Thoughts from the SAQA Conference in Philly

 April 29, 2016
Posted by Cindy

It’s taken me a while to get my thoughts together, but I had a great weekend at the Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) annual conference in Philadelphia earlier this month–full of meeting new people, reconnecting with artists I already knew, and getting lots of new ideas and inspiration!

Definitely one of the highlights of the event was a trip to the opening of ArtQuilt Elements in Wayne, PA. This exhibit is held in even years and showcases some wonderful work. Many of the artists were in attendance at the opening and we were able to hear a short statement from each of them in front of their work–really inspiring! I haven’t entered this show in a long time, but maybe I’ll give it a shot next time. Probably need to start working bigger, though. It was crowded and I didn’t get many pictures, but the one you’re seeing above has some of my favorites from the show–Elizabeth Brandt’s “Selected Stories” which won an award, deservedly, is the large one in the middle of the photo. You can also get a glimpse of Lisa Kijak’s “Odyssey Liquor” to the right of the large piece and Alicia Merritt’s “Port at Dusk” diptych on the facing wall next to Lisa’s. To the left of Elizabeth’s piece is “Strange Attractor #3 – Riverway” by Niraja Lorenz. 

Another highlight was the opportunity to visit the Barnes Foundation, which has an impressive collection of early modern art. The Foundation was created by Albert Barnes in 1922 and has an unusual approach to displaying art. Rather than putting all the Cezannes together, or the Picassos, the galleries at the Barnes are arranged according to line, shape and color. As an art history major, I was fascinated by the fact that you might have a completely unknown artist hanging next to a masterwork by a famous painter. Also, there were no titles or other identifying tags–simply the artist’s last name somewhere on the frame. Unfortunately, the museum didn’t allow photos of any kind in the galleries, so it’s a little hard to explain, but you can see images on the Barnes website here.

The conference included interesting speakers, like Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi, who is an author, curator and quilter and one of the premier authorities on African-American quilts. She spoke about overcoming criticism and rejection of your work and just keep creating. “Everyone has a rightful place at this table called art,” she said. I think this is a very important thing to keep in mind as an artist–don’t compare yourself to others!

Fellow artist Maria Shell had a similar point to make in her talk “The Art of the Word Part II: How to Walk, Talk and Write Like an Artist.” As artists, each of us is unique and has our own story to tell. We should feel comfortable and confident about sharing our stories, she said.

And I was inspired by Kathleen Loomis‘ talk on “Why Working in a Series Works.” The most interesting thing I took away was the idea of looking at each piece and picking some aspect of it that you like, or dislike, or might do differently, and explore that idea in the next one.

But beyond all the speakers and the trip to the show, what I loved most about the conference was being around other creative artists. There were “Lightning Talks” where individual artists shared something about their work or process or inspiration or life talking with 20 slides in 40 seconds! They were all so different and I was sorry I couldn’t listen to every single one. And I was sorry I hadn’t signed up to do one either–next time.

That was because I volunteered to staff a table in another room to help people learn to knit! It was lots of fun to see what everyone was working on, and I did manage to teach one person to knit–Kate Themel wrote about it on her blog here. 

Visit to the Snyderman-Works Gallery in Philadelphia - Cindy Grisdela Art Quilts

Visit to the Snyderman-Works Gallery in Philadelphia

We also had great meals and a terrific outing to the Snyderman-Works Galleries, where we were treated to an amazing exhibit of fiber art that pushed the edges of what we expect fiber art to be.

That’s the beauty of attending a conference like this–you get new ideas, meet new people, and push yourself outside your comfort zone. I always come back energized and excited for what I can do next!

I also was lucky enough to be able to add a special small quilt to my collection from the Spotlight Auction at the banquet on the Friday night, but that’s a whole other post.

Thanks for following along to the end and i wish you the best on your own creative journey.