Sharon Schamber




Sharon Schamber




Sharon Schamber


Joanne Gasperik

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Carolyn Mazloomi


Naples, Florida


Kim Greene


Joanne Gasperik (JG): This is Joanne Gasperik. Today's date is March 17 [2007.] and it is 4:40 in the afternoon. I am conducting an interview with Sharon Schamber for Quilters' S.O.S.-Save Our Stories. We are in Naples, and Sharon has just finished conducting a workshop for us. So thank you Sharon for allowing me to interview you today.

Sharon Schamber (SS): Well thank you.

JG: Tell me about your magnificent quilt please. What inspired you, your technique? Tell me everything about this, describe it.

SS: It started as, it was a painted piece, and I came from the couture world, so I did pageants and bridal and that kind of thing, so I always enjoy the human form in that kind of a formal setting, so that is what came from it. The inspiration for the patchwork in the skirt actually came from the old movie, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and they come out and dance in the skirts, and everyone always remembers it when I tell them that this is the inspiration for it.

JG: Well it is magnificent and it has been a ribbon winner many times. Tell me how many times, tell me the venues.

SS: I have no idea. I have no idea.

JG: I did see it in Paducah [Kentucky.] a few years ago.

SS: Like a second or third in Paducah and it also won at Pacific International, and it was like, honestly I don't remember. [note: third place - Mixed Technique at American Quilter's Society, Paducah, Kentucky in April 2002; Most Innovative Design at Pacific International in October 2002; Finalist at International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas in October 2003.]

JG: But you enjoy showing it. Do you stand in the background when people are?

SS: Not really. My husband does, but I don't. I am off doing my own thing. He likes to eavesdrop and hear what they have to say.

JG: There are miles and miles and miles of thread, but can you just describe some of the techniques that you used.

SS: There of course is hand-painting, and I started with just a piece of muslin, so there is absolutely a clean slate, and I painted with inks. It is painted from edge to edge where the gold is, and then it is appliquéd onto the black, which is the outside border. I basically do the outline on paper. I do a basic, to get my outline and to get my proportion and get everything all balances, and then I put the fabric on top and just start painting. Then after all the painting is done, it gets a little weird right at the end because you spent, it takes about seven to eight weeks of straight time just to get the painting done, and but right at the end just finishing, if you make a mistake the whole thing is gone, because there is no fixing, it is a whole cloth kind of a process, so it gets a little sticky right at the end, but it works itself out. I always try to do the really hard things in the beginning so to make sure that they are all taken care of. And for the piece to have trapunto, there is embroidery, there is machine embroidery, the flowers are all embroidered, just many different things. The actual skirt is double quilted though, so what you are seeing in the skirt is that it has been quilted with a backing and the batted quilted, and then again once again quilted, so it creates a dimension. So it isn't just trapunto, it is double quilted.

JG: It is stunning. Absolutely stunning, it is something that you could just sit here and just be totally enthralled and just step into it and enjoy it. How did you come to painting on a quilt? What is your background, what is your art background?

SS: I have none.

JG: And you just.

SS: I just did it.

JG: Did it.

SS: I tried to take classes early on, but it was so slow and the classes just didn't suit me, I seem to learn better on my own. I just couldn?t get the fabric to give me that look, so I just jumped right into the painting process.

JG: It is beautiful. When did you--how did you find quilting?

SS: Both my grandmothers were quilters. This is a generational thing. Yes, they were both avid quilters. One grandma, my Grandma Larson, was a very precise, pristine kind of quilter, and then my other grandmother, which is Grandma Nye, she was a feed sack quilter, and she just put the little pieces of scrape clothes together and did Double Wedding Ring, so I am kind of a little psycho with that, because I go back and forth between the two, but they are from both spectrums of their, their, what they were good at. It did skip my mom, she did a little bit, but not much, and I just took up the quilting process.

JG: What age were you when you were watching your grandma's quilt?

SS: Little, really, really little.

JG: Until?

SS: They both passed away when I was, my Grandma Nye about when I was four and the other one was about when I was ten or eleven, or something like that. But they used to have their quilting bees and they had what they call the birthday club, all the cousins got together and each one would have a birthday each month, I don't know how that worked out, and they did their quilting and just had a really good time. I remember, like most people being under the quilting frame watching the needle rock. Watching, just watching the stitches, and my Grandma Nye didn't care about stitch branch, she had no, she just didn't care, as long as it got together and it was making someone warm she was fine with it. But my Grandmother Larsen, she would actually take the quilts apart if they weren't quilted properly by her cousins and redo all the stitching. Two spectrums, absolutely two spectrums. But it is definitely in the family, it has always been in the family. All of us have always done something in quilting, and I am so blessed that my daughter has taken that on and she is also a quilter and we write books together and do wonderful things together.

JG: So when did you, when did you start quilting?

SS: It has been nine years. So if I do the math, I was forty-two, something like that.

JG: I see.

SS: So just recent.

JG: It just stuck in the back of your mind for a while that you would like to do quilting?

SS: Well I either wanted to be an artist, it was either going to be an artist, literally with oils, or I was going to be a quilter. I didn't know I could put the two together. And fabrics have always been my thing, always, fabrics and thread. I could always make them do what I wanted them to do, so it was always a drive of mine. I just don't know when I can't do something. I have no clue, so I just jump right in.

JG: So you do have an art background? Inside of you.

SS: Inside.

JG: Inside. So it is a gift. Did you sew doll clothes when you were little, did you do that all?

SS: Yea, I did all of that stuff.

JG: From whom did you learn to quilt?

SS: I didn't.

JG: You just picked it up?

SS: I wish I could say that they taught me, I wish I could. My Aunt Jo taught me to sew, but she didn't, not quilting at all. She only to a certain point taught me--it was just the basics, and everything else I just did. I was an avid, I wouldn't say reader, but I would look at the pictures, and I just always experimented with whatever I did.

JG: You felt guided in some way?

SS: Driven is more the word.

JG: [laughs.]

SS: I would like to use the word drive [laughs.]

JG: [laughs.]

SS: But reality is.

JG: It wasn't that gentle.

SS: It wasn't that gentle.

JG: [laughs.]

SS: I would like to say it was, but it was driven. It was absolutely a driven thing.

JG: Once you found your passion.

SS: It is just evolving, it is becoming so much more. When I first started I didn't think I would like to teach at all, in fact I didn't want to teach, and now I found that the teaching is my passion. That is the joy. I'm driven to make the quilts, but my joy is teaching.

JG: Was that your profession?

SS: No.

JG: What was your profession?

SS: As a couture designer. I did bridal pageants. I did costumes for the Olympics. I did costumes for Star Search. I was very much out there doing all sorts of incredible different types of clothing. Heavy beading, ornate stuff.

JG: Exciting, well it is amazing. So your first quilt memory is as a small child?

SS: Yes.

JG: Going back to age four or--

SS: Even less I think. I can remember not being able to even sit at a table, we had to put the sewing machine on the floor and I would just turn the wheel even way back, it was always a passion, always.

JG: How many hours a week do you quilt?

SS: When I'm home it is fourteen hours a day. Seven days a week when I'm home. But I teach quite a bit.

JG: Yes, and so you feel that, that was also you are a natural teacher because you didn't, that wasn't your profession.

SS: No, no, that came from the factory when I had employees. I would teach them how to sew. So that was very much of my career for eighteen, twenty years was to teach people how to sew. The nice thing about doing it for students is they pay me, where when I had a factory I had to pay them, so it makes a big difference.

JG: But the gift of being able to convey something.

SS: Yes. Well then, they, most of my employees couldn't speak English. They were Hispanic or from Japan or wherever, so we had to learn to create our own little pictures or step by steps, which make it wonderful for teaching.

JG: You were signing earlier with scissors, so that--

SS: Yes.

JG: With hands and feet learning to communicate.

SS: Yea, you use signs.

JG: You did say there are other quilters in your family, your daughter.

SS: My daughter.

JG: Your mother dabbles a little bit.

SS: Not now, she used to when she was younger.

JG: And your grandchildren?

SS: We don't know yet, they are just little, so we don't know yet, hopefully.

JG: Are they getting baby quilts from you?

SS: No.

JG: [laughs.]

SS: I'm ashamed to say, no.

JG: [laughs.]

SS: No, unfortunately we keep trying, but it hasn't happened yet.

JG: Do you make, have you made quilts as gifts?

SS: I used to, not any more.

JG: Used to being?

SS: When I first started. When I first started the quilting process I would make them as gifts. But I found that, I still make them as gifts, but I don't surrender custody. I keep them and when--

JG: You give them a picture?

SS: They get nothing; they just get a little note on the back that this is their quilt when and if I'm done with it in this lifetime. So I maintain custody.

JG: I see they are inheritance?

SS: Yes, I guess that would be a good word for it. It is kind of a family teasing thing, but.

JG: [laughs.]

SS: Yea. [laughs.]

JG: So you just have the one daughter?

SS: I have the one daughter and I have two sons.

JG: Well they might be quilters too.

SS: I don't think so.

JG: [laughs.]

SS: That is not going to happen. I wish, I wish.

JG: Have you ever used quilting to get through a difficult time?

SS: Always. Always. In fact it was a major point. When I first started to get into the quilting it was very much a healing process. I had a really, really bad time and so when the quilting came to me it was amazing how much it healed me.

JG: Was that hand quilting or machine quilting?

SS: At the time it was hand. At the time it was hand, although machine works really well too, but the hand and the intenseness. In the beginning there were no classes, I didn't teach anybody, there was no competitions, all it was was about spending time with myself and when you go through that change of life, things do change, and to just balance and to have the serenity to move onto another plateau in your life, it was very healing, it was an amazing time.

JG: What do you find pleasing about quilting?

SS: The most joyous is how people react. How they can feel the energy that I put into the quilt, or the spirit that I give the quilts. They can feel it. I have had people cry and I'm sure other quilters have too, but to me, I have had grown men just start weeping at some of the pieces, and for any artist that is an amazing experience. It is really amazing when that happens.

JG: Do you like all aspects of quilting?

SS: Yeah. There is nothing. I love the bindings. I love the pockets. I love everything about it. There is nothing, I don't like.

JG: It is all part of the journey.

SS: It is. It is and I'm even getting into where I'm hand dying all of my fabrics, and that is a messy hard job to hand dye everything, but I absolutely love the hand dying business, because it becomes even more of what I do. So there is not a single thing.

JG: Yeah, truly from beginning to end.

SS: The only thing I really agonize over is shipping a quilt or putting it on an airplane to take it with me. That is painful experience.

JG: Traumatic.

SS: That is traumatic.

JG: So the only aspect that you don't do is that you don't weave your own cloth?

SS: No, but I thought about it.

JG: [laughs.]

SS: [laughs.]

JG: Sheep to shawl. [laughs.] Cotton balls. [laughs.]

SS: My own batting. [laughs.]

JG: [laughs.]

SS: No, but that is not going to happen, I'm not going to go there, that would be just too much.

JG: So there are no aspects of quilting that you don't enjoy?

SS: No. Nothing, I like hand appliqué, I like machine appliqué, there is absolutely nothing, nothing that I don't enjoy doing.

JG: And now long arm quilting as well.

SS: Yes, now that I really love. I really love that. I'm a machine freak, I love machines. The bigger the better. Thats the factory. That is what that is.

JG: It smells like home again.

SS: The sound, it is the sound. My kids, I always had their little basinets right next to my sewing machine, and they will come into my sewing room and get sleepy, because they were rocked to sleep with the sewing machine, with the sound of the sewing machine. I have big tables and my sewing machines are sitting in there, and they will sit up on a sewing machine and we will have our little conversations while I'm sewing. So it is just a major part of our lives, it just is. They get resentful, but in most cases they really enjoy that sound also.

JG: Resentful because they are sharing you and your time?

SS: They are kids, what can you say. [laughs.] They are kids. But then if I stop, they don't it is not the same, they really do want the sewing machine and the sound and they want that energy that I'm generating. In our home where everyone gathers around the TV, that is not how it works in our house, everyone gathers around my sewing machine. So it is a whole different energy, it really is, an amazing energy.

JG: Do they give input to your quilts?

SS: No, they say if they want it.

JG: [laughs.]

SS: Put my name on the back.

JG: Stand in line, take a number.

SS: Now that the quilts are becoming so famous, they are definitely posturing [laughs.] for position on the quilts. So other than that, they don't have any input at all. My husband thinks he does, but no. No he does, he is very much a part of it.

JG: Have any other quilters greatly influenced your work? Have you been inspired by?

SS: I would love to say yes, but they have inspired me as people. I honor their work but it has no relation to what I do at all, it really doesn't. There are a few, there is an appliqué artist which is Ellen Heck, and she to me is a master. Only because of her wonderful personality and the way her hands move when she does her needle turn, it is amazing, amazing how she moves her hands. She was trained in Germany in the needlework schools, so she has a different. I don't even know how to explain it, but just a different energy when she does her work. It is not about her design, it is about the way she moves and I enjoy that. But very few others, there are just a few select, but I enjoy as people. I mean of course Ricky Tims, which he is probably on the top of everybody's list, but has always been wonderful to me and respectful, and Elly Sienkiewicz, only because she is a transplant from the turn of the century. She shouldn't be living in this timeframe, and I enjoy her company she is just the sweetest person. But other than that, I love them as people, but I really am careful about their work. I honor their work but it is not my work.

JG: You keep sprouting new ideas.

SS: [laughs.] Very busy with all that stuff.

JG: Absolutely. You keep, where do your designs come from?

SS: They literally come in dreams. They do, I believe in inspiration, I believe in staying connected with your source of creativity. I do very serious meditation on staying with your source of creativity. So all the creative ideas come from that, and I have more of a problem with having too many than I have with so few. So I really, with strict intenseness and similar I like to use Tiger Woods as an example of how he does his mediations to become the best that he can be, and I do the same thing. I do mediation. So many of my designs, I will go to bed and wake up like just straight out of bed and have a design totally done. Some are evolutions, but in many ways most of those things, the really good ones. Then there are other times, just like, the one that won in Paducah was inspired by a small picture of lace. So, depending on what it is, I do use inspiration pieces like many people do. Some of the other ones are just totally from the blue.

JG: They just sprouted.

SS: Yeah, or it comes in.

JG: It comes in, yes.

SS: Depending on what it is.

JG: Do you have a, do you use a design wall?

SS: No I don't have one.

JG: Do you start with a sketch?

SS: I start with pencil sketches and I usually scan them into my computer and most of my work is completely drawn in a line drawing before I even start any process at all. So all the steps are taken care of. Timeframe is much faster because I have already corrected any design issues, like the quilting process, the actual quilting design is designed right along with the appliqué or even before the appliqué design is done. So, it is more important. The spirit of the quilt comes from the quilting process I think.

JG: Right.

SS: Not just in the top, the spirit is not there when it is just a top, so I find that if I design from the spirit point there is much more success with the quilt.

JG: Interesting.

SS: Does that make sense. It is a little backwards, but.

JG: It does. Well you don't frequently hear someone planning a quilt totally beginning to end before they put the first stitch down.

SS: Before I even buy the fabric. Before the fabric is even bought, dye or whatever it is. Which is, I think that comes honestly from me having a factory for eighteen years and every year you would do a spring line and a fall line, so that is just how you thought. You had to plan it out because people need to know how to produce, whatever you are thinking of, so.

JG: You can't reach a point where everybody says, okay now what boss.

SS: You have to plan way ahead.

JG: That is very different from the way most quilters do work, but that is your background.

SS: That is why I get so much done. I will do three to four competition level quilts a year, plus teach full time, and it is the planning that makes the difference. So, if you plan, you don't have the wasted energy and the waste of time.

JG: I bet you sleep well at night.

SS: Sure do.

JG: You just. Yes because all of your energy is. Every waking moment.

SS: Yes it is very focused. If I am tired, I have certain projects that I work on, on those tired days, so I am continually producing, I don't ever. I have down time, but I do things that are repetitive so I don't have to think.

JG: Yea.

SS: If I'm not up to.

JG: Auto pilot.

SS: Yea.

JG: Something on auto pilot.

SS: Everything is thought out, is very, I can even do some of the work on an airplane when I'm flying some place.

JG: Where did your inspiration come for your quilting patterns?

SS: I wanted her to look like she was in front of an antique wallpaper.

JG: I see.

SS: So that is basically where that came from. So I used that thought process to generate the quilting.

JG: So your quilting designs that you have in your wonderful workbooks, they were inspired from the paper or?

SS: No, those are just things that I sat and doodled.

JG: Sat and doodled.

SS: Very seldom did I use much, as far as inspiration on those. Normally those are when I'm on the road and my husband is driving or what not, I will sit with a clipboard and I will just doodle and play, and then they get translated into the actual quilting designs.

JG: They are spectacular, they are so spectacular. Do you--what do you think about the future of quilting, where do you think we might be going?

SS: I have such a unique point of view with the quilting. It is in my opinion the one and only world, art world that women control. And it is also the value of quilts. They are appraising so much more than even artwork, so I really believe that it is our world for the creative process. There also has not been anything brand new in art for a thousand years or more and quilting is the new, and no one has ever done what we are doing now, so I believe that is where it is going, I really do. I think it is--my son is an artist and he kept saying, oh there is nothing new in art, nothing new in art, and I said, 'well excuse me.' He hasn't yet accepted quilts as an art form. How that is--but it is coming, it is definitely coming as an art form and we really, [inaudible.]. We are not having to break into a man's world, this is ours, which they are having to break into our world, which is wonderful that we have both. I enjoy that but I also enjoy the fact that it is us. It is sincerely a female world.

JG: And historically.

SS: It comes from our hearts, which is different; it is not from the ego. It comes from our spirit which makes it very, very special.

JG: So you see the future, heavy future in the art world in the art quilt, do you think the traditional quilters will continue on, or?

SS: Actually my pieces are going more traditional and becoming more, from the art perspective. So they are very traditional, my newest pieces, they are painted they are very appliquéd, very traditional, but I think there is a bridge that is being between this. That is happening.

JG: Elaborate a little bit more on that, on your traditional and your newest.

SS: Well, it technically is traditional in its aspect. The look has more of an art novo kind of look to it and so, so the traditional people can really relate to it, but also the art people can relate to it also, so it is kind of a bridge between the two. I find it amazingly fun and easy, I enjoy it a lot. Although I do enjoy the art pieces, I like these much better, I really do. But I just think it is going to be all spectrums, I really do. I think there is going to be museums pop up everywhere across the whole United States that are going to have traveling exhibitions and I think things are going to be, people are finding quilts to be so much more than a painting. We have dimension. They can have to some extent in a painting, but not like quilts, they can't have that added spirit that quilts give you, and the female energy, that feeling energy in quilts is something so unique and so precious. It is just a very precious thing. The values are going up, so that means there is much more interest and people are appreciating it more.

JG: The pieces that I saw you bring to guild, some of them were very, very large. Do you consider those bed quilts? Well this obviously is not, this is a wall hanging, but your traditional ones, do you consider those bed quilts?

SS: No, they are considered museum pieces.

JG: Okay.

SS: I just can't say enough in the small. I just have too much to say, because of the quilting process, mine are very intensely quilted and you can't get that much detail unless there is room. So I definitely have a bigger palette, or bigger.

JG: Bigger canvas.

SS: I have to, that is just the way I work. I have tried the smaller and it doesn't work, it doesn't work. It just doesn't, it is like.

JG: Yes, Yes.

SS: I'm pretty known for the big pieces I think.

JG: It is funny because we do have a friend who is a painter, an art painter, and his canvas are a fraction of the size of any king size quilt or queen size quilt, but as you said, the appreciation is in the increased value and I don't know that we will catch up, but some of us can. Some of the art quilters can certainly catch up.

SS: Yes, they will, they will.

JG: What is next on your agenda?

SS: I'm going to start doing private classes at my studio. We are building a brand new studio, so because of my unique techniques any quilter can find their creative source, no just copy my work but find their own because the techniques are so, what is the word, user friendly. You can truly be creative if you have the proper techniques. If you don't you are stuck, you are just slapping things together. So I will probably go that direction and bring people in to help them find their own creative source. Not to teach them my way, but to teach them their way, how to achieve whatever it is that they are after. So that will be the next, next cycle for me. At some point I will stop competing. I will go to just having private showings or having my collection being shown in different shows or what not, but I will stop competing.

JG: Why do you think this will happen? Why do you think you will stop competing?

SS: I think it becomes redundant after a while. It is a wonderful experience, but what I find happening is the, there seems to be maybe just a little bit of a gap between me and my students and I'm a teacher, I'm not, I'm nothing more than I am just here to share, that is all I'm here for. If that gap gets too wide, I have to pull it back, which means take the fear out, eliminate that, whatever it is that they generate and get back to where I'm actually touching people like I should be as a teacher.

JG: Of course it saves, you live on the road, how many, how long are you usually gone?

SS: I was gone forty weeks last year.

JG: Out of fifty-two. Well it will be nice to be home.

SS: It will be nice, but I love it on the road. It is the traveling that is the issue not the teaching.

JG: Right. It is the nerves about packing a quilt and putting them on an airplane, as you said earlier.

SS: Yea, but we are going to low jack our luggage, so we know where the heck it is. [laughs.] So we are going to put, the things in the cars, we are going to put them in our luggage.


SS: Yes,

JG: A locator.

SS: Absolutely, I'm going to start putting the little chips that they put in the puppies; they are going to start going into my quilts too.

JG: That is not a bad idea.

SS: Yes they are.

JG: That is not a bad idea.

SS: Somebody needs to do it.

JG: Yes, that is not a bad idea at all. Does anything interfere in your life when you are quilting? Or are those fourteen hours just the world stops.

SS: I make it stop quite frankly. I'm really really insistent. I don't, when I am in that mode because there is such a small amount of time. I don't answer emails, I try not to answer the phone, I try unless my husband is not there. It is very annoying to my family because they think that I should share those burdens, but the reality is that I only have this much time and the rest of the time is spent helping everybody else and this is my time. So I'm really, really strict about it, really strict. I wouldn?t say rude, but pretty close. Pretty close, and they have learned to kind of work around it. The price they pay is really high, but they get a lot out of it. It is a calling, it is not something that. I mean I've chosen it because I have accepted it, but it is a calling, it is not something that, I don't have a choice. It is something that has to be. Does that make sense?

JG: Yes.

SS: I don't know how to explain it better than that.

JG: Because you see yourself as such a teacher that you are just filled with the need to share.

SS: Yes. I always try to remember that ideas can be shared if you give somebody an object it is not shared anymore because you no longer have it, but you always have an idea. That idea will always be yours so you can share it with one hundred people and it will still be yours. So I find that it is just an amazing thing, and you always get back ten fold what you give out, always, and you just never know how that is going to happen.

JG: You don't.

SS: You don't.

JG: How do you feel, while we have the quilt museums that you mentioned also, how do you think that quilts, should quilts be used or should they just be preserved, how should they be preserved?

SS: There is all sorts of levels of quilts and depending on the spirit of the quilt. If the quilt says I'm to be used and loved and worn out, then that is what it should be. We all know what those are. I have heard of other famous people in the quilt world that say that the human form should never be on a quilt; it should always be patchwork, or whatever those stories are. The truth is whatever it is, it is. So if it is a home quilt, if it is a mother's love quilt, then it should be used. If it is a museum piece, then it should be admired and all the spectrum in between, all of them in between. So there is no absolute rule, it depends on the spirit.

JG: What did I not cover that you thought I might ask you? What do you want to share?

SS: Oh gosh, I don't know.

JG: What expectation did you have?

SS: I had none. I tried, I love Christmas and surprises so I didn't even analyze about it. I had no preconception.

JG: What is your message to quilters?

SS: They need to find their own spirit and unfortunately although I'm a teacher, unfortunately too many classes like too many cooks spoil the soup. Too many classes, you need to find technique. You need education on technique and to get what you want done.

JG: Where should they go?

SS: Well of course many things, but taking classes with technique. Not just the block, not just a quilt top, but actually learning new techniques to help with their ability to do what it is that is inside them. Proper equipment, all of those things are so important, but technique is more important than anything in the whole world, because if you have the proper technique, you are free to be creative. That is what the real magic is, in the creativity.

JG: Where do you tell them to go when they don't think they are creative? How can they learn creativity if they don't feel it coming out of them?

SS: Usually that is an insecurity; that is a definite insecurity and what that is, is fear. Fear always subsides with knowledge and truth. Just keep searching for a technique that will work for you. I always in my classes and hopefully other teachers will also, I always give them way more than what they have brought for the class because you never know, that one little thing is going to make a difference in somebody's life, that one little thing. I always tell them to pass it on, tell people the technique, because it might not be that person that gets it, but two people down, their friends could. It is there, we just have to grab a hold. Does that make sense? Once you have the knowledge to perform what it is that you want in whatever it is, creativity comes very naturally. We are naturally creative. You don't have to find it, it is there already. It is just whether or not you have opened the door.

JG: How you can convince the person that she is creative.

SS: We all know, we know as human beings, we know because we are creative. We are creating things. We are born creative, whether it is with money or whatever. We are born creative. If you shut the door, somewhere along the line you shut the door and that is fear. So all you have to do is eliminate the fear and the creativity comes out. It is that easy.

JG: Yes.

SS: It is that easy. That is our creative source.

JG: To bring someone the key to unlock that door.

SS: Understanding yourself.

JG: Do you feel that your quilts some how reflect you or your region?

SS: No, my quilts kind of take on a life of their own. That seems to be a little bit of an issue with my quilts, is they become their own little person or their own thing and my own personality or my own name is not associated. Many people find out that they don't even know who I am when they see my name, but when I show the quilts, they all know the quilts, but they don't associate the two. So they just become their own thing. Just is. Whatever happens happens, so they are not reflective of anything other than our own little personality and their spirit that is built into them.

JG: Do you still do some hand quilting now?

SS: Very little. I have those tremors and it is very difficult to do hand quilting for me.

JG: You have a number of books that you published and your CDs, and you have one in the works now?

SS: I have a new appliqué book. It is called, "Piece by Piece Machine Appliqué." I go three or four different types of appliqué.

JG: Your "Piec-lique" book is, is that your first book?

SS: It is, well I did the pattern books, so I have seven actual machine quilting design books. They are literally just designs, so it isn't really words or anything. I did count them as books, so there are those seven, and then I have my "Piec-lique" book, which was my first actual published. The others are self-published, and then the new "Piece by Piece Machine Appliqué" is going to be out within the next couple of weeks.

JG: Good, very good. And then you have your CDs.

SS: I have my CDs and DVDs. Each one of my classes I have a tutorial, which is education on how to do that specific technique. So it's totally about giving the whole system of doing whatever that is. There are probably forty of those. Very prolific when it comes to teaching.

JG: Do you document your quilts?

SS: To some extent, not a whole lot.

JG: Do you take progress photos?

SS: I used to, I haven't lately. I haven't been doing that. I need to do more of that, but I haven't. Things have just gone so quickly that it is very hard to document, and I know I need to. In fact, I've been told just this last year by some of the experts that I need to document my creative process because it is so different that people don't quite understand it, but it is definitely a different process.

JG: Do you, how many sewing machines do you have?

SS: I don't know. [laughs.]

JG: [laughs.] Do you wear out sewing machines?

SS: I do, I do. But as a teacher I have to know how to run every machine. So I try not to be a machine snob, so that when I'm in a class, I can actually help people with their machines. So I try to have one of everything. It is very important to me to have one of everything.

JG: What would you like your legacy to be?

SS: My whole life, my whole mission in this life is to help people heal to find their creative source. That is my whole mission.

JG: To help them heal.

SS: Yes, it is when they are broken, when they shut that door, there is an illness, something is not right. If you are not in touch with your creative source, then there is a healing that needs to happen. That is my whole, whole life is to help them to get in touch with who they truly are inside, which is their creative person. That is it.

JG: You hope that those are the people who come to quilting.

SS: I know they do. I know they do. This is the largest organization for women. It is.

JG: Is it twenty-one million.

SS: Yes.

JG: No, thirteen, no twenty-one million quilters.

SS: We, I don't know the number, I just know the energy that is so massive, it is something that we can connect. There is nothing else like it in the whole world. Nothing. We can connect, and if you can connect with the women in the family, you are connecting with the whole family. That isn't the case with the men as much as the women.

JG: It is a sorority.

SS: They are so passionate and they are so hungry, so so hungry. That is why I say they need the healing, there is something that isn't--is hungry for love or affection or knowledge. Whatever it is for that person. I think it is just very important for me to be there.

JG: Wow, yes. How do you think that quilters can be reached? How do you think?

SS: There is only one level to reach them, through the heart. You guys tell each other, but there is only one place.

JG: Your mouth.

SS: Well the spirit. I believe that the people that come to my classes, something has drawn them to the classes. I think it comes from inside. They know.

JG: What do you think makes a great quilt?

SS: If it touches you. It can be ugly, it can be ratty, but if when you look at it, if you feel something.

JG: When you are at a show, what quilts draw you?

SS: I have to be really honest, when I go to a show I don't look at the quilts. I don't look at any quilts. I glean my inspiration from art galleries and nature and other sources, I don't look at quilts, I don't.

JG: I see.

SS: So I'm really drawn to traditional kind of quilts, traditional appliqué, but as far as quilt shows, I, I'm just a big sponge and if I go, it will show up somewhere and I can't feel guilty like that. I just can't, so I just chose not to. There are people's works that I truly admire, but I never get close enough to even see a stitch. Never. For me, I'm not trying to be snotty at all, and a lot of people think that is kind of arrogant, but the reality is that I want to stay fresh. It is like the white wall theory. I don't hang any quilts in my home. There is nothing there. So I want to, once I'm done with one it is done and I'm moving on to something else.

JG: I see. Have you thought of anything else that you would like to share?

SS: I think that we are at a point in history that has never happened before, for women and for quilting, and I think it is one hundred years from now they are going to look back at this time and just be amazed at the growth. What has happened in the last five years is just incredible, as far as the growth of the quilts, if you compare five years ago compared to today, night and day how the quilts look, night and day, and the quality is just so incredible, just incredible, and I think. It is just an amazing time.

JG: Sharon, we have reached the end of our tape. I thank you so very much for taking the time at the end of a long day of teaching and still taking the time to be interviewed by me.

SS: Thank you.

JG: I thank you very much, and we are going to end the interview at 5:25. Thank you.

SS: Thank you.


“Sharon Schamber,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed April 22, 2024,