Rhonda Doyal




Rhonda Doyal




Rhonda Doyal


Karen Musgrave

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Nancy O'Bryant Puentes


Centerville, Ohio


Karen Musgrave


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

Karen Musgrave (KM): I want to thank you for allowing me to interview for Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories. We are doing our interview by email and we began our interview in the evening of September 13, 2007. Please tell me about your quilt "Once Upon a Time All the World was Bright and Beautiful."

Ronnie Doyal (RD): "Once Upon a Time All the World Was Bright and Beautiful" is a quilt about my grandmother. She died in 1990 and had Alzheimer's for 15 years or more.The quilt itself shows the journey Alzheimer's takes in a person's life. In the beginning, all the squares are bright, neat rows and the corners even match (not something I do on a regular basis). Then, as you view the quilt from top to bottom, the quilt begins to change. First, the colors fade, and the squares are not so neat and orderly. Then the fabric begins to fray and holes appear in the design. The quilting reflects the change as well by changing from neat to erratic. The last thing I did was mark on the quilt with a bleach pen. This should cause deterioration of the quilt as time goes on; much like the disease destroys not just the brain of the patient, but the lives of everyone close.

KM: Did you plan out what you were going to do before you did it?

RD: Yes, I planned it out. I had a good idea of what I wanted to show with the quilt before I ever sewed a stitch.

KM: How did you find out about the exhibit?

RD: I think I heard about it on the QuiltArt list.

KM: Why was it important to you to be a part of the exhibit?

RD: Because Alzheimer's doesn't affect just the patient. The whole family suffers because of it. My grandmother wasn't aware of what was wrong with her. At first, she knew "something" was wrong but eventually she lost all touch with reality and lived in a made-up world. I needed to tell her story because she couldn't.

KM: What do you plan to do with the quilt once it is returned to you?

RD: I am not quite sure what I will do with it. I think if I could auction it off at an Alzheimer's fundraiser, or if it could hang in a nursing home that cares for Alzheimer's patients, I would be happy. Though I would love to have it hanging on a wall at home.

KM: Is the style of this quilt typical of your quilting style?

RD: Well, I have made some traditional quilts, and this one is based on a traditional pattern, log cabin. But no, I wouldn't say it is typical of my quilting style. Most of my quilts have a pictorial quality to them and this one does not.

KM: So tell me why your chose to do a log cabin. Why did you make something that was not typical?

RD: My grandmother was very traditional. I make art quilts and that just wouldn't be her style. In fact, she would probably be one of those little white-haired ladies that nod politely at an art quilt and then walk away whispering under her breath that it wasn't a real quilt. I know she quilted because I have seen some of her old quilts, but I don't remember her ever quilting around me. However, she did crochet, and I do remember her making endless Granny Squares for afghans. The log cabin design reminded me of those crocheted squares.

KM: Tell me about your interest in quilting. When did you start? Who taught you?

RD: I got interested in quilting when my first child was born (1975). I so wanted to make a quilt for my baby. However, no matter how patient I was, I couldn't get the corners to match. This was back before rotary cutters and cutting mats. I had minimal sewing skills and it showed. I think my first attempt was made of gingham squares and was tied with red yarn. I took a basic machine sewing class at the local community college so I could learn to sew a straight line and make clothes for my kids; I had two daughters by that time (1981). I had this bright idea that I could make quilts with my machine for the girls. I took two pieces of white material, they could have been sheets. I used fabric crayons and drew pictures on them, layered with batting and backing (more white material) and sewed around all four sides. Then I sewed around the designs I had drawn. No pinning, no basting, lots of huge puckers on the backs. Many years later, I took a quilting class at yet another community college (1990) where I learned exactly how a quilt was suppose to be put together and the fine art of hand quilting. This class was based on Georgia Bonesteel's "quilt as you go" technique. I did the obligatory squares and began a traditional style quilt based on what I had learned in the class. It was a good place to start but I discovered that even with my new found skills, I still had trouble getting my corners to match. In the next few years, I made quilty stuff and even made some traditional quilts, but I found more and more that I just didn't enjoy following directions near as much as I liked trying out stuff on my own. Eventually, I started hanging out on the QuiltArt list on-line. Oh, I had found people that thought exactly like I did! I still make an occasional traditional quilt but my heart is with the art.

KM: Whose works are you drawn to and why?

RD: The first time I went to the "very big quilt show" in Houston, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Caryl Bryer Fallert is one artist that I am really drawn to. I love her use of color and innovation of design.

KM: Why is quiltmaking important to you?

RD: Making quilts is a creative outlet but more than the making, I find the fermentation process the most satisfying I love figuring out how to make something work.

KM: Do you belong to any quilt groups or a guild? You talked about the QuiltArt list. How important is belonging to a quilt community to you?

RD: do belong to a guild. It is called The Miami Valley Art Quilt Network. It is a small group, and not everyone quilts. It is made up of people with a variety of skills and interests. I have belonged to QuiltArt almost since the beginning. When I found them, there were less than 300 on the list. Now there are more than 3000. Being in the company of like minded souls makes a huge difference in the creative process. Having their support and feedback is important. There is comfort in knowing someone out there "gets it."

KM: What advice would you offer someone starting out?

RD: Don't be afraid to try new things. Learn all the rules and then break every one.

KM: Is there anything else you would like to add?

RD: No, I think I have pretty much said all I have to say.

KM: Ronnie, thanks so much for taking your time to do this interview with me. Our interview concluded on September 14, 2007.


“Rhonda Doyal,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 27, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1356.