Olga Medina




Olga Medina




Olga Medina


Karen Musgrave

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

The Salser Family Foundation


Boonville, CA


Kim Greene


Note: Yolanda Ibarra was the translator.

Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave and I am in Boonville, California speaking with Olga Medina. It is March 5, 2007 and it is 11:52 in the morning. I am doing a Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories interview. Olga, thank you very much for doing this interview with me. Could you please tell me about the quilt you brought today for the interview?

Olga Medina (OM): When I was pregnant with twins I couldn't sleep very well. I had a dream of Medusa, and I said, 'Why not make a quilt of Medusa?' One day I came to school and my teacher say, 'Olga, you want to make a quilt?' I take material to my house I cut, make it. I like the color.

KM: I like the color too. Very colorful snakes and beads for eyes.

OM: Yeah.

KM: I love these beads.

OM: The picture my eyes, my eyes from another country.

KM: The glass beads are from another country. Very nice.

Yolanda Ibarra (YI): Somebody gave them to her.

OM: They are from where Arnold from.

KM: Arnold is from Austria.

OM: I think.

KM: They might be from Czech, Czechoslovakia. They make a lot of beads there, so it is from Eastern Europe. Eastern Europe eyes, it is a multi-cultural quilt. Are these tears?

OM: Yes.

KM: It is tears. Why is she crying? Because she has snakes in her hair. [laughs.]

OM: I don't know.

KM: That is okay. When did you make this quilt?

OM: In October, November, December of 2005.

KM: Two years ago. Have you made more quilts? Do you like quilting?

OM: Yes.

KM: You machine quilted this?

OM: It is in a machine and by hand.

KM: What do you do with this quilt?

OM: I sold it.

KM: So you sold it. Is this the first quilt you sold?

OM: No.

KM: Who bought this quilt? Do you know?

OM: The face is African. The woman African.

KM: You like faces?

OM: Yeah. A doctor bought it.

KM: Where is he from?

OM: Don't know.

KM: How do you feel about selling your work?

OM: Good.

KM: Do you miss it?

OM: Yes, but I don't have time. My babies are little.

KM: You have twins.

OM: I don't have time.

YI: You have one more boy. How old?

OM: Five years.

KM: Five years, and the two two year old?

OM: No they are one.

KM: One year olds, twins. Hands full. Tell me about joining the group, I mean the class.

OM: I learn English and sewing.

KM: Did you sew before you made quilts?

OM: No. No. Nothing.

KM: That is good for not knowing.

OM: Get to know other people and share the materials and the colors.

KM: What does the group think of your work?

OM: They said it was beautiful.

KM: The group is supportive and supports one another.

OM: Um, hum.

KM: What do you think about exhibiting your work? Did you think that would happen?

OM: No. I had no idea it was going to happen. I want to do this and keep it for my house as this is my first one and I was pregnant with my twins when I had this vision.

KM: What does your family think of your quilting?

OM: My husband he liked it. He helped me with the colors too.

KM: He helped you plan it out? What did he think when you sold it?

OM: Very good. [laughs.]

YI: Make another one. [laughs.]

KM: Why is quilting important to you?

OM: I learned a lot. I like it because I learned a lot to sew and to share. I practice my English.

KM: What is your least favorite part of quilting?

OM: Takes too long.

KM: How many quilts have you made?

OM: Three.

KM: Do you have plans for more?

OM: Yes.

KM: Ideas all the time?

OM: I am almost done with Indian, it is the famous story of the volcanoes in Mexico with the warrior carrying his true love.

KM: In the desert. So you like to do people?

OM: Sì.

KM: Faces, people. Very good. I like to make masks, I make quilted masks. Which is kind of like faces also, and I like hands. A lot of my work has hands in it. An Indian, what else do you have, what other ideas do you have?

OM: Flowers. Elk.

KM: An elk, oh.

OM: Brian is hunting an elk.

KM: Why did you think about your baby hunting an elk?

OM: He wants a BB gun to go hunting. I don't think you can kill an elk with a BB gun. [laughs.] You take your ideas from your dreams, your imagination?

KM: I don't think you can kill an elk with a BB gun. [laughs.] You take your ideas from your dreams, your imagination? Tell me more.

OM: Yes

KM: And you son too. It is a family deal. Because everyone is helping. Very interesting. I like her eyebrows too, the fact that you used the trim.

YI: She is still thinking about the eyes. She can't remember where they came from.

KM: You can always tell me later. I can add it. You can say where the eyes came from.

YI: The teacher Susan Kerr came from Ukiah she gave them to me. Somebody had given them to her from over there.

KM: They are perfect, they make great eyes. It is like a button, or it could be just a bead. I think it is a bead with a hole in it. It is very interesting. Is this the quilt that is going to be in the book?

OM: Yes.

KM: So you chose to have this quilt in the book. Very nice. Are you excited about the book? What story did you tell to go in the book about this quilt?

OM: I don't know. The Medusa will be in the book.

KM: Do you consider yourself an artist now?

OM: No.

KM: No why not? Why don't you consider yourself an artist?

OM: I need to learn more. [laughs.]

KM: Doesn't mean you can't consider yourself an artist, you do nice work. I like the fact that your inner border is open and not down. That is nice, I like that.

OM: Teacher helped me pick this color.

KM: It goes very nice. It picks up all the blues, the border picks up the blues and the snakes--

OM: Yellow.

KM: Do you have a sewing machine at home?

OM: Yes.

KM: What kind of sewing machine do you use?

OM: I have one from school.

KM: What did you think of sewing machines when you first used them? I remember the first time.

OM: It was very scary. I didn't think I was going to be able to learn how to use it.

KM: It is kind of like driving a car. Once you get used to it then you are fine. Right. First time behind the wheel it is scary, but then the more you use it the more. Do you think this reflects your culture in the quilt?

OM: I used to have snakes at home.

KM: You had a snake in Mexico? As a pet?

OM: Sì.

KM: What kind of snake was it?

OM: A grass snake. I don't remember. It was green.

KM: Where did you keep him?

OM: In a big jar.

KM: Tell me about about the group, tell me how you feel about it, what you think about it.

OM: I hope they keep helping us because we learn a lot and keep on learning more and more.

KM: How did you come to be in the class? Were you invited?

OM: She came to English classes and then Molly [Johnson Martinez.] told me about the quilting class.

KM: What do you think of Molly?

OM: She is a good person. She wants us to learn more and more. If we don't come she calls us and 'What is wrong? Or 'Why aren't you coming?'

KM: That is good. Have you traveled to the exhibitions?

OM: No.

KM: Did you have an opportunity to go when they saw the quilts in Gee's Bend?

OM: I had my babies and I couldn't do it.

KM: I figured as much, but I'm not sure when things happened in relationship to her pregnancy. [laughs.]

OM: I was pregnant and then had the twins.

KM: The twins take up all your time, but eventually they will grow up and you will have more time.

OM: Two years more.

KM: Two years more and then you will be free. [laughs.]

OM: They will be in school.

KM: What advice would you give somebody starting to make quilts?

OM: To come to class and see how it is at first, and they will get interested in doing it once they come to class.

KM: Your work is very different, very unique style, which I think is wonderful.

OM: The others are different.

KM: Do you feel any influence by anyone?

OM: Molly wants me to make another one with different colors.

KM: What colors?

OM: I don't know.

KM: You don't know. Would you like to make another one?

OM: Sideway.

KM: One with a profile.

OM: A profile.

KM: How do you feel about that? Does that interest you?

OM: Sì. It is difficult with time.

KM: I can understand time, having to balance in life, but I think it is important to be creative. When you sew at home, where do you sew? Where is your table? Is it in your bedroom, your living room?

OM: In my living room.

YI: I do mine in the kitchen.

KM: I used to do mine in the kitchen. It was the easiest place. The only problem was you had to clean up in order to eat. [laughs.] If you do it on a table in the living room you could probably cover it up and not have to. We didn't have enough room in my living room when I started out. Then I moved to the basement next to the washing machine. Then I never had to clean up at all and nobody could ever see it, which was a good thing. It was dark and I didn't like that.

YI: I don't like to do when it is too dark. That is why I do it in my kitchen.

KM: More light. This is a wonderful quilt.

OM: I can't sleep until I finish.

KM: How do you like machine quilting?

OM: It is faster on the machine.

YI: I'm telling her that you can do it by hand.

KM: Right, exactly. I used to do all my quilts by hand.

OM: It is too thick when I did it by hand it was hard.

KM: What is on the back? I love looking at all of it. Very good. Is there anything else you would like to add?

OM: No.

KM: Did you enjoy this?

OM: Yes.

KM: You are very shy. [laughs.]

OM: No.

KM: You're not shy?

OM: Nervous.

KM: Why are you nervous? You don't need to be nervous. It is good to see it again before it goes off, to revisit it. [the quilt had sold but was there to be photographed and used for the interview.]

OM: I am trying to refix it.

KM: I noticed she is cutting all the loose threads. It gives it more texture and more personality. It is very nice. It is hard to give up work I think. Sometimes I miss it when I sell pieces.

OM: Yeah. Me too.

KM: I think it is hard sometimes, because there are pieces that I really, really love and for you who has not made very many. It was nice that all the pieces came back together to be photographed for the book. That is wonderful. I am going to conclude our interview and then I am going to take your picture. Thank you very much for spending some time with me.

OM: Thank you.


“Olga Medina,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed June 4, 2023, http://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1515.