Lucinda Mayan




Lucinda Mayan




Lucinda Mayan


Heather Gibson

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

The National Quilting Association


Dover, Delaware


Heather Gibson


Heather Gibson (HG): Today is December 16, 2000. My name is Heather Gibson. I am in Dover, Delaware interviewing Cindy Mayan. Let's start talking about the quilt that you brought today.

Lucinda "Cindy" Mayan (CM): It's called the "Millennium Beauty." It's a New York Beauty design. I think that's where all those little points get their name. It has eight millennium prints throughout the quilt. In the center the fabric has "Millennium" in fourteen different languages. It was just a way of expressing the year 2000 and it's coming. I can't believe it's the year 2000, but it is. I quilted for a long time, and it was challenging. I wanted something that would challenge me. I like the traditional quilts, especially when you look at some of the older quilts. They have so much work and detail. I'm amazed at what they did years ago. You can still look back at them and appreciate what they did. I don't know that we've gotten any better at what we're doing. We've gotten faster. We've gotten more accurate ways of making our pieces, but what they did was just wonderful. As soon as I saw this one, I thought, 'Oh, I'd like to make that.' When the challenge came, I thought, 'Well, this is what I want to do.' I love fabric. I appreciate it. So, I wanted a design where you could appreciate the fabric and what the artist did to design it. I just took the 2000 theme and went with it.

HG: Can you talk a little about the fabrics themselves since we're using a tape and the tape can't see it. Could you describe the colors and where you purchased the fabric?

CM: I'm a member of the Helping Hands quilt guild in Dover, and we had a challenge issued. Kay Butler oversaw it, and she felt that the year 2000 would be a great challenge. There were two fabrics selected. They were both by Alexander Henry Fabric Company. The one is a dark blue, and the other is red. We had to use those in the challenge. You could add whatever you wanted, but you had to identify those two prints. You couldn't leave them out. I loved them immediately. And because of the large numbers in the 2000 print and some of the design in the blueprint, I didn't want to lose that. I wanted that to show up in the piece. That was why I thought this particular design would bring out the beauty of the fabrics. You need a strong contrast. If you have colors that have no contrast, you can't really appreciate points and detail. So, I needed some lights, and I went to a fabric shop, Mare's Bears in Lewes, Delaware. And the millennium print that has the different languages I ordered off the internet from Hancock's in Paducah, Kentucky. So, it's great to have access--

HG: And how suitable to order this fabric using modern technology.

CM: Yes, you're so right. I wrote the designer of the millennium print in the center there. I really didn't know what it said. I knew it was millennium, but I didn't really know exactly what she did. She wrote back and said that it was in fourteen different languages. Just to think of people on a universal level that there would be, hopefully, peace--soon. Those were her thoughts. I don't have it with me, but it was a nice letter. That was how the fabrics were chosen. I wanted them to go well together. Also, I picked up some more reds and other background pieces. But the reds I got from the Rose Valley quilt shop. That's in Dover. So, it took four different places, really, to get all the fabrics I needed.

HG: How do you think that the new humungous selection of fabrics has changed the art of quilting?

CM: That's a great question, because on the back of this quilt on the label, I'll read to you what I've written. This is the original. I was inspired by the quilt by Emily Susanna Holland, made around 1870. I wrote: 'Something old, something new. Something for the millennium inspired from the past. My inspiration came from a New York Beauty created by Emily Susana Holland around 1870. Duplicating this quilt with millennium prints has been a great pleasure. When I look back over the years at my quilts and compare them with this lovely, finished piece I can see how far I've come. If only I could share this with Emily.' That's my thought there because it she could see this quilt in today's fabrics. We have so much to pick from. And also, the paper piecing. I don't think that she paper pieced around that time. As I was making it, I was just so humbled by how she got her points. How great it looked. And as long as I could follow the line, I could have a very accurate piece. But I couldn't have done it how she did it. So, the fabrics today are wonderful. To be able to create whatever you want to do, you can find it just about anywhere.

HG: You have a special story associated with this quilt and the Houston Quilt Festival. Can you talk a little bit about that?

CM: Yes. As I was making the quilt, I came across the millennium contest on the internet, offered through the Houston Quilt Festival. I thought that I would be able to meet the deadline. So, I thought if I could finish for the guild's challenge, and then do what needed to be done for the Houston Festival, I would enter the quilt. I had already planned to go to the festival to see the pink ribbon quilts that were on display. I had donated a block in honor of my mother who suffered with breast cancer several years ago. And we had planned my visit around the festival, and I thought it would be nice to have something I had made on display as well as seeing the pink ribbon quilts. It wasn't selected, but after visiting the Houston Festival the quilts were awesome, the ones they chose. They were very artistic, and I can see why they chose them. It's a real turn-around from the contests a hundred years ago, or even in 1933 at the World's Fair. I don't know if you've ever heard about that contest. The top three winners in that contest were all traditional bed size quilts that you could make today. Whereas today I'm finding that the winners in many of the contests are very artistic. And I appreciate those. I can't say that I prefer one or the other. When I make something, I'd like to use it on a bed. I do like wall-quilts as well, but if I give something to somebody, I think that they're looking for something they can use. So, I'm drawn to the more practical way of making a quilt.

HG: How do you use this quilt?

CM: This will go on a bed. But it doesn't see daylight very often because I just want to protect it. And some quilts are like that. Some I use every day and lay on them, talk on the telephone. They get laundered a lot. But when it's a quilt that can't be replaced too easily, I try to limit the use.

HG: Tell me about the beginnings of your interest in quilting.

CM: What really happened was years ago as a young mother--I did sew. My mother had taught me to sew, and I had made little doll clothes and I could mend. But I was depressed. I wasn't on medication of any kind, but I had small children. I didn't get out a lot. I was praying about something. I really didn't know what. But just something I could do at home, and something that would give me a creative outlet. That was about the time that my third daughter was born, Molly, and my church had a baby shower for me. One of the women had given me a quilt. I remember feeling that I mattered. And I didn't feel that I mattered, that my life wasn't significant. But after receiving that quilt…and as I held it I thought, 'This makes me feel really special and I would like to do this for others.' As I began to examine that quilt, a friend of mine said, 'You could do that.' And that was all I needed, for her to say, 'You could do that.' And I thought, 'Yes I can do this.' And that was my start. My daughter today is 18 years old. I started quilting a little bit after she was born. I've come so far. I never would have thought to become a quilter if it had not been for that gift. It's been so wonderful for me. The people that I meet. I've also taught quilting for over ten years. All the aspects of meeting people and also helping them learn how to quilt is such a blessing. The different groups I'm involved in with quilting and all the friends that I've made. It's just been a wonderful outlet for me in so many ways that I can't even count. There aren't any other quilters in my family. My father is from Mexico and it's very hot in Mexico. They do need blankets. [laughter.] But a quilt isn't something that's common. And on my mother's side, I'm not aware of anybody. You know, sometimes people will find out later that there was a quilter, but to my knowledge I'm not aware of any.

HG: Do you not have any memories of quilts growing up, or anything like that?

CM: No.

HG: Not until your adult life.

CM: That's right. For my fortieth birthday I asked my mom if she would find me an old quilt. That's what I wanted for my birthday. And she sure did. She likes to do a lot of shopping at secondhand stores and thrift stores. They were in Colorado at the time, and she said, 'I think I can find something here.' And she did. I think it's from the 1930's. I just wanted something to help as far as my teaching. But we use it all the time. I feel that you should use your quilts. Just be careful with them, because they do wear. But I feel they should be used. They should be displayed and enjoyed.

HG: Do you think that's a new concern, a modern concern about preserving quilts? I hear so much about, you know, 'Don't get them near light. Trying to preserve them as far as possible.

CM: I think that when you look at a quilt that has been used a lot, I think the maker would be happy that the person did use the quilt. When you go to a museum and you see one that is in perfect condition, and you can appreciate what she did, you almost wish that you could do both. But you do know that in using one all the time, the sunlight does affect the colors. They do fade. Cottons are noted for that. So, I find that I'm careful with those pieces that I put a lot of time into. But as far as giving a quilt to somebody, I try to keep in mind that they will use it. So, I'm careful in constructing in the way that they'll love it, and they don't have to be too careful. And you know, sometimes it depends. When I was involved in my church quilt group, we had made a quilt for the pastor who had really helped start the group. When he left, since the group was already established, we made him a quilt. And because I knew that he appreciated hand quilting, and I knew that he would take care of it that was part of the choice to do hand quilting because it takes so much time. If it's for a baby, and I feel that I can get the piece done in time for the baby--so the baby isn't toddling around for a year or two by the time he gets the quilt. [laughter.] I'll machine quilt it because I know they're going to get a lot of use. They'll need to launder it. So, I make choices in how I'm going to quilt and also, it's construction. If I know who the recipient is going to be and how they'll use it.

HG: Can you describe two or three of the quilts that you've given away to people and the significance of that?

CM: Well, the one for the pastor. I think some of the ones that have been a lot of fun to make have been the friendship quilts. The design was a rainbow, and my husband helped name the quilt, "Friends along the Rainbow." Throughout the quilt were signatures of the parishioners. On his day off they were told to come in and sign the quilt. So, it was a lot of fun. And I do think that he was surprised. As far as I know it was a secret until the day that we gave it to him. The friendship ones are so nice to do. I know as far as the "Millennium Beauty," my daughter got married this past July. As far as a wedding or a gift of that sort, I think that hand quilting is nice and a very special piece that they'll have. As I was making it my daughter and her fiancé both said how much they loved it. So, I have made sure that I have enough fabric to duplicate it, and I'm in the process of doing that now. For their first anniversary I want to have the top ready. It takes me about four to six months to quilt a bed size quilt, and that's working steady.

HG: By hand?

CM: By hand. I like to do the handwork on a very special piece. And then for a graduate if someone's graduating from high school. If it's a nephew or a niece, or my own children, a lap-size in nice. It can be tied, or machine done. I want them to use it. But I want them to feel like I felt when I got my first quilt. It was really my daughter's quilt, but I remember feeling that I mattered. My own daughter said one time--There were presentations at the church, and all the children from grades one to six were given different things. In the third grade they were always given their first bible. They were all given a little something, a little certificate of some sort. And then as they got to the junior high and high school, they were just asked to stand. That was how they were recognized. On the way home my daughter said, 'It just seems like we're not really cute anymore and yet we're not old enough to make any decisions for ourselves. We're just kind of stuck in the middle.' And I've never forgotten that. And that's why when they graduate, I think that's a nice time to give a quilt. Just that it's hand-made, that I thought about them, that I am concerned about their life and the future ahead of them. All their options are open and before them, and I want them to have a wonderful life. I hope they get a great start. Having a baby, I think it's important to remember somebody. Graduates are important. People who get married. Those are my favorite times to give.

HG: That's wonderful. Let's pause the tape for a minute while we go downstairs and see if Kay has arrived. [tape is shut off.] This is Heather. We're continuing our conversation with Cindy Mayan. We're talking about your history with quilting. What are your favorite aspects of quilting?

CM: I would have to say making the top because I love working with the fabrics. I love the designs. If it's for somebody else, I love thinking about them looking at this great design in the prints. I prefer a hand quilted piece I love hand quilting. That would have to be my second favorite part of the quilt, the hand quilting. But I'm very careful about doing that because of the time involved.

HG: How many quilts do you think that you have made in your career?

CM: I would say a few hundred, but not full bed-size. It takes me about a year to do the top if it's for a full-size bed. Then it takes me another four to six months to hand quilt it so about a year-and-a-half to do a full-size one. But in-between I do the wall quilts. Or the small ones, the baby quilts.

HG: What types of patterns do you usually use or prefer?

CM: That depends, once again. I think with appliqué quilting you can do a variety of designs that are wonderful and unique. Whereas the piecework--when there's a lot of piecework, I love to look at a lot of pieces that have been put together in a complicated manner. I haven't done very many of those because it is so challenging, but as I said before, the paper piecing techniques have certainly opened up more patterns that I would consider because they would be accurate. I don't like to have it look sloppy. That's why I'm careful with the technique that I'm going to use when I'm going to start a piece.

HG: So, you enjoy a variety of techniques. What do you think makes a great quilt?

CM: When you walk up to a quilt and you see it from far away and it jumps out at you and you think, 'I must get a better look at this.' The impact of it. Of course, that's the first thing that would draw it to me, then as you get closer to a quilt and you see a lot of quilting, whether it is machine done, or hand done because it takes a certain skill to do both. I think that if there's a lot of quilting, it adds to its beauty. That doesn't mean that when I give a tied quilt or a quilt that's been machine done, it's not special. It's just that I've considered how it's going to be used. And the--that fact that I made it. I wanted to give something of myself. And they're still nice pieces and important pieces as well.

HG: What is it when you're instantly aesthetically attracted to quilt? What do you think that the quilter has done to make that reaction come from you?

CM: How she's used to color. How she's used the design. I would say that these are the biggest factors in a beautiful quilt. And there has to be, I feel, enough contrast in the colors for her work to show up if she's done that well. And sometimes there are quilts that make a statement, and I appreciate those as well. I think that women over the years quietly made statements through their quilts. It's amazing as you look through history and what women have done to help in wartime and things like that. It's amazing how they've made their statements.

HG: I like that idea of the silent statement. How do you thinking quilting has influenced women's history or women's live throughout history?

CM: If I look at some of the places I've gone, special museums where I've seen quilts. And historically quilts have been made by women, so I'm just going to generalize. Granted, there are some wonderful male quilters out there, but for the most part it's been women. When I've looked at what they've done, I just think how wonderful, no matter what kind of position she's been in--if she's been a slave, you can see where some of the quilts that were made, they had scraps from the clothing that they made from the women they served. I just think how neat, how wonderful. And then they have their dogs and their families who they loved incorporated in the quilts. And then I remember a quilt. It was a chronological quilt of a woman's family. It was made of stuff that she had leftovers. I don't think she was highly educated because the spelling was incorrect. But for each block she had the name and the birthday of each child that she had. There must have been at least twelve names and dates. And even without the education that I have, when I look at what women have done with the resources that they've had, I'm just inspired. I just love them. I think they're great ladies. And it makes me appreciate my own education, where some people say they'd love to have lived a hundred years ago. Not me. [laughter.] I love what's available and technology today. Medicine. I know women have said that they lost brothers and sisters because they didn't have the care that we have. And when I look at quilting, I know that I am producing more quilts than women did years ago. Even though they didn't have television and things like that, I know that I'm able to do so much more. And I love it. I love it.

HG: Can you talk a little bit about you experiences with teaching quilting, and how you can convey color and design by showing people how to do it.

CM: I think that my favorite classes to teach are for the beginners. Some of them will come in and want to change the design. They have a pattern, a basic pattern that they're supposed to follow. They'll want to make it larger or incorporate little designs using appliqué. I try not to stop any of that because it's so creative. And the main thing that I want to do for them is make them feel that they can do it because they can do it. All they have to do is start. And I can't tell you how many times, and very often it's older women who've said that when they retired, the promise they made to themselves was to learn how to quilt and that's why they were in my quilt class. And at the end of the quilt class, they say they wish they had started sooner, because they thought that when they retired, they were going to have all this time. And they don't have that time that they thought they were going to have. I've learned more from them, in that sense. We're all given twenty-four hours in a day, and we all wish that we could buy, borrow, or trade with somebody else that says they're bored to tears. I would like to have that time and utilize it myself. [laughter.] Since I can't do that, I find that then the answer for me is to take an hour a day, or a little bit of time every single day. As my husband says, it just pushes the ball along. And it will eventually get done. I find as well that I might have ten projects in the works that are on-going. And three might get done very close together. But it could be for different reasons. It depends on if it's a group project. It comes to an end and it's time to wind it up or if I've slowly worked on it and picked it up or if I have a self-imposed deadline like a contest deadline. That, very often, will push me to get it done. So, I do have my own little goals and things do get done. I've dropped all other crafts. I used to do a variety of things that were art-related, and they've all bit the dust because I've decided that it's so wonderful to make these quilts. It's wonderful to give them. It's wonderful to have them in my home. That's where I put most of my creative energy now.

HG: That's interesting that you have an artistic background. Do you consider quilting an art or a craft or both?

CM: I would say both because even if you don't quilt and you want to buy a bedspread--you do into Penny's and you look around, you're going to look for something that is appealing to you. It might have your favorite color. You'll look at the design and you'll say, 'I just love that. I can look at that every day. I'll never get sick of it.' And that's what draws you to that bedspread and you buy it. So even though you want to use your pieces every day, you want it to be as beautiful as it can be. So, the choices that I make in my bed-quilts are for how they look as well as to make them practical.

HG: How do you think that the art and craft of quilting can be preserved for the future? Do you think that it will keep going and flourishing as well as it has right now?

CM: I think that when it made its comeback in the mid-1970's--I don't think it will ever stop. Not as long as the women I know are alive. [laughter.] You get so much back in your work. It's so different from anything that I've done. I know people that may get burnt out in their work. I have people I know, the work that they're doing just comes to and end. And I hear that as well as women get older who quilt, and I talk with them. I have an older Amish woman that I know. Mrs. Yoder and the love of her life was to get a quilt and anybody's quilt that she could quilt. When she was losing her eyesight, she had to come to terms with the fact that she could no longer physically do it. But it's not hard to do. It's not very physical. So, it's something that you can do, even as you get older so as long as I'm able. I see a longevity to it, it is lasting. And as far as preserving the quilts, I think that people appreciate what's been given to them. And I think that as they lose a person, a grandmother or somebody who's made them something for them. That's when I hear them say, 'That's not going to be used every day any longer, because this is what I have. This is all I have.' I think just the care. As long as people are concerned about their pieces that they'll be fine.

HG: That's good news. We have a few minutes left. Let's talk about this work in progress that you've brought with you today, that's sitting here before us on the table.

CM: Well, this is a memory quilt. I visited my mother in Houston this past November, and we had plans to visit around the Houston Quilt Festival so that we could see the pink- ribbon quilts together. I had donated a quilt block in her honor since she had breast cancer several years ago. And the photo transfer is of her on the quilt is the block that I donated for her. It's in a cameo, though, in the block. I made two- one for her and one that I donated. And I have hers in a frame that I'd given to her earlier. But I wanted to put this in a memory quilt. She loves cameos and I felt that would be a good block to make for her. I've done it in pink because of the pink-ribbon quilts. I have my ticket to get into the Houston Quilt Festival. I walked her dog Annie every day, so I have a little thing of Annie. We played cards every day. We played Skippo every day. She'd beat me most of the time, but we had fun. I have a picture of my brothers who went with me to Houston and we are standing in front of the big city of Houston with all the buildings. My dad's taking the picture, so he's not in it. But I have pins for everybody with my mother's face on it. And then my mother loves Chinese food. She had taken me to a Chinese restaurant, so I have a little kimono there. I have a place for the chopsticks. I have a place for my little Delta plastic air-wings. I did get two of everything so that there will be a sister quilt. One for myself and one for my mother. I'm going to have some sort of inscription her to my mother on this piece right there. I'm not sure what to say in this little spot, but just how much I love her and how she's just always cared for me my whole life. And I'm just so glad that she's still here. Also, I have a picture of "The Supper," which was at the Quilt Festival.

HG: "The Last Supper" quilt?

CM: Yes. So, I have a little photo-transfer of that. That was my viewer's choice. She liked--there was a quilt that she really loved. It was an English cottage from the Hoffman Challenge, which was just a darling quilt. Just a huge English Tudor house. And I have a little tiny one that I'm going to try to incorporate somewhere in the quilt for her quilt if it fits. Sometimes you have to kind of rearrange things. My mother also gives me little pieces from my crazy quilts. These were some of the things that she had given to me because she picks up these things. I really ask her to. I ask her when she's shopping to find me those glitzy buttons and the fancy lace, so I've incorporated some of that in there for her. And of course, it's pink for the pink-ribbon quilts. But the bouquet I have for her is in lavender because lavender is her favorite color. Also, this little piece of fabric here, I have used this sparingly. I originally had about three yards of it. But my parents were in Hurricane Andrew. It was probably the most devastating time for anybody in that area go through so many people lost their homes but as they were cleaning up--and we had to pull up the carpet because mildew was starting to grow. You really can't clean. And as she would unwind and take walks, somebody had thrown out this lovely piece of cotton.

HG: It's kind of a small floral pattern with purples and greens and blues.

CM: And it had pink in it, of course. And this fabric is also something I used when I donated. This is the background print for the block I donated on her behalf. But the thing is that she washed it and sent it to me. I just think that she was suffering so much and yet she was thinking of me. So anyway, I use it sparingly and have little itty-bitty pieces left at this point. But this is in the quilt for that reason as well.

HG: Oh wonderful. Well, is there anything that you would like to add, or a question that you wish that I'd asked?

CM: You did great. You're calm. [laughter.] You just continue to do what you're doing, because the most wonderful thing about quilting, too, is that people are sharing of themselves. And when people make a quilt, you find that they have so much heart and emotion in it when they're giving it to somebody. Just save those stories. When you graduate, I don't know what kind of time you're going to have, if you can just keep on doing it. That'll be great. It'll inspire, continue to inspire.

HG: Thank you.

CM: Thank you, Heather.

HG: Well let's see. This is Heather Gibson and Cindy Mayan. We started this interview at 1:20, and it is now 2:25 including our break. We're now signing off.



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