Quilting: The Next Generation

Yesterday, after much foot-dragging, I sent a message to the listserv of the Austin Area Quilt Guild asking if anyone would be interested in forming a small meeting group (called a Bee) of quilters in their 20’s and 30’s. Within five hours I had nine responses from women were excited about finding a niche within/in addition to the general Guild activities. Several of them mentioned their desire to have a place where they felt they had more in common than they feel with the Guild membership as a whole.

This was no surprise, for at least two reasons. First, the Guild’s membership, as one would expect, is skewed more toward the AARP end of things. Second, the Guild has gotten quite large. To its credit, the leadership realizes that it has become challenging for everyone to feel as though they belong, and they are beginning to focus on offering more opportunities to get involved and connected.

What did surprise me was receiving an email from a long-time member of the Guild that inquired why I would want to “limit” the Bee by age group.

After all, she said, the other Bees had never kept younger members from joining. Plus, she let me know that we would be missing out on having a wider range of styles and techniques by excluding older quilters. The email was phrased as a question, but it read clearly as her way of telling me she thought I was wrong without having to say it directly.

I think we can skip past the rampant stereotyping inherent in her categorization of younger quilters as limited in styles and techniques. Instead, let’s look at this: barring accidents, the majority of current Guild members will be dead before I will. If they are interested in having quilting continue as an art form and the Guild continue as a viable organization, how will that happen if people like myself don’t feel welcome? And unless she looks around the Bees, the Guild, and local classes and sees plenty of other younger folks in them, then we have a continuance problem. Quilters will have a limited range of styles and techniques not because they spent time with others their own age, but because the art lost its commercial viability that currently supports the publication of books, magazines, and the teaching of classes.

Since she was outvoted about 12 to 1 (when you include the 2 Guild officers who suggested I try starting the Bee), it didn’t dent my good mood yesterday. But sheesh, lady! If someone’s grandma wants to come hang out with a group of girls who use strong language and bitch about their boyfriends, then the more the merrier!

The best thing about it, of course, is that I may very well become a Bee Keeper. I’m going to keep bees!