In the spring of 2009, Jean Gerster asked regional SAQA members if they would be interested in participating in a group challenge: she would select a painting, divide it into sections, and present 20 of us with a square to make into a one-foot square block in fibre. She very quickly had a cohort of 20 willing and enthusiastic participants, from Toronto to Montreal.
Armed with our squares, and with no idea of what the painting was, we all set to work, agreeing to convene at a fall parlour meeting to assess our progress and determine the final mounting options. When most of us were finished our blocks in the fall of 2009, Jean revealed the painting was by Montreal artist Anne Savage, a contemporary of the Group of Seven. In December, she arranged for us to have a private viewing of Savage's paintings at the National Gallery, an incredible experience, and it was a wonderful evening for the participants to get to know one another.
As with all group ventures, there were the inevitable complications: waiting for late arrivals, finding storage space for the work, and figuring out how to connect the squares so that they could be packed for travel in small sections. Meredith Filshie solved the storage problem by generously providing us with storage and work space above her beading supply store, and provided professional lighting for photography sessions. Margaret Dunsmore stepped in and spent long hours helping Jean construct the final hanging system and they struggled to mount a piece that arrived unmounted and resize one that was too large. At long last, "Laurentian Foothills" was complete and received enthusiastic comments from visitors to Meredith's store.
Jean then approached the International Quilt Festival to see if they would accept such an unusual piece for their O Canada exhibit at their spring show in Chicago. The proposal was accepted! It is being packed and mailed this week. We are submitting our story to the SAQA Journal for publication in the summer. I know I speak on behalf of the entire group when I express our gratitude to Jean for her vision, her tenacity, and her tranquility throughout. Stay tuned for future developments!