I’ve been asked by my guild if I would give a talk about my travels at the next meeting (next week!). Since they asked me, I’ve been wracking my brain as to how to focus this talk. Eleven years of significant travel has led to a huge number of wonderful stories, photos and experiences. Since digital photography, especially, I have hundreds of great pictures of where we’ve been – both in performances and when we had time to be tourists. Where to begin?
I have 45 minutes to fill. I could fill a week!
When I was growing up, I remember the “slide shows” my parents used to present when they had returned from their European travels. I didn’t go with them, but after all the times I heard the stories they told to various visitors, I felt I’d lived through it with them – a hundred times. As a result, I now have an intrinsic horror of slide shows. How can I make mine interesting and exciting for people to endure?
I started with the idea of doing it chronologically. Picking the high points of each year, so people could see the progression of our travels, and sample some of the thrills. But the first show we did in the US was for Jinny Beyer’s annual retreat in Hilton Head Island, and it really doesn’t get any better than that! We’ve now had a booth at the Houston Quilt Show four times, singing once. Toured Australia 5 times, New Zealand 3, and four times to the UK. Three quilting cruises. Do I talk about each visit, or lump them into one series of pictures?
The performances are only a part of what we do on the road each time, too. Mostly, we drive. We drive through many different terrains and see animals, birds, and geology. Would people be as interested as I am with this ever-changing landscape? Do they actually want to see our travels, or do they only want to see the quilts and hear about the best places to buy fabric? I became a bird watcher when we lived in Australia. I could do the 45 minutes just about birds!
Another thing I do when we’re driving is keep my eyes open for oversized roadside icons. There’s a huge Ukranian Easter egg (pysanka) in the town of Vegreville Alberta, several notable moose statues (some quite a bit better than others) across Canada, and an actual fork at Fork in the Road, NY. A giant koala and huge lobster in Australia. I make John stop the car and I take pictures of all of them.
And what about the quilts we see? Shall I tell them about that amazing 9-11 star quilt made from photo-transferred faces of the victims? How about the 10 queen-sized 1/4″ silk hexagon quilts at Houston, a life work by two Japanese quilters? Or finally getting a chance to see the AIDS quilt at a folk festival, and having to do a kids’ workshop right after I found the block for my friend and ex-roommate Barry? Or the hundreds of thousands of charity quilts we’ve seen proudly displayed at every single guild meeting we’ve attended?
What I really want to do, though, is to tell them about the quilting stories I’ve chased. The Rajah quilt story that involves England (where Elizabeth Fry’s picture is still on the back of the 5 pound note, and where she is honoured in the Quaker Tapestry in Cumbria, and meeting Jan Rae who found the quilt in the first place), Australia (seeing the quilt twice, visiting the Female Factory in Hobart, and singing at the guild meeting while looking out the window at the hill where the babies of the women were buried), and even Canada (meeting a member of the Fry family in Saskatchewan). The Changi quilt story: meeting the daughter of Freddie Bloom, encountering a woman in Southern Ontario who found out about Ethel Mulvaney because she bought a recipe book at a garage sale, seeing all the Changi quilts in Canberra and London England, visiting the Changi Gaol Museum in Singapore.
We visited the very unusual grave of William Driver, whose mother made the flag that came to be known as “Old Glory”. We sang “Quilt of Names” about the homecoming of a Red Cross quilt from its world travels as it was presented to the local museum where it had been made – with 6 of the original 59 makers in the front row of the audience on St. Joseph Island, Ontario. We also just sang the Panguitch song, about how seven men saved the town from starvation by walking to the next town over the snow on quilts, to the town of Panguitch.
These are stories that have so enriched my life during the last decade that I want to share them with everyone. I am enthusiastic about them, and look forward to the next one that I will find in my travels. Maybe if I select a few of them to share with the guild, then this “slide show” won’t be too onerous to sit through.
I think I’ve just decided what to talk about next week!