Organising a Gallery Space at a National Event

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The Knitting and Stitching Shows are the UK's premier craft events for the general public with shows held in different locations around the country. They have a mixture of vendor stands, workshops, demos and textile gallery spaces. Last year they held their first event in Edinburgh and I became involved as a tutor. The show was a big success, so for 2017 I asked the organisers whether our Edinburgh MQG could have a gallery space. The application process involved a complicated submission form, and so one of our members, Sheena Stone, become involved. The organisers insisted that we needed a theme for our exhibition and Sheena, with her career in PR and marketing, was able to put this succinctly into words. We decided to keep it simple and made 'what is a modern quilt?' our theme. We then began selecting quilts from our members, organising rotas, and, at the end of April, hung and then manned our own gallery space for four days! It was a wonderful experience, giving all the members a sense of pride in their work and their guild, and it was also a great way to publicise modern quilting and the Edinburgh MQG. Perhaps there are similar events local to your guild? Sheena and I have put together a handy crib sheet to help you organise your own gallery space.

1.  Get all of the deadlines from the show organisers as soon as possible.

2. Make a group decision on how to select the quilts. We asked everyone to bring their proposed items to a meeting and ran a secret vote. In the end we displayed them all, but your group may have more quilts than there is space.

3. Find out whether the organiser will provide the quilt signage. Luckily ours did, which looked professional with no cost to the guild.

5. Check whether you can sell items or run a raffle from the stand to boost guild funds.  If so you may need a table — check if the organiser will supply this. You may also need a cash float.

6. Find an easy way to organise the manning of the stand. We used a Doodlepoll.

7. Run a tutorial on making hanging sleeves at one of your meetings. Also check whether you will have to hang quilts yourself or whether the organisers will do this for you.

8. Take a few extra quilts on hanging day – better to have too many than too few. We used an extra quilt as a tablecloth. Pack a basic sewing kit too.

9. Don't underestimate how long things will take on hanging day – especially if you are waiting for show organisers to: finish painting the stand (yes, really!), hang the quilts, sort out the lighting, provide the signage. Wear plenty of layers as halls are unlikely to be heated (or may be warm). Make sure you bring along a flask of coffee/your lunch as the show's catering are often not operational on set up days.

10. Brief stand volunteers on how to engage with visitors (a cheery, ‘are you a quilter?’ or ‘do you know about modern quilting?’ works well), how to share details of anything you are selling, and how to deal with new member requests.

11. Make sure you publicise your exhibition on your group’s (and your own!) social media and website including the show's hashtag (and #mqg and #showusyourmqg of course!). It’s a great way to build followers and membership.

Connect with the Authors

Find Jo Avery on Instagram at @mybearpaw, and find Sheena Stone @auburnstitches on Instagram