Quilters’ S.O.S. – Save Our Stories (QSOS) is the largest oral history collection about quiltmakers in the world. Our archive for the original audio recordings and photographs is the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

The project was co-founded in 1999 by a dedicated group of Quilt Alliance board members and volunteers who identified an extraordinary gap in the quilt world: no one had ever created an oral-history project to capture the history, craft tradition, and personal experiences of America’s quiltmakers. They envisioned QSOS as a grassroots effort and designed the interview process in ways that would make it accessible to interviewers and quiltmakers at all skill levels and backgrounds, allowing them to explore the central question: “if this quilt could talk,” what would it say? Now, almost twenty years later, the collection includes over 1,200 recorded interviews with quiltmakers from novices to professionals.

The Quilt Alliance celebrates the twentieth anniversary of QSOS in 2019 with a whole new way to share our archive online. When the project is complete, you will be able to listen to the audio recording, read the summary and transcript and view the photos for each interview, and search or browse the entire collection.

Listen to Running Stitch, a QSOS Podcast

Running Stitch, A QSOS Podcast, is hosted by Janneken Smucker, Professor of History at West Chester University. Join us as we explore quilt stories, revealing the inner thoughts, feelings, and motivations of contemporary quiltmakers by drawing from the Quilters S.O.S. — Save Our Stories oral history project. We’ll dig into the QSOS archive to listen to excerpts from past interviews, and bring back interviewees to ask them about what they are working on and thinking about presently. Season one episodes will be released in June and July 2020.

Visit the new QSOS website

Here you can browse a sample set of 20 QSOS interviews that demonstrate the collection’s new features, such as original interview audio recordings and enhanced descriptions. Subscribe to the Quilt Alliance eNewsletter to receive updates as interviews are added to the new site.

SELECTIONS FROM QUILTERS’ S.O.S. – SAVE OUR STORIES

Read some featured interviews below. You can also search or browse the full archive of QSOS transcripts. 

QSOS with Anita Murphy

QSOS with Anita Murphy

Jannell Epp (JE): Now, Anita, welcome. Anita Murphy (AM): Thank you. JE: I’d like to ask you a few questions today and I see a couple of wonderful quilts that you’ve brought with you– AM: Thank you. JE: I myself am very interested in historical quilts, so I’d like to start with this green one if it’s all right with you. AM: Alright. Doctor Ruth Hartgraves was a young girl in Hamilton County. That’s where her grandmother lived. Ruth grew up in Brownwood, Texas and she and her sister, Lucy, went to what was known as the Villa, which was a Catholic boarding area. And my two aunts went there also and they were lifelong friends. Both were born in about 1901 and remained friends until my aunt passed away in 1988 and so she was honored, Doctor Ruth Hartgraves. She never married. Her sister, Lucy, became an Episcopal nun and was also an eye doctor. And her brother was an attorney, as was her father and her mother. And they went to the Villa as a private school although they were not Catholic. But they boarded there and it was a marvelous basic education. But they did keep in touch all those years. Doctor Hartgraves has been highly honored by the University of Texas and she said, ‘They weren’t smart enough to ask me for my quilts, Anita.’ And after I had won the Statue of Liberty Contest, she said, ‘I would like for the quilts to live with you.’ And I told her we were hoping someday to have a quilt museum and she said, ‘Well, let me know. I always have a few dollars to spend here and there.’ And so her parents were killed when she and her sister and brother, well the brother had become an attorney. And they were killed outright in an auto accident. So the brother settled the estate and Ruth was just right at becoming her last medical time. And so he divided up hundreds and hundreds of acres and of course Ruth was trying to get her medical practice started. And everybody thought she would want cash and she said no, and she divided it all up. She said, ‘I want this much cash once a year in the spring. I want to see the world.’ And sure enough, for many years, she’d get this large cash amount and she’d take off. She had the same nurse secretary for fifty-four years. And she said, ‘I was good to her’, she said, to keep her employed that many years. But she had quite a sense of humor. So, she sent me both of these quilts and she said, maybe we shouldn’t quote this. She said, ‘The University wanted everything, including my bloomers, but,’ she said, ‘they weren’t smart enough to ask about quilts.’ So she said, ‘Anita, you’re to have them.’ So one time, she and Sister Lucy, my two aunts who were called ‘the girls;’ one of them is the one who taught me how to quilt. And then their older sister was a Dominican nun and my husband took them all out to some fancy restaurant they wanted to go to. He didn’t stay and eat with them. He said, ‘You know, driving around Houston you couldn’t even say a bad word when you got two nuns, two old ladies, and a doctor in the back seat of the car,’ he said, ‘How do you arrange these things for me?’ And I said, ‘Honey, that’s all right, because you’ll pick them up at four.’ He was a saint. He had to be. But anyway, she would visit her granny on the farm and she putts this down in 1906 I mean, 1907, and she was six. So she was born in 1901, same as one of my aunts. And the grandmother never took her stitches out. And she said that was even more reason to love her. She spent a lot of summers with her grandmother and she said, ‘You know, if they had seen those, they probably never would have let me become a surgeon,’ she said, ‘I do better now on my stitches.’ She said her mother was a gracious, gracious southern lady. And the fashion was to learn to quilt, so she pieced this quilt, but she soon discovered she would rather go to luncheons and to bridge club three times a week than stay home and quilt. So she hired a very lovely lady to quilt it. And it is all sasheen, typical of that era and that day, she put a chin guard on it, or you know whisker guard. And so that could be washed and it didn’t wear any of this fabric out. I have one quilt that the man’s whiskers just slathered one side. You could tell which side the woman slept on and which side the man slept on. Sad to say, I travel and teach a great deal, and somebody loved the quilt as much as I and they took it home with them. So I no longer have that quilt. JE: We’re talking about the gold quilt. I just want to identify which one we’re talking about. The gold one with the sasheen. AM: And a lot of women put this on to keep the soil from showing on one side of the quilt. And it’s easy to take off and wash and then you put it back on the quilt. JE: Oh, I see. AM: But a lot of, I know my mother did on several of her quilts. And that was a wonderful protective measure for that. I have here, I don’t know if you all want it, a picture of Doctor Ruth with her grandmother. I mean, yeah with her grandmother. JE: And this is her at the age AM: Of probably four or five. JE: Four or five years old. And this is her grandmother– AM: Her grandmother. JE: –that made this green quilt. AM: Yes, made. She lived on a farm and of course this was one of the quilts that she made for the hired hands for their cabins to have– JE: This one? AM: The utilitarian quilt. JE: All right. Do you know what size this–okay, this is the– AM: No, you all would have to, I don’t. JE: They’ll measure it later that’s fine. AM: And this was Doctor Ruth’s mother. Very stylish woman. JE: And did she quilt? AM: She pieced the gold one. JE: She made the gold one. AM: And this is Doctor Ruth. JE: Okay. AM: And you all might like to, this is a proclamation for Doctor Ruth Hartgraves M.D. And it was honored as Houston Day, the day was entitled For Dr. Ruth Hartgraves, whereas Dr. Ruth Hartgraves was born in North, Texas and attended the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Texas medical branch at Galveston where she earned her M.D. degree. She served her internship at the New England Hospital for Women and Children in Boston, Massachusetts and her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at New York Infirmary for Women and Children. Whereas Doctor Hartgraves who had practiced obstetrics and gynecology in Houston for fifty years. Now this was in ’85. And she kept on practicing a little longer. Has held appointments at Baylor College of Medicine, Methodist Hospital, Jefferson Davis Charity Hospital, Hermon Hospital, which is here in Houston, Memorial Hospital system and St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital. Whereas Dr. Hartgraves encouraged and supported women who chose medicine as a career by sponsoring female students at Baylor and by organizing the Eastern branch of the American Medical Women’s Association as well as serving on the Commission of the Status of Women under President John F. Kennedy. And whereas Clinical Professor Emeritus at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. Dr. Hartgraves is the recipient of numerous awards and honors including the Elizabeth Blackwell Award of the Year, Smith Distinguished Alumnus Award, the recipient of Honorary Doctor of Science Degree form Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas and the Students Association of the University of Texas at Austin Distinguished Alumnus Award. And whereas Dr. Hartgraves a charter member of St. Luke’s Methodist Church is also an active supporter of numerous cultural organizations including the Houston Grand Opera Society, the Houston Symphony Society, and the Friends of Bijou Bend. That is the home of the Emma Hogg and quite an outstanding woman herself. Whereas on the occasion of the luncheon benefiting the Women’s Fund, the City of Houston joins in recognizing Dr. Ruth Hartgraves for her outstanding contribution to her patients and her community. Now, therefore, I, Katherine J. Whitmeyer, Mayor of the City of Houston, so hereby proclaim Wednesday, October 16th, 1985 as Dr. Ruth Hartgraves’ M.D. Day. And she signed it and all and somebody said, ‘Well, that was certainly nice, had you met Kathy Whitmeyer before?’ She said, ‘Met her? I delivered her.’ JE: Oh. [laughs.] She was right there at the beginning. AM: Yes. She had a marvelous quick wit and as she traveled, she went around the world actually three times. She climbed the Matterhorn and just did everything, and her last two trips she said that they offered her a wheelchair, but she thought a cane would do. And she had collected over the many years a small scarf of handkerchief or something easy to pack, and she sent me a soup box full of silk scarves from all around the world and handkerchiefs. And I just felt so humble when she did, but she was very proud when I became the Statue of Liberty winner for Texas and of course several articles. And my Aunt Helen Burt that taught me how to quilt and they kept in touch all these years was able to see an article in one of the magazines stating that she had taught me how to quilt at the age of seven. So I’ve been at it a long time. But she is a very charming woman. And I think these quilts need recognition and to be recorded and I think we should save our stories and I hope you’ve enjoyed this one. JE: Oh, this is wonderful. AM: And if you have anything else to ask, because who knows, I could forget something. JE: Oh, I have a lot of questions. AM: Good. JE: What year did you start quilting? AM: Well, 1934. JE: ’34. AM: I was seven years old. My grandmother passed away in Brownwood, Texas and the aunts, well, “the girls,” they had no age, they were always called ‘the girls.’ They begged my mother to let me stay with Grandfather Burt and them. And so I stayed almost a year and Aunt Helen taught me to quilt. And of course in that day we didn’t have good quilting thread. Mine was quilted with six-strand embroidery floss. Yes. [laughs.] So I go a little ways back. JE: Oh that’s wonderful. Now how old was your aunt at the time that she was teaching you to quilt? AM: Well, 1901 from 1934, she was thirty-three. JE: Thirty-three? AM: Yes. JE: Wonderful. So she had been quilting for several years. AM: Well, she had a Home Ec. Degree from the University of Texas. Helen and Alice all went to the University if Texas. One Sister Anita did, too, and then later got her other degrees here in Houston through the Sacred Heart Dominican College. And she got her Doctorate degree form the University of Texas. Driving up on the Greyhound bus and she said, ‘Oh, you always want to give me something,’ she said, ‘I want you to make me a book cover for pocket books,’ because she said, ‘If you want to clear your mind, read a murder mystery.’ But she said, ‘Here I sit in this white habit with this blood and guts novel shocking everybody.’ So I made her this fancy book cover. But the nuns weren’t allowed to drive in her order at that time. And so she commuted on the Greyhound bus and she was the second highest in the class. The highest in the class was Dr. Billy Watson who was her godchild. She said, ‘He shouldn’t have beaten me’. So Brownwood was a small town and everybody knew everyone. And that’s Howard Paine University is now and a branch of, oh, the general that said, ‘I will return’? MacArthur. They have very beautifully added on to that university and that wing is in honor of MacArthur. JE: So do you feel that this history that your family has had with quilts and the inspiring people in their lives, this is why you’re so involved in the history of quilts? AM: Yes. Nine of us were in the Sesquicentennial [150 years.] started Texas Quilts, Texas Treasures. And we documented right at three thousand quilts. And American Quilt Society in Paducah published our book [the second book that they published.]. And it is a fabulous volume. And in our particular guild that I founded in Beaumont, Texas, I had made a reversible quilt with, the members had made it and I taught it and designed it, and we raised $1500 that year. Of course we’re talking way back in 86. And so with that money we voted. The book was $26.95, I think. We have members in twenty-three cities in Texas. And so every city that we had a member in we donated a book to the library. So there are a lot of books in the library. And we had some beautiful stories. We just wish we’d had three pages for every quilt because the stories were so unique and so very nice. But we had quilt search days scattered around the state. And that’s how we were able to attract a lot of our quilts. And we gave a $100 prize for the oldest. And some of the cities where we had our quilt search days would furnish the $100 because we did all of this out of our hip pocket. I mean, we didn’t earn or keep a penny. We just all supported it and did beautifully with it. But no, these stories should be kept. Our second quilt search day was up at Jasper, Texas which, I don’t know, probably a hundred and eighty miles from here. And the bank gave us their lobby and they furnished us food and drink and coffee which was nice because we were there eight to ten hours to do all of this. And it was Jasper Days where they had the street markets and all of the festivities of the city. And this young man dropped his grandmother off and he took off. He wanted to go to the booths and stuff. And so we had a dickens of a time convincing her to eat. ‘I don’t have any money.’ I said, ‘They are giving us the food. We don’t want you to pay.’ ‘Oh, I just couldn’t do that.’ ‘Well, I’ll just have to sit on you and feed you,’ she says. [laughs.] And so we got to interviewing her and she said, ‘The men had their money for their tobacco but we had to struggle to get money for our quilts.’ And she said, ‘And them little sacks, when you open them up, are four and a half inches by seven and three fourths inches high and them holes never come out. And if you got a bunch of them you just cut the holes out and dye them.’ And she had a quilt there that was muslin and pink. And she dyed that with those big berries that come in the fall of the year and soaked them in that. And she fixed it, as we would call it, the rail fence nowadays. And she said, ‘When my kids were home sick, they’d say, we want the road quilt.’ And they’d make a little car out of a stick and go up and down the pink roads of this thing. And she had quilted it in the scallop design, and some of it was in the circles. And so our leader, she said, ‘Well, I’ll take the microphone and I’ll interview.’ And I said, ‘Fine.’ Because I had done quite a few things. And so she was being nice to this little lady and she said, ‘Well, now when you do this clam shell, how do you do it?’ She said, ‘Well, you put a thumbtack here and you tie a piece of string to your pencil and then you just mark it off.’ And Kay said, ‘Well, how do you know to get your lines?’ And she said, ‘Dummy, you just shorten the string.’ [laughs.] Kay handed the microphone back to me real quick but some of their stories were just priceless. JE: You drew these people from their homes from all over the state so you go to see quilts that– AM: Oh yes. JE: Hadn’t been in shows. AM: And we were so good and pure which we regretted since because we didn’t want to steal quilts from people or have them think we were doing wrong by them. And we found a way out in the west Texas place that–I wish I had brought that book with me. I’m sorry I didn’t. They had had a shipment or a trial of some sort from the Aunt Jemima pancake flour and we found two quilts where they had bought enough pancake flour to make a quilt. And I mean they were double size. And went back, we decided we’d made a little money on the book, we would cleanse ourselves from this purity and go back and buy this quilt. Well, the little darling house had burnt down and the quilt with it. And she was in a nursing home. So we have kicked ourselves several times, you know, not trying to keep them for, well, we’d love to have a museum here, but who knows. But some of the things we really regret that we didn’t go ahead and do and we have one picture in there of a man that went to the Chicago exposition in 1933. And we have a picture of him showing one of our members how he appliquéd. Most men don’t appliqué, John William can tell you that. And we have a darling picture of him. And he went to Chicago and loves it so and came back and raved so about it that he bought a used model T Ford for $15 and took his whole family back to Chicago. And it was their first car and the first time to see Chicago and anything as big as the fair and the City of Chicago. So some of the stories just tear at your heartstrings. And yet there are stories now, I judged Oklahoma City last month and they give the ribbons to the members to go put on their own quilt. Well, that’s delightful. And I had to stroll around, you know, meet them all. So this man came up to me and he said, ‘You have no idea what giving my wife’s quilt a ribbon means to me.’ And it was a wall quilt and it was nice. It wasn’t charity; I didn’t know anything about it. He said ‘Our house was demolished in the hurricane.’ He said, ‘And I found that quilt four blocks from where our house used to stand in the mud.’ And he said, ‘We worked and worked to clean it up.’ And, well, I just said, ‘I think God guided me,’ you know, because it just was spectacular. And he said ‘She was going to enter seven quilts. Two we found near the house. The other four we have never located. And of course the guild has given all the ladies new fabrics and new supplies.’ But he said, ‘To just think that that one was saved and you recognized the quality of her workmanship.’ And he said they were living in a trailer. [announcement over the intercom.] The other interesting thing, I’ve had something interesting everywhere I’ve judged, but Oklahoma City was most recent. But this other quilt that I really loved was a log cabin but she kept half of the blocks to form a diamond, white background diamond and appliquéd a gorgeous trellis of roses and stems and leaves. And all four edges, she had four inch red Cluny [a soft English lace.] lace. It was just precious. So I said, ‘Well, I want to meet this little lady, whoever did this quilt.’ And they said, ‘Oh, she won’t come out at night, but we’ll bring her tomorrow.’ And come to find out she’s ninety-five years old and makes a quilt about every two months. All hand cut and pieced. And so I got to meet her and she’s ninety-five. And she told me that, she said, ‘I saw that lace and I knew I’d put it somewhere,’ she said, ‘I liked it.’ So she said, ‘Honey, if you’d been here three years ago my stitches would have been better,’ because she said, ‘It’s getting hard to make those tiny stitches.’ [laughs.] So you just have to love the stories that come with all of these happenings. And there are some wonderful heart touching stories, I find, that are just super. JE: Now, history of quilts has inspired you with almost every step of the way? AM: I believe so. I have three daughters and a son and then I have an adopted son. I used to make the girls dresses. I even learned how to make straw hats. And two of my daughters sew quite successfully. The other one can but doesn’t want to. And they’ve all made one quilt to satisfy me, you know, so they haven’t been bit by the bug yet like I have. But being a widow it’s been the greatest thing. God opened another door to me to let me travel and be with people. And my husband and I owned our own business for twenty-five years. So it was a real switch in lifestyle. So I figure that God wanted me to do this. And I regret my husband was after me for years to write a book because I have a couple of unusual techniques and after he passed way I wrote it. I could feel his presence. But I regret he wasn’t here to see the final thing, but maybe that was the way God wanted it. I’m giving a lecture next Tuesday to nine hundred senior citizens for the Chamber of Commerce in Beaumont and I think I’ll probably write my speech Monday night because I’ve been too busy doing this. But really, I taught around twenty-two to twenty-five senior citizens at a Junior Forum Center for eight years. And it’s been one of the most gratifying events because most of them weren’t well off. And they had small room or apartments. And at first people would say, ‘Oh, you can’t do that quilting. It has to be stretched. You have to do it.’ And all of them lap quilted. They didn’t have room to do otherwise and we finally–we ran out of money. So I furnished money and I taught them how to cut paper cut their own designs. And then I made them sign their blocks. And fifteen of them are quilting with the angles now. About every year I get the word that another little doll has passed on. But so many of them had wanted to learn to quilt. And I had the most charming black woman come to the center. If you were fifty-five years or older you could come. And I taught for nothing, I mean, it was fun for me. She was so gracious, Louella, and so you learn a few tricks. I would put the name of the block in a hat on paper and let them draw. Because, ‘You gave her an easier block than I got,’ [laughs.] ‘Her’s has less work on it.’ So you learn a few little asides. So Louella asked me if she could copy the pattern that she had drawn. And I said, ‘Yes. Take it home, it’s your to keep or I’ll get you a copy.’ ‘No,’ she said, ‘all my life I’ve wanted to quilt,’ and she said, ‘I want to make something that I have quilted and done.’ So of course she came and she said, ‘I’ve got all my children with a quilted pillow.’ And I said, ‘Well, how nice.’ And she said, ‘Well that was a pretty good effort because I have twelve children.’ JE: Wow. AM: We never knew that. And her husband was bedfast. She was a LBN and so the mother could come with a different child set at home. And she was walking twenty blocks until we found that out and had a shuttle that would pick them up and take them home. And so I was so proud that she felt she had accomplished something that her children would have. And she never told us. They called me January 3rd that she had passed away and she was fighting cancer all this time and never–so you know there are certain times that God puts you in the right place to help other people. You don’t do it for them, but you guide them. And so I’ve had some wonderful women. One said, ‘I’ve made a quilt for each of my grandchildren,’ and that was ten of them, she said, ‘all my life I wanted to quilt and my mother and aunt said, ‘You will never learn to quilt.” So for our first show, her mother was ninety and the aunt was ninety-two and she got them to Beaumont and she said ‘This is my teacher,’ and the mother said, ‘I bet you did a lot of her stitches.’ I said, ‘No. This is not the way I teach. You’re a big girl you can do it on your own.’ But I’ve had some very rewarding things through quilting and wonderful friends. Just couldn’t be better. And I founded our guild in 81 and we now have two hundred ninety members. And we have about eight women who come from Louisiana. Beaumont’s about thirty miles from the Louisiana border. So we have good members from everywhere. Which makes it super nice, but I feel sorry for anyone who can’t sit down and keep busy. Whether it’s crochet, needlepoint, lace making, whatever you want to do. The greatest thing you can do is to create something. Because usually your heart’s in it while you’re creating it. And I think it makes it super special. JE: So the teaching part of this is possibly more important to you than even the quilting? Or how do you feel? AM: Well, I have been an honorary member of the Junior Forum [volunteer organization.] for many years and after we sold our business, I felt I ought to give something back. And I had said I would teach for one month how to make the stitch and flip potholders. So, well, I was there a second month. And so we made pillows. And then the third month we made baby quilts. So then we were up to Christmas. And Christmas Eve the phone rang, we were all leaving for midnight mass. And all of the family and my husband’s sisters were there. And I thought, ‘It’s go to be a wrong number because you know we’re all here, who could be calling us?’ So this young man said that he owned Cudahay Ham here in Houston. And he said, ‘If you ever come to Houston I want to give you the biggest ham that you can have because,’ he said, ‘I think you should know that you’re teaching my aunt to quilt and to calm her down with quilting has kept her off of the fourth floor which was the mental floor at the Baptist Hospital. She’s been in their every Christmas for seven years.’ And he said, ‘She is selling the potholders. She’s selling the baby quilts for three dollars and the pillows for five and she is so proud of herself.’ And he said, ‘You just don’t know how grateful our family is to not have her sick at Christmas.’ So my husband said, ‘Well,’ he said, ‘You’re going to quit doing it?’ he said, ‘Do you feel as tall as a penny or a dime?’ So I went back for eight more years. So I do think teaching, and it’s a creative thing and it comes from within. And I wrote an article got published that years ago we were raised to think you can’t do two things well at once. Well I dispute that. I can sit and quilt and iron out my worries and I can pray and just become so calm. And I do think you can so two things at once because something can be bothering you beyond your grip and you can just quilt it out. Because you can sit there and you can entertain yourself literally. And when women say, ‘Oh I just don’t feel like it,’ I say, ‘You’ll feel like it after you do twenty minutes of it. You’ll start to flow again.’ So I am kind of bossy. [laughs.] I try to encourage them to do it. But I think any age should learn and can learn. We had, our museum, got up a grant. And they wanted all the sixth grade students in six schools to let the children learn a little history and so that didn’t go over and so they said, ‘Alright. We wanted family life.’ Well you would be surprised what some of these families do. They had one, this little boy had drawn a TV and here were sever little heads sitting there watching it. And he had the Houston Oilers and the score up there. So they gave me fifteen-inch blocks and just anything the teachers could find. Buttons, doodles, one little girl drew herself and appliquéd and she had cut a big curl off of her head and glued that and stitched that on to represent her. And I do think our children are terribly neglected because we’ve only had three snows in the forty-four years that I’ve been here. And they got cotton balls snow. Have you tried sewing over a cotton ball? [laughs.] It’s not easy, believe me but over half of them and of course the girls at the museum are wonderful. And they said, ‘Well now we want these blocks at least nine feet tall.’ And I got thinking and I couldn’t keep my mouth closed and she said ‘They’re all going back to the school. And I said, ‘Yes, well, where are they going to hang them if they’re nine feet tall?’ She said, ‘Well I hadn’t thought much about that, but they could hang them in the gym.’ I said, ‘That’s the best basket ball practice I can see. There’s a yellow block; there’s a red block.’ [laughs.] Well, we had to do some free thinking. But another thing that I’m proud of that I did. Three of our schools, high schools, were chosen to go to Russia. And I called the head man and I introduced myself, ‘With your permission, I would like to come out and make banners.’ They had to do something to take with them. Music or dance or something to entertain the Russian students because they were at these, had come to learn different things. And I said, ‘I would like all of the students to draw their handprint and put their name inside and what year they’re going to graduate.’ And almost too late I thought, ‘Well why not have them bring Russian handprints here?’ So I guess I quilted eight or nine banners. And they said when they showed them in Washington, D.C., everyone was furious that they hadn’t thought of that, too. But that is one of the neatest things. I know from my husband’s sister’s ninety-third birthday. Everybody that came to her party signed their hand and the men, of all things, started putting their rings in there. And then one of them started putting their little cuticle or the shape of the fingernail. And they wrote a message and dated it. And then I did it for my son-in-law’s great-grandmother. And her son I thought was going to explode. She took ill in the middle of the night, they rushed her to the hospital, and he went out there, someone had stolen her quilt. And it had children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren on it and one of the great-grandchildren, who is my grandchild, took her shoe off and she drew her foot at three years old. You know, and that was just awful [to have the quilt stolen.] . That broke all of our hearts because our minister’s name was on there, the hospital chaplain, so you have some sadnesses, you really do. But it was so great at the time and it was a lap quilt for the wheelchair. JE: It meant so much. AM: Yeah. We have had nice things that our members have thought up and done. One year at our show we decorated the hall with a hundred and ten AIDS baby quilts. And a lot of the guilds are doing that. And then we have a boy’s haven somewhat similar to Boy’s Town. And I think we’ve given them eighty-seven quilts. And if they stay and graduate they get to keep their quilt. If they run off or go home or something, the quilt stays, we think, the quilt stays there. JE: Unless they run off with the quilt. AM: Yeah. [laughs.] So we don’t look too close. Let the directors discover that. But we’re doing a lot of quilts for the Seamen’s Mission right now. You know, people don’t realize that quilters don’t just do for themselves. They are very giving and I have a lady that came to me at the Piccadilly cafeteria. And she said, ‘My husband’s about to kill me for coming over here and bothering you.’ I was eating alone. ‘But,’ she said, ‘I know you’re Anita Murphy. And I said, ‘Well, yes I am.’ She said, ‘I have seen you on different things. I have every article on you. I have your books.’ And she manages a daycare center for Alzheimer’s patients. They come at six in the morning, have breakfast, and then they have lunch, and then the families pick them up and take them home at five or six at night. And she doesn’t let them sit and stare. So this has been a blessing for me. She takes the tiniest bit of fabric that most of us toss and I take, you know, tons of it out there. And she lets them glue it on paper and then they take a magic marker and draw a circle or a star. And she hangs it all up. And I taught them how to make rag belts. When I was a child they were macaroni belts. You put the string down through them and then you wove over the little straws. It’s a little handy loom and the variegated yarn. Well, I’m making them now out of selvages and using plastic soda straws. So I was at a scout thing and they were wanting new ideas so I told them about my belts and this little girl said, ‘Well why didn’t you use plastic straws when you were a girl?’ And I said, ‘Well, honey, they hadn’t invented it yet.’ ‘You’re older than plastic?’ [laughs.] I’ve heard of being older than dirt, but I never really put myself in that category. So I think quilters have a language of their own and we do kind of have to watch it sometimes. But they’re doing the string belts and they’re doing string around coat hangers. And they are so happy touching all these textiles. And they love it. Of course they don’t have, well I guess a couple of them have the dull scissors. But they just love to draw and do all these things. So if you have a place in your hometown, take them your fabrics. But I took them a couple of old Life magazines. And Sarah told me, she said, ‘I held this one up and they said that’s Roosevelt.’ See their brain was retaining what they’d learned first. And they say the brain trellises off until it gets to the core. And so what they remembered as a child or a young person. And she said it taught her a whole new thing that she’s doing with them now, is taking old magazines and letting them review and remember the people that were important when they were young. So there’s so many places to put our little fabrics and our yarns and things but she’s a remarkable woman. She has several mates there that help feed those that need it or do this or that. But she’s fun to work with. She’s taught me some humility and patience, too. But I just think that fabrics helping others, giving them something to do is something God wants us to do, really. JE: Well, it is now, AM: Oh, I’ve probably overdone my stay. JE: No. You’re just fine. I just wanted to give you a little bit of the notice here. It’s 10:54 and we’re about to conclude. So if there’s anything that you wish to say about what quilting means to you or where you feel you’ll go with quilting from here. You’ve touched so many lives. I can’t imagine–I mean–but there’s a whole world out there. AM: Well, I have been blessed. I taught in Denmark and I’ve taught in Mexico and I’ve taught in probably thirty-eight of the states in the United States. And of course I’m sad at heart because I taught with Doreen Speckman on her cruise ships and she’s been at our guild and ‘oh, I have a house full of clutter.’ But I have one cast-iron bed that I painted red. And it’s a big old high thing, and Doreen says, ‘I know where the red bed is. You don’t have to show me the way to my room.’ And she was accompanied by us in, well, 2000. But she touched lives. And there was one quality that she had that I would like to have. She made everyone feel as if they were her best and closest friend. And I think that’s a wonderful gift. But we have our sad times. But think of the times we’ve had that have been so good with them. But I think young girls; of course I’m a certified teacher with the NQA [National Quilt Association.] and have been fifteen years, but I think to figure out a way to make them feel comfortable. And I know precision is wonderful but letting them do it from the heart is even greater and when you think of the ones that have been allowed to do it, I think that that to me would be the greatest way for people to go about sharing and learning and loving because they teach me things. I learn something new every time I take a class or sit and listen to different people. So I hope these stories help. Are you all planning on a book? Or what are your archives? Or your? JE: We have archives right now. We’re orally recording. They’ll type this up and make it accessible to everyone. AM: Now, where are your archives kept? JE: This will be in the museum. University of Delaware is where this will go. AM: Now, let me ask you this. And I’m asking sensibly. We have all of the pictures and the slides. And we haven’t put them anywhere. We have been trying to figure out where our archives could go. JE: Okay. AM: We have them in different members’ homes. I’m sorry. JE: Okay, so I’ll conclude this tape, and then we’ll discuss this a little bit further if that’s all right. AM: Oh, thank you. JE: Okay. It is now 10:57. I’m concluding my interview with Anita…

QSOS with Richard Tims

QSOS with Richard Tims

[The interviewee, Richard Tims, is joined on the call by his son Ricky Tims. Ricky occasionally speaks to Richard and Meg to help clarify questions and answers.] Meg Cox (MC): Today’s date is March 21, 2010 and it’s 12:13 pm and I’m conducting an interview with Richard Tims for the Quilters’ S.O.S. – Save Our Stories project. Richard is in Wichita Falls, Texas and I’m in Princeton, New Jersey, we’re speaking by phone and–uh Skype actually, to conduct this interview. And thank you so much for doing this today. Richard, I’ve got a picture of this quilt that–can you tell me about this quilt that you’re using as your quilt for this interview? Ricky Tims (RT2) Let me explain that. [to Richard.] Dad, the quilts that you’ve been making, all of these quilts like that you’ve been making– Richard Tims (RT1): Yeah. RT2: She has a picture of one of those quilts. RT1: Okay. RT2: And she wants you to tell her about that quilt. RT1: I’ll try. RT2: Okay. Tell her what you know about it. MC: So tell me about the quilt. RT1: Well, I don’t know, I just—uh, picked it up one day and made this little block and then I made another little block kind of went with it. I just kind of fell in with it. I’ve made–uh, several quilts out of it. MC: Does this pattern have a name? RT1: No, I haven’t named it [laughs.]. RT2: I would chime in to say that we officially call it “Papaw’s Choice.” MC: Right. RT2: Because it’s just squares and half square triangles, but we did publish that on TheQuiltShow.com under the title “Papaw’s choice,” but that was my name giving it to him. MC: Okay. RT2: I think it’s also loosely based on jewel box? RT1: Yeah. RT2: Yeah. MC: Okay. What do you think, somebody looking at this quilt, what might they conclude about you? What does this quilt tell people about you do you think? RT2 [to Richard.]: What do you think people can learn from looking at that quilt about you? RT1: I don’t know. I never give that much of a thought. It just–I don’t know. [laughs.] RT2 [to Richard.]: What about the colors you use? Sorry, Meg. MC: It’s okay RT1: Oh, I just use any color that comes along and I don’t know that either. I just, just slap it together sometimes. Maybe it look good, if it don’t–don’t suit me, I’ll pull it out and do something else. MC: Okay, what age were you when you started making quilts? RT1: Well, I was gonna say 65. MC: Okay. Why did you start? RT1: Why did I start? Well, I was working with the trucking company and I was working four days on, and four days off and I didn’t have nothing to do around the house but nothing, and I says if Mama can make a quilt at 85, Richard surely you can make one at 65 [MC laughs.], and I started in. And I worked four days off in here by myself and then I’d go back and work my four days and come back work another four on the quilts. Something to play with, pass time away, and it just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger. [MC laughs.] MC: So do you make quilts now that you’re not working? Do you make quilts every day? What is your quilting schedule like? RT1: Oh, I’ve got a little room out in the back of the house, attached to the house with air-conditioning and everything. I have to go outside to get into it, but I just keep my sewing machine out there and if I feel like going out and sewing I’ll go out and sew a hour, two hours, and come back in and–they, I don’t get no hurry about anything, just kinda go out there and make me four or five blocks maybe and come back in the house and sit down. Television gets bad, I’ll go back out and make another one. [MC laughs.] MC: How many people in your family quilt? I know your son quilts. RT1: I guess my mother was the only one I know of that, uh quilts, quilted. But, uh I kinda copied after her a little bit. And then uh Ricky he come in and he started quilting with us. MC: Are people surprised when you tell them that you’re a quilt maker? RT1: Mmm, well no. MC: What are your favorite techniques? RT1: Oh I don’t know I got one that I made myself but I haven’t got no name for it. It’s just… I wouldn’t know what else to start naming it. RT2 [to Richard.]: She’s wanting to know what your favorite techniques are—what, how—do you like to hand sew, do you like the sewing machine, do you like rotary cutter, what do you like to do? RT1: Oh, I like my sewing machine. MC: Okay, so you do everything on the machine? RT1: Everything on the sewing machine, yeah. MC: Alright okay, and– RT2 [to Richard.]: You use a rotary cutter. RT1: I use a rotary cutter such as that, but I do my sewing on my sewing machine. RT2: Meg, I have I got a question about chiming in. Do you want me to not chime in or–because I know there’s an answer to that question, but he might not know quite how to articulate it. MC: Well if you have a follow up question you think might help get him to a more thorough answer I would say– RT2: Okay, I just particularly know that dad, uh he likes to layer fabrics together and draw his squares and diagonals and does the stitching on that so that he can do sort of quick, quick assembly half square triangles and he’s very good at doing that, but it it’s kind of hard to describe that that’s what he does a lot. MC: Well let me ask you this, Richard, see, the quilt that you brought here has beautiful fabric and it doesn’t have patterns on it, it’s more of a uh, sort of a solid and it might be hand dyed. Where do you get your fabric and do you ever use–is that a fairly typical look to your quilt? RT1: Well, I get Ricky’s scraps. MC: [laughs.] RT1: That’s where I get–that’s where I make most of my–I don’t–I can’t remember ever purchasing anything to make this quilt, but I just get Ricky’s scraps and go from there. MC: And beautiful scraps they are. RT1: Yes, they are. MC: Very beautiful. Let me ask you this, um, do have you ever used quilting to get through a difficult time. In other words, have you had a rough time where it was sort of a therapeutic thing for you or is it just fun? RT1: Is it just what? RT2 [to Richard.]: Is it just fun? RT1: It’s just fun, I just go out there and pass time away and come back in the house and watch television awhile and it gets where I don’t like it I go back out and make another block or two. MC: Now what are your plans for your quilts? When you make a quilt are you making it for yourself, are you thinking I’m making this for this specific person? Talk about where your quilts go. RT1: Oh I don’t have any regular plan for them if I’ve got one made and somebody comes round and likes it and I can give it to ’em. Give it to Ricky, give it to my daughter, granddaughters, my great granddaughters. RT2 [to Richard.]: Sometimes you make the quilt for somebody though. RT1: Yeah, sometimes yeah. RT2 [to Richard.]: Sometimes, for like for I wanted to make that for Brian and you made it in fabrics that Brian would like. Sometimes– RT1: Yeah sometimes, yeah. RT2: But not very often—yeah. MC: What were your mother’s quilts like? RT1: Oh, I don’t know, uh– RT2: Stars, lone stars– RT1: No, she didn’t make lone star–broken star? Broken star maybe. I don’t know, just square blocks most of it I think. Just– MC: Now I understand you made a quilt with Ricky that had a lone star in it, didn’t it – am I right? RT1: Yeah, uh huh. MC: Was that a lot of work? What was that like? RT1: Oh it’s just–I don’t make work out of it, I just twiddle with it every once in awhile and if I don’t like it I’ll pitch it out and try to see if I can make another one. MC: What do you think makes a great quilt? RT1: What do I think makes a great quilt? RT2 [to Richard.]: What makes a great quilt? Successful quilt? RT1: I don’t know much about that. I just don’t have that in mind when I’m working on them. I just–if I like that block I’ll make it, if I don’t like it, well I’ll throw it in the trash. [MC laughs.] MC: In terms of, um, other quilts made by other people are there particular quilts that you’re drawn to or particular quiltmakers that that you, that you feel are really something special? RT1d: No, I just try–I just pretty well stay on the same pattern all the time. MC: Do you ever go to a museum or um a place to see a quilt show to see other people’s work? RT1: I go follow– go with Ricky’s quite a bit whenever he’s having them on show. MC: Has his work inspired you in some way? RT1: Well it helped a lot. MC: What’d you say? RT1: What he’s doing, but, uh I can’t say he’s the one who told me to start. MC: Right. So that was your own idea? RT1: Yeah. MC: Why is quiltmaking important to your life, Richard? RT1: Just something for me to be a-doing. Pass the time away. MC: Do you, um–how do you have your quilts that you–do you keep some of your quilts and where are they, are they hanging on the wall, are they on the beds? What do they mean to you at home? RT1: Oh, I don’t know, I got some on the bed, and I got some give to kids and grandkids and I’ve got– RT2: Got one on the wall RT1: Got one on the wall over there, a little, little quilt. there’s one on the wall. MC: So you have one on the wall in your kitchen? Or is that where you are? RT1: Got in a living area. MC: I see, okay. You’re um, pointing towards the wall and on Skype I can see you’re sort of in a kitchen area. RT1: Yeah. MC: So you’re at what, a dining room table? RT1: That’s the kitchen. To my right is my living room–the den or whatever you want to call it. MC: Oh I see it, over there it’s on the wall, um by some chairs and the television over there so you have that quilt where you can see it. RT1: Uh, huh. MC: When you’re in your living room. Terrific. Um, do you have any idea how many quilts you have made so far? RT1: No, I have no idea how to start telling you how much, how many. MC: You think it’s more than 10? RT1: Yes, quite a few more. MC: Okay. Do you have uh, some goals for your quiltmaking going forward? It sounds like it’s um it’s sort of something you do to occupy yourself that gives you pleasure and you don’t have a quota, but how do you think about it? RT1: Well I don’t know, I just I just make it so it’s just something to be a doing, pass the time away. MC: Right. RT1: And I may go out and I may quilt 30 minutes and I may go out and I might quilt an hour, two hours at a time, I’m just I just kind of roll with the flow. I don’t get in a hurry with it. MC: You go with the flow? Is that what you said? RT1: Yeah. MC: That’s a good way to be. What–do you want your quilts to be preserved, do you think that they will last and be remembered by your family members? RT1: I kind of think they will be, yes. MC: Have you ever given them to somebody who’s not in your family? RT1: Yes. MC: And who was that? RT1: I don’t know, don’t remember but who they are, but I have gave some quilts away to different ones. MC: Do you name your quilts, or not? RT1: Do what? MC: Give them a name? RT1: No, I never name one. MC: Do you put a label on them so people know that have a record that it was made by you? RT1: Yes, yes. MC: Now what about finishing your quilts, do you do that or the quilting part or– RT1: I just I just do the quilting top and then I’ll take it down to a quilt show and let them–a quilt show, a quilt shop and let them make it—quilt it up for me. MC: Okay. Do you think that quilts are important to American life? Do you that that’s the thing now to be quilting? RT2: Ask that one more time please, Meg. MC: Yeah. Do you think that quilts are important in American life? RT1: Oh, I think so, yes. MC: Yes, you do. Okay. Is there, um anything else you want to say about your quilting and uh how you want to be remembered? RT1: Oh, I don’t know, I’m not much of a–uh, on telling things like that. Don’t know much about that. No, I just kinda roll with the flow. MC: Okay, alright, well I think that um–that’s a good place to end. I want to thank Richard Tims for allowing me to interview him today as part of the Quilters’ S.O.S.-Save Our Stories project and our interview concluded at12:29 pm March 21, 2010. Thank you so much. RT1: Okay. MC: Thank you. RT1: Thank…

QSOS with Ricky Tims

QSOS with Ricky Tims

Barbara Beck (BB): I’m Barbara Beck and we’re at the Houston Quilt Festival interviewing Ricky Sims. Wrong? Jo Francis Greenlaw (JFG): It’s Ricky Tims. BB: Tims. Ricky Tims (RT): T-i-m-s, it’s Tims with one ‘m,’ thank you very much. BB: Thank you and it’s 3:40, November 3, 2000. I’m glad to have you here. RT: Thank you very much. BB: Yes, you make quilts. RT: Yes maam, I do. BB: Tell me about your quilt which quilt did you bring today? RT: Well I–the main quilt I brought for you to see today is a quilt that is a new quilt of mine it’s called ‘The Beat Goes On’ and you’re wanting to see this? BB: Yes, yes we are. Come on and let’s spread it out. [rustling from quilt.] Tell me about this quilt. RT: I’ll tell you about the design of the quilt first. The design of the quilt is a central heart which is sort of string pieced together in red hand-dyed fabrics. Surrounding that heart is sort of a turquoise blue and chartreuse green ribbon that’s just wrapping around it and then there is a rainbow colored ribbon that just flows through the whole surface of the piece. The entire quilt is made from hand-dyed fabrics and then it is quilted with sort of flowers that look like they might have been flowers from the sixties and then stipple quilted in between that. The quilting is mostly metallic threads but not all metallic threads and that’s the design of the quilt. The name of the quilt is called ‘The Beat Goes On’ and I made this quilt–I began making this quilt eight days after I had quadruple bypass surgery. I had the surgery on April the twenty-fourth of this year, 2000, and eight days later I was working on this quilt and finished the top four days later and then I quilted it. It was to commemorate that significant event in my life. I was home five days after the surgery. I had written my thank you notes and I said, ‘I’m going crazy sitting in this chair, I can sit in my chair and sew.’ My dad who was also a quilter. Hint-future question–my dad who was also a quilter was there and my mom was there. They were taking care of me as I was recuperating so when I went down into that studio eight days afterwards I did not know what I wanted to do but I knew I wanted to sew and less than five or ten minutes later I had drawn three or four little stylized hearts and I thought that I’d just make a little heart quilt and by noon that day I had pieced the entire center heart. Drew it full size on the freezer paper and started string piecing it onto the paper. Now when I do that technique I typically tear my fabric strips and just organize them so then I can have them all ready to go to just flip and sew, I don’t need to have the rotary cutter to do those strips. But every time I would fold the paper back and trim off the seam allowances to the proper size it need to be I would have this little leftover scrap of fabric that was maybe a quarter of an inch wide or something and had these little strings. I would turn around to sew the next one and turn back around and it would be gone, and that’s because my dad sat there the entire four days and took every little fabric scrap and put it into the trash. So, I never had one string or one stray thread I had a perfectly clean work area for those four days. And that was pretty fun and I give my mom credit for this quilt too, because while I was working on this she was upstairs making me healthy meals for me to recover from the surgery so I called it the “The Beat Goes On” obviously because after the surgery and I woke up and came through all of that, ‘my heart is still beating.’ Often times my quilts are named after some musical element, not always, but many many times after having grownup as a musician and a professional musician I use musical titles. I was reminded while working on this of the Sonny and Cher song from the sixties “The Beat Goes On” so that’s how it got its title which is also actually trapuntoed into the surface of the quilt. BB: This is just beautiful. RT: Thank you. BB: This is just beautiful. It’s just terrific so tell me what are your plans for this quilt? RT: Well the first plan I had for this quilt was to enter it into the show today here at the IQA. [International Quilt Association.] I entered this quilt and my other quilt. I entered two quilts into the show. Only one of them got in. This was the reject from the show. The one that got in won the Pfaff Machine Artistry award for $5000 so you go from here to here ya know you might get one in and you might not get one in but, anyway, that’s the story behind this particular quilt. BB: Tell me about when you started quilting? RT: How I got involved in quilting? BB: Yes. RT: I began quilting in 1991 as the result of acquiring a sewing machine from my granny. My granny was my mother’s mother. Her name was Bertie Marie Newsom and she lived for years in North Texas in a place called Lake Kickapoo. I was born in Wichita Falls, Texas so I wasn’t far from Lake Kickapoo and I spent most of my time with my granny. I loved being at the lake, fishing and swimming, and working in her garden. When I was a child, I remember her sewing on her Kenmore sewing machine. She made nothing that I remember that was fancy in the way of a quilt or a garment. She made practical things and she patched things and she reused things. And when she did make a quilt it was chunks of scraps sewn together usually the filling was done with a wool army blanket and the back might have been a flannel and then she would tie those quilts together and they were very heavy. We used them to sleep under in the cold North Texas winters and we also used them to pull heavy furniture across the floor but in 1991 we are all living in Wichita Falls. My granny had become a widow and we built a house for her across the street from us. In 1979, Wichita Falls had a tornado that tore our neighborhood down and it was after that, that we rebuilt our house but we also rebuilt a house for her that my granny moved into so she lived there from ’79 until ’91. In 1991, I was living in St. Louis, Missouri doing music work there professionally and she had been a widow for several years. She got a phone call– she’s 83 years old–she gets a phone call from a fellow by the name of Pete Hudgeons who lived in Lubbock, Texas. Pete is 87 and he had become a widower and she had not seen this man in at least 15 years and he proposed to her over the phone. And she threw away her cane [laughter.] and she drove four hours to see this man in Lubbock, Texas and they were married exactly two weeks later. After which we had to sell her house and divvy up her belongings amongst her two daughters and four grandchildren. Well, my momma said, ‘What of your granny’s do you want?’ Well, my granny didn’t have nice things and I didn’t want to fight over anything so I said, ‘You let everybody else pick and I’ll take what’s left over.’ And what was left over was her Kenmore sewing machine so the Kenmore sewing machine made its way up to St. Louis, Missouri and it sat in the corner of my dining room for a week or two. My mother had shown me how to wind the bobbin. I thought, ‘well if I know that I should be able to do anything I want to with this sewing machine.’ So I decided that I would make myself a shirt so I drive off to the Cloth World store and I go in and I start looking at the pattern book for men’s clothing. While I’m doing this the voice of my granny and the voice of my mother are both coming into my head. When I was a child they would never made me a shirt because they said the shirts were the hardest things you could make. They made dresses for my sister. They made dresses for themselves but they never make shirts that I’m aware of. So I decided if I’m going to do something I probably should start with something easier. So I turned around and there was a rack of quilt books and one of them was called “Learning to Quilt: Quilting for Beginners” and it had twenty sampler blocks or traditional quilt blocks. At the time I didn’t even know that quilt blocks had names. I didn’t know that there was such a thing a name for a quilt block but I bought this book thinking that I could certainly make a quilt a lot easier than I could make a shirt. Nobody ever told me a quilt was hard. And I’m thinking to myself that a shirt has shoulders and curves and sleeves and a quilt is just flat so that should be much easier to make. I bought fabric for that quilt I started making it by cutting out templates and drawing around those templates with a Bic ™ pen because I couldn’t see a pencil marking and I would do my best to make a quarter of an inch seam allowance. And every one of those blocks ended up being somewhere between eleven and thirteen inches and they were supposed to be twelve. [laughter.]. Well I figured that must be okay because that averages out to be twelve inches and on that same quilt [announcement over the loudspeaker.] and then it came time to sash the quilt and I started putting the vertical sashing in for the rows, the columns I mean, to make the long ones together and I ran out of sashing fabric so I just thought I would go back and get some more of that. When I got back to the store it had been four or five weeks after I started the quilt and of course there’s not anymore of that fabric so I have literally maroon sashing going vertically and green sashing going horizontally. [laughter.] Oh, I could keep going with this story if you want to hear more of it. BB: What size was it? RT: It was a full size quilt or queen size; I didn’t measure but like 96 by 80 or something. A big quilt. BB: What was the pattern? RT: It was a sampler quilt. It had twenty different blocks. BB: So you did twenty different blocks? RT: Twenty different blocks and learned the names. Memorized their names and to this day–One of them was a Grandmother’s Fan. One was a Shoofly. One was a Friendship Star. One was an Ohio Star. One was a Honeybee block, you know. BB: How long did it take from beginning to end? RT: Well– BB: You said it was four or five weeks until the sashing. RT: Well yes, but to get the sashing–actually getting the quilt top together was probably more like three or four weeks because I was really loving this. I started reading every quilt magazine I could get my hands on because I loved it so much. I discovered there was such a thing called a rotary cutter and mat which I never even knew existed. And there were other quilt books that taught methods of doing quilts like that so I don’t know. I started making other projects even while this one was starting to go on to a quilt frame and get quilted. So it might have taken a year before I finally got around to getting the binding on it after quilting it but in that year I had probably made another good thirty or forty quilts of varying sizes. Some of them were very small. Most importantly I would like to say that, that first quilt is the only quilt that I made from a pattern because my life as a musician had been in the creative part of music. I had been a composition student in college and I love creating so I immediately started adapting my own designs and creating my own quilts; the second one through now. None, of them are–are– BB: So, the first one was like the book? RT: Exactly like the book. I think I even put the blocks exactly like the picture in the book. But, past that I went on my own and started doing my own creative type things. And I hand quilted that first quilt. As a matter of fact, it’s at home and there are times when I sleep under it but I keep it a little bit more treasured now because I think of it as my first quilt and there’ll never be another first quilt. So I take very good care of it. This is a funny story—I’ll go ahead and tell you this too. When I hand quilting I did not know a quilter for three months at least and I went into a Ben Franklin store one day looking for fabric and when I got in there, there was this–she wasn’t old, but she was an older lady and she was looking at fabrics. And she struck up a conversation with me and she said, ‘What are you doing back here?’ and I said, ‘Well, I’m looking for some fabric.’ And she wanted to know what I was using the fabric for and I said, ‘I’m making a quilt.’ It was so cute because only a quilter would do this but in one fell swoop she reached into her tote bag and went ‘whoosh’ and there was a quilt and she said, ‘What color border would you put on this one?’ [laughter.] And I went, ‘Ma’am, I don’t know. I don’t have a clue.’ That lady’s name was Ponnie Brinkman, P-O-N-N-I-E Brinkman. And she ended up inviting me to the quilt meeting that night. Now I did not know there were going to be so many people there. I was expecting a little quilt frame and several women sitting around it kind of talking and drinking coffee and that sort of thing. And I ended up in a meeting of 250 of those quilters but as a result of getting involved with those quilters in that guild– while I am self-taught. I learned from them. It’s them individually that I’ve learned from one on one. I was quilting that quilt and I didn’t know how to do anything except what that book said and that was make a running stitch. I stab stitched the quilt for several days, just piercing the needle all the way and then back up. And I was making the stitches exactly like the book. The book did not bother to tell me that the picture they had was a magnified version of the quilt stitch so I’m making my stitches about a quarter inch a piece. I hadn’t seen quilting stitches; this was something I had never in my life. Well finally a friend came over one day and said, ‘I’ve watched my aunts quilt and what you’re supposed to do is get several stitches on the needle rocking it back and forth and then pull the needle through.’ And my friend told me in order to do that I was supposed to be using a much bigger needle so I went and bought a four inch needle to try to quilt this quilt with. As you can imagine, I can’t get three stitches into this quilt before the needle is stuck in the quilt so I’ve got my tool box out–I’ve got a pair of pliers. I’m doing anything I can to try to quilt this quilt the way it’s supposed to be quilted and really that’s the roots of how I began as a quilter. And it wasn’t until I got into the guild that I started asking people about needles sizes and so on and so on and so forth and I found that really the smaller the needle size the better your quilting stitches will be but I was using a fairly large needle at the beginning of this endeavor. BB: What aspects of quilting do you not enjoy? RT: [long pause.] I used to not enjoy putting on bindings because I felt the quilt was so done. I was so finished it was all quilted and then you would sew on the binding and then you would sew it on the binding and I would sew it on by hand and that could still take me days and days it would seem to get the binding on. I didn’t enjoy that. But now I use this machine type binding you’ll notice on this quilt. I love putting these bindings on so I really have to tell you there is nothing that I don’t like about the quilting process. I love the designs; the fabrics; the top. I love the quilting part. I love the binding part. I even love making the sleeves. BB: Tell me–my daughter-in-law thinks you’re wonderful– RT: Okay. BB: She saw you a couple of years ago. Tell me how you came to what–the way you do it–how you put the quilt together? RT: How I put– BB: You know you draw on the design– RT: You know what; there are so many ways to put a quilt together. My philosophy from the beginning was and this is what happened that first year I was reading every magazine I could. If there was a technique I didn’t know anything about, I would try that technique. And I wouldn’t make a full sized quilt I would just do enough a small piece or something to learn the technique. The more techniques I had in my little bag of tricks when the design came to my mind I could go from that repertoire of tricks to create that quilt so the more you know – the more you can create. I sort of am settled now into only a few things that I’ll tend to do. One of them is called “Quilting Caveman Style,” that is not anything other than a name but it means cutting and sewing fabrics using a rotary cutter and mat not planning a seam allowance and not using templates and not measuring anything but just creating an improvisational design and it could be representational. I could make a flower, or a house, or a bird or whatever, a fish, just doing this method but it’s not a precise method of sewing. I also do “flip and sew” method with the design on freezer paper and when I want to be precise and I need to be accurate then I use that particular method. I can do other things but those seem to be the two methods that I tend to use most because I like working with curves. And so the freezer paper helps me with precision curves and the “Caveman” method I can just create spontaneous curves. BB: Tell me about this other quilt you’ve brought. RT: Well I brought things to just spark some questions, I guess. This little quilt is–was done “Caveman” style. The heart quilt we’ve been talking about was done on freezer paper drawn full size and “flip and sew,” let me just say that. This quilt–these squares were just randomly cut and actually they were part of a larger quilt that I had made and there were some leftovers so I just set them together sort of on point and had fun with this quilting design which really can’t really describe on tape but it’s a non-stop quilt design. The entire–everything inside there is non-stop quilting by the way I did that. BB: Tell me how you did that. RT: Okay, I did this, this, this, and then here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here, and then the outside ones here, here, here–. BB: And Ricky is going around each flower with his finger showing how it goes. RT: Right. Good and I go on to the outside ones and once I got back to here then I can do these outside ones– BB: That’s lovely. RT: And then these inside ones and then it’s done so–and then I can start stippling and so the thing of this–the thing of note on this quilt is the binding once again. I used to hate doing bindings. This is a scalloped binding and it looks like the scallop is a fold that’s put on the quilt and then the binding is put on that–[BB: “uh, hum.”] in actuality the scallop is put onto the binding and the binding is put onto the quilt and I quilt in the ditch between the scallop and the binding. There’s a line of stitching you can barely see running right along the edge of that quilt so there’s not a single hand stitch anywhere on this or this or the quilt that I won with here at IQA [International Quilt Association.] today. This quilt has a little bit of history that I would like to share– BB: This is another beautiful quilt flower RT: This is a small quilt–probably a–18 by 24 inches or something like that and its name is “Tulip for Chantelle Number Two.” Yes there is a “Chantelle Number One.” And I’m going to tell you the story of Chantelle. When I was in England teaching for the first time in 1997, as I was jet lagged, they drug me to a beginning quilter’s class. I wasn’t teaching, just observing. These beginners didn’t know much about quilting but the next morning the teacher called and said, ‘One of my students just called and she wanted to know who Chantelle was last night.’ And she had said ‘What do you mean who was Chantelle?’ And she said ‘Well, Ann brought Chantelle and I thought I met everybody but I didn’t meet anyone named Chantelle and right towards the end of the evening you said Ricky brought Chantelle and I still hadn’t met this ‘Chantelle.” And the lady started laughing and laughing and she said, ‘No, no, no. I said, ‘Show and tell. Show and tell.” So Ann had brought ‘show and tell’ and Ricky had brought ‘show and tell.’ Well, the hostess that had arranged my trip to England, I wanted to do something nice for her so I made this quilt or rather a quilt like this one, in my “Caveman” style. I just cut and sew the pieces randomly, not knowing exactly how they are going to turn out but I ended up having this little three pointed tulip with a stem and two leaves and I ended up giving it to her. And as a joke I called it “Tulip for Chantelle.” Okay so it’s a tulip for show and tell, right. When I got home, I wanted one for myself so I made this one so I call it “Tulip for Chantelle Number Two.” Well whenever I had the opportunity to send one of my previous prize winning quilts to England to enter in one of their shows, I thought those ladies would get a real kick if I sent this little piece over just for fun to go with that. About three weeks later I got a phone call and I could not believe that my other quilt, the large quilt had won two blue ribbons at this national show in England but I was stunned whenever I found out that this little quilt had won judge’s choice award. And it was only really sent over as a joke for those ladies. It features what has now become one of my trademarks as well and that is called “bobbin quilting.” You will notice that in the flower and in the two frames there is a black sparkly thread and that black thread is really too heavy to go into the top of the machine and work well so it’s put in the bobbin and then I have orange thread in the top and quilt with the wrong side of the quilt facing me. Usually people say, ‘Well then how do you know where to do that?’ because that fills in those frames. In this case, I quilted in the ditch first from the top with the orange thread all the way around and once I’ve outlined all those wavy frames then I can just turn it over and fill in between those. Sometimes I don’t want to see that quilting in the ditch stitch so now I use the wash away water soluble thread. Quilt in the ditch again, flip it over. I can still see where to do the bobbin quilting and then when the quilt is wet that all dissolves and you have no idea how it got marked just sew it on the back so I use two different methods to do that. BB: It’s lovely, just lovely, it’s beautiful. And you have another one there, is there another one? RT: Yes, there’s one more here. This small piece is from a new series that I am and becoming more and more well known for that I call “Harmonic Convergence.” Now, we already talked about my closeness in involvement with music so the word “harmony” would be a musical term but what happened was I was working on the back of quilt one day and I wanted to use some of my hand-dyed fabrics that I didn’t like very well. And so I chose two fabrics that were spirals. Now this is something similar to what you’d see on a modern pop t-shirt with the spiral going around it. I had two of those and I didn’t particularly like them so I figured I could use both of them on the back but when I put them side by side I thought I was looking at two owl’s eyes, just kind of going crazy. So I started thinking what could I do to those two pieces of fabric that would break that up and I decided to slice them into strips starting at the center. I had two fabrics laying side by side and then starting at the center I cut a one inch strip and then a one and a half inch strip and then a two inch strip and then a three inch strip going from the inside and to the out. Then I took the skinniest strip of this piece and moved it over into this and I sort of started sorting these pieces into each other and suddenly the spirals were flying into each other and it was amazing. So then I began developing a new idea and I have an entire series of quilts now based on this. I have instruction patterns that people are using to do this series. And this particular piece that I brought is a very basic, simple example of that work. BB: Did you cut this “Caveman” style? RT: This is done with a rotary cutter, a ruler, and a mat. So this is a one, one and a half, two, two and a half, three inches. It is done precisionally. There is no tearing involved but look if you will you’ll notice–to see the two fabrics. Find this fabric and notice that it will just jump over this bar. This is the same fabric now jumping over here and you see yes it is still flowing along. Jump one more. It’s still the same fabric moving across and finally it ends with this little piece. But just go the opposite direction and you’ll see that this one just moves right into that. So this fabric–these were two little squares and they just fly into each other. BB: That’s just lovely– RT: And in order to create this one little extra seam I cut an inch off of the top. I sliced the quilt and I rotated it 180 degrees and just sewed it right back into the quilt. It’s truly the easiest thing and when I teach this class in a day the students will do two pieces more complicated than this but they do two quilt tops in a day. BB: Did you quilt this bobbin– RT: No, I quilted the rayon threads from the top and what was left over I flipped over and quilted on the back with the metallic thread from the bobbin. BB: Okay, tell me what you think makes a great quilt? [announcement over the loudspeaker.] RT: Well, I probably–You caught me with a question that I have to think about. BB: That’s good. RT: I–first and foremost I want that quilt to reach out and grab me visually. I want the overall statement of that quilt to hit me in a big way. I tend to like quilts that have large, powerful, impact of designs as opposed to most traditional quilts that are maybe lots and lots of little blocks that create a kind of lattice work or something overall. I find those beautiful but then they’re going to have to do something other than that to create an explosion of design for me. The way they’ll use their color or something and then make the overall thing very compacted. That’s the number one for me. Second for me, I then am going to want to see pretty much how the workmanship of the quilt is. Is it crisp? Is it clean? Is it neat? Are the stitches good? And is the workmanship good? And all of those kind of things would come secondary to me, the use of color, fabric and so forth. BB: Seems to me–seems to me that you are very good at this and it came to you very quickly. RT: Yes, it did. It did. BB: And you really enjoy it. RT: “Simple Gifts” is a quilt of mine I made in 1996. It was here at festival in 1996 and won the second prize. It won a second prize in the AQS [American Quilter’s Society; Paducah, Kentucky.] festival. It won best machine quilt at the NQA [National Quilting Association, Inc.] show that year. It’s the quilt that won two first prizes in UK. [United Kingdom.] It was selected by one of the panelists last year as her hundred and first choice for the “100 Best Quilts of the 20th Century.” [special exhibit at International Quilt Festival 1999 and book.] Interestingly enough, I know this is probably sounding like bragging and I don’t mean it to because I am so grateful for this incredible thing that found me nine years ago but that quilt was my first large machine quilted quilt. And it won a best machine quilting award at a national show and people say you must have practiced, and practiced and practiced to get there and I didn’t. It just came to me. And people say, ‘How could that happen?’ I’m guessing that having been a pianist since I was three years old I have pretty good eye-hand coordination, so manipulating that quilt under the needle with free motion quilting is very–it just came natural for me because I think of the piano background. This quilt for example with the flowers quilted on it. There is no marking. I don’t mark the quilt in any way. I didn’t mark this quilt ahead of time, just sew it. That’s the way I do it. BB: Tell me how you feel when you’re quilting. Tell me how you feel about this whole experience. RT: Well I’m working. I like seeing it. I get excited and I sit back and look at it and sometimes I feel I need to give up and then I get inspired again, and then I want to go out and you know, I want to ride my bicycle and take a walk or do something and come back again. I love it. I watch t.v. while I’m doing it. It’s when I’m at home doing it. It is just what I’m doing. In light of what I’m doing showing quilts at exhibitions and in the way that it has now become my profession, full time, to be lecturing all over the world and giving workshops. I really feel that it would be a waste of me if I didn’t give it back And at venues, shows and guilds and so forth that allow me to share what I have back with the world that’s where I share. So if my quilt–if that is hanging and it moves somebody–if it inspires somebody then it’s doing the job I would want it to do. I truly do not believe that it is not right to gloat over a win. ‘Aren’t I great because I made a wonderful quilt that has been recognized,’ because the judging process is still subjective. A different set of judges could come up with different quilts to win; that still have just the same amount of merit to win. So you can’t gloat over a win but you also can not beat yourself up and pout if your quilts are not winning awards or you didn’t win an award. It doesn’t mean the quilt isn’t valid. The most important thing for me and the reason I entered the shows is because I want the quilts to be seen. I want people to experience them. That’s a way of sharing. BB: Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you want to tell us about? RT: I don’t know. BB: I think we’re running out of time. Unidentified Person (UP): I had a question. I wanted to ask about your father and his quilting? RT: Okay, that’s a good question. The same week I began quilting in 1991 sort of by mistake. I called home that weekend and my dad had retired. We thought we would get him into stained glass or something like that but when I called home that weekend and said, ‘What are you doing dad?’ He said, ‘I started making a quilt this week.’ And he ended up making a traditional broken star quilt with all those diamonds. The finished quilt is 104 inches square, so it’s huge. His mother at the age of 85 had made him and his two siblings a broken star quilt so she made three of them. He decided that if she could do that at 85 he could do it at 65 after he retired. He made the top all by himself and he did a wonderful, wonderful job and since then he’s made about ten quilts. He doesn’t usually hand quilt them himself. He sends them out to have that done. There have been times when my mother has hand quilted them. My dad has tried to hand quilt them but my dad’s hands are–well they didn’t work that well for him but when it comes to the precision patchwork it’s amazing. His quilts are very scrappy. They’re very traditional. Many of them are samplers because he would go, ‘I had fun making this block, now I’m going to try this block,’ and he’d have enough blocks to make a quilt so many of his quilts were samplers after that. He and I have worked together. His brain understands it. My dad is 72 now and he is not quilting as much any more now after my mother retired. They’re out kind of traveling now. He doesn’t have as much time at home by himself but it’s been amazing. And then another point of interest since we’re saving our stories– another point of interest is that when my nephew married, a couple of years later they were expecting their first child and as a result of me quilting and my dad quilting, he wanted to make the baby quilt and he did. And now he’s involved in quilting and sewing at some level as well. He’s made two or three quilts and doesn’t think anything about it. He is currently Mr. Mom but before the baby he was a prison guard and my dad was a retired truck driver so the stereotypes are a little bit broken in our family since we have three generations of men quilters and none of the women really quilt. BB: How’s granny doing? RT: Good question. I usually get two questions like that. Do I still sew on my granny’s sewing machine and is she still alive? My grandmother passed away in 1993. She was married to Pete for two years and Pete passed away one year later. He was 90 and she was 85 when they passed away. Then in 1994, I bought a used sewing machine from a sewing dealer. It was an older model Pfaff. I used my granny’s up until that time. So that was three, three and a half years. Then I started on this other sewing machine and now I have more sewing machines so– BB: Yeah, how many sewing machines do you have? RT: I’ve got four, four right now that I can count. They’re handy. Is there something else you wanted to ask? UP: I do have many more questions but we’re limited to a forty-five minute format. And I’m not sure how much time we have. How much time do we have? BB: I’m not sure, what time did we start? RT: 3:03 or 3:33 Another Unidentified Person: The first question was asked at 3:33. RT: See, so we have time left. BB: We have a couple more minutes left. UP: I’d like to hear about how it was–what it was you did before you became a professional teacher and quilter and what that conversion was like? RT: It–the funny thing about that is that it’s not a conversion. It’s an add on. People who know me now, know that I have been able to put music and quilting together in one package. As a musician–well I took my first real–well I taught through high school, teaching piano. When I was seventeen years old I had been awarded several musical awards. I was also hired as a conductor of choral music for a church in Wichita Falls. I was seventeen and I worked my way through college doing that and teaching piano and then I became a performing artist. I began working in studios. So I had been doing conducting. I had been doing commercial work and I ended up in St. Louis, Missouri to be a professional recording engineer and music producer. I did the original music for this company. And they did commercials, jingles, small film scores, and whatever. I was writing music professionally and then that company finally–it closed actually and I bought the recording studio and I built a recording studio in my home and continued to work free- lance which basically means I didn’t have a job. And it was during that time I started quilting because I had all that extra time on my hands. A year later I was hired as a choral conductor for one of the larger churches in St. Louis, Missouri. I built that program up to the point that when I left that job in 1998 I had an eighty-five voice chorus with about 30 piece orchestra. We had just released our third CD and it was released on a national classical album, doing Vaughn Williams and Rutter and Handel and those wonderful people. I loved conducting. And the first thing I did. And it was during the time that I was there. I was continuing to quilt and starting to teach a little bit more and more and I realized that I could probably do this full time. And I made the break to do that. In the interim I also conducted the most significant night of my life. It was the night I conducted the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and a community chorus of about 85 singers to do a Midwest premier of a choral work that went through the seven stages of grieving. And we benefited three area health organizations that dealt with terminally ill patients. It was a phenomenal night and I literally took every penny I had in retirement and the next night we came back together and I invested in the recording of that event so that the music would continue to heal and give hope and comfort to others, long past the night of the concert. That recording is still doing well. It is something that even if I never did anything else in my life. That was why even during my heart surgery, I did something important in this world, it’s okay to go now if I need to. So now I incorporate music in my quilting. All of my quilting lectures incorporate either my piano playing, sometimes singing. I do a presentation called “Celebrate the Century,” it’s an historic perspective of music and quilts and in thirty-three minutes you get 250 historical facts, 50 songs and you hear all about quilting and history – decade by decade. So everything is placed in its own decade and it’s memorized. I have a sound score that goes underneath of it that I composed with it and there is a slide show that goes on behind it. It’s a multi-media extravaganza. And that’s what I did for lunch here yesterday so I’m able to do my music and the product that I market now besides my fabrics are my CDs, that’s recorded that I just told you. I have a solo piano CD. I have the symphony CD that’s recorded. And next year I’ll probably have more. It’s combining two passions – music and quilting and that’s pretty much what people know me for. BB: So you like getting up in the morning? RT: Yes, I do. I think of myself as one of the happiest people on the planet. I love traveling. I love meeting people. I love quilting. I love music. I get to do all of that and have a living of it so I do, I count my blessings everyday. I don’t take it for granted– not ever. BB: It’s been wonderful talking to you. RT: Thank you, my pleasure. BB: Thank you very much. We’ve been talking to Ricky Tims. It is 4:17 PM at the International Quilt Festival, in Houston, Texas. November 3,…

QSOS with Eleanor Burns

QSOS with Eleanor Burns

Brenda Horton (BH): My name is Brenda Horton. Today’s date is October 22nd. And I’m conducting an interview with Eleanor Burns for the quilt oral history project in Houston, Texas. Eleanor would you tell me about the quilt you brought today? Eleanor Burns (EB): Well, actually I brought two quilts. The quilt that I brought was called “English Garden” and it was designed by Ruby McKim probably in the 1930’s. It’s not that great of a quilt. I actually bought it at a street fair in California, in a town called Julian; it’s an old mining town. And I love this quilt because I admire Ruby McKim so much I brought pieces I’ve collected from Ruby McKim. She was an art deco quilter and she was one of the first to say ‘I think that ladies should really do this by machine.’ I go, ‘Alright Ruby,’ this is my kind of lady. When she did the flowers, she did these straight zippy lines so that a woman could actually make this, if they really didn’t want to do the needle turn appliqué, or they couldn’t get their points right, they could go ahead and do this type of technique. So she did just a simple setting in red lines, it’s not really fancy. Somebody loved this quilt and used it. But, I have admired Ruby so much that I actually bought her book as my first book. That’s my book and I bought all these things. Just in case you never saw Ruby McKim this is her picture. [flipping pages of book.] Where is it? There she is, that’s Ruby McKim. A lot of people think that she wrote all the newspaper articles for the Kansas City Star, but she really only wrote for two years. She and her husband had a studio. Okay, this is the first book I ever got and it was a dollar, ninety-nine cents. It was on the discount table. I snatched it up. I had no idea what I was going to do with it but, she influenced my whole life and that’s why I had to bring it. Now she had a studio in Independence, Missouri with her husband. I felt so fortunate, One cent to mail this catalog. This is one of her original catalogs that I have here. Some child got a hold of it and scribbled over it, but it’s in pristine condition. This is actually where the original patterns came from. This is the original. Everywhere I go, I look for things from Ruby McKim. And I found that block–let’s see if I can find that. This block is the same as the quilt I found in my hometown Zelienople English Flower Garden. The poor lady did all the needle turn and got all her zippy little lines on her flowers but she abandoned it with her needle still attached. So, I just truly love it. As I’m going through this book and I find this page, see how she was showing how to piece flowers together using the machine quilting. This one is her poppy, I’m so fortunate because I found attached to this–this is such a kick–this is instruction from Ruby McKim and someone actually started coloring it in. Maybe she didn’t know what the quilt looked like. She clipped this from a newspaper identified as “Quilt Stolen” and I go, ‘Oh sounds interesting.’ Anyhow this is part of my collection from Ruby McKim. In this book, it shows the beautiful tulip quilt. It just says that it’s simple to do and it’s attractive in yellow, orange and green. It’s set together like a diamond paned window. Well, I looked at that and said, ‘Ruby, I can do this by strips,’ and that’s what I set out to do. Looking at hers of course she did not have the pattern included, just this black and white drawing. And so I took Ruby’s tulip pattern and turned it into my own design. Here we have the “Easy Strip Tulip,” with the diamond pane setting. What’s really fun about it is you can do a quilt like this; I mean my company name is Quilt in a Day. You can piece this top in a day, because it’s all straight lines. If you have just a long selvage to selvage strip, you can do a whole row of tulips all the same color. I just felt that since Ruby influenced my life so greatly, when I did this book called “Easy Strip Tulips.” I dedicated it to Ruby McKim. Here is her picture. I did a photograph of her catalog and just a little bit about her. This is not a real large book, I could have dedicated more time to her life and her study, which I just thoroughly enjoy reading about. That was the significance of the quilt I brought today. [laughs.] That was a whole presentation. [laughs.] BH: Yes it was. That was wonderful and I see by the way you have done this that you are one of our quilt historians. EB: I am a quilt historian. BH: Would you tell me more about how you feel about studying quilt history? EB: Well, I personally prefer the traditional look in quilts, and so I study the antique quilts and I study the women that made them. I just finished a program for my PBS series, it’s a fund-raiser called “Women Who Taught us to Sew”. I started out with Marie Webster who is considered the mother of quilting, because she wrote America’s first quilting book. I just went from there and continued adding Ruth Finley, who wrote America’s second quilting book. Actually there are two quilts in this show that reference Ruth Finley’s book. Her book came out, I think, in 1928. They actually say they looked at the photographs in her book and recreated it. But, that’s what I’ve done. And then there was Anne Orr who worked for Better Homes and Gardens. It’s interesting because all of these women were entrepreneurs in their own right most in the depression years. History didn’t necessarily say that these women had to support their families. I found that I admire them so greatly because I took the quilting and I’ve used it to support my children. I raised my two sons alone, and it was the quilting that did it for me. It makes me weepy when I think about that. But, anyhow, my children were very young, 2 and 5, when I wrote my first book, which was “Make a Quilt in a Day: Log Cabin Pattern.” My children had to go to quilt shows and we could only afford a table. They would have to sell the books for me – just little guys – and take the change. They just learned how to work along with me. And now my oldest son, Grant, is an entrepreneur in his own right. He’s actually– BH: That’s him, there? EB: No, my oldest son is an entrepreneur. He has his own business manufacturing skateboards. Orion has stuck with me since he was two years old. He’s now directing my video series. They have such a love for the women and the quilts. They won’t let me sell anything. They say, ‘This is my inheritance, Mom, you can’t sell that quilt.’ Sometimes you have to clear out, because I make so many quilts. In a year, if you asked me how many quilts I’ve made, I can’t even tell you. But I know when I was doing the tulip book, which was my latest, I made six or eight quilts just to test my method, test my yardage. Just to make sure I have the best technique down on paper for students to follow. I follow my own instructions and just constantly rewrite and check and correct. So I get my influence from the women from the early 1900’s up to the 1940’s following Carrie Hall who was one of our historians from the 40’s. BH: And you did the whole series for PBS, which was wonderful. EB: Yes, I also did a star quilt. It was called “Stars Across America,” some of the stars were unidentified in Barbara Brackman’s book or anywhere. We just really created stars for technique. And since I couldn’t identify them, I associated them with woman in history– a woman who fought for suffrage for us. There were two black women– Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth. I made a star for Eleanor Roosevelt, because I do admire her. I took Harriet Beecher Stowe–just women who were very brave and who stood out in our country and did something special for us. BH: Well it seems that you have helped to create different things to remember these ladies by and what would you like to be remembered for or as? EB: Well, this is what happened this show. Because I’ve dedicated my life to writing books and good yardage charts, I always think about other women and the businesses they’ve started owning their quilt shops and selling fabric. I started as a teacher. I was a special ed. teacher. I taught special ed. before I had my children. I truly love to teach. So I have the business sense, the teaching sense, I was just awarded at Quilt Market the highest award Market gives called the Michael Kile Award And for me it was an honor, I really wanted to win that award but I felt that I’m really not political. I keep to myself and do my own thing and so to have the advisory council award that to me I was just ‘hoppin’ on air’ and I still feel that I am. That just happened this year, so I ‘m truly excited that this being the last Market of the century, the greatest show on earth this year, to receive the Michael Kile Award, there’s no greater thing. BH: That’s wonderful, wonderful. How has your family… I realize you have two sons, and they are a part of your business. How have they influenced you in your work? EB: Probably when they were so little it was very important to me to have the speed. Since I raised them when they were very young, I had to be a mother and a father and the breadwinner. So the speed in the Log Cabin, the speed in the Irish Chain, all of the traditional looks in the first books that I wrote, and the Amish quilt. They’ve always been there. But you see, not only have my two sons been with me in this business, I have two sisters who have also grown up with me in the quilting. My sister, Judy, moved from Pennsylvania to California to help me care for the boys when I was just starting out, because I traveled a lot and knocked on a lot of doors. My sister came and she started shipping my books all around the country and all around the world. She came on a round-trip ticket and never went home. She said she’s been with the company for eighteen years. And so when we go to work my sister is there, she’s always in the building. She’s the youngest sister and then my middle sister, Patty, also joined me. We call her the sister company because her husband and she manufacture the rulers. She came from Georgia, as an art teacher, not very happy and really looking for a place also. She was very depressed. She got into making quilts with me and now she loves the colors and the fabric. She and I are very different in that she is very fussy. I can sew a quilt as much as she unsews the same quilt. When we work together, she makes me work until I have the exact perfect colors. She and I just co-authored “Grandmother’s Garden Quilt,” which was a collection of patterns from what probably appeared in 1928 as part of the Nancy Page Club that was written by Florence LaGanke. We were given the patterns at a camp retreat. This woman just said, ‘Here, I found this notebook at a garage sale, I think you could use it.’ And we took this collection of patterns and turned them into an absolutely fantastic quilt. It was Patty who did all the fussy handwork. I was the engineer and did all of the machine assembly and laid out the book and made it actually workable for everyone. So there are two sisters that work with me besides my two sons at Quilt in a Day. I actually built the company from just my sister Judy, who shipped books from my garage. We took over three bedrooms in my four bedroom house and we no longer had room to live. We moved into a warehouse just five minutes from home, because I knew that I would need to get home to the boys if there was an accident. There were many broken bones and cuts that I had to barrel up that hill. But, in 1983 I rented a warehouse near my home that I didn’t know how I was going to pay for, but I put a couple of boxes of books in it and I struggled to pay the rent. In 1999 my family and I purchased the building. It’s 20,000 square feet. It’s a big, big building; there’s three units in it. We went from the one unit and cut a door and moved into the second unit and cut a door and moved into the third unit. So now Quilt in a Day is actually in two and half of the units and my son Grant is in the third unit with his skateboard business so when we come together every day the grand puppies come, the sons come, the sisters come and about forty other people come to work at Quilt in a Day. BH: Oh, my. Tell us about PBS. EB: Well, I’ve been on public television for 11 years, which just truly amazes me. I started out traveling first…I knew that I was getting tired traveling and teaching, but yet I wanted everyone to know my methods. So I had a good friend who said, ‘El, we could probably get you on TV.’ And I said, ‘Okay, that’s what we’ll do.’ We bought an upscale consumer camera and we started going out to the classes I was teaching. He would videotape me and we would edit it, and we would say, ‘No, that’s not good.’ Then we would do it again and look at it. ‘No, that’s not good,’ and just try to improve because I was just a teacher, not ever a hostess on a television series. Finally we felt that we had something good enough to submit to the Learning Channel. The Learning Channel was the first to accept my programs. They put me on three times a week and my business tripled overnight. I was completely unprepared for the success of going on the air, we just had one little camera and a studio. We put in sound proofing in part of the warehouse. When The Learning Channel bought my program, we had to buy an upgraded camera and make these investments in equipment. I decided to do that myself. I’m just a single woman. But through the years we ended up putting together a professional broadcast studio. After The Learning Channel accepted me, I went on PBS. It was Nebraska that got me on public television because they did a letter writing campaign to their PBS station. I think they had 3,000 signatures. The program director called and said, ‘We have to have you, what are you anyway?’ So from that point on each of the PBS stations have picked me up. I’m on at different times on 150 different stations throughout the country. They share my time with the other quilters–with Kay Wood and Fans and Porter and the other sewing programs and Nancy. We all share this time slot. We use a satellite system–every Sunday we uplink a free program. I don’t tape a new show for every week. I may do twenty new programs a year but the up linking station says, ‘You’ve got to do a new program for us. You have to do a new series. Everybody out there wants their ‘El kick’–that’s what they call it.’ Their El kick, ‘Okay, I’ll do a new program.’ I get many children that think that my program is for them. The women come to me and whisper, ‘My husband watches your show, and you’re the only program he’ll watch.’ They all just think it’s funny that I throw my fabric. One man, I believe he’s a fireman, said that if he’s depressed, he just turns on my show because he knows that I’ll be smiling and he’ll feel more cheerful when it’s over. My cousin works in a veteran’s hospital in New York and one day she was walking down the hall and she heard my voice. She said, ‘My cousin came to surprise me,’ and she started running down the halls trying to find me. She ran into one of the men’s rooms and he had my program on. He said, ‘Yeah, I always watch her. She makes me feel good.’ The program is a lot of work, it is edited down to be only 26 minutes, but all in all, it probably takes us about a week to put it together. I write my own scripts. I do a lot of my own preparation for the quilt that I’m going to be teaching ahead of time. Just the research alone to find something special and I try to find as much significant information about the quilt or the quilt maker that I can. And the audience tells me that that is what they really like, because they want to know history too. So it is a challenge. People walk by me and say, ‘Don’t ever quit.’ And I think, ‘Oh I’m getting old.’ [laughs.] BH: Well, that’s what people tell good doctors, they won’t let them retire, so you’re Dr. Smiles maybe. [laughter.] That was my next question. How do you feel that–you have mentioned that you always have a smile and people like to watch you, how do you feel about people’s reaction to you? EB: It’s a little embarrassing whenever women really fuss over me. It’s actually very embarrassing. But, I like to hear their stories and sometimes they bring tears to my eyes. I had a recovering alcoholic who brought her son to me and said that it had changed her life. That is very heart rendering to me. And that happens over and over again to me. People may have a death in the family; the quilting pulled them through the last year. And maybe a mother with children quilts, that’s really fun too. I thought you were going to ask me if I wanted to retire. BH: Well, do you want to retire? EB: Well, this is what I want to do. I want to find a large house, a retreat in the mountains, something with a barn. I’d like to start teaching classes and doing lectures in my barn. Have people come there and make it very special. I like to fuss over people and put out my best china and set the table and do flower arrangements. And things like that. I would like to do retreats like that, maybe not for ten years. I’m 54 now and we all have to think when we see Doreen Speckman pass away so untimely, we just don’t know. My kids think about ‘What’s mom going to do when she retires?’ I enjoy things like that. I am the one in the family that my home is the one where we all hang out at Christmas. I might have 14 at my dinner table, sometimes for two weeks in a row. It’s just really fun. I like to plan events for just my sons and their friends. They call me “Mrs. Burns” or “Mom” or whatever, it’s just really funny when they all come to my house and they have such a good time. BH: Maybe it’s not really funny that they do that, maybe that’s the most natural thing. EB: I really enjoy it. I get excited. They can count on me to make a special dinner for them. BH: You make people feel good, don’t you? I mean that’s the feeling I get, because they wouldn’t gravitate to your house otherwise. That speaks so well of you. The materials you used in your tulip quilt here, I noticed you have all cottons, which is kind of a standard. Do you ever work any other materials besides cotton? EB: No. I like to use wool batting and I’ve used wool strips for hooking, but usually in my quilts I use my own fabric. Actually some of the pieces in here are from a line of fabric that I did with Benertex. This is from the line called “Anniversary Florals.” BH: Your blouse. EB: Yes. Last year was my twentieth year and so Benartex really honored me by doing a line “Anniversary Florals”. This purple is one, this green is one and there’s quite a few pieces in “Grandmother’s Garden” we did. We designed the fabric, my sister Patty and I did it–the fussy one–helped me out and Benartex came out with a really pretty line. We’re working on a second line as well. BH: Now you called your sister the fussy one but you “fussy cut” sometimes on your patterns, is that where you got the term? EB: Yes, she told me “fussy cut.” What’s really interesting, we may have coined the word “fussy-cut” but now it’s a standard in the industry. And that’s really fun to see something you started as just common terminology. MF: Explain to us what “fussy-cut” is. EB: Fussy-cut means you would have a large floral design with a lot of flowers. You might just specially cut out one flower and use that one flower repeat throughout your quilt, so it’s just specially cut out of the fabric to use in a certain piece. It puts together a really pretty design– fussy. BH: What are your plans–you briefly mentioned something you are working on now. Let’s go back to your latest project. EB: Right now I am working on a quilt called “Town Square Sampler.” I have a full art department and what we are doing is–we actually took blocks from Barbara Backman’s book and from other people’s books. We pulled out blocks that we thought would be fun to sew and also some with new techniques that we could include. We pulled out the blocks and then we just generated them on the computer and designed this quilt. Going from simple strips, to triangle pieced squares, to a really fun technique of a triangle in a little corner block and then a triangle in a square in appliqué. We’ve put in together into this whole large quilt with Main Street across the center and angels which is our appliqué row flying across the top. But, my concept was always thinking about the shop owners and how they would teach and sell fabric. My concept was to put it into rows. There’s a lot of row quilts going on now but I’m disappointed when I look at other people’s patterns, because I don’t think they give enough information and they are very expensive. Mine will be all in one book with very detailed instructions. The shop owner can use it either for an eight week or eight month series, each time starting out with the beginner strip and building technique until they have a whole quilt put together. It’s called the “Town Square Sampler.” I do all the writing myself, work out all the measurements and the yardage, my art department illustrates it. We hand it out to testers so we make sure it’s correct. We teach classes on it. I’m starting a series on it when I go back. And since it’s called “Town Square Sampler” I’m going to be pulling parts from my hometown and just visiting some different towns that fit in with the story line. We’re preparing the series for PBS and it will be going out in February. So, I work long days. I start at six in the morning and maybe quit at ten at night. But I sleep really well. MF: May ask one question? EB: Yes. MF: What do you think about the importance of quilts for women in American life? Over time too. EB: I think the importance of quilts. I see quilt making as a confidence builder for women. I think that is why I work like I do. I want to build confidence in them. I want to give them something that they love, they excite for, they lust for, they get up every morning for and cannot wait to do, to fill void time, may be empty time. It’s so satisfying to touch a piece of fabric. It’s exciting to work with different colors. I think that if they can feel that pride in themselves, they can bring that to their families and their family is also proud of them. It’s unbelievable what it creates. BH: What do you think makes a great quilt? EB: [laughs.] Something based on tradition. [laughter.] Tradition. BH: What makes a great quilter? EB: A great quilter? I don’t expect a great quilter to have a perfect seam. I expect them to really have enjoyed what they did. When I’m teaching a person who thinks things don’t match, I talk with them quietly and I go over it. I’ll ask them if they like it and it’s acceptable to them, and some women will say, ‘I did the best that I could do, and I am really impressed. I know it’s not perfect, but I am so excited that I did that.’ I just let imperfection pass and go. They all learn. They have to make their first quilt. That’s who I am. I’m here to teach people to make their first quilt, get them started, they can go on. They can become great. There are two ladies at Market that started out in my company who have opened their own shops. Just this Market there are so many other people who took my classes first and they tell me that. Sometimes they sort of whisper it to me. But I got them started. They just have to do one quilt and then they can go on and do great things. BH: What do you think makes a quilt appropriate for a museum or a special collection? EB: Probably the ones that I marvel at are the ones that have intricate piecing, decorative hand-stitching on the top. Tiny stitches and a lot of quilting lines, close quilting lines and the quality of the fabric and it’s still in pristine condition. BH: I notice you talk about the process and some people work because they enjoy the process and some people work because they want the finished product. How would you classify yourself – as a process or product oriented person? EB: Process, definitely, I’m the engineer. People say interesting things to me, they say, ‘You brought to quilting what Julia Childs brought to cooking, and that’s showmanship,’ or perhaps I brought to quilting what Liberace brought to music. It’s showmanship. But it’s the appreciation of what we do to. BH: I think we have a few more minutes. I’d like to know how when you design… I know some people enjoy the pattern, some people enjoy the color, and some people enjoy texture. When you design, how do you go at that? EB: You know sometimes I just go into my quilt shop and ask the ladies to put a kit together for me. Because it is always the technique that I am most interested in. I know that we’ll get the colors right. I may not make the most beautiful quilt, but I want to be able to tell them how to get the correct measurements and how to go about it correctly. And then my students, my staff, somebody else comes up with an absolutely fantastic quilt. It’s just really important to me that I sit and sew over and over again until I have it down to a science. It’s like manufacturing you know, that I teach [laughs.] I’m the assembly line. BH: Well we appreciate it. Thank you, Eleanor for giving us your time to become a part of the [Quilters’.] S.O.S. [-Save Our Stories.] project. EB: You’re welcome. BH: We’re ending the interview at 9:55. Eleanor Burns, I’m Brenda Horton. Thank you very…

QSOS with Georgia Bonesteel (3-07-08)

QSOS with Georgia Bonesteel (3-07-08)

Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave and I am doing a Quilters’ S.O.S. – Save Our Stories interview with Georgia Bonesteel. Georgia is in Flat Rock, North Carolina and I’m in Naperville, Illinois, so we are doing this interview by telephone. Today’s date is March 7, 2008 and it is 2:28 in the afternoon. Georgia thank you for doing this interview with me. We are doing a special Quilters’ S.O.S. – Save Our Stories because this is based on “Alzheimer’s: Forgetting Piece by Piece” exhibit, so Georgia I would like you to talk about your quilt “A Porsche Problem” which is in the exhibit. Georgia Bonesteel (GB): Thank you very much Karen for calling me. My quilt is something that I was moved to do because of my father’s situation health wise. I would like to tell you that he has Alzheimer’s, but he had one of the forms of Alzheimer’s. We never could quite figure out what he had, yet he died of congestive heart failure, but because we lived in North Carolina about thirty miles from my parents for about twenty years, I was able to have a close connection with my parents. Pete and I were raising our children close by, so I was very much in touch with what was happening day by day versus living far away. When my father first started getting ill he sensed that he was not right and so we went through that process and had many situations, especially with the car. My father actually loved that car and he had about four or five of those Porsches and drove quite a bit from Chicago to North Carolina because he had a hard time retiring. He was a lawyer in Chicago but wanted to be down on a golf course in Tryon, so he went back and forth with his car. When he got ill it was difficult to take the car away from him. We tried many situations, we even tried having a friend of his who was a policeman come over and talk to him and explain that because he was getting lost, well he wouldn’t come home, he would lose his way and we knew it was time, and my father would say, ‘Well yes, I understand you need to take the license away from me because I live here in North Carolina, but South Carolina is just right down the line a little bit, so I will drive in South Carolina.’ So he really didn’t get it, and the only way we could handle it was that one day my sister just drove the car out of the driveway and took it to Pennsylvania. So in essence, we did take the car keys away from him and it was a sad day, but he got over it. When Ami [Simms.] asked me to do this, to participate in this exhibit it was a natural thing for me, I knew that I would have to do the car and I did this exhibit because I have a lot of admiration for Ami. I actually got to meet her mother one time at one of the Mancuso shows and Ami is a person with an uplifting personality so you enjoy being around her. I find her creativity stimulating. Her website is wonderful. Her stories about her dog and her family are just very good. She is just a welcoming spirit. I wanted to do that for Ami and I wanted to do it as for recognition for my dad also. I had to do the car. We had pictures of the car but it wasn’t really a good picture so I went over and found a used car dealership here in town that had the same vintage year that he had and took pictures of it and that helped me to kind of get a sketch of the car. Then when I made the quilt, I did the yellow streaks in it just to kind of give the idea of speed. I hope that shows it, because he did like to drive fast. Then I used the car, it got larger in each of the blocks as it went down and I thought that, until it finally came into full view, and then of course the last block shows the circle on top of the key. KM: So the universal not. GB: The universal not. [laughs.] That is really the story of the quilt, and I’m proud to have it go around the country in different exhibits. I’ve seen it a couple of times. I did see it at one of the Mancuso shows. Like any exhibit, one of the most interesting parts I think of doing a quilt show is to stand next to other people and hear their comments, especially if they don’t realize that you made the quilt, whether it is yours or someone else’s, because you really learn the inside of what quilters are thinking. I have often thought that there should be a tape recorder in the back of quilts and then play it later. You would really get some interesting verbalization I think. I think it is a very poignant exhibit. I helped Ami out one year in Houston and stood at her booth. People are so moved by this exhibit. Anytime you have a health problem in your family, especially Alzheimer’s and then you see these quilts you have to talk about the person in your family personally. I mean you want to share that story. It’s either my aunt or my mother or my father, and then it is like it all happens all over again. That is really my perspective on the exhibit and I’m very proud for Ami and I’m very proud to be a part of it. KM: Tell me about the poem. GB: Oh gosh, yes, the poem, “There once was a guy from Chicago.” That poem, my mother and father had a close friend, Dr. Graves and Martha Graves. In fact Martha just died last year, she outlived my mother by three years and they were very close and every birthday she would write a poem. She was just a poet and so I have a whole stack of poetry that she wrote about when my dad would have a birthday. One year she wrote a poem about the year he shot his score, his par on the golf course. Then she wrote this poem about daddy’s car and so it was a natural to be stitched on top of his block. I was very proud to do that for Martha. KM: It goes: ‘There once was a guy from Chicago Who was quite found of making his “cah go” Just a smidgen too fast So he built up a past And is he wanted from Jax to Wells Fargo!’ GB: He was wanted from Jacksonville to Wells Fargo. KM: But it is Jax? GB: Jacksonville, I just put Jax. KM: Okay. GB: From Jacksonville to Wells Fargo. KM: That is awesome. GB: [laughs.] Perfect. KM: It is wonderful. What are your plans for this quilt when it comes back? GB: I have to admit that it will probably slip through my fingers. My sister drove the car away, she ended up actually paying my dad for it, I think she got a good price. Then the car ended up going to her son Quinn who has it up in Boston, and when Jill saw this quilt, she said, ‘Oh I bet Quinn would love to have that some day.’ So I will probably give that to Quinn. I’m not sure how long the car will last, but I will probably give that to Quinn. KM: One of the things that we had to do as artists in this exhibition was to do the audio part of the CD. Tell me about that experience for you. GB: You know, I will be very honest about it, I can not remember that. KM: It must have been easy for you, because it wasn’t easy for me. I remember it. GB: Oh my, well I haven’t played it in a long time so I must have just. KM: You probably did very well. GB: I hope so, I hope so, I can not remember, and. KM: Seriously I think that is a good thing because Ami would call me up and say, do it again. [GB laughs.] So you didn’t have that experience? GB: No, I think I only did it once so I was lucky in that regard. KM: Tell me about your interest in quiltmaking. GB: Oh, Karen it goes back to the Stone Ages now. My quilting started in New Orleans of all places, although as a little girl I have always done patchwork. I was gifted with a lot of energy and I think to keep me out of my mother’s hair she would give me needle and thread and so I’ve always done stitching. I did the doll clothes thing. I guess I was always with a needle and thread going through cloth. It just always intrigued me, and I really didn’t have any question about what I would do when I went to college. I went into merchandizing. I should have stayed at Iowa State. I went there for two years, one of the best home ec [Economics.] colleges in the country. I fell in love and then transferred to Northwestern, which was an equally good school, but they did not have a very good home ec department, so I simply graduated with a BA. I was able to get a wonderful job in merchandizing at Marshall Fields and so I’ve always stayed in touch with cloth and always have been sewing. When we did finally end up moving to New Orleans with the young children I had an opportunity to once again use my sewing capabilities at a department store in the French Quarter which led me into some quilt opportunities. I quilted little evening bags and sold them in the French Quarter for about three years and came into the necktie fabric because of some television work I did. Someone said to me, well these are great little bags that you have made, but they are flat, they don’t have any body to them, they have no life and they said what about putting some batting inside, and before I knew it I was quilting with embroidery thread and I had batting in between layers of silk and batting and then fabric. That was basically opened my eyes to quilting because I had to search out little magazines and books that had quilting patterns in them and then we moved to North Carolina I started teaching quilting at our community college. KM: Give me a timeframe. GB: We moved to, we were in New Orleans from about 1970 to 1973, and in 1973 we moved here to North Carolina. Of course being in the Appalachian part of the country, I knew that quilts were popular here. So I just started teaching at our community college, but I was also quilting with a senior ladies group down at the Opportunity House and I learned a lot from those ladies. I learned my stitches weren’t small enough, I learned that it was hard to quilt on a standing quilt frame, and then I learned that if you are going to teach twenty ladies how to quilt in an eleven week class, we couldn’t make one quilt for each lady, that everyone had to work on their own individually and I realized then that if I broke the making of a large quilt down into sections we could have more satisfaction and see things grow faster. So that was when I started really teaching lap quilting and so those initial three years of teaching at the community college gave me enough samples that I had things to carry with me over to the University of North Carolina Public TV Station. I went over and made an appointment and suggested to them that I could do a How to Sew on Quilting, and I couldn’t have done it without those classes that I taught. That was the meat of what I had and so I just did a little TV show. [laughs.] KM: Kind of an understatement there. GB: It was, that really is what it was though. As I look back on those first shows and we had a very simple set. They wouldn’t stop the tape if I did something wrong because that cost too much money, and I look at those tapes and there are sometimes when I would pick up the edge of a cardboard if I couldn’t find a ruler to draw a straight line [laughs.]. It was very, very crude to begin with but we did get a little more upscale as the years went on. KM: And, there is a lot more there. [GB laughs.] Share the Evolution. I think it is really important. GB: It was an evolution because I was just kind of secluded. I was just so inspired by my students, and after these eleven weeks we would have what I called a quilt in. We would have it at the auditorium, and people that had taken a previous class but hadn’t finished would come, and we would spread out the quilts over the chairs and we would all, everyone would come up and talk about their quilt and tell their little story why they made it, and we would take pictures and we were just so happy in ourselves, and then pretty soon the guild started, and people realized, and I think this is happening all over the country, people were saying, ‘Well if classes can do it, then let’s get the classes together.’ Then let’s reach out to the community of people that have quilted over the years and their grandmothers and their sisters came. All of a sudden guilds started emerging around the country. Then people would get wind of my TV show and they would drive up in my driveway thinking I had a shop at my house. We had not bought the hardware store yet, and I’d say, no I’m not selling fabric out of my house. Then I had my first invitation to actually fly out of town with a few of my quilts and talk about what I did. People weren’t doing that, at least to my knowledge they weren’t. I can remember being excited when Jinny Beyer won that Good Housekeeping Contest and then Hazel Carter had that first quilt show in Virginia and we went up there, and so things started to happen. Then I went to Houston for the first time, so it was a progression that grew, but it was gradual. I think once my shows started airing around the country and my books were published to go with the shows that is when I got really busy. Then we bought the hardware store, so then I was managing a store, writing books and doing TV and traveling. KM: We should really qualify the hardware store, because it was an element of the quilt corner in the hardware store. GB: Yes, right, it was, it was called Bonesteel Hardware and Quilt Corner [website is georgiabonesteel.com and her blog is georgiabonesteel.com/gablog.html.] and people loved that. It was all open; there weren’t any walls in between. They would come in and their husband would go over and look at hardware and they would come over, and they just thought that was just wonderful. [laughs.] I was teaching there too, and it was a good thing, it really was. Our children were in college then and so they were pretty much on their own. Well they were, in the early years they were still in high school, because I can remember leaving and still dealing with that kind of situation. My husband was dealing with it also. All of a sudden he was Mr. Georgia Bonesteel and that was not easy for Pete for a while. He had been the breadwinner and then all of a sudden we were getting calls from Oxmoor House to come down for grand celebrations because of so many of thousands of books that had been sold. He dealt with it after a while, but it was hard at first. KM: What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today? GB: Oh my, I think traveling is difficult. I’ve slowed down my traveling, especially this year. Last year I was out every month and it used to be I would go out twice a month and then the last five years I’ve been going out once a month and even that is a challenge. I think that after 9-11, quiltmakers have had to kind of take a different look on not so much the quilts they are making, but how they are getting their story out? How they are dealing with being a professional? The fact that we have restrictions now in the amount of bags we can take and the amount of pounds we can carry, the fact that we have to ship things ahead of time, that has put a new challenge on our profession. Last year I was able to handle it. I think this year, because I have cut back quite a bit, I’m doing different things in the quilt world. My obligation now is with the [Quilters.] Hall of Fame. I am going to do that for two more years. I’m excited for what is happening there and I want to see that progress so I’m helping out once again this year in July. I’m going to teach a class and I’m excited that Helen Kelly is going to be there. That is going to be a very exciting thing for all of us. I’m changing the direction of my quilt life mainly because, I guess partly because of my age, but partly because we have seven grandchildren now and we live on a wonderful piece of property in North Carolina and I love working outside, so I now, I’m in the middle of a Master Gardener Program with Home Extensions people here in North Carolina, so I’m learning about our property and about the soil and about what grows in North Carolina. I have forty hours of volunteer work that is ahead of me with the program before I graduate. I’m doing some different directions in my life which is kind of fun. I still consider myself a professional quilter, but I’m not doing any more taping. My shows are actually being rerun in a different venue all over the country, so I spend a lot of time on the computer everyday because I get so many questions about my shows that are still airing around the country. They are on a new network called Create TV.com. That is the network, and so I have to quiz people as to what show they are watching because after doing twelve CBS series, I’m not sure what actual show they are looking at. However, I am actually thinking new quilt book. It is time. KM: You talk about your husband and his reaction to your quiltmaking, how about the rest of your family. How has it impacted them? GB: They have all been very proud. I think that they are at an age where they are all so involved with their children right now. They will of course someday wreak the benefits of all my quilts. They will have to deal with them. Some of them I am in the process of selling and moving on, but the quilts that I have made specifically for them, I’m going to let them deal with that someday, but they have been very proud. I guess of our three children, Paul our youngest because he is a video producer and helps me with my website and also helped to produce the documentary, “The Great American Quilt Revival.” [www.quiltrevial.com.] He is the one that is the most involved in my quilt business. I share more with him I think than anyone else. My daughter, because she is a journalist has helped me I think in some of the writing things that I’ve done, but because she is not a seamstress, she doesn’t really understand the actual technique and that sort of thing. I’m going to cultivate these granddaughters. I have four granddaughters and I plan to cultivate them into the next quilt world. [laughs.] KM: Why is quiltmaking important to you? GB: Oh my, because I don’t think I’m any different than any of those people that love quiltmaking, I think we look at fabric and the results of what we do of fabric as an extension of ourselves. I think it is a creative outlet. It’s a tactical thing that we can hold on to. I think it is something in our lives that we have control of. There are so many things that we don’t have control of from the dentist bill to the price of ground beef. That is out of our field, but if you tell us to make a quilt for a reason or just because we bought this beautiful fabric and we know it has be to cut up and put back together into a design. We have control on that from the size to the design to how we make it, whether we hand quilt it or machine quilt it, and I think it is something that we own and that is ours and I guess that is why I think it is so valuable. KM: Tell me about the quilt groups you belong to. GB: Oh my, [laughs.] they are all unique, they are all different. I just met yesterday with a group that we call ourselves “The Cover Lovers.” That group of ladies actually met through one of my community college classes that I was teaching in garment making and we have been together for twenty-seven years. We have lost three of them, but one of them, Francis Gardenia always said that in North Carolina we have called quilts Kivers. They were always called Kivers. I have always laughingly told them that we can’t call our group Kiver Livers, so we will call our group Cover Lovers, so that group is called “The Cover Lovers.” It is truly a self-help group, in other words we have lost three of our members, we still talk about them every once in a while their name will come up, we have gone through divorces, deaths of children, we have gone through everything together. Yesterday I showed them a quilt I’m doing for AQS [American Quilters Society.] that I have to get done in three weeks. [laughs.] So I took that and we quilted together and we are just all very close. Actually where we met yesterday is a lady that has moved into a retirement condominium and we meet at her house now once a month because she can’t leave her husband. We have gone through all of these transformations together and we laugh, I looked at the slides of the group that we have watched our hair color change over the years. [laughs.] So that is one group, then I’m in another group, PTA, that is for Patchwork Talking and Appliqué and you might have heard some of those girls. Linda Cantrell is in that group and Barbara Swinea and Lynne Harrill, Connie Brown and other stimulating professionals. They are movers and shakers, and we have done challenges that have been in AQS. Right now we have an exhibit at the North Carolina Arboretum. Two of the ladies just got accepted for AQS and next Thursday we are driving to Pigeon Forge to look at an exhibit, so it is an invigorating group because they are younger and they are very much into making today’s quilts. They keep very much on top of what is happening. I’m also in three guilds in the area, the Landrum Guild, the Ashville Guild, and the Western North Carolina Quilters Guild. I can’t go to all the meetings because of traveling and other obligations, which is frustrating, but I do keep up with what is happening in the guilds. I think that the guilds are having a hard time across the country right now and I don’t know why exactly, whether it is the size, whether they are going to large, or whether the new people that are being voted in are not listening to what is happening with what the people that have formed the guilds have done, whether they are not including them, I’m not sure what is happening. I don’t know if you find that is true, Karen. KM: I do, I really do. I do think this is just, I personally have not been able to figure out what it is. GB: Right, I haven’t either, but there are things that are happening and I think they are going to have to work a little bit harder on making it come out okay. Things are happening in the guilds. KM: What other changes do you see changing within the quilt world? GB: I guess, one of the biggest things that is happening today is the hand quilting versus machine quilting. I think everyone is talking about it. KM: You have the extension of that, which is longarm quilting. GB: Yes, and the longarm too, so there are the three things, and I don’t–I’d prefer not naming names, but I know that one of the quilts that just got rejected for the upcoming AQS show, one of the comments was I can’t believe this quilt was rejected because I spent so long hand quilting it. In defense of machine quilting, I think it is, it takes longer to hand quilt, but it is equally challenging to machine quilt some of these quilts and now to compete in the machine quilting you have to really go on another level, I mean it is difficult too, so I don’t know why. I sometimes question where it is all going, because it is like, it is making it very different in the quilt world. KM: I think that technology is definitely impacting in a very big way. GB: Yes. KM: In the quilt world. GB: Yes. You have to understand that the people that are making sewing machines, they have put forth all of these opportunities for us and they realize that young people in schools today are very much tech people and so what they are hoping is that this will cross over to sewing machines and so then the new field of people coming out there are challenged to sew and make these things that are going to be awesome and then the people that have done all the hand quilting are saying, ‘well I can’t do that.’ Maybe it has something to do with the people that are crossing over from slide presentations to PowerPoint presentations. That has become challenging in of itself and now even the people that are doing PowerPoint are being challenged cause if they are taking all of their equipment with them and in many cases they can’t take it on board an airplane anymore. They can’t take their batteries anymore. I mean it is like where do we go from here, it is difficult. KM: It is evolving. GB: It is evolving. KM: That is what I keep saying to people, it is evolving. GB: It is evolving; right you have to hang in there with it. The bottom line is that it is still very exciting. I just came from an all day experience in a small community way up in northern North Carolina up near Sparta and Wilkesboro. I just had the most glorious day. I talked for four and a half hours and I took a carload of my quilts and to see those happy faces out there, to hear my story, and I have fun stories that went with all of my quilts and stories that related to my parents and to my mother helping me rip out things that were wrong and. My sweet mother, who has been gone now for three years, she spent a week ripping out the first quilt that we ever put on a longarm quilting machine because, and I can’t remember whether we had the wrong color thread or the wrong pattern, but she ripped it out and when I picked it up from her, she told me, she was serious about this, she said, ‘I think you can give this sort of quilt to anyone that has been locked up in jail on drugs.’ KM: [laughs.] GB: They would never do drugs again. [laughs.] KM: [laughs.] GB: I just loved it. Anyway. KM: Give me timeframe. GB: That was probably five years ago. My mother has been gone three. KM: Okay. GB: Three years, it was about five years ago, and she helped me in so many ways. She was just a good sounding board and oh I miss her so much. She was with it right up to the end and she happened to have a bad fall in her house and broke her collar bone and her shoulder and she gave up. At the end, the last two or three years, she knew it was a struggle to live. She was in a lot of pain, and she was on a lot of pain medicine, but it was a joy to have her close by, it really was, both of my parents. Getting back to my wonderful day in Wellsboro, the day was culminated by a wonderful thing that happened. I had designed a modern teapot quilt for their group. The Sparta Quilt guild pieced this quilt and then had it machine quilted. I had not seen the results and everyone was so excited. I hope this quilt will get some good visual coverage. I hope they will exhibit it in Houston and it will hopefully end up in the museum that they are building up in Sparta, North Carolina. It is a modern quilt and they learned to use my grid grip. I gave them a couple of lessons. They came down here to my studio and then we met in Hickory one day and I gave them lessons on how to use the grid freezer paper and that is how they pieced this quilt, and they said they couldn’t have done it without that, and that was a really exciting thing for me to see the end results of that quilt. KM: Tell me about grid freezer paper. GB: Grid Grip. Years ago, I mean this was a long time ago, I would say probably about 1980, ’82, someone came to one of my classes and said they read in Quilter’s Newsletter that freezer paper with a dry iron will attach to fabric. I said, you have got to be kidding, I mean up until then we had gone from cardboard templates and window templates to plastic templates and I was always frustrated with drawing around a template and I knew there was a way to go a little bit faster in the quilt world. I went over to the hardware side of the store and got a roll of freezer paper. I started working with it and designing on it. It wasn’t very long, a month or so, I realized what I needed to continual quarter inch grid on this freezer paper. I need something printed on this. I contacted James River Corporation up in, I thought this was always pretty clever, Parchment, Michigan. [KM laughs.] Isn’t that cool? KM: Yeah, that is cool. GB: I bugged the president so long, and I would say listen I’ve got an idea for you, you’ve got to do this. He said, ‘Okay I’ve got a private jet. I’m going to fly down.’ He came to our little hardware store and spent a couple of hours with me and I said, here is why, and I showed him why and so they printed a continuous quarter inch grid on rolls of freezer paper and we sold it that way. They would provide it and I would sell it and he would get a little bit of money. I would get a little bit of money and we sold it about two years that way and finally he called me one day and said, ‘Listen this is too much trouble. We are just going to give you the trademark and hand it over to you.’ I said, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to continue doing this?’ I said, ‘You know the nice thing about it is that people still freeze their meat with freezer paper and now they could measure the amount of meat they are freezing.’ [KM laughs.] He didn’t think that was funny. Then we had for about five years, I had to, I had the rights for this, and then Pete and I would continue doing it, but instead of being on rolls we found a web press up in Waynesville, North Carolina where we would have it printed and it was difficult to do. It was not easy. We would have to order these huge rolls of freezer paper and then we would take it up there in a big truck we would rent and we did that for about five years and finally it is no longer done that way. It is done by Prym Dritz Corporation.. So I sell it and still have an interest in it, but Prym Dritz makes continuous freezer paper that has a quarter inch grid on it, so you can design on it. You have a design tool and a template at the same time, and you can, that is what I use and that is what a lot of people use. In fact, I just sold some to a lady up in Canada. Not everyone knows about it, but yet if you talk to people like Ricky Tims and Caryl Bryer Fallert, they are designing their quilts with freezer paper. The reason the grid for me is so good and for teaching is that the grid is synonymous with the grain line of fabric, so if you design a block with Grid Grip and you code it properly, cut it out and then you iron it on fabric, so that you always align the grid, the straight line with the grain line of the fabric so that you never have bias edges on a block or on a design that you are doing and that is the beauty in what you are working with if you have a grid on it. KM: How do you want to be remembered? GB: Oh my, I told my group in Wilkesboro, someone asked me that or I guess it came up in the course of my conversation, and I said I guess I will always be remembered for the full proof knot, it was one of the things I taught on one of the very first shows, my full proof knot for quilting and dog ears. I don’t think anyone has come up with, when you cut off the extension of a triangle, those little things fall off and I have always called them dog ears, but that is kind of in jest, but I think what I would love to be remembered for is probably the comment that people say when they saw me doing patchwork on TV is like, well I can do that, if she can do that, I can do that. I guess that is what I would like to be remembered, that I’m really basically an ordinary quilter that was able to transcribe the fun, the excitement of doing it through a television screen and then many people can say, well I can do that. I guess that is what I would like to be remembered for. You are getting me all very emotional about this Karen. [laughs.] I guess the bottom line is that for many of us quilting is an emotional thing. I guess that is the bottom line. KM: I agree with that. GB: Yes. KM: I do. GB: For what you have done Karen is a wonderful thing. For you to bring that out of so many of us. There is another group that I’m in, it is called The Coffee Clutch group at my store, well I don’t have a store anymore, but I do–I’m in touch, I have a little group, a corner down at–it is called My Quilt Shoppe, and there are a group of us that meet once a month and I’ve turned them onto the Alliance people, they have discovered the Alliance [The Alliance for American Quilts.], the website, and so what you have done is to open up a great window of people that have enjoyed quilting, not only professionally, but other people that have found that world of quilting is just a meaningful part of their lives and we thank you for that. KM: Thank you, it is a meaningful part of my life. It truly is a meaningful part of my life. I think we all have value to the collective. GB: I agree. KM: I don’t have professional people who make a living at this, but we have people who don’t belong to guilds and just make quilts, and I think that is a wonderful thing. GB: I agree. KM: I want to thank you for taking your time to share. I also want to give you the opportunity to turn to Ami and the “Alzheimer’s: Forgetting Piece by Piece” and Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative. Our involvement in this is a tribute to Ami. GB: Yes I agree. That is the way I feel. Half the reason I did this was that Ami would take this step and do this and go so far with it. We were all so impressed that one day it was the collection, then it was getting around the country, then it was the CD, then it was the book. KM: Now it is a nonprofit. GB: Now it is a nonprofit, I mean it is like there is just no end to it. She hasn’t gotten on Oprah yet, but we know she will still be on, that is all there is to it, that is going to be her last step. [laughs.] KM: I think the whole thing is that this is a real tribute to what quiltmaking can do. GB: I agree. KM: Quiltmaking, I think quiltmaking is a changing force and that is what excites me. GB: Right, and even non-quilters who see this exhibit, then they can be turned on to quilting and say, well my goodness look at what that has been done and then they can make a quilt for a cause within their family. It works both ways. KM: It is a win, win for everyone. GB: That is right. KM: Thank you so much for taking your time. GB: You are welcome Karen. The best of luck to you. I hope our paths cross again one of these days. KM: I know they will because I will be at Quilters Hall of Fame again. GB: Okay, we will see you there. KM: Thank…

QSOS with Georgia Bonesteel (10-22-99)

QSOS with Georgia Bonesteel (10-22-99)

Charletta McDougall (CM): This is Charletta McDougall. I am interviewing Georgia Burnsteel [voice of Marcie Ferris corrects Georgia’s last name- “Bonesteel”.] and this is October the 22. All right Georgia, would you tell us what quilt you brought today? Georgia Bonesteel (GB): I have brought a quilt that is entitled “Spinning Spools.” And it’s a quilt that I made for a book that I wrote. And it is also a quilt that I made that I could teach on public television. And it is something that I am particularly fond of because they are some fabrics that were in a collection that had my name on the salvage for Wamsutta and Springs Industry in 1984, many years ago. But it’s a quilt that is indicative of my work because I have taught sampler quilts for a long time in my quilt history. CM: Now could you describe some of the colors? GB: It’s pastel and it’s a light–they’re called “sister fabrics” in that many of them are the same pattern but shaded in different colors of mint green and peach and lavender and yellow. CM: And did you choose those colors because they were–What was your choice? GB: Because they were sitting next to each other in the fabric shop and it was from a collection. I did add some other pastels to go with it but it’s a collection of prints and it’s quite often easy to choose fabric like that because they all go together. CM: And choosing your patterns you have–This is a sampler. Tell me about your choice of patterns. GB: Well, I try to stick with traditional patterns that I felt would not intimidate beginning quilters and I always try to choose something when I feel they can learn from the pattern so that I can teach technique. And there’re nine patches. There’re four patches. There’re quilt blocks made on the diagonal. So for everyone I try to use it as a teaching tool. CM: Why is quilting important in your life? GB: In my life? Because I feel that it is identified what I have learned and what I can share with people as a teacher. I look upon quilting as a–kind of the core of what I do. And it is how I spend a lot of my time every day. I go to bed usually thinking about a quilt. I wake up and after a cup of coffee I just go to my sewing room. I might–I spend a lot of time in my quilt studio. CM: Well– what do you think about the importance of quilts in America? GB: In America? CM: And in the community. GB: In the community. Well my focus of quilting is–I hadn’t–I don’t think I realize the scope of quilting until I am in a group atmosphere such as this one. I run into a lot of people from all over the country that I guess have been affected by the fact that I do public television and so–I’ve had an opportunity through that medium to reach out to a lot of people. And I think that quilting has given people security. It’s given them something to turn to. It’s given them a way to spend their time. They’ve been able to grow in quilting. And it’s become a part of their lives by simply watching someone and saying, ‘Oh, I think I can do that.’ And so then they’ve been able to become a quilt maker. CM: And could you tell us how you got into television? GB: Well, I came about–I told this story yesterday in the bus and it was to a young gal. She really seemed just fascinated. I don’t know how she asked the question but however she asked it; it just got me going. And it was fun to share it with her. She was so enlightened. When we–after our children were all in school we lived in New Orleans [Louisiana.] and I was bored with housekeeping. It seemed like I could get the house cleaned by ten o’clock and there wasn’t anything else to do. My husband was at work all day. And– so I saw an ad in the paper for a department store in downtown New Orleans in the French Quarter that wanted a seamstress who would come in and choose a pattern, pick out fabric and make a garment and then model it in the fashion department. So I did that for about three months and one day I got a phone call to do an audition for a television show. And I did a pilot show and I was chosen out of about twelve ladies to be an assistant in a TV show called “Sewing is Fun” in New Orleans. And I was the one who did all the sewing and this gal said she made all this stuff. [laughter from Georgia and Charletta.] And however, she was a very sharp lady and they ran out of ideas. And finally they said one day, ‘Well, do you have anything you can show?’ They could see I was a seamstress. And I said, ‘Well, as matter of fact, I’ve been making my husband’s neckties and with all the leftovers.’–When you make a tie you cut it on the bias and there is always a triangle leftover. And I said, ‘With the leftover I’ve been making patchwork pillows and it’s a lot of fun. I can show how to do that on TV.’ So I did that. This lady, the star of the show, at the time her son-in-law was president of Countess Mara and Wembley Tie Company. And year’s ago when ties were made and cut out and I imagine still, there are packed layers of raw silk, the most beautiful fabric you have ever seen. So to make a long story short, I ended up with boxes of raw silk tie fabric given to me and this woman said– She was also a very smart businesswoman. ‘Let’s start a business together. You will do the sewing and I will supply the fabric.’ So after many trials and errors, I ended up making quilted handbags that I sold in the French Quarter and the business was called Cajun Quilters. And it was a great little store I had. I only had the store for two weeks because it was right next to Pat O’Brien’s and it was in a bad part of the French Quarter. And sometimes I’d actually have to get help to move bodies to get in my store in the morning. [laughter from Charletta.] So–But it was a fun period in my life. It was during my hippie period. I used to ride a bicycle down the levee of the Mississippi River, take the free ferry over with these handbags on my back in a backpack. I was just kind of–It was my free spirit time. And I would sell these—I actually started supplying boutiques in the French Quarter with my handbags. And they only came to life when I put batting in those layers before they were just patchwork. And so I learned a lot about connecting three layers and the shadows that are formed on the surface of a quilt, which is what really brings it to life. We had to move to North Carolina. I’d burned out making handbags. I just couldn’t make another handbag. I mean I even crocheted the handles. And the handles–I had to dye the polyester cord on my kitchen stove. It was just a mess. So I–when I got to North Carolina, I was made aware of a quilt group at Opportunity House, a place for senior citizens where they quilted quilts. And I had become fascinated with quilt making. So I would go down there a couple times a week and quilt with them at a frame. And I learned to quilt really the right way, the old fashioned way, by sitting with these ladies. And I suspect they took my stitches out after I left [laughter from Charletta.] because they were very particular ladies. They at times asked me if I could make my stitches smaller. And–but anyway, from there I started teaching classes. This was about 1971. I taught classes at our community college. And I’m very proud to say that more people took my quilting class in the adult education program than any other course at that community college. And that record still stands today. So I happened to come upon quilting at a time when it was just right. It was a good time. And people were anxious to do something like I taught and because of making those handbags in small sections I was able to adapt the quilting classes to lap quilting at the community college. We couldn’t–We tried making a quilt on a big frame that I ordered from Sears and Roebuck. It was wobbly. It was–I’m not even sure what ever happened to that frame. We probably chopped it up for firewood. It just never worked. So then we switched gears and I started making quilts in sections and putting them together after they were quilted. So I became known as the lap quilter. One day my mother called and said that she’d seen a knitting show on public television. She said, ‘Wouldn’t it be a good idea if you did a quilting show?’ She said, ‘You’ve had all that experience in New Orleans. You were on TV and you worked with a producer.’ So I wrote to the University of North Carolina Public Television and asked them if they’d be interested. And this was 1976. And our little son was getting ready to go to college and we needed to check out the schools over in the Chapel Hill and Durham area so I drove a car load of quilts and met my producer Bill Hannah and they liked the idea. And it took us a year but in 1978 we produced the first lap quilting series. And it aired in North Carolina first then it went–then it went nationally. And I’ve been doing PBS series every two years since 1979. CM: When did that book that you wrote come out? GB: 1979. Actually my very first booklet was a little paperback booklet called “Lap Quilting Your Legacy Quilt” that sold for five dollars. And we had that little blurb at the end of my first six shows and I’m very proud to say that the sales of those five- dollar books bought a hardware store later on. And my mother and my children helped me collate that little booklet. Half the patterns weren’t even printed right. I mean, now that I go back and measure them they were off a little bit. I mean I drew them by hand. We’re talking primitive. And–but then that book was picked up by Oxmore House, the Southern Living people. And my first hardback book “Lap Quilting,” they got the patterns right and then sold lots of those books. It’s no longer in print. It’s died. It’s had a long life but it’s gone now. CM: What are your immediate plans? GB: My immediate plans? Well I’m going to go home and make an award-winning quilt for next year’s show. That’s what I really want to do. We’ve been involved in business in our community for 20 years and this summer we sold our hardware store. My husband wants to retire. I want to spend more time teaching and being able to work in my studio and not worry about 10 part-time employees. I found that merchandising is very hard and it’s hard to mix the two. It’s hard to mix teaching and merchandising. I find it difficult. And I have a mother who is 87 that I enjoy being with and I spend time with her. So those are my immediate plans. I’m about to have a new grandchild so we just checked on that baby last night. It’s due November the eighth so that’s just two weeks away. And we’re very excited about that. CM: Have you made some baby quilts? GB: I’m making one right now. Yes, I’ve made several baby quilts. In fact, the one that my granddaughter–I have a namesake, a little granddaughter in Atlanta that’s named Georgia. They didn’t tell me that until I got to the hospital when I saw her for the first time. Oh, she makes–I even want to cry just thinking of her. She’s wonderful. And I made her a baby quilt. And she will not let go of it. She absolutely loves it. And I made it-this is sweet too. I made it from shirts that my father wore. He was a lawyer and he was from a farm in Iowa. And he was quite a man. He was–I’m very proud of my father. He won more legal cases for the government than any other lawyer as an anti-trust lawyer. And he was a farm boy but he loved to dress up. And he would buy his shirts from Brooks Brothers. And he had those 100% cotton beautiful shirts and we saved them all. And I still have them. And so I made a quilt for Gigi out of–out of my–her great grandfather’s shirts. And she loves that quilt. She carries it everywhere so yes, I have made quilts for my grandchildren. CM: Well, let me see– Marcie Ferris (MF): May I ask one real quick? CM: [shakes her head.] MF: I just totally forgot what I was going to ask. GB: Something about–did you think about the shirts or my family? MF: No, it was about what was your first quilt memory? CM: Oh, yes. GB: That’s a good question. I did a stupid thing. I can remember as a little girl. I must not have been that little. I must have been 10, 12 years old. And I–we lived in Danville, Illinois at the time. Being a child of a government person we moved around a lot. Whenever a new lawsuit would have to be tried, we would move so I went to 13 schools growing up. And I was born with a lot of energy. And I think I must have driven my mother crazy because I always wanted to do something. And so I can remember Mother giving me hexagons that were already cut out and telling me to sew those together. And I–once I started teaching quilting I found this. I had for some reason I carried this around always. I had this thing that I had made. And it was only about say 24 inches square. For some dumb reason, I cut it up and made a stuffed kitty cat out of it. And I’m so mad I did that because it was really precious. It was all stitched by hand. And that’s my first patchwork memory. Now my quilt memory, as even a younger child I had a grandmother that went to auction sales all the time. She loved auction sales especially in Miami, Florida. And I’d go with her. I’d tag along. She would also take me to the five and dime and buy these preprinted squares that you would do embroidery work. I mean the red work is coming back. But I would do just hickory dickory dock and I’d do butterflies. And I can remember sewing by hand on those, doing embroidery work and thinking wasn’t it smart of someone to invent embroidery thread that changed colors for the butterfly. I’m sure that you have all worked on those. But my grandmother was not a quilter but when I finished those blocks she gave them to some lady and they put them into a baby quilt then I had that baby quilt. It was always a part of–we had it in the family and then I gave that to our first granddaughter that was born, Anna. Those are my earlier memories. And I’ve also got a quilt that was–that came from my husband’s side of the family. It was evidently a baby quilt that belonged to his mother. So I–but those are good questions because I think we have other quilts then what we’ve made that once we have them in our household possessions we know to cherish them and not cut them up and put them into stuffed kitty cats. [Charletta laughs.] CM: Well, what do you think makes a really great quilt? GB: Oh, dear. I don’t know. That’s hard, it’s hard to say what your parameters are whether it is going to be the kind of quilt you want to sleep under, the kind of quilt you want to be on the wall that you want to look at that you would never want to sleep under. I think probably the greatest quilt is the one you finish and that you are happy with. [Charletta laughs.] It has to feel good. It has to have nice colors in it. And sometimes I look at the quilts here at the show, it doesn’t necessarily have to be so intricate and so challenging and something that you could never make but it is just awesome. It has to respond– it has to respond to other senses. I mean, I guess it’s a sense of color, a sense of proportion and balance. And I’m finding even as I look at the quilts around here there are some that are what we call picture quilts that have dogs, cats, or a bird or something on it, a picture quilt. Then there are others that respond to tradition and geometrics and 360 degrees. I mean those that are just more traditional. That’s a hard question. [Georgia laughs.] MF: Can I ask one more, Georgia? How do you think quilting in your life has affected your family or even influenced your family members? GB: Well, in some respects I wish my family responded in a more positive way. Each member of my family responds differently to my quilting. And unfortunately– they like it but they don’t–my own family don’t ask me the kind of questions that my friends and my students do. It’s like oh there she goes again quilting. They don’t–They like it and they accept it but it’s not–They don’t have the passion for quilting that my students and my friends do. I mean I am being very honest with you about that. Even my daughter who you would think would. They all have my books. It’s our youngest son who is more like me that has– that is interested in what I do. He will ask more questions and wants to know like what is my latest quilt but my other children they don’t really say what are you working on now, Mom or let me see your quilt. They never ask. I guess it’s just so much a part of me that they just know I’m on another tangent and they just don’t ask. My mother is very involved in my quilting. And she helps me and she helps me rip out. She helps me do things. And–but I think my family basically knows that it has taken me away from them in some respects and it might be that they resent it a little bit. I sometimes sense that and I’m sorry about that but I think as professional quilters we do the best we can to balance our quilt life with our family life. I hope I have always kept family first but I know that sometimes it’s not always that way. MF: How old were your kids when you started to get really involved in quilting– GB: They were–I was doing patchwork when I lived in New Orleans and they were all in school. I’d say the youngest was 8 and they have all been two years apart so 8, 10 and 12. Now I did not start leaving home or traveling until they were in high school and in college. I didn’t do all the traveling and all of that and so I was basically teaching at home for the community college when they were in their more formative years in junior high and in elementary school. Because we lived in New Orleans–excuse me North Carolina for 30 years so that has really been basically home to them. MF: Did they recognize what you did as an occupation– GB: Oh, I think so– MF: as much as their father? GB: Oh, I think so, yes. Oh, they do and they are very proud of what I have done but they just don’t get all wrapped up in it. They really don’t so it’s Mom’s thing and they are proud of her but that’s it. [Georgia laughs.] CM: Well, this next TV series that you’re going to do will there be a new, something new about that? What are you thinking about doing in that new series? GB: Well, that’s a hard question. I’m working on that right now. I’m not going to write another book for that so I’ll probably use a lot of what I have in this current book. I thought it would be fun to–One–I’m working on ideas. One thing I’m going to do is take something as simple as the alphabet and divide the alphabet up into 13 shows. And staring with “a” for appliqué, I was going to do like four or five letters of the alphabet on each show and have it respond to quilting and have it include notions and everything that’s new in quilting. So as I am going around here I am taking notes and getting some new ideas. I also am– will probably try in a subtle way to teach math in quilting again. It’s– You worry about losing your audience when you teach math on TV in quilting because even though I know how important it is people tend to turn off when I tell them, you know, give them these things. They don’t want to–they don’t want to learn that even though it is the whole key to the doing the geometrics in patchwork so I have to find very clever ways [Georgia laughs.] to teach that. I will also be touring some quilt shops and I’ve been thinking about using, because I’m a grandmother now and I love to read to my children like the Richard Scary books on how things work. I might even open a show with a grandchild and be reading that book because what I would like to do on many of the shows is to show how things are made. We hope to go to Bernina factory in Switzerland and actually see how sewing machines are made. We’re going to a batting factory and we’re going to see how batting is made. And if you have ever read those Richard Scary books–I mean it’s fun. They do that and they go step by step. So I’d like to do a lot of that. I find it interesting to interview quilters and not always the famous ones. I like to interview people that are teaching today mostly on a grass roots level because they’re the ones that are truly passing it on in a very simple way. Some of the professional quilters who have been my mentors I think sometimes might intimidate some of the other beginning quilt makers. So that’s what I am thinking of. I’m working on that. I’ve got it with me with a yellow legal pad trying to get the shows worked out. I have wonderful underwriters in this business that give money and so we need to include them on the shows. And I have certain guidelines and restrictions from National Public Television that I have to abide by when I do these shows so I have to–when we go to the Bernina factory we can’t really make it that well known that we’re at “the” Bernina factory. It has to be “a” sewing machine factory, that kind of thing. CM: Well, what part of quilting do you enjoy the most? GB: Do I enjoy the most? I guess it’s maybe getting the ideas and coming up with the right idea. I like that part and then because there is satisfaction in going forward. And you have to believe in what you are doing because once you get the idea it’s quite a while before the completion gets there. And I–That can be the frustrating part. That’s why people laugh all the time about their works in progress but–but sometimes that happens. You get half way through something and you say it isn’t exactly what I thought it was going to be so you kind of put it on the shelf and you hope that isn’t going to happen. So–but I–I think it is the initial part of getting started that gets me fired up. CM: And when you choose a design then is it difficult to find the material, the actual material for that fabric? I mean for that design? GB: Well, sometimes but there is a wealth of fabric out there. That hasn’t been a real problem, no. As long as they keep making fabric, I don’t think we will have any problem. MF: What are the big challenges that you think you face today or other people in the quilt industry face today? What are the biggest concerns or challenges? GB: Challenges? Well, there are so many as far a– I don’t know if you mean personally or if you mean overall all quilters or either one. MF: Either one. GB: I guess time is the most frustration. We– There is a lot we want to do and it’s that balance, it’s that balancing act that we have to perform of fitting family in appropriate amount of time and seeing friends and trying to lead a normal life but yet setting these goals. That I think–we all laugh about being addicted to quilting but we are. I mean there is no doubt about it most city women that are teaching in this field today are driven. We are driven. And I can’t put a handle on what drives us exactly except we’re sick. [Georgia laughs.] We really are and we have found something that we like. [Charletta clears her throat.] We found something that we can control and now we have to meet the challenges of how to balance it into our lives. And I don’t think I am different than a lot of quilters when that happens. So I guess time management and fitting it all together. Most of the time, I plan my days ahead of time. Before I go to bed I usually write down what I have to do the next day. My top priorities. I have to. And–and in order [Charletta coughs.] to get things done-There’s a lady that I was anxious to meet here and I met her right before my Vegamatic operation [teachers demonstration area.] over here. [Georgia points.] And I said, ‘Jane, I’ve been anxious to meet you but when I look at you all I can think of is I know I’m late with your deadline. I know that I have got to get home and get a quilt made by next Thursday,” because there’s–I mean, a lot of us work on deadlines and got to get it done. So I guess the balancing act is [Charoletta coughs.] what hangs over many of us. MF: What do you do when–to relax? GB: I love to play tennis. [Charletta coughs.] And I love to walk. And I have friends who love to walk so I try to walk. On–In our new house we live on a lake and I have a canoe. And I always thought you needed two people in a canoe and one day I was standing at my kitchen sink and I saw this lady out there all by herself. I said, ‘How stupid of me. Of course I can go out in the canoe by myself.’ So I go out in the canoe a couple times a week and just relax. And I think it’s–I relax when I go to my mother’s. She lives about 25 miles away. She laughs when I go down there I usually take a long nap. And–but she is good company. And– so I go down and spend time and take her out to lunch a couple times a week. And that takes a lot of my time but it’s good quality time. MF: Anything else you have? CM: Well– MF: I’ve got one more. CM: Okay. MF: I’m not quite sure how to phrase this. I was just wondering what you think about the preservation of [Charletta coughs.] the history of quilting and of quilts themselves. The role of museums in this country– GB: Oh that’s a–that’s a– MF: How do you feel about that? GB: I feel strongly about it. I think that your project and what all of you are doing here is very valid. I would be anxious–I would love to hear some of these stories. And I think they’re going to be wonderful. I think that it will give us an idea in hearing some of these stories of the past and the future. I think it would be fun for you to interview some of the mothers of these people that you are doing. I think that would be– you would get some generational things going on and I think that would be very, very interesting to balance their thoughts against our thoughts. And so maybe what you are starting can be handed on to future generations. And maybe my granddaughter Gigi, maybe you can interview her someday and which would be a wonderful thought. So–I’m sorry that there aren’t the monies available for museums around the country. When people use to come to my store and want to get rid of a quilt because they had no one in their family that understood a quilt. And they well, what should I do with this? I’d say give it to the museum in the area where your mother or your grandmother lived. Well they would contact them and then they would come back and they’d say the museum doesn’t have the money to take care of these quilts. And so I guess that it’s too bad that we– that more money isn’t appropriated through our government or who ever to take care of these quilts. And that’s too bad. But maybe it will be someday. I’m also upset with what the Smithsonian did with our quilts. I think–I think what is happening in the quilt world, I don’t know if that has been addressed but the quilts that I see in mail order catalogues for $100. I just– I mean, maybe you need to go save their stories and find out is it true that people are making these quilts in a prison in China. I mean I don’t know. But that has affected our quilt business. It really has and our quilt making. I have laughingly said maybe we need to write a book. Maybe those of us that are quilt teachers need to write a book and copy some of these quilts that are in mail order catalogues as kind of a rebuttal to what they are doing because whoever is picking out the designs is doing a great job. And that’s a whole other ball of wax you could say. MF: Do you have anything you want to add? CM: No. MF: Charletta you got anything you want to add? GB: There is one thing I would like to mention. I know that for me personally. That– about–in 1985, I had some serious surgery. I had an acoustic neuroma brain tumor and at the time I was working on a quilt that meant a lot to me. And I think that working on that quilt in the hospital three days after I came out of intensive care was very meaningful. And I was determined to get that quilt done to enter it into a contest. And I made the deadline. So I think that things like that–that I never thought would be that meaningful to me but at the time was very meaningful. I have a funny story to share with you about that. I have since given that quilt away because we went to Europe about six years ago. Pete had hidden our passports somewhere in the house and we couldn’t find them. Now our plane flight was leaving on a Monday and on a Saturday morning we could not find our passports. So I had to call my U.S. State representative and bribe him and he somehow made all the connections he could and finally he called me in tears Sunday night saying that there was nothing he could do but he worked all weekend trying to find out how he could get Pete and I two passports. That morning my cleaning lady had come to clean the house and she opened a cabinet and found my passports. This was like three hours before we were to get in the plane. I was a nervous wreck. I mean I was–because I knew that would not let me into France without my passport and yet I was going to the Lyon International Quilt event so when I came back I sent that quilt to Congressman Taylor. He had hung it in Washington, D.C. in his office before. He had wanted to borrow it. He’d seen it. I finally just gave it to him. I have good memories with it but you– I know you worked so hard that weekend to try to get us — get our passports even though we didn’t but of course, I had to let him know we found the passports before we left. So that’s a cute story. [Georgia laughs.] Karen Musgrave (KM): Tell me why it is important to you to make an award-winning quilt. GB: Well, I never use to think that was so important. In fact I judge a lot of shows and sometimes it irritates me because I get frustrated at that but I have gotten awards at quilt shows and I feel very puffed up afterwards. I feel very proud. I feel that yes I have been judged against my peers and it becomes a seal of approval. It becomes like well you’re okay. You can go forward. In my mind, even if I get an award I sometimes know I could have done better or I wasn’t that happy with the quilt but it’s a pat in the back and it’s a very sincere one from you peers, from people that have seen a lot of quilts. You know the judge has seen a lot of quilts and she uses all of that–all of that is weighed again and sometimes it’s not just the quilts in that show but all the quilts that she has seen when she judges a show. So and I look forward to making some prize winning quilts. I’d like to but it’s not what I make quilts for. That’s not my–I make quilts to teach and to pass on. And I don’t make quilts to win awards. MF: What did you think you were going to do with your textile degree? GB: Oh, I had no idea. I mean I had good training. It was in merchandising and I worked in Marshall Field and Company. I dressed mannequins. Was the first job I ever had and then I was promoted and I got to write the copy for the live models that modeled at Marshall Field and Company. And that ended up helping me a lot. I learned how to see something and condense it into like three sentences. But no I had–and I guess that is what is interesting about life, you never know what you are going to do next year. And you never know what door is going to open. MF: It sounds so much like all these your experiences in your life were this really interesting journey that one experience built on another– GB: Right. MF: That really allowed you to develop the skills that you ultimately all joined– GB: Right. MF: Together to do exactly what you do today. GB: Well, and sometimes I look back–I can remember going to New Trier High being scared to death especially in the public speaking class and in the English class. I was always scared to get up in front and talk to anyone especially if there was a boy in the room that I liked. I know I thought how could I stand up in front of Lori Stetson and give that book report. And I can remember standing up being so embarrassed when I was suppose to say, “The author of this book is” and instead I said, ‘The book of this author is.’ I mean just– you can remember being devastated, that you could have just fallen into the floor. And then to think years later here I am standing here up at the Vegamatic talking to all these people and I think it is the security of learning a craft and being able to feel secure in what you do. That you can easily talk about it. I mean if I had to talk about you know, the rain trees in South Africa or something else that I didn’t know anything about I couldn’t but when you require a skill and you’re sure of yourself in what you do then you can easily talk about it. So I feel very fortunate to do that–haven’t you learned enough about me by now? [Georgia laughs.] Are you sick of me by now? [Georgia laughs.] MF: I think we should let you close. GB: [Georgia laughs.] Do you have anything else Charletta that you want to ask? CM: Well, I, I want to say that I have that little book. [Georgia laughs.] [Charletta is referring to Georgia’s first published booklet.] GB: Oh, you do? Don’t measure the templates please. [Georgia laughs.] I’ll send you a new copy, okay? CM: I just thought–And I treasure it and this is such an honor for me. GB: Oh, you’re sweet. I appreciate that. CM: I– This is an honor for them to have such a–you know–such a wonderful quilter– GB: Well, you know I’m one of many you realize that–I am one of many that love quilts. CM: It is sort of like, you know, there before us on television. GB: Oh, I know, I realize that. Where are you from? Where is your home? CM: I’m from Houston. GB: Oh, are you? CM: Yes. GB: Okay. Are you in the Houston guild and– CM: Yes, I am. And for many a Saturday morning, I got to set up and watch your program. I enjoyed it so. GB: Well, I couldn’t do it if I couldn’t count on you all being out there. That is truly [announcement made by Quilt Festival organizers over the auditorium loud speaker] the only way someone can do something like that. [Tape…

QSOS with Georgia Bonesteel (10-21-99)

QSOS with Georgia Bonesteel (10-21-99)

Note: This was a demonstration interview that occurred at a training given at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Karen Musgrave (KM): My name is Karen Musgrave and today’s date in October 21, 1999 at 2:30. I am conducting an interview with Georgia Bonesteel for the Quilters’ S.O.S. – Save Our Stories project in Houston, Texas. Georgia, what do you have in this bag that’s sitting here? Georgia Bonesteel (GB): Well, I have brought a sampler quilt, which is probably one of my favorites. It’s one that –an earlier quilt that I did but one that I still tend to hold on to as indicative, I guess, of my work. I seem to spend a lot of my classes working with people who perhaps have never sewn before and are just getting ready to make a quilt or have a sewing background and maybe want to learn patchwork so this is a sampler quilt. KM: And when did you make this? GB: I would have to look at the corner to actually date it. I believe it is dated. Let’s see if we can find a corner that– KM: Sure. [both look at the corners of the quilt.] GB: Let’s see. 1984. KM: Wonderful. So when did you start quilting? GB: I started quilting when I lived in New Orleans, [Louisiana.] which was about 1971. As a little girl I did patchwork. I am one of these people that have been fortunate to be born with a lot of energy and I think that was a way for my mother to keep me out of her hair basically so I was given– I can remember as a little girl being given hexagons and sat in a corner with a needle and thread and was told to sew them together. I still have that piece. KM: Oh, how wonderful. So quilting was in your family? GB: Not particularly. No. My mother was a seamstress and in fact recently–my mother’s still alive. She’s 87. And if I have an opportunity to take her with me on an event I do and I did do that about two years ago and in route I asked her or I think maybe in public I commented that I learned to sew from my mother watching her at the sewing machine. And it was her love of sewing that I think really got me going and she interrupted me. She said, ‘Well, I’ve got to set the story straight.’ She said, ‘You might have learned to sew from me, you might think that I loved to sew but I sewed because I had to and I’ve never really liked it at all.’ [laughter from the audience.] And I mean she is very candid and she said you’ve got to realize that mothers of my generation needed to sew in order–they didn’t have a lot of money and they needed–she needed to make garments for my sister and myself. And, but my mother was very keen. She could look at a chair and upholster it or do a slipcover for it. She went to college and was an art major for two years before she met my father and then did not continue her education but she’s also very good at mathematics so I think that’s really basically, I inherited those genes for going on even if she did not like it. KM: So what part of quilting don’t you like? GB: Oh, well I can’t think of anything I don’t like about quilting. KM: Oh, how wonderful. GB: No, no. I like every phase of quilting. I sometimes wish it would get done in a hurry. I get anxious. I want to move on but we’ve got the sewing machine for that so, no problem. KM: Cool. What do you think makes a great quilt? GB: Oh, I haven’t gotten a chance to walk through the “100 Best Quilts” [special exhibit at International Quilt Festival called The Twentieth Century’s Best American Quilts.] yet. I helped in picking those out. And one reason I brought this sampler, I know that the people that chose the quilts know that one of my regrets in that selection and it’s not–it’s not that my quilt didn’t get in but I really feel bad that a sampler as such did not get in because I feel it is the core of what has been taught for the last 20 years in this country and if you go to a quilt shop that’s where a lot of teachers begin and it is where a lot of people get there impetus to go further. And so they allowed those of us that interviewed and wrote up some of the descriptions of the quilts to select our favorite quilt and it is interesting to note that I found a–I went through all the sampler quilts that I had seen and there was a favorite that I showed two series ago. And it was up in Lancaster, [Pennsylvania.], in that area, and I got hold of the lady who owned that quilt and it was interesting and all of you might be interested to know because I raved so much about the quilt and said how special I thought the quilt was, in her mind she thinks she’s got the best quilt that has ever been made and she would not let it leave the house. [laughter from the audience.] So sometimes you can overrate a quilt. [more laughter from the audience.] Finally I ended up saying it’s just a nice sampler, you know. But that’s basically what happened so I had to–and I just loved that sampler quilt and we couldn’t use it then so I had to take other suggestions. And I do–I believe there is a sampler quilt that is from Donna Wilder’s collection. And I just felt a sampler quilt should be in that “100 Best.” And so–and I’m still drawn to sampler quilts. If I go to a quilt show I think people have become very ingenious on how to set them in a quilt and they are not always what I call the plunk system anymore. It’s not plunk, plunk, plunk. [demonstrating: shows with her hands imaginary blocks set left to right three times.] They have become creative and so I’m always seeking those out. KM: So why is quilting so important in your life? GB: Quilting in my life? My goodness it’s my livelihood. Oh, I could name many reasons. I think for me personally quilting has identified my–I feel I am identified because I am a quilter. I feel that I have proven to my husband that it is not ‘just what are you doing with that needle and thread.’ And that is kind of the attitude that I think, at first, he had. Why are you doing that all the time? And then when I got my first royalty check and I’m being very honest with you and I think those people that are professionals would agree it’s too bad we have to evaluate that with a check–but it’s the truth. In fact it is interesting, maybe this is a private story I shouldn’t tell but I’m going to tell it anyway. I asked last night–I’ve become identified with Karey Bresenhan and with Nancy [O’Bryant.] and I just happened to mention to one of her friend’s last night I said, ‘Well do Karey and Nancy’s husbands ever come to these events?’ And they said, ‘Well, not regularly but Maurice, I guess is Karey’s husband, does come the last day and he will bring a video camera because now he is very proud of how far she has come but it wasn’t that way at the beginning.’ So I think that quilting in today’s life for those people who pursue it and find enrichment for it have been able to make a name for themselves whether it is monetarily or that– I mean all of us have seen full grown women cry in front of a ribbon whether they won it or whether they didn’t. And I think- [laughter from the audience..] shucks, she won it and I didn’t. [more laughter from the audience..] But I think that I’d like to say that the end result is what we are really after but there is a lot more in the threads then that. And I think when we stop and think about the element that we are all given that it is so cherished that everyone one of us have and it’s time and that is what takes so long in making a quilt. I look at any quilt and it’s time that has got to be the cherished part of what we do, the time that’s spent. KM: So how many quilts have you made? GB: Oh, I’ve never counted all of them. I have them in various places in my home. I’ve only sold about three. And most of them will be just handed down to my family. I’ve made many. I’ve made many. And I need to really–here I am telling someone in preservation that I don’t how many quilts I have made but it’s a lot. KM: Have you documented them? Have you– GB: Well, they are pretty much documented in my books so they are already self-documented. They are book documented. KM: Okay. How do you think quilts can be preserved for the future? GB: Well, I’m sometimes very frustrated because we work in a medium that does not last. I go to folk schools and I see blacksmiths. I see silversmiths. I see people that are working in a medium that is very lasting. We work in a medium that does not last and all of us that have seen old quilts know what happens–know the life span of a quilt. And I think better education certainly is a part of it. And making families realize the value. Being a quilt shop owner, excuse me a past quilt shop owner, I would say at least twice a week people would come in. And I live in an area where there are a lot of retirement people and people that are forced into taking care of what’s left in their family and many of them disregard these quilts. They know they are kind of valuable but many times they’ll say–but the first thing I’ll say is ‘but aren’t you going to give this to someone in your family? Don’t you want to document this for a reason to pass it on down?’ ‘No, I have no one to leave it to,’ they’ll say. And so in many instances quilts are lost souls because people don’t have any place to leave them. My first instinct is to say, ‘Well why don’t you present it to the museum in the area where your grandmother lived.’ Well, museums today are too filled with quilts. I mean if they don’t have the ways and the means to store those quilts, that is a problem. But I think that education and knowing that all of the things you all I’m sure have gone into, the no plastic sacks, not against wood and everything. And I certainly done my part, at least I try to when on public television to talk about that. KM: What do you think quilting will be in the future? GB: Well, from the looks of Houston today I think that it has a very positive future. I–I’m not sure; I think that in many regards–“a” I know it is going to go on. I know that we have created–I’ve also said here–felt recently that we have created many chiefs and not enough Indians. That we have as teachers have done an excellent job of passing this art and this craft onto people to the point that many people will say, well if she can do that and write a book, I can do that and write a book. So we’ve got a lot of people writing books, a wonderful array of fabric being printed. And what we need now are more Indians. And–but I think definitely, it will– quilting has a future. There is no doubt about it. And when you see what is happening with fabrics today and with the notions that are being made and the books being written—we just need the hands out there. And I think that where we need to reach the people are the young people before rock music, make up and boys. [laughter from the audience.] So that’s from the age of 4 to 12. That’s where we need to reach people. Then let them go through that phase in their life and then let them come back after in their late thirties or forties. That’s what we need to do. [laughs.] That’s my solution. [laughs.] KM: Let’s go back to the quilt. GB: Oh, okay. KM: How do you use this quilt? GB: Well it is folded up right now on a shelf with many other quilts. I do have quilts on all of my beds. And I sleep under quilts. I know many quiltmakers who don’t sleep under quilts. But this quilt is sentimental to me. It was on a cover of a book. [banging noise.] I use it for a quilt show if I take it and exhibit some of my works. I would show it as an example of say six different samplers that I have made. And–I like the balance of stitches in this quilt. I happen to like the colors in this quilt. And it’s just a favorite quilt of mine. It’s certainly not my most recent one–1984 so. KM: Right. It’s wonderful. GB: Thank you. KM: It’s very wonderful. Who’s influenced you with your quilting? GB: Who’s influenced me? Well when I first began quilting I didn’t really have anyone to influence me. I had an education from Iowa State in textiles. I was a home sewer. I knew how to make garments for my children. And I was approached because I was a seamstress in New Orleans [Louisiana.] and when I started doing patchwork the only thing I knew how to do was to go buy a little paper pamphlet and study that. And then when I first started teaching at our community college I simply learned to quilt by sitting with some senior citizens at the Opportunity House in Hendersonville. [North Carolina.] And I watched them and I observed them. And I’m certain they took out my stitches when I left everyday. [laughter from the audience.] One lady even had the nerve to ask me to make smaller stitches. They were at a large frame. And I didn’t quite understand what they were doing but I can honestly say that I feel that I learned from my mistakes. I tried. The first class I tried to teach I thought I was very naive I thought everyone would come. There were like twelve ladies in the class. I thought everyone would leave with a finished quilt because we had this big quilt frame and we would put it on and we would quilt everyone’s quilt every time. I thought I’d seen pictures that that’s what people did. I thought that’s what they did. Well it didn’t work out that way. So I had to change my approach and that is when I started working in smaller more manageable sections to do my quilting. KM: So is that how you came up with your idea? GB: Basically, I am associated with lap quilting. At the first all my lap quilted quilts were made in sections, which we then put together later on. I now do lap quilting by making a whole pieced top and a lot of things are quilted in a hoop in my lap and I still call that lap quilting. So I guess I’m always thought of and I’m happy being what is known as the technique person in quilting. I love for people to come to me and for me to solve their problem in quilting. It’s like maybe I’m doctor quilter. [laughs.] I like that idea. I want to make this, show me how I can do this. And then that pleases me to have people have a solution and that knowing they can go forward. KM: Do you miss teaching in a small environment? GB: Oh, I do that. I just taught. I just ended a class just recently just a week ago. I had ten people at our community college. So–we had a major milestone this summer. After being in business for 20 years, we closed a quilt shop and hardware store. And– I hadn’t realized what an emotional thing that would be. Not so much for my husband but for me. [laughs.] KM: So what did you like about owning a quilt shop? GB: Well, I liked the fabric that came in every week. [laughter from the audience.] I paid myself in one yard of fabric off of each bolt. [more laughter from the audience.] I never received a paycheck. I never, never once had a paycheck but it was okay I got that one-yard of fabric. And I liked the contact with people. I would try to get, if I were in town, I would try to get down to the store every day and I liked the quilters; seeing them; being able to help. We had ten part-time people and I think when you have a shop you do a lot of handholding. You help people out a lot. You assist. And I still have a small area in Hendersonville. I’m still in business. KM: So how did the quilt shop/hardware store work? [laughter from audience.] GB: Well, it was just a big open store. Just a–I mean,–it wasn’t anything real glamorous but it was just a big building. And–Pete had one side and I had one side. He wasn’t allowed to come on our side, of course. [laughter from the audience.] Kind of like sisters growing up in the same room type thing but it worked fine. It really did. KM: The men were happy I would assume. GB: Yes. Yes. Well they grew to understand that they had to bring sewing machines in and take them upstairs for classes. Yes we made them understand. [laughter from the audience.] KM: I can certain see that. Let’s see what else was I going to ask you? What do you think makes a great quilter? GB: A great quilter? KM: Yes, a great quilter? GB: Well, I guess it is probably the one asset all of us want in anything we do that would be enthusiasm for what you do and the love of what you do. Knowing that you’re content and happy and thinking up a design and– I think one thing that’s so fascinating about quilting is that there are so many phases to it. And you have to think up what you’re going to do or you have to make that decision number one. You have to decide on color. You have to decide on how you’re going to do something and then you have to actually do it. And I sometimes think that the reason that quilting goes on and on is that we never really quite get it right. We get a quilt all done and we’ll say why didn’t I put more yellow over here. Or why didn’t I do this. So we keep making quilts until we get it right, maybe. Until we get that perfect quilt. And I would imagine even those “100 Best Quilts” if you went in front and talked to Flavin [Glover, maker of the quilt “Row Houses”] or any of the ladies and said, ‘Is this your perfect quilt?’ They would say, ‘Well, if I umm, if I had just done that.’ So she’s going to make another one. KM: So what is your perfect quilt? GB: Oh, I haven’t made it either, no. But after that awards presentation the other night I– In fact, I hope that everyone that went to that said well they’re all fantastic but maybe I could do one. So without our store and that obligation anymore that’s one thing I would like to do, to be to see if I could make an award-winning quilt. So that–We all have our own little drives that we want to try and do. KM: Will it be a sampler quilt? GB: No, I don’t think so. No, no, I doubt it. It might be a good idea though. It might be a good idea. KM: Wouldn’t that be interesting? Do any of your children quilt? GB: No. No, they don’t. I have two sons and a daughter. My daughter unfortunately used scotch tape to hem her skirts in college. [laughter from the audience.] I’m ashamed to tell you that and pass that along. [laughter from the audience.] She can’t even sew a button on. I mean it’s bad. [laughter from the audience.] But she’s a journalist and she has other attributes. She’s a great gal but she just can’t sew. But I do have three granddaughters and there is good hope for them. Anna, our granddaughter, has–Last time she visited spent an hour and a half sitting on my lap in front of the sewing machine. And I told my son, her father, I said great attention span and I think there is good hope for Anna. KM: How old is Anna? GB: Anna, she’ll be four in just about another week. And then Claire, her sister, is too young. Then I have another grandson and another granddaughter in Atlanta. [Georgia.] So I have three good possibilities. Then we have two sons. And our son, Paul, our youngest, is a video producer. And he helps me with my public television and does some of that work. KM: So what are the challenges of being on TV? GB: Well, many. Many. The–my biggest desire is to try to present new and inspiring things for people to learn from so they can go forward. Something new and different. And that means being in touch with what is going on in the quilt world and try to inspire people. I think the one thing I like to do is to make people realize that it’s easy. That it can be done. If I can do it, they can do it. That’s my goal. KM: What are your plans for the future for TV? GB: Well, I’m working on my eleventh PBS series and I start taping in Switzerland and Germany next April. And I’m fortunate enough to be one of the teachers going over to Strasbourg. And I just met with Mr. [Hanspeter.] Ueltschi, who is the president of Bernina, which was quite an honor. And he welcomed me to bring the TV crew to Switzerland and we will take a 15-minute tour. That’s pretty quick but we will go through the plant and see how sewing machines are made. And see how they drop those chips in those little compartments or whatever they do. So I think, just thinking ahead, planning is something that keeps me very busy. KM: Do you have any other plans for anything else? GB: Well, no just– KM: Any more books? GB: Well, no, not for a while. I’m working on part of a new book. I just finished an article for one of the national magazines. All that takes a lot of work, a lot of paperwork, a lot of editing, a lot of getting samples ready. And one thing that I think for anyone who is a quilter is it takes time. We go back to that old thing. It takes time. It does not happen overnight. Pretty quilts take time. KM: I lost my train of thought. GB: Oh, well, it will come. KM: Well, thank you. I hope so. [GB laughs.] What are other quilts that are favorites of yours that you have? GB: Well, I think in talking to teachers, I think you will find at least for myself, we all have our specialties and our techniques that we work on. This morning I taught a class with a product that I am proud to have invented. It is something that has been a solution for me in doing the technique part of my work. And it is nothing more than having a continuous ¼ inch grid printed on freezer paper. And so we produced that and it allows me to skip over plastic templates. It allows me to go directly to a graph pad and design on something and code it in a certain way and then cut it out, press it on fabric, add seam allowances and sew it together. So this morning, I taught how you can use that in your quilt making. KM: So how long did it take to– GB: Well, they finished. KM: From creation to– GB: For what they did? KM: For what you did? How did you come up with it and get it out into the world? GB: Oh, well that took quite a while and that’s a long story. [laughs.] I came up with the idea when someone walked in a room and said, ‘Have you read in Quilter’s Newsletter [Magazine.] that if you take freezer paper you can iron it on cloth?’ And I said, ‘What?’ And they had read it, that freezer paper would adhere to cloth with a dry iron. And it’s not just once, you peel it off and you press it again and it will stay fifty times. And at the time I had taken a class from a quilt maker from England, Pauline Burbidge, who is a very contemporary quilter who I truly admire. And in this class, she taught a technique that I ended up calling, I don’t know what she called it, strip picture piecing. Where you can put designs together rather than appliqué, they are put together in long strips that can be horizontal; they can be rectangle or diagonal. And I call it interrupted rectangles where the designs come together and you can even get the curve of a moon or the shape of a fiddle or guitar because in between these pieced rectangles are straight lines that come and meet each other. And–but my frustration was I didn’t want to make a plastic template for each one of those silly little templates so when I heard that freezer paper would adhere to cloth I said why don’t I just put the design on freezer paper. And then I tried drawing a straight line across 18 inches and by the time I got to the other side it wasn’t straight anymore. I said what I want is a continuous grid on there. And so I contacted the president of James River Corporation who makes all this freezer paper. And I hounded him. I called him so much that he was very frustrated. At one point he said, ‘I’ve never been to the Blue Ridge Mountains. I will come down.’ And so he flew down from Michigan. And came–actually the day he came I had a class going on. And he came to our hardware store and to my class and I showed him why we needed this paper gridded. So for about five years, he–they produced this paper and I would buy it from him and then I would resell it. And one day he called and said, ‘We just are not in the craft industry. We do not know how to market this.’ As much as I had teased him and said, yes, but ladies could always buy it and then freeze their meat and they would know how much meat they were freezing. They’d know the size of their meat. [laughter from audience.] But that still did not convince him. He didn’t think that was very funny. And so they passed on the copyright and the trademark to me then I had to figure out how to print it. So we have it printed on a web press and it’s a very tense day when I have that done. It happens so fast [snaps her fingers.] and if the grid isn’t right we have to stop the press and I have five men looking at me saying, “Why does that woman care if it’s not a perfect quarter inch?” And they are looking at their watch and I’m saying it has to be perfect. And so then we start again. It means dealing with my husband, which is sometimes not that easy to do. So– [laughter from the audience.] so I’m not alone in that I think many quilters have come up with an idea and they have just had to stick with it and come up with an invention of some sort. So that is one of the classes that I teach and then there are some other classes that relate to specific quilts. On Saturday I am teaching a class on mountains that has to do with using the 30 and 60-degree angle on the ruler. And that’s a measurement that is sometimes–we all know 45 and 90 but we don’t deal too well with 30 and 60 so that’s a good experience. And–I think I will be offering more classes in machine quilting. I think that’s become very popular. And ladies have gotten to the point they are dropping the feed dogs on their machines quilting so now they are just what I call stippling the stew out of everything but they are not really understanding where to stipple and how to stipple to make it to their advantage. So–Most quilters today have developed specialties is what’s happened. KM: Did you make your vest? GB: Yes. KM: So you make wearables? GB: I do. [banging noise.] Yes, I do. I have a closet full of wearables as most of us do. Some we would not be seen in anymore. The kind of tacky ones. Our bodies change and styles change you understand. So lots happen, there. KM: Do you like to make what kind of wearables? Vests? GB: Mostly vests. KM: And why do you like to make vests? GB: It’s just a fun statement. It’s something you have to wear. You really only wear them with your quilting friends. You wouldn’t wear them out in public with other people. [laughter from audience.] They just wouldn’t get it, you know. [laughs.] You wear them to the guild meeting and to your quilters and to Houston. But we all have friends that don’t quite get. They don’t understand our quilting phenomenon and as much as you try to get them to cross over, they–they just don’t get it. I mean I have some tennis-playing friends. I do enjoy playing tennis. They don’t get it. To them it is another world that I am in. And so maybe we are happy with our little world that we are in. And–it’s just the way it is. KM: It’s getting bigger. GB: It is getting bigger. Maybe they will join one of these days. Yes. KM: That is true. What would you like your legacy to be? GB: My legacy? KM: Legacy. GB: I worked hard. [laughs.] Oh, I haven’t ever really thought of that. I think that I was a quilt teacher probably. KM: Did you like being president of I.Q.A.? [International Quilt Association.] GB: It was challenging. It’s an organization that basically meets once a year and so when you are on the board of this association it’s hard because you only meet once a year and you play a lot of catch up. And I did establish a rule yesterday that you cannot be a board member unless you have e-mail. [laughter from the audience and GB.] Because that has allowed us to have much more frequent interaction with quilt makers. In fact this morning, my class of 25, I asked how many did not have– were not online. Three people out of 25 raised their hand that they were not online. Now that is an amazing–and I think within just a year that’s really changed. And so I turned to the other three and I said, ‘Are you?’ And they said, ‘Um.’ By the time they leave Houston they will probably think that they better get online. KM: So how long have you been online? GB: Oh, just since July. [laughter from the audience and Georgia.] Well, it’s taken me a long time. It’s not easy. I have my own web site and our son has helped us with that. He’s in communications but he has–The other big thing going is to be a web master. There are lots of web masters out there and they’re doing very well. The younger set that know how to do all that. And I just before I left–on part of my web site–I’m having a step by step so that every two months I will have a lesson plan on there that you can download a pattern. And I tried it before I left and it was most exciting. And, I have a little quilt store on there. Just a few things. KM: So what other plans do you have for your webpage? GB: Well, just keeping updated with the lesson plan will be enough. And I put my travel itinerary on there. And probably write up a little message about being here in Houston and things I did and people I saw. That sort of thing. KM: Do you do anything else on the web? Do you surf on the web? GB: No, I’m kind of scared of the web actually. I’ve surfed a little bit. I wrote a nice message about Doreen Speckmann dying. I felt very strongly about Doreen. She’s been a friend for a long time. And I check out other people’s web sites. I find frustration with it too because I knew all along that it would take away from time at the sewing machine and it has done that. And I find that I’m on the web at 4:30 or 5 in the morning or late at night, at weird hours, but it’s the only time that I can find time to do it. So it’s another mechanical device that we’re going have to learn how to appropriate time. Definitely. KM: Is there anything else you would like to add? GB: No. I think you have done very well. I do a lot of interviews myself and I–our son, Paul, graduated in communications from NC [North Carolina.] State. And one time I said, ‘Paul, I watch certain people and they do such a good job. I said what’s–do you have any keys? Was there anything in a book that told you how to do this well?’ He said, ‘Well, the secret to be good at interviewing is knowing all the answers before you ask the questions.’ [laughs.] I asked, ‘How are you going to do that?’ It does take a lot of research and I know Karen tried to meet me at some point before I came and with our busy schedules we hadn’t been able to. So–but–I thank you for this time and I commend you for this and I know how much fun it is to listen to other people’s stories and I think this will be a worthwhile project. KM: Terrific. Well, I would like to thank Georgia Bonesteel for allowing me to interview her today as part of the Quilters’ S.O.S. – Save Our Stories project in Houston. And our interview concluded at 3:05. [slumps down into her…

QSOS with Carolyn Crump

QSOS with Carolyn Crump

  Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave and I’m conducting a Quilters’ S.O.S. – Save Our Stories interview with Carolyn Crump. Carolyn is in Houston, Texas and I’m in Naperville, Illinois so we are conducting this interview over the telephone. Today’s date is January 27, 2009. It is now 9:07 in the morning. Carolyn thank you so much for taking time out of your day to do this interview with me. Carolyn Crump (CC): Thank you so much. KM: You are welcome so much. Please tell me about your quilt “From Vision to Victory.” CC: My quilt was designed for the people that touched my life growing up. As I moved from Detroit to Atlanta to Houston, the people that I have in the quilt are the people that reached me. When I was growing up and I could see what the Civil Rights Movement was trying to do, just the people that touched my life on television or when I watched them in a march. That is why I used forty-eight people that touch my life. I knew there were thousands of people that touch people’s lives or made a different in the movement but these are people that I knew about. KM: How did you go about constructing the quilt? CC: First of all, it was supposed to be that you could work any size you wanted. [CC was one of the 44 artists invited to participate in the exhibit “Quilts for Obama: An Exhibit Celebration of our 44th President” at the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. from January 11 to July 30, 2009.] As I started about a week later, they called and told us that it couldn’t be any larger than 36 inches so I had to restart my process. I still was able to keep some of the heads larger than the other ones since I couldn’t put everybody large and stay within the 36 inches. I wanted them to look like a sculpture and that President Obama was sitting on this statue and just looking into space thinking about all the people that had paved the way for him in stone. This is the first quilt that I have ever painted on. President Obama part of the quilt, was totally appliquéd, but the stone part of the quilt I wanted to look like it was chiseled so I went with painting on the fabric and then quilting the painted faces, but the sky and the grass was totally appliquéd and quilted, but the stone part of it and the White House behind him were painted. I thought it would be easier that way because of the people, some of the people were no larger than an inch tall, little sculptures and it actually was even harder because it was so tiny and to make it look like the person and it took longer for me to try to make it look like it was chiseled in stone with fabric and paint to go back into it and then quilt it. I used the appliqué process on some of the quilt and I used paint and thread on the other part of the quilt. KM: Was it hand or machine appliqué? CC: It was machine appliquéd and then it was put together by hand. When I quilt every part of the quilt is like a little quilt. Each one of those people on the quilt is small little quilts that I connect them by hand. But each part is a stand alone quilt and then put together at the end so you have hundreds of little pieces that make one big quilt. The Obama character, the legs are separate. The arms are separate. The head and the flag, the little sheets of paper and the hand, everything was separate and then put back together to give it more of a 3-D effect. KM: What size were you originally going to make the quilt? CC: It probably would have been about 60 inches across or more and probably 60 inches in height. As I think about it, I really wanted it large so probably it would have been 120 inches long because the six heads at the top of the quilt, that is the size every head would have been and it was almost forty different people on the quilt and then I wanted the bus coming out the quilt for Rosa Parks, which I couldn’t do it that small so I just put her in the quilt, and like with the buffalo soldiers, I put the horse there with him but I actually wanted the buffalo soldiers, horse to be 3-D, I wanted the Tuskegee Airmen, plane to be coming out, I just wanted it to really be a 3-D quilt. Larger I could have made it like that but trying to keep it 36 [inches.] by 36 [inches.] it was almost impossible to do it in the time span we had to make the quilt. KM: Do you plan to make it again and make it larger? CC: Yes I am. I have already started the quilt I have all these faces sketched out. Everybody, the heads and the bus, each little sculpture I had already sketched it out and since I have the sketches already I might as well go ahead and produce the larger quilt it would be totally different than this one. KM: What are your plans for this quilt? CC: It is something I want to pass on to my girls. I’ve started a collection of quilts and I wanted to do this large one and keep it for my girls. I have three daughters [Ashley, Allison and Andrea.] and I want them to have a part of history. I’m actually going to break it up in three parts, the middle part of the quilt will be like the quilt at the museum but it will be all the large heads, it would be with the White House the same size, that will be the middle and then to the right and to the left will be the background and the sky and just the heads and the bottom of the sculpture and the rocks and the grass but I want to do it in three parts and I will give each one of my daughters a part of the quilt. KM: If someone looked at this quilt would they say, ‘Oh yes, Carolyn Crump made this?’ Is this typical of your style? CC: Yes, the background of this quilt and President Obama is my usual technique, but this is the first time, like I said before, that I’ve ever painted on a quilt and if a painter or a collector that collects my paintings they would know it is my quilt but a lot of quilters, they didn’t realize that I started out as an artist. I’m an illustrator my trade and I started painting when I was eight years old. It depends, if you collected my art, you would know that this could have been my quilt but most quilters or people that collect quilts, they wouldn’t have known. I think some people would have figure it out or would think I collaborated with another artist. KM: Do you plan to paint on quilts some more? CC: Yes, because I really enjoyed it. I really enjoyed the process. I just started another technique that it combines my painting, my appliquéing that I appliquéd on top of sheer fabric and under the sheer fabric at the same time that it makes a smooth transitions and it is just something that fell into place and I was like this really is going to look nice and make a great quilt. I was really excited about that. That it is something new and I want to teach people the technique and how to use it because it is really kind of different than anything I’ve ever seen before and I have never tried before and like I said it was just something that just happened. KM: Tell me more about the exhibit. CC: The exhibit, it was so beautiful the day that I arrived and I had a chance to see the different quilts and there were so many people in the exhibit and they were just loving the quilts. I think quilters quilt from the heart. I’ve always been around painters and I’ve been around quilters lately but I think quilters they quilt from the heart. I could tell from this exhibit, it was people quilting from their heart. They just poured out their feelings and what they felt in the moment for the president and history. It was just touching. People were coming up to you and thanking you for giving them a chance to see your quilt and that was the first time that anybody ever said anything like that to me. It just touched my heart, but I think that show was one of the first shows that I could really feel people quilting from the heart and they wanted people to see their work and were hoping that the president one day would get a chance to see these quilts. I think it was a heart touching exhibit. I think, the show, the movement of the struggle for years that we have a chance. What I liked about the exhibit that it was people of all races had a chance to quilt, they all had a chance to show their quilts and I thought that was fascinating also. KM: Do you have any favorites? CC: I liked Linda Gray’s quilt. I liked Dr. [Carolyn.] Mazloomi’s quilt. Dr. [Marlene O’Bryant.] Seabrook’s quilt. I liked all the quilts to be honest. Andréa Cruz, I loved her quilt. I loved all the quilts to be honest. The ones from Hawaii and Africa. I’m a lover of art. I love all art. It doesn’t matter to me who made it, if it is abstract or if it’s realistic or if it’s figurative. I just love art. I’ve always loved art from like I said from the age of eight it is just something I love. I was actually kind of scared to try quilting. I’m a fifth generation of quilters and when you come from a long line of people and this is what they do and they are great at it you don’t want to jump in and be the only one that can’t do it the correct way. I finally tried it. I started quilting doing Hurricane Rita [September 2005.] when it was suppose to hit Houston and that was the first time I start to quilt. They said, ‘The power was going to off.’ So I just started quilting and when it was over I had finished the quilt. It from my heart. In this exhibit, I felt the people’s quilt in my heart. Everybody’s quilt–I just loved everybody’s work. KM: What does your family think of your quiltmaking? CC: They’re proud of me. I have a very supportive family. My first paint set was giving to me by my sister, My sewing machine came from my mother. Everybody, they travel to see the different exhibits. They’re impressed. They love what I’m doing, my friends and family. Everybody is just excited about what’s going on in my life. It is happening really fast. I don’t believe it myself sometimes. I’m wondering if I’m dreaming about getting a chance to exhibit in different museums and in different shows but everybody is proud of me and I truly know I’m blessed. KM: How do you balance your time? You talked about being a painter and a quiltmaker? CC: I just started quilting full time or started doing my art full time and I just have to balance this because my family is very important to me so I do my art in the morning and I have to divide my weeks up. I will quilt three days and I will three two days and when my girls come home from school then I spend time with them and then after they get situated I will start quilting at night or painting. I’m a graphic designer. I do a lot of marketing for artists to help market their work. I usually do that at night or on the weekends if I have any free time, but it is really difficult trying to do both of them because I have client that likes painting and client that likes the quilts so I have to divide my time equally. KM: What are your favorite techniques and materials in quiltmaking? CC: My favorite technique is the appliquéing. I’m in the process of learning how to do traditional quilting. I get kind of bored of doing things the traditional way, you know cutting tradition shapes but I have to show people that I can do it. The appliqué is easier for me but I love doing it, I love using the batik fabric, I like to hand dye my own fabrics. I do a lot of bleach discharge. I love creating, I love fabric and I love paper and it doesn’t matter what kind of fabric it is because if it is something that I don’t like about a piece of fabric I will dye it or I will paint on it. I’ll use markers on the natural muslin, and then I’ll paint different solutions to make it disperse and then I’ll go back with the black marker and draw on top of the markers. I love the look when it’s finish. It gives it a very unique look. KM: Describe your studio. CC: My studio is my garage, so it’s a large studio. I have several shelves that go around the walls, because I block print in one area, I sculpt in another and I have a print station. I have two different studios. I have my smaller studio upstairs and that’s where I quilt. When I’m block printing and painting, and all the other stuff it gets kind of dirty so I do that in the garage. I have metal racks that holds my fabric. Some of the fabric is roll up and put in plastic pails so I can see the different combinations of color and then I put my batiks in the container. I have an area for my thread, an area that I put different techniques that I have tried on a corkboard so I can see my samples and they keep me motivated and give me ideas when I see things around me. KM: Do you belong to any art or quilt groups? CC: I don’t. I’m about to join some now. It was too much working a full time job trying to raise my daughters and do my art on the side and I think it would have been to much to try to join a group, a guild and add something else to my plate. But now that I’m doing it full time the guild [Women of Color Quilters Network.] with Dr. Mazloomi that is the one I plan on joining and there are several other guilds that I want to join. I want to join the fiber guild. I like putting my hands in different pots and make it work for me. KM: Are you concerned about doing this full time? Are you confident? CC: Yes, I am. I’m never one to worry about a lot of things. I put money up for a rainy day. I’ve always been the type that just jumps and do something. It kind of worried me at first because, I have a daughter in college who is twenty-one and I have two daughters in high school, one is the eleventh grade and one in the tenth grade but I just realized if I don’t start now, you know the way the economy is going would I be able to send the other two to college, what will happen to us. I was in the newspaper field, you know what is happening to newspaper with the internet. It won’t be long before that is gone and I realized that with everything going and the cutbacks on the job it was just time for me to just start. I don’t mind taking a chance in life. I’m very ah confident in myself and I just have a lot of faith and I really thought that it was time for me to start doing this full time. I used to do it full time before I moved to Houston. I was in Atlanta, and I made a decent living. We did well and when I moved here I took a job. I didn’t want to start over trying to find new clients so I just started working again. I have been on the same job for seventeen years and it was just time for me to be gone. I had build up clients with my graphic designs freelance and that’s how I pay my bills until my quilts and my art get to the point that it can pay the bills. KM: Good for you. I don’t remember a president inspiring so much art, at least not in my lifetime. Why do you think Barack Obama inspired so many people to create art? CC: The artists that I have spoken with including myself figure this is the best way to capture the way will feel and to remember history or to record history. Artists we draw, we quilt or we paint to record our history and I think so many people was touched by this because this is the first time that a president or any leader has brought people together as a whole. He inspired people stop the hatred, we all really want love each other and I think that listening to him and even seeing him and his wife how they treat each other, it just touches your heart. He made people paint about romance or quilt about romance. They did pictures of him and his wife and hugging and kissing or whatever. He touched people’s heart. It makes you think–I think we paint from our heart. We write from our heart. Or we take pictures from our heart. I think what is in our heart makes us do what we do and that’s what touched me. It made me want to do a series on him because he touched me as a person as an individual and made me want to be a better person. I don’t know too many people that listened to his speeches or came in contact with him that didn’t want to be a better person just because they knew him or touched his hand or listened to his speech. It made you want to be a better person. It made you want to leave a part of history. The quilt that I designed is a part of me and when I’m dead and gone that quilt is going to be here and that is a part of me that I left behind saying this man touched my life KM: How many quilts do you have planned? CC: Actually I have forty-four quilts planned. This is a series that I want to leave behind. Depicting his journey from childhood to the presidential inauguration. I’m working backwards from president to childhood life and I guess it is something I want to leave behind. One day I can do a big show with the forty-four different quilts showing his life and what it meant to America. KM: Tell me about your creative process. CC: When I start a quilt I actually start from a sketch and I might do ten or twenty different sketches on the way I see the way a person’s face should be, I love doing figures and I’ll start with a sketch and then I will do a pen and ink drawing of it, then I’ll break down the different shades of a face and the different fabrics I have to use. Like if the person is a medium brown person I have to find four different shades of fabric that will match the skin tone of that person, the color range with the different fabric, I will find four different shades of red if it is a red top, four different shades of each color and then I’ll break down each shade and I attach an fuse it material. Then cut out the different shape and iron the different colors together. Then I will start to put the different shades together, I will start in the middle of the quilt and I like to make each object a separate quilt so when I put it together it looks 3-D look. I like it to jump off the fabric and some parts to lay flat. You could have hands coming off the quilt or having a fish jumping out of the quilt. It doesn’t have to be a flat object because it has no raw edges. After I’ve quilt everything then I work on a six feet by four feet foam board and I’ll pin and then stitch little pieces together one piece at a time until the small quilt become one big quilt. Then I’ll attached, the quilt to a cotton or felt backing. KM: Whose works are you drawn to and why? CC: Pretty much I study Michelangelo because I like the 3-D look of his work. I study mostly paintings and sculptures and I love all quilters work but I don’t really study any one quilters work per say because I have a photographic memory and don’t want to end up duplicating somebody’s work I don’t want to one day be drawing something and not remembering whose work it is so I try not to. I will study the old masters and how they painted and sculpt and how they made things work for them. Like I said I remember techniques from years ago and I’ll know how to put it together so I don’t really try to study anybody else’s work other than the old masters, Michelangelo and different painters KM: Do any of your daughters do art or quiltmaking? CC: I have three daughters and one likes to draw fashion. She is very good at it and my oldest daughter, she is a painter and we had a show together. In her first show, she sold seven originals and now my youngest daughter is starting to draw. She likes to pencil sketch. So I guess it is in the family. KM: How wonderful. What advice would you offer someone starting out? CC: I tell people to follow their hearts and if it is something you love to do as in quilt, you know practice and study, get books, take classes, and more classes. I tell people put up a still life and draw it, because I don’t really like studying other people because I do know if you study somebody you will start to imitate their style. I really just don’t think that is the best way to learn how to draw. I think everybody could draw. I just think draw is a learned process. I think some people is born with it. I’ve taught so many people to draw. I taught my daughters to draw and my oldest daughter would be a better artist than I am, she really can paint really well. I just think it is a learned process. I do think that people can draw you just have to practice. If you could practice two or three hours a day just sketching. I think you could do anything if you learned how to draw first. I think if you can draw you could learn how to quilt, you could learn how to paint, you could learn how to sculpt, I really think that practicing is the key to learning how to draw. If you learn to draw first, I think the sky is the limit. If you get books and just learn all the different techniques, what makes the different shades, I think it would make a world of different in an artist’s life. KM: Why is quiltmaking important to you? CC: Quiltmaking is important to me because it was something that was passed down to me. My great-great-great grandmother, she quilted and they passed her quilts down and it is something when I quilt I think about my grandparents and I think about my mother and how they quilted to keep themselves warm. They told me that the quilt was so heavy that when they would turn the wooden stove off, they didn’t even realize it was off because that quilt was so heavy that you thought you were laying with bricks on top of you. And when I quilt I think about the stories that my grandparents told us and my mother told us about how when they got home from school they would get in front of the fireplace and quilt. When I quilt I think about this. It brings about happy memories in my life and one day my children will be telling their children stories about me and how I used to quilt and that is just something. I don’t think that when they talk about my paintings that it will be the same. As when they talk about me as a quilter. I think it will be more inspiring to my grandkids one day. KM: What is your first quilt memory? CC: My first quilt memory, are you talking about of mine or my grandparents? KM: Of yours. What is your first memory of a quilt? CC: My first memory was when I was when the hurricane came, Rita was coming to Houston. KM: I want to know when you first you first encountered a quilt. What was your first memory of a quilt? CC: It was my grandmother’s quilt and my grandmother was sick and we went to Arkansas and the quilt was lying on the bed and my oldest sister was telling us the story that she remembered when she would go to Arkansas and they would put the quilt on top of her to go to sleep and how heavy it was. She couldn’t stand the heat and she hated to be under the quilt and she would kick the quilt off and my grandmother would come back and put it back on top of her and when I looked at that quilt and I saw the old clothes that they used to make their quilt and how precise the blocks was and how the points made the diamond and when I would look at the quilt I would think about the stars in the sky and the hands that made the quilt and you know my grandparents’ hands were so rough from picking cotton. I would see the delicate quilt, and I didn’t understand, how those rough hands made something so delicate. I remember the old clothes and my mother would tell us she remembered that piece of fabric from a pair of pants that she tore running down the street to catch the bus for school because my granddad, he drove the school bus and she had to be at the bus stop by the time he came to pick them up or she would be in trouble and she could tell us about the little hole right there, you can see the little hole because she fell when she was playing or wrestling with my aunt. That is the first memory of a quilt, I probably was about five when that story about the quilt happen. KM: How do you want to be remembered? CC: I want to be remembered as a person that loved the arts. A person that tried to help as many people as she could and a person who tried to do what was best for, not only myself and my family but what was best for the world and to leave something, a part of me behind. She really contributed to the world of art. KM: Why do you feel the need to make traditional quilts? CC: Because I get a lot of people saying that because I’m a painter my quilts you know look decent. I can do traditional quilt but it is something that I taught myself and it’s correct but I want to know how to do it the way that the big time quiltmakers quilt because one of my next quilt, as soon as I finish with this series, I’m actually going to do a traditional quilt blended into an art quilt. After that I probably more than likely start to do some kind of traditional quilting into every quilt. I don’t want to be known as a person that makes decent quilts because I’m an artist, I want people to say my quilts look decent because my technique is good, my fabric and the threads, everything works together well. The stitch count of the sewing machine, even when I want to hand appliqué I want people to look at it and say man her technique is good, not because I’m a painter and I can make my quilts look good and I use the same techniques from painting, and I just paint it from thread to fabric. I get a lot of people saying things like this, ‘Oh she is a painter so she is just making it look good because she has training as a painter,’ but that is not the case. I’ve worked hard to learn how to make my quilts look like a picture or a painting. I just want people to know that my technique can be just as good as my design or my paint like technique, what I call thread painting. I want them to know that hey my traditional quiltmaking is just as good and on the same level. KM: What do you think makes a quilt artistically powerful? CC: To be honest, when I look at a quilt, I think about what I feel when I look at it if I get something out of it. The color has to be vibrant, even if it is a totally cream colored quilt, you still have to see something in it. Something has to be powerful in it. The thread has to be powerful in it. The design. I think that to really, really get something out of a quilt or it has to be color or design or technique or you know it has to be one of those things involved in it to make it a strong quilt. Even if it is an abstract quilt, the color has to be there or the design, something has to be in the quilt to make it powerful. I’m a realistic artist so therefore I like to do figurative things, but I have started doing abstracts more because I have a daughter who loves abstracts so I’m doing abstract quilts just to leave them for her but I just think it has to be something in that quilt. Like I said a color or the technique or the design, you have to have one element of those three in a quilt to make it stand out. KM: Is there anything else you would like to share before we conclude? CC: I just think that quiltmaking is such a powerful entity of the arts. In the last five or six years that quilt making has been part of my life I create from the heart, when I quilt I can put more detail or put more intimacy in a quilt than I can when I’m painting because you can use the thousands of fabric. You can use the painting, the thread, the buttons, and the little trinkets. I just think that one day when we look back on the different quilts and the Obama quilts and we see the different parts and what the different artists thought of him and how he touched America and how we used our art to show how he touched us I think that people who saw the show, “The Forty-Four Quilts of Obama,” I don’t think their life will ever be the same. Just seeing the different quilts and the different quiltmakers and even if people had the chance to meet the different artists, I think that life is wonderful right about now and I’m proud and this is probably the first time in my life I can say I really felt like a true American and that is why I wanted to show the flag in the quilt and I just think it is just a good time right now in our lives. KM: I think this is a great way to conclude and I want to thank you for taking time out of your day to share with me. We are going to conclude our interview at…

QSOS with Marlene O’Bryant Seabrook

QSOS with Marlene O’Bryant Seabrook

Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave and I’m conducting a Quilters’ S.O.S. – Save Our Stories interview with Marlene O’Bryant-Seabrook. Marlene is in Charleston, South Carolina and I’m in Naperville, Illinois, so, we are conducting this interview over the telephone. Today’s date is March 6, 2009. It is now 9:05 in the morning. Marlene, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to do this interview with me. Please tell me about your quilt “They Paved the Way.” Marlene O’Bryant-Seabrook (MOS): “They Paved the Way” has really been a wonderful experience for me. Like others all over America I would image, and I know those abroad, I was just glued to my television set on the evening of November 4 [2008.] and because of previous experiences, I was prepared to watch the reruns until the wee hours of the morning and all of a sudden about midnight it was announced that Barack Obama had been declared the winner with well over the 270 votes that he needed. It was just stunning to me that this young African American man had just become the 44th President of the United States. I can’t really fully describe my emotions at the time. I was elated, I was overwhelmed, I was speechless but I didn’t cry, I just became what I would describe as rather somber because I was born in the thirties and so I remember very vividly the indignities of Jim Crow and the sacrifices that were made during the Civil Rights Movement and before that. The first thing that came to my mind was that he had not done this on his own, that he was standing firmly on the shoulders of many who have paved the way for him. I went to sleep knowing that there was a quilt in there somewhere but it was further off than it ended up being, at least in my mind. I know that is what led me to the title. The next day really, I started just jotting down names, I brainstormed incidents that I had remembered and just started them on a sheet of paper which I planned to add to in increments, but still that quilt was further away. Then, it was on the 15th of November that I received a call from Roland Freeman and I had been in other exhibitions with Roland, including his groundbreaking “Communion of the Spirits,” and so he told me what his plan was. That he wanted to have 44 quilts created for an exhibition [“Quilts for Obama: An Exhibit Celebration of our 44th President” at the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. from January 11 to July 26, 2009.] that would be in place during the inauguration. Then he said what I just considered to be impossible, he said that the quilts were due in Washington [D.C.] by December 15. I immediately answered, ‘I’m leaving town next week to spend Thanksgiving with my children and their families. I’m going to leave there on Saturday for a week in Myrtle Beach. I get back home on Friday afternoon and leave Saturday morning to attend a SACS, ,which is the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools conference, in San Antonio and I will not get back home until December 11 so I can not do that.’ Without taking any break in the conversation, Roland told me, ‘Well that is not what Obama’s slogan says,’ and so I replied, ‘Well let’s hang up so I can get started.’ That is how this journey for “They Paved the Way” took place. I then started thinking about it, in fact by that time I had accumulated a list of about 67, 68 names and I knew that because he said that he wanted 44 quilts, I thought that I would focus on just 44 names. I started to delete some of the names and I found that it was easiest to do if I concentrated on just the Civil Rights Era because some of the names were persons who had been earlier than that like the Pullman car porters and etc. I decided to concentrate on the Civil Rights Era and then this would limit my names to just 44. As I was doing that, I realized that if I included some of the major organizations they would cover some of the people on my list, so that is when I included the NAACP and SCLC, which is Southern Christian Leadership Conference and SNCC, which was the student non-violence organization, and CORE which was the Congress of Racial Equality and a lot of the persons on the list fell into those organizations. I was finally able to pare it down to just 44 names. Then I selected a black and gold African print that I had in my stash that has cowrie shells all over it and the reason for my wanting to use the fabric with the cowrie shells is because of its rich history. I became fascinated with cowrie shells in the early 1990’s when I learned their history. The cowrie has been used as primitive money as far back as BC as evidenced by things that they have found in caves and etc. It was at one time the most popular currency used in Africa. In fact, the Europeans were astonished when they discovered that the Africans preferred the cowrie shells to gold coins. Through the years, different countries stopped using them. What I found that was very interesting is the fact that the British did not stop using the cowrie as currency with their trades in West Africa until 1807, which was when they stopped the slave trade and then their need for cowries. I felt that the cowrie on this particular quilt would be rather powerful. I had done a sketch because I was going to use bricks, bricks came to mind immediately when I thought about paving the way, but when I started working I realized that the bricks presented a problem because bricks have to be uniform in size and so that made it difficult to stick to the 44 because as I came down, and I was trying to do it in perspective, and so as I came down each row got wider and that meant that I would have to add additional bricks if I had to keep them uniform in size. I decided that I would use the concept of stepping stones which could be random in size. I could make them whatever length or width I needed to fill up the space and so that is how the stepping stones came into place. I then looked at the gold on the fabric and it was just such a vibrant gold and I remembered immediately that a few years ago I had purchased an interesting fabric that is called Etal, it is spelled E-t-a-l like metal without the m and what it is is an actual metal that has been applied to a substrate that allows it to be cut with scissors and sewn. I used it for my stones because I felt that gold was a precious metal and it represented the precious lives and the blood, sweat and tears that had been a part of the whole journey. Then I worked on that quilt diligently for several days before I started on this series of trips that I had to take. I think one of the only reasons I was able to complete it is the fact that about two years ago I purchased a small sewing machine that permanently resides in the trunk of my auto. I knew that I was gone a lot, which means I did not have a lot of time that I could really devote hour upon hour when I’m working at home, but I found it worked perfectly in a hotel room or when I’m on other trips where I have all I need, access to a table, a small table, the nightstand in the hotel and an outlet, electrical outlet. I had that with me and so I did the top of the quilt, the top of the part that had the stones on it and just lightly glued them to the background and then covered that with a piece of tulle that I pinned onto the top and took it with me. It kept everything intact during my trips, to Columbia and Myrtle Beach and by the time I got back from there, I had it pretty much in focus so that I would have time to complete it after I returned from Texas. The one thing that I have made perfectly clear with people when they have been ‘wowing’ about the fact that it was done in just less than 30 days is that it took just as many hours to make this quilt as it would have taken if I had worked on it for three or four months, because I literally worked on it some 18 hour days. I would remember sometimes at two in the afternoon that I had not eaten breakfast. At that point when I realized what I was doing and becoming concerned, I placed the ironing board in another room so that periodically I would have to get up and go to it, because otherwise I would just sit there for hours. I’ve spoken with other artists who were in the exhibition and I discovered there is not that much difference in our stories. The names and geographic locations change but many of them said that they did the same thing, they even took time off from work or as one said that she missed church and asked God to forgive her for it because this quilt had to get done. When I attended the opening at the Historical Society of Washington on the 11th of January [2009.], and spoke to other quilters who were in the show, we just decided that our mantra had become “Yes, We Did,” because the quilts, even in that brief time, were awesome. KM: What are your plans for this quilt? MOS: That is interesting. It will become a part of my collection. I am thinking about reassessing my, what has been to this day, my lack of interest in selling my quilts. Even though I have sold one or two, I just have wanted them to be a part of my legacy to my children and my grandchildren and I have held on to them. What I have found happening is that I’ve become very, very attached to them while I’m making them and they become almost like my children and then I find it difficult to part with them. But as I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m reassessing that. I know that I can only hold on to so many of them. I would like to mention something that I just thought of in reference to the quilt and the cowrie shells. At the bottom of the quilt, if you are looking at a photo of it, you will see that there are shells attached and I just, as I said I just am fascinated with the cowries and there was a cowrie print and I wanted real cowries at the bottom, so I got them out and I painted them gold and I selected thirteen that were just about the same size and sewed them at the bottom and those thirteen cowry shells represent the thirteen original colonies, which I know had a lot to do with them having been built with free African labor and so I felt that also tied into the sacrifices made for the Obama presidency. KM: Is this quilt typical of your style? MOS: Yes it is, except that I would not say that anybody would walk into, as I can with the work of a lot of other artists, I can’t say that someone would walk into a room, see a quilt and immediately identify it as having been made by Marlene O’Bryant-Seabrook. Anyone who has seen my work and anyone who sees my work, after they have reflected for a while, will realize that there is a commonality and that commonality is that there is a lesson in that quilt. All of my quilts have lessons tucked in. Sometimes they are subtle and sometimes they are very overt because I think we bring to quilting what we have and what I have is that I am a third generation educator and so from the beginning I wanted my quilts to do more than just attract people because of their colors and etc., but they would walk away from my work having taken away some lesson. KM: Tell me about your interest in quiltmaking. MOS: That’s interesting in and of itself because with all of the quilters that I have met, I’ve learned that I’m one of the few who did not have any previous quilting experience. Most of the quilters I’ve met told me about generations of quilters in their families and I lack that. My grandmother never made a quilt, my mother never made a quilt. I learned after I became a quilter that my great-grandmother who died when I was about three years old and who had been a former slave quilted, but of course none of those were around. I’ve searched through the family for the last 20 years and no one has any one of those. I grew up not even knowing about quilts. I can’t actually recall, I have tried, and I can’t actually recall having seen a quilt in my home during the time that I grew up and so quilting was totally off of my radar. I did all kinds of other things. I learned to crochet when I was eight years old. I’ve knitted. I’ve tatted, smocked, done ceramics, done macramé, all of these kinds of art forms. I was in a school at one point that I was doing some observations and the health [home] arts teacher I think they called her was teaching a group of young ladies who were in a class for the mentally challenged how to cross stitch and I had never seen cross stitching. I had embroidered as a child where you had the little X’s marked on the cloth and you just followed the lines, but I had never seen someone sitting there with a blank piece of fabric, which I later learned was the aida cloth, but looking over in a book at a graph and then creating something on this blank cloth. I became fascinated and there was one little girl in the class who seemed to be having a difficult time and I asked the teacher if she would show me and I would go and help this child and I did. When I left that evening, the teacher gave me a little graph of an apple and a blank piece and my red and green and brown floss and I went home just like a child and I got home and did not stop until I had cross stitched this apple. Then I started going to craft shops and looking at the graphs and picking out some of the things that I wanted to cross stitch and I had done maybe two pieces and on another journey through the breezeway of a high school, I saw a quilt that was being raffled by the mothers of the football players and each mother had done one square that was cross stitched and the other mothers had pooled their money and paid for someone to use these squares to create a quilt. There was this gorgeous cross stitch quilt that was called a “Charleston Quilt” and it had all these different scenes of persons and places, but not really so many person as there were places like the Citadel and the College of Charleston, the churches, for which Charleston is famous, about the only persons were maybe someone sitting in a carriage being drawn around the Battery. It was called a “Charleston Quilt “and so I decided that, wow, this is what I want to do. I want to make all these cross stitch squares and then I was going to call the school and find out who had done that quilt for them and contact that person to do one for me. Then I started noticing that so many of the graphs were of African American people and so I changed my focus from doing a “Charleston Quilt” to doing a quilt that was named “A Record of a Rich Heritage”, but as fate would have it, shortly after I came up with this concept, there was an article in our local paper and I looked and there behind this woman were three or four different cross stitch quilts on the wall. When I read the article, I learned that this wife of a naval officer who had just been transferred to the Charleston Naval Base was an avid master quilter and that she had just opened a shop in the back of an antique shop that is west of Charleston in an area called West Ashley. She not only made quilts herself, but that she would put these cross stitch squares etc. together and make quilts for people. The next day when I left work I went directly to her shop and told her what I wanted and was so excited when she told me that she also taught quilting and a class was starting that evening at 6:00. I rushed home, made provisions for my children and was in that class. That’s how I started quilting. My intention was to take that eight week class and make this cross stitch quilt. When I got to class, I discovered that was not her plan. Her plan was first to teach us how to quilt and that was going to be done through creating a sampler on which there were some squares that were appliquéd, some that were pieced, some that were quilted, quilting on a solid white background, just the varied kinds of experiences so that you would learn all these different techniques. I put my cross stitch quilt on the back burner and took that eight week course. Of course after I finished it, the cross stitch was the very, very first quilt that I made on my own and I was just thrilled with it to the point that I really intended that would be the only quilt that I ever made in my life, and it was maybe three or four years before I made another one. KM: What made you take it up again? MOS: A woman out of Brooklyn, New York named Marie Wilson called me because she was in Charleston visiting a friend of 30 or 40 years who had just retired and moved back to Charleston and she knew someone who had seen my “Record of a Rich Heritage” quilt here in Charleston and who told her that if she ever came to Charleston to get in touch with me because they wanted her to see it. She called me and I told her that would be fine. Her friend brought her here and we started talking to the point that I realized the friend was bored and I told the friend that she could leave her and my husband and I at the end of our visit took her home, but Marie Wilson was just so impressed with this quilt and she was talking about the length of the stitches and the fact that I had a scalloped edge on this first creation. She just went on and on and on about the workmanship in this quilt. Of course that meant nothing to me at that time either, as I said, we took her home and in about a week I received this packet from her and in it were all of these magazine articles and photos of her work. I learned that I had been in the presence of a nationally known master quilter and did not realize it and so that caused me to look at my work differently. I felt that if this woman with all of her experiences felt that I was a quilter then perhaps I was a quilter and that is what caused me to go back to it. The interesting thing was within two weeks after her visit I got a call from a gallery in Manhattan asking me for permission to have that quilt in an exhibition. This was I believe 1992. I sent that quilt on and that was the beginning of my exhibiting. [In 1993, it was included in the book, “Contemporary Pictorial Quilts” by Wendy Lavitt.] All of this was with my first quilt so it excited me and I decided that maybe I needed to pursue this more. KM: Tell me about your creative process. MOS: Interestingly most of my quilts come to me in my dreams. They come sometimes fully executed, in color and for many years–I mean long before I started quilting when I was doing other kinds of creative things, I would always wake up in the middle of the night and jot down what I had perceived because I had learned that if I did not do that by the next morning I would remember that I saw something but I would have no idea of what it was like. Now, when these thoughts and dreams and perceptions come, I immediately wake up and do a rough sketch, just enough to trigger my memory the next day. I usually even put the time. Some of them have become quilts, some of them are still in my packet of quilts to do, and I look through them sometimes and I see 5:13 a.m. Washington, D.C., not even at home but where ever, if I’m out of town and this happens, I will jot it down and do the time and the place that the inspiration came. “They Paved the Way” did the same thing. If you remember when I mentioned talking about election night, my first concept probably would have been something about shoulders because that was my thought, my thought was President-Elect Obama standing on the shoulders, but this idea, once I named it “They Paved the Way” the idea of having a walk, a paved walkway appeared in my dream and most of my work comes that way. Because it comes that way, I consider it a gift and I realize that nobody else will interpret my gift exactly as I will and so I feel obligated to do it myself. KM: What are your favorite techniques and materials? MOS: Except for silk, I guess the lasting thought of my initial class has been my preference for cotton because as I told you the class was in the back of an antique shop and before we started the class Helen took us in the shop and showed us some antique quilts there and her point was to show us that in a lot of the old quilts where they used a lot of different fancy fabrics, like in Crazy Quilts, she showed us that many of the pieces had disintegrated or were beginning to fade in color and etc., and a constant was that the cotton portions of the quilt remained almost intact and so I still have a preference for using cottons because I guess I’m egocentric enough to hope that they will outlast me. Now I would image if I’m just making something for the fun of it, it might not matter but to date it has been cotton in terms of fabric. Now in terms of techniques, I am experimental. I read QuiltArt [listserve.] and subscribe to the Quilting Arts Magazine because I’m fascinated with all of the new techniques and tools and products and I buy them as if when they announce them, in three weeks they are going to be not selling them again, so as soon as I learn of them I want them and so my stash of tools and materials and products is quite vast. But when I get ready to do something, you know if I wake up in the middle of the night and I have a concept and I want to get up early the next morning and start it, in most cases I have what I need. If I had not purchased that Etal two or three years ago, I would not have even thought of having it to put on this “They Paved the Way” quilt. Ironically now it’s no longer being manufactured but I have gold and copper and silver and one other color, I think it might have been aluminum that was being sold at the time that the man was making this fabric. My technique varies depending upon what it is I want in that piece and I will do whatever it takes for me to get what I have perceived. Some of my quilts will have commercial fabric in it, it will have fabric that I have hand dyed. It might have fabric that I felt a need to do some painting on, like with the fabric paintstiks or other paints. It just really is led by my vision of what I want it to look like and so I’m not tied down to any techniques and I’m not turned off by any techniques. KM: Do you belong to any art or quilt groups? MOS: I don’t belong to any guilds that meet regularly. I do belong to the Quilters of South Carolina because its been maybe 12 or more years ago I was reading the morning paper in Charleston and it stated that very next day a state guild was going to be started in Columbia, South Carolina, which is the capital of South Carolina and about a two hour drive and the thing that caught my attention was that they were going to meet once a year. I got up the next morning and drove to Columbia to join this guild that promised me it was going to meet once a year. They have kept pretty true to that. That was a spring meeting and so we annually have the spring meeting, which this year in April is going to be in Charleston because it moves around the state and they try to move to the lower part of the state and then the upper part so that no one has to make these long drives annually. A few years later they had a retreat at a wonderful facility and it was so much fun, it was a three-day retreat, Friday to Sunday and it was just so much fun that has remained in place. That happens in the fall, either September or October and so now it meets twice a year, which still I find is something that I want to do. I have never wanted to join a group that met monthly because I don’t quilt that way. There have been periods where I have not quilted in terms of actually having fabric and threads in my lap and hands for maybe a year. Now in that time period, I perhaps have had quilts exhibited, I have perhaps done lectures on quilting and related subjects in various places around the country, I have attended quilting conferences or exhibitions like I’ve been to Houston and etc., so I’m still in touch with quilting but I don’t have to physically quilt daily, monthly, yearly to still feel that I’m a part, a very integral part of the quilting community. I’m also a member of the Women of Color Quilters Network. I was one of the early members because when I met Marie Wilson, she had been one of the earliest members and she immediately put me in touch with Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi who has become a dear friend. Early on, in the early nineties, I became affiliated with that group of women and those two are really the only two organizations that I am a part of. KM: Whose works are you drawn to and why? MOS: I don’t have a favorite person whose work I’m drawn to. There are just so many artists whose work I see and I just am in utter awe, Hollis Chatelain comes to mind and I’ve met her and talked with her and seen her work up close, not just through pictures and I’m just fascinated with her technique and her command of her technique. More recently I’m fascinated by the work of a younger artist that I’ve met through the Women of Color [Quilters Network.], Carolyn Crump, who is an artist that just does tremendous work but I tend not to focus on anybody’s work because I don’t want to be personally influenced by it. I find that I have long memory and if I became attached to somebody’s work, I think almost without realizing it, I might find myself wanting to do what they do. For example, another person whose work just fascinates me is Penny Sisto. A few years ago I had the opportunity, along with some others, about five or six others, to go and spend a weekend with Penny in her log cabin home/studio [Indiana.] because I had just been fascinated with the incredible faces that she does and I like faces. Penny showed us exactly how she executes her faces and except for coming away with her sharing of some of the places where she had gotten some of her fabric that she used for the faces and my having ordered some, that is as much as I’ve done with what I learned about her faces. I still am fascinated by her faces which she does with a lot of stitching, etc., but I have not wanted to duplicate that. KM: How do you want to be remembered? MOS: I want to be remembered as a quilt artist who took the time to do the research that was necessary to share important stories through quilts. I started that from the beginning of my quilting. This is long before I started with the computer and I would spend hours in the library researching before I even attempted to do a quilt. I did a series of quilts, they are called “The Gullah Series” and I’ve spent untold hours researching the Gullah culture and its connection between the Sea Islands from Jacksonville, North Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida and Bunce Island in Sierra Leone [West Africa.], because when I did the quilts, I wanted to be sure that anything I included would be accurate. Now I rely on the internet more but I still do very serious research. I’m an educator who quilts and so the same approach that I used when doing my dissertation, the thorough research, I bring to quilting. You just bring what you have. For example, I was having breakfast with a friend in Columbia a few years ago and during breakfast she asked me had I ever heard of a female Buffalo soldier and I hadn’t and so she began to second guess herself. She said, ‘Well I was looking at the History Channel last night and I did fall asleep but I think I heard something like that.’ When I left there, I was in route home and in the two hours on that interstate, that stayed in my mind. I was not home half an hour before I was on the internet and I discovered that it was true and that is now a quilt. [With permission from the National Archives, copies of her enlistment and discharge papers are a part of the quilt.] It was the story of Cathay Williams, who was a cook, but learned that the males that the African American males were being paid more and so she disguised herself as a male and served two years. That’s what I want to be remembered as having done, as having quilts to share unknown stories. KM: Is there anything you would like to share that we haven’t touched upon before we conclude? MOS: I really cannot think of anything. I think during this process we have covered so much of what I have done and what I want to do. I would image that the one thing that I might want to conclude with is that I have approached quilting from the dual focus of an educator and an artist and so, while I want people to really, really appreciate the esthetic beauty of my work, and I try to use the best workmanship, I also want them to remember the stories. KM: I think that is a great way to conclude. I want to thank you so much for taking time out of your day and sharing with me. You were wonderful. We are going to conclude our interview at…

QSOS with Maria Shell

QSOS with Maria Shell

Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave and I am doing a Quilters’ S.O.S. – Save Our Stories interview with Maria Shell. Maria lives in Anchorage, Alaska and I live in Naperville, Illinois, so we are conducting this interview over the telephone. Today’s date is October 9, 2008 and it is 1:15 in the afternoon. Maria thank you for doing this interview with me. Tell me about your quilt, “Boxy 9-Patch” that you chose for the interview. Maria Shell (MS): I, we had talked about this, that I kind of wanted a different quilt, but in the end I think it is the first quilt that I have been working quite a bit with innovative piecing, like nontraditional block settings. In traditional quilts, you have quilt blocks, and then you put the sashing around it; and then you put the border around it; and I really didn’t want to do that; and I had tried a couple of different ways of doing this; I call it kitchen sink quilting. I think I am jumping around a bit. KM: That is okay. MS: When I first started quilting, I really felt like I couldn’t just–I have three boys and at the time I was in the middle of having them and I wanted to quilt all the time, and I felt like I couldn’t justify quilting unless I was making a quilt for someone. I belonged to this play group through Parks and Rec in Valdez, Alaska and all the moms would make a quilt block for a mother who was pregnant with a new baby. I’d gather all the blocks, and I would be the person that would put them into a quilt. One of the women who was teaching me to quilt was an older woman. She was a grandmother and she would bring her granddaughter to this play group, and she introduced me to Gwen Marston’s book called “Liberated Quiltmaking.” And she said, ‘We don’t have to put these regular sashes on the quilt. We can do whatever we want.’ And so I really find that is important to me. You know the rules, but then you get to break them. I started just doing this crazy stuff, where I would put in other blocks, but there is a method to it. I would build the blocks into strips, so as long as you end up with strips that are the same length you just attach them. I started teaching this technique at the quilt shop in Valdez, and people were interested in it, but they were kind of intimidated. So I thought I’m going to do a dummied down version, which is what “Boxy 9-Patch” is. It is just nine patches, which is about as simple as you can get, and then strips of different sizes and lengths and shapes, and I would build those out around the nine patches. I guess the other thing that is interesting about this quilt is when we moved from Valdez to Anchorage I started teaching at a quilt shop here called The Quilt Tree, and I had someone call me and ask if she could buy a quilt. She didn’t end up buying the quilt, but it made me think, oh maybe, maybe my stuff is good enough that I should send it out. I had some of my pieces professionally photographed and “Boxy 9-Patch” is the first one, not the first one to be accepted into a show, but the first one to get a ribbon and it got first place at the Albuquerque Fiber Arts Fiesta so it is a special quilt to me for those reasons. KM: Did you machine quilt the quilt? MS: Yes, which is another, sort of, I guess interesting story. I learned how to quilt in Valdez. My husband and I moved up to Alaska because he works on the water, and we are from Kansas, and there is not a lot of water there. We got married and decided we would seek our fortune in the final frontier, so we drove the Alcan with our two, my two cats. We got married in Las Vegas and then we kind of hit the road. He was–at the time, he worked as a mate on a tugboat, and he worked in the Prince William Sound which is the waterway that is near Valdez, and I was in Anchorage [which is a six hour drive.] going to graduate school to get a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. (He worked six weeks on, and then he would be off for three weeks if we were lucky.) So, I was working on my thesis, and I finished my thesis which is a collection of essays and then in the middle of that we had our first child, and I was like I can’t handle living in Anchorage (with my husband gone six weeks at a time). I’m here all alone without any support system, so he took a portside job in Valdez, and we moved from Anchorage to this remote Alaskan town of four thousand. It is on the road system which is something. Not all small towns in Alaska are on the road system, so you can drive out, but in the winter time you can be stuck there, and it snows. The average snowfall is 360 inches. It is the snowiest sea level town in North America. Anyway, Alaskans like their hobbies, and you have to have indoor hobbies (because of all the snow and cold). So, I had always wanted to quilt, I’d sewn since I was little. I started sewing when I was four and then my mom allowed me to use the sewing machine when I turned ten, and then I made all my own clothes. I think there are really two paths to quilting and one of them is sort of I made all my clothes in high school and the other is I’m an artist and I discovered fiber is a valid medium. So there are these two paths to quilting, and that is another thing I really think is interesting about being a quiltmaker. Anyway, I had always sewn. I worked in a costume shop in college making costumes for operas, but I had never made a quilt. I wanted to. I checked out books in the library and tried to make one on my own but, I didn’t get the quarter inch seam. [This was all before the Rotary Revolution. Years later.] I took my first class at the quilt shop [in Valdez.], and I really haven’t, just didn’t look back. I was supposed to be trying to get my essays from graduate school published, and all I wanted to do was make quilts. So then I started teaching at the quilt shop. Valdez only had one longarm quilting machine in town and that machine was at the only quilt shop called The Calico Whale. The woman who owned the machine decided that she was going to move to Wasilla, which has been in the news lately because that is where the Republican Vice Presidential candidate is from. Sarah Palin. KM: Yes. MS: Vicky (the woman who owned the longarm machine) told us–we were talking at the shop and she said, ‘If you guys can figure out a way to buy the machine, I will sell the machine to you.’ It was the teachers and the owner of the shop who were just chatting about it. She said, ‘You guys can buy this old machine and then I will buy a new one when I move to Wasilla.’ She was opening a yarn shop in Wasilla. So the owner of the shop and one of the other teachers and my self pooled our money and we bought this machine together. At the time it was probably about seven years old, but didn’t have a stitch regulator on it. Kind of a basic Gammill longarm machine. I taught myself how to quilt on it and “Boxy Nine Patch” is quilted on that machine. I actually went down–I had an opportunity to go down to Texas and take some classes with Linda Taylor, and that was really helpful. It didn’t have a stitch regulator on it, and for me it makes a huge difference. So when my husband found out that the company he works for wanted to move us to Anchorage, we were very excited. Valdez is really small for me, and I was, I was really anxious to meet some other quilters that were interested in doing things that push the boundaries of traditional quiltmaking. This wasn’t really available to me in Valdez. So when we moved here [back to Anchorage.] I knew I wanted to own my own longarm machine and take in quilting for people. We bought a house that could allow us to have a longarm machine in it which is really nice, so I started quilting for people. But, and this frequently happens, longarm quilters get very burned out on quilting for other people.. I really have a small client base that I work with now, and if I don’t have any quilting to do [which hasn’t happened yet!] I will take in a new client but for the most part I’m kind of booked. So I did quilt that quilt. KM: How, how do you balance your time between quilting for other people, quilting for yourself, are you still teaching? MS: Yeah, I teach at The Quilt Tree. That was a huge problem, because I like to do good work. When someone gives me a quilt I want to honor it, I want to do the best thread work on it that I possibly can, and I was getting way behind, and I kind of had a little-mini breakdown last March, and I sent all my clients an email saying you are in line but that doesn’t mean that you, like say you are number three in line, that doesn’t mean that you are going to get your quilt next week because my oldest son may break his arm, or my husband may leave town for two weeks and it is just really hard to balance everything. There were quilters that took their quilts back, most people waited and I’m just now finishing up that pile so it feels pretty good to have done that. Now I try to quilt six customer quilts a month, and then the rest of the time I either am working on class samples or making quilts to send to shows. KM: What is, how do you use “Boxy 9-Patch”? MS: I’m sorry. KM: How do you use “Boxy 9-Patch”? MS: I don’t. KM: How do you use it? Does it hang on the wall? MS: No. [laughs.] Well it has gone to several shows and now I think eventually it will go on one of the walls in our house, but right now it is stored with my other quilts. I’m hoping that it–actually this spring I may teach it as a class so it probably will be hanging up at the quilt shop. KM: Now it is 51 inches by 63 inches, is that typical size for you? MS: Yeah, I like to make kind of big wall quilts. 60 inches by 80 inches I would say is a big size for me, but in that range there, 40 inches by 50 inches, big wall size. I guess I feel lucky that I can do bigger quilts because I do have the longarm machine. It allows me to do pretty intense thread work. KM: Talk to me a little more, you talk about the importance of the stitch regulator. Explain a little bit more to me about that. MS: The longarm machines sits on a track system. With a regular sewing machine you move the quilt underneath the machine. With a longarm, you move the longarm machine over the quilt so you are actually moving the machine, and it sits on a series of rollers that allows you to move it 360 degrees. You can stitch big circles with it. Now, just like on a home machine, when you are quilting you don’t use your feed dogs, and the stitch size is determined by how fast you are hitting the gas, which is your foot pedal, and how fast you are moving your quilt underneath your machine. If you get either one of those things going too fast or too slow you are going to end up with these big huge stitches or a bird’s nest on the bottom. Non-stitch regulated longarms work this way too. The speed of the machine must match your movement of the longarm machine over the quilt in order to get a good stitch. So you have to pace yourself, both of those elements have to be in sync in order to get a nice even stitch. With a stitch regulator, you can tell your machine I want twelve stitches to an inch and it will do that. So no matter how fast you move it is going to compensate by stitching slower or faster in order to guarantee twelve stitches to an inch. KM: That has made a huge difference in your quilt–quilting? MS: Yeah, the thing that really makes it for me is that I can actually stop what I’m doing, say I’m using a ruler, there are these big thick acrylic rulers longarm quilters use for stitching around. They are like rulers quilters use for rotary cutting, but they are twice as thick. You move your longarm around the ruler, say it is a circle ruler, and you use it to get a nice clean curve. If I want to make a complete circle with the stitch regulator on, I can actually move my machine to get like a quarter of a curve, stop, the needle will not go up or down as long as I am still, and I can move my hands or move the ruler and then continue stitching. It is as if you could–on a home machine reposition your fabric while you still have your foot on the pedal. If you stop moving your fabric then your needle is going to go, it is going to stitch up and down and form a big bird’s nest on the other side. That doesn’t happen with a stitch regulator. KM: Very nice. MS: It is, it allows for a lot of control and people can do really intricate work. KM: What does your family think of your quiltmaking? MS: They have always been really supportive of it. I think my husband is. His family they are artists on his side of the family. His mother’s family owned a circus back in the day when circuses were the thing, and his grandmother was a Ziegfield Follies girl, and his grandfather was a big band musician, a trumpeter in Dean Martin and Jerry Lee Lewis’s band, and my husband’s mother is an artist for Hallmark. She is a three-dimensional, she does ornaments and sculpture work for Hallmark, so they, his side of the family are very artistic and so he grew up with–his mother was, you know she worked when he was little, she worked at home a lot, and so he was used to, that was the environment that he grew up in, having a mom who had a studio and was making art. It is, I think makes sense to my husband, like it is not odd, like ‘Why don’t you get a regular nine to five job?’ And fortunately he has a good job that so I don’t have to make a bunch of money, because that would be an issue. Quiltmaking at least at this point in my career is not necessarily a lucrative job. KM: Describe your studio. MS: It is awesome. I, well I guess I started to say this to my husband [speaks to son, You don’t want these gloves, okay.] Can we say while I’m interviewing that I also have a four year old that? KM: Um, hum. [MS laughs.] It sounds like he wants to go outside. MS: Outside and play in the snow, so he is getting all geared up now. So my husband, I think he is very artistic as well. His main art project is our house which is, he made this really nice studio for me and he helps me a lot with color and he names all of my quilts. It is kind of–and actually the kids get to name quilts too. Which is kind of, they enjoy doing that. KM: What kind of names have they come up with? MS: I had them name almost everything, but I told the kids a while back that they could each name a quilt and so my oldest son, immediately, he is ten but at the time he named the quilt, he was still very into Pokemon so it is. The quilt is called “Spinda” which is a spider Pokemon and the quilt is from a pattern called Paper Weight, and it is a contemporary version of the Spider Web Block, so it is kind of interesting, I mean he didn’t know that, he didn’t know it was a Spider Web Block, but he could see that it looked like a spider web and Spinda is the spider Pokemon, so it is called “Spinda” and that quilt actually went to several shows. It went to Paducah, and it went to went to Denver National, and Machine Quilters Showcase, but and I love the quilt. It has one of the things I really like to do is that I have an intense fabric collection, fabrics from the depression era, feed sacks. I have a good selection of psychedelics from the sixties and seventies, which are probably my favorites and the modern fabrics and hand dyes and I like to put them all together. If you look at “Boxy Nine Patch”, you can look at that quilt; you can see there are fabrics from the 1920’s in the quilt. I don’t know where I was going with that. KM: [laughs.] Other names? MS: Other names, well my husband, we both, he is a deadhead. Well, I think he still thinks he is a deadhead, but we are actually kind of older than that now. He likes to name things with references to the sixties. One of my quilts is called “Owlsey’s Owls” and it is a pretty neat quilt. It is at Houston right now. I took a class with Roberta Horton. Actually I got a chance to take three days of classes with her and it was really just an amazing thing, and out of that class I started using fabric, like within the fabric. These owls are on a tree and the owls are made out of paisleys and Christmas ornament fabric for the eyes, so (I started) taking novelty prints and other prints that have a motif in them and using that motif in a way that it wasn’t necessarily intended to be used. There are leaves that are used as feathers and daises are the claws for the owl’s feet. So I don’t know, “Owlsey” was the Grateful Dead’s LSD supplier. So that is the name “Owlsey’s Owls”, and another quilt that he named is called “A Hofmann’s Obit” which is also an LSD reference. Huffman was the inventor of LSD [and he died this year.], and that quilt is all thread play. I just finished it and it looks like–it is on black. It is a whole cloth quilt and it looks kind of like the galaxy. I drafted swirls on freezer paper, and then I put them on tissue paper, and then I, I stitched through the tissue paper. I laid out the quilt fabric on my longarm, and then I laid the tissue paper over it and then I stitched the swirls to get the outline, and then the swirls are filled in with micro-fill of different colors coming in curves and circles in and out of each other, so it looks kind of like the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights, but done with thread. KM: Tell me about your studio. MS: My studio is, the thing that is really nice about it is that we have a split level but the previous owners built a big entry way onto the front, some split levels you come in and you have to go up or go down immediately, but they built a big landing. It is like a mudroom on the front of the house, so you come in and there is the mudroom and then if you go downstairs there would be, if it wasn’t my studio, a big living room with this 1970’s lava fireplace, and my husband took this room and he built workspace up over the fireplace so the fireplace is no longer there (well, it is there but you can’t see it!), and he built shelves underneath it so I’ve got, ‘oh I’m not doing a good job here.’ I’m going to walk into my studio. The first thing is that I have a vintage Rocketeer Slant-o Matic Singer sewing machine that is on the landing there and it is, these are amazing old sewing machines that have a real atomic 1950’s design to them, and that little machine sits in the front there and then over to the left I have an antique wardrobe which is where I store all of my clients quilts so they are protected. I have batting and stuff, and then I just have sort of industrial shelving going around the perimeter of the room, the kind that you get at Costco, big metal shelving and I have tubs, mostly clear tubs and they are all categorized and labeled. I am pretty tidy in my work. I like to be able to find things pretty quickly. I had everything in tubs, but this summer I actually went through and labeled everything because I was tired of trying to find a tub because it wasn’t labeled, anyway, they are all labeled. In front of those industrial shelving units, my husband made this design wall that goes in front of the shelving. I can lift the design wall off its hooks and get to the tubs behind or I can have it hanging there. It is pretty standard design wall made from pressed wood, and then we have batting and flannel over it so I can pin things onto it. Behind my longarm, where the fireplace is, I have another big design wall. It is a little harder to get to, so I have a little stool. I can put things up there, and they will be up for a while. I can look at it, I’m not necessarily messing with what is on that design wall, but I’m looking at it. The other design wall is one where I will more likely be moving around things. Underneath the design wall behind the longarm is a nice shelving unit that has all my longarm tools and books. I have like a work space right behind me, when I’m working on my longarm I can turn around and I will have rulers and books and my sketch pads and that sort of thing are all back there, and then the shelving underneath I store the rulers and stuff. And then as I circle around my room, I have my fabric storage is in another unit that Walt built. Walt is my husband, and I have that all organized. It is nice to look at because I organized it by the rainbow, all the colors are in their set places, and then one of the things I really like and I don’t know, I am surprised more people don’t do this but I have a–he built me a countertop space and on top of that is my rotary mat and I have a light box and Thermofax and all those things are there on that countertop and underneath it he built me shelving units that I have these plastic tubs. They fit fat quarters, I like to buy yard and a half lengths of fabric, and I will wash it and then a yard of it goes into my flat fold storage and then I quarter up, I make two fat quarters out of the other half yard ,and those are all in these tubs that slide in and out. Kind of like an index system, an index card system. I can pull out a tub and I can look all through all my oranges and see what I’ve got, then and I can shove it back in and pull out another one. Next to the cutting table are rolling carts that have all my small spools of thread, and then my big spools of thread are on what are those called? Pegboards. Then I have my sewing machine which is on a–eventually Walt is going to cut the top so that I can set my machine down in it, but right now I have this old, it is really old wooden desk that I like because it has those two little wooden boards that you can pull out on the sides like, so I can actually make a U-shape area to work in with my sewing machine. I have my ironing board and then I have another cutting table. So that is my studio. KM: How big is it? MS: It is the size of a nice size living room. It’s big and the funny thing is it is in the traffic pattern of my family which is awesome, and at times it makes me a little crazy because they tend to–like I’m looking at it right now I’ve got a giant Rescue Heroes submarine thing and I’ve got a big tub of blocks and a Darth Vader costume. I’ve got all this kids stuff. My oldest usually does his homework in here when he gets home from school, so they are very much in the studio with me, it’s not shut away. You come in the front door and you walk down to my studio and then actually the door to the garage is on the back side of my studio so when my husband is working on the house it is this constant traffic pattern through my studio. The funny thing about when I first started quilting I took over the dining room table which I think a lot of quilters do. They take over the dining room table and it gets to be this sort of point of contention that the family wants to eat dinner and you’ve got your quilting all over the place. We lived in this house that had a lower level that wasn’t finished. The previous owners, this is in Valdez, had moved the washing machine and dryer downstairs so my husband converted the old laundry room, which you know, most people’s laundry rooms are really small, into a sewing room for me. It was big enough for me, no one else really could be in there at the same time but it was neat. He made a little cutting station, I had my tubs up high so I could store things way up high in the room and then I graduated to this, which to me is luxury. KM: Sounds wonderful. MS: Yes it is, it is a nice space. It is not, like Carol Taylor, I look at her studio online and it’s, it’s not like that, it is pretty industrial but it is very functional. KM: It works for you. MS: It does. KM: Whose works are you drawn to and why? MS: Well, Carol Taylor, I really like. I like piecing and although I’m doing more appliqué. I really like people, I like the works that sort of straddle the traditional but are contemporary. Work that takes traditional blocks and really works within the tradition but pushes those boundaries. I love Pamela Allen’s work, and I love and I’m not sure how to say, is it Susan Shie or She? KM: Shie. MS: I love her work. I don’t even know how to do what she does. It is just so amazing to me. KM: Do you belong to any quilt groups? MS: Yeah, I belong to the Anchorage Log Cabin Quilters Guild, or actually we are not called a guild, it was one of those crazy Alaskan things, we don’t like to be called, defined by anything. It is the Anchorage Lob Cabin Quilters, Inc. No guild in the name. That’s probably the only, well I belong to SAQA and I belong to the Machine Quilters, I don’t even know what they are called, International Machine Quilters Association, I think that is right. Yep, and I think that is it. [I also belong to Fiber Artists for Obama. We made an amazing quilt. I did the final pieced border on the quilt, and then quilted it. It is going to be shown this year at Houston in an exhibit called Patchwork Politics. I’m pretty excited about this.] KM: Why is belonging to a group important to you? MS: Well it was really important when I moved from Valdez to Anchorage. I think I kind of acted like a nut about it because when I first moved here, it was just like I wanted to meet, I just wanted to meet other quilters and now I’m kind of like okay I’ve met people, I can go back into my studio and hunker down, but there was a point where I really wanted to interact with other people that shared my passion. KM: What is the group like in Anchorage? How many people? MS: I don’t get to go. I used to, I had babysitting arrangements so that I could go to the guild meeting, but I don’t have those now, so I will start going to the meetings again next year when my youngest goes to kindergarten. The way it is set up is that they have, they meet the first and third Thursday of every month and then if there is a fifth Thursday in the month they do comfort quilts where they make quilts for the women’s shelter, the homeless shelter, and it is a really nice program that they do. Tuesday and Thursdays, I think it is 10:30 to 12:00 and they have a business meeting on the first Thursday and then the third Thursday they have a program of some sort. It might be visiting quilter’s studios or it might be a shop hop or it might be someone coming into town, or someone from the organization doing a trunk show and then there is also an evening meeting on the same first and third Thursdays but they are much more informal. They do a lot of challenges and block swaps and it is more of a social gathering. The evening group is more of a social group and the day group is the get it done group. KM: What about SAQA, Studio Art Quilters Associates? MS: Yeah, I am. I just heard about it and I went to the website and I thought this is really interesting, and so I joined. Part of why I joined is well because I wanted to be part of their chat room because they have a chat–they post things and I thought it–I belong to the QuiltArt Chat Group, which is another online sort of people post quilting messages and talk about their quilts and what they are doing, and someone there said they really liked this SAQA group, so I thought because I wanted a group that was maybe more focused on just talking about quilting and not so much talking about socializing, or I wanted more information from other quilters about quilting. I joined that and we actually had a couple of regional, like Alaskan meetings, and I’ve only been able to go to one of them but I convinced a couple of my friends from the guild to join and they have gone to the other meetings and said it has been really good. There is actually one of the women in that group is on the board of SAQA, Nelda. Nelda. [Warkentin.]Yes? KM: Yes. Very good. What advice would you offer someone starting out? MS: Well it depends on what you want to do with quilting. I think that some people–since I’ve moved to Anchorage I’ve really started thinking of myself as–and I don’t even know, the whole what you call yourself is kind of interesting. I like to call myself a quiltmaker but if you call yourself a quiltmaker then people think that you just make things that go on the bed, they don’t necessary think that you make something that goes on the wall, but I’m not really comfortable with calling myself an artist and then quilt artist I don’t know, it is like, so that’s, I don’t know, that is an interesting thing that people talk about within the community but I think if you, there is so many directions that you can go with quiltmaking. It is very honorable I think to be a classical quiltmaker and focus on craft and being, just creating meticulous beautifully crafted work and then there are other people that are more just free wheeling and now we have so many things that we can use to make quilts. You can glue every thing. You don’t even have to stitch it. There are people that glue their bindings on I mean, it’s a really a dynamic time I think to be a quiltmaker. KM: What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today? MS: Well for fiber artists I would think. Right now, I think being taken seriously. I don’t know why I feel like I always chose, what I want to do, is always like the outsider art form in a way that it is, and it’s hard for me. This is an example, I was writing about it this morning, I’m working with an architect and design company to–they are going to make a quilt and I’m going to quilt it for them, and the quilt will be used as a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity and I’ve been a supporter of Habitat for Humanity for a long time and I’m excited about doing this. [But I am also wary of the project because I had a bad experience with an architect.] This summer I worked with a woman who is an architect briefly, I didn’t take on the project because it kind of made me feel bad. She wanted me to do something that wasn’t constructually possible. She didn’t understand the art form, she wanted me to make, to do this quilt, it wasn’t, just wasn’t going to go together. It was like as a construction unit it wasn’t going to work. She didn’t want to pay me what it would take for me to do it, and I really felt insulted like she didn’t understand that, she may be an architect, but I’m a quiltmaker and there is value in that also, and it was a really I don’t know, like how do you get people to respect quiltmaking? KM: Good question. MS: They don’t necessarily understand. They will say, ‘Make me a quilt. Why won’t you make me a quilt?’ It is like this is hours of my life. KM: Materials are not cheap either. MS: No, they are not. I don’t think people fully understand. People in my world, my husband or my family understand, but regular people just sort of, you know, don’t get it. A couple of years ago an interesting thing happened when I went back to visit family in Kansas. We go back almost every year. My friends all know that I’ve been focused on making these quilts. I’ve gone kind of berserk about it. Anyway, I gave my friends a sort of presentation of my quilts, and it was kind of like for them, I could see in their faces it was like, ‘Oh, she’s not going to make me a quilt for my bed, or for my dog to lay on. That is not what she is doing. It is something different.’ Most people don’t even know we are out there making these amazing things. I guess it’s just where we are at right now. KM: When did you move to Anchorage? I guess we should get a timeline going here so that we have a little better understanding of your journey. MS: We moved to Alaska twelve years ago and we were three years in Anchorage, and I didn’t quilt then we moved to Valdez and it must have been, I finished my thesis in 2000, so in the fall of 2000 I made my first quilt. We were there for seven years from 1999 to 2006, then in 2006 we moved back to Anchorage. So we have been back here for two years. KM: Do you think you will stay in Anchorage? MS: Yeah, my husband has a pretty interesting job. He is the director of marine transportation for western and interior Alaska for a company called Crowley Marine Services, and he is in charge of delivering heating fuel to all of western and interior Alaska. It is a challenging job for him because the waterways, they are, they can only deliver fuel when the waterways aren’t frozen, and these are places that don’t have road access, so the only way they can get their fuel is by boat or by plane. He finds it very challenging and stimulating, and I don’t think he will have that kind of opportunity somewhere else. It is a little bit difficult for me because I feel like I’m so far removed from things because I live up here, but as my kids get older I feel that less and less. KM: Do you get to go to like Houston or Paducah or– MS: I have actually gotten to go to Machine Quilters Showcase twice because it is in Kansas, and I’ve kind of coordinated it so that I can go back to visit family, and I can go to the show. I’ve done that the last two years and that has been really awesome. I don’t know, I do I dream someday that I will get to go to a big show, I can’t. Someday it might happen. It is hard. My husband, because he works so hard and we have three boys that there, somebody has to be home with them and that is me so. That is another part, interesting thing about quiltmakers. A lot of the women sort of come into their–hit their stride when they are older because they have been the primary caregivers. KM: Is there anything else that you would like to add before we close? MS: [long pause.] I don’t know. You know it is interesting. I guess when I first started quilting I was working on my thesis, I was supposed to be polishing it up and sending out these essays, and I just kept stealing time to quilt, and I was really conflicted over it. I didn’t understand that it was actually, that I had found my passion and how lucky someone is to have that happen. A friend of mine said, ‘Why are you torturing yourself? You obvious want to be making quilts. Why don’t you just make quilts?’ But at that point I didn’t. I didn’t think of it as an art or as a–I didn’t feel like it was a valid thing for me to do and over the course of these eight years I’ve really come to terms with that, and that is really it’s awesome to know and my family supports it and I have this lovely studio and everyday I get to come into my studio and make quilts and I’m pretty lucky. Yep, so I guess that’s it. KM: That is good, that is excellent. What do you think makes a great quilt? MS: I like a lot of energy. I think, yeah that is a hard thing. I’m a big fan of the Gee’s Bend quilts and every time there is a quilt art discussion about whether or not Gee’s Bend quilts are art, I’m just like, ‘How can it not be art to take old worn out jeans and make them into something that you can look at for a long time?’ To me that’s the definition of art, and I guess that to me is a good quilt. Something that holds your interest in whatever manner it does that, if it is by making you feel calm or by making a bold statement. Yep. KM: “Boxy Nine Patch” certainly makes a bold statement. MS: [laughs.] Yeah. KM: Terrific. I want to thank you for taking time out of your day to talk with me, and we are going to conclude our interview and it is now…

QSOS with Ted Storm

QSOS with Ted Storm

Jana Hawley (JH): No, Okay. Okay, this is Jana Hawley and I’m interviewing Ted Storm-van Weeden, Wegeln. [10:40 a.m.] Ted Storm-van Weelden (TSW): Weelden. JH: Weelden. And would you spell that for me, please? TSW: W-E-E-L-D-E-N, and that’s my maiden name. When you marry in Holland, ‘Storm’ is my husband’s name. JH: So, pronounce your whole name for me please. TSW: Ted Storm-van Weelden. JH: Okay. TSW: Pronounced in an American way. JH: And now say it in Dutch, say it in Dutch. TSW: Ted Storm van Weelden. JH: Okay, very good. Thank you very much. We are here at the International Quilt Festival in Houston Texas on November 2, 2001. I’m Jana Hawley. The scribe is JoAnn Pospisil and we are excited to interview Ted. Can you tell us about the quilt that we are looking at today? Give us some design details. It’s origin. TSW: Well, yes, the quilt is made in a period of 4 years. I started it in September in 1997 and by that time I was not fit. I had a problem with my hands and doctors couldn’t find what the problem was and as I was teaching stress was the diagnose. So I was very upset that I wasn’t able to do anything, almost anything, but teaching, sitting and talking to students, but no stitches. And then I–well a design in my head showed I had to make something in black. And as I live in Holland very close to Delft I went to that company and I found some black Delft. Black Delft is the least known Delft tradition. The blue Delft is more known. And then I also heard that because it is less known it’s not sold a lot and yet it’s one of their oldest designs. They want to end that line of black Delft. [loud talking in the background.] It used to be called the wonder of Delft, because it’s exclusively made by that particular company, that black, like lacquer ware from the East was produced in ceramics so its influence from the East is visible in the design. JH: Asia East? TSW: Asia East. JH: Thank you. TSW: Yes, is visible in the design. And yet it’s very, very Dutch. JH: So which particular fabric are you talking about? TSW: It’s not the fabric, it’s the design. JH: It’s the design, okay. Thank you. TSW: Yes. So I went up to them and I had several opportunities of drawing and designing and they were very accommodating. So I could do anything with designs. And that way I create a new design with their influence in it. JH: Oh, I see. TSW: So the design is Dutch based. And the–well, not fit at all I worked over a period of 4 years and finally I was diagnosed having a neck hernia. It was taken care of and then I healed. So when I started I was depressed, I was sick, I wasn’t fit. It was black and the mirrors represent the tears. So while I had surgery done and I healed, I realized how lucky I was, because the surgery went fine. I could do stitches again and the colors I chose and everything in the quilt you see it’s vivid and it’s alive and the mirrors for me no longer are tears now, but sparkles of joy. JH: So can you explain, we can see the quilt, but for the tape recorder can you just describe the quilt? TSW: Okay. Yes. I’ll try. You see two birds on top of it. And the birds are a bit like, well representing my husband. My husband is the one in the middle center. He is always home-based, doesn’t like to travel. And I’m the one that’s on the go almost ready to leave. The flowers around it are very similar to Delft, typical Delft flowers. It’s just a fantasy. There is not a real flower you can compare to. It’s a decorative piece. And you will see lots of feather-shape and dots and sprinkled mirrors all over. JH: Ok and the borders? TSW: The border. Well the center-piece is an asymmetrical piece. It’s a bit–well, it has a–it’s obvious that it has an Asia Eastern influence. Then there is a border, the next border coming to it is a dupioni silk with padded trapunto border. Then there is a two inch border with a print fabric in gray and blacks, and then there is an outer border with–I think, how many? Is it 5 inch? JH: That’s about 5 inch. TSW: About 5 inch wide, with a grid half an inch away from each other, cross-hatch. And then you will see the outer border with a line of mirrors, a feather-shape with green feathers and a sort of repetition of the design from the inside, but a decorative motive at the end. JH: So except for the dupioni is everything else cotton? TSW: Well, some silks are in there– JH: Silk and cotton? TSW: Yes and beads, a lot of beads. JH: And is it all done by hand? TSW: Yes. JH: And how did you do the mirrors? TSW: Oh, that’s a funny story. I had a lot of–I had a lot of trouble how to control the mirrors and thanks to students I got hold of mirrors sent to me by one–friends, from a friend, from a student that way. So by the time I finally got the mirrors I had a problem how to hold them because when you glue them on top of the fabric, the glue affects the mirror’s paint over time. So I tried to figure what was easier for me to control, and then I cut a dot of fusible material, Ultra-hold from Heat ‘N Bond, and I cut a cut a small, an eighth of an inch square and I put that on a particular spot where I wanted my mirror. Then I added the mirror on top of it and I had soldering iron to heat up the glass mirror and thus activating the Heat ‘N Bond so it holds in its spot. And then I could add embroidery lines and my buttonhole stitches around it. [Jana chuckles ‘Okay.’] So this is shi sha mirror. JH: And do you know how many there are on this quilt? TSW: I know exactly. [both laugh.] JH: I bet you do. [laughing.] TSW: Three hundred and eighty five– JH: Mirrors. TSW: Yes. JH: Okay. That’s amazing. TSW: I traced all my hours because I knew by previous quilts that people always come up to me, ‘How many hours did it take you to create a quilt?’ JH: So how many hours did it take to do this one? TSW: Okay. [both laugh.] I took two thousand and five hundred and ninety six hours to make this quilt. JH: Oh, my goodness. Does that count your research time too? TSW: A little bit of drawing time, but not exact. JH: Oh. TSW: Just the actual time. I had the stopwatch on hand so even when the phone rang I stopped my stopwatch. [Jana: ‘Oh’.] So it’s really hands-on time. JH: So you did the whole thing, you timed it with a stop-watch. TSW: Yes. JH: Oh, my goodness. [laughs.] TSW: I had a record. JH: Oh, that’s absolutely gorgeous. And then it is embellished with embroidery as well. TSW: Yes. It’s embroidered in stem stitches and I used a cotton perle in three different sizes depending on the area where I was. JH: Yes. And then some bead work. TSW: Yes and the beading is done in gradations of size so increasing to bigger and then coming down to smaller sizes. JH: Absolutely beautiful. TSW: Oh thank you. JH: It’s really well hand stitched and the crosshatching, everything, the quilting stitches are beautifully done. Okay. What special meaning does this quilt have for you? TSW: Well, it’s for me. This quilt marks off a period, a dark period, yet rich [Jana: uh huh, uh huh.’] So for me it’s, it’s kind of a rebirth. [chuckles. Jana: uh huh.] And I owe a lot to America. I think everything I have so far done in quilting I owe to America. But also I owe to Karey [Bresenhan.] and Nancy [O’Bryant.], the IQA [International Quilt Association.] Quilt Festival and the Expo because that’s where my quilting career started. JH: Was it the IQA? TSW: It was Karey, Karey, IQA, I think by the time and Nancy. They started in ’88, Salzburg Austria, the Quilt Expo. And it was there that in the audience there was a quilter from Bucyrus Ohio. Her name was Lois Ide. She was there because she was a finalist in that first competition ever held in Europe. Because she was there sitting in the audience and she was passing out pieces of fabric. And I was a young quilter, I had hardly finished one patchwork quilt and I wanted to know more. I was eager for more techniques. So I tried to get hold of her piece of fabric. And she wants the piece of fabric from Holland, but I wasn’t aware that it would be nice to change, exchange pieces of fabric. So I talked a few words to her and promised to send her Dutch fabric. And well obviously she picked up my hunger for appliqué. I asked, there was one shop at that time in Holland, a quilt shop, and I went up to the lady of the shop and I said, ‘Well I made a patchwork quilt but I would love to make appliqué.’ I had seen Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine so I knew there was appliqué done and the words of the lady, I will never forget were, ‘Appliqué is no quilt.’ So I thought well then I had try and go to Salzburg because there I know American ladies are there. They know all about appliqué so when I met this lady in the audience I didn’t know her at all, but she picked up my hunger for more and she invited me to come to the States. So without–I had never been in a plane before, and never left my husband and my kid without being together. I took the plane completely trusting a quilter and I was accepted in her house, adopted like, and she taught everything she could tell me. She shared techniques from her mother and she knew I was a textile teacher. She knew that when she eventually would pass away, her techniques from her mother will continue through me. And that’s what’s happening. So when I went to the United States I had American patterns in my head, everything was America, America but by the time I knew so many techniques, when I was in the plane on my way back you can never thank an American quilter with an American pattern. So I thought, ‘Well I had better, I had better look for something typical Dutch.’ And she obviously liked Delftware so that’s how I got to– I live around the corner in Delft but by that time Delftware is from your grandmothers. You know it’s old-fashioned. [JH: Uh huh.] So I didn’t like it. So we, so I went up to Delft and explained that I wanted to make something in a quilt. And I made her a quilt and the name is “Holland’s Glory” to thank her for every technique that she taught me in my way. And then that quilt was entered in competition in 1992 in The Hague, at the Expo in The Hague. By that time I’d only made that particular one patchwork quilt and two, well kitchen-cloth sized tryouts to try trapunto and to try out some appliqué and then I make this “Holland’s Glory” quilt and that one won Best Overall Workmanship and Viewer’s Choice so then my life changed completely. I quit my job at school as a textile teacher. I could travel. I was invited to come to the US to teach and well I’m a full-time quilting teacher now. JH: And do you teach at home? TSW: Yes. I teach at home, not in my house but in The Hague, there is a classroom where I teach and I’m on a free-lance basis. I am asked to teach whatever. JH: So you don’t have a shop, where you teach in a shop? TSW: I used to have a quilting school [Jana: Uh huh.] for several years. [screeching noise. Ted giggles.] JH: Sorry. TSW: I started a quilting school and by the end I had 12 other teachers. We had a complete program. We had a set of classes in a way a school is done. You are not allowed in an advanced class until you had your previous basics done and checked. And that worked very well, but I was, you know, sitting behind a computer. And I would like to work with quilters and open eyes for design and color and techniques. JH: So when you say you were a textile teacher– TSW: Yes. JH: How? TSW: In a high school. JH: Okay. TSW: It’s on a high school. JH: Like home economics. Okay. TSW: Yes, but totally fine hand work only, so no cooking. JH: Is that still taught that way in Holland? TSW: Well not as much as it was, because the government changed the rules and exclusively textile is no longer done because it’s too feminine and it should be more with all– JH: Gender neutral. TSW: Yes. [chuckles.] Yah. JH: What year was is that you came to America the first time to learn– TSW: From Lois? JH: Oh. TSW: Yes, it was in April ’89. It was a couple of months after–no it was almost a year later, after we first met at the Expo. JH: Now do you specialize in Delft-style patterns? TSW: Well ever since then I appreciate Delft more and more. So after I made the blue one I made a tableau de bleu that was made with an exclusive design from them, a limited edition tile in mind. And I wanted, I was kind of depressed because of the blues [JH: Uh huh.], and I wanted to make a colorful piece. So then I made a colorful piece, an abundance of flowers. By that time I had so many students and it was, well it was a hectic life, but colorful and diversity and everything. I enjoyed life very much. JH: Good. Good. TSW: So. So ya. So it’s sort of that I like Delft and I would like to make a series to represent Delft. JH: Ah, well that would be, that would be– TSW: So you don’t know. [Jana laughs.] I don’t know what the next one will be. JH: Oh. Now tell me what award you have been recognized with this quilt. TSW: With this quilt I have won Best Overall, no, how it’s called, Best of Show it’s called. JH: Best of Show. TSW: Best ya, sometimes it’s hard to recognize a word. Best of Show award, yes. JH: Okay, and then do you have other plans or what are your next plans with this quilt? TSW: I have no other plans except that I will share with my students for teaching purposes. I won’t sell. I think a quilt, my quilt in this type of work and intricacy, I think it should stay in Holland or in Europe [Jana agrees.]. And for me it’s important to share because I can point out where I struggled and they can gain from that. JH: So what do you see as a difference between Dutch and their Dutch woman and their interest in quilts compared to American. [talking and laughing in the background.] TSW: Well I think Dutch quilters most of the time are very–the general public of quilters are interested in traditional pieces though we do have an Art Quilt group coming up very, very much now. We do have very good art quilters as well but the average quilter likes tradition. JH: And it is a lot of American tradition? TSW: Yes, yes. JH: So, how many hours a week do you quilt now? TSW: Well, depends a lot, when I’m teaching I’m teaching most of the time, I can’t do things half. So when I’m teaching, I’m teaching. You know I’m preparing material. I’m developing classes and I do not one stitch for a few months. And then, well it’s mostly during the winter that I hardly do any stitches. Then March, April I will end my classes. I’m fed up with any quilter [both laugh.], my students and that’s my time that I balance my need for stitches and then I work 30, 40 hours a week. JH: So you are a full-time quilter in some sense? TSW: Yes, yes so devoted to quilting teaching and quilting myself. JH: What’s your very first memory of a quilt? TSW: My very first memory of a quilt. Oh, yes I was at a guild, I was at a guild patchwork show and I didn’t particularly like to teach quilting at school. We don’t, we don’t teach quilting. I had to do patchwork the English method over paper [Jana agree.] that was, you had to do that in school, in a high school. And I didn’t like it all because it was too big to cut off material and sew it together. I really hate that, but I did it because the government required I should do it. And then one of my suppliers pointed out to me that, ‘You should go to that so-and-so patchwork exhibition. It’s close to where you live because I’m sure you’ll like it.’ I’ve always been interested in making wallhangings for buildings, nursery homes, so you know as a textile teacher you’re an artist as well. So I make those. But I wasn’t keen to go to that exhibition and I struggled once to make a wall hanging, oh, about 90 inches square. I live, in Holland we have many small houses, so it’ didn’t fit my room and I had to cut it in sections. And then I sewed it together. But then the carpenter had to come to mount the thing. And that’s a thing I don’t’ like. I want to have it completely by myself, made by myself. So one year I finished that huge wall hanging and that lady came up to me twice, stated, ‘You should go to that exhibition.’ And I thought well I’d better go there because the third time she would ask me how it was so I went [Jana laughs.] to that guild. I just went on purpose for that. I went to this guild exhibition and then I was hit, because instantly I recognized this technique solved my problem. I could work in blocks. I could store it. I could wash it. I could sleep under it and it was everything that really make this is it. So ever since then I had a book on my lap and I taught myself how to do any quilt stitch. I was not introduced to it in my education as a textile teacher in any of the quilting techniques. JH: So where did you, when did you first learn to sew. I mean what got your interest [tape makes a noise.] Okay, after that little technology error now we’re going to get started again. Where did you learn to sew? TSW: I really learned to sew; it’s not done in the family. We were a family where fine pen work was much more admired rather that sewing clothes. There was a seamstress who did the sewing for the family. So my grandmother was a lady and I was with her, watching her when she was doing her tatting, very elegant and my mother could not knit at all, but also did some tatting and some embroidery. So when I was a kid I played with threads and techniques and not sewing. I didn’t like dolls. I liked to be outside. I liked to play soccer. I was not a real girl [both chuckle.] But I admired handwork. When I was in my high school I had a very good textile teacher and she let us be creative with fabrics and threads and had creative elements in her class. I picked it up and I did not do a lot of my other homework but I did more on my textile homework. So some day she said to me, ‘You should go to that education in textiles’. I finished my–she was twenty three by that time, when she had just finished her education, was a brand new textile teacher but picked my out, obviously. And I went to that education and finished my school, of course first and then I was, one year before I did my final graduation at the high school and then she died in a car accident. [Jana: awe.] And then I thought, ‘Well it’s her that pointed out you should be a textile teacher and I really owe her everything in my textile career.’ So I finished my education in a very short period of time. I was already teaching when I was half-way during my education in a high school and I have been on that high school for 22 years. JH: So do you do university? Do you have to go to university to be a teacher? TSW: Yes, sort of, ya. It’s not quite a university, but you can compare in years, yes. JH: Okay. TSW: And agree to. JH: Okay. Now we don’t have our quilt in front of us any more, because of the technology problem that we had, but can you describe for us the back of your quilt and then the design principles that you feel make a good quilt? TSW: About the contrast? JH: Yes. TSW: Or we could [inaudible.] JH: Well I don’t think so. I think you need to talk about–I think [both talk at the same time.] Before what we were talking about — TSW: About the contrast. To point out [both are talking at the same time.] Your question about what makes a good quilt a good quilt, is that a good quilt shows a long list of contrasts. You need to have contrast in color but also contrast in shape, contrast in line- for instance straight lines, curved lines. You need to have small elements and bigger elements. You need to have sparkles. And you need to have plain texture differences. So some areas are [inaudible.], some areas are not. So high and low contrast. And once you are a student and you–I add contrasts year after year in your head then you are–you will recognize and pick out a good quilt because the list like it’s a car-check, you know. So when you know your line of contrast, your long list and you can mark off that it’s there. You know you are doing a good job. JH: So it’s something that can be taught. It’s not an innate– TSW: Absolutely, absolutely. I think I strongly believe I hear so many times, ‘I’m not creative.’ And I reply then, ‘The only thing what you need, it’s a good teacher that helps you pointing out with yourself the elements of design.’ And that’s all you need, a good teacher. And one who you trust and you accept criticism, not criticism downwards but point out what you did wonderful and could be done better so that’s how I teach. And I must say I’m very proud because two of my students have–from the Netherlands, both have–were judged in. JH: In this event? TSW: In this exhibition. And you will not recognize my hand in it. They’re– JH: Quite different– [inaudible, both are talking.] TSW: Oh yes, but they are there so I’m pleased. JH: That’s wonderful. What makes a quilt appropriate for a museum? TSW: When you see a quilt and it hits your heart, I would say, that would be for me a museum piece whether it’s a solid quilt, but a wonderful design, the contrast that may hit your eye. Whether it’s white-on-white, but contrast in techniques, but what touches your heart I would say. JH: Do you have a proclivity towards, from hand to machine quilting? What’s your feeling about, about the two differences? TSW: Well, I’m a, I’m a teacher that teaches everything. So I can work by machine though it’s not my favorite. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t teach how to do it by machine and quilt by machine. I think every quilter who likes to do the job, she likes to do that way, I appreciate. And I will help her along her favorite path. But I strongly believe as a quilting teacher that you should have a basis like a tree, having its roots spread out so it’s firm, so when you have design and color and quilting techniques, whether you like to do it by hand or by machine, have them both trained. Appliqué, how many different kinds of appliqué there are, try them all. And eventually when your roots are there in any direction, you have developed your personal direction. And then it’s just opening a drawer and whatever, and you create your technique and your direction. And that’s what I encourage. I’m not one that is teaching on the top, on the outside edges of the tree. I prefer to teach the roots so general. JH: We–when you asked to be interviewed today– TSW: Yes. JH: You could choose whichever quilt you wanted. It did not need to be that quilt. TSW: Okay. JH: Is there another quilt that you would have liked to have also been interviewed about? TSW: One of my quilts? JH: Yes. TSW: Well I don’t–well, I’ve made three or four–[laughs.] a few quilts. JH: Really? Really? TSW: Yes, because it’s so much work and I teach a lot. [Jana: uhuh.] But my first quilt that “Holland’s Glory” quilt is my–my–it marks my period that I start in the quilting world and that quilting took out of my life. JH: Oh. And is it a full-sized quilt? TSW: It’s about 60 by 60, I think. I don’t because – JH: So it’s not a bed quilt. TSW: It’s a wall quilt. It fits a Dutch house. [Jana laughs.] This one doesn’t fit my walls. [Jana laughs.] I can’t hang it anywhere. [both laugh.] JH: So why or what is it about quilting that It’s been important in your life? TSW: The people, the students and the friendship. If it only would be a plain job, so from ‘A’ to ‘B’ I would not quit my job because then I would have stayed at school. But here you have friendship, you have sharing. And it’s the sharing that is the red line throughout my quilting and teaching. JH: It’s a very interesting culture, isn’t it? The quilting culture. TSW: Absolutely. It’s rewarding. It’s the appreciation and it’s the moment in a hectic period of life that you can sit and relax and be a bit selfish, just do your own stitches, whatever technique. JH: My question is what you think about the importance of quilts in American life. Now if you can see that from an outsiders perspective and then maybe also talk about it from a Dutch woman’s life. TSW: Well seen from a Dutch woman’s life to America I see you have much more production. You [both talk, inaudible.] Many quilters I met don’t want to spend a lot of time on a quilt. They want to have it done now. And in Holland there is the opposite. We don’t make big quilts, we have small houses, so we tend to make smaller wall hangings and we focus more on fine techniques. But that’s general. But here you have, you have a tradition in quilting. When I speak to someone in the Netherlands and who is not a quilter, we have no word for quilting. Well the word grew from the southern areas of Italy, France, England. From my country we have no word so there is some history, but not a lot. So it was brought from Europe to America and then since the seventies it was brought back. England has a history, but that’s away from us. That’s a different country JH: Oh, right. TSW: So I think you’re so lucky, you can talk to anyone who knows the word ‘quilt’ and know what a quilt is. We have in the dictionary no word about ‘quilt.’ JH: Oh, really. TSW: No. JH: Bed covering? TSW: Yes, but that’s different– [both talk at the same time, inaudible.] JH: So what will have quilts played in the women’s lives? TSW: So far in women’s life, in America, you mean or both? JH: Both if you think you can, if you want to speak about– TSW: Well I know some about the history how to survive having quilts in America, and that’s what I share with students. But you have so many different kinds of women’s lives and I think speaking for my mentor, my quilting mother, she could not live without doing any stitches. Quilting is part of your life. When you’re a real quilter you are a quilter and you are, well, it’s a no-cure disease [both laugh.]. JH: Would you pronounce and spell her name for us? TSW: Yes, her name is Lois – JH: Ok. TSW: And then initial ‘K’ JH: Ok. TSW: Ide. I-D-E. That’s her husband’s name. JH: Okay. TSW: And she, she is from Bucyrus. Bucyrus. B-U-C-Y-R-U-S, Ohio. [Jana and scribe confer.] TSW: Well, about this woman’s life. [laughs.] JH: Oh. TSW: I think in Holland we do it as a hobby and some of them do more and being an artist or like me being a teacher. But there are not many who live full-time or work full-time as a quilter, whatever. JH: When you look at the demographics here at the quilt show though– TSW: Yes. JH: It’s ninety percent female probably. TSW: Yes. JH: What role is it playing in their lives do you think? TSW: I think it’s the possibility when you have to stay home it’s the only way to express yourself. And it’s a way to be busy and yet to be, it’s hard for me to explain that in English JH: That’s okay, that’s okay. TSW: But it’s not just being busy, but you’re busy in a good way because you make something you can use. JH: Productive. TSW: Productive. So, and, well, I have male students. [laughs.] JH: Do you? TSW: Oh, yes. JH: Oh. TSW: I had a few but for them it’s as important as for a woman to work. But it’s hard for me to say how important a quilt is in a life. I think most of the quilters do it as a relaxing hobby, I would say. JH: How should a quilt be used? TSW: I make quilts that can be washed in the washing machine, put in the dryer and in the spin dryer. My “Holland’s Glory” quilt, when I got it back from a show it was greasy all over, everyone seemed to have touched the trapunto. And I didn’t want–you know it was like a sheet. Grease. So I put it in the washing machine, in the dryer, in the spin dryer. It came out fine. And I would do the same with this quilt. And it’s the way I do the techniques are very, very, strong. You can hardly take anything away from anything. So when I want to take a nap I take the quilt when it’s there and I will snuggle up so even if it’s a nice piece, whatever. I think a quilt is a quilt to be used. JH: [Jana confers something inaudible with someone.] Okay. How do you think quilts should be preserved for the future? TSW: In America I would say, try to find the best quilts from the shows, because they are obviously, they attract people and ask the quilters to part with them or donate or whatever, and store them for future. However my quilt, I think my quilt will stay in Europe. [Jana laughs.] We have no history. [both talk. Inaudible.] JH: Ok, actually that completes our questions for today– TSW: Ok. JH: But I want to know if there is anyting else that you’d like to say that you feel like you have not had a chance to say yet? TSW: Well the thing is that my life changed completely, thanks to an exchange of just a four inch square of fabric. And it’s the stitching the world together. JH: That’s very well done. TSW: Yes, and my quilting parents, you know, they both accepted me in their house. JH: How long did you–was that exchange? How long were you here? When you came to visit Lois? TSW: It was ’89, so over, it’s almost 12 years now, that we are friends. JH: But that initial visit, how long did you stay? TSW: Oh, just a week because it was Easter break from school. JH: Oh, Yes. TSW: But it’s 12 years now and they are in their eighties, and she is almost falling apart, you know, her mind is crispy but she’s you know, getting older and I owe everything to them, and also to her husband, because it’s–I think it’s a big risk he took, for bringing in–for her bringing in a n unknown Dutch girl. And for me a risk to stay with people I really don’t know but she was a quilter so that’s good. JH: You [inaudible.] that way, don’t you? TSW: Oh yes. I had never any doubt. JH: There’s a lot of metaphors in the quilt. Thank you and that concludes our interview with Ted Storm. TSW and JH talk together: Storm van Weelden. [both laugh.] JH: Thank you. TSW:…

QSOS with Judy Murrah

QSOS with Judy Murrah

Jo Ann Pospisil (JP): This is Jo Ann Pospisil at the Quilters’ S.O.S. – Save Our Stories project in Houston, at the International Quilt Festival interviewing Judy Murrah on October 22, 1999. Judy, tell us how you became involved in quilting. Judy Murrah (JM): Something in general. I started sewing when I was six years old. I don’t know how far back you want me to go with this. JP: That’s fine. You started at six? JM: At Six years old my mom allowed me to sew on her Singer sewing machine. At the time I had to stand to sew because it had the knee press so I couldn’t sit and do my knee to make the machine go and touch the machine so, I stood. And the only thing my mom ever said was, ‘Slow down, Judy, slow down.’ So I played with her fabric scraps from what mom sewed, forever. I made doll clothes. I sewed little bits and pieces together. The first quilt I made was the first year I was out of college and that was in 1965. I made it out of taffetas and satins from formals that mother had made over the years for myself and sisters and neighbor across the street. I just sewed squares together–nine patches–but I did not know they were nine patches. I just sewed squares. My mom did not quilt but, my grandmother did. And so we had a few quilts in our house. I made the top the year before I got married. Then I got married the next year and the second year we were married my husband was stationed in Illinois. I’m from San Antonio JP: Texas? JM: He was stationed in Illinois and there were no quilt shops and very few articles in magazines about quilting so I was really doing this on my own. And from the Sears catalog bought big fat batting and a piece of cheap taffeta for the back and tied it with polyester yarns you buy in the dime store and bound it with wide blanket binding. That was my first quilt and it was in the sixties, probably ’67. JP: What happened to it? JM: I still have it. But I put it on the bed and you know, it goes, swoosh, right on off you know taffeta. But I still have it. JP: You just use the regular taffeta for the back too, the whole thing? JM: Yes. JP: So the whole thing is just taffeta, taffeta? JM: Taffeta and satins. JP: Sounds pretty what color was it? JM: Greens and pink and I think there’s a lavender in there. JP: Did it have a special meaning? JM: I guess it has a special meaning because it was my first one. And then the next one I made was probably two years later and I made it for my sister-in-law’s baby. And at that time I still had not taken any classes or known anything about popping your knots through, you know. I would just start stitching and I don’t even know if I used quilting thread. But I used cotton fabric then and maybe there was a poly blend from the dime store. He was born in 1968. That was my second quilt and then Jewel Patterson, Karey’s mother was my first quilt teacher. I learned about her teaching quilting classes in Karey’s antique store. She had taught one class and I saw somebody in a consignment store stitching on a Dutch Doll. And I said, ‘Oh, I’m interested, I’m doing some quilting.’ And then she said, ‘I took a class.’ So then I took the second class Jewel taught. And she went on to teach hundreds of classes. And then I ended up being Karey’s first teacher besides her mother in Karey’s quilt store. JP: And just for the record on tape–Karey? JM: Bresenhan. JP: Bresenhan? JM: Yes, she’s the owner of this show. JP: Oh, okay. So you actually don’t use the first quilt you did anymore, it’ just– JM: It’s put in a cedar chest. JP: Right. JM: I never did use it. JP: Yes, it wouldn’t stay on the bed. [laughs.] JM: Right, so I never did use it. But then I took Jewel’s beginning class and we just made four little blocks. But I was hooked from the minute I took that class. And then I went on to take her sampler class. So that is really my first quilt that was used. I actually decorated a bedroom around it. It was navy and it faded, but I kept using it. It’s tattered and torn, because we used it a lot. JP: The quilt you made for the child’s quilt–was it actually a baby quilt? JM: Yes, it was a small baby quilt. JP: Okay. JM: But, it became his “blankie” that he carried around and tickled his nose with it and so I felt really good about that. JP: When did you evolve into clothing? I’m assuming the jacket you have on you… JM: Yes. I started in 1977, ’76 is when I took the first class from Karey’s mom. And in 1977 I entered a little quilt show that she had in the shop. It was just a 3 block wall hanging and it won a prize. Then I started teaching classes for Karey. Karey is just a brain-child with ideas that never end. She said that we had some border fabric from Concord in the store. By then she had started carrying fabric. And she said, ‘Why don’t you do a jacket with a border around it.’ So, I did and I designed it and hand quilted it. And I found out that I really liked the wearables and started making wearables then. Then it was in 1989 that the editor-in-chief of That Patchwork Place, the book publishing company that is now Martindale and Co., saw me at a market and she said, ‘I love those jackets, I haven’t seen anybody doing them like that.’ This is actually the second type of series of jackets I’m doing, the others had a bunch of manipulations and I still wear those, and people are still buying the books. I still see people out here wearing them and I say, ‘I love your jacket,’ and they say, ‘Oh, you’re the one–‘ [laughter.] So, anyway, that’s when it really took off. Barbara said, ‘Will you do a book for us?’ And I said, ‘Oh, there’s just no time to do a book.’ And there just wasn’t because I was working full time for Quilts Inc. and teaching a bunch. I did write the book eventually and it was the number one best seller for quite some time. I have gone on to do a total of five books since that first. JP: What was the title of your first book? JM: Jacket Jazz. JP: And you mentioned manipulations, the first jackets, explain that? JM: Techniques, just patchwork techniques and folding and tucks and ribbon embellishment. Probably on each jacket, the least number of manipulations or techniques was six. I did a series of fifteen jackets and they were all different. Some of them had as many as twelve different techniques in them. But you know you just do a little piece of Bargello and then do another piece of patchwork by sewing strips together and then using a special ruler to cut them apart and rearranging them on your sleeve, back, or fronts. And it’s really just a fun way to try out a lot of different techniques without making a whole quilt. JP: So your basic focus now is wearables? JM: It was wearables whether I wanted it to be or not because before it was out at the fall quilt market. We were already in production on the second book Jacket Jazz Encore. Their marketing department already knew it would be a big seller. Are you familiar with the book? You were nodding. JP: I have it because the first classes I took was from that book. JM: So, then we went on to a third book that was More Jazz, a fourth book which is Dress Days, and then a fifth book that is still out that is one hundred and one patchwork embellishment techniques, it’s called Jazz It Up. But, we did that because people were saying – we have your other wearable books and the pattern line, but then I’ll go back and think well I’d like to do ‘Prissy puffing.’ Where is prissy puffing? And so, that was one reason we did the book so you could find all the different techniques in one book and quilters were saying, ‘I love the techniques but I don’t do wearables. I wish you would do a book on just techniques.’ So, that book is still in print and is out here. Well, actually the other books are out here for sale with some vendors who have older books. I don’t know if that is the question you asked me. [laughter.] JP: Yes, just an explanation on the wearables and how you got involved. JM: But, now I’m working on a book that will come out early next fall that’s called In the Studio with Judy Murrah, because the company wanted me to do some quilts. People were saying that they loved the techniques but they would love to see how I would put them in a quilt, now that they had seen how they were put in a jacket. Now, I have a book that will be out next year that has six small quilts, and some decorative pillows, and some little quilts that are called “Love Notes.” They’re little greeting quilts, to give away. JP: Would you consider the jacket you have on as sort of typical of the kinds of patterns you generally use? JM: No, because this is a new series. I’m working on a series of jackets that are dusters, or swing jackets, or smocks, whatever you want to call them. They are one patch techniques. You know there is just one block and these crazy logs. Where as the other ones had multiple techniques in them. I should have brought one of the other ones today, so you would know what I am known for right now. JP: That’s a beautiful jacket. JM: Thank you. JP: Can you describe for us exactly how you put it together–well not exactly? JM: It just has four different color ways in it. The turquoise, the orange, the green, and then the yellow. You just start out with a rectangle or a square that you’ve cut nicely and then the rest of the pieces are put on like a log cabin in a series. I do an orange all the way around and then I do a green row, and then a yellow, and then a turquoise. They are just scraps rather than nicely cut 1 and ½ inch strips or whatever. Then you square them up, so that you can sew them all together. I put them on the back first. There are four on the back first row and then stitch and flip another row and then another until all four rows are complete. Adding the cuff, the yoke and the collar makes it look like it is a garment, rather than a quilt. JP: Do you do other garments rather than the jackets? JM: Vests. JP: Okay. JM: A lot of vests, but I really don’t do regular clothes. I buy garments and put the jackets on top. They’re always loose fitting so it’s not like I have to make a fitted jacket. Some are more fitted than others, but I don’t do tailoring and all that. JP: How do feel about how the quilt industry has evolved? What have you seen? JM: I feel wonderful about it. It’s just so exciting. It’s evident by the number of people who have signed up for classes and pre registration. Last year we had right at 200 or 220 who signed up for pre-registration, by the end of the week and we already have 200 signed up and still have two full days left, plus today left to go. JP: How has the attendance increased over time? JM: The attendance increases every single year–51,000 was last year’s number. I know we’ll break that. You can just tell by the number of bodies on the floor. And our attendance was up for registration too. JP: How has entries increased over time? JM: The increases have always been steady, but that is not my department so I couldn’t tell you. The increase of the quilts, right? JP: Yes. JM: No, that’s someone else’s department. I’m director of education so– JP: So, you actually arrange the classes that are taught here? JM: I schedule all the classes and the curriculum and have a volunteer staff here that works. There are 10 women who come and keep everything moving smoothly and I have a full time assistant who works at the office every day. I live in Victoria, Texas, rather than here in Houston, but we communicate by phone and fax and e-mail daily. And I come in for meetings and all our shows. JP: Well, since you’re director of education, how do you feel about this project, Save Our Stories? JM: Oh, I think that it is a great project. It’ll be interesting to see it all compiled and how it will be used. I would like to know more about the quilters of the 100 best quilts we have here. It would be wonderful to read a lot about them. So, I think it’s great and maybe in 100 years they’ll read what we were doing. We won’t be here to know what it’s like. JP: Exactly. When you talked about your jackets a minute ago and you said you did a series of fifteen–so you do all of these yourself? Or, do you have others help you with putting the pieces together? JM: No, I do it all myself. I’ve never mass produced to sell. Early on I sold my jackets because people would see them and say, ‘Oh, I want to buy that.’ And then I sold them. But, I’ve never sold anything that I’ve published and I don’t ever do commission work anymore because I just can’t. I have a lot of students who do. I can always refer people to one of them. JP: Do you view quilting as an art or a craft? JM: Well, it’s both. JP: Absolutely. What is your inspiration for a new line? How did you decide to change to apparently you have gone through 3 different series. JM: Well, actually I felt like I had exhausted what I was doing–I still have many ideas and have 15 garments that haven’t been published, but have pretty much exhausted that. I’m on the teaching circuit where I travel throughout the U.S. And I want to continue doing that. I like that. So, that was kind of my inspiration–I have to come up with a new book. And of course, the publishing company wants you to have a new book, so that they have a new publication out there. That is probably the inspiration to change to something else to keep it alive so that I can stay. JP: Sort of market driven. JM: Yes, and it’s kind of sad in a way because, I like the freedom to just get in my studio and just sew a bunch of stuff and just play with it–it doesn’t make any difference if anybody likes it other than myself. It is really not the income as much as I just like being out in the community and seeing more people and the travel. I love to travel. JP: What is your least favorite part about the whole quilting situation? JM: Least favorite part professionally would be when I have so many deadlines and I have to ignore my family. I don’t have any children at home anymore but, I’m very involved with them. I have two married children and a son that just graduated as an art student from the University of Texas. I have one grandchild and another on the way and I like to be involved in their lives. But it’s good that I don’t have to depend on them for my life enjoyment. Sometimes that gets in the way and that’s hard, sometimes work gets in the way of family. JP: Has your family been supportive over time? JM: Extremely. My husband is very good about women doing a job that they are suited for. He has been an executive, he has been a bank president, he owns a company now that’s an investment company and if a woman can do the job as well as, or better than a man, he puts her in that position. So, he’s been very supportive of me. JP: Do you have any children–I suppose your grandchildren is too young–that actually do quilting also? JM: Holly, my daughter, buys children’s shoes for all the Foley’s store so she’s here in Houston and she comes to the show every night that she can. She loves looking at it and she likes the ideas. She loves marketing, so she loves what I’m doing, but she herself does not pick up needle and thread and stitch. I think she will sometime. She’s twenty-seven. She’s just newly married but I think she will one day. My daughter-in-law is interested in sewing. I got her a sewing machine and my younger son is very artistic and has moved to L.A. to make a life out of his art. JP: What do you think is the best use a quilt can be put to–what are some of the ways you think quilts can be used? JM: Ah, to snuggle up in. To hang on the wall. You mean once it’s made the use of it? JP: Yes. JM: As a piece of artwork, a way to decorate your home, quilts on the bed, a gift for a baby, a love token to somebody. JP: Do you have any inclination to do regular quilts as opposed to wearables? JM: I started out that way. JP: But to return to that? JM: Well, the quilts that I’m doing right now you would not call regular quilts, because they’re not a Grandmother’s Flower Garden or– JP: Not traditional necessarily, but just quilt as opposed to a wearable? JM: Yes, because that’s what my new book is going to be. They’re little quilts–.they could be made into big quilts, a couple of patterns. Actually one of the quilts in the book is these crazy logs. But, it’s small and you could make it big by adding more blocks. So, yes I do like to make quilts, but not the traditional where you have to spend a year or two on one quilt. I like to just get all those fabrics out and just mess with them and cut and stitch and iron and have fun with it. JP: See results– JM: Yes. And decorate them with buttons and beads. Some of the hand quilting I do, every time I pull my needle up I put a bead on or a trinket of some kind and then stitch again. I add buttons and special threads and couch the threads down, so they’re heavily embellished. So you really wouldn’t think of them as quilts to put on the bed. JP: Do you have favorite color schemes that you like to put together? JM: Bright. I like bright colors. JP: Is there anything in particular you would like to add as far as the project or your participation in quilting? JM: It’s really been a way of life. It is a huge part of my life. And it is not something I sought out to happen it just evolved and actually it evolved because of my relationship with Karey, Karey Bresenhan, the owner of this show, part of this project you’re working on. And it’s been a wonderful part of my life. My degree is in Elementary Education. I taught elementary school and I taught art in junior high school for a very short time before I had my own family. I thought someday that I would go back into the classroom, but this evolved and it’s much greater than anything I could have imagined. It’s a wonderful, inspirational, keep going livelihood. I don’t ever tire of it. I sometimes get tired but I don’t tire of the process. I love it and it’s a passion. JP: It shows you just glow when you talk about it. [laughs.] Does anybody have any questions? Unidentified Person: Tell us more about the relationship; you said that your entry into this world was because of your relationship with Karey. Tell us a little more about that. JM: Well, it was because I took a class from Jewel Patterson, her mom. It was the second class she had taught in her store at the time. She has a quilt shop and has for a long time, but it was an antique shop at the time. After I took that first class, I just ate it up. I didn’t do just the little project we were working on, but I went on to use every little scrap I had. I had sewn for my children, so I had lots of scraps. I would dig that stuff out and cut multiple blocks of what we were learning. Then I guess Karey saw how much I was doing. She never misses an opportunity to plug someone in somewhere, if she sees potential. And so Jewel, her mom, was the only one teaching – she was doing the traditional quilt teaching. Karey just ask me, ‘Would you like to come teach in my shop and do the decorative type things–not the traditional because Mama has that?’ And I said, ‘Sure.’ So, I came along and you don’t do anything for Karey half-heartedly or participate a little bit. You just really get into it. And there is something about her that drives you to do the very best you can. So, I guess she saw the passion I had and she continued to give me a little more work and a little more. Then I started doing samples for her store. When she became a quilt shop I started teaching much more than I expected to teach. When she was doing the quilt shows I would just come to the quilt show and help Lynn Young who was the director of education at the time, who is now the Art Quilt Magazine editor. I assisted her and then after a few years Lynn wanted to go on and do other things. I had by then moved to Victoria and Karey called and said, ‘I think you can do Lynn’s job long distance, what do you think?’ I still had little kids at the time. But, there’s something about Karey–you just don’t tell her no–because she makes you feel so sure that you can do it. She makes you believe that you are the best person for the job, even if she didn’t believe it, you believe it. [laughter.] So, I got involved and I have just grown with the show and it’s been a fantastic opportunity. I’ve had wonderful travel opportunities. I have had every opportunity to meet any vendor or anybody out in the quilt world. We’ve done our shows in Europe. I have actually been handed something really wonderful. And I think Karey is one of my very best friends. Matter of fact she did the decorating for both of our children’s weddings, the receptions. We had beautiful Victorian receptions for my son and our daughter. My association with Karey is very, very deep. JP: Does your family appreciate and recognize what you do and have been involved in? Do they understand the bigness of it? JM: Yes, they do. As a matter of fact, my daughter met me here and we went through the tour of the 100 best last night when Karey was doing it for a special group and I told her that this would be a wonderful opportunity to hear it with a small crowd. She was very interested in it. But, my son, who is thirty-one, says to his wife, ‘You know you really should get into quilting like mom. And sometime you can make an income.’ She’s a stay-at-home mom and he wants her to be. They think that you can just pick up a needle and thread and you can do this too. Then my son-in-law has said the same thing to my daughter, ‘Learn this from your mom, so you can do it too.’ I am extremely generous with what I earn with them, so they know. The income is not as important for me as it is for what I can do for them, which is really fun. That is the other way I am driven, because I just love the joy it brings them when I can do for my kids–not that my husband couldn’t, but it’s just sort of the icing on the cake. JP: How do you think quilting has changed over the years, since you’ve become involved? JM: It’s huge, it’s just huge. When I first started, as I said, there was maybe Jean Ray Laury; there may be an article once in a while in Family Circle or something like that. Once in a while yours truly may have a pattern in a magazine that you could buy. Then I heard about Jeff and Beth Gutchen, which I don’t know that we hear too much about them anymore, but they had a book or part of a series of books by Time/Life. Then I heard about Virginia Avery and Roberta Horton–some of these big names are still around – and then those people started publishing and those were the first books. You would just buy every book you could find. Our Houston quilt guild was good in bringing those teachers to Houston. I don’t even know what the numbers are for the growth of quilting. And just looking through the 100 best, some of the quilts that were much earlier than what we’re looking at today. Those were magnificent quilts in their time and now they’re just so much more magnificent. People have learned so much more and they play with color so much more and our fabrics are so much more wonderful. We have so many options with the type of batting we want to use and we have so many cottons and threads. There is so much knowledge out there. It is such an art form. Ricky Tims is from St. Louis and actually he’s from Texas originally but he lives in St. Louis now. He taught for us last year and again this year and yesterday he was part of a luncheon program. He’s a musician before he was a quilter, but he’s an astounding quilter now too. Both his color and design is phenomenal and he’s a wonderful teacher. But, yesterday he did our luncheon program and he played on a baby grand piano and would play a few notes and he compared composing a piece of music to composing a quilt. It was fantastic. He would play his few little notes and then he would show on the slide projector a block. And then he did the same notes over again, over again, over again, and you would see this block over and over again. But then he added the melody and then he’d add to the quilt and it was wonderful. Then it lets you see what an art form you’re working with too. It has opened so many doors for so many people. I think it’s so different. Even the women and some men who were making art quilts way back when–there are so many more people doing that and considering these pieces of art in convention centers and businesses spending 30 and 40 thousand for an art quilt. JP: Do you see any signs of it sort of reaching a plateau or leveling off? JM: I don’t see any plateau or leveling, especially after being here this week. It’s just growing and growing and working in the education, I see more and more people coming up with more and more ideas. Even the teachers, who have been teaching a long time, still come up with new things and they’re doing something different or have a different twist to it. Young women coming to take classes and older women coming to take classes. People who stop you in the hall and say, ‘I’ve just had a wonderful class. Thank you for bringing so and so here. This is my first quilt show.’ ‘This is the first class I ever took.’ So you know you’re getting new people and we recognize our oldies that we’ve had just about every year. I don’t see any decline. JP: This is a change of focus, but I thought of it as you were talking. What do you consider the qualities necessary for museum quality quilts? JM: For museum quality quilts? Design – but execution too. It does not have to be a hand pieced, hand quilted quilt. It can be machine pieced, appliquéd and machine quilted. But design and color that I could stand here and look at it over there and say, ‘Isn’t that gorgeous,’ and then you are drawn into it, but the execution is nice too. It’s not something made sloppy. Now, that’s just me, now somebody else might think that stuff hanging off and half finished and whatnot may be museum quality. I really haven’t seen it be anything like that but, I think museum quality is art. JP: We are getting close to the end of our time and we always like to let people know that and then was there anything that you would like to add that we didn’t touch on today? JM: I can’t think of anything. JP: Well, we very much appreciate your time and apologize for not knowing the person’s name that runs this entire show. JM: That’s okay and now you know. JP: Yes, now I know. JM: And you may meet her. JP: I am very happy to meet you, the Director of Education, as a very important cog in the organization because it is what I think keeps it vibrant and moving forward. JM: We think that too. JP: I really appreciate you taking the time to interview here JM: I was pleased to do it. JP: Here in Houston at the quilt show and helping us out with the Save Our Stories Project. That will end the interview now. Thank…