Pamela Luke




Pamela Luke




Pamela Luke


Judy Linn

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


Fort Worth, Texas


Shira Walny


Judy Linn (JL): Our interview is with Pam Luke this morning. This is Judy Linn. Today's date is May the 17th, 2002, it is 11:40 in the morning and I am conducting an interview with Pam Luke for Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories, the Save Our Stories project in Fort Worth, Texas at Quilt Fest 2002. Good morning, Pam, we're glad to have you here.

Pam Luke (PL): Good morning.

JL: And I know that you brought a quilt for us to see today and we're going to talk about that. Can you tell me a little bit about how long you've been quilting?

PL: I've been quilting for eight years.

JL: Eight years.

PL: So, I'm sort of a new quilter I guess you could say.

JL: Do you feel like a new quilter?

PL: I always learn something, so I do. Always striving to be better.

JL: Did one particular person teach you to quilt, or how did you learn?

PL: I took a class at a quilt shop and then just joined the Bee and was surrounded by many talented quilters and took classes from lots of teachers. That's how I learned.

JL: Did you have anybody in your family that influenced you at all?

PL: No. I think my grandmother quilted but she had quit by the time, you know, she died when I was young, so--

JL: So, you didn't have any quilts in your family at all?

PL: One. And it was machine quilted and embroidered.

JL: And who has that now?

PL: Actually, my sister owns it. I mean, she got it. [laughs.]

JL: [laughs.] Is your sister a quilter?

PL: No.

JL: No? A wanna-be or not?

PL: No.

JL: [laughs.] Alright. So, do you consider yourself as contemporary quilter? Traditional quilter?

PL: I like contemporary quilts and I like the artistic side of things, but I also like the traditional. In terms of what I make, I've done a little of both but tend more toward the contemporary.

JL: Do you like hand piecing or machine piecing?

PL: I machine piece and I can machine quilt and I can hand quilt.

JL: Do you have a preference?

PL: No. It depends on the project.

JL: How many quilts do you have going right now?

PL: One. [laughs.]

JL: Really?

PL: I've had a lot of things going on so, and I guess I'm the kind of person that I want--I don't want this quilt that I'm working on that I brought today to end. I kind of really have enjoyed it and have collected embellishments and things for it for a while and I just like it and of course, I'm hand quilting it so it still has some to go.

JL: Do you have a specific place that you do your quilting? Do you have a quilt studio?

PL: I do have a sewing room. A sewing room that's designated for quilting.

JL: Right. Do you have so many hours per week that you like to quilt?

PL: No, I'm a stay-at-home mom so you'd think I'd have all this free time but since I have two little kids, I really don't. I'm heavily involved in another guild in my area. That takes a lot of time.

JL: So, you're from Weatherford, so you have to drive a little bit to come to guild?

PL: Well, not too far, 20 minutes.

JL: What aspects of quilting do you enjoy the most? Is there one particular aspect that you enjoy the most?

PL: I love the women that I've met. A lot of them are really special to me. So, the camaraderie is a good thing that came out of it. When I worked, I sort of used the right side of my brain and so this tends to use the left side. [laughs.] That's kind of neat. I like that aspect of it, the creating and doing things with your hands and the reward is when it's finished. And the idea that you're leaving something behind for someone else to enjoy.

JL: And you did bring a quilt for us to see today, do you want to go ahead and tell us a little bit about this quilt?

PL: This quilt is called or will be called "Elysium." That means a place or condition of happiness. When I started this quilt, it was to hang in my dining room and so I tried to match some of the colors of my dining room but when I finished the top, I thought that the center of it was sort of white and stark and that I needed something to appliqué in there. So, you can imagine that the top was finished and then I had this idea to appliqué something so since my dining room has sort of an Oriental theme and I have a passion for the Orient, I thought if I could find some sort of proverb or philosophical saying to go in there that that would just kind of tie in some of the other things I have. You have to download this program that allows you to type the work in English and you'd get it in Kanji. One of the reasons that I was asked to bring it is because of the emotional ties of things that went on while I was making it. And it has to do with a mother of one of my son's playmates. We were really good friends, but different events happened over the course of the friendship. I don't know that I had ever called it a friendship, but it sort of started to fall apart. But all the while, I was making this, and I began searching for the words to put on this quilt. At the library, I ran into a book called "The Art of Happiness" by the Dali Lama so I think I was led there for a reason. As I began to read that book and also the books that I checked out about the proverbs, I pretty much decided that I didn't have a problem. The other woman had a problem. Basically, you have to be happy with yourself so you can be happy with others. So, in my continued search, I got on the Internet, and I just happened into the four virtues of tea. This has to do with the Japanese Tea Ceremony. Well, I had four blocks to fill, and I just thought, well, it's going in my dining room, so that's perfect. And as it turned out, I wanted to learn more about the tea ceremony and once again that has to do with becoming happy with yourself and knowing your true self and so do you want me to describe the four virtues of tea?

JL: Sure.

PL: Okay and since I don't speak Japanese, I don't want to offend anybody, I don't know if I'm saying this right. The first one is Wa and that means harmony and these virtues of tea, or these principles of tea were passed down by the tea master Sen Rikyu and he lived between 1522 and 1591. And these are the principles that the practitioners of tea incorporate into their daily lives. So, this first one means harmony. This is the ultimate ideal for human beings. It is the positive interaction between the host and the guests in a tea gathering or among people in any situation in life. Tea is the sharing between the host and the guest and is not a solitary pursuit. Harmony extends to nature as well and to tangible such as tea, utensils, everyday utensils in life itself. True harmony brings peace. The second one is Kei and that means respect. Respect is the ability to understand and accept others even those who we may be in disagreement with. When we are kind to others and can humble ourselves, we can receive respect. In tea, the host thinks of the guest and the guest thinks of the host. It is this continued sharing and consideration that makes the tea gathering both memorable and successful. Ideally, all are of the same rank in the tearoom. It is important to treat everything and everybody with respect, the same respect. So, the price of an object should not dictate how it is treated. Extend a pure heart and true respect can be realized. The next one is Sei and that means purity. This is the ability to treat oneself and others with a pure and open heart. This is really the essence of tea training. This purity is not one of absolute cleanliness but one of pure heart. With a pure heart, harmony and respect can be realized. When the tea garden is cleaned, one's heart and soul is also being purified. When one, a pure heart is not showy but natural. And Sen Rikyu's idea of purity was the natural look of the garden after it was cleaned and a few leaves from a tree fell onto the freshly manicured moss. So, in my hand quilting, I've got some of the leaves that might be represented in a tea garden, you know, when they have tea in a garden, so that's what that quilting is for. The last virtue is called Jaku, and it means tranquility. This is the point in one's training and practice where a level of selflessness is reached. While on the one hand it is the ultimate goal and on the other hand it is the beginning once again, a true master reaches this highest level and then putting the ideals of harmony, respect, and purity into practice, begins again with a fresh and enlightened heart. At this point, the endless possibilities of life can be realized. So, you have to achieve each one of these before you can achieve true happiness and then it starts again. So that was kind of interesting in how emotionally it tied into some of the things I was going through. I realized that this was not a happy woman. She harbored much hate and that she needed to learn to be happy with herself so that she could be happy around those she socialized with. So really by happening into these things, it kind of helped me realize a lot of things. Back to the physical making of the quilt, I had cut the four blocks out of the quilt and then I appliquéd the Kanji. I had to make the pattern from what was on the computer, a very small character size, and then make it eh size of my six-inch block. I used the computer quite a bit. [pause in interview due to background noise.] Thank you, okay. So, in terms of technology and how our grandmothers quilted, I used the computer very much to get my patterns and that's where I found them. I was really pleased with how the characters turned out and what they meant. [pause in interview due to background noise.]

JL: Go ahead.

PL: So, part of my goal in making this quilt was to overcome one emotional thing that I went through. The quilt was sort of a therapy for that and as I appliquéd these blocks, other things like that came to me. I was watching Oprah Winfrey one day and that show happened to be about shadow beliefs and how other people see you and how you see others and it was just right on this very same subject, so it was comforting. My other goal was to use fabric out of my stash. I did not want to buy any fabric and I achieved that goal until I got my Quilter's Newsletter Magazine one day. I needed a backing of course. I was going to piece the back, but it just so happened that there was an advertisement for a quilt shop that sold Japanese type fabric and all I could see was part of the women and I thought that would be neat. So, I went back to the Internet and looked up the quilt shop and saw a bigger picture of the fabric. As it turned out these women are sewing kimonos and serving tea. I thought that fell right in line with my tea ceremony, the quilting and the stitching. I thought that it was a beautiful piece of fabric but if I were to cut it up in pieces you wouldn't see any of it. Many quilters that I've showed this to said, 'Oh, you'll be able to hang it to see the back as well because the back is neat.' So, when the top was finished and I had the back, I had it sort of basted, I decided, and I knew I wanted to hand quilt it, I wasn't ready to go quilt it yet because it still was tied to all these emotions that continued for eight months. Though I felt happy and was at peace with myself, I just didn't want anything to do with it. So, it was nearly a year. My husband found out we were going to Australia for three months in the summer and I decided I would take a quilting sabbatical and it would be a good time to just get away and do new things. I used the Internet to look for quilt shops near Brisbane which was where we were going to live. I got emails from about thirteen quilters. Of course, I just wanted to buy fabric. I didn't really want to quilt, and I really didn't want to take this halfway around the world with me but I was invited to do all kinds of things and so I had to take it with me. It was basted and ready to go. I began quilting on it. When I got there, all of the ladies were just so wonderful. We arrived on a Wednesday and that following Tuesday I had five of them at my apartment having morning tea. I was at a bee on Thursday and subsequently I ended up in a Monday night and a Thursday quilting bee. My summer was set up to quilt. I had also spent a week with another quilter and visited a guild. I taught classes there and I taught the Monday night group some appliqué. So, my quilt, as I took it to these meetings and was surrounded by these wonderful women, the bad things that accompanied it sort of took on some good things and it made me even happier. I was pleased with how it was turning out. The last thing that was interesting about this quilt, or an event that happened while I was making it, was before I left for Australia. Again, using the Internet, I was able to find a friend from college that I had thought about on and off over the past nineteen years. While I was halfway around the world, we had gotten reacquainted. I came to find out that this friend had worked in Japan and has gone over there a couple of times a year for business over the last fifteen years so that was just sort of fitting that the muses brought a gift again in that tie to the Orient. I still have a little bit more hand quilting to do. I plan on embellishing it and I wanted to get the binding on it for this interview so that it would appear to be finished. I think there was another reason as well though I did not know it at the time. It came to me when I began tacking down the binding that the binding was a manifestation of closure. I bound the tumultuous emotions that accompanied the making of this quilt. It seemed to be a final thing; it was closure in a physical form while at the same time the wonderful feelings of love and friendship that touched my life since then immediately prevailed and lifted my soul. This quilt represents the throes of an emotional journey that encompasses feelings that only the artists and poets can describe. An epiphany of new friendships, true friendships, love and happiness and ultimately enlightenment from within that is just full of elusive charm. All of these things are woven tightly within the fibers and stitches of this quilt. I've truly enjoyed making this quilt and reveling in the joy that the muses have delivered in the making. So that's the story of this quilt.

JL: Powerful story, a journey that took how long?

PL: Well, I started in the fall of 2000 and of course it took time to piece it and time to research. When you have kids, there really isn't a whole lot of time. Dealing with disruptions and emotional things, it is draining. But the quilt was there to sort of get me through it and give me an understanding. I felt like it just fell into my hands. It was supposed to be that way for whatever reason, and it's all bound up in one quilt.

JL: What year were you in Australia?

PL: Last summer.

JL: Just this past year.

PL: Yeah, so I missed last year's show. As a matter of fact, right now while we speak, I was on a plane. I left the day of the show and returned in August.

JL: So, you still have relationships with those people?

PL: I'm in a quilting bee and we chat online every day. This morning I was getting my kids ready for school, and I was on a Yahoo chat with Jenny, one of the ladies that is in the Bee, and we chat live. I did a block exchange at Christmas and right now we're doing a block a month that has to do with Christmas. I make mine and I scan it for them and then they send pictures of the days they meet. They take digital pictures and put them online. They write captions like, 'Hi Pam,' 'We miss you,' 'Hugs to you,' or whatever. And I call. In fact, I called her last week. So, there are twelve in that particular bee. They were so delightful.

JL: So, you're quilting world expanded quickly.

PL: That's right. And the quilt, it survived.

JL: Survived the trip. [laughs.] Well, that is just an outstanding story we sure appreciate you bringing everything and bringing our story to the interview that is just great. Can you think of anything else that you would like to add or share about you and your quilting experience?

PL: No. I've just been blessed to meet all these wonderful people. There's another story I could tell but it would need another tape. [laughs.]

JL: [laughs.] Okay, well we will save that for another tape. I sure would like to thank Pam, Pam Luke, for allowing me to interview her today as part of 2002 Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project, our interview concluded at 12 noon on May 17th. Thank you very much.


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