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Issue 29 Release Party: New Jersey

“Hello! What page are you on?”

The guests at the release party for Quiltfolk, Issue 29: New Jersey were buzzing. Those featured in the issue were wearing blue-bordered name tags so that they could identify one another quickly, and this was the most common question asked as they met one another. The next question was, “Will you autograph my copy?”

The general excitement was amplified by anticipation: Because winter weather had delayed delivery of the issue nationwide, almost none of the profile subjects had held the issue in their hands until the release party, let alone had a chance to examine the words and photos of their own story. A pile of just-arrived issues awaited them and were met with excited shouts.

On Sunday, January 21, they gathered along with their friends and supporters to celebrate the New Jersey issue in a most fitting venue. Dana Balsamo is both a certified quilt appraiser and a licensed auctioneer, and she was the subject of a profile that explained how she morphed from a stay-at-home quilter mom to a quilt authority with a nationwide following. Dana recently moved her fast-growing Princeton-based auction business, Dana Auctions LLC, to a much larger space and was delighted to host the party there.

Partygoers jumped at the chance to examine offerings for two upcoming auctions while chatting and munching on appetizers. Vintage Clothing and Accessories were going to be auctioned February 10, but this group was especially eager to check out the Antique and Vintage Quilts that Dana was preparing to offer live and online on February 24.

Dana Balsamo speaking to the attendees of the release party.
Some of Issue 29's featured folk check out one of the quilts slated for auction.
Rose Mary Briggs, Meg Cox, Juandamarie Gikand, Gail Michell, Dana Balsamo.

Like everyone else that day, Dana had the pleasure of reuniting with old quilting buddies while also bonding with new ones. “I have known Krishma Patel for over a decade, and I was so happy to see her again and hear how her work is evolving into such a fulfilling career and touching so many lives,” Dana said. “Whereas I have never met Lisa Shepard Stuart (whose shop Cultured Expressions Sewing Studio in Rahway features African fabric), and I was thrilled to get a copy of her magazine Fabrigasm. The thing I love about quilts is how different people from all walks of life, culture, and age have this common thread.”

The youngest quilter present was Anisha Chirmule, a yoga teacher who didn’t take up quilting until the pandemic. She never stopped grinning and confessed to being flabbergasted by the roomful of eminent quilters and quilt experts who surrounded her. 

“I am truly overjoyed!” she said. “I’ve gotten to speak with so many amazing people. It’s fabulous meeting Krishma and the ladies of the Pennington Quilt Works where I love to shop and Teresa whose quilt blew me away, plus the Sankofa guild quilters and so many more! Quilting for me has been such an individual and personal journey, and meeting everyone in person who has had their own journey with quilting feels almost like magic. I feel so lucky to be a tiny part of this amazing community and history of quilters. This is something I’ll be proud of for the rest of my days.”

On the left, Glendora Simonson holds her copy of Issue 29: New Jersey, and on the right Anisha Chirmule admires her copy.

Glendora Simonson has been making quilts longer than Anisha has been alive but was feeling many of the same emotions at the launch party. “I’m both ecstatic and humbled,” she said. “I was so thrilled to meet up with old friends like Lisa Shepard Stewart and Gail Mitchell, whom I met at least 30 years ago while teaching a class at the Newark Museum. But I was sad that Mark Lipinski couldn’t attend: His laugh and personality is always bigger than life.” 

For his part, Mark was disappointed that his poor health kept him at home. He would have loved joking around with Glendora: He credits her with being the first person to teach him to quilt, after he showed up many years ago for a meeting of the Nubian Heritage Quilters Guild, which she led.

Krishma Patel and husband, Abhay Patel peruse the pages of Issue 29.

Putting together an issue of Quiltfolk is always like building a giant puzzle, trying to find diverse stories that reflect an entire state’s quiltmaking from every angle: age, location, techniques., etc. How do we include the rich stories of quilters long past, including those now anonymous—as well as those creating now?   

It turns out that New Jersey has a long and rich quilt history, and it’s been well preserved in countless historic homes and museums all the way up to the Newark Museum of Art, which was famously early in collecting quilts. Due to preparation for a major event at the Newark Museum, Quiltfolk photographers weren’t able to dig deep into collection storage there to photograph some of its most remarkable quilts. But they did get to see and shoot the museum.

Mary Ames, Susan Adler, Bea Hailes, and Ellen Greco.
Attendees of the event were eager to get their copies signed.
Lisa Shepard Stewart and Daniel Gonzalez chat about the issue.

And the magazine was able to feature a New Jersey quilter whose quilt Midtown Direct is part of the museum’s collection. Teresa Barkley lives in New Jersey and commutes to a job in Manhattan’s garment district: What could be more perfect for Issue 29 than a quilt that celebrates one woman’s daily commute?

Teresa declared that the issue and the party were both “thrilling,” in part because she had never met Amy Simon Hopwood, associate curator of decorative arts at the Newark Museum and, thus, the current steward of the quilt collection. For Amy, it was exciting to meet Teresa and mingle with so many quilters who have taught or learned quilting at the museum and appreciate its celebration of textile arts. 

Juanda Gikandi, a member of the Princeton Sankofa Stitchers Modern Quilt Guild, said attending the party made her feel “like a celebrity.” She had such a transcendent time that she went home and wrote this haiku:

Magic winter day

Quilts of warmth and friendships bloom,

Smiles fill QuiltFolk Zine.

Back row, L-R: Dana Balsamo, Daisi Toegel, Peggy Norris, Lisa Shepard Stewart, Ellen Greco, Susan Adler, Mary Ames, Gail Michell, Anisha Chirmule, Rose Mary Briggs, Meg Cox, Teresa Barkley, Lorise Goeke. Front row, L-R: Becca Fenstermaker, Juandamarie Gikandi, Bea Hailes, Karen Dever, Jan Crane, Glendora Simonson, Kathleen Lindsay, Krishma Patel.

About the Author

Meg Cox joined the Quiltfolk team in 2018 and has written for the magazine and contributed to many other projects since. Learn more about Meg on her website.

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