Vickie Hallmark




Vickie Hallmark




Vickie Hallmark


Judy Holley

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

The Nat'l Quilting Assn


Houston, Texas


Pat Shaer


Judy Holley (JH): My name is Judy Holley. It is October 23, 1999. I am interviewing Vickie Hallmark at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas. The time is 4:14 p.m. Well, Vickie I have seen you out there, showing, being a white glove lady, talking about your quilt. Tell us about your quilt.

Vickie Hallmark (VH): It is titled "Fusion" and it was made in 1998. This is the first quilt I started after we moved from California to Texas. It started as a small center medallion which I dubbed "Loosing My Marbles" because I was tired of facing all those mountains of boxes. Then the little quilt got put aside while I worked on another quilt. When I finally came back to "Fusion' in the middle of the summer, I started enlarging it. It grew of its own accord; it wasn't predesigned. It just started in the center and kept growing outward. It has sort of an unusual structure because of that. It is built in segments, fourteen different segments. The back of each segment was constructed at the time each one was individually quilted, and then they were all put together in the end with those wild yellow striped sashings to cover the seams.

JH: Were you surprised to find that you had won one of the six major awards?

VH: Very.

JH: Very surprised.

VH: This quilt won an award at Paducah so I was not so surprised it won an award, but very surprised it was one of the top six.

JH: How long have you been quilting?

VH: The first quilt I completed was in 1993. It was a crib quilt for my son who was born that year.

JH: Does it run in your family? Did your mother or your grandmother quilt?

VH: My mother has never made a quilt that I know of. She's been tempted a few times. My grandmother did make quilts, but that was long before I got interested in it. I didn't pay so much attention as I would now if she were still alive.

JH: Why did you make the first one?

VH: I was just drawn to a pattern. It was a commercial pattern with appliqué. I contemplated asking my mother-in-law if she would make it for me, since she quilts. I decided that I couldn't ask her to make something quite as involved as this one happened to be. So I tried it myself and it was easier than I thought it would be! I then made a few more quick crib quilts for nieces and nephews before I started doing my own designs for wall quilts.

JH: How has it affected family life?

VH: Well, now I actually do a lot of quilting. My son is in kindergarten and I try to spend all my time while he's at school working on quilts. My husband is very supportive.

JH: Well, that's wonderful. How has quilting affected their lives?

VH: I think they are very proud of me and proud of the quilts. This particular one, "Fusion," hangs in our living room, so it's something we live with everyday.

JH: Are most of your quilts spontaneous? You said you didn't plan them. You're not a planner?

VH: No, I'm not a planner. I'm an experimentalist. I'm a scientist by training actually, so I'm used to doing all sorts of experiments. The quilts tend to start as little play-pieces and then, if I like them, they get to grow bigger.

JH: How would you like to see quilting move forward in the next century, or the next decade?

VH: I am very interested in art quilts. That is really my direction. "Fusion" is probably most closely tied to traditional quilts of all the quilts that I have made. I intend to make odder and odder art versions of the quilts. So that's my particular interest--carrying quilts into the art realm.

JH: What constitutes a great quilt? Like a museum would display.

VH: Like a museum would display? I think it really has to follow the tenants of art. It has to have great design and great workmanship and great color. All those things have to be present in it. Also it has to have that sort of indescribable something that came from the creator, that spark that makes it really connect with people.

JH: What comes first for you, the design, or the fabric, or the color?

VH: I am really drawn by color and design, and I'm also very interested in texture. The more I keep doing this, the more my quilts stress texture. I do a lot of really fine work: lots and lots of stitching. I love stitching. Sometimes I do all machine work as "Fusion" is, but recently I have some that have more hand stitching, more embroidery, lots of beads. So I like to be able to stand back and have a piece really grab you. But then you get drawn up close where you see more, and more, and more. So it's not one extreme or the other; it's got to be both.

JH: It's got to be both. Okay. How do you think quilting changed the lives of women?

VH: Quilting for women now is clearly pretty different than it was. My grandmother did a lot of very functional quilts for the home. I remember sleeping under stacks of quilts. And then she had her prize quilts that were done to be beautiful. But nowadays, I personally don't do functional quilts. Other than those crib quilts, I haven't tended to make functional quilts. So from my point of view, it's more a creative outlet, an art outlet.

JH: An art outlet.

VH: I'm sure it has been in years past for lots of women, too.

JH: I've really been impressed by the color. I think it's what I remember, the color and the circles.

VH: Color is something I'm fascinated with. A few years ago I decided that color was my weak point. So I concentrated on that heavily, working with color over and over again, trying to get a handle on how to make that work better for me. But finally I think I'm beginning to get there.

JH: I think she's gotten there! [laughs.] Let's see, do you think, how important is it to your life?

VH: I consider this my profession at this point. I had a former career as a scientist. When my son was born, I retired to raise him. Now that he's in school, I have been spending more and more time on quilting, and this is where I am going. Right now I spend about six hours a day, five days a week and I expect that to increase the older he gets and the less he needs me.

JH: Is there anything special that you'd like to talk about? What motivates you to make quilts more than anything else?

VH: I'm probably just a frustrated artist. I was interested in art as a child, but I got sidetracked into a profession that would be a good income producer. Now I have the opportunity to go back in this direction.

JH: And do you just do quilts? Do you do garments? Do you just do art quilts?

VH: I haven't done garments, but I've been more tempted recently to do garments. I used to do clothing because I'm very tall, so it was hard to buy suitable clothing. Now that I'm doing more and more of the art quilts and I see the wearable art that's appearing, I find it an appealing prospect.

JH: So you sewed garments before you--

VH: Yes, I probably started sewing as soon as I was physically able. Some of my earliest memories are of sewing and designing. I remember asking my mother at about age five for a needle and thread. I wanted to turn a piece of green satin into a pleated Barbie skirt. What an ambitious project for a five year old! So I always did garments. I also did cross-stitch and crochet, really the huge realm of needlecrafts. Anything with needle and thread and fabric attracted me. It always comes back to that. I also drew and painted constantly.

JH: On fabric?

VH: Well, I do sometimes now, but I used to do acrylics and oils. I don't do that anymore; it's really all gone to the fabric direction now.

JH: Do you use your quilts for political or social statements or just for personal expression?

VH: They tend to always wind up being personal expressions. I've been reflecting upon it a lot recently as a mirror of what has been going on in my life. I don't always recognize that until they're finished and I have a little time to look back. Then they tell me. The names in particular are fascinating to me because I usually don't name them until they're done, and sometimes I struggle with a name. Sometimes the name comes to me along the way. But always, when I look back at it, there's a connection with what was going on in my life, as "Fusion" has the connection of things finally getting back into connection, coming together. I have a recent quilt I've been working on which I'm having trouble naming, but I'm leaning toward a name that gives the impression of multi-tasking because I was learning to do multiple things at once. So there's always a connection.

JH: What kind of quilts do you personally admire most?

VH: I'm always drawn to art quilts. The old quilts and the traditional quilts I admire, but that's not what speaks to me most. So I have particularly enjoyed going through the One Hundred Best Quilts [special exhibit.]here and seeing art quilts represented so heavily amongst them. The art quilt exhibits that are back in the special exhibits are my favorites.

JH: And it sparks our imagination as to what they would look like at the end of the next century.

VH: Things will be a little bit different I guess. I think that we'll always have that traditional part carried forth, but a little bit different. We've come a long way.

JH: What do you think makes a great quilt?

VH: We sort of touched upon that before. Artistically it has to have great color, design and the feeling of connection that draws people in. I think there is some spirit that goes into the creation of those great quilts. The makers have really put a part of themselves in there.

JH: What about a great quilter?

VH: A great quilter is probably someone who has a lot of persistence to carry through and get things done. Lots of patience and attention to detail is important, but also you really have to have an artistic eye to be able to get all those elements of proportion and color, design right. I particularly feel that not only piecing or appliqué or the visual content has to be good, but the actual quilting has to be just as good. It all has to come together.

JH: How do you feel about the preservation of quilts? How can we preserve them for the future?

VH: Oh, goodness. I think it's important that the quilts are in museums where they can be preserved with the best techniques that we have now. But I also feel it is important that people be able to see them. I know that I don't have any of my grandmother's quilts. I have some of my husband's grandmother's quilts. I think that it's important to keep those out where people can see them. I'd like those to pass on to my son, so I hope we can keep them in good enough shape so he'll have them. Especially since his mom's a quilter. Hopefully he'll have some of mine.

JH: I think you already told me that the color speaks to you first, not the fabric?

VH: Not fabric. I'm not too picky about it. My quilt, for instance, has silks. I don't necessarily restrict myself to cotton. I'm going further and further a field now, trying anything that will work in there.

JH: Okay. So shopping must be fun?

VH: Shopping is good. I love thread. That's what I've been buying the most of. I'm a threadaholic.

JH: And you already touched on the quilt that you are working on now. That you're not quite sure what it will become?

VH: Well, I have one that's finished and I'm not quite sure how to name it. And I have two more in progress that are part of a series. These are all smaller, much smaller, pieces.

JH: Are you working in a series?

VH: I do work in series. I jump back and forth among several different series.

JH: You jump back and forth.

VH: Yes.

JH: Does the series help?

VH: I think the series does help. It is definitely clear that some of the later pieces in a series are much more complex than the earlier ones. I get the technical details worked out in the early ones, especially since mine do tend to be a little bit innovative. I've got my own odd approaches to things. I get that worked out then I can concentrate more on design or composition. I don't have to worry about technical things. But I can't stick with one series. I have to do multiple.

JH: So you have to do several things at once. Multi-tasking.

VH: I'm multi-tasking. That's what I'm working on lately.

JH: Do your quilts reflect the community, your religion, where you're from?

VH: I don't know that I would say any of that. They reflect me personally: my personal approaches to problems, family life or whatever.

JH: You mentioned how making this quilt had helped you adjust just to get settled into your move.

VH: Yes.

JH: And it helps you adjust and settle into everything else.

VH: True. Quilting is very much thinking time. You have a lot of time to sit there and ponder things. I find that if my hands are busy and that if I'm a little bit distracted, then the mind gets a chance to work out problems. It's an 'aha' moment. I know how to cope suddenly.

JH: Now what's going to happen to this quilt?

VH: This quilt hangs on my living room wall.

JH: So it will go back home?

VH: It's going home and it will stay there. It may go to a few more shows.

JH: Do you make these especially for a spot, like you said you made the quilt for moving, but did you say "we got this new house and here's this spot -- I'll make it this big to fit this spot?'

VH: No. No. I had no idea where it would go. In fact I was just lucky that the wall was big enough to hold it.

JH: Are you active in guilds?

VH: I belong to Austin Area Quilt Guild. I'm not as active as I might like to be. They tend to be a very traditional group and they don't get as many contemporary programs as I would like. Hopefully that will change as things grow. Next century maybe we can go in that direction.

JH: Are your quilt related friends a big part of your life?

VH: To a certain extent, although I find that I have to have a lot of time to myself to be able to work. I belong to a bee within that group but I don't attend on a regular basis. I find it too distracting to see what everyone else is working constantly and have too much input. I like to do my own thing and not have other input. I like to show them when they're finished and not when they're in progress.

JH: What do you think the quilt's function has been in general to American life?

VH: Well, there was clearly a functional component there in the past, and a creative outlet for women who always needed something to keep their hands busy. There was the social component of the quilting bee getting together. And now I think all of that is still present. But then there are a growing number of people who are more driven by the art aspect which is probably more where I fit in.

JH: Do you have anything else special that you would like to add? Something that is important to you? That you want to talk about?

VH: I think the function of quilt shows is an interesting thing to talk about. It's interesting that people are so drawn to large exhibitions of quilts. I know that I really like putting my quilts out there and having people come by and see them…

JH: Non-quilters, how do they react to your quilt?

VH: They don't think it's a quilt.

JH: They don't think it's a quilt.

VH: They don't think it's a quilt. It doesn't look like what their image of a quilt is. So I think it's good to put it out there and convince them that there are a lot of different quilts in this world. There's probably a place for anyone. I know there have been people who come by and see my quilts especially the one here with holes in it, who say, 'I want to do a quilt like that.' Because they didn't really think of that as being a quilt! It opens up new ideas.

JH: So you feel like you're charting new waters. Opening the door.

VH: If it works for people, that's wonderful. I certainly don't feel bound by the rules and so I don't think they should either. But my grandmother wouldn't think it was a quilt either.

JH: Yeah, but how would grandmother think of your quilt? Do you think she would like it?

VH: "Fusion" I'm sure she would like. She was a very artistic lady. The one with holes in it --she might think I had holes in my head, too, like lots of people have told me.

JH: This is Judy Holley conducting this interview. It is 4:35 p.m.. I would like to thank Vickie.



“Vickie Hallmark,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed June 16, 2024,