Ann Louise Mullard-Pugh

Photos

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Title

Ann Louise Mullard-Pugh

Identifier

AFPBP-01

Interviewee

Ann Louise Mullard-Pugh

Interviewer

Karen Musgrave

Interview Date

9/15/07

Interview sponsor

Nancy O'Bryant Puentes

Location

Las Vegas, Nevada

Transcriber

Karen Musgrave

Transcription

Note: The quilt used for this interview is part of a book, CD and traveling exhibition called "Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece" which Ami Simms curated. The purpose of the exhibition is to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer's research. All of the profit from the book and CD is donated to Alzheimer's research. For more information, visit www.AlzQuilts.org.

Please also note that due to an Internet glitch, no dialogue occurred on September 14, 2007.

Karen Musgrave (KM): Ann, I want to thank you for allowing me to interview for Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories. We are doing our interview via email and our interview began on September 11, 2007. Please tell me about your quilt "Shattered Memories, Shattered Lives."

Ann Louise Mullard-Pugh (ALP): My mother, Helen Sophie Kroll-Mullard died Nov 5, 2002, at age at 88 years of age. We were very close. I always felt sorry for my friends that did not count their mother as a best friend. When death finally came, it was a relief--she would not suffer any longer. I had grieved for years before her death--the mother I knew "died" years before her physical death. Her passing, never the less, left me with a void in my life. She was a remarkable woman. She was crippled as a child in an accident at school; she had a congenital heart condition that should have killed her before she was 20. At her death she was legally blind, profoundly hard of hearing and in a wheelchair from osteoporosis. She never got mean or depressed; she never let the negative things in life get her down.

As an artist, I expressed my feelings in a series of art quilts. I participated in Karey Bresenhan's "I Remember Mama" project, a three year celebration to honor our mothers. (Our mothers died within a few months of each other.) I was on Ami Simms' newsletter list in 2005 when she shared her grief over her mother's progress down the ugly road of Alzheimer's disease. I knew immediately that I wanted to be a part of this project that would help educate the world, one person at a time, about the affliction called Alzheimer's. Time was short to enter a piece for jurying. I had made a piece for another contest that was part of my series of grieving quilts. It would be perfect. Well, almost it was a bit too large and it was in landscape format, rather than portrait, but I could make it fit the requirements. I cropped the quilt, redid the sleeve, took new pictures, filled out the forms and sent them off to Ami. Little did I know when I got the notice that "Shattered Memories, Shattered Lives" was in the show that it would be such a positive experience. By the way, the original title was "Shattered" but several of the accepted quilts had the same title so I was asked to come up with an alternative title.

The "I Remember Mama" quilts celebrated my mother's life. The Alzheimer's quilt was different. It was part of a darker part of the series. I needed to deal with the negative emotions, the pain, the guilt, the frustration that comes with being a caregiver. My sister and I both took early retirement to care for Mom once she could no longer live on her own with just daily supervision. My sister lives in Virginia and I live in Las Vegas. We would fly her between our homes every few months so we each would get some respite from the 24 hour care she needed. Finally she needed more care than we could give her to keep her safe and we had to move her to a nursing home. She died there 10 months later.

As a quilter/fiber artist, I express a lot of different emotions in my work. A lot of my pieces are not "pretty." Some are controversial. I hope that the emotions expressed come through to those who see my work. They may not always agree with my viewpoint but I hope they come away with some understanding of my point of view.

KM: I love your quilt and spent a lot of time looking at it when it was at the Mancuso show in Schaumburg, Illinois. Tell me about the construction. Do you usually work in a series? And how does this quilt compare to the others? By the way, my quilt is called "Shattered." And we did something similar only I shattered my mother-in-law's hands and arms.

ALP: As our quilts "live" next door to each other, I have spent quite a bit of time looking at your piece also. As I was on site co-coordinator at three shows/was at another just helping, I was privileged to really study all of the quilts. I don't know how many pieces Ami had to choose from, but the progression of pieces works very well. There are "styles" for every quilter's taste, yet the look comes out quite unified, very professional looking both at a quilt show or in a more art gallery setting.

"Shattered Memories, Shattered Lives" is constructed of commercially printed fabric designed by Loni Rossi. The shattered circle is attached by fusible web. It is quilted with Superior Metallic Thread.

The "Mom series" is very large and varied. One set consists of the three "I Remember Mama" quilts, (two of which traveled and are in the book of the same name) "Shattered" had several variations on color and size; one of the small studies was auctioned off in the "Priority: Alzheimer's Quilt" auction.

The second section was the quilts my mother and I made together. I moved one of my sewing machines downstairs and we sewed almost every day. It kept her involved in something and it helped me keep my sanity! At night I would cut out the next day's section. It was a very productive period of my life! She enjoyed tearing off the paper from half square triangles made by paper piecing. We made eight queen size quilt tops for the grandchildren and for my sister and I in an nine week period. My hand ached from cutting all the papers apart but as fast as I sewed and cut, she was faster at ripping the papers off. I made a Grandmothers Flower Garden, each with a fussy cut ring of things that represented her and her mother's life. She loved looking at the pieces. She moved them around so much that after the quilt was assembled; I discovered that some of the pieces were out of order/skewed. I decided to leave it rather than fix it. This was part of who she was, remembered in the quilt. Her mother (my grandmother and her sister, my

aunt) all shared this disease. Working with her made me mediate on whether it would also be my fate. Other quilts are less personalized. I made a quilt out of florals. My mother was a gardener. I made several samplers. Not my usual thing, but she liked to look at the different blocks and arrange them. By this time her short term memory was gone, so every day the blocks were new and she would arrange them all over again.

My big sister (only sibling) is married to my husband's brother (only sibling). The guys were very supportive through this process. My brother-in-law worked at the Pentagon. He was there on 9-11. It took many hours before he could get word out that he was OK. It was hard watching the coverage on TV and trying to minimize what was happening with out explaining the true anxiety we were feeling. One of the samplers was in red/white/blue. We finished that one up quickly and I embellished it with hundreds of star buttons. We gave it to him when we "rotated her back to Virginia" a few months later.

I seldom start out working in a series but sometimes a theme takes more than one try before I can let it go. Dealing with the loss of my mother, my friend was on of those times. The loss of another friend was another series I did. As for the concept of working in series, I have often reminded people that if they took a picture of all of their body of work and then "played cards", they would see that we all tend to work in series. Sort the images by color, or by type/period of fabric. Sort again by dominate shapes, sort by subject, etc. Most people are surprised to find that their work does fit into groupings. Some are horrified (or comforted) to find that they have only one series, that they have made the same quilt again and again!

KM: Tell me more about the "Priority: Alzheimer's Quilt" auction and your participation.

ALP: Once I was accepted into the "Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece" exhibit, I found myself drawn into the project. I was committed to making this work for Ami, for Ami's mom and my mom and for everyone else that was affected now and will be in the future. As each opportunity to participate came up, I evaluated what I could do and just did it.

The Priority Quilts are auctioned off monthly on line at Ami Simms website (www.AmiSimms.com). Each piece is 9" x 12" or less so that it will fit in a US Postal Service Priority envelope for mailing. Some of the pieces have been sold at Houston Festival in 2006 and the National Quilting Association Show in Columbus, Ohio in 2007. The big sale will be at Houston Festival this October (2007) Ami hopes to have 1000 pieces to offer to the attendees. As of mid September 2007 we are short of that goal but we have a lot of little quilts promised so we should be OK. The online auctions will continue for some time yet. Sales prices have been from $20 to I believe $400. To date, (September 2007) the Priority Quilts, the DVD sales, the book sales and donations have raised more than $82,000 for Alzheimer's research. We know we can do more.

To date, I have made 37 pieces to be auctioned off/sold at venues in the Alzheimer's Priority Quilts project. I hope to have another batch done by the end of the month. My goal is to make 65 one for each year of my life. OK, I am 64 now but the project will go on for at least another year. Some were recycled unfinished projects and orphans. Bob at Superior Threads gave me a pile of summer kimono fabric to work with. Some were more of the small "Mom Quilts". If I made a small quilt for another project, I made two, one for the Priority project. I talked others into making just one; some went on to make more.

KM: You're amazing. Didn't you win a prize?

ALP: Yes, I was fortunate to win a Bernina Aurora 440 Quilters Edition with the Stitch regulator. It is a very, very nice machine! As I had seven sewing machines already, four of them Berninas, I decided to sell one and bought "Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece" books to give away and donated the rest of the money to Alzheimer's research. (I also sold my treadle and bought a wine refrigerator but we probably don't need to put that in this piece!)

By the way, "Shattered Memories, Shattered Lives" was a finalist in the Andover Fabric Contest. I got a $25 gift certificate which covered the shipping costs and entry fee.

KM: Tell me about your quiltmaking. When did you begin? Who taught you? Why is quiltmaking important to your life?

ALP: I cannot remember a time when I wasn't making something. I didn't like to draw as much as I liked to manipulate things-wood, clay, fiber. I played with fabric scraps making the usual doll clothes but I also wove things together and combined materials both 3-D constructions and collages. My mother was very non judgmental about my work...don't think she quite knew what to make of me and my art but she never told me to put it away although she did make me "edit" as I ran out of space and something had to go. We were poor so there was little money for art supplies so a lot of my work was with found items...a trait that carries over into my work today. I went to a very unusual public school for the time--Darwin Elementary in Logan Square, Chicago, Illinois. Our principal was a former vaudeville star. The school put on several big productions a year--a Christmas /Hanukah show in winter and a variety show in the spring were set pieces with each class group having a set part by 8th grade, you had done it all. But we also made original productions. I mean original. In music class, we wrote the music, in art , we made scenery and costumes, in English we wrote the speaking parts, in history we put it all in context. Math was not abstract; we had to measure and calculate real problems. I thought this is how every school worked, how everyone learned. High school, Kelvyn Park, was more structured but still very flexible. College was a small liberal arts school on the South side of Chicago--George Williams College. There I did the traditional thing for the time and met my husband to be, Robert Pugh, got married and dropped out to put him through school. Forty-five years later, we are still together and he has always made my having art supplies a priority in our marriage. Happiness is marrying your best friend. We have two sons; one in theater and one who designs computer/television systems for one of the big casino chains in town. I eventually went back to college but never finished my degree. I went into real estate and then into insurance where I was an agent with Allstate for 27 years. I took early retirement to care for my mother when her Alzheimer's disease dictated that she have 24 hour supervision. During those years, we were involved with raising our two very different sons but I always had some form of art going. Life gives us many opportunities. I took as many of them as I could and ran with them. Quilting was something my paternal grandmother did. She was quite accomplished but we did not spend a lot of time together and as she was a stern German matriarch, she probably wouldn't have had much patience with a free spirit like me. She never lived in Chicago so that limited exposure as well. I do have quite a few of her quilts including the baby quilt she made for my children when I was quite young to put in my hope chest. Of course, it was never used by my two boys--too precious. There is a wedding quilt as well as a crocheted bed spread and several other pieces I inherited. My mother did not quilt but she was an excellent seamstress. Later in life, she was a crafter. More of the church bizarre variety than the art persuasion. She did teach me embroidery.

I made my first quilt around the bicentennial. It was a class at a fabric store, with the usual sampler quilt as the project. I made horrible fabric choices. I hand quilted the top with huge stitches. By the time I got to the borders, I used the sewing machine (very badly). I still have the quilt. I show it off when I lecture to encourage the audience that a bad beginning is not fatal. The teacher and some of the students continued to meet each week. We called ourselves the Thursday Evening Ladies Sewing Circle and Terrorist Society; the terrorists were the young children that often attended the gatherings. We learned a lot together.

Shortly thereafter, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas put on the play "The Quilters." They were going to paint the quilts on canvas. I told them 'No, that was not acceptable.' So I organized our circle and the scattered other quilting groups in the city to make the small quilts and the huge one that the play called for. (I still have it) From this collaboration, we formed the Guild that still exists in Las Vegas "Desert Quilters of Nevada." This was a tremendous learning experience for us all and now that we had a membership to work with, we began to hold classes. I absorbed techniques from other members and the teachers that we brought in but somehow, I did not want to make someone else's quilts, I wanted to make my own. Well, I am a bit schizophrenic. I do make traditional quilts for family members' beds but my greatest satisfaction comes from my own designs. I harbor no illusions of being a great artist but I have a voice. I do a lot of political/social commentary pieces. I do things just because they make me happy. I have sold a few things and given away a lot of pieces to friends. I create because I have to...making things is a part of me. I read, watch films/TV, cook/bake, and enjoy the company of friends but if I could do only one thing, it would be creating in my studio. Creating

keeps me sane.

I love the old poem "When I am dead and in my grave, and all my bones are rotten... When this you see...Remember Me...and I'll not be forgotten." I guess part of me wants that tiny slice of immortality.

Life is a journey. Life is an adventure!

KM: What a great attitude. Tell me about your studio.

ALP: In the early years of our 45 year marriage, we moved a lot, including two years in New Zealand. In 1971, we moved to Las Vegas to a small house (900 square feet). Times were good so a few years later we moved to a house twice the size (2100 square feet). We decided that we were not going to move again. Robert is a retired teacher of the blind. His colleagues thought we lived in a mansion. My Insurance colleagues felt like I must not be doing well to live in such a small house, in the city rather than in the suburbs. The house/location was perfect for us. We had a house that suited us and money to travel and to buy fabric and other pretties for me and wood and tools for him. The lot was large so we began dreaming of what would make it perfect. We decided that I needed a real studio and my husband, Robert, needed a woodworking shop. We built an addition (20" x 25"), two story. He got the downstairs and I got the upstairs. I also appropriated a bedroom for my computer and quilting books. That was about 15 years ago. The studio is over stuffed with fabric, beads and other embellishments, a collection of sewing machines and boxes of things that others feel I would like. I am in the process of redoing the studio, too many things. A lot of it must go. I still have boxes of some of my mother's stash- real 1940 fabrics on up. We gave away lots of her craft things when we sold her home but a lot found its way to me. My mother and I share a pack rat gene.

I must mention that in the midst of all this we raised two sons who we were very involved with numerous activities. They are both Eagle Scouts, and both purse careers they enjoy. Erik Sebastian Pugh and Ian Bradford Ngongotaha Pugh (he was born in New Zealand so he had to have a name that commemorated that). They continue to be a source of joy and pride. No grandkids but that is OK. My husband, Robert William Pugh is a jewel, he shares the housework and we never have to ask permission of each other to buy something. We built a life together that let us enjoy the present while saving enough to have a comfortable retirement. We met on the first day of college and decided to get married three days later. We did wait a year to make the parents happy but there have been few regrets along the way.

My actual working space is small and very cluttered. I am not a minimalist. I work on the archaeological system. I dig through layers that are defined by the leftovers of projects past. The clutter does not bother me but when the stacks start falling over; I do take some time to rearrange. I am everyone's horrible example. Quilters have been known to drag their husbands up to my studio and dare them to say again that they have too much fabric and that they are not neat enough! I have a TV, more for noise than because I am actually watching it, a stereo, an iPod loaded with talking books and a cat who thinks he is the most important thing in the studio. My main sewing machine- the Bernina I won, faces the design wall that has a progression of works in progress. I multi-task. I design in my head, not on paper. Once I start on a project, the actual construction goes fairly rapidly. The tops are usually done in a couple of days, including the embellishments. I work smallish now days (less than 60" x 60") so I machine quilt most of my pieces. Joy is designing, making the top and embellishing. Quilting is OK, binding labels are hard, paperwork is painful. It is all part of the process but I wish for a house elf that would take care of the less enjoyable bits.

Life is good. We have health problems and the world is not always to our liking but we have had wonderful opportunities along the way that we embraced and lived every day the best we know how.

KM: Whose works are you drawn to and why?

ALP: This is a very hard question to answer. I believe that every person we meet influences us....from some people we learn what we don't want to do, but that is valuable information also. Sort of like the Academy Awards. I hate to start listing names for fear of leaving someone

out! It goes without saying that my mother, my husband and our sons were/are a big influence. I have some non quilting friends that love everything I do. Some days you need that unconditional love!

In no particular order, this is only a partial list, I could go on for pages! A lot of my work is geometric. Jinny Beyer, Paula Nadelstern and Ricky Tims come to mind....I do a lot of fussy cutting, even on non geometric pieces. For curvy things, Caryl Bryer Fallert, Judy Dales, Jane Sassaman, and Vikki Pignatelli have influenced me. For re-enforcing my Zen, like approach to my art, David Walker and Charlotte Ye. For tips on working smart and recognizing that running out of a fabric is just a creative opportunity, Sharon Craig. Larkin VanHorn made me a much better beader/embellisher and her husband Van has bailed me out more than once. Bonnie McCaffery for collaging techniques. As for quilting friends, Mary Helber, now deceased, was my first cheer leader. Carol Bruce is the best artist/photographer I know. She runs a successful pattern company, "Neeedlesongs" which produces patterns that are nothing like her personal

art. The friend that keeps me going and gives the best critiques, as well as the best names for my art is Landscape Architect, Sandy Low. We bring out the best in each other. Karey Bresenhan has facilitated the showing of a lot of my art. The Quiltart list on the internet, hosted by Judy Smith is a lifeline to a couple thousand of the most talented people I have ever rubbed keyboards with. Anne Copeland for appraisals and encouragement when I am down. Bob Purcell at Superior Threads for teaching me everything there is to know about thread. The gutsiest person I know is Ami Simms. Her one woman crusade against Alzheimer's is an inspiration. I will follow her anywhere.

I love museums, art galleries, sculpture gardens, architecture and fine craft shows. There are always quilts at a quilt show that make me stop to soak up the experience. And although I don't do landscapes, nature is always a good place to look for inspiration.

KM: Speaking of Ami, I guess this provides me the opportunity to go full circle and ask you what you plan to do with your quilt once it returns to you.

ALP: I will keep "Shattered Memories, Shattered Lives" in my personal collection. I did make a second piece out of the same fabrics and with a similar design for a contest at our local public radio station. It didn't win but it was bought by the program director.

KM: You've been wonderful. Is there anything else you will like to add?

ALP: Thanks for the opportunity to be a part of the Q.S.O.S. project.

KM: Ann, you are more than welcome. Our interview concluded on September 15, 2007. Thanks again. You were wonderful.


Citation

“Ann Louise Mullard-Pugh,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed February 6, 2023, http://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1351.