Utah’s official nickname is the Beehive State and the state insect is the honeybee. Both are symbols of Utah’s work ethic and focus on industry, so it is fitting that the craftsmanship shown in entries to the 2020 International Quilt Show’s Bee Quilt Challenge exemplify the ethos of hard work while creatively showcasing the beauty of the bee.
The 29 bee-themed quilts in the Bee Quilt Challenge will be on display through October at Gallery Moab (59 S. Main St. #1, Moab) on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from noon to 4 p.m. and on Thursdays through Sundays from noon to 8 p.m. They may also be viewed online at www.itssewmoab.com.
Deb Slechta is the woman behind the quilt show and the owner of It’s Sew Moab, LLC (40 W. Center St., Moab), a sewing store offering a wide range of fabrics, tools and accessories.
“I wanted this show to be different than other shows,” Slechta said. “First, I made the quilt size requirements 8 inches by 10 inches. Nobody in the industry has ever had a show solely based on miniature-only quilts.”
Slechta said entries had to use a one-eighth yard of fabric – “what we call in the quilting world a fat-eighth,” she said.
And every participant had to agree that it would be an anonymous show.
“This means that all of the quilt labels are covered,” Slechta said. “Nobody will know who made what.”
Slechta also decided to forego the typical quilt show convention of having entries into different categories and she is asking viewers to be the judges.
“I wanted it to be a viewer’s choice only,” she said, suggesting viewers judge the quilts by asking themselves, “What is speaking to your heart?”
Slechta said another motivation for keeping entries anonymous was to reduce some quilters’ fears of participating if they saw a more seasoned quilter was also entering.
“In the quilt show world … so many members will not submit a quilt for a show simply because they know that so-and-so is submitting a quilt,” she said. “This breaks my heart. For me, this is not what it is all about. My sole goal is to spread the joy of quilting.”
Slechta said this year’s entrants are from Moab and “all over the world,” and range from experienced to brand-new quilters.
“I have men, women, and children enter,” she said. “Creativity is not held by sex or age.”
Slechta said she felt “honored” that Shesh Mishzar, an Israeli fiber artist group, submitted quilts to the show.
“It is a huge compliment and confirms that I am on the right track with this show,” she said.
Winners will receive cash prizes – $100 for first, $75 for second and $50 for third place.
Slechta said there are Bee Quilt Challenge ballots available at It’s Sew Moab, or viewers may vote by emailing her at www.itssewmoab.com with the quilt number and quilt name of choice.
Slechta started the quilt show last year and the quilts were displayed at the Moab Museum. With the museum closed this year, Slechta needed a new venue so she reached out to Gallery Moab, a cooperative gallery founded by Moab artists, and got the green light to display the quilt entries there.
Slechta noted that Gallery Moab and It’s Sew Moab are both members of the Moab Chamber of Commerce, which encourages complementary businesses to work together.
“It’s a win-win pairing,” Slechta said of her business and Gallery Moab working together.
Slechta said she has long had the goal of putting Moab “on the map for quilting.”
“There is a tremendous amount of talent in the quilting world, specifically, in the state of Utah,” Slechta said, adding she was “just waiting for a good opportunity” to start a quilt show.
The inspiration came last year, when scientists captured the first direct visual images of a black hole and Slechta decided to organize a quilt show with a black hole theme.
“Because this is an international show, I must pick a subject matter that anybody can relate to,” Slechta said. “This year is ‘the bee’ – next year is ‘dance!’”