Monday, 22 October 2007

The Russian Quilters visit small town Ontario

It is really true! A LQS has worked very diligently to arrange a Russian Quilt Exhibit near my home town. The Russian quilts have amazing colour and fluidity, you can look through this website (sorry the text is all in Russian however). An astounding detail about this exhibition is that it has toured major cities in Europe, such as Paris, London (as in Jolly Old) and the ONLY North American stop is in Ailsa Craig Ontario, population 1,000 on a good day.

There were many workshops offered but I was only able to attend 2 of them: Negative, Positive and the traditional Russian dolls. While you read the rest of this you must keep in mind that our teachers spoke no English! The classes were taught in Russian with an interpreter following along to explain the steps, ask the questions and share the love.

The Negative, Positive was an exercise in freedom. We used 2 high contrast colours, many variations to form random sized squares surrounding a plain center. After spending time to figure out the mysterious workings of a sewing machine that I have never used
previously, I was quite excited to be set free to build my wall hanging; you then repeat the process using the contrast colour as the feature. "Olga is from the city of Archangel. She is a member of the Russian Painters Union and a winner of many quilting awards."(from Cotton-by-Post website link above).

Lunchtime between the 2 workshops allowed Penny and myself to visit the Quilt Show itself. It was so difficult and after much deliberation I still could not decide between 4 quilts for my vote. Apparently each and every quilt that was featured earned a Viewer's Choice vote. It was that amazing!! Photography of the exhibit was prohibited but during the later evening Gala we were allowed to take photos of people with some of the quilts as background.

Olga and her prize winning negative, positive wall hangings.

Our afternoon workshop was devoted to traditional Russian Doll making. This was one of the most satisfying and creative workshops that I have ever taken. Elena is very passionate about reviving lost folk art traditions. She is not only a master doll maker but a master storyteller as well. Every aspect of these dolls, from the winding of the head stuffing to the tying of the threads is steeped in tradition, culture and history.

She taught us how to make a family of dolls, Mama, Baby and father, an angel and a little bunny.

These represent the 3 main reasons dolls were traditionally made -- good fortune, religion and child's toys. We were nice and neatly wound the stuffing for the heads so that Mama would be a clear thinker and we did not fill the father's head with wood or stone. Some of the symbolism is for telling your future or wishing for good things to happen.

A popular doll to choose would be the one with the biggest breasts which is to foretell riches and good luck. On the other hand lop-sidedness meant you would spend your life having one baby after another.
When Elena asked about local traditional dolls I promised to bring samples to the evening Gala. I chose an old traditional Mennonite doll, a traditional Peruvian doll (a gift from DD#1 recent trek) and a cloth doll from a pattern that I have made for 25 years. I managed to show the dolls and Elena understood that I was giving her one as a gift.

She was as excited as a little girl on Christmas morning...and immediately gave me a necklace of mini-dolls that she was wearing around her neck. Elena and her new doll were inseparable for the rest of the night!

The Gala was a sold out event featuring Russian food (the visiting Russians cooked food for 200 of us), music, stories and a fashion show.

DH & I in front of his favourite quilt (so much like the style of the "Group of Seven")

...and me wearing my new Russian Doll necklace

More photos of the Russians and their work


  1. What a great show! How fun to be able to communicate in fabric when you don't share words.

  2. What a wonderful post! I'll have to post a link to it from the LFQ guild's blog! I wasn't able to make it to any of the workshops, so I am glad you made this post.I did make it to the show but I was terribly disappointed we couldn't take photos!

  3. Hi Linda
    I sure enjoyed reading about the show and seeing your photos, since I wasn't able to attend. Looks like it was very inspiring!

  4. does anyone have any contact info for the russian quilters?


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