Joyce Paterson




Joyce Paterson




Joyce Paterson


Karen Musgrave

Interview Date



Kim Greene


Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave and I am doing a Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories interview Joyce Paterson. It is March 9, 2007 at 3:52 in the afternoon and I'm in Ukiah, California. Joyce, thank you for letting me interview you.

Joyce Paterson (JP): It is a pleasure to be here.

KM: Tell me about the quilt you selected for the interview.

JP: This quilt is called "An Antique Start of Something New," the center portion of each of the five squares are antique silk Log Cabin pieces and I have surrounded them with old silk tie fabric and then there is some red satin. The background is black silk and the kind of green/gold areas are also silk, and it's been my first attempt to trapunto quilting in that center of the background design piece. I used an old art deco pattern which I took out of a book an art deco design that I used for the pattern. One of the fun parts of that quilt is that the silk pieces that I used in the center of the Log Cabin ones, Ann Horton and I went to Paducah, Kentucky for their quilt show, they had the big Paducah show and I bought these silk squares and I held on to them for probably three years and just couldn't figure out what to do with them and eventually played around with it and played around with it until I kind of put it together. So I like that quilt.

KM: When did you make it?

JP: Just about, when was it? 2006. So I just finished it not that long ago. It has gone to one show where it won something. I can't remember what it won now. Anyway I like that, I like that quilt.

KM: Is it typical of your work?

JP: I think there is a certain aspect to my quilts that it represents. As you can see from looking around my house I'm a fairly orderly person and I like things with a fairly clean look, I'm pretty visual and I don't like things to cluttered. So I would say that is fairly typical, orderly and somewhat uncluttered.

KM: Where do you keep this quilt?

JP: It is in the middle of my great room in my house, as you are going to walk out the door it is on the left you can see it and it is right in the area where I cook, so it is surrounded by that and plants and lots of other quilts that are in my house.

KM: These are a lot of nice quilts.

JP: Thank you. My husband says that one of these days we are going to have put up something other than a quilt in the house. [laughs.]

KM: Tell me about your interest in quilting.

JP: Vast. I have been thinking about this. I just started doing a group process. I'm a Personal Coach as well as some Professional Organizing and I'm also a Registered Nurse and I work for the local hospital. I am taking a class that is being lead by a woman that is a Coach and the class is called, "Laws of Attraction," which is a very interesting class, the pretext behind it is kind of what we think about bringing order into our lives, being aware of what your thoughts are about and what you are focusing on, and focusing on what you want as opposed to what you don't want. I have just gone to one of the groups and she gave us a little homework assignment, and it was to write down everyday for a period of time what you are grateful in your life. When I have been doing that over the last couple of days, it has been amazing how often quilting and particularly the relationships that have come along with quilting in this community for me have come up on that list of what I'm grateful for. I forgot the original question you asked me.

KM: About your interest.

JP: We had a group quilt meeting today. It is a group of eleven really dynamic women. Ann Horton and I started the group, we are not exactly sure when, we think it was about in 1991. So the group has been going quite a long time and it has been really relatively stable in terms of the membership over the last probably seven years. I think that all of us in the group would acknowledge that secondary to the group our quilting skills have grown immensely. We meet regularly and we really push each other, we ccritique each other, there is a lot of different quilting styles within the group so; it helps you stretch in a different direction. I think more importantly, you saw that little quilt we have been working on, is who we are as people and how the group has come together as a support group We know each other pretty well and pretty intimately at this point time and the quilts were the avenue to move into those relationships with these wonderful women. That is kind of a big piece of quilting for me.

KM: When did you start making quilts?

JP: Let's see, in 1988 I was part of the cast of our show called, "Quilters," which a lot of people have seen. I have actually done the show twice here in Ukiah and it's a musical for people who aren't familiar. If you are interested in quilting you have to see it some time in your life. It is a story of women's lives in Pioneer times and the cast is made up of seven women and you play a bunch of different roles, singing roles as well. There are sixteen short vignettes that are focused around the names of quilt patterns, like Rocky Road to Kansas, Country Crossroads and things like that. In 1988 when I did the show here, Ann Horton was one of the people who organized the 4'X4'quilts to be used in the show and they had people in the community make the quilts. I thought it would be a really good way to get more of the sense since quilting was included a lot in the show, so I said I would make one of the little quilts, but I wasn't sure how to quilt. I probably made one quilt before back in the era when you couldn't get cotton fabric; there was polyester and that kind of stuff. So anyway Ann said she would help me learn how to do it and the quilt they gave me to do was Double Wedding Ring. [laughs.] Not knowing that that was a really hard quilt to do. I just said okay, fine. Ann helped me with learning how to do that quilt and in fact they auctioned the quilts off at the end of the show to raise money and a friend of mine was the high bidder on the quilt and she gave it back to me, so I still have it which was very cool.

KM: That is very nice.

JP: Then we did the show again in 1992, Ann and I organized the quilts and we did have other people do them, so that was kind of my start in quilting.

KM: Is quiltmaking in your background?

JP: No not specifically, but I know about sewing. We are actually immigrants. My parents are both British, my dad is from Scotland and my mother is from Isle of Wight which is a small island off the coast of, not to far from London and they both had careers involving sewing. My dad was an upholster, he apprenticed when he was a young boy and did upholstery for a lot of the years of his life. He was in the British Army who were involved in the war way early on and he was gone for almost seven years, which I can't even image. He was attached, a group of trucks and he kept the seats upholstered. He was in Egypt where it was really hot so it was really hard on all the leather. He taught me how to make the window seats that you see here; he helped me a number of years ago. He just passed away, he was ninety-two and he just died on January 1 of this year. My mother also worked as an alterer for JC Penney's. She did alterations there when we lived in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I learned how to sew and having her there and being able to help, you know when you get stuck when you first learn to sew and having her there to say okay so this is how you deal with this, I think it kept me going. I did a lot of sewing of clothes and things, we didn't have a lot of money when I was a girl so I give her a lot of credit. But it wasn't until much later in my life that I actually started quilting. Probably from '88 to now.

KM: How did you end up in California?

JP: I have a sister who is ten years older than I am, and when I was eight and she was eighteen she moved to California with a friend of hers, wanted to get out of Michigan and a small town. We actually lived in Portage, Michigan which is right outside of Kalamazoo and we came out to visit and my parents ended up moving to the Los Angeles area in the San Fernando Valley That is where I met my husband who is my high school sweetheart. We have been married twenty, I think it is twenty-eight years this July and we were together ten years beyond that, so a long time.

KM: How did you end up in the Ukiah area?

JP: My husband's brother has property out about twenty-five minutes up a dirt road outside of Willits, which is another twenty miles north of us. We first moved from the Los Angeles area to the Fresno area. My husband was teaching at the university there and I worked as a nurse, but I said to my husband when we moved there, you realize this is only temporary, the weather there is just really challenging. Very, very hot in the summer and it gets cold and very foggy in the winter. At the point in time when we were ready to move my background in nursing was in labor and delivery and they were looking for a nurse at the hospital in Willits. They were starting a birthing center, so I was the nurse that kind of started the birthing center at the hospital. We moved to Willits first and lived there for a few years, and then I got a job as the Executive Director for the American Cancer Society for this county area. We moved to the Ukiah area and we have been here twenty plus years. We have been in this house for twenty years. I love it and wouldn't want to move. Steven has traveled for all the time we have lived here as a Management Consultant and there are many times he has cursed living two and a half hours from the closest airport, so he has been a trooper. It is interesting, I mean we have talked about moving out of the area at times, but one of the main things that really keeps me here is the quilt group. I love the environment, it is a beautiful environment, but it is relationships that are the most important. I also sing with a small group, there is actually six of us; Marilyn who is in the quilt group is in the group is working on a book with her husband, trying to get that together so she took a leave of absence from the singing group.

KM: What are you favorite techniques in quilting?

JP: I like to, um, I love color, so I really like to play with different color in fabrics and it is so tempting [interference in background.]. Let's see, so I love color and I actually enjoy needle turn hand appliqué stuff and um, I have tried to like hand quilting but I can't seem to find my way there [laughs.] so, um, I do a lot of machine quilting. That has been better. But I like to do the small machine quilting.

KM: [inaudible due to noise in background.]

JP: I do but after I finish this one. The dance quilt that I did was also all in silks and brocades and it really makes it has such a nice sheen and it has a nice hand and it is really nice to work with and it can be a real challenge because it can slip and do all kinds of.

KM: And fray.

JP: And fray terribly. I said after I did the Dance Quilt that was all in silks that I wasn't going to do silk anymore and then I ended up with silk on this one. I hope I keep my vow this time. I will never work with old silk again. It is just so frail, I had to replace quite a few of the pieces of silk on the quilt because it just disintegrated; it just went away, so it is lovely and a challenge.

KM: Has advancements in technology changed your work at all?

JP: I think so, I just bought a new Viking designer sewing machine and talk about the little things that make you happy. It has a needle threader on the machine, which as I'm getting a little older including the eyes, it just makes it so nice and it has a thing where you don't have to lower the pressure foot, you just start sewing. It has a little thing that you push the button and it cuts the thread and pulls it to the back for you. That makes life so simple. So I think that and the ease with which you can do machine quilting makes all the different. This is a fairly new machine for me and I'm just learning to use some of the different attachments and how easily it adjusts for the different things. I remember when my dad helped me make these window seats, I introduced him to a rotary cutter and he was like, 'oh my gosh that would have saved me so much time over the years.' So, the wonderful threads that we have to play with now and there is a great yard shop in town that carries all of these wonderful yarns that have kind of migrated into all of our quilts. For Christmas this year for my family I completed a photo transfer quilt for most of the family members. I had just completed the last one when I got called that my dad was really ill and I took all the quilts and went down to Southern California where they live. Probably my favorite, was the one that I did for my parents. So it was really nice that my mom has this now since he has passed on. My mom is still living. She will be ninety-four in April. So I have very good genes. [laughs.]

KM: You have very good genes.

JP: Photo transfer is something again that is relatively new and to be able to have a lot of old family photographs that my brother-in-law had scanned into the computer and then to be able to take them, change the colors and to play with them is wonderful. I've got a quilt that I'm going to do of my Dad, once I kind of get a little bit past his death. I've got a lot of old pictures of him when he was younger and a lot when he was older. I got one fabulous picture of him I want to use in a collage quilt. We used to have a hot tub in my backyard and I don't know when this picture was taken, I guess my husband must have taken it, but here is my probably eighty-five year old Dad, obviously nothing on, jumping up joyfully out of this hot tub with his arms stretched out wide. The cat is sitting on the edge of the hot tub in just the perfect strategic location. [laughs.] So that is going to be the center piece. It is going to be a great quilt. You know you talked about techniques earlier, the other technique that I have been having fun playing with, using photo transfer is the kind of collage quilt ala Leslie Riley. I really like her work and Baryl Taylor has a lot of interesting things as well, I appreciate them kind of forging ahead and sending us in a different direction to play. It is a real kind of relief for me from the more precise kind of structured kind of quilting that I often do, so I'm really liking that loose aspect of that.

KM: Do you use your computer for any kind of design work or anything like that?

JP: You know I just got the new EQ6. I think it is a great program but I would rather quilt than play on the computer, so I think I will be trying to figure out exactly how to use the program for my advantage, but so far other than photo transfer I haven't really used a lot.

KM: What do you think makes a great quilt?

JP: Heart. The aspect of Ann and I were talking yesterday about the challenge with a group like ours and quilting is if you want to do competitive quilts, most of the time you are looking to do something original and it is really stepping out there in terms of taking a risk. There are so many wonderful quilt patterns, like the one I made over there it is a Karen Stone pattern and you can see how so many people want to do the pattern ones. I completely forgot what you asked me again.

KM: Great quilts.

JP: Even the ones that aren't original quilts still have heart for me, and the great quilts, it's the color. That is the first thing that strikes me about a quilt, the color and then the pattern comes after that. We had a discussion at the group the other day about how some people don't like to see the little blurb that often goes along with art quilts, because they want to make their own mind up what it is, but for me I'm actually more interested in what was the person's thought process, what were they conceptualizing and how did that get interpreted for them into what they did with the quilt.

KM: How many hours a week do you quilt?

JP: If I'm not at work and I'm home during the day, it is probably close to twenty maybe. It depends on if I'm really involved in a quilt, I can really spend lots of hours and um, but that is an outside number for me, twenty hours if I'm really involved in something.

KM: Are there any aspects of quilting that you do not enjoy?

JP: Yeah the ripping out, the unsewing as they call it that I'm doing on a quilt right now.

KM: Why are you unsewing?

JP: Because I'm struggling with the quilting. I really would like to enter this quilt in competition and I have been struggling with the quilting of the background and I am not satisfied with the way it is looking and so I'm doing my least favorite part. [laughs.]

KM: I definitely agree with that. You also said that you don't like hand quilting so much.

JP: I think, it is funny because I'm very patient most of the time, and I like to hand appliqué but not hand quilt, probably it is that I haven't done much of it, so I don't feel like I'm very good at it. It is one of those things where I think, like anything, the more you practice at it the better you get so if I had the incentive to really push in that way I probably could get it and like it. I like to have. It is really nice to have a little hand piece to take with you when you are traveling

KM: Is that appliqué?

JP: I do like that. This quilt that I am planning I showing you afterwards is appliqué. We have some friends in Australia and we went there last summer, last May actually and I made the whole center portion of the quilt while I was there and then came home and added to it. It was nice to kind of thing to look at quilts and remember, 'oh I did that when I was there,' or 'I did that when I was here.'

KM: That is very true. Well, describe your studio.

JP: We live in a small town and I live fortunately on a hillside and my studio is in the back corner of the house. When I look out any of the windows and I have them along basically two walls, I look out into a garden, which is really nice. I am fortunate to have a space that is dedicated just to quilting. I know a lot of people don't have that and I have been there where you have to put things away and take them out. I know having a studio of your own it is just so much more conducive to going in when you have a half hour. A couple of years ago we built in some closet space in the-- [answers the telephone.]

KM: We were talking about your studio when the phone rang.

JP: So we have the built in open shelving. I used to have my all my fabric in plastic boxes and I would take them down and go through them and now everything is on an open shelf. I bought an actual quilting table where the sewing machine sits down in and I have a big surface table that is at working height which is really wonderful. I've got lots of music back there and I listen to books on tape a lot while I'm quilting.

KM: You do that when you are actually designing?

JP: No I can only do it when I'm quilting or piecing. In fact I was trying to do something yesterday and start listening to a book and I had to turn it off. I am a big fan of Diana Gabaldon. I don't know if you know her work, I think she has written six books now and I actually considered calling one of my quilts something about Quilting with Clare and Jamie, because I spend so much time listening to the book on tape while I was quilting. [laughs.]

KM: That is good. What does your family think about your quilting?

JP: My husband knows how important quilting and the group is to me. I shouldn't say this but he kiddingly said he wouldn't be surprised if he came home one day and I told him I was leaving him for Ann.

KM: [laughs.] That is cute.

JP: [laughs.] But he is very, very supportive of my quilting. I think I used to feel like a lot of quilters that kind of started out feeling like they really aren't artists. I kind of finally gotten past that and I realize that I'm really an artist and he is very, very supportive of that. The rest of my family likes to see pictures and likes to see my quilts like to come and see my quilting friends when they come to visit.

KM: Do you buy quilts?

JP: Generally speaking no, I have one old antique quilt and that is pretty much it. I don't tend to buy them.

KM: Do you sleep under a quilt?

JP: I do. We have a couple of guest bedrooms and I have quilts that I made on all of the beds. I know a lot of people who do art quilts often don't make bed quilts. I have to say that I did send the bed quilt that I have on my bed currently off to be quilted. I just decided after the last king size bed quilt that I quilted on my home machine that I was spending too much money on massage. [laughs.]. I did send it to April Sprool and she did a beautiful job on it. I have decided that I'm not going to quilt a king size quilt on my home machine again, although I have one that is ready to be quilted that I'm trying a technique after piecing the top and put it all together and then cut the batting into thirds and so I'm quilting one third of the quilt at a time.

KM: I like that a lot.

JP: I haven't gotten very far. It has kind of been put to the side, but um, I would like to finish that quilt. That is the only way I would do it on a machine.

KM: What do you think about longarm quilting and the move towards longarm quilting?

JP: We talked about this a lot, because we have gone to a lot of big shows. I think it is great. You can do some really interesting things. I think it is a whole other way of quilting. It takes as much skill to learn to do as any other form of quilting does. The only thing I would like to see that is that I would like to have them have a separate category for it at quilt shows for competition. Because you are not going to get the same look on a home sewing machine.

KM: So longarm has an advantage?

JP: No, um, it certainly is programmed in kind of pattern that they use often. Although I know the one that April did it was free hand. Longarm quilting is a great skill, I just think it should have a different category for it. I don't know if it was Houston or Paducah where they are putting in a new categories for painting and embellishments and things like that. I think it is all great, but let's judge them in the right categories.

KM: I agree with you. What do you think about the importance of quilts in the world?

JP: I think they are a very accessible form of art for people. It is always so interesting because the first thing that people want to do when they see a quilt is touch it. It is such a tactical experience and I think that there is just something that most people can, many people in the United States can relate to Many people will say that I have my grandmother's quilt or my aunt made me a quilt, so they have already a relationship to quilts that they might not have to other forms of art. It is a little more comfortable I guess. And certainly the world is getting smaller thanks to quilters, because there are quilters all over. Japanese quilts that are here, they are just wonderful quilts and the Australians and I mean just everywhere.

KM: It is a great connection.

JP: Oh absolutely. It is kind of going for a walk when you have a dog with you, like this beautiful Poodle that I have. People just open up to you when you have a dog, as they do when you have a quilt.

KM: What advice would you offer someone starting out making art quilts?

JP: Ann and I have talked about this. You know we have kind of helped to move our group forward. We are a great team we have and have some complimentary skills and some different skills, and we are talking about whether leading is something that we can teach people to do. I think there are certain aspects of it that can be learned. I think the most important thing that anyone wants to do any form of quilting is to get support. There are many ways to do that. Whether the group is a big guild or in finding a smaller group that is interested in doing the same thing you are doing, I think that will move you in the direction. There are lots and lots of books out there, as well as lots of wonderful magazines and just start playing. I would like to do more with some of the paints and dyes and that kind of stuff. I think art quilting in a lot of ways is a less technique driven if you will and I think you can feel competent doing it, at least getting started with it without feeling like it has to be perfect. More forgiving.

KM: Does a quilt have, are you leaders, are you and Ann the leaders of the group?

JP: Yeah, I don't know that we have ever been elected per say, [laughs.] but yeah definitely and I know if you ask anybody in the group they would probably pretty much acknowledge that. We have done many different, um, group projects now and have a really pretty good sense about this group of individuals in particular, and what really works. We have won the Ultimate Quilt Guild Challenge several times now and for a group of only eleven people it is pretty amazing that we won. I think that it is partly the way that we have kind of learned to best move the group forward. Our group acknowledges the leadership that we provide and sometimes they push back and so we try to back off when they kind of ask for more flexibility. Not this last retreat but the retreat before, the project didn't quite come out the way that we had envisioned .My husband is a professional facilitator, and he actually came to one of our group meetings and facilitated a meeting for us, all of us got a voice I think and got a sense of what the needs of each other are. I think Ann and I are really working even more towards trying to get input from the group before we move forward. Like how we presented our new challenge in the way that they had actually asked for, and so it is kind of how much boundaries do we give and how much flexibility is there? Here is the bare bones of it, go with it and do you own thing with it.

KM: So the facilitator, did you have a lot of surprises, where there surprises that came out of that?

JP: No I don't think so really, I think we just really heard each other. Probably there are more vocal and less vocal members of the group and I think it just gave an opportunity for some of the less vocal members of the group to really say their piece and I think we all got to hear each other. There is so much regard and care for each other, it is just evident with us, and so it was just an opportunity to get deeper and to know more and more about each other. Part of our retreat is obviously doing projects, but a large part of it is just we have so much fun. You know how they do the Rocky Horror Picture Show, the kind of participatory thing, the Sound of Music sing-along, well this year we did Grease, and we had the video and we had it set up so there was a big screen and we went to Goodwill and bought a bunch of stuff to use as costumes and we kind of threw them on the ground and we came in and they just picked it up and went with it. So, we have a lot of fun, we eat great food, they are all great cooks in this group and we try to build into the retreat some time for a little more revealing in a safe way about yourself and um, learning about each other.

KM: What are you holding the retreats?

JP: We rent a house on the coast here in Casper. I tried to think the other day how long it has been, but it has been a long time. I think we are on our tenth or eleventh retreat. It started out that we went for two days and we are up to four days and three nights now

KM: Do you find it easy to create in front of the group?

JP: Like when we are at the retreat?

KM: Yes, what is the process?

JP: It is a challenge and we did it for a number of years where they didn't know what they were going to do at all, and um, some people loved to go with that and some people, it was much, much harder and they would kind of freeze. There is this kind of not wanting to over-plan it. Kind of planning it ahead of time and giving them a certain amount of information about what it is going to be, but not having over thought, so yeah, for some people it is really, really hard. This year we did a completely different process where we actually all worked together, kind of sort of on the same quilt.

KM: That was the puzzle?

JP: Yeah the puzzle piece, the Connections Quilt. I think there was a different sense of this retreat. I think the fabric stores were probably disappointed, because we are usually having to run to the store. We always needed more fabric. [laughs.]

KM: Terrific. Wonderful. You have another retreat, right?

JP: We do just an overnight at Deanna's over in Boonville, which is always really fun. Ann and I don't usually organize that one. It is more kind of a free flowing one. One year I don't think we quilted at all, we hung out in the hot tub.

KM: I think we are about out of time, so [dog barks.] we will conclude our interview at 4:35. Thank you.

JP: Thank you.



“Joyce Paterson,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed June 21, 2024,