SAQA Conference – Lincoln, NE

Whenever I travel east, it feels a bit like time travel. The cities are older and the buildings more historic. When I recently traveled to Lincoln, Nebraska, it felt like going back into my past. I grew up in Ohio and, to me, Lincoln had a similar midwestern vibe. The land is flat. The sky is a sheet of gray when overcast. No variation in clouds as they roll through, like in Boise. The people were friendly. I felt very comfortable there.

I was there to attend the Studio Art Quilt Associates annual conference (it moves to a different city each year). This was my first time in Lincoln and my second time at the conference, having previously attended when it was in Portland, OR. It was great to meet people I had met in Portland, people that I had only known online, up to that point, and new people. Three days was filled with talk, art, food and community.

I had volunteered to present a Lightning Talk, a presentation with 20 slides that change automatically every 20 seconds (so you have to keep up). I spent a lot of time preparing and was glad to give my talk on the first day, in the first session being the third person to speak. After which, I could then relax and enjoy the rest of the conference. I met Colleen Kole and she also gave a Lightning Talk.

Colleen Kole presents a Lightning Talk at the SAQA Conference in Lincoln, NE.

We spent a whole day at the International Quilt Study Center and Museum, with presentations by the staff, exhibition discussions, lunch and a behind the scenes look at their storage space.


International Quilt Study Center and Museum in Lincoln, NE.


Having worked at the Boise Art Museum for over 20 years and having to deal with the storage of artwork, I was super excited to see the storage area of the museum and was very impressed with the high tech units.  Below you see quilts stored on shelves in acid-free boxes, well labeled with pictures of the work on the outside.  Notice the lines on the floor.  This allows the shelving units to move electronically so that you only have one aisle at a time to access the quilts.  This maximizes the storage space.



There were also large floor units to store more fragile, heavy or embellished quilts.  We were told one unit cost $50,000!



The piece above is made of wool fabrics by a guy who was in the military and collected the fabric from different military uniforms from around the world.

One of the exhibitions at the museum was an installation by Luke Haynes. Below is a picture of part of it. There were many people that helped sew the quilts together. We had an interesting discussion with the associate curator about this exhibition, how it was displayed, interpretations of the intent and whether or not the artist met his goal with the exhibition.


Luke Haynes exhibition at the International quilt Study Center and Museum


Another exhibition at the museum was Quilt Japan. The Japanese are well known for their superior craftsmanship and it was quite evident in the pieces displayed at the museum. Below is my favorite of those shown. The precise points are all pieced and the feathers around the border are hand stitched.


Swan Song by Hiroko Nakayama

Detail of Swan Song by Hiroko Nakayama


There were some other exhibits that I will discuss in later posts. There was so much to see and contemplate.

Part of our day at the museum included being bussed over to the University of Nebraska for a tour of their textile/fashion department. This is also where the keynote speaker for the conference, Michael James, teaches. We saw their storage of historic outfits and a gallery of student designed clothes.


Michael James with SAQA members in the Univ. of Nebraska textile gallery.

Behind the people, on the wall, is a projection of repeated patterns that students designed.  It would scroll through several different designs.  Below is a view of one.



The keynote speech was the last event on the conference agenda. Michael James was at the fore front of bringing the quilt into a fine art form and has maintained a studio practice for around 40 years. It was very interesting to hear him speak about his studio progression through the years and about his more recent works completed while caring for his late wife, who had Alzheimer’s disease.


Michael James gives keynote speech.


I am glad I decided to attend the conference and would like to thank the Idaho Commission on the Arts and the National Endowment of the Arts for providing me with a grant to help fund some of my conference experience.


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