It is a truth universally acknowledged that quilt shows must have invigilators of some sort. You see them at shows all around the world.
Call them white glove ladies, or quilt angels, stewards or quilt guardians – they are there to keep an eye on the quilts, to keep them safe. They can make sure no-one simply walks off with one (it has happened! remember this?) and that visitors obey the Do Not Touch The Quilts signs.
These helpers also get to share their love of quilting in conversations with interested visitors. (They don’t even need to be an expert on the techniques as there are usually samples or statements that can be looked at and read for the details, to which visitors can be referred.) They might need (in smaller shows) to keep a tally of visitors, or take money for items being sold. When things are quiet, they have a chance to chat with other helpers and get to know them better.
That last consideration is important in a large regional or even national group, in which members don’t meet face to face very often. My own experience is of Contemporary Quilt in the UK – we communicate with each other through a yahoo group, and see other members mainly at Festival of Quilts each year. It makes a difference to be able to put a face to the name.
With all these positive aspects, and no training needed (you just need to smile, be pleasant, use common sense) – why are people so reluctant to volunteer to help out in this way?
Some, of course, live too far from the show, or have health issues or conflicting responsibilities that make this impossible. For shows in big national venues, the hassle of travelling to get there and the costs involved, and then the time that needs to be set aside, can deter volunteers.
Some are shy or afraid of the public; others don’t feel they know enough to be able to answer questions.
Some – usually the same people time after time – will help out at the drop of a hat and travel for one or two hours to do so.
What about the rest … are they lost causes? Is this reluctance to volunteer for a simple task a part of a general lethargy and apathy? When stewarding slots need filling, how can these people be “incentivized”?
One incentive for doing several hours of minding the quilts is to get a day pass to the (large) show, which allows several hours of looking around at other displays and traders.
Collectible “quilt angel” pins are a tangible reward. For example, the“Roadie” bar is earned by volunteering four hours or more at the Road To California quilt show. Each year “Roadies” receive a year bar to add to their special pin. At Houston, the “quilt angels” earn an Angel pin for a three-hour shift, and if they serve two shifts, they earn priority registration for the next show.
A rather compelling incentive is pressure from others in the group – the sense that every member makes a contribution, not just of their membership fee but of something else, which can be helping run the organization or doing one of the behind-the-scenes jobs – or contributing by looking after the quilts at shows near them.