Monday, February 20, 2017

Behind the Scenes - Creating a Solo Quilt Exhibition

If you're reading this when it was posted, then I'm already in Georgia, getting ready for an exciting time at QuiltCon. I will be back to regular blogging, hopefully with a recap of the event, next week... or the week after (see below for why).

I'm excited because my first solo exhibition is next week! "Jessica Skultety: My Quilty Habit" will feature 20 of my original quilts (some modern, some modern traditional, some questionable? Who needs labels?) and lots of dense free motion and walking foot quilting. If you're available and local, it's March 2-5 at the Mancuso show, Quilt and Sewing Fest of New Jersey. I'll be there Friday afternoon after my class and all weekend, so please come say hi!

A LOT of preparation has gone into this. I knew I'd lose a huge chunk of time beforehand because of traveling to Georgia. So, I needed to finish all work at least 3 weeks before the show. Maybe you've thought about exhibiting your quilts publicly (outside of being juried into a quilt show), so I wanted to address how it works from my perspective.


How does one have the opportunity for a solo quilt show? You could get asked, but the most direct way is to apply. Lots of quilt shows have this option on their websites. You could also have a show at a local shop, museum, etc. Inquire! Keep in mind you'll probably have to attach good-quality photos of your work to your application, plus information 

Determining a theme. When the staff at Mancuso presented the idea of a one-woman show, I decided on machine quilting ("My Quilty Habit") - not just because that name defines me everywhere on the internet, but because quilting is my favorite part of the process. I also do all of my quilting on my home machine; compared to many traditional show quilts, mine are not longarmed and are made by me 100%. Note: if you're putting together a solo show, just having your quilts together might be enough of a theme.

For my theme, I wrote this description:
Do you love bright, bold, and uniquely quilted quilts? If so, you’re coming to the right place! Jessica Skultety, a 27-year-old New Jersey quilter, teacher, lecturer, and writer, is a serial maker of improvisational and modern quilts. A self-taught quilter (thanks, Google!), she started quilting all of her work on a domestic machine and fell head over heels in love with creating "perfectly imperfect" stitches. Her current passions are creating wholecloth word quilts and dreaming up new ways to modernize traditional blocks. In addition to this special exhibit, Jessica will be teaching two classes centered around modernizing traditional blocks and improvisational techniques.

 Crown of Orchids, which is better seen in person, will be at the show!

What do you need for a solo exhibition? Most importantly, you need to have a significant amount of your work completed and in your own hands. Quilters in particular are infamous for gifting or giving their work away. Think about projects you might have made for family members, guild challenges, and the like. Perhaps you can finish up a couple more projects before you apply for an exhibit or before it opens. I did! - I'll be premiering the "Today I Feel" quilt (which is definitely better seen in person - it's so difficult to take photos of) and "Fall Spectrum" quilt.

What else?
  • Sew quilt sleeves on each piece. My show contains 20 original quilts, some of which (luckily) already had sleeves from other quilt shows. For the rest, I got to work back in November and I've been hand sewing like the wind (which resulted in tips for sewing on quilt sleeves. My pain is your gain!).
  • Sew labels on each quilt. If you've slacked on labeling your quilts like me over the past couple years, check out the Quilt Alliance labeling pledge. Perhaps it will kick your butt into gear like it did for me.
  • Doctor each piece. As in: clip all stray threads and lint roll. This can take ages. I'm no perfectionist, but whenever one of my quilts is going to hang in a show, I make them look as good as possible.
  • Write, proofread, and print descriptions. For our past guild quilt exhibits, we printed directly onto cardstock. I decided to save a trip to the printer and printed all 20 sheets at home. Then, I glued them onto colored cardstock for a little pop of color. Hopefully they will look just as professional.
  • Determine prices. If you're selling your work, add contact information (email address) to your descriptions. Some of my quilts are indeed for sale, and while I can't reveal prices through the show itself, I was instructed to direct people to email me. If I receive email, I'll know what to answer with.
  • Determine an order for hanging your quilts. Shows and spaces have different capabilities. For example, this show has poles that extend to 10 feet, and I'll have a certain amount of poles to hang my show. So, I have to figure out where each quilt will fit and what order I want them to be seen. It's enough to boggle your mind, but in the end it will be worth it!

 Fractured Cathedral Window will be there, too!

What to anticipate close to show day:
  • Pack your quilts in order and go hang them up. You'll probably need at least 2 people if you have large quilts. Since my exhibit is part of a larger show, the friendly staff will be available to help me the day before the show opens.
  • Tell everyone about it and invite them! My friends and family have told me what days they are coming to visit (because you can bet I'll be there), and we are planning meals together. It's a really fun and exciting way to share your work with the world. I also let you and my newsletter subscribers know, because this is probably my biggest 2017 event. 
  • Take pictures! You know I'll be sharing! During the event I won't have time to blog, but I'll be over on Instagram (@quiltyhabit).
I'm sure there will be other things that come up close to show day, but this is what I can think of right now. Perhaps I'll write a follow up post. Anyway, I'm new at all this, but I hope this post helps someone out there!

Additional reading/viewing:
  • Check out the first video - this is a recent exhibit by Luke Haynes (I think you have to be logged into Facebook to watch).


  1. I am so excited for you for this awesome opportunity! I look forward to seeing more about the show and I hope it is a wonderful experience. I know you have put in a lot of effort and congratulations for getting all the prep,work done before QultCon!

  2. That sounds so exciting! I am happy for you. Thanks for all the good info as well. I wish you the best. I am looking forward to a full report when you get back!

  3. Oh nice. How fun Jess.
    Have fun at quilt con and with your very own show!

  4. How wonderful for you! I'm so proud and excited on your behalf. I wish I could be there, but I am (unfortunately) on the other coast. I will await the blog post and photo record. Three cheers for you and your quilty habit!

  5. Your quilts are wonderful - wishing you every success! Wish I could be in NJ to see the quilts in person and meet you. Very good pointers on having a solo show too! Love crown of orchids and all the movement in it, which your quilting enhanced. I hope you take lots of pictures! I especially love the combo of hand and machine quilting in the fractured cathedral window quilt. Can't wait to read more about your show. I don't always comment but so enjoy your blog, and following along. P.S. I have a wordpress account that is totally legitimate, but for some reason, this blog keeps sending me an error message saying "your open ID credentials could not be verified - even though i am logged in on wordpress! sorry - would comment more if it weren't so impossible to get a comment on here!

  6. What a great post Jessica and congrats on your one woman exhibition! I had you had a lot of fun at the show and got great feedback from your quilts!!


Let's start a conversation! I love comments and I'd be happy to reply to all who have an email address accessible. Thanks for commenting!


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