Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Maritime Teaching Tour 2017 Part 1

This year is flying by due to many wonderful travel and teaching opportunities, high school graduation for my daughter and fun getaways with friends. So many plans!  It has been difficult to find time to properly share what I've been up to here on the blog.

Back at the beginning of May, I flew east....almost as far east as possible in Canada (with the exception of Newfoundland, which is the one Canadian province/territory I have yet to visit). After receiving a wonderful invitation from the Mahone Bay Quilter's Guild to be their guest, other maritime guilds jumped on board and I was able to visit four locations in 3 weeks: Mahone Bay, NS, Charlottetown, PEI,  Halifax, NS and St. Pierre & Miquelon, France.  I bought two fancy new hard-sided suitcases for this trip and packed them to within an ounce of 50 pounds each (75 pounds of quilts and 25 of clothing!).

Every year, Mahone Bay hosts a program they call Extraordinary Quilter. I was a little intimidated by the program title, but this group had me at ease right away with their excitement and friendly welcome. The four day event starts with a giant dessert party with over 130 guests for the visiting quilter's trunk show, followed by three days of workshops.  The guild is composed of very experienced quilters from a fairly far-reaching geographical area of Nova Scotia. It was lovely to meet so many passionate quilters! The dessert party took place in the local legion hall and workshops were held in the hall of one of Mahone's Bay's famous three churches. Here are some photos of the 24 linear feet of dessert and our Cutting Garden and Structural Improv workshops.

Mahone Bay, March 2017

Mahone Bay, March 2017

Mahone Bay, March 2017

Student work from Structural Improv workshop in Mahone Bay, NS. May, 2017.

The guild does fairly traditional work in general, and also has many talented art quilters. I was thrilled that they were willing to give modern a try and to experiment with some improv design. The positive feedback was amazing and I had a wonderful time working with this super friendly guild. 

I have been to Mahone Bay many times on family visits, however I've not stayed overnight there. I loved having several days to enjoy the town and take morning walks. My gracious hosts Barbara and Peter fed me delicious local fare (lobster! scallops! homemade cider!) and toured me around the local haunts, including a working sail loft (4th generation sailmaker Michele Stevens came to my Cutting Garden workshop and is one of the fastest sewists I've ever seen in action!). Here are some of my phone pics from the area.

Mahone Bay, March 2017
The famous three churches of Mahone Bay (there are still two more in town!)

Mahone Bay 2017

Mahone Bay 2017

Mahone Bay 2017
This is a sailmakers sewing 'pit' sunk in the loft floor so that large heavy sails can spread out on the floor and sewn at the same level.

Mahone Bay 2017
Here's a home displaying a classic local architectural feature known as a Lunenburg bump. It's a nice little sitting area at the top of the stairs - perfect for awaiting your sailor's return home.

From the South Shore, I flew out of Halifax to St. Pierre....on Air St. Pierre! The flights go three days/week and take just over an hour, plus an additional hour of time change from Atlantic time.  Once we landed on the small island runway and entered the fancy 'new' airport building, I am pretty sure I was the only passenger that actually had to show my passport. Everyone else was a local returning from a sunny vacation in the south and seemed well-acquainted with the border guards.  Luckily, I arrived on the preferable (at least for tourists) weather day of the two typical options. Option A: sunny with lots of wind. Option B: fog.

My hosts Sylvie and Marie-Claire toured me around the tiny island for an hour or so, checking out the town and surrounding viewpoints. Although the island is just 12 km from Newfoundland, you realize quickly that you are actually, fully, in France. Shops follow the afternoon closing practice, food goods are imported from France (along with the wine!) and the currency is Euros.

St.Pierre & Miquelon, 2017
It was a short walk from the 46-seat twin prop plane into the terminal.

St.Pierre & Miquelon, 2017
It really is an island of rock!

St.Pierre & Miquelon, 2017
Looking over the main town and harbour. There is a passenger ferry service to Newfoundland. A car ferry service is scheduled to start this summer. Although there are three patisseries on the island making delicious French pastry, I did see many people disembark the ferry carrying boxes of Tim Hortons donuts!

St.Pierre & Miquelon, 2017
A photo at the southern-most tip of the island, where the road ends. I can only imagine how bitter the wind is here in winter.

St.Pierre & Miquelon, 2017
The homes and businesses in town are painted bright, cheerful colours in contrast to the grey fog and rock. Small vestibules allow you to remove wet and winter clothing before entering.

St.Pierre & Miquelon, 2017
The oldest shop on the island. You can see the storage room door in the sidewalk.

St.Pierre & Miquelon, 2017

<St.Pierre & Miquelon, 2017

St.Pierre & Miquelon, 2017
Lobster season had just opened when I arrived. Most homes have a boat out front, or in the yard. Fishing, lobster-fishing and hunting for deer, pheasant and rabbit on a nearby uninhabited island supplement imported food. There are also wild berries, but very little food is grown, other than small back yard gardens.

The small, but dedicated group of 20 quilters gather weekly at the "old" airport, where they rent a conference room, kitchen and dining room for 30 Euros/year from the local government. We sewed under the old control tower! Fabric is pretty hard to come by. Many purchase fabric on trips to Newfoundland, Nova Scotia or France, but some people are starting to order online.  Although there was no expectation for me to do so, I tried my best to teach in French. It was pretty exhausting, but so much fun and even just a few days of immersion brings back my accent and vocabulary. They were thrilled that I was willing to try and I got lots of help with technical terms from those that spoke some English.  Eager for new ideas, the gals were keen to purchase my book and patterns, drink wine together and talk quilting as much as possible! I taught both Round Peg, Square Hole and a half day intro to free-motion machine quilting workshops.

St.Pierre & Miquelon, 2017
The quilting room is in the left wing of the old airport!

St.Pierre & Miquelon, 2017
A lovely welcome reception to share quilts and meet each other on my first evening.

St.Pierre & Miquelon, 2017

St.Pierre & Miquelon, 2017
Gloves on! Ready to FMQ!

St.Pierre & Miquelon, 2017
Definitely in France! Yummmm.

St.Pierre & Miquelon, 2017
Here's the difference a day can make - the same view 24 hours later after "le brumes" had moved in.
The group calls themselves "Les Piqueuses de brumes", Quilters of the Fog.

On my second evening, a group of us went to dine in a local restaurant where we enjoyed fois gras, lobster au gratin and delicious wine. Just before dinner, I had purchased two fairly expensive bottles of my Dad's favourite French wine for his upcoming birthday, which I left in the car. I got a huge laugh, when after dinner I stood in the pouring rain waiting for Sylvie to unlock my car door. Apparently I was the only person who locked a door to protect my wine purchase. No one locks their cars or home; I was told crime isn't an issue because 10 minutes after something happened, the entire island would know exactly who did it!

It really would have been so nice to stay longer with these quilters who were so eager to learn. They have very little opportunity to meet outside quilters, so if you ever find yourself on St. Pierre, do try and stop by the old airport sewing room!

This post is getting so long. I think I'll take a break and write about my visits to the Maritime and PEI Modern Quilt Guilds another day. Until then, my friends.



5 comments:

Shasta Matova said...

That sounds like such a fun trip. Thanks for taking us along and teaching us about this part of the world. Your writing is wonderful and I felt like I was right there. All except for the desserts - I feel I need to be right there to taste those in person!

Yusuf Nur Abdussalam said...
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LethargicLass said...

What a fantastic time you had! I would have loved to have been there!

rstogether said...

I love your stories of this trip. I cannot imagine living with that fog in St. Pierre. Glad the wine was safe :)

Sophie Zaugg said...

Une autre occasion de pratiquer ton français ... ;-) Quelle belle expérience ! Ton article est vraiment très intéressant. Je n'avais jamais vu de photos de St-Pierre et je n'avais aucune idée de la vie sur cette île. Je me réjouis de lire la suite de tes aventures !