A couple of weeks ago I happened upon a blog post by Krista Hennebury at PoppyPrint titled "Old Ladies Know Stuff". I was intrigued by the title and was even more intrigued as I read her post. Finally, someone is writing about what I have been thinking for several years. Not just that "old ladies (quilters) know stuff" but the concern I have with the age of the members at my 2 Guilds. There is hardly a member under 50! Where are all the young quilters and why are they not coming out to our Guild meetings and workshops?
I was teaching at Quilt Canada in Halifax a month ago and before I went I wondered if there would be a "young" contingent of quilters there. Would there be any "young" ones at the Canadian Quilters Association's AGM? The short answer is "no"...very few that I saw and I did my best to be aware of who was around in my classes, at the shows and at the merchant mall. I am sure money was a big part of it because it was expensive to attend the conference and workshops etc but there were shows that cost very little to get into and the merchant mall was free to get in. It is a puzzle and one I think Guilds and our national Canadian Quilters Association needs to address or all we "Old Ladies" have worked for in the past 40 years will go down the drain!
There are those who say that the "young" are busy, they work full time, they have young kids - but wait a minute, so did I, so did a lot of the other "old ladies who quilt" I know and we managed to take time for ourselves, start guilds, teach workshops, have quilt shows and raise our family and work outside the home. I have always said that I am lucky I started quilting when I did, my family grew up with my quilting, they learned along with me and they all helped out. I also started quilting when all I needed was a basic sewing machine, some fabric, scissors and sand paper for templates. The simple life, no "designer" fabrics, no quilting machines, no rotary cutters, very few books and one magazine "Quilter's Newsletter". How far we have come!
My main Guild, the Mahone Bay Quilters Guild, is trying to move ahead with the times. We are on Facebook, we have a blog, we have made every effort to make our business meetings short and sweet. We are having interesting and exciting programs at our meetings and we are going out of our way to welcome visitors and guests. We need to do this to ensure that our Guild will survive.
My other Guild, the Mayflower QG has a Quilters Retreat every two years, 2013 will be our 14th! We have established the "Avonport Award" a scholarship for a young quilter who is under 40 and is a resident of NS.
Kelly (2011) and Krystal (2009), our first two Avonport Scholarship winners.
Thanks to the generosity of Avonport Discount Fabrics and several other anonymous donors we offer a full, all expense paid scholarship to to young quilter. They have to apply and there is a jury who decides (anonymously) on a deserving quilter. We all benefit from our scholarship winners being at the Retreat, we love their enthusiasm, we love being able to share our skills and knowledge.
Krista has some great points about traditional guilds and what they have to offer. Sometimes I wish there weren't labels like "traditional" or "modern" or "quilt art". We could all learn so much from each other if we would just get over the labels and be quilters, do what our Grandmothers did and share our patterns and our skills.
My bee, The Piecemakers, taken a few years ago at our annual Christmas party and dinner. Sadly, four of our members have died and we miss them all but we have new members, younger members who we have welcomed and we enjoy each others company so much. We range in age from 50 something to ninety plus and we have been together for over 30 years! Quilts are still being made, some knitting is getting done and we do our best to solve the world's problems! We talk about books and movies, quilt patterns and quilt shows.
So, I encourage my quilt friends to go out and find someone who is interested in our craft, bring them to a Guild meeting and more importantly share your knowledge and enthusiasm with them.