Michelle Flamer




Michelle Flamer




Michelle Flamer


Karen Musgrave

Interview Date


Interview sponsor



Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Kim Greene


Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave and I'm conducting a Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories interview with Michelle Flamer. Michelle is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and I'm in Naperville, Illinois, so we are conducting this interview over the telephone. Today's date is February 11, 2009. It is now 7:13 in the evening. Michelle, thank you so much for taking time out of your evening to talk with me. Please tell me about your quilt "Next."

Michelle Flamer (MF): Thank you Karen for this opportunity and I really do appreciate this program of the American Quilter's Society, right?

KM: It's the Alliance for American Quilts.

MF: Alliance for American Quilts, right. "Next" is a quilt that I did to commemorate the campaign of Barack Obama. The central image of Barack is derived from a portrait that Chicago artist Ray Noland created of Barack Obama. I met Ray early during the primary in Philadelphia and I loved all of the images that he had created of Mr. Obama and I mentioned during his show I said, 'Have you ever considered having any of these images quilted?' And he said, 'Actually I have thought of that but I hadn't really followed through on it.' And I said, 'Well I'm interested if you want to send me a JPEG or some electronic image I will see what we can do.' I kind of looked at some of the images that he had there and we looked through them and he had one that was a collage. It was very, very busy. It had a lot of things going on in it, including a red heart and I remember looking at that red heart and thinking 'wow that would be wonderful to do needle turn appliqué [laughs.] and of course at that point it was pretty early. I think it was maybe February or March of 2008. In 2008 when I met him and I thought well I would love to work on a quilt and have it done possibly before the election or before the primary ended but that's basically what happened. We talked in early July. Manny months later, Ray sent me an image of the "Next" which is actually a poster that he made for the campaign.

KM: How did you go about putting it together?

MF: I took the electronic image to a reproduction or like a photographic type of studio. I don't know what you call them. It was very interesting because they had never done anything like this before and I said, 'I want to have this image transferred to a piece of fabric' and they looked at me like I was this really silly woman and I said, 'Well, why don't you give it a try? You've never done it before.' I think they have done printing like on fabric before for large banners but they had never done anything like this. I said, 'I will bring in a piece of fabric the next day.' I used very fine Kaufman cotton fabric. My friend, Lonnie Rossi, who is a quilt artist and a publisher of fabrics for Andover, and I know that is the type of fabric that she uses in her studio prints so I purchased some of that, plain white, very fine fabric. Took it into the shop and they begrudgingly transferred the image onto it. It was very funny too because they said, 'It's folded and we don't have an iron.' I thought, 'I'm sure when they put it through the press and applied the ink to it, it will be fine. I will be able to work with it.' Now I'm thinking later, 'Probably I should have taken the fabric, ironed it and wrapped it around a tube,' but I'm not an artist and I hadn't given it much thought ahead of time. I was also in a big hurry because it was early July and at that point I had learned that Ray Noland had been selected as one of the artists to be in the Hope Manifest Show which took place during the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Here was an opportunity for me not only to quilt his image but to have my quilt shown with his work during the Democratic National Convention so I was really motivated to have this done. I went in to have the image transferred to a large piece of fabric, much larger than what my printer at home could have accommodated and the color saturation was not what my inkjet printer could accomplish so I had this done. It was fairly costly to tell you the truth. It was more than I thought. I think I spent about $60.00 to have this print made of this one piece of fabric. Took it home, looked at it and thought, 'How do I quilt the face?' I had never quilted a portrait before and I had very fine, extra fine threads by Superior Threads. I think it is that Libby Lehman series and I printed out some samples of Ray's image and I kept practicing on little tiny images of Barack Obama, practicing on how I was going to quilt the face. At one point I sort of followed all of the lines and it looked like a very grotesque puzzle piece of the face. It was horrible. Then I tried other methods and finally I thought ,'Well the only, the artist who I really admire, quilt artist who does portraits that are just exquisite I'd seen Hollis Chatelaine's quilts,' and I went online and looked and said, 'I'm trying to remember how does she quilt a face,' and I must have come across something possibly online or maybe in one of my many magazines on quilts and I saw that they were very, very fine lines. I sort of did my own interpretation of that and I just did these fine vertical lines over the face and I had to be very careful where they went up into the hairline because the hair on the image is not quilted, just the face and I believe the neck and that is what I did. That took about a week's worth of time because I only worked on this quilt during the evening since I work full time, but again I was under a deadline to get this mailed off to Denver, Colorado where Ray had already arrived in Colorado to set up his show. I worked on it and I ended up with this large quilted image of Barack. Essentially it was like Ray's poster had become a quilt but then there was no binding on it and I needed to finish it somehow and I was thinking of just closing it in and kind of framing it off with some interesting binding. Again I'm fortunate enough to live near Lonnie Rossi's studio and her shop. I went and she happened to be in that day and I showed her the image. They liked the way I had quilted the face, she and her assistant and she admonished that why would you want to close off under where it said "Next", under the image of Barack, it's the large words "Next" and actually the explanation of that, I haven't really discussed it with Ray but I believe "Next" is his way of saying that Barack was going to be the next president or we are ready for him to be next. You have these large letters N-E-X-T across the bottom of the image and Lonnie suggested, 'Don't close them off with a piece of fabric. You need to sort of open that area from a graphic type of perspective.' I'm not a trained artist and I thought that really does make sense. I understood what she was saying and then she had some ideas about maybe putting hands above his head, like different children's hands showing the diversity of people in this country and I just didn't like that at all. I love children. I don't have children and the idea of just these hands just wasn't working for me. I bought some more fabric. I can't step into her shop without buying fabric [laughs.]. I left and I must have driven a block and all of a sudden the entire quilt appeared in my mind, which is usually how I work. If I have an idea, it just comes all of a sudden like it had always been there. Sort of like when you have ESP about something and it's just something that you know. It's not something that you kind of work at discovering, at least not for me. All of a sudden there it was, there was what the quilt should look like. For me, I had actually done another quilt of Barack Obama using another image probably in January or February. I did that almost as like an American flag so I really liked the idea of showing him with an American flag. Again the idea for that, for me, he is the first African American with credibility that was running for president. There were people that were saying all sorts of things about his name, Barack Hussein. He must be a Muslim and all of these things. I'm thinking, 'No, he is an American,' and it was very important to me to show him with the flag. I'm African American. I consider myself to be very patriotic and I love the flag. I always have and I just thought this is a wonderful way to sort of represent him. Also from a design perspective, flags are not very difficult to create because they are just strips of fabric. I have a little star template that I use again and again and again and I love it. I did an early flag of Barack and getting back to the "Next," what I decided when I left Lonnie's shop that day was I'm going to put fifty stars above. I'm going to do thirteen stripes below. As it turned out, this fairly small quilt that was just going to look like a quilted poster ended up being more like a vertical banner because it is probably close to five feet long. I used hand dyed fabrics for the stripes, beautiful red fabric that Lonnie had actually painted. It is neat. It is red silk actually with silver metallic paint and then the white stripes are really just the background fabric and I did sort of a Libby Lehman influence type of zigzag stitch that I free motioned to get the white some texture and that is basically what I did with the stripes and for the stars I just did fusible and used my template. In fact, my dear mother helped me cut out the fifty stars because I was just getting nuts with this quilt. I actually took a day off from work, that Friday of that week that I had been quilting the face because I knew I had to have the quilt in the mail by Monday in order to make the deadline for Ray's show. I took Friday off of work. I had never done anything like this ever before, to actually sit home and work on a quilt and I pretty much did an all-nighter from Friday, stayed up part of the night into Saturday, woke up early, started again [laughs.] and I guess the quilt was probably completed by Sunday evening, fairly early but it was completed by Sunday evening so it was sort of like an all-nighter quilt and I completed it and that is about it. On the back of the quilt I have an acknowledgement to Ray Noland that it is a quilted image by Ray Noland and the actual quilting and the arrangement and design by me.

KM: What did Ray think of it?

MF: That is a very good question Karen, because he liked it. I mean it is interesting. [laughs.] Communicating with him when he was in Denver and in the middle of doing his shows was challenging but I did email him. First, to simply acknowledge that he had in fact received the quilt. Of course, I insured it and I sent it return receipt or something but I knew that someone at the home that he was living at temporarily in Denver had received the quilt, but I wanted to make sure it was safely in his hands. He finally emailed me back maybe middle of the following week, like Wednesday of the next week and he said, 'Oh yeah, by the way, I'm sorry things have been nuts here. I just wanted you to know I love the quilt. It's really great. Maybe we can also do something together again,' or something like. So I was pleased that he was pleased and I would love one day when things are a little bit more settled in his life, I would like to see if he has any photographs of the Manifest Show because I would like to see how my quilt was installed with his artwork. I recall when I met him in Philadelphia and he did the show here he had not only his own artwork, but also he had a few things from some other artists, maybe one or two items and they were very creatively displayed because he does the type of installation where he paints part of the wall and then he has his posters hanging. It is hard to describe it. He is a really interesting artist, I like his work.

KM: What are your plans for the quilt?

MF: I have no plans at all. In fact when the quilt came back from Denver, it actually went on tour. He took it to Denver and then it stayed with him for several other cities including when he was in Manhattan. It was all over actually for a while. When it came back to me probably right before the election, maybe in September or October, something like that, I rolled it up and I threw it on a pile [laughs.] of magazines. [KM laughs.] It was not even displayed. It was unfortunate but I just didn't have time to do anything with it at that point or even think about it. My future plans, my sister would like to have this quilt but my sister has a lot of my quilts so I'm not really sure what I'm going to do with it.

KM: How did you find out about the exhibit, "President Obama: A Celebration in Art Quilts" [from February 9 to March 5, 2009 in the main gallery (King Street Gallery) of the Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation Arts Center, Silver Spring, Maryland.]?

MF: I'm not sure how I found out about it. I had early on just through interest in the Obama campaign they have different groups on the official campaign website and one was something called Fiber Artists for Obama so I signed on to that and I'm not going to say, I'm not computer illiterate but I'm just not used to these blogs and lists and things like that so I can never quite understand how to communicate with the people on this Fiber Artists group but I would get emails from them periodically and I glance at them and I believe that may have been how I heard about Sue Walen's call for this "President Obama: A Celebration in Art Quilts" exhibit. I probably was one of the first people I believe to respond to her. I was a little confused at first because I thought it was part of the Fiber Artists for Obama because I understood that they had made a collaborative quilt and I didn't really know what Sue was doing and then when I found out that she just sort of wanted to exhibit quilts from anyone anywhere that were, and it would be a non-juried type of exhibition and she was looking for space for it I signed up. I was very excited about it because I thought, 'Well that is great I already have the quilt made, that is pretty safe, there is no more deadline, I don't have to worry about it' and so I responded to her email. In fact I even tried to help them find exhibit space in [Washington.] D.C. during the inauguration but we were unsuccessful in that.

KM: Now you made a second Obama piece. Tell me about it.

MF: I did. It is called "Forty-Four" and it was my attempt to be a little less literal in my art quilting. As I said I'm not a professional artist and I had actually probably was influenced by the fact that I had taken a course-- well I had studied with Pam Allen a couple of years ago, who says she is very much influenced by Susan Shie, who happens to be in this show that we are in. More recently I had taken a couple of classes with Lonnie Rossi at her studio and the last one really was just a lecture where she talked about design and there were only about three or four other women in the group and I just felt that of all of them I was the dolt, the dummy of the group because I'm just not the touchy feely interpretive type and if it is going to be a flag it is going to look like a flag by golly [laughs.] and that is what I knew to do. I think Lonnie was sort of working with me in this class so "Forty-Four" I thought wow he is the forty-fourth president in the United States and I want to show that some how, now how am I going to show it. I cut out the number 44 and I was going to appliqué it and that looked really dumb, so then I thought hum let me try to be a little bit more artistic and interpretive so I go, 'How else can I represent 44?' And again I just saw the quilt in front of me, I just saw what it should look like finished and that is what I did. I thought you know how when you are playing a game or you are trying to count something and you just have sticks and you go, one, two, three, four, and the fifth is the one that goes across the little piles of sticks and I thought, 'Well let me figure this out. There are forty-four, so how many piles would I have to have?' It wasn't. In fact when people look at this quilt, they don't think I am disparaging [laughs.] the other forty-three presidents because I'm not. I'm just saying, 'Here we are. This is the forty-fourth president of the United States. The others, their terms are up. Most of them are dead and so the last is an exclamation point rather just a plain looking kind of a line or a stick and that represents Barack because he is different and he is very exciting.' I hope when people look at the quilt they see the humor in it because I just thought it was kind of my way of just being a little humorous and playing games with people. It is made out of wool, which is something I would love to work in a little bit more. It is expensive though. I didn't use recycled wool so it was kind of pricey. I don't know how much I'm going to be working in that type of wool, but it is wool and I didn't quite like the way it came out when I first pieced it together, and I used fusible but when I quilted it I just wasn't nuts about it so I thought let me further mess it up, I'm just going to full it, not felt it but full it so I put it in the detergent and the hot water and when it came out it looked more artful so I was pleased with it and submitted it to the show and hopefully it has been installed. I don't know in this exhibit.

KM: I don't remember in my lifetime a president inspiring so much art and especially art quilts. Why do you think there are so many art quilts that have been inspired by Obama?

MF: I'm not sure. I was taking the train home this evening and I saw a woman reading a newspaper article and there was a picture of Obama and it is like everywhere you look you see him. It is something that I've never experienced. I really can't quite understand it myself. I know my fascination with him. I met him in Philadelphia at the Love Fountain which is actually the view from my office and he was here as a state senator but he had come, it was right after he did that wonderful speech at the Democratic National Convention during the Kerry campaign about 'there is not a red America or blue America there is just the United States of America,' which is another inspiration for doing the flag in the quilt. I just love that, red and blue and we are one country. That was my only exposure to him until that point and here a few months later in September, what year would that have been, 2004, here he was in Philadelphia. I went downstairs to look at the rally. It was a rally actually for Joe Hoeffel who was running for senate against Arlene Specter here in Pennsylvania and I met him and he gave a speech, there was a nice crowd there, the crowd started to leave. I wanted to have a poster signed for my mother because she was a big fan of him. She is a real political junkie. I waited around and there was a homeless man there and there really weren't that many people left at that point so I was able to actually have a little discussion with Barack Obama. He wasn't President Obama then, and the homeless guy kept stepping in between Obama and myself and I wanted to hand Barack this poster to sign for my mother, the back of it. I turn to the homeless guy and I had seen him around before and I gave him a dollar because he was begging money from people and usually I try not to do that but I gave him a dollar and he wouldn't go away. So I gave him another dollar and he said, 'You are just doing that to get rid of me. You don't want me here,' or something like that. It wasn't like I didn't want him there but no, I didn't want him in between me and Barack because I wanted my quality time [laughs.] with the man who I really thought had the qualities to be the next president of the United States. It was very funny. Barack reached into his pocket and he took out a five dollar bill and I remember him giving this to this man along with some change and conversing with the homeless man. It almost appeared to me that he kind of emptied out the money that was in his pocket at the time which was a five dollar bill and some change. This has nothing to do with the quilt, but I just think it is kind of odd and very chilling. I know that a lot of his presidency or his ideas have been modeled after Abraham Lincoln and it is very interesting I read recently where the contents of Abraham Lincoln's pocket the night that he was shot at the Ford Theater contained a five dollar note, a Confederate note. It just gave me a real chill because I remember that moment with him bringing the five dollar bill out of his pocket and handing it to this fella. We talked a little bit. I just had the feeling that this man had an ability to meet you just where you are. No matter whether your are a homeless guy, this woman who wanted a poster signed for her mother who is a lawyer that works for the government, whether you were a politician who was schmoozing with him on the podium while you are giving a speech, he is comfortable with everyone. I just felt he had this amazing ability, really incomparable ability to connect with people and that was sorely needed in this country, particularly after the two terms of number 43.

KM: Tell me about your interest in quiltmaking.

MF: I've always liked needlework. My mother taught me how to cross stitch on stamped linen when I was probably about seven years old so I've always had a needle in my hand and my parents gave me my first Bernina sewing machine when I was sixteen years old, which was like really amazing. Unfortunately I think my mother really wanted me to learn how to make clothing and her mother, who was deceased before I was born, was actually not even a seamstress; her mother was actually a tailor. She made men's suits and things like that and she was very accomplished. I obviously do not have that in my genes so I wasn't ever able to learn how to really sew a straight line but I tried. I have taken many sewing classes and I kind of started dabbling then in some quiltmaking. I made a baby quilt and a couple of little projects and sold that machine, went to college, went to law school, did a lot of stuff in between still doing the needlework and then probably in my early forties I thought, 'By golly, I want a sewing machine again.' I went out and bought a machine and started, took the beginners quilting class and discovered this world of art quilts. Took two classes two different years with Pamela Allen, the Canadian quilter, quilt artist and also discovered Lonnie Rossi like fifteen minutes away from my house and that's pretty much how my interest has, and continues to grow.

KM: Do you belong to any art or quilt groups?

MF: I belong to the oldest chapter of the Embroiderers' Guild of America [EGA.] which is the Philadelphia area chapter and because quilting is done with a needle quilts are part of that guild although frankly most of the work that is done there is embroidery, crewel work, canvas, even a lot of gold work and incredibly beautiful things that some of the women in that guild create are just unbelievable. I belong to this area chapter of EGA and I also joined a quilting guild in Manhattan, the Empire Guild so I am a member of that. I joined the one in Manhattan because I thought, 'I live in Philadelphia. They will never ask me to do anything.' [laughs.]

KM: Has it worked out.

MF: It has because I was the fundraising chair for the Embroiderers' Guild for several years and then I went on to have to be the, oh I don't know the outreach person and all of these jobs and it just takes the joy out of it so when I joined the one in New York it is just wonderful. I just show up when I want to show up for a meeting and that's about it.

KM: You mentioned taking classes with Pamela Allen and you've mentioned Lonnie Rossi. Tell me whose works you are drawn to and why.

MF: I'm not that knowledgeable about art quilts. We were talking a little bit off line about Art Quilts at the Sedgwick and unfortunately I never went to any of those exhibitions when they were here at the Sedgwick. I went to the art quilts that were displayed at the Wayne Center and I can't say that I'm an expert or that knowledgeable of these different quilt artists to really say who has influenced me the most. I would just say that I kind of embrace it all. I love it all. There is something redeeming about any time somebody puts three layers of something together and attaches it together, there is something in it for all of us. I just enjoy looking at all of it really.

KM: What do you think makes a quilt artistically powerful?

MF: I think for me and again this gets back to my [laughs.] lack of touchy feely interpretive skills, I mean I'm not an artist and I guess for me I really like quilts that make a very bold statement about something. Usually if it is something about either something political or a social condition or something like that, for me then it really does something for me. I like quilts, I like art work that really provokes discussion and thought and provokes a different way of thinking. For example, I'm trying to think of her name, she doesn't really display her political quilts that much but she has a vast array of them, oh Eleanor Levie. You probably know Eleanor. [KM hums.] I think her political quilts--it happened she had some class or really it wasn't a class it was a lecture about art quilts a couple of years ago and she happened to bring a bunch of her quilts and it is interesting because when you go to her website or just see things you don't see a lot of these quilts and oh my stars she has just done amazing political quilts that I don't know why they just are not on view. I look at things like that and I think well to me that is what it is all about quilting, using your skills in a really meaningful way. Each of these quilts says something different. Like one had something to do with, and I'm going back years so it is hard to remember everything, but this shows they had an influence because I can remember that one had to do with freedom of speech and what she felt to be propaganda and it was just fascinating. For me, if I'm following your question, I like quilts, any type of art work. I like it to communicate something. I want it to be meaningful. To do something that is just pleasing to the eye is just not what I really value.

KM: Describe your studio.

MF: [laughs.] It is non-existent. It's a sewing machine in the basement of my home surrounded by clutter that if the fire department were to come in they probably would arrest me. [KM laughs.] I barely have enough room to move my arms to free motion it is that bad.

KM: Give me a little more information.

MF: [laughs.] About my studio [KM hums.] I do have a very nice unfinished quilt that I made under Pam Allen's tutelage a couple of years ago and its, it was actually supposed to interpret, I think it is one of her courses where you look at a famous painting or something and you try to interpret it through a quilt. I had looked at Romare Bearden painting of a garden or something like that and it was around the time that I had a bunch of again Lonnie Rossi [fabrics.]. I love her fabric. I hate to sound like a broken record but I have so much in my stash. My stash is half Lonnie and half Japanese. I'm fascinated with Japanese fabric. Anyway, I had her Cultivated Cottons Collection and I wanted to get rid of some of it so I took that off to this class with Pamela and ended up doing this big kind of farm looking scene and it also has some text on it because what I was trying to, again, my things have to have some meaning for me and I'm pretty literal, I like, I guess it is the 139th Psalm, 'Where can I go from your spirit. If I go to the depths, you are there. If I fly up on the wings of an eagle, you are there also.' So it has this large sort of sky area and then the depth is represented by the soil and it is like a farm. I don't know. It's bizarre. The way I'm describing it sounds bizarre but it is actually pleasant to look at and it does have a meaning to me. Now whether or not someone--if you read the text you will see portions of the 139th Psalm, whether or not someone would look at that ever and say, 'Oh that's like Romare Bearden's garden.' I don't think so but I have that over my sewing machine table and portions are quilted and portions are not quilted, so it is sort of I guess another work in progress.

KM: Do you work on more than one thing at a time?

MF: Oh my stars yes, I'm the ultimate multi-tasker. I have so many UFOs [unfinished objects.] it is ridiculous and unfortunately I have this very bad habit about being very excited about starting something and then it becomes laborious and I drop it and I move on to something else, although I'm trying to be a little bit more disciplined now and make sure that I complete what I start working on. Of course with an art quilt sometimes obviously you have to put it up on your design wall which for me is just blue painter's tape stuck to the wall and I have to look at it and think about it and sometimes a lot of these things are folded up and rolled up and put in a big bin and brought out a year or two later for some additional work. Nothing is ever trashed. Nothing is that bad that [laughs.] I ever felt that I had to throw it away.

KM: What are your favorite techniques and materials? I mean you did mention Lonnie Rossi fabric.

MF: I love Japanese. I love Daiwabo. For techniques, I don't know I'm learning every day. I've done a bed quilt. I made a bed quilt for my nephew out of Kaffe Fassett fabric over the holidays. He is probably the first person in my family who has been honored to have a full bed quilt made [laughs.] but I made a charity quilt once and I made a baby quilt recently for my guild for charity but it was a smaller quilt and that one I used Attic Window so really if it is a technique that I'm interested in learning I will teach it to myself and I'll just try it. There is not any one particular piece that I like. I do like the idea of taking a very traditional method and applying, and giving it a real contemporary feel to it. For example, I'm fascinated with tied quilts and actually the Kaffe Fassett quilt that I made for my nephew I was going to tie it off but at the end I got rushed and I ended up just quilting it mostly stitch in the ditch and some design. I would like to start doing some things with tie and trying to do them in a little bit of a different way. Ties are usually pretty utilitarian but I think they could be used very artistically. I actually made a quilted vest a couple of years ago and the bottom of it is tied and it's got all of these like little ties in it. I read about this United Methodist quilting group where they meet and when they tie quilts for people they say prayers every time they make a tie and I tried to do that. I sort of did that a little bit with the vest that I made for myself and I'm sort of interested in the spiritual aspect of it as well.

KM: How do you want to be remembered?

MF: That is a profound question. [laughs.] I don't know how I would answer that. I really don't know how to answer that. I mean we all leave our carbon footprint don't we. I really don't know. I want to be remembered I guess as a kind person. I'm a Christian and it is very important for me for someone to know and to understand that I'm a Christian without me telling them I'm a Christian to tell you the truth, I mean without having to wear a cross. We are supposed to allow the light of Christ to shine through us. I hope some of my light will be left around.

KM: We have been talking for a little more than forty minutes. Is there anything that you would like to share that we haven't touched upon before we conclude?

MF: I don't think so.

KM: What advice would you offer somebody starting out?

MF: I would advise someone to subscribe to a lot of these wonderful magazines like Quilting Arts [Magazine.] and Quilter's Newsletter and Quiltmania [French quilting magazine.]and then look at things that have nothing to do with quilting at all. It is a visual medium so I would advise someone to take advantage of it as much as they can. I think I would probably advise them not to take that many classes because I really believe that, well I mean it is fine to take classes and to study and you need to have that foundation, certainly that is true. I find from women who I know in guilds and things that they sort of go from class to class and they never seem to be able to develop as an artist because they are just, I think you get a little bit confused. I'm not disparaging the value of taking classes with really good quilt artists, but on the other hand I wouldn't over do it. I would sort of allow myself, you should allow yourself enough freedom to kind of play with your fabric and don't be afraid with your fabric. Actually the best thing that I was ever taught, again Lonnie Rossi, God bless her. Her fabric is so beautiful. I love it and its sort of an art in and of itself, I mean you could just take a piece of it and frame it and you're finished and I remember looking at something one day and I said, 'I don't even want to cut into it.' She said 'That's what it is for. It is fabric. You are supposed to cut it apart and re-piece it and do whatever you want with it.' And it was the weirdest thing, I just felt all of a sudden that I was totally free to cut into every piece of fabric in my stash, even the expensive Japanese fabrics that I have and some of the silks that are in my stash. Don't respect the fabric. It is there for a purpose. It is just fabric. You can't make mistakes. No one is going to die if you cut into a piece of fabric. [laughs.] Don't save it.

KM: Don't save it, yes. What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today?

MF: I don't know because I'm really not part of that quilting world Karen.

KM: What is your biggest challenge?

MF: Just really having adequate time to work on my quilts and de-cluttering my space so I can actually move around in it and do things and I have so many ideas. I have this fever of ideas and I just feel sometimes like my head is going to explode. I have all of these ideas, but very little time, really very little time to execute many of the ideas, which is unfortunate but I try to do what I can.

KM: How many hours a week do you work on quiltmaking?

MF: It's fairly sporadic. I can go maybe a month without even stepping near my sewing machine and I'm just maybe thinking and looking at quilting magazines or just not doing anything involving quilting at all but then when I start working on a project I'll probably work seven nights a week on that project. I may not complete it but once I sort of get through the fever stage where I really have all of this energy about it and then I will put it aside but yes for me it is sort of these bursts of energy on something.

KM: How did you feel when you got your little piece published in Quilting Arts Magazine?

MF: I was surprised because, I was just surprised. It was a pleasant surprise and as a matter of fact I found out, I don't subscribe to the magazine, I do buy it on the newsstand and someone from my Manhattan guild recognized the name, which I'm shocked because they must have about five hundred members and I'm new and I never go to the meetings, but she must have known my name and she emailed me and said, 'Oh, congratulations the quilt is in Quilters Art,' and I was really surprised. In fact I had several quilting friends who started emailing me within the next couple of weeks, like, 'Oh I saw your quilt' and blah blah blah. I thought how it is amazing, the power of printed medium. It is just really amazing and it was fun. I was very encouraged to have something that I had done recognized in a publication and I felt honored when I look at the quality of the other artists. It was a challenge, a green challenge but it was fun and I was very pleased with that.

KM: I want to think you for taking time out of your evening and sharing with me. You've been wonderful.

MF: Karen I want to thank you for what you are doing to preserve these stories and to just to, it is wonderful. Keeping it all alive. I worry about the needlework, the embroidery and we have an EGA but [laughs.] I think what you are doing for quilting is just wonderful because it is just going to continue to promote that art.

KM: Thank you very much. We are going to conclude our interview at 8:01.


“Michelle Flamer,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 27, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/1485.