CQA Thirty years later….
a virtual conversation with Kay Phillips

By Joanne Harris

Members of the CQA/ACC have access through the Association’s website, www.canadianquilter.com, to a few specific facts regarding the early days of the Association but not to the stories and the people behind the headlines. Readers can find out that the Association was formed in 1981 during Quilt Toronto and incorporated on April 14, 1983. You could also find out that this year Halifax will be hosting Quilt Canada for the third time. We asked Kay Phillips, the Association’s founding Vicepresident, to fill us in on some of the behind the scenes activity that lead to the formation of the Canadian Quilters’ Association.

Kay noted that quilting has always been a part of our Canadian culture and that in the 70’s there was a resurgence of interest in this art form around the time of the American Bicentennial. Quilters Newsletter Magazine began publishing in 1969 and Canada Quilts, a Canadian magazine which is no longer published, followed shortly after that in 1973. In 1981 the ETOBICOKE and YORK HERITAGE QUILT GUILDS co-hosted Quilt Toronto at York University. It was during this conference that a small group decided it was time to form a national organization. Mary Conroy, Editor of Canada Quilts, chaired a meeting to discuss the pros and cons of establishing just such an association. Following this meeting a steering committee was formed comprised of the following people: Dorothy McMurdie, Windsor; Allyson Turner, Windsor; Phyllis Brown, Blair; Nina Stahlschmidt, St. Catharines; and Margaret Walpole, St. Catharines. Their mandate was to assemble a national executive and formulate a constitution within a year. Marilyn Walker and Kay Phillips were added as proposed President and Vice-president and Ann Bird as Ontario Representative. These eight women wrote the original constitution for the Association. Kay singled out Marilyn Walker for high praise, stating that she was the group’s fearless leader and that she was able to accomplish things that made the entire group look good.

With the leader in place, the group worked many long hours to organize the first conference. Today’s conference committees can take advantage of the ground work laid by this group of volunteers. Kay pointed out that it was worth noting that not only did they work tirelessly to get the Association off the ground but they shared many a super potluck lunch, laughed a lot and shared many quilt-related ideas. And while this is not part of the Conference Planning Manual, it is an important aspect of conference planning.

The CQA/ACC was officially launched in 1982 when the YORK HERITAGE GUILD hosted the first annual meeting of the CQA/ACC. With a partial executive and 40 plus members in attendance, the organization got off the ground.

The OTTAWA VALLEY QUILT GUILD hosted the first Conference in Ottawa in 1983. As hosts, they dealt with the organizational details for the Conference and this allowed the newly-formed executive to focus on the many challenges facing a new organization. These included having a logo contest, establishing standards for the Association and preparing for incorporation.

Quilters in all parts of the country now had a vehicle through which they could communicate. Since the beginning, the conferences have been held in varied locations across the country. Each conference has been unique. Members have been offered the opportunity to participate in workshops lead by local, national and international teachers. The CQA/ACC website now provides a conference planning summary for the local planning committee which outlines what must be included in the alternate year conferences.

Kay summed it up by emphasizing that all of the founding work was done by volunteers. She encourages all members of the Association to become involved by volunteering in some capacity as part of a committee, as a guild executive member, on a quilt show committee or with a Quilt Canada conference. There will be lots of work to do but the rewards of working with other likeminded people are worth it.