LS: Art of Quilting Column December 14, 2008

Despite economy, quilting stays out of ditch

She did it again.

Sharon Schamber of Payson, Ariz., spent 1,940 hours creating a bed-sized quilt titled “Spirit of Mother Earth,” then won best of show and $10,000 at the International Quilt Festival’s judged contest in Houston in late October.

Schamber has been mentioned in this column numerous times because she’s a reigning
queen at multiple shows, and a few years back, she lectured and taught her techniques here in Grand Junction.

Most of the quilters I know have adopted some of her methods and find many of her tips invaluable.

This has been a good year for Schamber, a former fashion designer. Her “Spirit of Mother Earth” quilt, densely stitched on a longarm machine, also won best of show at the National Quilting Association’s contest in June in Columbus, Ohio.

But that’s not her greatest achievement. Schamber also realized one of her top goals, being named a master quilter by the quilting association. She is one of only 23 quilters who have received this prestigious title since 1980.

Earning this distinction meant producing a masterpiece quilt that reflected a consummate level of skill.

Schamber won top awards for her quilts at various venues in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

She teaches around the country and adds to her growing quilt empire with books, patterns, fabrics and video tutorials. Her Web site is

Another repeat winner at the Houston show this fall was David Taylor of Steamboat Springs.

His quilt titled “Christmas Chickadee” won first place in the 2008 Quilts: A World of Beauty contest in the art-pictorial category. A series of four quilts, titled “A Year in the Aspens,” also received first place in the art-naturescapes category. Taylor took home $2,000 in prize money.

Also among the winners in this competition was Deborah Snider of Grand Junction. Her quilt, “Encrustaceans I,” earned a third-place ribbon and $300 in the innovative applique-small category.

These three winners were among 375 finalists.

Another major portion of the Houston festival is its annual fashion show of wearable art.

Forty-eight ensembles were entered, and the winner of the Crème de la Crème Award was Ludmila Aristova of New York City with her black gown and jacket titled “Midnight Waltz.” The show’s theme was “Rendevous.”

Unfortunately, this is the last year for the show, which has been sponsored by Bernina of America.

According to Karey Bresenhan, president of Quilts Inc. and director of the International Quilt Festival, it was a difficult decision to pull back from the popular event.

“The combination of economic turmoil and steeply escalating production costs made it impractical to continue,” she says.

“We have not given up on our commitment to wearable art — we’ll just celebrate it a different way in the future.”

The final showings of “Rendevous” garments will be at festivals in April in Chicago and in July in Long Beach, Calif.

Overall attendance at the international show in Houston was down from a record-breaking 52,542 in 2007.

Yet the drop of 1,704 visitors was surprisingly moderate, Bresenhan says, given the country’s financial woes and earlier damage to the city by Hurricane Ike.

“Out of towners, especially those from countries that do not experience hurricanes, were unsure the city would be ready to welcome them. They were amazed at how fast Houston had recovered,” she says.

Nearly 5,000 people enrolled in classes during the festival, and 556 retail vendors participated, an increase of 57 from last year.

So it appears that the popularity of quilting continues to thrive. How well the $3.3 billion per year industry in the United States can maintain its robustness remains to be seen.

I did learn recently of the demise of a fairly new magazine, $100,000 Quilting Challenge, a quarterly publication that promoted 40 quilt finalists a year. The magazine first was put on hold in January 2008 and since has ceased publication, according to Carol Newman, vice president of quilting-advertising and marketing for All American Crafts Publishing Inc.
No quilts were called in for judging during this past year. Newman blames the economic situation for the magazine’s abbreviated run.

An interesting note related to this: It was Sharon Schamber who won the final $100,000 in the 2007 challenge for a quilt titled “Scarlet Serenade.”

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