Anyone else here spend way too much time online? I belong to a number of quilt groups on Facebook, and can get completely lost in scrolling through the gorgeous pictures and adding lots of stuff – more than I can make in a lifetime! – to my personal “ideas” files. But in addition to the pictures, there are sometimes discussions, and one that crops up over and over is the difficulty some people have in finding “in person” guilds where they feel welcome. They share horror stories about joining guilds where the cliques are so fixed that no outsider could possibly make inroads, or where their quilts are mocked and criticized by the dreaded “Quilt Police.” I read these accounts, shudder, and thank my lucky stars that I’ve never belonged to a guild like that.
I joined my first guild (in Michigan) in the early 90s, just a few years after I began quilting. This group was home to a couple of Big Name quilters, and it’s a good thing I didn’t know that at first or I probably would never have dared to join. My advanced-beginner work got the same applause at Show and Tell as everyone else’s, and no one laughed when I entered a piece in the guild’s show, despite my distressingly wavy borders. (And I learned that Big Name quilters are pretty much just like the rest of us, and not to be feared after all.)
When I moved to Maine, I soon found another guild. This one was a state guild, broken down into about 70 local “chapters.” Most chapters meet monthly, and there are three guild-wide meetings per year, plus the big guild show every July. I started volunteering at the show as a way to meet more people, and eventually ended up chairing the show’s Judged Division. I suppose it’s possible that, somewhere among the guild’s 2,000+ members, there are some who are less than welcoming and kind (quilters are, after all, human), but I’m pleased to say that I’ve never come across them.
When I moved out to California, it wasn’t long before I missed communing with my kind and went in search of a local guild. A few years ago I saw an ad for the WFQG Yard Sale, showed up that evening, and essentially never left. Everyone I spoke to was friendly, and everyone was there because of a shared love of quilts and quilting. Again, I found that volunteering was a terrific way to meet new people in the guild: when Terry asked me to become the “guest hostess,” I agreed, and when the guild needed a new newsletter editor, I signed on for that too. Of course, there are plenty of other ways for people to become more involved in the guild without joining the board – between small groups, challenges, retreats, and special projects like this year’s Round Robin, everyone can be as active as she/he wants to be! I love that our membership runs the gamut from brand new quilters to quilt professionals, and I hope that each of you knows how much your presence is valued – WFQG wouldn’t be the awesome group it is without you.
I’m so grateful that in my almost-30 years as a quilter, I’ve been lucky enough to find myself part of three amazing guilds that helped me to grow, both as a quilter and as a person, and I really wish I could convince some of those online quilters that it is possible to find in-person guilds that are not dominated by “mean girls.” Maybe I should just invite them all to move to California and join us!
See you at the meeting,