EuroExpo Exceeds Expectations
Willa Fuller © 2004
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This author never expected to write an article about travels in France, and much less an article about the needlearts, however, thanks to a series of unusual circumstances, including "picking up" most of my recent friends on the internet, an unusual adventure involving two of my favorite pastimes, traveling and sewing has culminated in the utilization of my other favorite pastime, writing.
The saga begins on a fateful day in February when sent a private note to Sophie Gelfi, who had shared her eBoard on the Quiltropolis Crazy Quilt list. From that moment on I no longer had control of my actions. The word according to Sophie was that I would be coming to Labourboule, France (where?) for the 1st Annual Crazy Quilt Conference. Evidently, there was no question about this as she commenced to telling others that they could send me their items for display and I would bring them with me. Did I mention that I did not have a passport and had no aspirations whatsoever of ever going to Europe? Not that I didn't want to, it was just not in the range of possibility at the time.
Well to make a long story short, I finally just bid some ridiculous price on Priceline.com thinking there was no way that it would fly-- and lo and behold. I had a plane ticket. EEEEK! The next day I went to the post office and applied for a passport, went and took a god-awful photo that was so dark that the attendant at Charles Degaulle laughed out loud when he looked at it. Nevertheless, I was on my way.
After spending a few days in Paris with traveling buddy Victoria Adams Brown, (ya gotta wear roller skates to travel with her), we were later joined by Kelly Abbott and Victoria's French Interpreter took our embarrassing amount of luggage to the Gare du Lyon to head for Clermont-Ferrand, a city about an hour away from La Bourboule. Sophie met us at Clermont-Ferrand with a van and we all managed to get our luggage in and off we went. The scenery along the way was breathtaking and was just icing on the cake to what we would experience for the rest of our time with our transcontinental friends! In the first year of the festival attendees were bowled over by the diversity and the beauty of the works. Artists submitted pieces from all over France and other countries as well. There was a reception by the mayor where we were plied with the food of the region. Several Americans taught the first year. They were: Victoria Adams Brown, Martha Greene, Cindy Thury Smith, Dee Stark and Kelly Abbott. From England, there was Valerie Bennett and from France, Carol Lenthall and Sophie Gelfi, the conference organizer.
With the success of the first year it would only follow that Sophie and the International Crazy Quilt Association would repeat the Festival. This year, several faculty and attendees returned with a bit more knowledge about how to navigate from Paris to LaBourboule. This year, Sophie arranged a bus to take us from Paris to LaBourboule. While the trip had a "rocky" start.. (The bus driver was in an accident before he got to us and the next bus had a little air conditioning problem), but once on the road the problems were resolved and we got to see a bit more of France on our road trip. One high point was a marker for the center of France. The landscape was beautiful and so was the company. Traveling with us on the bus were Victoria Adams Brown, Donna Johnson, Kathleen Glynn, Shirley Bentsen, Lynne Pederson and her husband, Ann Spenacchio and her husband, Nadine Erbland and myself.
We arrived at LaBourboule a bit late for the reception but not too late to meet the nearly 40 Russians who also attended this year's festival. They came with their own original creations not limited to quilts but also quilted fashions that were displayed at an evening fashion show with dramatic commentary. Following the fashion show the Americans and Russians stayed for awhile to dance and make merry with the assistance of a French singer who performed that evening.
But what about the quilts? Just as in the previous year, quilts and quilted items were displayed from France, the United States, Romania, Italy, Russia, Belgium and several other countries. The styles ranged from nearly traditional, to Crazy Quilts and also very adventurous art pieces.
Americans who had pieces displayed were Kathleen Glynn, Donna Johnson, Nadine Erbland, and Martha Green who also taught at the festival for the second time and received rave reviews. Of special note was the Crazy Bag Contest in which contestants had to embellish and "re-design" a plain canvas bag. Winners of this contest were chosen by a vote of the attendees and in a "sweep" the Americans took all the prizes.
Winners of this competition were:
Prizes Chosen by Public Vote :
Other prizes were as follows:
Another highlight of attending the conference is meeting people that you have conversed with over the internet for several years, Dieuwertje Kujil from the Netherlands has also traveled to the Festival for two years. This year she assisted teacher Valerie Bennett by manning her vendor booth. It was great to meet Dee and learn more about her and her homeland during our many opportunities to chat.
Other Americans who visited the remote region were Donna Cladwicki and her two granddaughters, both of whom are very interested in Crazy Quilting and Embroidery. They had a lovely time on a daytrip to a museum in Cervieres where the work of the "Grenadieres" is displayed.These are embroiders who work in metallic threads to embellish the elaborate uniforms of the military, diplomats and academicians. There was also a "surprise" visit one day from Mae Vernon and two other crazy quilters from Michigan who were in France for a Quilt Tour.
All in all, it was a fabulous experience. Whether the participant was French, German, Belgian, Romanian or American... the smiles and acknowledgement of the beautiful artistry of these international artists made the language barrier insignificant in a world where we all spoke the same language... the common appreciation for the artistry and creativity of peers from all over the world.
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