Marni Goldshlag




Marni Goldshlag




Marni Goldshlag


Karen Musgrave

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics/United Notions


Durham, North Carolina


Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave and I am conducting an interview with Marni Goldshlag for Quilters? S.O.S. - Save Our Stories. It was important to me that Marni be included in this project so we are conducting this interview by e-mail. We are beginning this interview on June 27, 2006. Thanks Marni for agreeing to this interview. Please tell me about the quilt that you selected for this interview.

Marni Goldshlag (MG): Well, some would say this isn't a quilt. It does consist of multiple layers of fabric held together with stitches so, though I now call what I do fiber art, as opposed to art quilts, I argue that it could be considered a quilt. It is stitched (at the top only to allow it to float) to another fabric which is stretched around stretcher bars. This piece is important to me because it is the first piece I made totally from sheer fabrics, a technique I've been using now for just about two years. It is hand stitched with hand-dyed (Valdani) threads. It is representative of many pieces I have made in that it

is inspired by nature. My work tends to be informed by both the external natural world (what most people call "nature") and the internal natural world (psychology?).

It's interesting that, though I have never thought of green as one of my more favorite colors, I use it a lot in my more naturalistic work (well - there is a lot of green in nature, right?). And certainly in the spring I love all the different shades of green I see in the country in North Carolina as the trees begin to leaf out.

KM: How long have you been making quilts? And why did you decide to make quilts this way?

MG: I made my first quilt in 1975 (31 years ago). It was hand pieced, scrappy (much of it made from old clothes, etc.), sort of a pinwheel design (though of my own making), and hand quilted. I didn't make another quilt for about 5 years when I made single bed size quilts for my two nephews. There was another gap of years before I made a single

bed size quilt of my own design for my daughter in 1988, followed by one for my son in 1992. Sometime after that I saw one of the early books on ?watercolor? quilts and made a couple of small ones followed by a queen size one (which I still sleep under) of an underwater scene. That was it for bed quilts (pretty much). Ever since then (1995) I have been making art for the walls and I have tried lots of different styles of work (some of it clearly influenced by various teachers).

In 2001, when I was doing a lot of painting on canvas (I had taken a workshop with Elizabeth Busch at Haystack), I began stitching sheers to the tops of my whole cloth canvas quilts in order to modify the colors and textures of the painted canvas. Eventually, I decided I wanted to see what would happen if I used only sheers. And that began my newest adventure in making art.

KM: I?d like to talk about the aesthetics, craftsmanship and design aspects of quilts in general. What do you think makes a quilt artistically powerful?

MG: I think that the most important of the three things you mentioned (aesthetics, craftsmanship and design) is design when it comes to any piece of artwork being artistically powerful. Art doesn't have to be beautiful (aesthetics) to be artistically powerful. And craftsmanship is one of those things that is very hard to define - the so-called ?quilt police? would surely have a different definition than many who consider themselves artists. Design (or composition), though, is absolutely necessary for powerful art.

KM: Whose works are you drawn to and why?

MG: In terms of fiber art or art quilts, Emily Richardson's work has very strong appeal for me in large part due to her use of sheers, but also because of the very strong emotional content that I sense in her work. In looking at other art forms, I love Mark Rothko's work. And I find it interesting that I do, since many years ago I would have written it off. But the depth that I find in his work is amazing. It draws me in. And I guess what I look for in a work of art is something that I want to keep coming back to, something that has layers of meaning or feeling for me.

KM: Tell me what has changed with you that you view Mark Rothko?s work now. And please explain a little about his work for those reading this interview and are not familiar with him.

MG: The work of Mark Rothko which is in his signature style is composed largely of color and light. Large blocks of complementary colors mainly. When I first saw these as a young person my thinking was - what makes a square of red against a turquoise background (I'm not sure he ever worked in these colors, but this is a for instance) a work of art? As I've looked more carefully at his work, I've discovered the depth and
variations in those squares and backgrounds. I can now sit before one of Rothko's paintings and feel like I am entering into that depth. To me it feels like there is a spiritual dimension to the work. There's definitely more there than just a square of color on a background.

KM: Let?s return to your creative path. How has the way you work changed? Where do you see your art in the future?

MG: When you ask how the way I work has changed do you mean the techniques I
use or what?

KM: Both or whatever you would like to share.

MG: Okay, as far as techniques, materials, etc. my work has definitely changed over the years. I started out piecing and hand quilting, moved to piecing and machine quilting (all of both in cottons). I took a workshop with Nancy Crow and began working more improvisationally, though still piecing cottons, and then I learned to do reverse appliqué and began using materials other than cotton (mainly decorator fabrics). I studied with

Elizabeth Busch and learned to paint untreated canvas which then either got cut up to be pieced together or, more often for me, was used as a whole cloth with sheers machine stitched on top (i.e. the works in my ?Fire? series) as I machine quilted. When my marriage ended I had a creative lull and when I was finally able to work again I did a series of works (?Raising my Spirit? attempts 1-5 or 6) which were raw edged and
fused. Finally, in late 2003 I made my first piece entirely of sheers and I was hooked. Though I have occasionally since then done a painted canvas piece or a raw edge appliquéd piece, for the most part I have been working exclusively with sheers. I have also begun to stretch and frame (no glass) my work because it feels more finished to me that way. I love the transparency, the blending of the colors, the softness of the sheers. And, to be honest, I like that I am doing something different from most other fiber artists. It's very hard for me to say where I see my work in the future. I have always had a hard time looking beyond the very near-term. I would love to have gallery representation. I would love to sell more of my work. As of right now, I am continuing to work with the sheer fabrics (though the piece I am currently working on is a true quilt made from mostly cotton) and anticipate doing so for awhile anyway.

KM: Other artists that I have interviewed have also discussed working in a series. Virginia Spiegel feels very strong that for her working in a series is important. Since you have also worked in a series, I would love to share your thoughts too. Did you start out to do a series? When did you know the series is finished?

MG: I've never started out with the idea that I would work in a series. Looking back, I guess I'd say that when I finished the first piece (in whichever series) I realized that I had more I wanted to do with the ideas that generated the first piece and so proceeded to make a second piece, etc. As to when I knew a series was finished - I think I just
didn't want to be doing ?that? anymore. I had said all I wanted to say about whatever the series was about or I was getting bored with it.

KM: What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting art quiltmakers? What is your biggest challenge?

MG: Good composition is the answer to both questions. My least successful pieces and a lot of other art quilts fail because they have no real composition. The viewer's eye doesn't travel around the work or has no place to rest in the work or the balance is out of whack or I don't have formal art training and often can't articulate what is wrong, but a poor composition is definitely noticeable.

KM: Have you ever used quiltmaking to get through a difficult time in your life?

MG: Absolutely! I have a quilt that I made immediately after the school shooting at Columbine. It was made in response to that tragedy and I made it as I cried while listening to the news. That wasn't a personal difficult time, but a social one.

I also made two quilts after my husband decided to end our marriage. My emotions were right out there on both of them. One was more obvious than the other and I gave it to my ex on what would have been our 25th anniversary (less than a year after he left). He looked at it and said that he didn't think he could hang it and my response was that I didn't care what he did with it - he could throw it away, if he wanted to. I have no idea what he did with it and I don't care as I never wanted to look at it again. The process was important to me, but I didn't want to look at the piece once I got rid of it.

KM: Tell me more about the Columbine quilt and the two you made after your husband decided to end your marriage.

MG: The Columbine quilt is called "The Sun Weeps" and it is black with a weeping sun and a falling moon. Around the edges of the quilt is stitched the following: ?The sun weeps, It mourns, The moon falls, Who will hold the children?? A friend noticed sometime after I'd finished this quilt that there were 13 teardrops (coming from the sun) which is the number of people killed at Columbine. This was totally unintentional (at least consciously).

"Misery Cuts Deep" was created during the week after my husband told me he wanted to end our marriage of 24 years. In that week, feeling very black and wounded, I painted the canvas, pieced the quilt top, hand-quilted and bound the piece. This was the last piece I created for several months. It is very atypical of my work. I have never created
such a dark and jaggedly angular piece before and probably never will again. But it very accurately expresses how I was feeling as I made it.

The second piece that I made in dealing with the end of my marriage was completed almost a year later. It had no title. It was canvas painted to look like a brick wall on which I wrote things like my ex's initials in a heart with my initials crossed out and his new girlfriend's initials replacing mine, etc. I honestly can't remember a lot about this quilt and I am glad I can't. It was a very angry and hurtful piece.

It occurred to me that the piece that I made to deal with issues in my life that was the most successful (in dealing with the issue) was one I made that allowed me to finish grieving for the very early death of my mother. She died when she was not quite 57 and I was not quite 25. It took me more than 20 years to finally finish grieving for her and that
was accomplished through the making of the quilt. It came about because I heard a hospice worker on the radio say that there are five things you should say to your loved ones before they die. These are: Please forgive me, I forgive you, Thank you, I love you, and Good bye. Since I couldn't say these things to my mother, I decided to put them into a quilt. That quilt was in the first year of the ?I Remember Mama? exhibit.

KM: Where are these quilts now?

MG: Well - I have no idea where the one I gave my ex is (probably long-since thrown away). The others are rolled up on a shelf in a closet. I have said for quite awhile that I intend to donate the quilt about my mom (?To Mom, who died way too young?) to the local hospice. I haven't done it yet, though.

KM: Did she make quilts? Are there quiltmakers in your family? What is your first memory of a quilt?

MG: No quilt makers in my family. My mother knitted, hooked rugs, painted, but hated sewing. Her mother did very little in the way of ?needlework.? I never had a quilt as a child and don't remember seeing any. I guess during the mid-70's when quilting took off again during the bicentennial hooha was the first I really remember of quilts and it is when I began to quilt.

KM: Why did you decide to make quilts?

MG: Well, back in 1974-75 I was working at getting out of a bad relationship and needed something to keep me occupied. Making a quilt fit the bill. Also, I guess I was caught up in some of the ?back to the land? sort of stuff that was happening then, quilting being one of those old-fashioned crafts that were seeing a resurgence. And then, after making that first quilt (which I slept under for many years until it fell apart enough to give to the dog), I liked the process so when it came time to do something for new nephews, making a quilt seemed like the right thing. And then one thing led to another and I kept it up.

KM: Do you sleep under a quilt now? Are your quilts displayed in your home?

MG: Oh yes - to both. I still sleep under the underwater ?watercolor? quilt which I made in 1995. And I have many quilts hanging in my house, both my own and a few small ones which I have purchased from other quilt artists. They play nicely with the paintings, etchings, etc. which also are up on my walls.

KM: I often hear people say that quiltmakers don't collect other people's work but I have found that not to be true. Whose work have you collected?

MG: I have one small work by Laura Cater-Woods, two of Virginia Spiegel's pieces (only one is a quilt) - she and I traded, and a piece by Fulvia Luciano.

KM: What advice would you give a beginning quiltmaker?

MG: Well, I guess it would depend on whether the new quilter wants to make
"traditional" quilts or art quilts.

If the former, I'd say he or she should take a couple of technique classes. I really don't believe in the kind of classes where everyone makes the identical block or quilt. So learn to piece or appliqué and to hand or machine quilt and then make the quilts which appeal to you in the fabrics you like.

If the new quilter wants to make art quilts, I'd say jump in with both feet. If you have art training, then transfer that knowledge to fabric and stitching. If you don't have art training, take a couple of art classes (drawing, composition, .etc.) and then use what you've learned in the design of your quilts. If you need to learn specific construction
techniques, take a short workshop in whatever technique you want to learn (or get a friend to teach you).

KM: Marni, you have been great. Is there anything else you would like to add?

MG: Not that I can think of offhand. What happens to these interviews? It was fun thinking about all the things you asked about.

KM: Marni, thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview with me. You were great. My Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories interview with Marni Goldshlag concluded first thing in the morning of June 30, 2006.



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