Gloria Loughman




Gloria Loughman




Gloria Loughman


Joanne Gasperik

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

The National Quilting Association


Schaumburg, Illinois


Tina Gordon


Note: The interview was conducted in the hotel lobby and background noises and public announcements can be heard throughout the interview.

Joanne Gasperik (JG): This is Joanne Gasperik. Today is November 16th, 2008 and it is 4:56 in the afternoon. I'm conducting an interview with Gloria Loughman for Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories and we are in Schaumburg [Illinois.] at the Renaissance [hotel and convention center.]. It's the end of the Quilt Fest [Greater Chicago Quilt Exposition.] in Illinois. Gloria thank you very much for allowing me to interview you. Tell me about your wonderful touchstone, when it was made, what your thoughts were. Can you describe it?

Gloria Loughman (GL): Well, the quilt that I would consider to be my touchstone is the first large landscape quilt that I made. Actually I did some study towards a Diploma of Art in 1996 and this quilt was started at the end of that year. We had to do assignments as part of that course and come up with designs for various places and I was actually camping up in northern Queensland. We were camping on the edge of Bingil Bay, a beautiful place. A very simple camping ground, no hot showers, no facilities, but we were right next to the sand. We caught fish. We had two of our daughters with us. And we just had a wonderful two weeks there. So I decided to do this assignment that I had to send back to Victoria, based on that area. Once I got home I thought that I was ready to try and capture that image again as a quilt. It was a slow process. It was basically a problem-solving exercise, because before that I just had made traditional quilts, followed patterns, been to a few workshops. Now I had an image that was quite different that I wanted to create so I started making that quilt. I was still teaching at school. So my time was limited, but working on that quilt became a real joy and I tried to get my corrections finished at night-time quickly, so that I could spend some time each evening working on that quilt. I love putting in lots of pieces of fabric together and I had been to a workshop with Judy Turner, an Australian quiltmaker, using color wash techniques so I decided that I would try and use some of what Judy had taught me about washing the color over various fabrics and I drew my design out full-size. It is quite a large quilt. Then I proceeded to make each area. I can remember one Sunday really scratching my head for some sky fabric. We lived in quite a small country town, so it's a matter of making do. I decided that if I didn't have the fabric I'd set about painting some. So I painted some sky fabric and that went in there so actually looking back on that quilt now there are lots of design things that are not quite right. I've got strong lines leading out the side, which I always now tell my students not to do. Some of the perspective doesn't quite work.

That's still a very important quilt to me and indeed it's my husband's favorite quilt out of all the quilts that I've made. So afterward working on this quilt for about nine months I decided to enter it in our State exhibition I had never entered a quilt in any competition before. I can remember that feeling of packaging it up and sending it down to Melbourne. I actually felt quite sick about the whole thing. Seeing that I've worked on it so long in the privacy of my home, it was now to be out in the public arena. It's quite tough I think the first time you put your quilts out there. So anyway the quilt was displayed in the Exhibition Centre in Melbourne and it won an award in its section, but even better for me was the fact that it won Viewers Choice. It was quite a different quilt to most of the quilts that were on show there.

Not long after that I saw an advertisement in an Australian quilting magazine asking for entries for the Yokohama International Quilt Festival. You only had to send a slide, so that was easy. My husband took some photos and sent them off to Japan. I didn't hear anything for a couple of months. Then I got a phone call from a lovely Japanese lass telling me that my quilt had passed the first round of judging and could I have my quilt in Tokyo by Friday. Even getting a quilt to Melbourne by Friday from my little country town is quite a feat. Anyway, I sent it off and it must have made it because it wasn't many weeks later that I got an e-mail telling me that I had won second Grand Prize. Now I was absolutely thrilled about this. I didn't know what it meant, but I wrote back to this lovely Japanese lady asking more information. She told me there had been 1250 quilts entered and my quilt had won second prize for the whole exhibition. So with that I talked my husband into going with me to Japan for just 10 days. We went to that exhibition. On the last day it was the prize-winning ceremony. Now we didn't even have passports so this was a big adventure for the pair of us heading off to Yokohama. At that prize-winning ceremony I remember watching the first place winner gracioulsy stand-up to receive her award. She made a very gracious speech in Japanese and bowed to the audience. Then it was my turn to get up and my few words were translated into Japanese. I sat down with this envelope of Japanese yen cash and a certificate and then it was the end of the show. We went to thank our Japanese hosts who had been wonderful to us and they said, but these are the rest of your prizes. There was a huge table covered in beautifully wrapped boxes as only the Japanese can do. Our kids who had traveled heaps had talked us into taking rucksacks on our back. I had every pocket stuffed with fabric, so I was ready to take out all my clothes to put in as many boxes as I can, but those wonderful organizers just out of nowhere presented us with a suitcase. They put all the boxes in the case, put us in a taxi, off went to the railway station, on the train, out to the airport and to home. I wasn't actually able to open those boxes until we got home. There were traditional antique Japanese fabrics. There were silks. There were beautiful scissors, pewter thimbles, books. It was just like ten Christmases at once. So you can understand why that quilt is very special to me. It was the beginning of quite an adventure that my husband and I have had. I continued to enter that competition for the next 5 years and each year I gained a prestigious award in that exhibition. It was in the year 2000 that I was invited back to teach there. It was the hardest teaching session of my life because it all had to be translated into Japanese, but making that initial quilt was certainly the start of a wonderful adventure.

JG: Oh, that's magnificent. That's magnificent. But if I heard you, this quilt, basically you turned over a new leaf in the process of your quiltmaking.

GL: Yes, originally when I started making quilts in about 1989, I went down the road that most quilters go down. I went to a workshop and learned how to make some blocks and unfortunately I never finished that first quilt. I think one of my daughters has it in her dog kennel. But I love the whole process of rotary cutting and stitching. I decided very early on that I needed to learn to machine quilt, so in those very early days of machine quilting when I didn't even know you were meant to drop the feed dogs down. I would be pushing my quilt through the sewing machine. I did like to experiment and I knew that I loved working with all the colors of the fabrics. I found it hard if I was only allowed to choose three or four or five fabrics. I love the fact now that in my quilt I sometimes use hundreds of different fabrics and I love the fact that you can do that. So, yes I started off quite traditionally, traveled to interstate to workshops, read books and experimented on my own. It wasn't until after I had done that study that I felt confident to begin making that landscape.

JG: So the art study, was that related to any of your teaching?

GL: Not to my teaching secondary school, as a secondary school teacher, no. My initial training as a school teacher was in Physical Education and Mathematics. Then I went back to university after we were married and I studied Special Education so most of my teaching time in our Victorian secondary schools has been as a special needs teacher. So nothing to do with art. I hadn't done anything to do with art since year ten at high school, when I knew that I liked it, but in those days you had to concentrate on your Chemistry and your Maths and your French and things like that. So wonderful subjects like art just were dropped by the wayside. It is amazing now coming back to that area and I feel very fortunate that I had that opportunity to actually participate again in that kind of activity.

JG: Did you always have an interest and a longing to do something artistic? Were you always interested?

GL: No, not really. I did a lot of sewing for my girls. I've got 3 daughters. My husband bought me a sewing machine in 1974, and he says now that that was his biggest mistake, because it set me off of this journey of sewing. Back then most of my sewing was little girls' dresses. I did like to experiment and embroider and do different thing. So I knew I liked creating in fabric, but I never dreamt that I would be going on to make something that's more of an art quilt than a garment.

JG: [exclaims.] What made you, when did you decide to fragment the sections in your quilts, as you do now? Your incredibly beautiful baobab tree quilt.

GL: I think I like patterns. I want to introduce more pattern and perhaps a little more abstraction into my work, so it's not quite the realistic view of a landscape. I saw a painting in an airport, somewhere overseas in Europe. It was one of [Gustav.] Klimt's paintings and I just loved the way he broke up areas in his paintings. He had broken it up into lots of patterns. I wondered whether I could try that in a landscape. But I knew the designs had to be strong, so that you could still recognize the landscape or the trees or the elements, but that you could play around with patterns with in that and I loved that whole process. That's something that I want to keep working on now.

JG: It's incredible. It really gave me a whole new dimension to learn from as well. Should I pause the-- [recorder.] I briefly paused the tape for a sip of water. Do you have quilters in your family? Did you have quilters in your family before you began?

GL: No. I was the first one in my family to take up quiltmaking. My mother now makes quilts, but for many years she told me that she didn't want to start, because she didn't want to get addicted like I am. Before she was married my mum worked in the clothing industry, in a factory making clothing. Then after she was married, it was the time when there wasn't much money around, so she did a lot of unpicking of other people's clothing to make things for us. Each winter we had a beautiful winter coat and a hat that she actually made for us.

Each Sunday school, anniversary, we had new shoes and beautiful dresses, that my mom made. So, she's very talented at dressmaking and she resisted for a long time to actually get interested in quiltmaking. But one time my mom and her sister, and her sister's name is Gloria and I'm named after my auntie, came to visit us and my auntie asked could I just show her some basic patchwork. And of course my mom just had to get involved as well, and now she has made hundreds of quilts all given away for charity. She's also made quilts of course for her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren, but most of her quilts are made for Kids in Crisis, nursing homes, Kids with Cancer, Ronald McDonald House, and I've been with her to some of these establishments when she has donated these quilts. Just recently, I was Ronald McDonald House and there was a mother there who was about to take home her premature baby that had finally got to the birth weight that was necessary to take this baby home. I was there when she was presented with one of my mother's quilts. It was absolutely wonderful. So, my mom's reason for getting up everyday is that she's got a lot of quilts to make and she is now in her 80's. She is not very mobile, but she can sit and still keep sewing. It's a wonderful pastime for her, something she finds really satisfying.

JG: Meaningful.

GL: Absolutely. Yes.

JG: I do have to ask. I wasn't aware. Ronald McDonald House is in Australia as well?

GL: Yes. Yes. Attached to all our major hospitals there will be a Ronald McDonald House for the parents for the kids that are in hospitals. Somewhere for them to stay locally. Somewhere where they can be with other people.

JG: I see. I'm aware of it here.

GL: Yes.

JG: I just didn't realize it was overseas as well.

GL: Yes. Definitely.

JG: I see. And what about your daughters?

GL: Well, [pauses then laughs.] I have three daughters, or we have three daughters. Our oldest is now is 36 and then one that's 34 and then a 25 year old. The oldest daughter is an engineer. She claims that she can't sew on a button and when I visit her I usually have lots of mending jobs, the pants that are stapled up or masking taped, but I actually think she could do it. She has lots of wonderful ideas for me to put into my quiltmaking and she is very supportive and very interested in what I am doing. One time when she was living in The Netherlands, I actually entered a quilt in the European quilt competition, which was at a venue where she lived and when I received the trophy for color, I got her to go along to the dinner to receive that award for me, and I thought that might just tempt her to get involved, but with three small children she hasn't gone down that track yet. My second daughter, Sarah, who is 34, she does make quilts. She's made quilts for her friends for their babies and for her older sister's babies, and it's a bit sad when the grandmother hasn't actually made quilts for the little ones but has called on other members of the family to do so. I think my youngest daughter will definitely make quilts. She can sew very well. At the moment, she's just married, setting up a house, traveling overseas, and quiltmaking doesn't figure in her life at the moment, but she's very artistic and very interested. The three girls are very, very supportive. I think at times they can't believe where Tony and I travel to and what we're doing, but they're very supportive of the whole process.

JG: Have they announced that any of their heirlooms, which ones they want to inherit?

GL: Oh, yes. Definitely. Definitely. They've all got their eye on one quilt or another. I actually don't look at selling my quilts. I'm not looking for a market for my quilts because it takes me so long to make a quilt and it is hard to replace a quilt that's taken you 12 months to make and I know that I'm often invited to places because they want an exhibition of my quilts, as well as teaching of course, and to get that collection together has taken me about 10 years, and so yes, they've got certain quilts that are their favorites and I'm sure will end up with them down the track. They already have some quilts. They all have some quilts that they've been given along the way. Sometimes I have to call and get them back again for an exhibition, but that's fine. That's fine by them.

JG: Do you document the process of your quiltmaking?

GL: No, not really. I think because I come and go so much with traveling, my time at home and my quiltmaking is my absolute relaxation and it's precious to me and I just sort of get into the quiltmaking zone in my head and I'm just there playing. Some days I won't actually achieve anything. I find that keeping up with the paperwork for my teaching is very important. I guess it's probably sad in a way, but it's not a priority for me to just document my journey with my actual quiltmaking. I enjoyed writing my book, "Luminous Landscapes." [C&T; Publishing, January 2007.] I love that whole process of writing things down for students, and I've nearly just almost finished a second book and I think I will do more in that area because I enjoy the teaching side. I enjoy writing instructions and trying to get people started on projects. I think the documentation that I do will be in that area rather than my own journey in patchwork.

JG: Those were questions that I was going to ask you about your books. That's wonderful. I love the fact that you're talking. I love it. I love it. Now your husband does travel with you occasionally and he has gotten used to the idea that you're a quilter and that your time is occupied with quilting?

GL: Yes. I mean he's always very supportive--when he was still at work, he was a high school principal so he had quite a busy job, a stressful job, long hours. He is very happy in his role at the moment. He tells people when they ask him what does he do, that he's a professional traveler and he's very supportive. I am earning an income from teaching quiltmaking, which you know is important to us at this stage in our lives, so he's extremely supportive of that. He gets lonely if he's home alone for too long, so any trips that are more than a week or so, he will usually come, especially if it's to a place he hasn't been before but within Australia, too. Most of the time, unless it's like for a quick weekend away, he will come with me, but he's also very supportive of my time making quilts at home because I'll spend a full day in the studio and I'll just come out when he's made dinner [laughs.] and then I'll disappear again. He's quite used to me doing that. He's very self-sufficient. He's a very keen photographer. One of the best things we have done is to work on the books together. He keeps calm when I've got deadlines that are looming. He does the major part of the photography. He's got very good computer skills, so I love working as a team on a project like that. That's got to be one of my most favor things to do, writing a book and photographing the quilts, and just talking about how we'll set it up. I feel we're very lucky that we've got this great partnership. Yeah, I mean today we've had the day off to go and visit Chicago. We've been walking around the Art Institute together and then taking photographs out in the park of the beautiful bare trees against the sky and the buildings, and we've got to share, even though our tastes are quite different, there's so many things that we share together that we like doing together.

JG: Yeah.

GL: Even if it's just sitting in the airport when the plane is delayed reading books, we're okay because you've got company and the time just passes.

JG: That's wonderful. Well, you're both educators, so you're both interested in conveying messages.

GL: Yes.

JG: And it doesn't matter what the topic is. If you're a teacher, you enjoy sharing whatever information it is that you have.

GL: I think that's true. I guess in a way I take my teaching background for granted because it's just something I've done for a long time. It certainly, I think, helps in the quilting classroom in that I'm quite happy to have 20 students working on 20 different projects, which I know for some people is quite daunting and they feel a little bit out of control, but I think having that teaching background, you can just let things go and you know you can bring everybody back together again. I'm lucky that I've got that background because I love the teaching part of what I'm doing at the moment. I keep thinking next year I'll cut back a little bit, but you know, then I get invited to somewhere really exciting and I'm off again.

JG: Well, you're a teacher my nature and not just by profession.

GL: Thank you.

JG: So have you ever used quilting to get through a difficult time?

GL: Yes. Well, I had a really difficult time that at the end of it I started quilting, so I guess I didn't use it so much to get through that time, but it certainly was part of the healing process at the end. In 1988, when I was still in my 30's, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I had surgery and chemotherapy and still quite a young family. That was quite devastating. It is interesting I took up quiltmaking and I took up gardening, both wonderful therapies.

JG: Yes.

GL: And that is when I was invited to that first class. We had a local adult education center and some of my friends were going to a patchwork class. So they invited me along and I thought I'd make a family heirloom that perhaps in my fragile state I could leave behind for my girls, but as I mentioned earlier, that quilt is now in the dog kennel, so it certainly was not a family heirloom, but I still look back on that time as being a change in direction, both my husband and I changed the way we feel about things, the things that we'll tackle now. I think for many people, I've met many quilters in classes that have had breast cancer or other forms of cancer, and there's just something very healing and spiritual about working quietly away on a quilt and bringing fabrics together and it's sort of like getting your life back on track I think working through that process.

JG: What aspects of quilting do you enjoy the most?

GL: For me it's all about color and I love putting colors together and seeing what happens to them. I can spend a day dying fabric and the next day ironing fabric and I have had a really good day. It's all about having that color in my life I think. I can just get all my fabrics out and then re-arrange them back in the drawers and I feel like I've had a good day and it's all about putting those colors together. I love watching what happens when colors mix together or when you place colors next to one another. I think that will always be the best part of quiltmaking for me is that whole color thing and how it makes you feel. I mean color certainly impacts on our lives. At the moment, we have just moved into a house from a little country town down to the coast and we've built a very new contemporary house and it's all white inside and I just can't wait to have some time now finishing teaching here to get some color on those walls and on the floor. I need color in my life.

JG: Yes.

GL: I like to push the color. Even when I'm making a landscape, I like to push the colors and see how far I can push it. So my work is quite strong and bold I guess in color. That's what I like. I like wearing bright colors and I like bright colors around me.

JG: So the colors in your walls, will they be with textiles or paint?

GL: No. They'll be with textiles. I'll leave the walls white and the kitchen is white and the shelves are white. We have the most beautiful view around the bay, so I don't want to detract from that, but I need to get some color on the walls and a rug on the floor and maybe a new lounge suite, something with some color because it's all quite white and neutral at the moment.

JG: Well you've tipped in an avenue that some quilters don't take. You paint and you dye your own fabrics. How did that happen?

GL: I guess it started because of living in that small country town. The nearest real patchwork shop was 130 kilometers away and sometimes just for the fun of it, a group of us would even drive 260 kilometers away to a patchwork shop that we'd just love visit. That was a day's outing, but I discovered very quickly that if I needed particular colors I needed to dye it myself. I went to one dying workshop where I worked in a frenzy all day. I just loved everything about it. We were tempted to dye the sheets off our bed because it was just so wonderful dying all this fabric. Then I came home and experimented myself and I do a lot of dying. At our old house we had a big veranda and I set up my dying bins and an urn with water out on the veranda. It was very colorful veranda. The concrete was all painted and dyed in the end as things spilled out of jars, but I loved working out there. Now we've moved into a new house I have quite a large studio and at the moment I'm being very careful with the dyes with my beautiful white tiles, but I can spend hours dying and painting fabric and really have had a good day. The dying gives you such unexpected results that no matter how many times you do it you're still striving to produce more magical fabrics. The painting gives you far more control, so I do both. I use those fabrics together as well as commercial fabric. I've been known to paint fabric at 2:00 in the morning when I don't have the right piece and then dry it with a hair dryer, but I just love that process of creating fabrics. I'm not opposed to buying fabrics as well, of course.

JG: Yes. Right. Well, I think you have the personality no matter the outcome of the dying process. It's a happy event and you're going to use it and be satisfied with it.

GL: And I love taking the dyed fabric to classes and seeing what other people do with it or their excitement when they find a particular piece that really appeals to them, but I also like introducing people to the painting because it's something very manageable and if people paint some of the fabrics in their quilts, they really have ownership of that quilt. It becomes very special to them and it's also liberating that they can just paint the pieces they want to be in it.

JG: Yeah. Are there any aspects of quilting that are not your favorite?

GL: Well, [pauses.] remember the first quilt that was meant to be hand quilted. I'm not strong at all on handwork. I wish I was when I've spent all those hours in airports for planes that are delayed. It is something that I am going to go back to, to revisit some handwork. It's sort of one of my goals is to revisit. The quilt that I'm working on at the moment at home lends itself to having some big sort of large hand stitches in it, so I'm going home to experiment with that. As far as the general process of making my quilts, I enjoy each stage. I know that when I start machine quilting, the first hour is the hardest and then after that I'm off and running. I can't see myself going back to traditional quiltmaking. In our new house I need to make a quilt for our bedroom and that's going to be tough [laughs.] to actually put some fabrics together to do that because I'd much rather be doing something perhaps to go on the wall rather than the bed, but I'll get there. I'll get there.

JG: Oh my goodness. Well, how do you feel what makes a quilt artistically colorful for you?

GL: I think there are certain quilts that appeal to you more than others, and when I'm judging at quilt shows and things, to me the visual image that speaks to the viewer is really important. Things that I think can be really powerful in a quilt or the most powerful is the use of light. So, if you can draw people in--at the gallery today, the paintings that really spoke to me were the paintings where the artist had used the light well and that's what I would like to get more into my quiltmaking is using the light to really draw people in, to create something that is very powerful image. A quilt needs to be balanced and for people to feel comfortable when they look at it, but there are certain quilts that are extremely appealing. There are certain quilts that I look back that I've seen in exhibitions that I will never forget. The "Tree of Life" by Jane Sassaman is one. I saw her quilt in Japan when I went over there in 1997 for the Yokohama Quilt Festival and it's a quilt that I have never forgotten. The Ballerinas [The Dancers.], the Degas painting. There's a quilt based on that painting. There's another one and I've just revisited that today in the exhibition here. There are a few quilts that stand out that are I really, really powerful and it's just wonderful to keep revisiting them.

JG: Yes. So the light that you're interested in is more the [Claude.] Monet light as opposed to the Rembrandt [Harmenszoon van Rijn.] lighting?

GL: Yes. Most definitely. And it can be using light in something quite abstract. It doesn't need to be a scene, but it's just using light in a cleaver way, being able to produce transparencies in fabric. The other thing to me is really strong features visually, so that's something I keep wanting to work towards.

JG: Yes. When you're designing, do you have spontaneous ideas or do you have a quilt wall, a design wall?

GL: I do a lot of thinking before I start and I think that's part of the traveling process, too. I'm always thinking. Things that you see along the way sort of start you thinking about how you could do something, the next book that you want to work on, the next design -- when I sort have gotten my act together and I can usually see an image in my mind. I sketch it first and I'm not good at drawing, so it looks pretty primitive and basic. The next thing that I do, if I'm happy with that design, and I might do it 50 times before I'm happy with it, is color it in with paint. Often I pick my color scheme separate to the actual image that I'm using. I like to paint it in and when I'm just home for a brief period of time I know where I'm heading. I do draw it out full size and I have that up on my design wall. Because I know pretty well where I'm heading with something before I start, I can just work on a small section and then leave it for a few weeks and then come home and pick up again because I've got my roadmap or my plan of where I'm heading. Of course, things change. You try different things so it mightn't be exactly like I started out and sometimes you've got to try three or four or ten different ways of doing something to make it work for you, but I do start out with a fairly strong visual image even if it's just in my head before I start with the finished product.

JG: Good visualization is a gift. Not many people have it. Like you say in airports and you're waiting, you're designing in your head.

GL: Yes. All the time.

JG: I understand that.

GL: I hadn't really thought about that before, so it's really quite interesting. I have had students who don't want to plan before they start and they can just make it up as they go along. A friend of mine who lives in California was in one of my classes and I gave my whole lecture about the process and the design elements, and by the time I got around to her, it was someone I've never met before, she wasn't doing anything that I said. She was just looking at her fabric, cutting it up with scissors, and putting it on the wall. She said to me, 'I love listening to what you said, but this is the way I work.' And I just stood back and watched her work. Her work is absolutely wonderful. It's spontaneous. Sometimes I wish I could work that way. So, we're all different in the way that we approach things and she's become a very good friend that girl in the corner that listened but did her own thing.

JG: Did her own thing. [laughs.] Goodness sake. How do you select your projects?

GL: Because I don't do very many, it's usually something that I really want to do. Something really special, even the class samples. I've got to really want to do it because I'm really slow at making quilts, so it's a big time commitment. I'm really drawn to the landscape, especially to trees, so I'm always looking at trees and the negative shapes against the sky. Today, it was the negative spaces with the building. It's like a design behind them, so I am really drawn to things like that. The next quilt that I'm going to do is going to be based on the rainforest again, trying out a few different techniques. I guess it's the landscape that really draws me in.

JG: Yeah. So what do you think quilting will be like in the future?

GL: That's a hard question. I see a lot at a lot of the quilting symposium conventions in Australia that a lot our younger quilters want something that's a little bit more contemporary. They want to experiment more, and in a way, in Australia, we are probably moving more away from the traditional styles of quiltmaking. It's exciting because it's getting some of our younger quilters involved, but they love things like the painting and the creative stitching. I think from my experience, and of course they're the sort of classes that I'm involved in, that people are looking to do something a little bit more abstract and also something that is meaningful to them. I guess they're taking it on perhaps more creatively rather than just following a pattern and making a traditional block. It might be that's my narrow view because of the areas that I'm working in and we do have lots of beautiful traditional quilts in Australia. Appliqué quilts are very popular at all our major shows, but I do see people perhaps trying new things and looking for a new challenge in their quiltmaking.

JG: Well, in this exhibit, we had international displays. [GL hums agreement.] That was interesting to see the directions of the different countries. The Brazilian quilts versus the British quilts versus the Canadian and then again New Zealand and Australian quilts. So, every country, even though they picked up when quilting rebounded in the early '70s, they picked up the old traditional blocks, but they've rapidly gone in their own directions.

GL: Yes, that's right. It's very evident at this World Quilt and Textile Exhibition to walk down the rows of the different countries and see the differences. The Australian quilts usually you see a lot of turquoise, a lot of orange and browns. You look at the New Zealand quilts and there's a lot more blues and greens. It's just the nature of the environment, the strong vibrant colors of the South African quilts. The sky in England is a very different sky to the Australian sky and when I take my quilts there people go, 'Wow! Look at the color. I couldn't make anything as bright as that.' There's certainly an influence in the surroundings, the light, and I guess those traditions that are coming through. There's some very exciting work happening in England, especially in the embroidery areas and some of the print making, the fabric dying and printing, so that's very strong over there. In Australia, we do really like our bright colors.

JG: So we are saying that many of us are influenced by our surroundings?

GL: Oh, I think most definitely. Most definitely. I think if you go onto the continent, the Dutch quilters, the German quilters, as rule tend to perhaps not to use a more toned down palate. So, it is really interesting, traveling around and looking at the different fabrics that people use.

JG: Are fabrics some of your souvenirs?

GL: Yes, they are and I did happen to buy a couple of pieces yesterday of course. I always have so much luggage that I try to not buy too much fabric, but it's always lovely to take some fabric home. I bought some African fabric here yesterday, which is pretty amazing.

JG: Oh, yes. Oh my goodness. How do you feel about quilt preservation? Museums? Not using them versus hanging them on the wall or using them?

GL: I like the quilts to be enjoyed and to be out there. My quilts get folded up and dragged around the world in suitcases and then I have them out in class and I'm happy for people to have a really close look. I know that they will deteriorate with that, but I'm okay about it, but there are some very special quilts that we need to look after and we have one of those in Australia. "The Rajah Quilt" that is in our museum in Canberra, it's a very, very special quilt that all Australian quilters treasure. We actually have a very prestigious award in Australia called the Rajah Award that is presented each year and it's to an outstanding contribution in quiltmaking in our country, so you can see the highest esteem we hold that wonderful quilt in. In Australia we have got groups of people now that are really searching out some of our earlier quilts and of course we've lost quite a few. We have this term the wagga, which is a quilt made of suiting or old blankets and things, and we are looking after some of those very special quilts now.

JG: So quilts were an important feature in Australia?

GL: They were. It's not so well known, but we have got some people in Australia now that have written books and gotten collections of quilts together. Annette Gero is one that is really doing something about our quilt heritage in Australia. It's just amazing the beautiful quilts that she's tracked down and has recorded the information in a beautiful book for us. It is important in Australia, too.

JG: So is there actually a documentation project for Australia quilts like here we have state projects?

GL: No, not the same that I'm aware of, but we do have a few individual people. We also have the Australian national Quilt Register

GL: We've got a building in outback Queensland, the Hall of Fame, where they are collecting quilts and you can approach them for information about quilts you find. So there is that organization set up, but it's not so formalized as it is here, to my knowledge. I might have missed out on something along the way there, but as far as my knowledge goes that's where we are at the moment, but we do have some women that have done a lot in that regard. Yes.

JG: Most of your interview today was a message to the quilters, but as we're coming toward the end of the interview, is there anything particular that you wish to tell the world-- [tape ends and new tape begins.] I was just asking you for a final message of encouragement to the quilters and didn't realize that the tape had ended, so I've begun another tape, but what message would you like to convey to the quilters?

GL: Well, that time in my life when I found out that I had breast cancer of course was a really difficult time for me and for my family. But I guess the impact that had on us now is that we make decisions that mightn't have made before, we take opportunities that we mightn't have done before. I guess we're more adventurous and so often things happen in your life, and it's really quite devastating, but you know down the track good things come out of it. And so for me I had no idea that I could make a quilt. That I would be here traveling around the world now, but after that period of time in our lives I guess I just thought well life's good; let's enjoy it. Let's take these chances. Let's get out there. We made some hard decisions, but we've had a wonderful time traveling meeting people. Even the challenge of creating something that you pour yourself in to, putting all the time and effort into it, taking up the challenging of getting that work out there in the public arena, they're all difficult things to do, but you know it's worth it in the end. Life's good and I'm very happy to be here 20 years later at this stage in my life.

JG: How did you get into judging quilts?

GL: I was asked to judge quilts in Australia quite a few years ago, and although I haven't done in training as a judge, often I've been invited to be the artistic judge, the judge to do with the design and the color, and I think that study that I did as part of that diploma of mine has helped me in that regard. I've also learned so much from being a judge, listening to other judges. In the beginning I was quite nervous about it, but now I love judging quilt exhibitions. I can accept now that my decisions aren't always favorable to some of the people that view the show, but I'm okay with that now. The quilts that really wow me tend to wow most people. It's a brave thing to put your quilt out there to be judged, but it's also educational. You grow from that experience and it's quite rewarding to put it out there.

JG: Do you equally judge in your mind and on paper the quality of the workmanship as well as the design?

GL: Most definitely. I think that is quite interesting because off and on I am the judge out of the group that's in there for good workmanship saying, 'Hey, come on. The standard of workmanship is really important, too.' A quilt that has a good level of workmanship and has a strong visual image to me that's what it's all about. That's what I'm looking for when I'm judging.

JG: So the nitty gritty details are shadowing and long and short stitches and free motion.

GL: Well, you know, I like to see that the tension is good and I like to see that the bindings are well applied, but I'm not going to check over every inch and measure from corner to corner. I like to see that it hangs well, but I'm not sort of, you know, going over it with a microscope. I want to stand back and view that image from a distance. I love quilts that draw you in for a closer look and then they have something else to share with you when you go in closer, but standing back, if there's a strong visual image as well, that to me is the ultimate. [JG hums agreement.] It's very important.

JG: Well, I do believe we will close now. Thank you so very much for your time.

GL: It was a pleasure.

JG: It was just wonderful speaking with you. It was a treat having three days with you as a teacher. [GL laughs.] But thank you so very much for your time. We will close now. The time is 5:52. Thank you.



“Gloria Loughman,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 27, 2024,