Sauda Zahra




Sauda Zahra




Sauda Zahra


Karen Musgrave

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Sandra Anne Frazier


Durham, North Carolina


Kim Greene


Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave and I am conducting a Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories interview with Sauda Zahra [SZ corrects KM on pronunciation of her name.] and she is in Durham, North Carolina and I'm in Naperville, Illinois so we are conducting this interview over the telephone. Today's date is February 25, 2009. It is now 6:26 in the evening. Thank you so much for taking time out of your evening to do this interview with me. Please tell me about your quilt "Keepers of Your Destiny."

Sauda Zahra (SZ): "Keepers of Your Destiny" is a quilt that I was privileged to create for the Quilts for Obama exhibit [SZ was one of the 44 artists invited to participate in the exhibit "Quilts for Obama: An Exhibit Celebration of our 44th President" at the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. from January 11 to July 30, 2009.] that is currently in Washington, D.C. It was kind of ironic how this all happened. One of our mentors in the quilt world, Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi, called the middle of November, I think it was the 13th if I'm not mistaken, and was excited about this exhibit that Roland Freeman, who is the guest curator at the Historical Society in Washington [D.C.]. He wanted to put together this quilt exhibit to celebrate President Obama's inauguration and it was like in thirty days he wanted this quilt exhibit to happen. Dr. Mazloomi contacted quilters that I'm sure she has worked with in the past, I'm in several of the exhibits she has traveling around the country, and she called that night and talked about the idea of the quilt show and she was trying to get forty-four quilters and we had to commit to meeting the deadline. It was very important that if we said we were going to do it we had to come through. Without thinking I knew I was in. It was just a privilege to be asked by her and I just knew that hook or crook I was going to do something. We had that conversation and initially I had two other quilts that I thought would be a good tie in to the overall theme of the exhibit, which was really not to just focus on President Obama's victory but also to look at the journey that we as African Americans, as the country has gone through just to get to this point. I had done some pictorial quilts depicting the Civil Rights Movement and I thought these would be great. I sent the pictures to Dr. Mazloomi the next day and initially she thought they would work but as it turned out within twenty-four hours of me thinking, ‘Oh wow, I don't have to create anything new.' We found out that the space had a lot of size restrictions and all of those things so we had to rethink the quilt that I would be able to put it. I started from scratch and believe me I was nervous because of the time constraint. I was honored that I was asked. I was excited but it was a lot of pressure because, 'Oh God this is an historic moment I really have to deliver.' I was very stressed out needless to say and I think other quilters who are in the exhibit probably can tell you some of the same things I will tell you. That is pretty much how it started. We had thirty days to produce the quilt and to have it delivered to Washington, D.C. by December 15. That's how it pretty much started with me getting into the exhibit and I was honored to be considered one of the master quilters who had been asked to participate.

From that point on, I just had to figure out what can I do to create, what was I going to capture. Now we had a size restriction on the quilt which was it could not exceed 36 [inches.] by 36 [inches.] and I work larger than that so it was really a challenge for me to think of ‘Okay how can you condense all the ideas that you have into that small space?' That was one of my challenges to figure that part out, but also I knew thirty days was not a lot of time and I create my own designs. It usually takes me, it could take me a couple of months just to come up with the design. I had thirty days to design, gather fabrics and other materials, actually create it, quilt it and then delivery it and work all day. I was definitely on an adrenaline rush but also I was quite nervous [laughs.] to say the least. What I decided to do was to focus, to continue to focus on the Civil Rights period. I looked at the quilts that I had already done and I said to myself, ‘Sauda, how can you take the pictorial quilts and capture the same message from the images that are in these two quilts,' and that pretty much was the benchmark that I used because I couldn't even fathom starting from scratch. I just knew thirty days was not going to do that. That is what I did, I looked at those quilts and I said, ‘How can you take those images and symbolically represent the message in those images?' That is what I did. "Keepers of Your Destiny" really turned out to be a quilt that highlighted all of the people and things that have come before to lead up to President Obama going into the White House. I tried to take all of the key historical events, the bus boycott, the Selma March, some of the organizations that were formed in the Civil Rights period, and I tried to capture those and think about those events and people as removing barriers in this country so that the possibility of an Obama presidency could even be realized. That pretty much is what I had focused on. What I did, I decided to use a wall. Wasn't quite sure how I could capture this wall but I wanted to somehow symbolize bricks being removed from the wall, like the wall is being torn down by every key event, every movement, every march, the organizations that were formed during that time, all of the acts and deeds of people and organizations helped to remove this barrier.

In my mind it was a wall in this country, to move this country forward. What I did, I created a wall first and I used brick fabric and I actually cut out little sections of the brick fabric and I took the organizations and the key events that occurred during the Civil Rights period and I put them on another piece of paper [then transferred to fabric] and actually stitched those events and organizations behind the open brick area on this wall. That is a large part of what the quilt, when you see the quilt that you will notice that. I also wanted to tie in people because the movement really was a lot of people and I know sometimes historically we think of the events. We think of the bus boycott. We think of Rosa Park. We think of NAACP [The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.]. We think of SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.]. We think of CORE [Congress of Racial Equality.]. All these other organizations, but it was endless people, known and unknown that really made the movement move so I wanted to somehow capture people. What I ended up doing was to make footprints and within those footprints I just wrote a lot of names of people that we know, some people that we don't nationally know their name, but people I thought that was key during that Civil Rights period and I put their names very slightly in the footprints because really it was more about the footprints versus highlighting the individual people. Somehow I wanted them to be recognized so I used footprints and just made a path leading up to the White House. Now this sounds like I had it all together but in honesty I designed as I went. I literally did not finish the quilt until Saturday, December 13, at 1:00 when I had to actually stop and go to the mail center to mail the quilt by 2:00 in order for it to get to [Washington.] D.C. by that Monday morning. You talk about pressure [laughs.] that was the pressure that I was under and for some reason the quilt was not coming together. I kept thinking this is going to work and it didn't work and I had sections of the quilt that I loved but to me it wasn't cohesive and I tried to figure out how can I make, put something on the quilt that ties the sky area, that ties the White House image that I have on the quilt, that ties the wall together and all of that was just a struggle. At the last minute I decided to do the footprints and so it kind of came together but I ran out of time. [laughs.] I wasn't one hundred percent pleased with my quilt because I know I had very high expectations of myself when I make quilts and I felt like if I had a little more time I could get, I could really do more quilting and some of the other embellishments that I wanted to do, but in hindsight I guess enough was enough.

KM: What are your plans for the quilt?

SZ: I don't know. Right now the exhibit was extended. It was originally supposed to be up for a couple of weeks and they extended the exhibit until I think July, so we know that the quilt will be there through the end of July and after that I'm not really sure. One thing I know I will do with it is do some of the quilting that I did not get a chance to put in the quilt that I really wanted to. I know I will do that and past that I don't have any plans for it.

KM: Tell me about what your usual creative process is.

SZ: What I usually do, oh can I just say one more thing?

KM: Sure.

SZ: This is a little different for me because I'm really a, I do my own designs so I rarely do any traditional patterns or anything like that. I find that the precision of making sure my points are meeting and the lines are straight, to me it just blocks my flow, so I decided early on [when I started quilting] that I was going to do my own thing, however it turned out that was what I was going to do. In this quilt it was interesting because I did use a traditional quilt block. I was on the internet looking for images of the White House because I knew I wanted to do a photo transfer of the White House and I ended up finding a quilt block that was called "Road to the White House" and the block was, I think it was named that like in the thirties, I'm not quite certain about that, I can't really remember, but it was in the thirties I believe and so for it to be named "Road to the White House" I thought that was very appropriate for the quilt I was doing. I have a traditional block in the background and then I just used my normal art quilt designs for the rest of it.

KM: Tell me about your creative process.

SZ: What I usually do, I start off--it could be a number of things that will get me started with a quilt. It could be a particular theme, it could be an idea, a concept, I could hear somebody say something, or I could see something on television that will just spark some kind of creative outlet, I know I want to make a quilt related to something in that vain, but what I usually do is I design my quilt before I even start stitching. Rarely do I just quilt, just pull fabric together and see what happens. I just kind of design mine and I usually sketch out concepts and then I will write a lot of notes to myself, the possibility that maybe this could happen, that could happen, and then once I feel like I have a pretty good sketch I will take that sketch and I will translate it as best I can into the computer. I don't use a particular program; I just try to create something so that I can visually see how the quilt potentially can be. Once I do that, then I gather all of my materials, or at least I will say ninety percent of them because you always think you have everything and then you end up still thinking you need something else [laughs.]. I will gather all my materials, I have the design pretty much like I want it, the size, all of this worked out and then the challenge for me is actually making it because I feel in my mind once I've gone through this long process I feel like the quilt is done and I'm ready to move on and come up with another one, but I have to actually make the quilt [laughs.]. That's how my process is.

KM: Tell me about the opening.

SZ: Oh gosh, it was, I don't know how to describe it. It was such an adrenaline rush and I think it was not only the actual opening but leading, everything leading up to the opening prepares you when you got to the opening. You could exhale at that point. It was amazing to see the quilts. It was amazing to see the number of people who came out to see the quilt. It was amazing to just kind of look at people, observe them looking at the quilts. You could see people just kind of like gazing. You could see people tearing up. You could see people talking to someone who may have been standing with them, recalling things. It was just a wonderful, wonderful opportunity to be not only a quilter and to have your piece viewed and commented on, but also to see just the energy of all of those quilts on that wall and visualizing in your mind, ‘Wow, this really has happened.'

KM: Whose works were you drawn to and why?

SZ: All of them. All of them for different reasons. I just don't want to name one because all of them said something to me. Unfortunately, it was so busy and the time just went by just so fast. I really regret that I did not have the opportunity to arrive in [Washington.] D.C. a little early so that I could actually take my time, take all the time I needed to go from one quilt to the next and just take them all in. It is really hard to do that when you are in the midst of an opening and you have so many people that are there and then people are commenting and talking to you or you are talking about your quilt, you really, it is hard to see everybody's work. Some of the quilters I had been in other exhibits with so I'm familiar with their work and I'm just amazed. I was just overwhelmed, overwhelmed.

KM: Tell me about your interest in quiltmaking.

SZ: I started quilting in 1998 when the African American Quilt Circle started in Durham. Prior to that, I had always had some creative outlet. I had gone from, of course I started sewing at an early age like a lot of quilters have. I started sewing in high school; I continued to sew up until this day. I never had a break in time that I was not sewing. I was constantly creating something. I went from sewing, I went to embroidery, I went to doll making, I went to stained glass, and finally I arrived at quilting. From 1998, when the African American Quilt Circle started I have been quilting ever since. I'm self-taught. I would go to the group and I would see what other quilters were doing, totally amazed, never fathomed that I could ever be at the point I am now ten years later of quilting and exhibiting around the country. That is pretty much how I started. I did try my hand at making blocks in the beginning and I just knew that if this was what I was going to do it wasn't going to hold my interest. So I started just, like I'm going to figure it out myself and I'm going to do something, do whatever I want to do and that's how I quilt.

KM: How did you find out about the African American Quilt Circle?

SZ: One of the founding members, Bertie Howard is a very dear friend of mine and she had sent out an email saying, ‘Some of us are going to have a meeting to talk about starting a quilting group in Durham,' and she knows I'm creative. I never really thought about quilting but she knew I was creative so she told me when the meeting was. It was in March and we met at the Stanford L.Warren Library here in Durham and we talked about quilting and what a quilt group looked like and if people were interested and that is how it started.

KM: How many members are there now?

SZ: I think if I'm not mistaken we have about sixty members, if I'm not mistaken, it is in that range, sixty to sixty-five members I think and we just celebrated our 10th anniversary March of '08 and we dedicated that whole year of having different activities throughout the year to celebrate our 10th year in existence.

KM: How many hours a week do you quilt?

SZ: Not as many as I would love to. I think it depends on what I'm doing. I don't quilt constantly. That is one of my goals for 2010 to spend more time quilting even if it is just small things. What I have been doing in the last four years is quilting primarily for exhibitions, whether it's a quilt group's annual exhibitions that we have or if I have been invited to participate in a quilt exhibit that's going around the country, I'll make quilts specifically for a theme for an exhibition. I would say I quilt maybe, like the last three months I feel like I've been quilting every day [laughs.] but in reality I haven't. I do find time to quilt. I know that when I'm not quilting I feel like I need to be doing something.

KM: You said that "Keepers of Your Destiny" is not your typical size.

SZ: No its not.

KM: What is your typical size?

SZ: My quilts usually range around maybe sixty [inches.], I don't think I've made a quilt larger than sixty inches. It's really funny because I don't really have a separate studio. I have an area where I sew and then I tend to actually do my quilting in my dining room, it just kind of happens that way. I find that a lot of my quilts range in the size of my dining room table for some reason [both laugh.] It is in that range. I do like to do larger pieces and I think it is because I try to put so much into my quilts and I'm not saying that is good or bad, I'm just saying that is what it is. It's harder for me to narrow down my design when it is a small space. I like working big.

KM: What are your favorite techniques and materials?

SZ: I'm a hand quilter so I love that feeling. I do want to learn how to machine quilt only because, not only because, one of the reasons that I would like to machine quilt is because you can get more quilts done. I mainly make one or two quilts a year and that is not enough for me. I really think I need to be making more and I want to make more but hand quilting is very tedious but I love that, I love the feeling of quilting by hand. I feel that is the best part of quilting to me is when I'm actually doing the quilting part. I feel like that is when my energy flows from me into my quilt and brings life to it. As long as I can hand quilt I will, but I would like to be introduced to more machine quilting as well. That is one of the highlights, the keys of my quilt, are that they are hand quilted. I also like a lot of embellishments. [I also like to include a sculptural effect to my quilts.] I've captured [collected.] stuff over the years. I have little jars of all these different things in it, so quilting is one way for me to kind of bring together in one medium all the things that I like- sewing, embellishments. I like found objects. I like to recycle. I love to restore and so I'm able to bring all of those elements into the art of quilting.

KM: What materials do you like to use?

SZ: I like to use. I use a lot of African fabrics. I use commercial fabrics as well. I like using recycled items. I may find a beautiful fabric that is a dress in a thrift store and I will cut that up and recycle fabrics that way. I love using embellishments. All of my quilts have some embellishment on them. It is interesting because the Obama quilt I had other embellishments that I wanted to put on there but I never ended up doing that and I did use one embellishment which was a little skeletal key that I had. I used that because I had to have some embellishment on there. Most of my quilts are heavily embellished.

KM: What did the key represent?

SZ: The key represented to me him actually taking stewardship of the White House and at the foot of the image of the White House that I have in the quilt I placed that small key there up that pathway of the footprints leading to the White House and I placed the key right there. What I did, really it just happened happenstance, when I was putting the last foot prints on the quilt I had footprints of President Obama's mother and father, their names in one footprint and the other footprint I had his grandparents and I was going to use those footprints to be the last one right there at the door, the entrance of the block where the White House is and at that moment when I was getting ready to stitch them down, something in my mind said turn them outward and I switched them around and turned them facing the other footprints so in my mind the spirit of his family, the four people that were key to who he is today, their spirit is right there with him as he picked up that key to go into the White House.

KM: Very nice. I don't remember in my lifetime a president inspiring so much artwork and especially quilts. Why do you think Barack Obama inspired so many art quilts?

SZ: I think it is two-fold. I think everyone who got involved, all the artists who got involved in many different mediums to celebrate this turning point in our history I think that was just something that artists do. It has a lot to do with him as a person and the energy that he, and the hope and the moment in time that he arrived to do what he has been charged to do. Also I think it says a lot about where we are as quilters, because prior to this, I mean if you think about presidents that inspired in some of the ways that President Obama has, you would think back to John F. Kennedy and people have made reference to that throughout this whole election time, but I don't know where artists were and quilters were at that point in time during the Kennedy era. I think it is all of us arriving at this moment in time in so many different ways that we could do the things we've done as artists, him becoming the president, the number of people from so many different walks of life that he energized and mobilized to make this happen, so we are all where we are supposed to be at this moment and I think quilters are part of that wave. It is natural. I think quilters now tend to look at quilts, look at events, I mean you look at the AIDS quilts, see what I'm saying? I think historical events and moments in time are things that artists immediately try to put into their artwork and quilters are no different, we can see that. I would love one day to see all of the quilts that were made to commemorate this moment in our time, that they are all put together some how into a book, "The Quilts of the Obama Presidency," so we can see all of the quilts that have been done that we may not even know about. I always knew that I was going to do a quilt for President Obama to highlight this moment, but I didn't know that I was going to do it this soon and I didn't know I would have this type of an opportunity to be a part of this historical, to have an intimate part of this historical moment through my art work, what better way to do that.

KM: Do you have any plans for any more Obama quilts?

SZ: Yes I do, I really want to do one more focused on his family and not his family tree so to speak, but him, his wife, and his children. Some how I want to put them into a quilt and also I'm very inspired by the First Lady and I would like to do a quilt for her too. I don't know when because I'm really coming off of [laughs.] I don't know when it is going to happen but I do want to do a number of Obama family related quilts.

KM: You are still in recovery is what you're telling me.

SZ: Oh yes, I am. I did not realize just how much of a toll that whole time period had taken on me until I was out of it. It was funny because I just usually have more time to work on quilts. Usually months, months, months in advance of an exhibit to get into creating a piece for consideration but this was so quick. This was like a whirlwind and it was one of the busiest times at my job. It is not like I had the luxury of either taking off work, I was staying up to 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning and then getting right back up at 6:30 to get ready for work, and working all day and then coming home. It was like I could feel the physical toll it had taken on me, but it was something that didn't matter, I would have to recover after the fact. I knew that I was going to meet that deadline.

KM: Good for you. What advice would you offer someone starting out?

SZ: Starting out quilting? [KM hums.] It is interesting you would ask that because Carol Beck, Marjorie Freeman, and myself were fortunate to get media exposure through our local newspaper for our Obama quilts and we were featured, the three of us were featured in the newspaper on a Saturday on the front page. We were thrilled. I was thrilled for sure that it actually made the front page and after that the reporter emailed me and she told me she was interested in learning to quilt. I thought that was just something. She sent me this email and asked me for suggestions since I was a self-taught quilter. I didn't know quite how to answer her email so I think I took a day maybe, because I thought about it, what advice would you give somebody who is starting out. I don't know what I gave her. I don't know if I gave her what she was looking for, but I started off just talking to her, in the email, about what type of learner she is.

Some people learn better by reading a book, some people learn better by somebody showing you, actually showing you and then you grab it that way. I think that is important to understand that part of yourself when you are taking on anything, but to me I think that is really key for quilting because one thing about quilting I found when I first started, I think that if I had not had all of the years of creative outlets before I arrived at quilting, I don't know whether quilting would have captured me like it did. I did start out trying to learn traditional quilting and that wasn't in sync with the way I learn or the way I create or whatever so I knew that I wanted, it was a creative outlet that I would want to explore and it just happened to be quilting. If I had not been cognizant of how I learn I may have gotten a little discouraged about quilting. That is why I think I started off bringing that to her attention to think about how she learned. Then I gave her some suggestions about, I couldn't really suggest any books or anything but I told her she might want to spend time in the [bookstore and] library just looking at books and one of them may capture her attention and from that point she should just start. At the end of the day I said, ‘Just start. Just pick up some fabric, needle and thread, put it together. Just get started and you will learn as you go. You will learn more about yourself as you go, how you quilt, what style. All of those things.' I was maybe going to reach out to her a little while and say, ‘Did you start quilting?' [laughs.] Because I thought it was really nice that she emailed me and asked me that question.

KM: That is great.

SZ: I thought that was nice and after the interview, I mean she must have been inspired from the interview we all had with her, and she went to Washington [D.C.] for the inauguration and she is ready to quilt, so I wish her luck and I hope she does it.

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

SZ: I think of myself as an artist and I'm going to tell you why. It may go back to me being in interior design school. I remember the challenges that I had in interior design school trying to do some of the more art kinds of tasks that were involved in that curriculum and I always felt like I had an artist spirit, but I never felt like I qualified in calling myself an artist or being referred to as an artist. When I started quilting and just really starting to pay more attention to people's response to my quilts, I realized at that moment through quilting I became the artist I always knew was in me. I personally make the distinction for my own sake that I'm an artist, but it is very difficult for me to detach quilt artist from that description. Quilting allowed me to actualize the artist that I am. I can't separate the two.

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

SZ: Wow that is a good question. I honestly don't know. There are so many possibilities to what you can quilt, the access to quilting, the exposure to quilting, the materials, I mean there are so many things that are available to us now that may not have been years and years and years and previous generations that there is now. The only thing I will say the challenge is time. I mean the time that you have out of your other obligations in your life if you are a serious quilter that is one of the challenges I think we face, actually having the time or finding the time to create a body of work. Other than that, I mean, of course if we had a long discussion about this, there are a lot of challenges but I think in terms of the individual quilter we can make quilting whatever we want it to be. People like Dr. Carolyn Mazloomi and Cuesta Benberry and so many other quilters, I'm speaking more as an African American quilter, the exposure and opportunity that they have been able to pave that path for us. It is worth its weight in gold as an African American quilter. Now am I a quilter? Am I an art quilter? Am I an African American quilter? I'm all of those. I think that the recognition that we are getting through all of these various exhibitions, it is an open-ended arena for quilters and I think you can create a path for yourself, I think the opportunities are there. Of course there are some challenges and obstacles as is in any other undertaking that you may have. I'm very optimistic about quilting, I see endless possibilities, and I know that quilting is something that will take me far.

KM: Do you think quiltmaking is growing in the African American community?

SZ: Yes I do. I think quilting has always been growing in the African American community, I think the exposure that quilters are getting in terms of being in national exhibitions and having that media type exposure is almost making people say, ‘Oh here is this whole new group of people that are entering the quilt world,' and actually we've always been there. I'm just glad that we as more contemporary art quilters are really able to go out and expose, have our work exposed in a far wider audience. I don't have any quilters in my family, but there are so many people that do. So many people that do, and they can recall and I know you know this from the stories in the S.O.S. [Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories.] program. People have been quilting forever and they are still quilting. You still have people, the grand moms and the great-grand moms, they still pull out their quilts and do they look at their quilts in the way [as art] that maybe some of the contemporary quilters do? No, they don't, [but their quilts have value too]. I just love quilting. I love all of the possibilities. I love all of the challenges, the debates about quilting. I love the fact that quilting is really being taken seriously in terms of study. I wish that I could have gotten a degree in quilting when I was in school [laughs.] if I had known that possibility is even out there. I do think that it is important that we continue the legacy of quilting with the youth. If I had to actually give you a specific challenge, I think that is one of the challenges, continuing, ensuring that the legacy of quilting continues. We have to teach the youth to quilt and the value of quilting.

KM: What does your family think of your quiltmaking?

SZ: I think that they see it as an extension of my creative self. It is really interesting because I had like an epiphany this last week or so when I was working on another quilt that unfortunately I was not able to finish the way I wanted to in order to be a part of this exhibit and it was just so funny to see how many people, how many comments I had from people and friends. I have one daughter [Kafi.] and she likes to call herself "my creative director." I bounce ideas off of her and she has so many opinions now. [laughs.] It is just so funny. I'm like pick up a piece of thread and a needle and fabric, and,‘Why don't you start quilting?' [laughs.] It is just funny how I realize just recently how many people have a personal investment in my quilts. They see it as an extension of my creative self. They are really excited and proud that I have gotten a lot of recognition over the years, that I'm able to participate in different exhibitions and I'm fortunate enough to have my quilts in publications so they are kind of into it, but they don't really--it is hard for them to separate just my quilting from how they see me.

KM: How do you want to be remembered?

SZ: From an artistic perspective are you asking or?

KM: Any way you want to tell me.

SZ: I would like to be remembered as a person who understood early on the importance of expressing her creativity, because I believe that we are all creative beings who have been imbued with unique ways to express our creative gifts. People will say, ‘Oh I'm not creative.' Oh yes you are! [laughs.] You just don't realize the way in which you are creative. People tend to judge their creativity based on someone else. If I quilt, and they don't, they think, ‘Oh I'm not creative.' Well you are saying it because you are looking at me quilting. That may not be what you do, that may not be your creative expression but we all have it. I just firmly, firmly believe that. Some people's creative gifts are obvious to them early on and therefore, they may have that creative identity that I think is very important, that path may be more direct for them. Other people like me who as a young child without understanding what I knew. I knew that there was something about me, that I had a way of looking at things in my own way. How that was expressed and how that manifested over the years was some of the things I mentioned through sewing and through all of those other creative outlets that I had, but I always knew that there was something about the way I saw the world and myself in that world. I think that was through a creative eye. I can be on a soapbox about this whole thing of expressing yourself creatively. Some how, some way I know that it has been my saving grace and I think that creativity is a gift as well as it is an obligation to all of us who have been blessed to be on this earth. We have an obligation and responsibility to find out ways in which we can express ourselves and make that contribution to the world.

KM: Is there anything that you would like to share that we haven't touched upon before we conclude?

SZ: One thing I would like to share about the Obama quilt. The ups and downs of creating that quilt, it was such an emotional moment in time for me, not only with the excitement of being asked to participate, then the reality of knowing, ‘Oh God what am I going to do?' And then the up of figuring out the concept, the down of ,‘Oh this is not working,' then the up of, ‘Oh I think I've got it.' All of those emotions I think that I was able to hone into more keenly through this quilt, the Obama quilt journey. One of the things that really happened to me. I was feeling real good about me pulling this off, like that last full week that I had of getting the quilt done. Just as you go up and down, I was up, I had worked out some little thing that was bothering me about the quilt and I was really like on a high, ‘Oh I'm going to really get this done in time', and then a dear friend of mine passed away suddenly, I am telling you the truth, all of those emotions of the Obama quilt process kind of just poured on that quilt at that moment because it was a surprise to me, she was a dear friend. She had a double lung transplant a year ago and her year anniversary was January that unfortunately she did not make it and I had to, I'm still trying to come to terms with that happening. It was interesting because I understood that week, which was one of the most horrific weeks of my quilting life, if not my own personal loss, because I knew I had to either throw in the towel, which believe me it was a thought, but there was no way that I could disappoint myself number one, number two I could not disappoint Dr. Mazloomi who graciously asked me to be a part of this moment in time, and I couldn't get a handle on what do I do with this grief. ‘What am I doing here?' It was awful, it was an awful, awful feeling and I'm telling you I literally stitched in that quilt all of the tears and the anguish and the grief that I felt by that loss. I understand when people say, you quilt your sorrows and you quilt when you have all these different emotions because that was a moment when I really understood what that meant. There were times that I was quilting because I couldn't stop. I didn't have the luxury of saying, ‘Oh I'm just going to try to process this grief and try to deal with this, and then I will pick up the quilt next week.' I had no more days so I had to just keep quilting through the pain, through the sorrow, so while I am very excited and joyful about the Obama quilt there is mixed emotions in that quilt as well because of the pain and the tears, literally tears that are on that quilt from the loss I suffered from my dear friend. [To honor her memory, I plan to stitch her name on the quilt.]

KM: Sauda, I would like to thank you for taking time out of your evening and sharing with me.

SZ: Thank you, it was an honor.

KM: We are going to conclude our interview at 7:17.


“Sauda Zahra,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 21, 2024,