Meiny Vermass-van der Heide


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Meiny Vermass-van der Heide




Meiny Vermass-van der Heide


Joyce S. Johnson

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics/ United Notions


International Quilt Festival
Houston, TX USA


Joyce Starr Johnson


Joyce Starr Johnson (JSJ): This is Joyce Starr Johnson. Today's date is November 2, 2002 and it is 11:07 a.m. I am conducting an interview with Meiny Vermaas-van der Heide. This interview is being conducted in conjunction with the Quilters' S.O.S. [-Save Our Stories.] project in Houston, Texas. As we get started today, why don't you tell us just a little bit about the quilt you have brought in?

Meiny Vermaas-van der Heide (MVvdH): The quilt that I brought in is the quilt that I started in 1996 as a sample for a class I was teaching here at Quilt Festival in 1996, and it was a very memorable thing, because by the time I got here I was 35 weeks pregnant and during Sunday's Sampler my water broke. And so this quilt in my "Celebration of Life" series reminds me of my son's birth and I thought that was very funny story looking back on it.

JSJ: I trust you are not giving birth here today.

MVvdH: No [laughter] In April of 1996 we went on a trip to South Africa, where we found out that we were going to have a second child. A huge surprise because I was already over 40 and I didn't think I would ever have a second child after dealing with infertility issues all my life. Anyway, the backing fabric for this quilt I bought at Langa Lapu Fabrics & Crafts in South Africa; it's made by Pru Bolus. Coincidentally I just met Pru here at Quilt Festival where she has a booth selling her sun printed fabrics from South Africa. What a treat to finally be able to talk to her. The backing fabric is very special to me because it combines my Arizona and Dutch heritage. Arizona is as much north of the equator as South Africa is south; they are equally sunny for making sun prints but just at different times of the year. The leaf shapes that Pru uses are very special to me, as they are similar to the ones I grew up with in the Netherlands. You might be familiar to the fact that South Africa used to be one of the Dutch colonies; the word 'apartheid' has clearly Dutch origins with the vowel sound 'ei.' Just like in my name. Anyway I have very fond memories of seeing Dutch architecture and botanicals in a climate very similar to Arizona and the backing fabric I used for the quilt I brought reflects that. You might not know this but I have been making 'Green Quilts' since the birth of my other son in March 1989 when Susan Shie started the "Green Quilt" movement. By making 'Green Quilts' you express your environmental concern in a positive manner; releasing positive energy with the making of your Green Quilt to express your concern about the environment, to make the world a better place. The idea was to label all Green Quilts with a special Green Quilt label screen-printed by Robin Schwalb in New York. I have made 73 Green Quilts between 1989 and 1992 that are all labeled as well as documented in the Green Quilt slide banks, maintained by Susan Shie in Wooster, Ohio and by Robin Schwalb in New York. In 1992 I switched from making Green Quilts to making Earth Quilts for two reasons. First because Robin Schwalb for some reason refused to sell me any more Green Quilt labels: basically censoring my making of Green Quilts. Years later when Robin and I met 'face to face' she apologized for doing so but at the time it really got me thinking. In the meantime we and others in our church were involved in reaching out to illegal immigrants crossing the Arizona desert; we collected gallon containers which we filled with water for the refugees. I decided that it was better to run the risk of empty containers littering the desert than to recycle them. When dealing with environmental issues there is no 'black and white,' there is a lot of gray in there when looking at social justice overlapping with the environment. That is how I started making my 'Earth Quilts.' Now my quilts are very abstract and very minimalist and one might wonder how this relates to the environment? My work is very much inspired by the Dutch painter Piet Mondriaan; better known here as Piet Mondrian because he changed the spelling of his name upon moving to New York. Double 'a' in the last name is a dead give-a-way of Dutch heritage; just looking at my last name you can tell that I am 'double Dutch.' Anyway Mondriaan is part of the Dutch movement known as the Style. The philosophy of the Style is to create harmony within the artwork as a way of creating harmony in the world. There are no visible boundaries, like frames around the artwork. This way the harmony within the artwork can flow free to include the larger environment, whether it be the room, your home or the world. Within my quilt surfaces I try to create harmony; it really does not matter which way my quilts are hung, the harmony within stays always balanced. There are no visible bindings on my quilts, they blend with the quilt surface so that the harmony within the quilt surface can extend itself into the larger environment; hence how rather abstract quilts still can relate to social and environmental justice issues, such as in my Earth Quilts. Looking at the inside panel [of the quilt brought to the interview.]; it has fabrics in the 'tint scale,' barely there colors I use to symbolize the fragility and preciousness of life. The hand-dyed fabrics in the quilt top are from Cherrywood Fabrics [the checkerboard in the center.], by Stacy Michel from Shades [the primary multi-colored facetted panels.] and by Heide Stoll-Weber from Farbstoff, Germany. [the yellow/green facetted panels.] The visual illusions within the quilt surface are continually changing depending on where your eyes focus and how long you can hold your focus. There are several layers of interplay between visual illusions: relative values in small patches next to each other, larger areas of color in the printed florals within the checkerboard in the center panel. The most amazing to me is that when you focus on the yellow/green panels on both edges, all yellow/ greens in the center pop out. And when you focus on the red/yellow/blue panels at the sides all reds, yellows and blues in the center pop. Now the middle part of the quilt top was sewn before my son was born in Houston. I did not like the proportions of the center panel so many months later I decided I would make the quilt bigger by adding the facetted side panels. Both are sewn using Bargello strip-piecing techniques and just one multi-colored hand-dyed piece of fabric. The mistake I made doing so was that I did not do it all at the same time. And let me tell you this quilt certainly shows what one thread difference in the seam allowance can do when you multiply it respectively 49 or 50 times; the center panel is 48 squares high while the side panels are respectively 49 and 50 squares high. Oops. There was no way I could line them up properly and so the quilt top ended up in the closet for many years while I tried figuring out how to quilt it so that my initial 'mistake' would not be so obvious. Cleaning out my studio I came across a beautiful preprinted ABC panel designed in Finland. Theo LOVED the alphabet so I decided to quilt it for him using a Pop Art checkerboard 'Dye-it' fabric designed by Debra Lunn and Michael Mokwra which I dye painted myself as the backing fabric. The wavy lines in the fabric would guide my quilting from the back; I sure liked how this experiment/study piece turned out. It would make a great quilting pattern to disguise my 'mistakes.' [in the quilt.] It took me two weeks of quilting this rather large top about 3/8" apart and I think it turned out quite nice after all. [laughter.]

JSJ: It really does not stand out where the differences are, with the seams not always matching but it is not the kind of thing you look for in this kind of quilt.

MVvdH: I don't think so either. But you know I pride myself in my workmanship and it kind of bugged me that it was not perfect. It's true what people say about that 'thread difference' in the seam allowance. Just because it took me such a long time to finish this quilt top I did not have access to fabrics used in the top to use for the binding; therefore I used the special backing fabric from South Africa for the binding as well. It echoes the colors and the floral theme of the quilt surface. Normally what I would do is to save fabrics used on the front for the binding, even before I cut my strips for the Bargello piecing. It is like that when a quilt just grows and grows on you.

JSJ: And the binding is an earth tone as well, blending in with the colors of the quilt surface?

MVvdH: Yes, and as I said it is almost finished except for the hanging sleeves on the top and bottom. I really pride myself on workmanship and the way the finished quilt hangs. The bottom sleeve accommodates a slat for weighing the quilt down and the whole quilt hangs about ¼" from the wall to allow for air circulation. I used to do more pictorial Impressionist quilts, experimenting with the right size of color area to make the impression work in the right way. Sometimes Impressionism looks really ugly up close but works from a distance. I found that 2" cut size which using the presser foot width on my machine [Pfaff creative 1475 CD.], and going through my standard processes for a quilt ends up to be 11/4" finished size to be the optimum size of 'patch' to work with for abstract, impressionistic colored quilts. Of course the choice of scale in fabrics you use as well as directional elements within these fabrics also play in the final picture. One should not forget that the small lines of color in the top stitching with the quilting also interact with the color in the patch under it, especially when combining mottled hand-dyed fabric and variegated 30 wt. quilting thread. You know you have these happy accidents that some of the colors in the stitching are in the same color family and some are the opposite as the patchwork. And so this way you have got an additional layer of visual illusions within your quilt surface; one that is terrible hard to predict and not under your control at all.

JSJ: This does not happen by accident?

MVvdH: No I don't think so anymore. Once I recognized that this [color manipulation.] was happening I could use it to my advantage. When I work in series and make three similar quilt centers but each border has a different, facetted overall color than the center of each quilt in the series looks like a different color. Sometimes though I do not see this in the design phase but it becomes apparent once the quilt top is sewn and the patches are a lot smaller, condensing the visual illusion. This happened to my quilt in Visions 1994 where I did not see the blue oval in the quilt until I looked at my slides of the quilt. In my newest quilt I used some fabric from a man I just had met over the Internet. I have to tell you this story. [laughs.] This man, Jack Bishop, I met when his wife wrote on the Quilt Art List how much she wished for a support group in the Phoenix area. So I wrote Lila about the Studio Art Quilt Associates in the Phoenix area and invited her to my studio. She asked whether she could bring her husband also which was okay with me. Anyway Jack was very interested in my use of fabrics. He used to work in Hollywood on movie sets; his ability to put layer upon layer of visual texture together is 'out-of-this-world.' Anyway Jack, who must be at least in his seventies, makes 'one-of-a-kind' fabrics in his garage and he gave me some of his fabrics to use in a quilt. These fabrics are first hand-dyed and than decorated with layers of printing, stamping, discharging and hand painting; very ornate, almost Victorian. It was a challenge to use these fabrics by Jack, in my minimalist manner but it has been one of the most intriguing cooperative experiments I have ever done. These are real opportunities for artistic growth and lots of fun in the process.

JSJ: This quilt with Jack's fabrics does not seem to be sewn using long strips?

MVvdH: I can show you the slides. [time spent looking for slides.] First I cut the center squares of 3 ½", and then I put a round of 'logs' around it. You know like in a traditional Log Cabin block; only here there is only one round of 'logs.' These logs are not the same size and they can even be subdivided with more than one color in each log. There are several design layers in this quilt; logs of the same fabric placed either in horizontal or vertical direction making your eyes move across the quilt surface. You eyes can not see horizontal and vertical line elements at the same time adding even more to the already numerous layers of visual illusion.

JSJ: That is amazing.

MVvdH: To me it is amazing as well as fascinating. The fun of quiltmaking really begins when you can make all the things you learned from all your different series and combine this all in your next quilt. I consider the interplay of color and visual illusion using the most humble traditional patterns, like Log cabin, Rail fence or Postage Stamp the strength in my quilt designs. This is to me, what I have been doing already, you know, the next step up. Always pushing for more artistic growth. I use hand-made fabrics, not by myself, but by other people. And I just love what these hand-made fabrics do for the quilt surface. Some people think it's a challenge to make the fabric, but I think that it is also a challenge to use what other people have made. And I love doing this myself; challenging artistic growth by using hand-made fabrics I buy from fellow artists. I think it is no more than fair to give them credit for what they did and this is how I did this in the label of the quilt I brought in. Materials: 100% cotton fabrics – commercially printed florals; hand-dyed fabrics by Dawn Hall of Cherrywood in the center checkerboard panel; hand-dyed red/yellow/blue fabric by Stacy Michel of Shades; yellow/green fabric hand-dyed by Heide Stoll-Weber of Farbstoff, Germany, and backing and binding fabric by Pru Bolus of Langa Lapu, South-Africa. It is like teamwork. You use other people's fabric, even if you use commercial fabric and you give them credit for their part in your quilts. I like using hand-dyed fabrics because they are more colorfast over time and of more unique quality. I have been using more and more hand-dyed and otherwise hand-made fabrics. You owe it to yourself and to your customer who pays for your work to use the very best materials you can afford and the very best workmanship that you are capable of. I have learned this lesson the hard way: by noticing fading in color of commercial fabrics in quilts I have spend hours and hours on making. Quilts that do not meet my high standards anymore of a quilt I am proud to sell or even donate for a worthy cause.

JSJ: As I am looking through your slides I have to ask what other quilt projects are you involved in?

MVvdH: I am the artist on the design team for Sixth Street Park around the City Hall in downtown Tempe; the place where we live. City Hall in Tempe is an upside down pyramid. It is about 30 years old, but it is very modern looking. It already has a garden around it as part of the original design of the building. But it does not live; nobody is ever there to linger, all are just passing through. And then the City came up with this idea that it should be a project that would revitalize the area around City Hall. They also had this vision to have the artists from the area involved from the very beginning. I ended up designing a quilt pattern in fabric, using a Rail Fence block as the design unit. The pattern is 15 by 15 design units consisting of 3" by 3" Rail Fence units. The 'rails' could be the same size 1-1/2" by 3" or uneven in size 1" by 3" and 2" by 3" to make the 3" square design units. My design in fabric got photographed and manipulated in the computer to fill the 'slate areas' of Sixth Street Park. It is done in five colors: black, yellow, red, gray and brown with every inch in my quilt design blown up to one foot on street level. Part of the quilt design is done in three dimensions so one can sit comfortably on the quilt blocks, watching the water splash at a nearby fountain. I am very proud of this; it is in the process of almost being finished. This is in the downtown section of Tempe where everything happens. We have [Fiesta Bowl.] block parties and Art Festivals there and I think that in time it really will become 'public' art and architecture. It is very unusual that artists are involved in public art project from the very beginning of the design phase. I envisioned the quilt pattern as looking from above onto small plots of agricultural land; the way Tempe started out more than 100 years ago. They selected 3 artists or artist teams to apply for the job, from more than 300 artist slide files in the slide banks of Phoenix, Tempe and the Arizona Arts Commission; from the 3 artists (team) that send a letter of interest and job qualifications I got the job. Now, what made me qualify for the job? I saw gardens in Japan while living there, parks in several large European cities while travelling, experienced integrating public art in daily life while living in Stockholm, I grew up in the Netherlands which has a very distinctive architectural heritage. Anyway, in the end they decided to hire me and I must say that we had a great time working together. I learned a lot, just by listening. Little things you know, like making sure it meets ADA requirements so that people won't trip on your fancy slate design because it is too uneven. You can work together to solve other artists problems with lots of brainstorming and work with architects to get beyond what it traditional. This is my other hobby you know: architectural design and environmental sustainability. Green design; it is possible but you have to do a lot of research, a lot of work and not be afraid of being on the cutting edge, before it becomes main stream or widely accepted. This is kind of mixing my two interests; really pushing to make me think beyond the box.

JSJ: In these interviews, we like to cover a lot of different areas, so I am not going to ask you some specific questions because we have already talked about many of them in our discussion. One of them we haven't covered is your own personal history with quilts. You said you have been quilting for many years?

MVvdH: My very first quilt I ever saw was in the Netherlands in 1982 and it was a Log Cabin quilt in Ariadne Magazine. [a Dutch language needle arts publication.] It lay on the bed in an attic bedroom, and I just totally fell in love with it. At that point in time I did sew but never had made a quilt. During a street festival in the town my parents lived I was able to buy a packet of late 70's fabrics, already cut in 8" by 8" squares. I cut them in 4" by 4" squares and designed my first quilt on the living room floor during fall break. I sewed the design together the best I knew how, and what seemed like a logical order to me. The hunt for a filler took some time. In the end I pieced polyester batting together by hand. To layer it I just laid the backing, the filler and the top on the floor. I had to move the furniture to find space to do this. I pinned it with my dressmaking straight pins, spending most of the day on my knees. Finally I turned it over to discover a huge false pleat on the back. This landed the quilt sandwich in the back of the closet for almost 3 years until I met my husband. With him I was going to move to the U.S. and I thought I better make sure that quilt is in better shape to make the move than still with straight pins. At that point in 1985, just married, we were living in Delaware and I didn't have a green card so I wasn't allowed to work. I felt that what I would do is to learn quilt making [the proper way.] so I would have something to do. I signed up for two classes [at Creations Plus.] in Newark, Delaware: to make a Sampler quilt by hand and a machine class the Mary Ellen Hopkins' way "It's Okay if You Sit on My Quilt" as well as machine quilting like Barbara Johannah. I got in an accident and hurt myself very badly and that kind of settled everything. From then on I just did machine piecing and machine quilting. In 1986, we moved to Arizona where I had the opportunity to take a 4-day workshop with Nancy Crow for $100 on positive/negative in design. Just working with black and white, neutrals and full color fabrics while making four quilt tops overnight. In hindsight, it was the start of my journey of understanding color around the whole spectrum as well as a beginning grasp of elements of design. I did not fully understand the motives behind the work-up in this class until studying the preliminary drawings by Vincent van Gogh, as well as the complete works by Piet Mondriaan, done in black and white, barely there neutrals before moving on to glorious color. During a family visit to the Netherlands in 1990 I had the unique opportunity at the Kroeller-Mueller Museum to study these Dutch painters up-close, personal and in depth. This is where I needed to go to, and at that point I made myself study the subject of color and visual illusions very systematically, just to get a handle on it. In 1991 I got a grant from the National Quilting Association to study what I called "double positive/ negative images in quilts" in more depth. Double positive/ negative images meaning that sometimes the same fabric can read as a light value or it can read as a dark value, totally dependent on the relative value of the patch next to it. At that point I made quilt design from long skinny strips, cut parallel with the selvedge. Sometimes you just have to put you time in to make enough quilts to make it work; working in series, changing parameters one at the time to learn in small increments to make huge leaps in artistic growth. By the way studying other people's work certainly helps but in the end I put in lots of 'seat' time in front of the design wall and behind the sewing machine. Worked on lots of series simultaneously: the "Homage to Mondriaan" series uses black and white with primary colored fabrics. In my "Celebration of Life" series, I use the barely there colors of the tint scale while in my 'Southwest 'series I use neutrals and natural colors. Quilts form this series ended up in Visions 1992 and 1994 as well as in Quilt National 1993. My "Fields of Color' series uses full color, while in my "Reflections" series I play with strip-piecing a limited palette of hand-made fabrics Bargello style to create densely textured color areas for secondary design layers. And these are not even all the series I did; making a total of more than 200 quilts in 20 years. Wrote a book on quilt making in Dutch in 1994; did some book chapters in English for That Patchwork Place and the American Quilters' Society. At that point in time I was very active in quilting; made 12-15 quilts a year, participated in over 35 exhibitions yearly not counting the multitude of solo shows I did on top of that. Then I got pregnant again, gave birth in Houston and was more and more in pain caused by fibromyalgia; I decided that it was okay if I physically couldn't do as much as I did before. Our youngest son, who later was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism, took up a lot of my time and energy finding ways to help this kid of ours and make him blossom. Having a 'special needs' kid makes you realize how precious little time parents are given to make a real difference in their kids' life. I made the decision that at this point in time [in my life.] it is more important to just be a mother. The type of decision that can really bother you or you can 'make peace' with; the latter is better for the overall health of our family. I still make quilts because it fulfills a need for me [on a personal level.] and it is good for me to do something that satisfies my hunger for making something and doing something that is more permanent than 'work around the house.' [laughter.] Basically, that's the point I am at now. I do not have the desire to teach more frequently than I now do with Quilts, Inc. In fact, I would like to conserve my energy to be there for our family as we deal with Theo's special needs to be met. Now I can be making quilts at my own pace and work it into my life. This is one of the other things I have brought with me. It is a very personal quilt as my quilt making has become a way of expressing my innermost thoughts.

JSJ: You have mentioned other times that you have used quilting either for physical pain, to distract your mind from it or to be part of the quilting community around the world.

MVvdH: It makes life easier when you live in foreign countries when you have an interest in common. Being part of the quilting community in the U.S. certainly made me understand what motivates its people based on their common history. It has made my transition, immigration to the New World a lot easier. This particular quilt I started while living in Germany and I finished it at home [in Arizona.]. I entered it in a juried show and it wasn't accepted and then I entered it in the first invitational Masterpieces [exhibit sponsored by Husqvarna/Viking.] and it was accepted. This year's [Masterpieces.] show, some of these quilts are so personal, has another quilt in my "Celebration of Life "series accepted in it. There is a lot of life that goes into these quilts. The quilt in this year's [Masterpieces 2002.] exhibit also ended up in the closet for a long time because I was stumped with regard to the quilting. The quilt surface has already so much 'texture' going on that I did not know what to do with the quilting design without overpowering it. I wanted to use, like everyone else, these gorgeous decorative threads on the market but in a way that did justice to what was already there [in the quilt surface.]. Remembering the Sashiko stitching I had seen while living in Japan; I decided that might be the way to go. I bought this book "Sashiko" ["-Easy & Elegant Japanese Designs for Decorative Machine Embroidery."] by Mary S. Parker and published by Lark Books. I transferred the straight lined Sashiko patterns onto graph paper, drew diagonal lines through the squares on the graph paper. This made it possible to transfer the Sashiko pattern onto my quilt top for stitching it on the diagonal. It is not overpowering [what's happening in the patchwork of the quilt surface already.] but it is doing the things everyone else does [using decorative thread for quilting.], but not like everyone.

JSJ: How was Masterpieces 2001 different from the one this year?

MVvdH: Masterpieces 2001 was a juried invitational while Masterpieces 2002 was an open juried show; anyone could enter by sending in an entry form, entry fee and their slides. Masterpieces, in general, highlights Quilt Art made on the home sewing machine.

JSJ: Do you have other quilters around the world as you traveled that have been important to you, such as you have talked about classes you have taken, in terms of a community of peers?

MVvdH: My biggest community right now is the Quilt Art list on the Internet []. There is about 2000 people on the list right now. This is really my 'life line' right now, as I work pretty much by myself, isolated in my studio at home. This is my big, big support of peers. This is how I know what is going on. What's new, what lives, and it keeps me in contact with people, besides of being fun as well. There are people on the list who I really enjoy reading their contributions. I obviously having been involved in quiltmaking for 20 years now. I am a sucker for catalogs. I just love them. I collect them and I study them. Sometimes I go back to these real early catalogs and study them some more. This is part of the historical perspective that not everyone on the list has because there are so many people jumping onto the bandwagon of art quilts or traditional quilt makers who move into that realm. And so, they don't know about this history. [laughter.] And then there are some technical things that I contribute to the list that are worth sharing. I do that because sometimes I wish that when I was at that point in my career I would have had someone who would have told me some of these other things I would like to share with others now. I have been involved with the Studio Art Quilt Associates since 1990, which is about from the very beginning when Yvonne Porcella started the organization. At the time, I think it was 1991; we had one of our first shows of 'Green Quilts' at the Museum of Quilts and Textiles in San Jose. At that time the Studio Art Quilt Associates flyer stated: 'If you are in the area, give me a call and I will show you the archives.' So I called this really famous Yvonne Porcella to get directions to her place in Modesto, about 90 minutes by car from San Jose and she showed me the archives in two portable cardboard file boxes. It impressed me so much that as soon as they started having Regional Reps I volunteered to be the Regional Rep for Arizona: that's been over 10 years now. At that point I tried to go to these meetings/ conferences that were organized. It is fun to meet people I have known for 16 years and see how they have progressed, and now got famous. And I am so happy for them because I know everybody can make an art quilt and with increasing competition they have to work hard and have to work hard together in order to get ahead. The Art Quilt list is a lifeline and a source of information: 'What did you do?' 'How did you approach this?' 'Give me some pointers.' This list gives us a far more stronger position in terms of dealing with galleries, exhibitions, how to apply for exhibitions, what rules do you live by. In fact, there are rules we now have to follow when we want to enter quilts in the Quilt National exhibition as a result of 'discussions' on the Quilt Art list. The Journal project also got its start on the list. It came from Karey Bresenhan being on the list and the 'discussions' about making small, journal page type quilts. Look how beautiful it is down there. [with the Journal quilts hanging on the show floor.] You can see how much emotion comes through in these quilts that we should be thankful to Karey for providing us with a place [like quilt Festival.] to show our work in a manner that does justice to our work. Last year, after September 11, it was through the list that "America: From the Heart" in such a short time that it could be hung at Festival just a few weeks later. It was a good idea to organize "America: From the Heart;" for me it was a healing experience. By the way, when I got this baby in Houston, Karey wrote me a personal card to congratulate me and I think that gives me huge feelings for her. She took time off from her busy schedule during Festival take down to write me after the birth of our Houston baby. [laughter.]

JSJ: It tells you something about community.

MVvdH: Exactly. I have this picture book here of my kids because I know when I see Karey she will ask: 'How is your baby?'

JSJ: I won't ask you if you named him Houston?

MVvdH: No, His name is Theodore; which means Gift from God. He is a fun kid, he is pretty good, and I just bring this to show Karey.

JSJ: Well, I don't want to keep you here too long because I know you are busy. Is there anything I haven't asked you about that you want to share with us.

MVvdH: You know I am also an artist on This a juried web site for craft artists, and one of the jurors is Michael Monroe. Michael Monroe used to be the curator of the Renwick Gallery for American Craft at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. I really get a kick out of the fact that such a knowledgeable person in the field of 'Crafts' thinks highly of your work. 'That is really affirming feedback.' I said to the people at, 'If you would promote your quilts the way you promote your ceramics, jewelry, glass art you would sell them better.' And in order to prove that I bought an advertisement in a book called "The Artful Home." I think that in order to reach a wider audience for your work you have to pay your dues in advertising money where people see it. So I do that in this book, in the Gallery on the Studio Art Quilt Associates web site [] just to promote my work where people can see it. You will sell your work, maybe not immediately, but sometimes you wonder why you do things and if it ever will pay off. But I have found that you sometimes have to do things even when you don't see immediate pay off as an investment in the future. This is another quilt. Can I talk about it?

JSJ: Yes.

MVvdH: This quilt I made for my gynecologist. This is the guy that I cheated out of delivering my second child. He moved into a new office recently and I got commissioned to make him a quilt for the office that celebrated our relationship [of fourteen years.]. I wanted the quilt to celebrate the lives of women, the joyful years of childbearing. When we are in the prime of our lives, the 'red' colors are our emotions, our passion, our hot flashes, all kinds of emotions. Then the black and white are the pages of our lives, like dairy pages, and some are dark and some are light. I put the quilt together and my male doctor really liked it. Then his wife came, and she did not like it. And so she came to my studio to talk about returning the quilt. Then I told her the story of how the quilt relates to women's lives and she said, 'Now I know the story and would really like to keep this quilt.' I thought that was the biggest compliment. The wife went on, 'I didn't like the quilt, but it had a really powerful spirit and I didn't know what it was, but now I know.' And she was so happy with the quilt, and she hugged me, like in sisterhood. Anyway, it hangs in my gynecologist's office and you see it when you go back into the rooms, and they tell me every time I go there, 'We get so many responses to this quilt,' and that makes me so happy. It is so good when we can reach other on an emotional level. That's what I like about quilts.

JSJ: I think that is a great way to end.


“Meiny Vermass-van der Heide,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed April 24, 2024,