Sue Lemmo

Photos

AFPBP_020_a.jpg

Title

Sue Lemmo

Identifier

AFPBP-20

Interviewee

Sue Lemmo

Interviewer

Karen Musgrave

Interview Date

2/20/08

Interview sponsor

The Salser Family Foundation

Location

Clearfield, Pennsylvania

Transcriber

Kim Greene

Transcription

Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave. I'm doing a Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories interview with Sue Lemmo. It is February 20, 2008. It is 7:00 p.m. Sue lives in Clearfield, Pennsylvania and I live in Naperville, Illinois so we are conducting this interview over the telephone. I am doing a special Alzheimer's Forgetting Piece by Piece Q.S.O.S., which is also the name of an exhibit. Sue has a quilt called "Mimi Has Squirrels in Her Attic" in it. Sue thank you for taking your time to do this with me and tell me about your quilt.

Sue Lemmo (SL): I am a subscriber to QuiltArt [online list serve group.] and I had been reading about Ami's [Simms.] plans to do a show and very shortly before the exhibit my family was touched by Alzheimer's. I had a great uncle who had been cared for at home for many years by my grandmother's sister, my great aunt, and he was hospitalized. We went through a lot with him, many, many years and she lost her health caring for him, and I just knew it was something that I wanted to participate in. My grandmother's sisters were really lively women, and they are the ones who taught me to quilt, and this made sense, and I started to think about different stories. At one point in her life, my grandmother had been in the hospital with this lovely beautiful older lady who obviously was in some way suffering from Alzheimer's, but you would think everything was normal. She looked so healthy, and she was so lovely, and she would greet you when you came in, but then she would ask you to check for the squirrels under her bed because they were keeping her up at night. For many years as we were leaving, my grandmother would say, ‘Don't let the squirrels keep you up at night.' Things just started to add together as I was thinking of an idea I wanted to do for my quilt. I came up with the idea of "Mimi Has Squirrels in Her Attic." It is a way of looking at a really sad and kind of tragic event and finding some humor in it, because that is the way my grandmother and sisters always coped with everything, and it was a gift they gave us and our family in terms of instead of crying we end up laughing about things and we move forward. That was a way for me to help cope with my own grief, but also to help my family to cope.

KM: That is a great way to cope, I think. So, you literally have squirrels in the top of her head in the quilt.

SL: Yes, I know I wanted to do kind of a whacky looking lady, which this quilt really is, and the hardest part about putting the whole quilt together was finding squirrels.

KM: I was going to ask you that question.

SL: I knew I wanted to do kind of a Broderie Perse technique for the hair and a kind of crazy beehive hairdo because that was really appropriate for the time period that I think Mimi lived in. She is a fictional character by the way. I searched and searched and finally found a lady on eBay who made her own fabric, only dogs and only squirrels. Just about any breed of dogs and squirrels.

KM: How interesting.

SL: She had two different sizes of the repeat, and I ordered two yards of this squirrel fabric on eBay and cut the pieces out. It took me about six months to find the fabric. I knew I needed it. I am just going to have to keep looking and looking.

KM: How did you feel when the quilt got in the exhibit?

SL: I was thrilled. It is always wonderful to see your work juried into an exhibit or selected for an exhibit. It is sort of bittersweet because if I hadn't had the experience in my family where we dealt with the loss of somebody we loved to Alzheimer's and ultimately the loss of my aunt, because of instead of caring for herself she cared for her husband and lost her health also as a result of it. It was bittersweet, but it was nice. Before she died my great aunt knew, she had taught me how to do my first pieced quilt. My grandmother and I worked and did a lot of hap type quilts, where you used fabric, you found, and they weren't beautiful in terms of cutting out a pattern and sewing a pattern together. They were much more like Gee's Bend kind of beauty, just put together and this looks nice and I'm going to move this big piece over here and this piece is a rectangle, and this piece is a square and this makes a row. I lived in Ohio for a little while where she (my aunt) lived and she taught me how to hand cut from a pattern where you trace the pattern and hand sew blocks together, my very first quilt. Later, when she was sick, she had breast cancer and we went to visit her in the nursing home, I had a piece with me, and I got to tell her that I had gotten several pieces into exhibits prior to the Alzheimer's exhibit, and she was absolutely thrilled because she felt like she kind of taught me how to get started and got me started on this path.

KM: When was this?

SL: Oh my, this was probably four years ago. She taught me to quilt in about 1988.

KM: What are your plans for the quilt when it comes back?

SL: I don't know. I hadn't thought about it. When you make a quilt, or you make a piece of art, your energy really goes into the thought process behind it, the constructing it, and getting it together. When you start to exhibit your work, getting it out there and getting into the world it consumes you while you are doing it, but after the fact it is almost like a little foreign thing and you forget, ‘oh yeah I made that.' So, I haven't even thought what I'm going to do with the quilt when it comes back. I hope that it ends up somewhere where people can see it, because I think it is the kind of quilt that should be out somewhere where people can see it, so I don't know where it will be. It will probably tell me when the time comes.

KM: Have you seen the exhibit?

SL: I have not. I have only seen the exhibit. Oh yes, I did see the exhibit, it was at the Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza last, two summers ago in Harrisburg and my family and I got in the car and drove to Harrisburg and went down to see the exhibit.

KM: What were your impressions?

SL: It was moving. It took a long time to see this, it is an intimate exhibit, but to see this exhibit because you really wanted to stop and read all of the stories. You felt like you owed it to, you owed it to the quilts, you owed it to the quilters, and you owed it to the people that the quilters were dedicating their work to. It really was very moving.

KM: Do you have any favorites?

SL: I really like the stories. The one that really, I remember is June Underwood's story where she talks about her father and his struggles as he went downhill and they tried to take the keys away from him to drive, and he introduced the one daughter as the nationally known quilter and the other daughter as the one who steals his car.

KM: I think it is Georgia Bonesteel.

SL: Is it? Again, it was that story, that little bit of looking for that little bit of humor. It is sad, but it is funny too and sometimes you just have to look at those moments.

KM: I definitely agree with that. There is a CD that comes along with the exhibit, actually the CD came out before the book and we were all required to read our artist statement, so you could actually hear our voices tell the story on the CD. What was that experience like for you?

SL: It is hard. Again, you make these quilts, and you write these things, and it is private. I work in my home so that I do have people around me, my family is around me, but it is still, it is intimate it is private it is just for you. Sometimes when you expose those sorts of raw experiences, raw emotions, it can be a little bit overwhelming. I rehearsed it quite a few times before I had to record it because I knew that there was a possibility that I would have difficulty getting through it.

KM: Did you make it through?

SL: I did make it through.

KM: I had to do it three times.

SL: Did you, but you did make it through?

KM: I had to do it three times because my voice would break.

SL: That was what I really--I do a lot of public speaking.

KM: So, do I, but I still could not get through it.

SL: It was hard.

KM: It was much harder than I had anticipated.

SL: It is sort of, like I said it is really exposing something private. You don't normally do that so much.

KM: I think you articulated that very well. I do. You told me a little bit about your interest in quilt making, I noticed that in the book you talk about that you are working on a series of quilts. I am curious about working in a series. Tell me about working in a series and why that is important to you.

SL: I actually came to quilt making, I'm trained as an artist. I have an undergraduate degree in fine arts with a major in textiles, which was predominately hand paper making and weaving, and at the time I didn't do any quilting because I didn't have the sewing skills to execute my ideas. I have an undergraduate minor in painting. Well, I also have a Masters in Fine Arts in painting and drawing so I come to the art or to the quilting from the artist's perspective. So, when my kids were little, I couldn't paint, I had babies crawling around, I couldn't leave paint out, they would get into it, it would get spilled, things would get ruined. I didn't have a place to work and a good friend of mine, Lisa, who I taught with said, ‘You should join my quilt guild. I know you like to quilt a little and you have done some things, come down with us.' I went down to this quilt guild, and I learned the basics of quilting from these wonderful ladies in my quilt guild and I learned how to piece a quilt and how to paper piece and how to rotary cut and how to strip piece and things that were new developments from the time when I learned the basics of doing it all by hand. These ladies were great. They taught me all kinds of the basic skills. I worked from patterns for a few years while the kids were little, and then it just got to the point where I thought now, I've got to do what I've got to do. As I started to work, I started to get quilts that were more me, more reflective of me rather than me making a pattern that somebody else came up with matching fabrics and things. I worked in that way for a couple of years and started to feel like I had some success in terms of executing works that I was satisfied with, that I was satisfied expressed something I was going to say, and then you get to a certain point where you start to come up with a group, a series, I call them tools, like tools under my belt, or techniques under my belt that you put together and you start to think, hum, I would like to see this a little bit differently or this a little bit further, and then all of a sudden you are kind of working in a series and so I have. I'm actually at this point getting ready for an exhibit out of a nice gallery that is a town over from where I live. I haven't put all of this work together as a body yet. So, I'm pulling things out and laying things next to each other and realizing ‘oh my gosh, I did eight pieces in this series, and I have four pieces in this series and five pieces in this series.' I think in terms of the quilter as an artist it really is a way for you to push your ideas and develop them as fully as you can and fully explore the potential of the combination of a technique and an idea that you are working with. That is where I'm going with it. I'm not repeating the same quilt over and over again in different colors. Every quilt sort of has a different starting off point and comes to a different formal appearance when I'm done, but again they are a series because they are connected by a technique or a theme of some kind or some visual theme that goes through them.

KM: Do you think of yourself more as an artist or a quiltmaker or do you make the distinction?

SL: I don't make the distinction in my work because I feel by finally being able--[pause.] all those years ago, twenty some years ago when I was an undergrad student and I could visualize what I wanted to make and I was working in other mediums, I wasn't quite getting what I wanted. I was getting good work, but it wasn't where somehow inside of me I knew I wanted it to be, and it wasn't until I started to use the quilting with my work that I really feel that I was able to get to where I always wanted the work to be. So, I think I have to do the quilting to get to where I am going. I really don't make a distinction between the two. I think the distinction is often imposed from outside sources. It is funny when I'm exhibiting my work. I have kind of two veins. I have one vein that is very, the surfaces are very kind of formally beautiful in terms of their appearances and their arrangement and they are much more abstract, and those pieces get accepted into fine arts exhibits and I have won some awards with them at some fine arts exhibits. Then I have a group of quilts that is much more literal, much more like "Mimi" is, much more accessible in terms of their imagery to the average person who is looking, those are the quilts I seem to get accepted into quilt shows.

KM: Interesting.

SL: I don't get those formal ones accepted into the quilt shows and I don't get those more literal quilts accepted into the fine arts shows. It is just something I have noticed and maybe that will change over time, maybe the work isn't strong enough in one or the other, I don't know, I'm not judging that, it is an observation that I made.

KM: What does quilt making afford you to be able to do? What specifically about quilt making?

SL: When you make things. I was the kid that made things from the time I was a kid. You gave me tape and a piece of paper or Play Dough, and I was making something. There are kids, I see them, and I teach art. I teach high school art and there are kids that what they do making things and expressing themselves, no matter what it is, is as important to them as breathing and eating, and I really feel that this is the way that quilt making is for me. It is just something I have to do. If I'm feeling off and I'm feeling frustrated and I'm having stress, if I sit and think about it, I will say you know I haven't done anything creative in two weeks, and if I somehow sit down and do something creative, maybe just working in my sketchbook or prepping fabric for something I'm going to be doing, I feel so much better and my stress level goes down and my tension levels go down and I focus and I breath deeper and all that other stuff becomes much more insignificant. It is really a coping mechanism.

KM: How many hours a week do you quilt?

SL: That depends. [laughs.] That depends. In a really good week when I have all the time in the world, I might quilt twenty hours, maybe more if I had my druthers, but I still have, I have an eleven-year-old, I have a fifteen-year-old and I work full time. I teach. I volunteer for a couple of different community organizations and for my state. I'm active at the statewide level in my union, so I'm pretty busy. That is my goal. In the summertime to quilt five to six hours a day easy.

KM: How does quilt making impact your family?

SL: [laughs.] At different times they are happy with it and at different times they aren't. They have had to learn to adjust. My stuff takes up a lot of space. I am fortunate that I have a very patient husband who understands that if I'm going to be in his life, this is going to be in his life, and so he has always been supportive of everything I've done and if I needed a tool or something, he did the best to see that I had what I needed to work with. I never had that fight that I know a lot of women sometimes face in a life. It takes a lot of space. It takes a lot of time. They are used to watching the TV very loud because I sew in the family room, even with my Hobby Quilter, which sounds like a small airplane. I think I've done it so long and I've done it since they were little, I don't think they realize that other mothers don't do this. I remember, I have a lot of space in my basement, I have walls where I display a lot of paintings and things that I'm working on at different times and once my kids were working on a project, my daughter was maybe in fifth or sixth grade and they were working on this big project and all the kids came over, because when your mom is the art teacher, she has poster paints and poster board, and they worked in the basement for about three hours, and one of the kids looked up and she said, "Is your mom an artist or something?" My kids were like, ‘well yeah.' It didn't even occur to them that everybody's mother didn't have four walls in the basement covered floor to ceiling with these strange watercolor paintings.

KM: Let's talk about whose works you are drawn to and why.

SL: Whose works I'm drawn to and why.

KM: It doesn't necessarily have to be a quiltmaker for that matter.

SL: Right. Boy at different times in my life I look at different artists very carefully. I love, I love the work, I love Gustave Klimt, and again I think it is, his work is pushed very much to the surface but there is still a kind of depth and richness and a pattern of it. I love Monet's, his series, particularly the Water Lily Series when you see images and you are actually seeing sky, water and beneath the water at the same time, the different layers. Grant Wood, American Gothic. I had an experience several years ago, I was able to attend a workshop for teachers at the Art Institute of Chicago, and I was going through the Museum of the Art Institute of Chicago, and I had one of those experiences where you stand in front of a piece of artwork, and it makes you cry. It was a strange piece for me because I have always been sort of drawn to abstract, I love kind of vanguard kind of pieces. In the Philadelphia Museum there is a piece by Marcel Duchamp, "The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors." It is a piece of glass with things sandwiched in that just blows me away. I love that kind of thing. I was standing in front of the painting by Winslow Homer of "Hauling in the Nets" and it is the man in the ocean, and it absolutely moved me. I was in tears by the time I was done, just the raw emotion and the power of that piece spoke to me. It may have been just at that particular time on that particular day, but I still to this day love that painting. At the same time, I really love a piece that was at the Museum of Contemporary Art that was nothing but a large, polished granite hallway, it was the actual hallway in the museum with a series of speakers on the floor and as you moved up and down the hallway, the sound of the floor polisher was piped through these speakers and moved up and down the hallway. There were no visual components to this piece other than the hallway in which it was installed and these speakers on the floor. Again, that piece challenged me so that really spoke to me. So, I guess I look for work that challenges me, it challenges me to think. It challenges me to question myself and for works that really moves me in some way and that can be visually and that can be literally, that can be knowing the history of the piece, it just depends.

KM: What are your favorite techniques and materials?

SL: I love to combine materials. I have this saying that nothing is precious so anything can end up in a quilt. I really like working with beautiful satin silks and sheers, layering sheers together, I do some compose dying and I like putting things together so you can see things through layers. I buy hand dyed. It is an indulgence for me that I get from Judy Robertson every month. I have been doing that for several years, pattern, color. I love Japanese bark cloth. I love vintage fabrics. When people go to a city to visit and they bring home tee shirts, I bring home shopping bags full of designer, one of a kind sheer silk things that somebody paid $10,000 for draperies in their house, and this is the last two yards on the bolt that you find as you dig through a designer fabric shop. So, you name it, I love it. I have always been like that, as a kid I had scrapes of fabric stashed away, it doesn't have to be valuable, it can be old vintage curtains I will buy at the thrift shop and tear up.

KM: What do you think makes a great quilt?

SL: What makes a great quilt? This is me coming out as an artist. If I see a quilt that I feel would stand alone as a painting or as a print, as an artist print not as a reproduction print, then to me I feel like compositionally that can make a great quilt. It has to have impact; it has to have balance and that doesn't mean it has to be symmetrical. It needs to have in most cases a level of craftsmanship and workmanship, however I say that and tell my students you have to learn all the rules but sometimes the rules can be broken. I think it is one of those things that is really hard to put into words, but I know it when I see. It is a quilt you are going to love, it is normally not matchy, matchy, it is not made from somebody else's pattern, it might be a Baltimore Album quilt that is one hundred and fifty years old or two hundred years old, it might be something that was made twenty years ago by somebody that never saw, wouldn't even know what a Baltimore Album quilt was, they were just really trying to make something they were happy with and it was beautiful for them. It is a combination of things. I guess knowing what goes into the quilt sometimes, what the person who created it was doing.

KM: What advice would you offer someone starting out?

SL: Learn the basics. Learn how to do things correctly. When somebody who knows what they are doing offers to show you how to do it, pay attention even if it is not something you think you want to do. You will learn from it. I tell my students this all the time. Everything you do will make you better in the end. It is important to know how to do a needle turn appliqué even if all you are ever going to do is raw edge appliqué in your own work, it is important to know how to do those things because it makes, every time you learn something, every time you try something new your work gets stronger.

KM: What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today?

SL: In some ways I think it is going to be conserving our quilts because I know that a lot of the, there is some question about a lot of the colors and the dyes and the things that are being used, in many ways we are getting things we never got before, but I don't know in terms of archivalness, people using Wonder Under and all the different products that we are using to attach and glue things down, I don't know what they are going to do in fifty years. I also think we have the challenge of not labeling everything we do that isn't from a pattern as art. Many times, what we are doing we need to stay informed as quilters if we are going to be calling ourselves art quilters about art history, and art criticism and the process of aesthetics. I have seen some, my first time at Quilt National, and I think Quilt National is a phenomenal exhibit. My first time I heard all this build up about it and I was fortunate enough that I was at a seminar and one of the instructors at the seminar happened to be a professor I had in college twenty years earlier. We walked all through the exhibit and I looked at the exhibit and he said what do you think, and I said there are some beautifully technically done pieces here, there are some amazing work here, there are some pieces I just love, and he said what do you think of it in terms of art, and I said I think it is what I saw being done in the art world twenty years ago. I said this painting is, and I listed the artist, and this painting is, and this painting is, and this painting is, and he said that is what I think but don't say that too loud here.

KM: Do you think it is changing at all?

SL: I don't know if it is changing, I don't know if it is changing and believe me, I'm grateful for the people getting the art quilts out there because I don't know if twenty years ago, I would have gotten my pieces out there. I'm thrilled people are doing this, but we can't say well we have done this, and this is what we are going to keep doing. We need to keep evolving and growing both as the industry that is showing the work and the artists who are making the work. Was it Michael James that caused a stir when he wrote some articles a couple of years ago? I thought his articles were right on.

KM: His work certainly is evolving.

SL: Yes, yes.

KM: I mean his new work doesn't look anything like he was doing five years ago.

SL: That is the point for an artist.

KM: Tell them to take risks too. I mean to take risks, move beyond the comfort zone.

SL: Yes.

KM: Quilt making is still an art, I even think art quilt making is still for a lot of people a hobby and I think that is okay.

SL: I do too, and I do too, and I don't want to discourage them from doing it, because I don't want to make that distinction as sort of a snobbish distinction, I want it to be more of a challenge that makes all of us better.

KM: What do you think about the importance of quilts and women in America?

SL: If you look back historically in terms of America, I think it was really one of the first art forms that was acceptable for women to really engage with. It was something, you know if you were trying to feed and take care of your family and you were making a blanket to keep somebody warm, why did they bother to do a postage-stamp pieced quilt. They could have perfectly well made a blanket out of two or three pieces of cloth and put it together but what I said earlier about that need to create being as important to you as breathing and eating, I think it was the same thing for women historically. If you look back through, if you look back through the different genres of quilts that you see in the evolution of American quilt making, I think you see that thread through all of it, that people were creating, they were creating to show what they could do, but they were creating for themselves too out of a need to produce something, something in their eyes that was beautiful. It was more than just utilitarian. I mean I think it is the same way today. There is nothing that gets me more than if I have a piece hung up or a piece that I'm working on, and someone comes in and says is that going to be a blanket. No. It is not a blanket, it is not a potholder, it is not a tea towel. Well, what is it for? It just is, can't you just look at it and enjoy it and it is hard for a lot of people, a lot of people don't live life that way. Fortunately, there is enough of us who do. We can kind of support each other.

KM: Speaking of supporting each other, do you belong to any art or quilt groups?

SL: Yea I do. I think it is the American AQS.

KM: American Quilter's Society.

SL: I belong to AQS. Ami got me hooked up with them. I belong to the quilters' guild in my small town, which is the Clearfield Classic Quilters. I belong to several art organizations in the area. I belong to a group called the Susquehanna River Arts Center in Clearfield, Pennsylvania. I belong to a group out of Altoona, Pennsylvania called Art in Common. Let's see, I think that is it for now.

KM: Why is belonging to these groups important to you?

SL: Again it is just being with people who get that that is not a potholder, being with people who have that same need to create something that I have so they get that, and in the quilting it is particularly the communing activities that we do when we get together and we make quilts for charity, for Make a Difference Day, it is just they are wonderful ladies, I enjoy their company, I respect their knowledge, you know I want to pass what I know on to other quilters and I think it is good for all of us.

KM: Let's go back to the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative before we end our time together. Have you participated in Priority Quilts?

SL: Yes, I have.

KM: Tell me about your Priority Quilt experience.

SL: What I did was I know that raising funds is an important aspect of this initiative and I always tell people it is difficult for me, you know, as a parent, as I'm working, there are always other priorities financially, I'm not somebody, as much as I like to be this to a point where I could just give all the money I would love to give away in my lifetime, and so being able to contribute in some way. In my mind, the person who benefited the most from that is me, because I got the benefit of feeling like I was able to contribute in some way. I have participated in the journal quilt project for several years, and I took one of my favorite journal quilts and that was the quilt I sent for the Priority auction.

KM: What did it look like?

SL: It was, it was a little quilt that I did a whole series when I just started my first year when I was really trying to use materials that were sometimes intimidating to me because they were kind of a little more expensive or a little more difficult to integrate into a surface, so I had use some Japanese bark cloth and some little hand stitches on it, and it was really a very simple quilt compositionally, but I just liked the way it all came together in terms of the patterns, the different patterns and the different textures of the fabric and I was able to put a little moon face bead on it that I was really happy with. So, it was a quilt that I liked, that I was satisfied with when I was done, I had achieved what I wanted to achieve with that little quilt, and so it was just nice to send something that I was pleased with, it wasn't just something that I threw together.

KM: How did it do?

SL: I really don't know. I never did hear, I don't know. I hope it brought lots of money and whoever has it really, really loves it.

KM: That is what we all hope, right? Interesting. Is there anything else that you would like to share? I always give people an opportunity before we end to say anything they want.

SL: I don't know. I feel like I want to say more about, you had asked a question and I started to talk about the history in women and quilts, what was the question you had asked?

KM: I asked what do you think about the importance of quilts with women in America.

SL: Oh yes, well as when you go through history and you look at artists who began to use quilting in their work, there was Miriam Schapiro and there was Judy Chicago who began to take feminist issues and bring them forward in art, and that was really for me kind of a turning point as a young artist when I began to see this kind of work and thinking, you know I can do something like that. Wow that really spoke to me, and so I think it is important because it is a voice, it is not unique to us in that there are many men making fabulous pieces, but I think it is our form. It is something that really belongs to us for a long time and I'm happy to share it with anybody else, but that is my history. I did it with my grandmother when I was a kid and my mother showed me how to use the sewing machine when I was young. I just feel like it is our art form and when people look back two hundred years from now, I think they are going to see all the connections through the quilts themselves, through the social, political developments of their time, through the historical developments of the time, and you are going to see that big picture that maybe we can't quite see yet, but I think they are going to look back and really see that, and I think that quilting is going to be one of those areas for women.

KM: I think that the acceptance of men and quilt making is because it is a women's thing.

SL: I think so too.

KM: And we are very accepting and that is why they do so well.

SL: I think so too. I don't think it would be the other way around.

KM: I was just going to say that.

SL: Quilters. Welded quilts, I think it would be a whole different ballgame.

KM: Exactly.

SL: I agree.

KM: Sometimes I'm slightly perplexed by how easily men move through, you know. Would we accept and embrace if it was a woman doing the same thing.

SL: I don't know.

KM: I mean, sometimes I really pause and.

SL: I haven't asked that question, but now that you brought it up, it will be in my mind.

KM: Yea, I mean. I have been thinking about this, now that you brought it up for a couple of years now. I look at, I will pause at shows and say if a woman made this, would the reaction be the same, and I think not in a lot of cases.

SL: I'm going to maybe side with you on that one. I'm going to say maybe I agree with you on that one, but I would have to look. There are exceptions.

KM: There are always exceptions and I agree with that, but I think that a lot of times I stand there, and I say would there be the buzz around this.

SL: No, you could probably write a PhD [thesis.] if you made quilts and used the shows, one from a woman and one with a man's name and one with a gender-neutral name. There you go, that is your thesis.

KM: Yea, my thesis. I have thought about it, and I posed this question.

SL: You couldn't tell too many people because you don't want to (skew it).

KM: Yea, I wouldn't let them know. I mean.

SL: Oh my gosh, you would turn the world on its ear. [laughs.] I have to watch because I'm such a rebel in so many ways, and that is the kind of thing I do.

KM: I just, you know, it is a thought that has occurred to me for several years now. There are more and more men coming into this quilt world.

SL: Yes, there are. I look at some quilts and I think that is really lovely and to me it is the equivalent of a Thomas Kincaid print. They are being wowed at and people are, oh I'm going to make one of those and all of that, well okay. You can go to the Thomas Kincaid gallery and buy your artwork, and again I have to be careful that I don't offend a lot of people, but I do challenge people when I'm in classes and seminars and what not, because there are times when I see things, and I think, yea.

KM: I think the really good thing is that there is a place for everyone.

SL: I think so too. Again, I think it is because predominantly there are women in this field. I don't know if we would be getting that attitude if we were talking about (a field not dominated by women).

KM: You don't see exhibits of things traveling around raising money for causes I think like you do. I mean, Alzheimer's Forgetting Piece by Piece is just a prime example. Ami has really.

SL: $157,000.

KM: $157,000. More than $157,000 raised. This is someone who, I mean Ami took this on and has run with it and it has taken up her life.

SL: Right.

KM: I definitely think that the quilt world is a cool world for its faults.

SL: Me too. Again, I had been making these traditional quilts and I hadn't been making a lot of quilts because my kids were little and a friend, Paula, said, ‘Let's go to QSDS [Quilt Surface Design Symposium.] I saw this really cool looking seminar I want to go to. You would go with me wouldn't you?' And I said, ‘Okay.' I looked it up and I saw this class with Glenys Mann, and I went, and it was just like the whole world opened up to me, because I had been making these paintings that the art world was going, ‘We don't know where to put that.' When I saw things in quilts, it was like, well yeah that is what I need to be doing and then from there on that was it. That and the Internet having QuiltArt because ten years before that living in central Pennsylvania, I would have had no opportunities to exhibit this work.

KM: I want to thank you for being open and sharing and spending some time with me. We are going to conclude our interview. It is now 7:45.

SL: Thank you very much. I appreciate you doing this. It is really a treat and an honor.

KM: Thank you.


Citation

“Sue Lemmo,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed April 13, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1369.