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NATIONAL QUILT FESTIVAL 2004 (article first published : 2004-07-24)

Today is Saturday, July 24, 2004. Even if you have plans for tomorrow (July 25), unplan them. Thatís if you want to be astounded by a magnificent array of creative art using the medium of fabric and embroidery. The National Quilt Festival which has been running at ICC Durban this week comes to a close tomorrow afternoon at 15h00.

Hosted by the Natal Quilters Guild who have done an excellent job, this yearís Festival is titled Celebrations and features exhibition quilts from all over South Africa as well as overseas. There are 650 quilts on display, with over twelve competition categories. The festival has incorporated an outreach programme and has hosted over 64 pre-booked workshops and 15 lectures on all facets of the art of quilt-making.

One of my quibbles is that the catalogue could do with page numbers as well as an index for the various categories. The other is that the vast exhibition space has been sensibly divided up with sections of display stands but itís a daunting journey to make sure you donít miss a single one. Clearer route indications might have made things easier Ė perhaps different coloured pennants above the stands identifying the varying categories like Art, Fibrework, Group, Traditional, etc. - would lessen the oft-heard remarks like: ďWhere do we go now?Ē or ďHavenít we been down this aisle before?Ē

This said, itís a simply mind-blowing exhibition. Just when you thought these highly creative fibre artists had explored their medium to the fullest, along comes an exciting and challenging new supply. The sky seems to be the limit, proviing that quilting has definitely earned the status of a serious visual art form.

Among my favourites was Sally Scottís Orupembe (Art Large), a striking work of rustic weave with rusty bottletops inspired by her trip through formidable landscape in Namibia. A section titled Imithi celebrated trees and Pat Reddyís piece designed by Dee Oxborrow had a burning splendour. Margaret Ruxtonís impressive Obelisk (Fibrework) stood alone, inspired by ancient dry packed stone work.

There is a delightful Humorous section and the piece that stood out for me was Dashing to Durban by Jenny Williamson and Pat Parker. Hand appliqued and quilted, machine pieced, it depicts the rush by quilters to get to Durban for the festival! Pat Parkerís Inspiration Ardmore (Quilt Africa) is a superb tribute to the Ardmore Ceramics Studio. In the Miniature section, Jo Herbertís Japanese Marumon caught my eye with its reference to the way Japanese quilters use snow rings and circles in their work.

In the footsteps of the San (Innovative Small) by Mari Claase is a beautiful piece inspired by travels to Bushmen settlements and her fatherís paintings. She has another excellent piece in the Theme category titled Olive Celebration in which the tree trunk is filled with circles depicting cross-sections of tree trunks. Also in this section, Colleen Roberts pays tribute to her motherís 80th birthday with Marge which offers a great alternative to a collage of memorable family photographs.

In the Innovative Large category, I enjoyed the elegant Contrasts by Cheryl Bauermeister and the delightful and vibrant Merry Pebbles II by Paul Schutte, who proves that men can take up the innovative quilting challenge just as well as women! Hubbly Bubbly (Round the Bend) by Elma van Heerden is based on a design by Bets van Brakel while my overall favourite was undoubtably Roma Dunnís African Odyssey Ė From Darkness to Light (Round the Bend).

No Wearable Art section would be complete without Jutta Fauldsí magnificent work and the four-piece ensemble Ancient Sounds is executed in her inimitable style. Another piece that I could happily have walked home in was Amanda Beaumontís stunning A Cloak!

KZN Tourism commissioned The Natal Quilters Guild to create a piece for their boardroom and the resulting Wozani covers all aspects of KZN from wildlife, fauna and flora to the Duzi Marathon, Midmar Dam and Ushaka Marine Park. Itís a proud reflection of all thatís beautiful in our province!

Entry is R30 and there is a photostated catalogue available as well as a beautiful colour publication. A raffle is held every day for a quilt and a sewing machine. You canít take in the exhibition within an hour so, treat yourself to a few hours, taking a break in between at the well-stocked refreshment centre. The Merchants Mall comprises over 40 fabric and quilt-allied merchants from all over South Africa. There is safe parking underground at the ICC at R13.

If you are not able to get to the festival, all is not lost. A comprehensive CD of the quilts is on sale at about R75. Further information from Beverly-Ann Fink on 082 578 5052 or visit the National Quilt Festival at www.quiltfestival2004.co.za Ė Caroline Smart




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