Linda Fowler


Linda Fowler.jpg


Linda Fowler


The Uncommon Threads QSOS




Linda Fowler


Gayle Pritchard

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

A Friend of the Quilt Alliance


Columbus, OH


Tomme Fent


Gayle Pritchard (GP) [tape started mid-sentence.] ...I saw the CD on the Internet and ordered it, and it has interviews and things on it, but I can't get them to play. So, I have to talk to--I'd have to contact him again and see. I mean, it shows the work, which is nice, but I can't access the audio files in there. [referring to exhibition, Ohio Pioneers of the Art Quilt.]

Linda Fowler (LF): Yes, because she--I think they were talking about getting some kind of grant or something to help them to write some kind of documentation.

GP: Oh, that would be great, yes. But I would like to talk to her because she talked to so many people already. I mean, the focus is a little different because this book isn't just focused on the pioneers, but still, that's the main part of the story, at the beginning of how it all kind of came to be.

So, tell me--someone told me you weren't born in Ohio; is that right?

LF: Born in Los Angeles and lived there until I was ten. And then my father worked with North American Rockwell, so he transferred back here.

GP: Was he from here and had moved, or what?

LF: No, all from California, and had an opportunity to come here for some special assignment and ended up liking it and staying.

GP: Do you have siblings? Was it just you?

LF: No, I have an older brother and a younger sister.

GP: So, you moved here at ten and basically just grew up--and you moved to Columbus, at that time?

LF: Yes, right. My grandmothers were both needleworkers, I would say. One, my father's mother, worked as an upholsterer and she did a lot of sewing. She made us coats and things. And then my other grandmother, my mother's mother, was always either knitting or crocheting. But neither one of them did any quiltmaking. That just wasn't part of our heritage.

GP: When were you born?

LF: '44.

GP: '44, okay, so right toward the end of the war and all that stuff going on.

LF: Right.

GP: Yes, I don't think many people were doing quilts at that time.

LF: No. Both of those families were working [inaudible.] The one grandmother, as part of her business, because she worked for a hotel and [inaudible.], and then the other one worked as a bookkeeper. All of her needlework was recreational. So then, when we moved to Ohio, art was one of my fun things, and my parents would buy me art supplies for Christmas and birthdays. And I remember they got me a set of crochet lessons from a local place. So, I always felt like they were very encouraging.

GP: Yes, yes. It makes a difference.

LF: Yes. And at that time, I think most of us were sewing our own clothes, buying fabric and so on, and I guess before that, too, I was sewing doll clothes, and sewing was something that was just part of me.

GP: So '44, '64, so you came of age in the sixties, in Columbus, Ohio. Did you go away to school did you go to school here?

LF: It's kind of complicated. Out of high school, I went into the convent, and I spent three years up at Erie, Pennsylvania, and then came back here to Columbus, and finished a bachelor's from Ohio State, in education. And then did some graduate studies over at University of Dayton, and it was there that I met up with a class that was in weaving. So, I took that class, and it was applicable--

GP: So, we're in the late sixties then?

LF: Yes, it was. And then from there, I came back and asked my community if I could study art rather than going further into education, so then I started at Ohio State. And that, I believe, was in '76. So, then I got another bachelor's that was a Bachelor of Fine Arts and then went right into--and that was all in weaving. Then I met up with Nancy Crow and--well, actually, she and I had worked together with the Weavers Guild.

GP: Was that when she still lived in Athens?

LF: Yes. So, she came up and juried an exhibition for us, for the Weavers Guild, and she and I worked well together. So, I went off and took a week workshop with her in quiltmaking, then, in 1980.

GP: And Deb [Melton Anderson.] went with you to that one?

LF: Yes, the two of us were together, yes. So, I never went back to weaving after that, because I just found it [quilting.] so much more flexible. It's really a lot of fun with all that color and the flexibility.

GP: Had you, other than your sewing and the other stuff you did, had you attempted to make any kind of quilts before going there?

LF: Yes, I did, because at Ohio State I was working with photo imagery transfer with silk screen. So, printing on fabric, and I studied down at Miami University, just a little summer program, Craft Summer.

GP: So that was going on, and did OSU [Ohio State University.] have a fiber department at that point--

LF: Yes.

GP: Or was it literally just weaving?

LF: Well, it was weaving, so it was up to me to figure out what adjunct things I wanted to do, and so silk screening was one of them. Judy Vierow and I went down to a craft seminar to learn batik and silk screen on fabric, which was very different than silk screening on paper. Very different. And then there was a really strong, there still is, photography department at Ohio State, and I learned how to develop film get it prepared for silk screening, to actually develop it.

GP: Were you aware at that time of the other fiber programs in the State, or did you ever connect with anybody from anyplace else?

LF: I think through Nancy, I was introduced to some other quiltmakers--this woman up north, Susan Schroeder.

GP: I don't know her.

LF: I think she was in some program. There was another woman, Joyce Kozlocki, or something like that. But anyhow, they were doing some quiltmaking and I guess I knew of their programs. And Deb Lunn was working up at Kenyon. So, I knew of their work. So, anyhow, I was silk screening on fabric and then I decided to quilt those images, so they were whole cloth. So then, let's see, as to what I found interesting was the flexibility of taking different shapes. So, Nancy knew Janet Page Kessler, who is from New York, and she came here, and we eventually went there. But when she was here, she was showing me this method which she called reverse appliqué and I just found that so fascinating because of the flexibility of working in ancient form so that's what I really got into. Let's see, I did do some piecing with Nancy, so I did do piecing, and learned to do it with a curve. The weaving--

GP: That was before all the tools were out?

LF: Right, yes, yes. So, in the weaving, I had come up with some imagery that I really enjoyed, and that was working with the arch, because I had had a Ford Foundation grant to go to Greece and study Greek weaving. But then I was taking pictures all over--

GP: Of the architecture?

LF: Correct. That's really what influenced me more than any of the weaving techniques. So, I just transferred all that imagery over to quiltmaking [inaudible.] working, so it's evolved into inspiration from architecture and from church-related concepts, and then also from landscapes. And any time I traveled anyplace, I always found out that I was kind of combining what I found with the people, what their life was like, what their environment was like, just kind of putting that all together into pieces. So, wherever I traveled, I think that influenced me.

GP: I obviously haven't seen all of your work, every piece you've ever made, but it sounds like, from what you're saying, that pretty early on that your style, if you want to call it that, was pretty focused.

LF: Uh-huh.

GP: I don't recall too many other people making even shaped pieces and things like that at that point in time.

LF: No.

GP: I just thought that was so cool, and then I remembered--

LF: I think that came from the weaving, because I had started into making different shapes with the weaving.

GP: Interesting. That must have been really hard to do in weaving. Did you cut them down or what did you do?

LF: I was working on a Navajo tapestry loom, so you can just weave however you want to and put fillers in and then take those out when you're finished weaving and tie off the ends.

GP: Okay. How interesting.

LF: And then Father Larry Nolan was very helpful. He was our chaplain at the convent, and he would mold the wire--not wire, the rods. So, then that helped to make the shape, and in some of the cases, like with the weaving, I actually took that metal rod to start with and wove that into the piece. So, anyhow, it wasn't a difficult thing transferring that into a sleeve on the back of a quilt. That was always a problem with shipping them around, as with this exhibition with the FAVA show ["The Artist as Quiltmaker."].

GP: Whereas everyone else says, 'I love making quilts because I can fold them up.' The quilts are fine; it's the rods.

LF: Right. So, I just had a class with Penny McMorris, and she was saying, 'Get a focus.' And I just decided at that point I was going to focus on just showing in Ohio, wherever I could take the pieces, and not worry about shipping them off to [inaudible.]. And I made another decision just to show in an art venue rather than specifically quilt shows. I just kind of concentrated on that. I have some notes here. Oh, another instrumental person was Dick Berry. I taught his daughter in school and his wife, and I got to be friends, and he was a painter. And I remember going up to their house and saying, 'Just what does it take to be an artist?' And his answer was just working at it and really thinking about composition and definitely studying about other painters and people that have gone before. So that was while I was teaching.

GP: What age group did you teach?

LF: Fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth graders.

GP: This is before you went back to study art?

LF: Right, yes. My favorite class to teach was art, which happened about forty-five minutes once a week.

GP: Right, never long enough, but more than a lot of kids get nowadays.

LF: I had a great studio at the convent which was very nice. It was in kind of a rural setting, and we had a big study room which wasn't being used, so I got to change that into my studio. And it had windows all down each side, and that was nice.

GP: And then since then, you've had--I think I came--the first time I was at your place was right after you had built the one here. So, is that where you still work?

LF: Uh-huh, yes. There was a little interim time there for two years that I worked -- had a studio at The Josephinum while this place was being built, renovated. Then Nancy and I had done the Art Quilt Network. I was going to say that Janet Page Kessler, she was one of the early people who got invited. Nancy had this list of people that she thought we'd be interested in having a retreat with, and we did that at the convent. And that was successful. That was great, to spend days together talking about art-related issues. And then we wanted to do more of it, but the people that had come to the initial one weren't interested in doing it on a regular basis except for, I think, Tafi Brown and Janet Page Kessler, Virginia Randles.

GP: That was in the late eighties, right?

LF: I think it was. I'm not real sure about those years but somebody's got those records.

GP: Yes, Deb said she technically has the historian files, so she's going to look through.

LF: Oh, good. Tafi Brown, I think, was the one who was really keeping good notes on all of that, who was there. And then we really started doing that on a pretty regular basis and Nancy invited most of the people. I invited some, and that just developed, which was a really nice way of keeping in touch with other people that were serious about their quiltmaking as an art form
and talking with each other, networking.

GP: Did you--I know some other artists have expressed this, and I don't know if you felt this way or not, just almost a real sense of isolation and working in isolation. Did you experience that or not really?

LF: No, because I was going to school, so I was automatically in with a lot of other people. I was good friends with Judy Vierow and with Deb Anderson, so they were people that, you know, we were just here in town. And Sue Evenson. But no, I didn't experience that. And all those people had art backgrounds. That was not an issue for me. And another thing was that I made it a point to go around to the different galleries here in Columbus and see what else was brewing on the art scene, so Gallery 200 [inaudible.], that was very influential for me, to see how people put their body of work together and presented it. Then along came Roberta Koon. She had a gallery. And Sandra Cummings, and then Lynn [inaudible.] and Kelly Clark. So those women were kind of pioneers here in Columbus in showing art. So being a regular at going to see their shows and talking with them and talking with their artists, I think that was really important to me.

GP: Well, given your own interest, too, it also sounds like you had a sense of what was going on in the art world in general. You weren't focused in on textiles, per se.

LF: It was for me. I mean, that was the medium that I--but I think I was placing that in the whole art scene, yes.

GP: The context of what was going on.

LF: Right.

GP: I want to jump back just for a second to being here in the sixties and seventies. I was born in '57, so I didn't come of age until the later seventies, so I just wondered if you felt, with all the stuff that was going on, I don't want to present it in a cliché way at all, because I was a little kid, so I had a totally different perspective on what was going on. I just wondered how those--coming of age in those time periods may have impacted you or not, if you were--some people were out in the street protesting; some weren't. Some were raising kids. Some were really involved in the Women's Movement. I was talking to my daughter about this because she, and to some extent I, learned about those times through history books, not so much through experience. So, I think it's just really important not to make any assumptions just because someone grew up in that time period. So, I just wondered what you felt about that.

LF: I was totally--I might as well have been your age because I entered the convent in '61, and started over at Ohio State in '76, and all those years, we just didn't have much contact with what was going on. It's sort of like I learned about it afterwards. I didn't listen to music. I didn't read much newspaper, didn't watch television. So, it was pretty much a big block of time for me that was spent just teaching, and that was it. So that part of being in touch with the outer world was gone. [laughs.]

GP: I just think it's important to let you speak that for yourself.
LF: So, going to Ohio State was like a big woooo!

GP: Eye opener? Yeah, I'll bet.

LF: Yes, and getting involved with the Weavers Guild, so I met some really nice people through that. I can't say too much about how that influenced me because it didn't. [laughs.] Let's see, Quilt National, we're down to that, as far as early shows.

GP: As far as being one of the early shows you would have seen?

LF: Yes. That was really exciting.

GP: Did you see the first one?

LF: I don't think I did in '79.

GP: So, the '81 one?

LF: Yes.

GP: Yes, that must have been really exciting.

LF: It was, believe me. It was like 'Wooo, take a look here!' [laughs.] There still is an excitement about it all. It does, it just kind of rings some bells. And I think seeing fabric that really gets me excited, thinking about how all that can work together. Some fabric-- oh, I remember, that was Nancy and I, and I don't remember who else, but we would go around to these different fabric shops, Ludwigs up in Ashland, and is that where it was? And the other little place over in Charm, Amanda Miller's fabric store. That was also just really fun to go there and get stocked up. So, I still have some of that fabric on my shelves, and just looking at it brings back lots of memories.

GP: So, you had to drive that far to seek something out?

LF: Right, there weren't a lot. And that's been amazing, too, what's now available for quiltmakers to use is really [inaudible.]. So that brings us, that whole thing about print commercial fabrics that maybe because they were meant for draperies and upholstery, had big bold patterns on them. I found that kind of fun to include some of those in the quilts, instead of just cutting them up into little pieces.

GP: Well, when I think of your work, I think that gives a definite flavor to your work.

LF: Mmhmm. Just finding those and cutting it apart.

GP: What do you think about--some people have expressed concern about, I guess, the future viability of Quilt National just because some people have felt that maybe it's even outgrown its place. Other people don't feel that way. I just wondered what you thought about in terms of--you sound like you made a decision early on to not just explore textile venues, I guess, if you would--multi-media shows for showing your work. And yet certainly, at least early on, and probably still today, a lot of people's careers in this field were made, in a way, or they perceive it that way, just from the honor, notoriety, whatever, of being involved in Quilt National, and often repeatedly. So, I just wondered if you had anything to say about your thoughts on that.

LF: Yes. I feel like it's a really important thing. I would hate to see it not continue. I think it's really had--it brings together people who are exploring and it seems like from all over the world people think of that show as 'the' show. So, you get a sampling of the best that's going on everywhere and the latest, so I think it's really an important exhibition. And it's just way out in the country and people come out anyway. [laughs.]

GP: Right, right. Little did Athens know what they were in for! [laughs.] Well, plus the fact that the show then started traveling, I think, because I know the first one I saw, I was living out in Philadelphia at the time and visiting [Washington.] D.C., but I was able to see it without getting back to Ohio, which was great.

LF: So, I think people go to that show to take a look and see what the trends are. It's probably just like High Point [Market, in High Point, North Carolina.] with furniture. 'Let's go see what the latest is.' Or in New York where all the--or Paris, where fashion is being shown. And of course, people are going to do their knockoffs and try to imitate, but also, when you see something else being done, it may spark an idea. Even if there are schools, like people doing a similar technique or something similar, that's not all that new.

GP: It's been going on in painting for centuries.

LF: Right. And you never know, if you do one thing, what it's going to lead to, so even though it may be within a safe sphere of what's been experimented with, or what's been explored.

GP: There's always that fine line, too, of people wanting to see cutting-edge and yet you have to balance that out with the individual artist's voice and what they're trying to do in their own work. It's not always that because it can't always be cutting-edge; you'd have to be changing it or doing something all the time.

LF: I think that happens in the painting world, too, showing things that were very avant-garde and then people start thinking, 'Ooh, I don't know if I want to look at all of this.' [laughs.] I remember it must have been the eighties; there was just a lot of muddy looking artwork around. It was just angst and just looked so sad or angry and it just didn't make you feel good. You weren't uplifted after going to an exhibition. And then it seemed like that got out of people's systems [laughs.], and then it got turned around and color was back in. So, I think things have their time and they'll run their own little life, and things will go on. So as far as Quilt National is concerned, it's probably just up to the jurors. Well, it could be the director, too, what they would want to see, you know, a certain portion of it to be experimental and pushing the edge and others going into what's already been done and exploring it more, in a new way. I think Quilt National should stay around.

GP: Well, it looks like it's going to.

LF: Good. And another thing that Roxanna Deadman and her daughter have been doing is getting in touch with Hilary [Fletcher.] and saying, because I know how this goes a lot of times, some people don't make it into Quilt National, and there are some really good people that don't quite make the cut for one reason or another, and we get a little list from her and invite those people, if they want, to show over in Coshocton.

GP: Oh, did you start that?

LF: Uh-huh, Johnson Humrickhouse.

GP: Yes, that's a good show. I've seen it.

LF: It's a small show, but it's just full of little gems and it's a very nice space to see them in.

GP: What is that--I forget what that show is called?

LF: It's called Pushing the Surface. I don't know if there's been three of them already; I think so.

GP: I think so. It's the second one I think I saw, not the first one, not the last one. I wondered when your own first exhibit was when you started feeling comfortable showing your work or having the opportunity to show your work?

LF: Do you know where that is?

GP: I skipped down to number thirteen.

LF: Oh, thirteen.

GP: I'm assuming you have the same numbers I do.

LF: Oh, I didn't go back and fill that one in.

GP: Is there anything else on this first page? I feel like you've discussed--we didn't talk much about influences or heroes, I guess, and that doesn't necessarily have to be an artist, either. It could be. I mean, you did mention the painter that taught you--

LF: Dick Berry, right. I really felt like Father Larry was very influential and encouraging me to go ahead with my art education.

GP: Is he still living, still around?

LF: Yes.

GP: I haven't seen him in a long time.

LF: He still comes to the Art Quilt Network.

GP: Does he?

LF: Yes. And he's the photographer at the [QSDS.] symposium, so he's always there with his camera. Okay, favorite artists would have been Pierre Bonnard and Stuart Davis. I think they're my favorites. I think their style is something that I was interested in.

GP: In terms of what you're curious about, you've stressed--it seems obvious in your artwork that, you know, the architectural imagery, but you're obviously also a spiritual person, too. I just wonder how that connects in your work, or if it does.

LF: I think it does, yes, because a lot of times I'll just--I guess it was that early convent time, that it's easy for me to eliminate a lot of things and just keep a focus. So, I think-- today, I turn on the television every once in awhile. [laughs.] I am so [coughing.], 'I don't even want to watch this.' And then I'm out of it as far as knowing what's going on. I think originally that a lot of things that were going on at the church and the convent were keeping me focused, just having peacefulness and having God be a part of my life, and appreciating nature, appreciating just anything. So, I think that has slowed me down some, and I think that it's just influenced being able to take what's there in the landscape and just bringing that into view. I think that's probably how that experience has been influential.

GP: Did you get involved with the Liturgical Art Guild early on, too? Because I know Deb's [Anderson.] a big part of that.

LF: Right. She was in it before I was, and I remember meeting her at one of the meetings, getting involved with the exhibitions. Yes, I helped out with the exhibitions a lot.

GP: Did you make that kind of work yourself that you showed in those exhibitions or entered into them?

LF: Yes, I did. And another thing that I was doing was, the Bishop in the Catholic Church here had asked me to be a part of the committee that reviewed architecture for new churches they were going to build in this Diocese. So, with that, I met some very interesting architects and there were--I guess it was really just one of the priests that was--studied a lot about liturgy and liturgical art, and we would have some really good conversations. We would have to travel together, so we'd pile in a car and drive for an hour to go out to these different locations, and during that time we'd talk about how the space would influence the people or vice versa, that the people, they have needs for whatever, a funeral, a marriage, a liturgy on Sunday, how that would influence what was being called for in the architecture. So, there was a lot of that kind of discussion on, symbolism. So, I think that had an impact on--those conversations kept all of that alive for me.

GP: It's such an interesting concept. I was saying to Deb earlier that I've always--I've followed that, the work you guys have done, the shows over the years, because I really like the idea of this work becoming part of the ritual of the ceremonies and being handled and utilized in it, and that's always fascinated me.

LF: So that was the other thing I did was make liturgical garments, and, like you say, to see them move down the aisle--or I did some altar cloths. The one that really was the most fun was the dedication of the chapel at Josephinum, and I made this huge altar cloth which was very colorful and used just big swirly fabric. And we had it all folded up, and we were going to dedicate it on the altar, and the priest had orchestrated how it was going to be covered, so the deacons carried it out, and at a certain point, each one of them had a corner, and they just kind of billowed the whole thing out and it came down on top of the altar. And it was [gasp.], all of a sudden the stone was covered with it and ready for a celebration. It was so neat.

GP: That must have been wonderful.

LF: It was. But that kind of involvement in the liturgy, and having colored fabric being involved with the liturgy, was exciting.

GP: Yes, I would think so. Anything else? Did you have--what's your writing at the bottom? Did I miss anything?

LF: Oh, my goals to start with, and I think to start out with, I figured I wanted to be a serious artist. I was reading and studying about serious artists, fabric artists, and not necessarily quiltmakers. When I went to OU, and I did some research about that in art history classes, showing serious artists and their bodies of work, and I zeroed in on contemporary artists, their work schedules, their show schedules, and that was very influential.

And then you were asking, have any of my goals changed, and I just put down here that when I met my husband, life required some adjustments which I made, and these took a lot of time. And now, we just had our fifth anniversary, so I think things are beginning to somewhat settle down. His children come, and when they're here, and that falls every year in July, which is--May and June are the symposium [Quilt Surface Design Symposium.], and then, now it's August, so we can begin to get back to normal. That seems to have its rhythm.

GP: When did you leave the convent? Did you meet him and then--

LF: Oh, no, I was out ten years.

GP: That's what I thought. I was thinking you had [left the convent.] when I had met you, but I wasn't sure.

LF: '88. I met him in '98.

GP: And were you, when you left there, were you doing this work full-time? Did you have any supplement? What were you doing?

LF: Let's see, when I--the convent closed up and then we joined other communities, which I did for two years, and it just didn't work out because this group that I joined, I chose this group because I felt like they were a little bit more sensitive to art. I felt like that really fit me better than staying? They were staying at another house, but they said I could stay here and come here and check in, and their sisters lived here with me. So that fit pretty nicely until they just started wanting me to spend months over here and I had my liturgical business here plus the symposium, and I couldn't just close up the house and go off and leave it. So, I just thought, 'Well, I think this is God's way of telling me this has gone to the end of the road. So that was the end of that. But then I had nuns that were living here with me, and I asked them if they wanted to continue on living here. It was fine with me. I mean, it wasn't like a big choice for me to leave the convent; it just sort of happened. So, they said, 'Yes,' and then they stayed on for about three or four years. And it just came to a point where they said, 'Well, we want some other people and there's not enough room here,' and they moved to another location. So, then I was by myself for two years and then I met Don.

GP: And when did you and Nancy start the Quilt Surface Design Symposium?

LF: That's been fifteen years ago, or probably sixteen, because we were planning it.

GP: What was your motivation behind that? I mean, it seems--

LF: Well, we had done the Art Quilt Network and we knew what it was like to have people come and stay for awhile rather than to have just a one day meeting, to do things in-depth. I think that was very important, to get the commitment from people, if they were really serious about it and not just dilettantes. She knew Marti Baum who had another conference already in the works, and we invited Marti here and she sat right there, and we sat and chatted with her and just kind of got the drift of how the whole thing operates. And she was very sharing. That's something about quiltmakers; everybody is so generous with their ideas and their information. So, she just shared that with us, and we always said, you know, 'Anytime you want to come for classes, you are more than welcome.' So that was like the beginning, we just said, 'Let's go for it,' and we each chipped in some money and spent the money advertising, getting the word out there. And we had about sixty-five people who came the first year. And we said, 'Well, do you think people would be willing?' They were all pleased with it, other than the heat, because we didn't have air conditioning. Then we thought, 'Well, let's try it another year, and another year and another year', and so we kept on going. I think we've refined things as we've gone along year after year.

GP: Well, sure.

LF: Because we really do pay attention to people's complaints. We figure that's how we'll improve things.

GP: That was in '89? Did you say '89 was the first year?

LF: Yes, I think so.

GP: I probably have it somewhere.

LF: I think '90 was the first.

GP: The first event, when you started it?

LF: Yes.

GP: There seems to be--I mean, one thing that's becoming clear to me in my research is, especially early on, is these different pockets of people where nobody knows each other. People start making connections, but in each case, in each region, if we're just looking at the State, things happen because there are people who are committed and excited about bringing these things about. And then you see, these many years later, the results of that, of the activities of a handful of people. It's pretty exciting to see how it all comes together in our little geographic region and how many people have been influenced by that.

LF: Right. That is one of the things that really keeps me going with the symposium is that people come, and they connect up with other people and, what you were talking about, people being isolated, a lot of people will tell me, 'I just felt I was the only one. I didn't know anybody else was ever even interested in this kind of thing.' They finally connect up and they keep coming back. It's kind of like a reunion every summer.

GP: It's kind of surprising that people still feel that way in this day and age, but they do.

LF: And we make a big effort to make new people feel welcome and that has helped a lot. The thing is, we want younger people to be just as excited as we were at their age, starting out, and it isn't as--it's difficult for people, it's difficult financially, because buying fabric today is a really big investment. And being able to have the time to do this kind of an art form, which is pretty labor-intensive, and taking classes, it's a lot of time and money.

GP: Well, I think, too, and again this is just kind of off the top of my head, but it seems to me that the young people who are starting--I mean really young, like out of college, young people who are doing this kind of work, there's not such a dearth of venues to learn things that you wanted to learn as there was even fifteen years ago, when you started. I mean, yes, the Art Institute of Cleveland has some programs, and Kent [State University.] and there are some different places, but still they weren't teaching this whole kind of compact body of information that you can get, and there weren't as many, I don't think there were as many workshops then in general. So, there was a real need for that. You're filling a huge need, so the question now has to be how you reach these kids who maybe have the summer off from a program, even an art program that they're in, but they want to explore this. How do you reach that college student audience?

LF: So that's the reason that we've started developing a scholarship program.

GP: Oh, great, I didn't know about that.

LF: So, we've been able to fund about ten people every year.

GP: Oh, that's great.

LF: Which is wonderful. And we're making a big effort to try to--we have a foundation now that's started, so that other people who want to donate to that can get a tax break. And we have actually had people that fund a whole scholarship for somebody else.

GP: Oh, that's great.

LF: It is, it's wonderful, because a lot of us are getting older and realizing we want to hand this on to other people and know that they're going to be able to do it if somebody helps them.

Another thing that we've been trying to do is get in touch with teachers. We've just been focusing on that here in Ohio. We've gone to teacher's art conventions, and we actually had a drawing to give a scholarship away to somebody who- a teacher who--and that person was so excited. She just couldn't get over it. She never knew how exciting it could be. She didn't know it was even available.

GP: Well, that word of mouth will spread. I've participated in some of the programs for teachers at the Art Institute in Cleveland [Ohio.] that they have over the summer, and that would probably be another good place, because they're all gathered and they're all doing activities themselves. I mean, I learned Polaroid transfer; they have different things going on. So that might be another-- [side 1 of tape ended.]. So, it doesn't sound to me like you were reading books about quiltmaking. So many of the 'early people' I've talked to were coming into this really without any kind of quilting background, rather just saying 'I want to be an artist, and this is what I'm going to do.' Were you--when did you feel like you started becoming aware of the greater movement, at the beginning of AQN maybe, when you had a lot of out of state people coming? Did you meet people before then?

LF: Yeah. Well, right, I think that was AQN. The literature that I was exposed to at Ohio State was not quilt-related. It was these artists like Pollen. [laughs.], or like Magdalena, doing sculptural stuff, big, huge.

GP: What about Lenore Tawney? I always liked her work.

LF: Yes. There were some men here in the United States, too, that were. I can't think of names right off the bat, but doing big weaving, installations. So, I think that's initially what I thought was just wonderful, so then I was interested in doing big weavings. And then when I got into quiltmaking, I was interested in big quilts. [laughs.] And then you find out that not that many people can purchase a big piece, so I've kind of scaled down.

GP: Have you? I was going to ask you that, because I haven't seen any small pieces of yours. I didn't know if you changed the sizes or not.

LF: So, that piece over there is probably the biggest now. A house can live with something like that, rather than some huge piece. But I did--a lot of my pieces are out in churches or libraries. I've got a lot of them in libraries, health centers or chapels.

GP: Yeah, but in those spaces it works really well.

LF: So, that's something that's changed over the years. And I don't know; it seems like I've gotten a little bit more detailed rather than big areas of color, and I think that's true about a lot of quiltmaking, in general, has gotten a lot more surface involvement either with painting or silkscreen or airbrushing, or writing on them, embroidery, needlework.

GP: Yes, there seems to be a real--people seem to really like getting involved in the--

LF: The different material--

GP: the different processes of creating their own materials and then incorporating them. It seems to be catching on, because everybody loves it.

LF: So, you don't know whether it's just the technique they're interested in, because a lot of people just love the process. Then there are other people who have a message that they want to? Or some subject that they want to--

GP: Where the technique is secondary to that?

LF: Right. I think one of things we noticed about one of the shows this summer was, and it actually was the student or the [Quilt Surface Design Symposium.] participants' exhibition that we had at the Riffe gallery, there was not a variety of types of quilts. They were mostly pieced quilts. History or narrative kinds of quilts weren't there. There was too much embellishment. It's all we had to go with. That's what people submitted.

GP: Yes, it's always interesting.

LF: Yes, and it's always up to the jurors what they're going to select, but they can't select things that aren't there.

GP: That's true. Do you feel like your own work has changed over the years?

LF: Yes.

GP: How do you feel like its evolved? You said there's some more detail.

LF: I feel like I've gotten more into this connection between landscape and architecture. I think before it was very straightforward, very symmetrical, but just flat. And I think the interest has shifted to something that shows a lot more perspective, and calling the viewer to be more involved with the piece, rather than just--

GP: You have to walk through the door? That's how I always feel when I see your work.

LF: Yes.

GP: I want to walk into it.

LF: Yes, so something that you could look at and feel like it can like a point of meditation; you could live with it for awhile, and it could be something that's there and could help you in some way.

GP: I'm not asking you if you're known for any particular techniques, or whatever, because I feel like I already know the answer to that. So, if there's anything I'm skipping over where you have something additional to say, just go ahead. We talked about your machine appliqué, and dyeing--

LF: I don't do a lot of dyeing. I remember taking classes at that Craft Summer, and [inaudible.] Edwards was there. He really made a big point out of, and maybe the other teacher, too. Steven somebody. Used to be the president of the Surface Design Association; they really warned us about the toxicity of some of the chemicals and everything, and I just--even though things have gotten a lot safer now, there were artists that died, like Wenda von Weise.

GP: Yes. I always worried about it, too. Did you know her?

LF: I didn't know her, but she was really around when I was making things, and I thought--[gasps.]

GP: I'm actually trying to track down some of her work for this book. I haven't heard the whole story on exactly what happened with her, other than what you said.

LF: Yes. Because I think there were some other people, too, that died, and we just felt like it was a drag to link to some of those chemicals they were using, or processes.

GP: Well, it probably was.

LF: I think I'm just going to pass that by. I'm happy to pay a little extra to purchase it from somebody else. And at the symposium there is this array of wonderful stuff to buy, so I just figure, that's what I'm going to do. It's fine with me.

GP: We talked a little bit about trends in terms of surface design. Is there anything else you've observed? You must even see changes just from Quilt Surface Design from year to year in terms of what kind of work you see people doing. I just wondered. Certainly, then, technology and all of those things have changed over the years.

LF: Yes, I think we're just sort of getting into the impact of the computer and digital imagery, being able to print with that. I think that's probably going to be where things are headed. You know whether they'll be bringing in other materials. I think somebody did a review of--what is it? Wonder Under and all that. It wasn't very favorable.

GP: The adhesives?

LF: Yes, it breaks down the color. So, I think there are going to be other things that will come in, that are more natural. It seems like a lot of people I know are getting involved in commercial printing of fabric. They're designing the fabric, and that doesn't, to me, have the same quality that a piece of fiber reactive dye. It just doesn't have that depth. It just kind of sits on the surface. So, like Heide Stoll-Webber, she does these wonderful hand-dyed fabrics, and somebody is printing her fabric, but to compare the two, it's just worlds apart.

GP: Yes, you'd rather buy the actual. Well, most people probably would if they could.

LF: What was that question you asked?

GP: Oh, it was just clear down at the bottom, looking at the trends, and concerns. I guess you had talked about maybe a concern about wanting new people to keep coming in, which I think everybody feels that way, too.

LF: And making it available for a lot of different people, whether they've got a lot of money or not. Finding a way, because it seems like this is an art form that--it's mostly women, it's not all, but it's an art form I think that women can feel like is their own and can get excited about. They've got so many connections to it. [inaudible.]

GP: I think I know where you're going with that, and I feel like there's still--in some ways, in the seventies everything was just so exciting, and in a lot of ways, things have kind of reverted back to a very traditional kind of household and way of living, and yet people seem to have so many more stresses on their lives, and on their time, and on their finances. Taking time off from work, even that can be a big deal.

LF: Yeah, it is a big deal.

GP: I know people who--my sister-in-law is in her early fifties with two little kids, and she's frantic all the time, and I am thinking, well, I had two kids, and I was in my early twenties. Things have changed, the scheduling, the activities. Wow, we just didn't do all that. I guess structured is the word. People's lives seem more structured to me.

LF: There's just so much information. I mean, I find more and more people being forgetful, and I used to just think it was age. I think it's information overload for everybody, no matter who they are. I really do. I notice younger people even. There's just so much information.

GP: You can only juggle so much of it in your head at once. And if they read all the magazines and the different publications and books that are out there--wow! No wonder it's hard to focus.

LF: Right.

GP: You mentioned a couple of names, like Judy Vierow, as an example. Is there anyone that you think I would be remiss if I didn't talk to in terms of trying to tell the story of the art quilt movement in Ohio?

LF: Did you talk to Suzanne Evenson?

GP: No, I haven't talked to her yet. I don't have contact information for her or for Judy. I should say, what I have is old, from old AQN lists.

LF: And Suzanne just moved.

GP: Oh, did she?

LF: Yes, so I can send you an email. But she taught art at Columbus State, and I think during that time she really pulled a lot of information together about women artists. She presented that at the symposium one year, and it was really well received. Just to give it a sense of history of its development and where it's going. And then, she's been doing a lot of experimentation with her own photography, and I think what she was doing was manipulating her images, and then using a printer to print them out. And, of course, Britt [Friedman.]--

GP: She's on my list. We've connected, but when she gets back, we're going to talk.

LF: I feel like she jumped in. When I first met her she was just finishing up there at Oberlin, and she was a painter. She was doing a lot of painting classes, and you could definitely see the transfer into the fabric world of doing a lot of painting on fabric. But recently I think her exciting work is what she's doing with digital images.

GP: It's really interesting.

LF: She's spending a lot of time manipulating. Now she's really pursuing finding a printer that can print the whole cloth, rather than her printing little pieces to sew together. And she'll find it, because she's serious about it. That's what I like about her, is that she gets dedicated to something, and she really sticks to it. She's got persistence.

GP: When did you meet her? How long have you known her?

LF: When did we meet? Maybe at AQN, or it could have been at QSDS. Isn't that funny? I'm sort of thinking it was AQN, but we just clicked. We just were able to discuss our artwork together easily, and that is hard. There aren't that many people--I think she's probably about the only one I can talk about it with.

GP: Mmmhmm. Do you work in any other media at all anymore?

LF: No, no.

GP: I just asked, because there are some people in this book who really don't even make quilts anymore, and that seems to be--and there are a fair number, so I was just curious.

LF: Or they transferred to something else?

GP: Or they're making three-dimensional work and assemblage work, so I was just curious. I thought I would ask.

LF: Well, my production level has gone way down, because of all this family stuff, just shifting things around, just getting--well, having a whole other family like Don's family, they're very close and do a lot of activities together, so that takes a lot of planning to go deal with all that. So that's been different for me, and I think this house is smaller than the convent ever was, but my involvement with it has been fun. I feel like at my house--well, it's our house now; it's our home. And so, I've spent a lot of time, because I was here so long, and everything was to accommodate everyone else, and all of a sudden, I don't have to accommodate everybody else. I can make it the way I want to. So, I have enjoyed taking time to do that. So, I did it all myself with Don. It's taken time and energy.

GP: One question I have on here, on the last page, is talking about, well, I'm trying to research this book, and I talk about sorting out or making choices in terms of where you stop. There are, on the one hand, there seem to be some people in the state who were very active early on, maybe in the first one or two Quilt Nationals, and then, whenever the shift occurred, they either stopped entering, or their work wasn't accepted anymore, and their work didn't continue to evolve in such a way. So there seems to be some of those people who have dropped out of the limelight, if you will, and that was the nature of my comment. I didn't know how to word it, first tier, second tier. You know I don't really see it that way, but I just am trying to get feedback in terms of that, too. There are so many people involved, like Suzanne, like Judy, like me; people who aren't--we're not the founders of anything, but yet there's a story. Obviously I can't talk to everyone, so that's why I'm asking people. But I don't want to leave out the small voices in the story, either. So, I just wondered what you thought about that.

LF: As you were saying that I was thinking that a lot of people have gone into something else, so that's interesting. But you're--I feel like I still want to contribute, because I'm excited about it, but to me the symposium is probably the most exciting to me right now because of what it is doing. It's enabling people to come together from all over the world and spend time together and keep their networks going even though their not there.

GP: Well, that is such a huge contribution, Linda.

LF: During the year, they do keep in touch, and I know, that for some people, it's something they look forward to all year long. I think, 'wooo, this is like for salvation for some people.' [laughs.]

GP: And when did you take that over, and is that other name on your board still a partner with you? When did Nancy [Crow.] get out of it, I guess, is the real question?

LF: Yes. I think that's been four years ago, and she just had a different focus, different thing to do, and her daughter-in-law, Tracy Stitzlein, is the one who is still purchasing the partnership from Nancy [Crow.]. Tracy has been wonderful. She's just been great to work with. She has--whereas Nancy has a lot of the original spark and dynamism, Tracy also has an experienced background in retail and management, so she has that contribution, and she has just a very nice personality and is easy.

GP: Easy to work together would be important.

LF: Yes, yes. So, she's really made a big impact, I think. So, the whole thing is just sort of pushing ahead, and I--just like you were saying, well, even writing a book now about all of this. That's a great contribution.

GP: It takes time away from working [on quilts.].

LF: Yeah, but I think that's just as valid.

GP: See, I do, too. I feel fine about it, and I'm excited about it, but I'm going to making too much artwork this year, but it's okay.

LF: Uh-huh. It's okay.

GP: I feel like another thing I've observed, too, it seems to be in the forties and fifties that as women we just? I don't feel as competitive and as--

LF: Same here.

GP: Oh, I've got to do--I just feel like I want to do the things that I want to do, and I really don't care about the rest.

LF: Yes. I know. I'm that way, too. I was just thinking back on that. It used to be more important to me to have a show or to enter shows, and it just isn't important anymore.

GP: And that's okay.

LF: Yeah, well, in some ways I feel like, oh people have this expectation, so that's a little--that weighs on me a little bit.

GP: Me, too. I know what you're saying.

LF: People ask, and then you think, 'Oh, I guess they're waiting for the next thing.' And I feel like I should be doing that. I'm not. But, like you say, it's a little turned around, but I feel like it's wonderful to hand it on to other people and let them experience it. I guess maybe they won't ever have that same sense that we had because we were starting out, and what they're doing is entering it mid-stream, whereas we were starting at the beginning, so it won't have that same impact today as it did then.

GP: Right, except somebody will come along at a time when things are going in a new direction. There will be another person who comes along with a new twist, a new spark, a new something.

LF: That just reminds me that the thing Tracy and I are really trying to do is to have our exhibition be more legitimate art than it is, and I think that's another contribution that we have, because not everybody can have a show in a museum or--the reason I'm saying that is that the museums won't even talk to you if you're a little person. You have to be involved, and you have to have a history of showing, and now we've got some videos of shows that we've already done, and we've received some grants, and we've shown at the Ohio Craft Museum and at the Riffe Gallery at the Ohio Arts Council, and we've shown in France at the Textile Museum, so that history may be exciting for people to create for that kind of venue rather than just showing in some showing in some place--

GP: A large basement, or something.

LF: Right and showing to the community at large rather than just to a quilt interested portion of the population. I think that's exciting, too, that other people are willing to spend a lot of dollars to have one of these pieces in their environment. I think that's neat. Well, we're going to try to do that for our people--is to provide a place where they can sell their work a little bit better, to a broader audience, so both showing and selling are things that Tracy and I want to do in addition to the educational component. [inaudible.]

GP: Yet to be--to materialize.

LF: Right, but the shows definitely have already started out. What's happening now is we're getting invited to show in different places, and we don't always have the energy or the time to do all of that. We've been invited to more places in two years than we can do, so we're?

GP: That's actually? That's exciting.

LF: It is. And I feel like, to show people's artwork is really very important, in a legitimate, wonderful setting where it's going to get good publicity, too. That's something I'm really learning from the Ohio Arts Council. Oh, they're so great. [inaudible.] They have it down pat. I mean, they have their people that are paid to do these jobs, which you have to have. You can't just rely on volunteer work.

GP: No, because it doesn't get done always on time or in the right way.

LF: Consistent, year after year. They have databases full of information and keep it current. Who to get in touch with. They have a luncheon. They're inviting all these--just to have the luncheon and bring these writers in, and photographers, to come and see the show, and invite the head of the Ohio Arts Council to come and address these people. That is really impressive to me. They know how to do it. [laughs.] And they're doing it! So marketing is something that I think we really need to learn about, because you can only make so many [quilts], and then you just start piling them all up, and what are you going to do with them? And they need to be reimbursed for--and to be to continue working, they do need to sell a couple from their stash. You know, they've only got so much room under the bed! [laughs.]

GP: Yes, you can't donate them to art auctions, and give them all away.

LF: Right. Do you remember that show that was up in Canton?

GP: That really early one? I didn't see it, but I do have the catalog, and of course, I've talked to Jane [Reeves.] and Clare [Murray.] about it. I guess, actually, there were two shows that they told me about. I only knew about the one. Actually, Jane's going to put me in touch with the woman who organized that.

LF: Oh, great.

GP: That was pretty neat.

LF: That was an early and a really nice show. So, is Clare--she's teaching right now, so she's handing everything on, too.

GP: Yes, she is. Her husband passed away, which was really sad. But she got her MFA and she still sort of makes quilts, but not a lot. She's still working with fiber, but she's doing a lot of other things with it, which is really interesting. Jane moved to Asheville, where my daughter lives, so I actually saw her last Thursday night. I was able to hook up with her, and saw her studio and that, which was fun. She's got a little artist space down there.

LF: I guess that's a really nice place.

GP: Oh, it's beautiful.

LF: Did you know Nicki Bonnett?

GP: No.

LF: She started out in Connecticut. She came to the symposium, and from there she moved down to San Antonio to be with Jane Dunnewold, working, and now she's in Asheville, too.

GP: Oh, really? Interesting. [inaudible.] Well, in terms of work, stuff to include, ultimately the layout will probably decide that, but instead of asking artists for particular pieces this time, I'd just like you to think about 'if I could only show one of your pieces' Let's say, think about what it would be that you think is an important piece to show. It doesn't have to be the most photographed or seen piece. It could be just whatever you think is, 'Wow, this is an important piece for me, and here's why. I started doing this new thing here,' or whatever. And the other things that I want to show, because this is also an historical work, so I've been trying to think, okay fifty years from now, when someone else is researching this time period, what would like it if we had found for them? So, anything that you would have that you would be willing to share to be photographed for the book that would be considered, in fifty years, an historical document. Something like, if somebody had the first Quilt National invitation, or I've even put sticky notes on the very first ads I saw in the magazines for Quilt Surface Design, that kind of stuff, because they're going to be filling these pages out, so where they can use that stuff, they can use it.

LF: Hmmm. Okay.

GP: I guess, roll around in your mind stuff like that--an early letter exchange, a picture from the first Art Quilt Network meeting, just anything like that that you can think of that somebody would be interested in knowing about as a document, I guess. Does that make sense?

LF: Yes. I know that I have a lot of early pictures from AQN. [inaudible.]

GP: Oh, great. Well, is there anything else? I skimmed over a few things, just because I don't want to take up your whole day. Is there anything else that you want to say? How do you want to be remembered? I guess I should ask you that.

LF: I think all along my contribution has been to bring people together.

GP: Thanks. Thanks, from the rest of us. [laughs.]

LF: I think that's my contribution, whether it was in the Liturgical Art Guild or [inaudible.], facilitating people's networking. So, I think it still excites me to see something and help it to happen, to see what can be. So just looking into the future, just seeing quilts shown--

GP: At the best museums?

LF: Yes, and really dramatic [inaudible.].

GP: Yes, that would be awesome.

LF: Awesome. [pause.] Well, I guess that's it.

GP: Well, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.

LF: It was great having you.


“Linda Fowler,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed March 2, 2024,