my own art quilt. (blush.)

my modern quilt

Nashville Film Festival

Spring is here! The Sounds Stadium is at this moment setting off fireworks behind our house, children all over the city are finding it’s increasingly difficult to sit still during English class, and my allergies are terrible.This strange Southern spring appears to be a mixed bag. But, the Nashville Film Festival is saving the day. Films show at Green Hills Regal Cinema (map) through next Saturday 4/26. Nashville Scene writers are doing a great job acting as guides over at Country Life, and they’re needed. The choices are overwhelming.

The unsung hero of the festival is all of the great free stuff to see, eat, and do over the next several days. Check out this fancy official brochure for panels, workshops, live music, and outdoor movies! Movies are also free at Walk of Fame Park, located one block south of Broadway between 4th and 5th Avenue nights at 8:00. (map). I’m especially looking forward to Take Me to the River Monday night, with live music starting at 6:30. Take Me to the River won the South by Southwest Audience award this year. Martin Shore’s documentary will surely overwhelm music lovers, for it brings together generations of Memphis and Mississippi Delta soul musicians, like Otis Clay, as well as contemporary hip hop sages, like Snoop Dogg.

Tuesday, April 22 at 11:30 a.m., I suggest seeing Let the Fire Burn. It played at the Belcourt a few months back. This film terrifically documents the conflict between the black liberation group MOVE and the city of Philadelphia, which culminated in a fatal attack on MOVE’s communal home. This includes archived news reports and the taping of the U.S. Federal Court’s inquiry, as well as a heartbreaking interview with one of the children who escaped the burning home. Let the Fire Burn is a must-see!


Your Saturday Afternoon at the Public Library

If you wistfully remember Patience and Fortitude, regally guarding the Beaux-Arts building on 5th Avenue and 42nd Street, you should give the main branch of the Nashville Public Library a chance.  Located downtown at 615 Church Street, the library, like the Beaux-Arts branch in New York, is like a museum.  Everything is pristine. The grand central lobby shows NYPL’s current celebration, best viewed from above as you lean over one of the balconies. The Civil Rights Room is a beautiful tribute to Nashville’s role in the Movement, complete with a lunch counter that displays the rules for nonviolent protesters. The teen book room alone made me want to morph back to my 17-year old self for the first time ever. The library also boasts a sunny courtyard and fountain, a large special collection, kids’ crafts and story time, and a photography exhibit.  

I only poked around for a couple hours, but it was by far the most relaxing afternoon I’ve had in a long, long time. I haven’t known the warm smile of a librarian in ages, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the libraries in New York are frequently smelly and kind of gross. I’m excited to check out some NPL events, too. 




This Weekend: Circuit Benders’ Ball

What do you get when you cross a floor lamp, a snow machine motor, and a piano? Read on to find out! 

This weekend, Nashvillians will have a special treat with the Circuit Benders’ Ball that kicks off Friday, April 11th at 5:00pm at Fort Houston. The very best places to find information about the Ball are here and here, where curator and maker Tony Youngblood has the details. 

The best way to describe circuit bending to someone who’s never heard of it is this: people recycle electronics and found objects–the older and weirder, the better–to produce a bonafide sound machine with crazy-wavy high pitches, strumming alto pitches, beeps, boops, and bangs. To me, girlfriend and housemate of Tony Youngblood, it mostly translates to a lot of noise when I’m trying to watch Star Trek ToS, but when I get downstairs to his workshop and see some of the things he’s made and others have bequeathed to him, I’m pretty amazed.  


Above, behold Tim Kaiser’s creation. This vintage rotary telephone was “bent” with a sound effect keychain, like the ones you had as a kid that made grenade noises. Kaiser wired and soldered these together. It’s controlled by switches and the rotary dialer itself.

Toys range in complexity to pretty simple (ah, I can see how he did it!) to extremely complex (WTF?!). See more of his bent instruments here.  Kaiser is not only a gifted transformer, he’s also a musician and performer, and he uses these in his ambient compositions. 

Curious? Check out the Ball this weekend, and try one of the workshops!  They’re beginner-friendly and kept to about 15 people and have names like “Playdoh vs. Lego” and “Hacking the Gameboy.” There will also be panelists, visual artists, performers, live visuals, and special presentations. And best of all, what I’m coming to love about Nashville, there will be people knocking about, exploring ideas and sharing in the creative spirit that moves them. 

Art in the Airport

Nashville is pretty badass because there’s even art in the airport. Not shitty, corporate art.  BNA features a video installation called “For My Neighbor” by Adrienne Outlaw of Seedspace and one of my favorite people in the city. Joe Nolan writes about it here.  

So, coming into town?  Know anyone needing a lift? I declined volunteering to pick up people from my organization at the airport, but here’s a way to both get out there to see Outlaw’s installation and be helpful (i.e. do my job).  AND have a positive experience at an airport.  Life is good!

Art Crawl Weekend

Hooray! It’s art crawl weekend in Nashville!

If you’re checking out Nashville as a potential home, this is a feather in its cap. The first Saturday of every month, Nashville has two art crawls–one is downtown (6:00 – 9:00), one is in Wedgewood-Houston (5:30-9:00), a neighborhood south of downtown (and my home hood!) My pretty limited experience has been that the downtown art crawl is more commercial and WeHo (lack of better name? missing NYC a lot this week? simply crazy?) tends to be more underground, more experimental, and for me, more interesting and fun. Don’t take my word for it though. Check out both and then head to Track One for live music at 9:00 @ 1209 4th Ave South.

Downtown has a shuttle that will take you around hopping galleries, and the central location is the Arcade (pronounced AR-cade. I first thought people were saying ART CAVE). Once you’re in WeHo, start at Zeitgeist and pick up a map there of the galleries in the neighborhood. They’re all in walking distance.

Here are my highlights.

Which: Wedgewood-Houston
Where: threesquared
427 Chestnut St. (inside Chestnut Square)
Reception at threesquared 6-9pm
On display: Hair Pieces by Rebecca Drolen

I’ve always marveled at how much we love hair—when its attached to a head. We pet it, stroke it, some of us spend thousands of dollars a year maintaining it, others take medication to keep it. Hair is not just an industry; it’s how we identify people and ourselves. But, the moment it is off the head, it is unsightly, disgusting even. And if its found in our food? Forget it. It might have fallen off the heads of Eva Mendez AND Ryan Gosling–two famous, beautiful hairs, in love!–but we want nothing to do with it. I’m excited to see Hair Pieces, the latest series of photographs by Drolen, because I think there’s a lot to say about hair aesthetically, socially, and culturally.

Learn more at:

Which: Wedgewood-Houston
Where: Seedspace
209 4th Ave South (Inside Track One)
On display: “Conversion/Convergence” by Travis Janssen

Janssen will delight you with his work. I saw it last month and could have stood there all night trying to figure out how he did it. I kept thinking, “It must be simple…but it’s too beautiful to be simple!” I don’t want to give it away, but I will say that there is a projector and a fan, and a lot of colors.

Learn more at:

Which: Wedgewood-Houston
Where: David Lusk Gallery
516 Hagan Street
On display: Greely Myatt, “Having Said That”

David Lusk’s new gallery will host its first solo show.  Sculptor Greely Myatt’s “Quilts Built”, fashioned from recycled street signs and painted wood, showed as a public art exhibit in downtown Memphis and is now right here in Nashville.  Myatt says in this interview that his collaborator was his deceased grandmother, and his work merges tradition and reinvigorating old material to create something else.  This Saturday’s show, “Having Said That”, is based on comic books and messages we get from them. (Not psychologically. Think BANG! POW! WOMPH! Thought bubble.)

Learn more at

If you have trouble finding out information about what’s showing at the galleries downtown, that’s because there isn’t a place where its centrally located on the web.  (Never in New York.)  WeHo uses this Facebook page, but the galleries don’t all update it. If you know about more going on out there this weekend, please post it in the comments for all to see!



Dear Erica,

Yesterday I was at Trader Joe’s trying to get some healthy food.  (What’s with that, btw? Why is it so hard to find healthy food and decent vegetables here?) At first I was impressed; it was worlds better than being crammed into the TJ’s on Court Street in Brooklyn with a line snaking around the entire store in every aisle, bumper to bumper with Brooklynites and just trying to get to the dried freaking mango. But when I finished my shopping and got to the registers, there was NO LINE AT ALL but plenty of shoppers. People were just standing around with their carts, completely unorganized, not being helped, not being checked out. I’ve noticed that happening at Target, Kroger, and even the gas station. How do they get anything done?

-Sick of Standing Around


Dear Sick,

I am familiar with this bizarre behavior. Here’s my advice. If you’re from New York, you just have to accept something: there is no place in this country–perhaps even the world–that is ever going to be as efficient as Manhattan.  Never will you go into a coffee shop that runs so seamlessly that you don’t have to make eye contact with anyone. You will not regularly be in that blissful state of your own world for entire afternoons, productively zooming through your chores so that you have time to relax and unwind. This is the South. Let go of that feeling. It will always be waiting for you at a buzzing Brooklyn deli, where everyone knows exactly what they’ll order before they step foot in the door. It will be there, at the subway turn style, as New Yorkers expertly execute a swipe while holding umbrellas, briefcases, babies, and grocery bags.  In the meantime, try to enjoy the slowness. Chat with people. Tell them you like their nail polish. When they ask you how you’re doing, actually answer honestly. You’ll be surprised at how interested and interesting people are. You’ll relax into it, and when you’re snapped back by someone lurching around Gallatin Avenue at 10 mph, just remember, there’s always New York.



Nashvillians not forming a line outside Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream.