As I settled into my seat on the 8 am flight from New York’s Laguardia to Nashville, TN, I hear the flight attendant say that we will be taking off an hour later than scheduled. “Furlough!?!” “Sequester!?!?” I muttered to myself as I worried about my schedule being all messed up since I would only have half a day to enjoy Paducah. We eventually took off and I spent my time reading up on the American Quilt Society’s (AQS) show in Paducah as well as all the exciting activities and sites available for “fabric” people to see and enjoy. All and all, it seems like a sort of Shangri-La for quilters.
Like magic, we still landed on schedule, so my plans went without a hitch. Over 2 hours of very boring driving in the rain, I arrived in Paducah without a single speeding ticket. Yeah me! The highlight of the ride was the most amazing endless sea of bright yellow colored flowers and a bag of my beloved strawberry Twizzlers. It’s so frustrating that the price of Twizzlers keeps going up and the number of Twizzlers in the bag keeps going down…I digress.
As I pulled into Paducah, and neared in on the show, I was amazed by everything screaming out “welcome quilters.” Every store front had a welcome sign including the local body shop and barber shop…..perplexing to say the least. I figured out that something big was going on here and I unfortunately didn’t realize how big it was until now….better late than never.
This trip so perfectly coincided with my new role as the Studioe President and Sales Manager and my newest foray into the quilt shop only arena.
I parked my rental car right next to the big white bubble that looked just like the place where I play tennis during the winter. I ran through the rain, entered the revolving door into the bubble, and certainly didn’t see any of my tennis buddies, but I did see some friends of “Jaftex” (the parent company of Studioe named after my great grandfather J. A. Fortunoff). These friends were customers, shop owners, quilters, fabric designers, book writers and show exhibitors. I was fortunate to have had seen these friends because they were nice enough to tour me around and show me the ropes. My observations were endless, but what struck me the most was the number of attendees. This was like attending the World Series of baseball, but for quilting. Apparently around 30,000 people attended!! This show is no joke and is becoming so popular that the people of AQS are going to start having 7 shows a year. Here are the dates and locations for 2014 in case you wanted to know:
- Phoenix, AZ, February 5-8, 2014. Phoenix Convention Center.
- Lancaster, PA, March 12-15, 2014. Lancaster Country Convention Center.
- Paducah, KY, April 23-26. Expo & Convention Center. 30th ANNIVERSARY.
- Charlotte, NC, July 30-August 2. Charlotte Convention Center.
- Grand Rapids, MI, August 20-23. Devos Place Convention Center.
- Chattanooga, TN, September 10-13. Chattanooga Convention Center.
- Des Moines, IA, October 1-4. Iowa Events Center.
On my tour of the show, which was comprised of a labyrinth of buildings and floors containing exhibits, exhibitors and demonstrations, these were some of the highlights:
- I got to see the Tentmakers of Cairo, “Stitch Like An Egyptian” Exhibit. Have you seen these guys? Hosam Hanafy and Tarek Abdelhay sit there on benches and stitch their applique while tons of people surround them admiring their great work, taking pictures and chatting. I was very impressed watching them and also impressed with the extremely soft Egyptian cotton fabrics they used. These cottons would be a great addition to the Studioe arsenal of basics. Get me on the next flight to Egypt! Believe it or not, I have been to Egypt…I digress yet again.
- I had the opportunity to talk to a lot of vendors. They were raving about what a great success the show was for them and how nice it was to work with the people of AQS. The consensus was that they would certainly be attending more of the AQS shows in the future and were glad to have some additional venue options to choose from going forward. The energy and creativity that goes into putting an exceptional booth together always impresses me and there were many that were spectacular.
- I met some people that were interested in designing for Studioe as I look to continue to build a superb team of licensed designers. By the way, besides adding Pepper Cory to the roster of new Studioe designers, we also picked up Jodi Barrows of Square in a Square and Martha Walker of Wagons West Designs….I digress yet again. Both will be showing new lines at market that will be shipping before the end of the year. Make sure to ask to see them.
- I was fortunate to have gotten a tour of the amazing large contest quilts from Bill Schroeder (who founded AQS and the National Quilt Museum with his lovely wife Meredith. Both legends in Paducah and pioneers in the quilting world). For me to see these quilts, it was like visiting one of the world famous museums in New York. Each quilt was more beautiful than the next. It is unreal to learn the amount of man or woman hours that go into making the quilts. The hope of the quilter is to be able to take home some of the more than $120,000 in cash awards including the $20,000 Janome Best of Show. That is some real moolah!
- When you spend so much time looking at quilts and walking the show, you tend to get hungry. Being the chunk that I am, I couldn’t avoid the temptations…..funnel cake, strawberry short cake served by boy scouts, fudge, bbq…need I say more. I did some damage and enjoyed every second of it.
Those were some of the highlights from the show, but that was not it for me in Paducah. I ventured over to the National Quilt Museum a couple blocks away.
The National Quilt Museum
You have to see this place. The quilts are sick (meaning better than awesome). I could go on and on about this and the amazing attention to details, but you need to see this on your own. Not only that, but I am trying to keep the length of my blogs down because I want you to read the entire thing. I hope you enjoyed this installment because I had fun writing it. Happy Quilting!