Thursday September 18th 2014

Tents at a Quilt Show?

While looking over my shoulder one day, my wife asked, “Why are you reading something about making tents?” This is a reasonable question given our pre-parent days of camping and enjoying the great outdoors. Yet, as evidenced by my slightly stressed countenance and the time of day, it should have been clear I was working, fulfilling my duties as marketing director for the American Quilter’s Society.  It seems the connection between tentmakers and quilting begs deeper explanation.

So what do tentmakers from Egypt and quilts have in common?

Sparing you the didactic explanation that 3 pieces stitched together define “quilt,” there’s much more at work here. The American Quilter’s Society thought the Tentmakers of Cairo’s artistry impressive enough to arrange two foreign visas, purchase and import 95 works, and plan a full year of special exhibits on their behalf.

These are no ordinary tents!

When the non-initiated hear about quiltmaking, they usually picture the shelves of blankets at Macy’s, Target, or their linen closet. Quilts have always been functional works of art. Depending on the quilter and his or her creativity, there can be an immense chasm between what you put on a bed and what you see in a quilt show. Some quilts are more functional; others are more art. I think this picture shows things clearly:

The American Quilter’s Society celebrates normal people making extraordinary works of art. At each of the four AQS Quilt Shows & Contests, visitors are amazed at the quality, workmanship and artistic vision that form the foundation of these quilts. A core part of the AQS mission is to spread awareness of quilts as works of arts.

Before seeing the exhibit from the Tentmakers of Cairo, many people will have a similar vision. We think of a canvas tent as something utilitarian, surely not exciting. Tents are for parties, staying dry in the rain, and in the U.S., they are for “roughing it.” The tents created by the Tentmakers of Cairo are also functional, following a tradition dating back to the Pyramids. But these works of art are a far cry from your dad’s camping supplies.

Quite a contrast, isn’t it! Just like a quilt at a quilt show is no ordinary bed covering; the tentmakers aren’t creating an ordinary shelter. These stunning works of art are absolutely breathtaking in person. With modern technology and mass-production threatening to take away the lifeblood of the tentmakers, the American Quilter’s Society is bringing this exhibit to the U.S. in hopes of lighting similar enthusiasm for these functional works of art.

The photos don’t do them justice, but here are just a few of them to whet your appetite for the upcoming North American Premiere of “Stitch Like an Egyptian: Tentmakers of Cairo” at the AQS Quilt Show & Contest at the DeVos Place Convention Center in Grand Rapids Michigan, August 22-25, 2012.

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