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Local handiwork to get a good showing in St. Jacobs

Festival organizer Eleanor Petrie holds up a piece by guest artist Robin Bogaert. The quilt is of a northern cardinal, and was created by Bogaert in the thread painted style. [Faisal Ali / The Observer]

It’s a tradition going back generations in the community, an art form passed down from mother to daughter, rooted in the townships and evolved and adapted in the modern era in a variety of inventive ways. Quilting, in all its variations, continues to be a popular and identifiable part of the local heritage.

The village of St. Jacobs will be recognizing and celebrating the humble quilt and all things sewn at the annual Quilt and Fibre Art Festival, which starts Tuesday.

Organized by the St. Jacobs Quilt Board with the support of local artists and hobbyists, the festival brings the art form to the fore through a variety of events over the weeklong festival. Laymen and quilt-enthusiasts alike are sure to find something to take in at the festival, with colourful exhibits, guest speakers and, new this year, a fashion show all on offer.

“We used to have fashion shows years ago, and then we quit doing them,” explains Eleanor Petrie, a member of the quilt board. The fashion show is being reintroduced to the festival this year after more than a decade-long hiatus. “So this is coming back as new, and the host [Pix Martin] is going to highlight Canadian designers. And these are people who sell their work.”

Three fashion shows will be held over the festival at the Cellar 52 restaurant, with tickets available in advance.

The St. Jacobs Schoolhouse Theatre will feature exhibits throughout the week of handmade and antique quilts. The guest artists this year is Helen Martin, who will be bringing her needle art for display.

“The Schoolhouse in St. Jacobs is a beautiful venue for quilts. With the old tin ceiling and the wood floor, and those big windows. And then having the tea room in the basement of it makes it a special ending for your little tour around,” says Petrie.

Tea is served at the end of the tour to complete the experience.

While traditional quilting will get its due coverage, contemporary fibre art is also getting a spot in the lime light at this year’s festival, with an exhibit at the Village Silos running throughout the week for free. The Silos will feature the fibre designs of Sonja Fijn, with an eclectic mix including a 3D spike dress, felted coat and copper wire dinosaur. Your grandmother’s quilt this isn’t.

The festival also features a number of quilters and fibre artists who will be discussing their works at a quilting seminar and demo, offering needle-workers the opportunity to learn new methods and techniques, and gain new inspiration. The seminar was started last year and proved to be a hit, so they decided to bring the event back.

“It’s going it be held at the Calvary United Church,” says Petrie. “And in one hour, four people will talk about their work. Each person will have approximately 12 minutes.”

“Ruth Hilderley is going to do needlepunch, and she does beautiful work. Now these are smaller pieces, it’s all hand done, and in the end they likely will be framed,” says Petrie. “The other one is Cathy Jacobs. And Cathy Jacobs is going to be making a mat for the floor out of jelly roll, which is a way people can buy fabric.”

Audrey Vrooman, meanwhile, will be giving tips on mastering the machine in a demo entitled Thread Magic, while Judy Martin will be looking at creating ‘theme’ quilts.

Those looking to delve deeper into the world of stitches and threads can attend the festival’s trunk show. This year’s show will feature guest artist Robin Bogaert who will talking about her ‘quilting journey’, and the evolution of her artwork, which focuses on a form of free-motion quilting.

A former quilt store owner in Windsor, Bogaert now teaches the art to others while producing her own works as well. She offers custom made long arm quilting services, workshops and more in the area through her website, www.quiltingintheloft.com.

“I specialize currently in thread painting, free motion quilting and ruler work, so I’ve kind of narrowed my focus, and that’s why I do kind of more painterly-like works now, although I have traditional roots,” she says, adding that she hopes her techniques can rub off on those that attend her trunk show.

“You always get ideas no matter what quilt event you go to, you get lots of great ideas. Hopefully I could inspire them to use some more modern techniques,” says Bogaert.

The Quilt and Fibre Art Festival runs May 21 through the 25 in St. Jacobs. The exhibits are hosted daily at the St. Jacobs Schoolhouse Theatre, while the trunk show and seminars are on May 23 at the Calvary United Church. The fashion shows, meanwhile, run on May 21 at 7 p.m., and twice more on May 22 at 1:30 and 7. A full list of events can be found at www.stjacobs.com.



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