Tod und Leben by Frieda Oxenham
Tod und Leben by Frieda Oxenham
 
When you think of spring time in Holland, what do you think of first? For most Dutch people, three things pop instantly to mind: the Queen’s birthday, tulips in bloom and the new season’s herring. For stitchers, the move of the Open European Quilt Championships from October to May means that spring time is now “quilt time”, as well. The move also means a bigger and better showcase for European quilts. And just in case you may have forgotten - Britain is part of Europe! But more of that later...
 
Visitors admire the
free hanging quilts
Visitors admire the free hanging quilts
 
Now in its 12th year, the European Open Quilt Championships 2008 spanned four glorious spring days from 1st to 4th May. With 140 competition entries from 12 countries, plus four exciting guest collections on display, there was enough colour and vibrance inside the hall to more than compete with the sunshine and flowers outside.
punkt 12... by Maria Reuter
Punkt 12... by Maria Reuter
 
Across every category and guest collection, the standard of work, from creative design to skilled execution, was extremely high. The variety of styles crossed many boundaries, not least the sometimes controversial divide between the “contemporary” and the “traditional”. As for the creative and adventurous use of materials beyond the usual cottons and silks, how about this for an innovative list: fur fabrics, paints, felt, netting, lace, ceramics and even rocks!
Doek by
Antoinette
Jorritsma
Doek by Antoinette Jorritsma
 
The spacious, high-ceilinged exhibition hall in the NH Koningshof conference centre gave the entire show a feeling of space, even with a hall-full of admiring quilt enthusiasts and shoppers. The quilts were hung on fine wires from high above, with plenty of space between so you could step well back for a wide-angle view or photograph.
 
The 43 trading stands representing The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, South Africa, Hungary and - yes, the UK, were arranged around the hall’s circumference. The range of specialist textile and craft supplies available included: patchwork and quilting fabrics; ethnic and hand-dyed fabrics; yarns; notions; fabric paints and stamps; books and patterns; sewing machines and long arm quilting supplies; as well as information on a number of societies. Interestingly, the four-strong British contingent of traders (The Contented Cat/Rio Designs, Kaleidoscope, Euro- Japan Links and The African Fabric Shop), actually exceeded the number of British quilt entries, a mere three.
 
Now, let’s look at the competition itself.

Traditional Quilts

Maskerade by
Ansje Prooper
Maskerade by Ansje Prooper
 
Traditional quilting is alive and well in Europe. Indeed, at the awards dinner, the show’s organiser, Ada Honders, stressed the importance of maintaining the traditional quilt category in the Open European Quilt Championships.
 
“We want to support traditional quilt making, as well as the new and contemporary,” was Ada’s message. The three winning traditional quilts represented a range of quilting traditions: Maskerade, by Ansje Prooper of The Netherlands, had a classic European feel; My Small Piece of Japan, by Hildegard Ledl of Germany, as the title suggests, was strongly influenced by Japanese traditions; while Annette Valtl’s red and white Rubi, with its lace, silk and vintage linens, brought us back to Europe.

Long Arm Quilts

Parrot’s Island
Claudia Pfeil
Parrot’s Island by Claudia Pfeil
As long arm quilting finds new and talented enthusiasts in Europe, it’s no wonder that the quilts in this category were so stunning. Parrot’s Island by Claudia Pfeil of Germany was a legitimate show stopper and winner in this category, as well as taking the top prize for the theme Paradise. The judges weren’t the only ones so impressed by her interpretation of paradise, though. Her quilt was also voted “visitors’ choice” by the show’s 3,000 visitors. If you think that sounds like a lot of praise for one quilt, you’d be wrong. The back is just as fantastic and a prize-winner in its own right.

Intermediate and Advanced Quilts

Intermediate winner Antoinette Jorritsma of The Netherlands, inspired by the painter Wim Rietman, used chenille to create her striking abstract swirl called Doek. In the advanced category, we had to check our German dictionary to understand the title of the winning entry, Punkt 12, by Maria Reuter.
 
Her bold abstract combined hand appliquéd stripes and 12 dots, hence her title. The UK made its mark in the advanced category, with Scotland’s talented textile artist Frieda Oxenham winning a third for her adventurous piece (and adventurous piecing!), titled Tod und Leben. Frieda based her work on a small detail from the painting by Gustav Klimt and then redrew it on her computer using Electric Quilt 6. She took her lead from Klimt himself for the extensive decoration and hand-beading, which further enhanced her free machine piecing and hand-quilting. A worthy winner, even if we are banging on our British drum!

Novice Quilts

1001 Nachten by
Marjan Van der
Heijden
1001 Nachten by Marjan Van der Heijden
 
For many, the highlight of the show was the novice category and the standing ovation that greeted the winner when she accepted her first prize for - it’s hard to believe - her very first quilt. Marjan van der Heijden’s creative talent and skilful execution certainly belie her years - she is only 16! Her wallhanging, titled 1001 Nachten featured 12 multi-coloured log cabin blocks linked together with strands of beads and embellished with additional beadwork.
 
Marjan has worked as part of the student support team at the European championship since she was very young. “I am the little girl who used to sit in the canteen working on some just as fantastic and a prize-winner in its own right. sort of craft project,” she says. “Now I have finished my very first quilt and I am very proud of it.” As anyone who has seen it will attest, she has every right to be so proud.

Guest Collections

In addition to the competitive element of the show, OEQC 2008 featured four interesting and inspiring guest collections: Russian quilts collected by Elena Demidova; quilts from the Israeli Quilt Association; Japanese quilts curated by Yoko Saito; and a European collection of quilts which have been published in Quiltmania over the past decade.

Visiting the OEQC

This year the OEQC moved to a new and larger venue - the NH Koningshof conference and hotel complex, situated in parkland in Veldhoven, a suburb of Eindhoven. The visitor facilities begin with excellent accommodation and catering and include a gym, sauna and swimming pool. The show itself is well-served by a volunteer staff of helpful students and, as everywhere in The Netherlands, you can leave your Dutch dictionary behind because everyone speaks excellent English. From the venue, the organiser provided a free shuttle into Veldhoven, where various shops were decorated with quilts. Veldhoven has a few good restaurants, but for more choice, Eindhoven city centre is only 15 minutes away. Show entry is a reasonable 12€ per day or 25€ for four days, with group discounts available. This is includes a full colour catalogue illustrating all of the competition quilts. Amazing value and parking is free. By moving to Koningshof, the organiser Ada Honders is aiming high. With the support of quilters, traders and visitors, the Open European Quilt Championships is well on the way to becoming a world class showcase for quilting, both traditional and contemporary, from Europe and beyond.

OEQC 2010

Remember what we said about Britain being part of Europe? Well, it is! The 2008 competition had only three British quilts, a total matched by Turkey and exceeded by every other represented country except Finland. So come on, you British quilters: get quilting! OEQC 2010, will once again be in glorious Dutch spring time, 29th April to 2nd May. For entry and visitor information, visit www.oeqc.eu where you can also see images of all the 2008 winners.

Beyond the Quilts

Spring time could be the best time of year to visit The Netherlands and the OEQC is a great excuse for popping across the Channel. The show spans the Queen’s birthday, perhaps the biggest celebration in the Dutch calendar. Veldhoven is only a short hop by road or rail from Amsterdam. Amsterdam is famous for it’s canals and even this early in the year a boat trip is well worth the experience but wrap up warmly. Davina recommends visiting the floating flower market too! And, as many quilters have green thumbs as well, the world famous Keukenhof Gardens, www. keukenhof.nl, are just over an hour away. Though not the keenest gardeners, even we were blown away by the sight of acres of tulips in bloom. And that’s just the organised gardens, which are surrounded by even more fields of flowers - a truly wondrous spring time sight. Finally, if you’re not tempted by quilts or tulips, what about the new season herring? (That wasn’t Magie talking, it was The Saturday Boy)