Robbi Eklow




Robbi Eklow




Robbi Eklow


Karen Musgrave

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Cherrywood Fabrics (Karla Overland)


Third Lake, Illinois


Karen Musgrave


Note: Robbi Eklow's quilt was selected and included in The Alliance for American Quilts' 2008 calendar.

Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave and I am conducting an interview with Robbi Eklow for Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories. We are doing this interview via e-mail. Robbi thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me, please tell me about the quilt "Sock It To Me" that we are using for this interview.

Robbi Eklow (RE): That is the only quilt that I started just by cutting out fabric and making shapes with no idea where I was going. Usually I have a drawing that I work from. I made a bunch of the tear drop shapes from my dyed fabric. I cut out rectangles, then cut them into teardrops. Did it in two groups, large and small, then stacked them. Everything on that quilt is fused together with WonderUnder. To make the flowers, I cut the centers, cut out petals and arranged them around. Then the quilt sat there for a few months while I tried to resolve the corners. It didn't have a border. I set the quilt aside and made another quilt, "iCandy 2002."

"iCandy 2002" consisted of a bunch of circles that I either free cut or used designs I made on my computer and stacked them up.

I belong to an internet list called QuiltArt. Karey Bresenhan, also a member of the list, announced that the deadline for the first Viking competition was approaching quickly and there weren't as many entries as they'd hoped for. The quilts had to measure 51 inches by 51 inches. I looked at "Sock It To Me" and realized I could add a border, and put more circles on it, the kind I used in iCandy2002, quilt it up and have it ready to be entered, by the deadline, which was only a week away.

The quilt did get into the Viking competition, and it traveled around the world, including a show in Great Britain, and Australia. The name came from a comment that my husband made about the quilt reminding him of the Partridge Family Bus from a TV show in the 60's. That reminded me of the phrase from that time, "Sock It To Me." So there you go.

KM: Is this quilt typical of your style? How do you use this quilt?

RE: The border of this quilt is typical of my style, the interior is typical in that it is fused, of dyed fabric and I use some of the motifs in other quilts. This quilt has been submitted to many shows and now it is included when I have a show of multiples of my work. I make art quilts to hang on the walls, not to use on beds.

KM: Tell me about your interest in quiltmaking.

RE: I've been quilting since I was in high school. I currently teach, lecture and have written one book, "Free Expression: The Art and Confessions of a Contemporary Quilter." I write a column for Quilting Arts magazine, which is published every other month by Interweave Press. Quilting has taken over my life, my house and my finances.

KM: Tell me more about your column in Quilting Arts. How did it come about? What do you write about and has writing been something you've always done?

RE: I was writing a lot on the Quiltart list, and Pokey [Patricia Chatham Bolton, Editor of Quilting Arts Magazine.] and her crew thought it would be a good idea to have a columnist that was humorous in the back of the magazine. So they offered me the job and I took it. I write about my life as a quilter, it has to be quilt related, but it's not always just about the quilts. I've been writing as long as I can remember. I liked writing in grade school, just for fun. At Purdue [University in Lafayette, Indiana.], I wrote for the Arts and Living Section whenever I was in the mood. I'd wait until my deadline and go down to the office in the Student Union and write my column on the computers there. This was in the late 70's. I'd turn it in and the editor would do whatever she wanted with it. I think I got paid about $3 an article. Most of my articles were funny, like they are for Quilting Arts, at least I try to make them funny.

KM: Do you have an art or writing background?

RE: I have an engineering degree from Purdue. And I took some art classes at the community college.

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

RE: My husband tells people I'm an artist. I tell people I'm a quiltmaker. But I could tell them I'm a columnist in a magazine, don't know why I don't do that.

KM: What artists and/or quiltmakers have influenced you?

RE: Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gaughin, Matisse, Michaelangelo,Vasserely, Frida Kahlo, Georgia O'Keefe. I could go on and on. My husband and I like to go to art museums when we travel and we join different museums. I currently have a membership to the Art Institute and go there when I'm in Chicago. Every great artist tells me something. Quilters: Caryl Fallert has been a very good mentor, not in a formal sense, but she's given me excellent advice on advancing my teaching career, and encouragement on the making of quilts. I took a Nancy Crow class in 1988 that taught me that no matter what, I needed a space in which to work. Some quilters influence my thinking by making me realize what I don't want to do. Many quilters show me something new and get the wheels going. I took a lot of classes from National teachers when I was active in my quilt guild, about 15 years ago, mostly I was self taught though, at least self taught in the essence that I bought a lot of quilt books and read them. These days, I mostly browse through books on art. Or math.

KM: You gave me a perfect lead in for my next question. Describe your studio and why do you think it is important to have ‘a space in which to work'?

RE: I essentially have two studios. Wet and dry. The "dry" studio is merely one of the bedrooms in our house, but it's not a tiny bedroom. It's probably 12 [feet.] by 15 [feet.]or something like that, with a walk in closet. I have my sewing machines up there; one of them lives in a nice cabinet. A dining table sits next to the cabinet, covered with two layers of Warm and Natural Batting and a layer of black canvas, to make a giant ironing board. I have a "wall o'drawers" made out of Iris storage units, shallow plastic drawers, that are stacked 16 drawers high, about 7 drawers wide. I keep everything I can in the "wall o'drawers." I have a bookshelf full of dyed fabric. And another book shelf full of miscellaneous things like beads, fabrics, extra sewing machines. Another book shelf has notebooks. Actually books now have to live in my bedroom, and in the family room, and in a bookshelf in the hallway. I also have a TV, VCR, DVD and stereo in my studio. And a working wall made out of black felt pinned to two sheets of insulation board. The room has carpet. And the walls are painted baby blue.

My "wet" studio has a longarm machine, a dye area and the family laundry equipment.

I think it's important to have a space that is all your own, so you can think, work and not have to make excuses for messiness and not have to deal with anyone else's needs. We had a houseguest for a few months who stayed in my studio, while my kids were home from college. When they went back, he kept visiting my studio to watch television until I told him he couldn't do that anymore. I needed to have MY space back, and not have to reset the ceiling fan and change the stereo setup from the way he had it.

KM: How do you balance your time?

RE: I don't.

KM: Let's move on to aesthetics, craftsmanship and design. What do you think makes a great quilt?

RE: A great quilt breaks new ground. I love Caryl Fallert's quilts. A great quilt has incredible color, it's rich with color. Good design. A great quilt is not pretentious, it's got integrity. The techniques used to make the quilt art beside the point; to me a quilt is all about its design. One of my favorite quilts is the one on the cover of Judy Mathieson's "Mariner's Compass" book.

KM: Tell me more about your book. How did it come about? Do you want to write another one?

RE: I'm very proud of the book. Quilting Arts was the publisher, it was their first book, my first book, and they did a fantastic job. I don't remember how it came about, Pokey and I talk a lot when we are at shows in the same place, and I can't remember who brought it up first. I think we'd both been thinking about it. I like the book because the patterns in it are secondary, it's more about technique,and my thoughts about my work. I was a LOT of effort, both on my part and on Pokey's staff, it really was a collaboration.

Yes, I'd like to write another book, but not specifically about quilting, maybe some essays. Or a story.

KM: Have advances in technology influenced your work? I know that you own a longarm. How do you feel about longarm quilting?

RE: I really like longarm quilting. I don't have to baste; it's easier to get the quilt set up for quilting. It goes faster. I don't have to wrestle the quilt under the machine. RE: technology: I'm on my computer quite a lot, either designing quilts or communicating with other people, mostly about quilts. I have a 36" wide inkjet printer that I use to print out my patterns.

KM: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview with me. Is there anything else that you would like to share?

RE: Nope. That's about all I can think of now. Thanks very much Karen for giving me the opportunity to answer these questions.

KM: Thank you. We concluded our interview on July 12, 2007



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