The Creative Spark: Curating a Small Quilt Exhibit

Alizon Sharun
Autumn 2018

An appliquéd nuclear disarmament insignia enclosing a painted world, or a mini-quilt embroidered with small flowers and embellished with tiny buttons – how does that first spark of an idea interpret a challenge and become a finished piece?

The idea for Quilt Squared grew last year from a conversation between Chantal Lynch and Alizon Sharun. Chantal’s fabric store, Hyggeligt Fabrics, in St Marys near Stratford, ON, is a hub for quilters, sewists and anyone wanting to lift their spirits with bright and beautiful fabric. Our show was open to all. The panels would be 12 inches square and be inspired by the themes and colours of the  Perth County Tartan, celebrating Canada 150.

It was a success! Thirty-five pieces were exhibited in the historic St Marys Museum from mid-May to mid-June. Now in its second year, Quilt Squared shows the work of both new and experienced quilters and fabric artists from St Marys, Perth County and beyond. There are no prizes – simply the satisfaction of displaying your work to a steady stream of delighted visitors, both local and out-of-town visitors.

Love, by Annie Hawkins.

It’s always a good sign when people ask about the next show, but what would be the theme this year? The answer dropped into our laps like a ripe apple. Valerie Prideaux and The Quilts at the Creek Collective in Toronto invited us to be part of their annual open-air quilt show taking place at the end of July, at Black Creek Pioneer village. We would tack onto their challenge: Make it Big, Make it Small. Quilt Squared would go on tour to the big city and back again to St Marys for the Quilt X show in September.

Sara Easby’s Generations collage weaves ribbons, threads and buttons from her collections.

Back to the creative spark. How do the theme words translate into a design? Our brochure suggested, “Expand your creative mind on the theme of contrasting size. Represent a big idea in a small quilt. Your piece can be traditional, modern, abstract…” in other words, go and play. What came back was quite wonderful.

In two, small, period rooms in the Museum, we hung 48 pieces. As the curator of the show, I chose to hang them in groups of colour, style or theme, which was interpreted in an amazing variety of ways. The sky, or rather outer space, was the limit.

A Little Abstract by Valerie Prideaux

There was embroidery to knock your socks off and a variety of techniques including appliqué, trapunto, hand and machine sewing, traditional patchwork – even weaving with plastic. Materials ranged from silks, cotton, dyed, printed and painted fabrics, ribbons, fuzzy yarns, beading and buttons, tape and selvedge. Many entrants included personal descriptions of their creative process.

That elusive creative spark is ignited by our experiences, associations and deeply felt concerns; it is fueled by our skills. For those of us who love the fabric arts, a connection of mind, heart and hands make an idea into work which expresses our own unique creativity.

Alizon Sharun and Chantal Lynch at the Quilt Squared exhibit.

Connecting with the creativity of so many different women who share my love of fabric and curating, or caring for their work, certainly expanded my creative mind and has been a hugely enjoyable experience. And now this small quilt show goes to big city!


Quilt Canada July 19-22, 2023

Quilt Canada July 19-22, 2023

Quilt Canada July 19-22, 2023 in Edmonton, Alberta