Yvonne Porcella




Yvonne Porcella




Yvonne Porcella


Karen Musgrave

Interview Date



Modesto, California


Karen Musgrave


Note: This interview was conducted as an online interview with The Alliance for American Quilts raffle quilt as the touchstone. The e-mails were conducted over a four-month period due to both peoples' busy schedule.

Elaine Johnson (EJ): Yvonne, could you tell me about the raffle quilt - the title and how you coordinated this with Karen Musgrave?

Yvonne Porcella (YP): The first raffle quilt designed for 2003 was made from a design that I drew and proposed to the Board of the Alliance. Karen Musgrave volunteered to stitch the quilt and find someone to do the machine quilting. I selected some fabrics from my studio and Karen added her fabrics. For the design I incorporated part of the design that Suzanne Staud had included in the first Brochure for the Alliance and some of the icons that are currently on our web site identifying our projects. I thought it was important to integrate the year the quilt was made into the design. The title "The Voice of You and Me" relates to the four creative minds and hands that ultimately created the finished quilt. Each of us lent our "voice" (story, talent, creative energy, etc.) to the project. It was intended that the title "The Voice of You and Me" be used each year for our raffle quilts by adding the year, such as, "The Voice of You and Me 2003," "The Voice of You and Me 2004". The Alliance collects quilt history and makes it available to the public. Having the date as part of the quilt design visibly marks the history of that quilt.

EJ: Because this is a yearly fundraiser project now, when did you begin to design this quilt and how close is the finished work to how you envisioned it?

YP: Each year the target date for beginning the raffle quilt has been different. We did not do a 2005 raffle quilt due to time constraints. Once the Board approves and selects the style of the raffle quilt, I begin the design. Doing the drawing takes about one day and that includes revisions and the final clean copy of a drawing. For the 2006 quilt, I did the thumbnail drawing for the 2006 quilt when I was teaching in Kansas City during the week of May 8, 2005, and began working on the quilt the next week. I had time in June [fifth.] to work on the quilt during a 5-day class I was teaching at Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts. The subject of the class was making quilts from a story, making a drawing inspired by the story, and executing the quilt. I was able to work along with the students and they enjoyed watching the Alliance quilt design come to life as the colors were added to the fabric cartoon. A cartoon refers to a full-sized illustration made from a small drawing by using an art projector. The projector can be focused to make any size quilt. The 2006 Alliance quilt was enlarged to fit a 60" x 60" fabric. Secondary paper patterns are made for each shape and used as a guide for cutting the fabrics. The fabrics are pinned in place over the fabric cartoon and stitched either by hand or machine. I was able to stitch a good portion of the quilt and then packed up all the fabrics and sent the unfinished quilt top along with the paper patterns to Karen Musgrave. She completed the design, adding a bit to the part I had stitched. I think the end result is true to the drawing.

EJ: So, this quilt was seen by a few people "in process," did the students participate in the process at all, and if so, how?

YP: My students were really inspired to see how the quilt developed. I worked on the appliqué on a large table, and they loved walking into the room every morning to see what had progressed from the day before. They were working on small quilts, so the Alliance quilt project was very impressive in size. But each appliqué piece was large in scale also, so the fabric cartoon developed in color rather dramatically. I had a few suggestions on color choices or additional elements.

EJ: How would you like to see this quilt used by the winner?

YP: The quilt is large enough to use as a secondary cover on a bed. I like to use a white comforter, white dust ruffle and lay a quilt on top as the "frosting on the cake." Since this is a historical document of The Alliance, I would hope the owner enjoys the quilt but also doesn't allow it to be used as a packing blanket, a pet quilt, etc.

EJ: That is a wonderful suggestion as "frosting on the cake." How many quilts have you designed in all?

YP: This is the third quilt in the Alliance series. On the second quilt, I selected the fabrics, and stitched 5 of the blocks. The design was in the style of a Baltimore Album in a naive way, not as formal or precise. I sent the fabrics and photocopies of some historical blocks to Karen Musgrave as inspiration for her to make her own 4 block designs. Karen designed the swag border, and it was a mutual agreement that the checkerboard piecing be used to surround the 9 appliqué blocks on the 2nd raffle quilt. We did not sell as many tickets on the 2004 quilt as we did on the first quilt from 2003. We decided to go back to a more contemporary design for 2006. If you are asking how many quilts, I have designed in all, I have too many to count. I have never made a traditional or classical quilt, nor have I been inspired to reproduce a design from an antique quilt. My first major quilt was made in late 1980. It was purchased by the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian in 1994 and selected to go on tour as part of the 150th Anniversary celebration of the Smithsonian.

EJ: That is a great testament to your work. In your opinion what makes a quilt appropriate for a museum or special collection?

YP: Most of my quilts that are in public and private collections have a strong provenance. I have been fortunate in that matter. My quilts have been exhibited widely and collected. I think my success comes from being on the ground floor of the art quilt movement and wearable art. I began with my work being published in books and magazines in the 1960-1970s to the present. I was also active in national organizations, so my name became known in stitchery, weaving, wearables, and quilts. Reproduction of one's work is helpful as it becomes recognized to a large audience. One of my current projects is identifying a place for my archives. I am not ready to give up my large collection at this time, but it is important to plan for the future. I am so fortunate to have been part of an exciting movement and I love the history we have. As founder of Studio Art Quilt Associates, my goal was to preserve the history of the movement. I am remiss in my personal art history as I found it easier to put it into a box rather than take the time to catalog everything. I just found a 1973 stitchery book signed by the author thanking me for my contribution to the book. I have looked at that book dust jacket for years on my bookshelf and didn't remember I had something inside the book. Information on collections is and what makes a quilt appropriate is very complex. I have served on several panels on this subject, and I don't have a quick answer.

EJ: How do you think the move to Asheville influenced your design and what do you feel the move will do in terms of the Alliance’s goals?

YP: I did think about the move to Asheville when I did the design as I worked in two buildings signifying our real place in a real town. Our office has been in the home of our President and moving to Asheville requires defining our place in a new environment. The trees and the sky also reinforce the move to a new landscape. Asheville historically has been an area that supports the arts. Tourism brings many people to the area who are interested in the history of the area as a center for arts and crafts. It will help educate more people about the goals of The Alliance to preserve quilt history and the artists who make the quilts.

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

YP: I don’t think I have anything more to add. Thanks for the interview.

EJ: You’re welcome.



“Yvonne Porcella,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed June 23, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1440.