The largest state among the lower forty-eight is a place of contrasts— from sweeping ranch land and longhorns to Austin’s ultra-hip SXSW (South by Southwest) festival. Tradition is revered here, yet in several cities, the space industry and high-tech worlds flourish.
In this southern state, the art quilt scene thrives, not despite, but alongside traditional quilting. SAQA Texas region reps Sherri McCauley (Lakeway), Annie Smith (The Woodlands/Houston), and Jaye Dodds (Fort Worth) respect that tradition even as they push artistic boundaries. Community underscores their explorations, despite the challenges posed by distance in the vast state they represent. SAQA Texas has built systematically on the enthusiasm and the work of those who have gone before (the three previous Texas reps were Deborah Bright, Kim Buchmann, and Teresa Wong). The result: a vibrant art quilting community that takes advantage of every possible community-making possibility.
If you conjure a vision of the intersecting circles of ripples that occur when you toss a pebble into water, you’ll see a model of the way quilting communities of all stripes influence each other in Texas. Three art quilt organizations in the state—Austin Fiber Artists, Beaumont Area Fiber Artists, and Fiber Artists of San Antonio—are SAQA Affiliate members, opening communication between those groups and the SAQA Texas membership. Other fiber art groups, such as the Dallas Area Fiber Artists group, are not formal SAQA Affiliates, but have a strong degree of member crossover with SAQA. Many SAQA Texas members also belong to more traditional quilt guilds as well as to local Modern Quilt Guild chapters. Together, they’re stronger.
Cross-pollination is a recurring theme in this region. “We see diversity of all kinds,” says Jaye . “Our members come from a wide range of nationalities and interests. Ages range from young to elderly people, although we always are hoping to find more young members to continue this art form.” She notes that the younger members are more likely to come from artistic backgrounds, whether from the academic fine arts world or as working studio artists.
A practical strategy structures the close-knit communities: the 239-person membership is split among five “circles” that administer themselves, meeting on individual schedules and developing their own activities and events. Some circles meet monthly; others follow a quarterly meeting schedule. Drawing on their own members, the circle groups thrive on shared expertise, with workshops and demonstrations by those who are established teachers or who have perfected a technique. “SAQA members are so open and sharing—it’s very motivating,” says Annie Smith. Sherri agrees. “This is a tremendously supportive, generous group of artists, and in our circle, we have a lot of overlap between art quilters, Modern Quilt guild members, and traditional quilters.”
SAQA Texas circles don’t let the age-old non-profit meeting place dilemma stop them. The Houston circle meets at a church that allows wet and dry technique days. Jaye’s circle has struck a deal with a local fabric shop. “For $6 a person, we’re allowed to have our regular circle meeting in their classroom. They even let us paint!” Regular meetings and a stable meeting space, the three agree, go a long way to boost participation. Sherri’s circle also makes full use of any opportunity to add extra enrichment. “We’re having an indigo-dyeing session at a member’s studio,” she said. “These opportunities never fail to get our members more excited about their art.”
The rich calendar of quilt-centered events jumpstarts meeting opportunities and friendships—a lucky thing for Texas art quilters. The quilt shows across the state bring SAQA members together.
Despite their close working relationship, the three have never all met in person. “I’ve only met Annie on Zoom,” says Jaye. “And I see Sherri at the Quilt Guild Dallas show.” Annie had known Sherri before, and they make a point of meeting at Quilt Festival Houston. But technology facilitates collaboration. The three use email and Zoom to coordinate and plan.
The reps share responsibility for the entire state, with Annie producing the region’s newsletter, and Jaye and Sherri splitting other administrative duties. They’re pleased with the rich opportunity the region affords its members. There will be no resting on laurels, though. The team would like to leverage Zoom technology to have more frequent meetings for members who face long drives to attend in-person meetings, and perhaps to convene special interest groups. They’d also love to see a meeting of the entire region come together.
The Texas region will share its passion for art quilting and its talent for hospitality with the rest of SAQA when it hosts the 2018 SAQA TEXtile Conference. What is their advice for other regions contemplating hosting a national conference? Start early, the Texas reps said, and have a committed crew. Everyone is pitching in, from the dedicated committee that has been in place over a period of years, to other people who help out with smaller tasks. Each of the Texas region’s five circles customized 40 canvas bags for TEXtile conference attendees.
Jaye and her daughter, Andrea Dodds, worked together to distribute the bags to the circles, collect them afterward, and silkscreen them. This level of attention to details like this say a lot about who the Texas region members are, say all three women. They appreciate being a part of a group that is willing to share time, techniques, and friendship. “It’s such an inclusive community,” says Annie. “People here have big hearts.”
Article written by Carolyn Higgins, Regional Development Committee and Washington Regional Representative