Linda Schmidt




Linda Schmidt




Linda Schmidt


Karen Musgrave

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Susan Salser


Dublin, CA


Karen Musgrave


Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave and I am conducting an interview with Linda Schmidt for Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories. It was important to me that Linda be included in this project so we are conducting this interview by e-mail. We are beginning this interview on May 28, 2006. Thanks, Linda, for agreeing to this interview. Please tell me about the quilt that you selected for the interview.

Linda Schmidt (LS): A few years ago, my husband and I made a trip to Minnesota to visit family. While we were there, I noticed a small black-and-white photo of a little boy on the wall of my husband's parents' apartment. I had never seen it before, and was immediately drawn into it. It turned out that the photo was entitled "First Catch," and was of my husband's father, Bill Schmidt, on July 4, 1922, on the dock of Bald Eagle Lake in Minnesota, holding a string of fish. I was intrigued by the expression, the untied shoelace, the hole in the straw hat; all of the things that made the photo come to life. I asked Bill to send me a copy of the photo, which he did. I decided to make it into a quilt in secret, as a surprise for him, and began work. I worked on it for a bit, but when I got to the boat, I was stuck, since I didn't know what color it was. My husband called his Dad to ask what color the boat was (it was green), and also found out that the outfit was tan. This was not good, since I had just spent five days hand-reverse-appliquéing the outfit in gray. Oh, well, another five days later, I had the boy hand-reverse-appliquéd in tan. Not wanting to waste the first boy, he appears on the back with a huge imaginary fish, "The One That Got Away," and the front remains titled "First Catch." As I was working, we slowly realized that Bill was not well. There were emergency hospital visits, injuries that would not stop bleeding, trouble with diabetes, and a yet unrealized fear that something was terribly wrong, but nobody could tell us what it was. I used my most precious hand-dyed fabrics; time stolen from between work, teaching, and family to work on it; my favorite metallic threads; and meticulously turned every edge under and quilted it with golden threads. All around the dark green border, I quilted dragonflies. I thread-painted the fish. I made the hats out of Solvy and shining threads. All the while I was working, as the picture came to life, I was somehow keeping Bill's spirit alive in that quilt. Well, I finished the quilt and sent Bill a large glossy photo of it, meaning to take it to him when we went back to Minnesota on January 8th. Bill died on December 27th, and never got to hold it in his hands. I don't know that that really mattered, though, since he knew that someone loved him enough to make it for him. Sometimes that's all it takes – somebody who loves you enough to make you a quilt. I made a follow-up quilt to this one, a quilt of a nameless European town with a small figure fishing under a bridge in a small green boat, "Still Fishing Somewhere." On the back of that quilt is the empty green boat, with Bill's birth and death dates on it.

KM: This is a powerful story that you shared. Thank you. It made me cry. Where is this quilt now? Is it typical of your work?

LS: My husband takes it on a rotating basis to his office – he is the Associate Director of Human Relations at the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and I hang it whenever it is near his birthday here in my house. The oddest thing about it is that I put it in my Guild Show here in California, and a woman came up to me and said, 'How ever did you get a quilt of Bill Schmidt in this Show?' It turns out, she was a relative of my husband's that we didn't know about, and recognized him from when she was a child in Minnesota. The world is a wondrous and strange place, isn't it? Typical? Well, I wouldn't say that. I tend to make whatever I see or feel like making in the moment. I think of myself as an Impressionist, and follow the dictates of the "Whatever it Takes" school of quilting. That means that I will do whatever is necessary to get my thought of the moment across to the appreciator. That might mean a year-and-a-half of intensive work, or four days; it all depends on what the subject of my work demands. Sometimes I make a frivolous, spur-of-the-moment piece that I call "Slapdash Appliqué"; sometimes I make a meticulously hand-reverse-appliquéd and hand-quilted piece; sometimes I use Puff Paint and Fiber Etch to make a beach or a tree; and sometimes I spend several days painting and repainting to try to get just the exact replica of a photograph or a memory in the wind. I tend to the portrayal of beauty and light, instead of using it as my therapy against ugliness and pain. I like to keep in mind Mother Teresa's creed, when she said, 'We can do no great things, only small things with great love.' I think of that all the time I quilt. I'm not a great person; I'm not a great artist. I've pretty much given up my space on the Olympic diving team. I doubt I'll ever make the cover of Quilter's Newsletter [Magazine.], and I'm real sure I won't discover a cure for cancer or the secret to world peace. I'm doing the best I can with what I've got, just like everybody else. We're all in this together, and while we may not be covered in glory, quilters fill empty spaces with beauty and empty hands with comfort. That's our job; that's what we're here for. The only difference between me and a lot of quilters is that I think that if I'm not living on the edge, I'm taking up too much space.

KM: Actually, I think the first question I want you to answer, before you go into living on the edge, is when did you start making quilts?

LS: My mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother are or were all quilters. They made quilts 'as fast as they could so their children didn't freeze, and as pretty as they could so their hearts didn't break.' I was surrounded all my life by quilts and quilters. Great-grandma made quilts with bits of wool blankets, sewing them together with one-half-inch long stitches to keep her children warm in the house on the South Dakota prairie. Grandma made Sunbonnet Sues and scrap quilts, nine patches and pinwheels. She had eleven children, so that was a lot of quilts, all hand quilted by the neighboring women who would come from time to time to sit around the quilting frame and get those quilts quilted. My mother says one of her first memories is doing the buttonhole stitch around Sunbonnet Sue. Consequently, when my sisters (I have four sisters and two brothers) and I were bored one summer, my mother started us doing Pinwheels. I was eight years old at the time (my other two sisters were six and ten) I made those Pinwheels. My sisters and I together made about sixty blocks. Gradually, Mom showed us more patterns, and I made a Log Cabin pillow and started to make my own clothes. I've made all my own clothes since I was twelve. One winter after I was married, I was looking in the attic and found all of those blocks in an old trunk. I gathered them up, took them home, made about 100 more Pinwheels, and sewed them all together to make a quilt for Mom. We have it still.

KM: This is wonderful. Tell me more about 'living on the edge.' Have you always felt this way?

LS: Pretty much. I have made traditional quilts (bed size, even) over the years, but not since 1983. I made a Log Cabin, Rail Fence, Broken Star, Birds in Flight, Grandmother's Fan, Grandmother's Flower Garden, a white-on-white piece, and other traditional pieces, but I eventually realized I wasn't having any fun. I'm just not temperamentally suited to doing repetitive-block quilts. It only took ten or twelve of them before I figured it out. I have noticed, however, that when my life is in upheaval, I turn back to traditional quilting, because it gives me such a wonderful illusion of being in control of my environment. When it came to making my first quilt 'on my own' when I was twenty, it was a rather primitive attempt at making a quilt of Mad Ludwig's castle in Europe, which I had just seen. The next one was "Through My Window," which was a window frame around scenes from children's books that I combined into a complete scene. This reminds me of a story about my friend's husband. She had wanted a Wedding Ring quilt for a long time. She finally, finally got it done, and her husband said, 'But, dear, hasn't that already been done?' (Well, yes, but you still want to slap him upside the head, don't you? Some people just don't know about quilts.) My point is I'm glad other people are still making traditional quilts so I don't have to. I do occasionally use traditional patterns in the background or as borders of my pieces, such as in "Imagine Peace on Our Planet," which has a Trip Around the World quilt in the background, or Parisian Nine Patch, which has Nine Patches in the border, but traditional quilts are not my focus now and haven't been for quite awhile. I tend to use whatever method I believe best suits my subject, mood, and emotional commitment to portray what I need to show or say, and that changes every time I start a piece. Sometimes I use traditional methods, sometimes it's a mixture, and sometimes it definitely involves using a whole lot of non-traditional techniques and products. As cases in point, the second-to-last piece I made is a representation of the beach. We went to Washington for our sibling reunion, and while there, I picked up sand dollars, pebbles, and rocks from the beach. I came home; painted a piece of fabric with Expandaprint; dribbled on the pebbles, sand, and mica chips; stuck in the sand dollar; added the rocks; then drew in bird tracks and other marks in the Expandaprint. When dry, I heated it with a heat gun, which puffs it up; then painted it with fabric and Shiva paints; then added three sheers in layers to one corner as if the wave was coming in over the sand; then added Liquid Beadz for sea foam; and bound it in metallic crinkled silk. It looks like I brought a piece of the beach home, and I don't think anybody has made one like it before, which just tickles me. The last piece I just finished is a portrait of my mother, painted in Setacolor paints, mounted on a print background, with some of her writings photo printed in the background, then quilted in metallic thread. I'm also in the process of making a quilt of several miniature landscapes, and am using Puff Paint, Angelina fibers, fabric paints, fusible webbing, invisible machine appliqué, painted melted cellophane, cracked ice, paint sticks, etc., etc., etc., to portray the scenes. And the background (Good Lord willing and the creek don't rise) will be another painted beach scene onto which all of the others will be appliquéd. Each block is unique and each is a new challenge to me. This keeps me on my toes, learning and growing and creating. I also feel that if what you did yesterday still looks good to you tomorrow, then you haven't learned anything today. When I travel, I take two suitcases of quilts with me, and those quilts always change. The older ones are often relegated to boxes in the closet, because I've been there, done that, got a tee-shirt, and it's time to move on.

KM: This is great. Please share with me your creative process. Do you work every day? Do you plan things out or let them unfold, etc.?

LS: I work every day, if I can. I work thirty hours a week for the City of Dublin, California, so I have to work around that. Three days a week, I get up and go for a 3.5-mile walk (while reading a book) pretty early, do my e-mails, and check my Quilt University classes, then get started by 8:00 a.m. or so. One day I work all day at work, and one day I teach for the Amador Adult School. Weekends - I work as much as I can, in the time not taken up by family, Porsche Club, Quilt Guild, housework, gardening, traveling, and teaching. Unpacking and packing are my worst things - I'd probably do the talks for free if somebody would pack, unpack, and travel for me! Do I plan things out or let them unfold? That depends. I belong to the "Whatever it Takes School of Quilting," as I said. I always have a completed vision in my head, and will do whatever it takes to bring that vision into the world. Sometimes, I meticulously make templates, do foundation piecing, machine or hand appliqué, fabric painting, or whatever I need to do to recreate a scene precisely. Most often lately, I get an idea or a scene in my head (like with my "Elements in Fabric" series), and use my infamous 'Down and Dirty Design Principles' to create that vision. Sometimes I just let it happen, often when I'm trying out a new product or technique, as with the beach scene or a wave I just made the other day. I like to participate in challenges, which stimulate the creative side of my brain, and each one requires something different.

KM: Wow! You are one busy woman. Tell me how you came to teaching with Quilt University. If you would also give some background on Quilt University for the people that read this interview and don't know what QU is, that would also be helpful.

LS: is a website where you can access many, many classes (over 120) on a rotating basis, with nationally and/or internationally known teachers. People can access it from any Internet connection, pay for the class by check, charge, or Paypal, and be given a password to access whichever class they're interested in. On the Thursday before the class opens, passwords are sent out. On Saturday, the class comes up and stays up. The next Saturday, the next lesson in that class comes up, etc. Then, they all stay up for three more weeks. During that time, a student can access, download, and print whichever lessons are up; they can come to the Discussion Forum and ask the teacher any question they want, or chat with the other students; and they can send in pictures of their work as they progress, which will be put in that class's Gallery. They also have a once-a-year Virtual Quilt Fair, and an exhibition last year that traveled to the Houston International Quilt Show. I found out about Quilt University through the online QuiltArt group. I joined the group once I started reading the Quilting Arts magazine. These are MY PEOPLE! In the online chats, every once in awhile, somebody would actually ask a question I could actually answer, so I did. At that point in time, somebody was inquiring about a different sort of Sampler quilt, so I replied with a bare outline of my "Landscape Sampler" quilt, which I created for my Seniors at the Dublin Senior Center. In making that quilt, you make a comprehensive "Landscape Sampler" (sort of a "Through My Window" thing) quilt, using many, many techniques. I mentioned this to the woman who had asked the question, and she (it turned out to be Carol Miller) thought it would work out well for her new website, The rest is history. Quilt University is especially great for the person who can't get easy access to world-level quilters, who can't physically haul all their stuff to a class, or who hasn't the time to take a class in person. Myself, I'd rather take a class in person, but if that option isn't available to you, if you don't have the cash or the time or the opportunity to take these classes, is for you. You can even take a free sample class to try it out.

KM: How do you deal with the challenges of not being in the same room with your students?

LS: When I write the classes, I can't write the instructions on the first go-around. I usually make the project first, without stopping to write instructions, to let the creative process happen, then go back and do it again step by step, taking photos and writing the instructions as I go along the second time. If there is any mistake to be made, I'm pretty sure I've already made it, and tell them about those mistakes, too, so they can avoid them. I incorporate many, many pictures and a clear, step-by-step set of instructions. The QuiltU editor also edits everything and has me clarify anything that is puzzling to her, and since she's a traditional quilter, she has a LOT of questions! There is also a Discussion Forum where the students can ask any question they need to, and I check the message board two or three times a day, so they can get the answer to their questions in a timely fashion. I have also taught these techniques in person long enough so that I know what questions will come up and how to explain them in such a way that most students can understand. If a question comes up about something that is already clearly in the instructions, I just write the whole thing again in the Discussion Forum in different words, hoping that it will "click," or I'll have the Dean post more pictures to make it clearer. It's also helpful that I speak French as well as some Italian and Spanish, so if they're foreign students, I do have some hope of reaching them in another language. Each time the class is run, I edit the class, making sure that anything that wasn't absolutely clear (i.e., there were questions posted about something in the class) is made absolutely clear. I think writing these classes has made me a much better teacher, actually, since writing directions has almost become an art form for me. I challenge myself to write the class so that NOBODY can get confused! The fun parts about QuiltU are: 1) you don't have to drag all your STUFF somewhere to teach or take the class; 2) people can take as long as they want to finish the class; 3) they're cheap, so they're accessible to almost anyone; 4) they're online, so they're accessible to almost everyone; 5) they're international, so I have quilting students all around the world; 6) I get to edit the information each time, so as I learn new things I can update the class; 6) when I travel, I often run into people who have taken the class, and they'll usually bring their projects to share with me and the class I'm teaching; 7) my students are entering and winning competitions with derivative work and class projects; 8) I often get invited to teach in those guilds who have members who have taken the class; 9) whenever I get the urge to write a book, I just write another class; 10) it's like having a whole bunch of quilting buddies out there who will talk to me at any time of the day and night. (When it's around the holidays and all the classes shut down, I feel like I've just lost all my friends!)

KM: I know you were The Professional Quilter magazine's Teacher of the Year in 2003. Please share with me this experience and how it has impacted on your life.

LS: To start with, it was all Jan Krentz's fault. I didn't even know The Professional Quilter magazine existed. I became friends with Jan because she was a Program Chairperson at three different guilds, and asked me to do a program at each of those three guilds. She had been a recipient of the award, and I found out that at each of her classes, she passed out the entry forms for this competition. I thought that was kind of odd (people in Minnesota are shy, and NEVER blow their own horns), but she said that if nobody knew about it, they couldn't nominate their favorite teacher. So, I mentioned it at one of my workshops, and someone was kind enough to nominate me. In her nomination form, Kata said that when I taught, it was as if I had 'put the knowledge in her hand' so she could use it. The fact that she had said that about my teaching really struck me; the fact is, that's what I try to do when I teach. I try to empower people to take what I give them, charge it with the breath of their own spirit, and use it in their own way. On my daughter's wall while she was growing up, there was a poster showing a prima ballerina showing a little girl in a tutu how to dance, and the caption said, 'A candle loses nothing by sharing its flame.' I took that to heart, as well as Mother Teresa's message, that, 'We can do no great things, only small things with great love.' To me, that's what quilting is all about, sharing the flame and making small things with great love, and I think about these things every time I teach. They didn't send a trophy or anything, just an e-mail, at first. I thought that such a thing should at LEAST deserve a trophy, and it just so happened there was a street fair that weekend in my town, and there was a man doing plaster casts of people's hands. I made a cast of my cupped hand, then took it home and painted it with Shiva Paintstiks (purple iridescent) and glued iridescent glitter in the palm, as if I had poured fairy dust in somebody's hand. I also made a Journal Quilt of that experience, a progressive series of a ballerina doing a tour jetté (believe it or not, I used to do ballet in college), with the first figure plain, the second half-leaping figure in sheer fabrics, and the figure in full jetté with flowers breaking out of the sheer figure, with the message, 'If I could step out of my body, I would burst into blossom.' (Eventually, they did send a certificate, but I prefer my hand and my little quilt.) The fact that someone nominated me was a very big kick; that I won was a total surprise. I NEVER expect to win. That phone call was right up there with the day I picked a package off the front step to learn I had won Best Pictorial at AVQ [Amador Valley Quilters.] in 2000, and the phone call from Road to California saying that I'd won Best in Show. I never expect to win, and I'm hardly ever disappointed. I still think it was a fluke, and also think it helps that I know how to write and how to edit. That has nothing to do with quilting, and a lot about getting to the essence. How has it affected my life? At first, I didn't think it had affected it at all. Then, I got a letter from the Heritage Scissors people, and they were offering me free scissors. Cool! Then I got a letter from the Martelli people, offering me free cutters and systems and such. Cool! (Remember, I'm from Minnesota, where live the most notorious of cheapskates). Other than that, it hasn't had a material, direct, effect that I know of. I think it has had an oblique effect, rather than a direct one. It makes me a better teacher, just to live up to the award. It makes me think about giving my best to my students, online and in person. It gives me patience, to think through my lessons; to make readable, usable, hand-outs; to be the best teacher I can be. It makes me think of being in the student's place, and reminds me to be a student now and then to remember how it feels. Teaching is a lot of work. It's sort of like keeping twenty ping pong balls in the air at the same time, while following a cohesive plan and walking a tightrope at the same time. After a talk, I'm hyped; after a workshop, I'm drained. Being a teacher is not easy, but it really does feel good to have somebody say, 'Can't you just come home with me and live in my studio?'

KM: You mentioned your daughter. How has your quilting impacted your family?

LS: I have three children: Michael (28), Justin (25), and Alana (23), and a husband (Patrick). I have been making quilts since before the children were born, so they don't know anything about a life without quilting, and my husband has always been very supportive. I made almost all of the children's clothes when they were little – corduroy overalls (embroidered, of course) and stretchy shirts for the boys; dresses, LOTS of dresses, for Alana that were all embroidered, smocked, and appliquéd, and (later) fairy costumes and silky dresses; shirts, sport coats, a trench coat, and even a silk suit for my husband. I made quilts for their beds, and then decided that two quilts on every bed was just ENOUGH and started making more serious wall hangings when we moved to California. I believe it has affected them quite positively. Even as small children, the first thing they did when a new friend came over was to show them the quilts on the wall, and they still do the same thing today. My son, Michael, had to write an essay on his mom for school, and the three things he mentioned were, 'My Mom can type really fast, she's like a walking dictionary, and she can make quilts.' I helped each child's classroom make a class quilt when they were in grammar school, made banners for every soccer team they played in, and did talks and trunk shows for the Fashion Design class when they were in high school. If they had a costume to make – no problem; if they needed an art project – no problem. I think they appreciated that. I went to Asilomar to the Empty Spools Seminar when Alana was about eight years old. Boy, was she MAD! How could her OWN MOTHER leave her with her two brothers and her father for FIVE WHOLE DAYS? Justin wasn't happy, either. He got on the phone and said, 'Mom, Dad just doesn't understand about DINNER!' Well, the next time I went to Asilomar, I took Charlotte Warr Andersen's class and made a portrait of my daughter, set against a background of Crater Lake; then made quilts for each of my sons, with them as the main subject. That made it all okay, because then they knew that I didn't forget them when I went away. Now, they're to a point where they truly value what I do, give critiques, and covet my quilts. I had to make a quilt of Yosemite Falls for Michael's wedding present (with ten days' notice). Justin asked me to make one for his friend's new church in Las Vegas (Jesus as the Judge with seven silver stars in his hand, seven gold lamp stands around his feet, flames shooting from his eyes, and the Sword of Truth from his mouth), and another one of Jesus washing the Disciples' feet for his room while he was at school in Oxford. Alana recently made off with a Cascade quilt that won Honorable Mention for the World category in the World Quilt and Textile Show for her new apartment. And my husband regularly takes my pieces to work on a rotating basis. I'm currently making one for him with vignettes of his precious blue Porsche Carerra 911 in front of various scenes in the Bay Area (Golden Gate Bridge, Palace of Fine Arts, Blackhawk Museum, etc., etc.). That one has to be done to show in the Porsche Parade this August. They're all quite proud of the fact that I can make money with my art, and each of them is also an artist in his or her own way – Alana sculpts, is a Production Technician for a media firm, and has a BA with a double major from USF in Art and Media Studies. Michael draws and paints and teaches his art to children. Justin dances, does improvisational theatre, and plays a mean guitar. I also sing, and play the guitar, flute, and piano, and think that having the arts as part of daily life can do a person nothing but good. Oh, I forgot to mention that my family has been coming along on some of my quilting gigs. I was invited to teach (in French) in Switzerland for three days at a four-star hotel in the Alps, which turned into an extended vacation for my husband and Justin. They all got to come along when I took a five-day class at Art Quilt Tahoe. My husband thoroughly enjoys it when I teach at Asilomar and he gets a five-day vacation, and he has been coming along on my more interesting trips – to Connecticut, Santa Barbara, and San Diego lately. Can't imagine why he didn't want to come to Yuba City or Redding!

KM: I couldn't agree more with you! You mentioned taking a class with Charlotte Warr Andersen. Have you taken many classes? And who would you say has influenced your work?

LS: I have taken many, many, many classes, from half-day to three- and five-day classes, from almost every well-known quilting teacher there is over the course of the last twenty-three years. I won't bore you with listing them here, but the main influences were from: Ruth McDowell (compulsive piecing); Katie Pasquini Masopust (fractured invisible appliqué); Libby Lehman (threadplay and machine quilting); Joen Wolfrom (color and design theory); Joan Colvin (freeform appliqué, piecing, and faces); Mickey Lawler (fabric painting); Jan Beany (manipulating odd materials and using stitchery); and Lura Schwarz Smith (faces and drawing skills).

KM: We've talked about your work, your process, your family and such. Now I'd like to talk about the aesthetics, craftsmanship, and design aspects of quilts in general. What makes a quilt artistically powerful? Whose works are you drawn to and why?

LS: Sheesh! That's a big question! Craftsmanship: I demand that my quilts lie flat and hang straight. They are also quilted to death, usually every one-eighth to one-half inch or so, never less than lines an inch apart. They can't have noticeable craftsmanship problems, including a very tight binding, good corners, no loose ends, no obvious mistakes, and if it's a quilt that has to have sharp corners and points, they're sharp. I keep trying to improve my machine quilting, but I often get too impatient to really concentrate on that. I like to tell the story about the Dancing Bear. A Russian folktale has it that the most remarkable thing about a dancing bear is not how well it dances, but that it dances at all. With the contrariness of fabric and the difficulties I get myself into using intricate patterns, unusual materials, complex stitching and such, I sometimes feel like I'm trying to teach the bear to dance the Tango, but I still demand that it hang flat and straight. Aesthetics. I believe that we're put here on this Earth to fill empty hands with comfort and empty spaces with beauty, and there just isn't a good enough reason for me to make an ugly quilt. A disturbing quilt, yes; an ugly quilt, no. My "Olympic Tribute" quilt is a disturbing quilt, portraying the members of the Olympic team holding the torn flag that flew on top of the World Trade towers in the Olympic Ice Arena, with firemen and policemen saluting. It's disturbing, but still beautiful. I make whatever moves me at the time, whether it be a cascading waterfall a giant crazy patch hand, a fairy in a tree, a mythical castle, a reflection, a stream in the woods; an exercise in earth, wind, and fire; or a piece that captures the memory of a special moment. Whatever I make, I pour myself into it, and try to make it the very best I've ever done. I always like my current piece the best, until the next one comes along. I'm very much a process person – interested in the creating, the doing, the finishing, and tend to rapidly lose interest once it's done. I have several quilts I used to think were quite wonderful, and they don't even get out of the closet to come on trips with me anymore. What makes a quilt artistically powerful? Well, I think it has to draw the viewer into it, make the viewer see life from a different point of view. I think of a line from one of my favorite science fiction authors, James H. Schmitz. He was talking about 'relling a vatch,' but I think it applies to art, as well. Art is something like 'hearing dark green, catching a glimpse of a musky scent, or seeing the tinkle of golden bells.' Art is something that is more than the sum of its parts; that stretches you like a rubber band so you can never go back to the way you were before; that MOVES you from where you are to somewhere else. You can't define it or capture it, and it's folly to try; you just know it when you see it. Whose works am I drawn to and why? When I was in college, I took a year-long class entitled the Humanities Year. I spent six months studying art and art history; going to operas, plays and concerts; studying advanced French; memorizing the artworks of 200 artists; identifying the works of fifty composers; viewing classical movies; and reading four huge books of classical literature. Then, in spring, we went to Europe for two-and-a-half months and saw everything we had been studying – the churches, monuments, statues, plays, operas, museums, concerts, markets, food, paintings, music, culture, and language of England, Germany, France, and Italy. We immersed ourselves in Art, with a capital "A." Because of that experience, I have an eclectic appreciation of art. I thoroughly appreciate everything from architecture to opera, painting and sculpture to performance art, beautiful scenery to sidewalk paintings. I'm especially moved by the paintings of John Turner and the Impressionists; the magnificence of Der Valkyrie; the nostalgia of Hair; the soaring grace of Chagall's etched angels in the windows overlooking the destroyed Salisbury Cathedral; Rodin's great bronze doors and magnificent statues; the Hand of God in the Sistine Chapel; the music of the canals in Venice; ballet dancers doing Swan Lake in Covent Garden; Jean-Pierre Rimpal playing his magic flute at the Paris Opera; Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in Rome; the fairy-like quality of Mad Ludwig's castle in Neuschwanstein; magnificent Coquilles Saint Jacques à la Parisienne and the sketch artists in Mont Martre; the beauty and magic of Monet's garden; and the taste of a Belgian waffle while climbing up Mont-Saint-Michel to watch the tide race. Let's face it, I'm easy. I appreciate art in all of its forms. Art is everywhere. You just have to look for it, and appreciate it when you find it.

KM: You give such wonderful answers. What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers?

LS: I think the biggest challenge is changing the image of a quilter from a little old lady in a rocking chair sewing squares together to that of intelligent, creative people making art. Whenever I mention I'm a quilter, I get the old, 'My grandma used to make these Sunbonnet Sue . . .' attitude. Of course, the old quilts are wonderful, the traditional patterns are important, but it is so much more today. I see it as a challenge to raise the consciousness of people to understand that quilting can be an unlimited path of creativity, stimulating to the mind and heart, an endless path to fulfillment. We need to get younger people involved, not just in making traditional quilts, but seeing quilting as an art form.

KM: This has been wonderful. I hate it to end. However, I don't want to take up much more of your time. Is there anything else you would like to add?

LS: Just one thing. If I have any parting word to say to anybody, it would be, 'FINISH!' Many people remark about the many, many quilts and ensembles I show when I do my talks. One woman said, 'I get it! You're really 100 years old, but you're IN DISGUISE!' Another woman said, 'I GET it! You're FROM ANOTHER PLANET!' Sorry, folks, not true. I just finish everything I start, and then just show you the good stuff. The not-so-good stuff sits in a closet or gets palmed off on my friends and relatives so it doesn't bother me any more. It doesn't do any good for those pieces from your last workshop to sit on the shelf in a paper bag. No one's hands are filled with that quilt you haven't quilted yet. No empty space is made beautiful with that quilt you have dancing around in your head. You have to bite the bullet, buy the fabric, do the work, suffer through the creative process, and make your visions into reality. If the reality is not quite what you envisioned, give it to your guild's Community Quilts group to make into a quilt for a small child or an empty wall. If you cannot do even that, put all the pieces in a box up on the shelf in your hall closet with a beautiful ribbon and a tag that says, 'To my son's future wife,' and get it out of your guilt zone and into somebody else's hands. Life is too short to worry about broken dreams or outdated projects. You have to feel free to create what your life is telling you to make NOW, and no matter how beautiful it is, how exquisite the process is, you still have to finish it, move on, move up, and get going. Cut your fabric up. Make it into works of art, and send it out into the world to do whatever magic, bring whatever comfort and beauty it can. In the famous words of Mary Ellen Hopkins, 'If you don't cut your fabric up and make quilts, your descendents will make Halloween costumes out of it.' And that's the truth.

KM: Linda, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview. You have been delightful and I'll miss getting e-mails from you. My interview with Linda Schmidt ended on June 7, 2006. Thanks again. I do hope we get to meet in person soon.



“Linda Schmidt,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 16, 2024,