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Quilters come to Grand Rapids


 Last August a huge quilt show came to Grand Rapids.  Apparently making guilts is a big deal because the turn out to attend to see the more than 900 quilts on display was one of the largest in Grand Rapids area.  Thousands thronged our streets to enjoy not only the massive show, but also to eat, drink, shop and in general enjoy Grand Rapids.

I meandered on down to the show with a friend, thinking we’d stay an hour or two but before we knew it, we consumed five hours.   Why?  So much to see and to learn.  The statement made by a quilter says it all to me.    “The mark of a good quilt is that you want to look at it for a while.”   We stayed and looked.

 They were a delight to look at and  I love the fact that quilting can be a means of socializing in different cultures.

I knew about the women who in the pioneering days gathered together at quilting bees and created quilts to mark marriages, births and other significant events.  It was interesting to see displays of quilts from Japan in the show, in many cases made from kimonos of beloved friends or mother, sisters and daughters.

 Peggy and I were both reminded of the spectacular kimono exhibit we saw in Chicago last year at the Institute of Art.  Seeing kimonos repurposed and reused in quilts in a culture so different from our own made the world seem a little smaller. 

Quilts can tell you what the quilter is interested in.  We, for sure, saw lots  of different topics.  While some of the quilts were absolutely stunning in both content and craftsmanship, others had us a bit perplexed.  Some times I’d look at Peggy and she’d shake her head and say, “Beats me.” 

For example, several quilts worked the Harley Davidson theme.  Motor cycles and quilts?  What an odd combination.  I’d love to know the story behind that one.

Some times quilters copied famous artists.








And the question would come up, “Where would you hang this?”

Some quilters were fascinated with non traditional materials, like a quilter from Taiwan who used zippers in each one. Obsessed with zippers.

Others had messages to communicate like the traveling exhibit called “Alzheimer’s Illustrated: From Heartbreak to Hope.”  This one tells the story that one out of eight people will develop Alzheimer’s in an especially beautiful fashion.

 Some quilters came from Egypt and demonstrated their craft.


 Some made us smile and chuckle and wonder about the person who created it?  About this one I thought,” Gosh I’d like to meet that quilter.  Any one who can combine a dog, a martini and famous Paris icon has got to be a lot of fun.”

 Here’s a modern twist on a traditional landscape.


My personal favorites were in  the exhibit called “Japanese Color and Form: New works by Fifty Japanese  Artists.”  Along with many American quilters, they approach quilting as a an exquisite fiber art.  I liked that. Made me stay a long time.


Post Author
Susan J. Smith
Susan's career includes writing for newspapers, lots of community work and a wonderful family life. Now she is enjoying traveling, photography and writing for DesignDestinations and Grand Rapids Magazine. She welcomes you on her journey and appreciates your comments.