Spike Gillespie




Spike Gillespie




Spike Gillespie


Karen Musgrave

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

National Quilting Association


Austin, Texas


Kim Greene


Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave and I'm conducting a Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories interview with Spike Gillespie. Spike is in Austin, Texas and I'm in Naperville, Illinois so we are conducting this interview over the telephone. Today's date is June 23, 2009. It is now 11:08 in the morning. Spike thanks so much for taking time out of your day to do this interview with me. Please tell me about the quilt you selected for the interview which is “For Ori.”

Spike Gillespie (SG): Well thank you very much for asking me to do this interview. I'm going to clear my throat and then I'm going to get going. [coughs.] Excuse me. To tell you about the quilt “For Ori,” I would like to tell the long and kind of weird story of how I came to quilting. In my book, actually I write books about quilting and I tell part of the story in my first book about how I was one of the--I am 45 years old right now so I was one of those kids who in junior high the boys took auto shop and woodworking and the girls had to take Home Ec in the form of cooking and sewing. My mother is a great seamstress. I am not a great seamstress and my Home Ec teacher would get visibly frustrated with my inability to make a simple wrap-around skirt. I think a combination of her disappointment and my own frustration led me far, far away from sewing.

Many years later, like many years later, like at least two decades, perhaps longer, I was a freelance writer for the Dallas Morning News writing regular features for them on anything I could come up with. The idea in the newspaper business at the time was if you were a freelancer you just had to really hustle and come up with ideas and a friend of mine who was into quilting said, 'Oh you should do a story about quilting.' That was probably, I want to say that was probably 2002, and so in the interest of paying my rent and supporting my son I decided to dash off a quick piece about quilting. I would just interview a few people by phone and write about it and that would be the end of it. I remember the piece very well because when I turned it in I had interviewed people who make their own quilts, my editor said, 'Oh our readers in Dallas are very busy. They are not going to have time to make quilts. You need to include information about where they can buy quilts,' and so she forced my hand and not being a quilter, not knowing how sensitive that would be to people who make quilts, I thought I really didn't have a choice. It wasn't going to run unless I included that chunk. I put in a little bit about purchasing quilts from stores. Somehow in there, I can't remember if I interviewed Lut De Meulder for the piece or she sent a letter to me after reading the piece, but she's a quilter who lives in Dallas. She is from Belgium and she really took me to task for including that. Somehow this and a few other things kind of pushed me through the looking glass into the world of quilting.

My friend, Sarah, who suggested the piece to begin with, took me to the International Quilt Festival in Houston and again I am going to guess that was probably 2002 and when I went into the [George R Brown.] Convention Center in Houston [Texas.] nothing--no one could have prepared me for that experience. It was just incredible. I could not process or understand, or comprehend. Here I was in a room with probably 2,000 quilts on one side of the hall and then a bunch of vendors on the other side and the building itself was designed to look like an enormous ship, so you could go up to the second level and look through what are porthole style windows and get kind of this bird's eye view of the floor of the convention center and even looking down on this grid of rows, aisles of booths it was still incomprehensible, this incredible stunning number of quilts, art, and I was blown away. It wasn't blown away enough that I thought 'I'm going to completely change my life and become a quilter and this is it, this is going to be my life,' because I still couldn't sew, but I got worked up enough with the fever that I purchased a little bit of fabric and a couple of tools, which is funny, I didn't even know what they were for. They were just pretty colors, I bought them for their colors. On the drive home with my friend, Sarah, I was showing her the material I purchased which was flannel and the measuring tools which I bought, which she had no idea what they were for, even though she is a quilter. I just asked her if she would teach me to quilt. I want to jump back for a second, so in the convention center I would try to come up with a plan, like I'm going to go up Aisle A and down Aisle B and I'm going to do this in a really organized fashion. Of course I would glance up like a little kid and then I would see a quilt over here or over there and there was, I would just kind of follow, I would just jump from section to section to section and we were there for two or three days and I don't think I saw every quilt that there was to see, that there were just so many. I do remember being really drawn initially to the work of Inge Mardal and Steen Hougs; I hope I'm saying their names correctly. Looking back and knowing what I know now, I think I was drawn to their work, which I still love. I love their work. They paint on their quilts, much like how Hollis Chatelain paints on her quilts and I think that made it really accessible to me, like me being drawn to pictures.

It would take a little while longer before I would learn traditional patterns or quilting styles or know like what to look for in the traditional quilts. That was just the beginning of my learning. Back in Austin after the quilt festival slowly but surely I began to cut like 5 inch by 5 inch squares out of this flannel that I had purchased. Sarah gently explained to me that working with flannel could be a little slippery and not especially good for a first project but she got me going on what amounted to a cross between a quilt and a comforter. I did the top, I did use a sewing machine, my seams didn't necessarily match up particularly well. I can't even remember what I used for the back of that and then we taped it down to a ping pong table and she showed me how to tie it instead of quilting it, so we used embroidery thread when we tied it and I gave that to my son. He really liked it a lot. I guess he was 12 in 2002. That was my first attempt. I decided then that I wanted to try an actual quilt like made out of cotton, not flannel but plain cotton and Sarah showed me a pattern for a scrapaholic quilt which was very, very simple, alternate dark and light and then you can, it is Nine Patch, and you can arrange them all sorts of ways to create different geometrical designs for the top. I still wasn't very much of a seamstress and I worked in fits and starts, like I would get excited one day and I would start working on it and then I would set it aside for months at a time. I can't tell you how long it took me to make that quilt but eventually I did finish it. I wonder where it is. That is a really good question. I have it somewhere.

Somewhere in all of this and it is kind of a blur, I decided that I would write a book about quilts because I was getting sucked in more and more, not too much by the art or the act of quilting but just by this world of quilting which at some point I interviewed Hollis Chatelain and she described it for me. She said, 'It's like the world of fishing; if you are not a part of it you have no idea how many millions of people are in it. How passionate they are. The specific language that they use. You just don't now about it because you don't fish and similarly with quilters. If you are not a quilter, it is not even going to be on your radar, but now quilting was on my radar and I had already written a memoir that Simon and Schuster published about raising my son and then I had put together a collection of essays, most of them dealt with my news columns that are published by the University of Texas Press and I mentioned that because my editor at the University of Texas Theresa May, she is an awesome seamstress. She does a lot of costumes. I was having lunch with her one day talking about quilts and how I proposed a quilt book to the agent I was working with and the agent rejected the idea that I had and I'm pausing here, because I'm having these memories. I suggested to the agent that I do a book about contemporary quilting and she said how I need to do a rich history of quilting, which no way did I want to do a quilt history book, which is very hilarious because that is exactly what I'm working on now. I will mention more on that later. Anyway so Theresa and I were talking about quilting books and she totally understood my idea of wanting to do a quilt book, and she gave me a contract to do that through the University of Texas Press and that pushed me even further down the path. I spent maybe the next year or so writing about my first experience at the International Quilt Festival, writing about my experience trying to make that first Scrap-aholic quilt, interviewing rock stars in the quilting world, like Ricky Tims, and Hollis Chatelain and Debbie Sylvester who does really incredible collage pieces that are usually portraits of women of color. I interviewed Karey Bresenhan, who puts on the International Quilt Festival.

So pardon the ridiculously obvious analogy, but I pieced together this book that was a cross between first person narrative of my own experience and tales of pretty famous quilters in the quilting world and then I also included brief antidotes that were submitted to me by quilters. I called them “Everyday Passionate Quilters.” They probably are not ever going to get famous. They couldn't care the less whether they get famous. They just want to work their art or their craft however you chose to define it. I had invited them. A lot of the stories came to me from Texas quilters and so those are in the book too. As far as I was concerned, when that book came out--it is called “Quilty As Charged: Undercover in a Material World,” [University of Texas Press, October 2007.] I was finished with quilting. [laughs.] I'm a knitter. I'm not a quilter. I love knitting. I'm passionate about knitting. I thought, 'That was all fun but I'm not going to make quilts and I'm not going to write another book about quilting and that is the end of it.' Somewhere in there I had made another quilt for my son. It was a chicken quilt. I call myself the Sloppy Quilter and it was in fact a very sloppy quilt. Let me think, I made that quilt in 2006, probably right when I was turning in the first quilting book and it is a really, really messy quilt. Along comes 2007, the quilting book is published by the University of Texas Press and I'm trying to get the chronology right here. Let's see 2007. In August of 2007, I met Ori. I was just wrapping up a divorce. I was pretty devastated. I certainly had no idea of dating or interest in dating, but along came Ori this very young, funny, enthusiastic space alien creature who invited himself into my life and brought me a lot of joy at a time when I really needed some joy in my life. Ori showed up. I am going to say Ori showed up probably within weeks of--I'm just trying to get the chronology right, right around the time that the quilting book was published.

Well, shortly after that I got a phone call or email from Margaret Aldrich who is an editor at Voyager Press in Minnesota and they publish mostly craft specific books. Margaret really enjoyed “Quilty as Charged” and she asked me if I would write another quilting book [laughs.], which is kind of funny to me because this is the way, it is ironic and I'm sure my Home Ec teacher would be turning over in her grave with the thought that suddenly now here I've gone down this path where if you do one quilting book it can be a fluke, but if you are doing a second quilting book it is less of a fluke and if you do a third quilting book, which I'm doing now, well I don't even know what that says exactly about me. Ori is a photographer. He is not a photographer by trade, but he is very passionate about his photography. I was going to be profiling twenty contemporary quilters, quilt artists, people who make pieces specifically hanging in galleries and museums, people who push the envelope, who aren't interested in tradition and some who don't even use fabric, but they all use the concept of three layers. Some of them don't even want to be referred to as quilters. I thought it would be interesting since I was interviewing these people and I had a small travel budget to ask Ori if he wanted to participate in the project and to come along with me to these different cities and meet these quilters and photograph them so that essentially we would be collaborating on a quilting book. It was that same year, it was 2007 that I took him to the International Quilt Festival, and by that time I had been through 2002, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, so that was my sixth quilt, International Quilt Festival. It was his first. I took him. I took his dad and I took a friend of ours, Dave, and there is some joke in there about getting three straight guys to go to the International Quilt Festival, but of course when they walked in the door they were as flabbergasted as I had been at my first quilt festival and we just spent one day. We wished we had two. I mean there were at least 1,800 quilts that year and I am going to say we must have taken at least 500 photographs. They really got into it too. So when I asked Ori to participate in this quilting book with me it was not a stretch for him to say yes, it was an opportunity for us to travel, a chance for him to publish his work in a book and a chance for us to test [laughs.] the strength of our new relationship. I'm happy to say it worked out pretty well. It was at the 2007 quilt festival that I stopped by and introduced Ori and his dad and Dave to Justin who is Ricky Tims' business partner and who runs Ricky Tim's booth at the quilt festival while Ricky teaches class. Ricky and Justin are friends of mine. While we were at the booth I purchased some of Ricky's fabrics, which I just love. He does all the dyeing and he just does beautiful, beautiful deep, rich colors and so this is a very, very long walk to get to the story about how Ori's quilt came to be, but I purchased quite a bit of fabric from Ricky's booth and then I said to Ori, 'Okay design a quilt top and I'm going to make you a quilt.' That is kind of funny, but part of the reason I wanted him to design a quilt top. I just am not a traditionalist. I love traditional quilts. I sleep under traditional quilts. I am at the beginning end of being a collector of traditional quilts. I just love them but I do not have the patience. Just like I don't have the patience to follow a cookbook in the kitchen and I'm always improvising. If I'm willing to sew something or knit something, I just want to improvise.

Ori, not understanding that curves are particularly difficult especially for someone who doesn't really like sewing, handed me back this abstract sketch that involved a lot of curves. I'm a pretty tenacious person and instead of handing it back and saying to him, 'There is no way I can do this,' I remembered a story that Ricky Tims told at a, probably it was a workshop I attended to write about, and he told the story of how when he first got into quilting he had inherited his grandmother's old sewing machine and he decided to make this curvy landscape and he just kind of cut out these shapes and sewed them together and he didn't really know about seam allowances and he didn't know how to make curves work, but what he lacked in knowledge and skill he made up for that in large part, I think he called it “aggressive pressing,” but really using the iron to just make those pieces lay down flat. I had been so inspired, I had been to a couple of Ricky's retreats to write about him, his enthusiastic teaching and so with Ricky's voice in my head, I put my mind to it that I was going to take this sketch that Ori made and I was going to make this curvy quilt top, damn it, I was going to make it happen. I set about to make a reasonable facsimile in larger form, because it was a really small sketch and as time moved along what I was cutting out of the fabric definitely strayed from what Ori had sketched but it did contain a lot of curves and it roughly correlated with what he had sketched. I remember I did the majority of the top in one weekend. You know when you look at the picture of the quilt you can see that even though it does have curves in it, it is fairly simple. You know they are really, really large pieces and I think one reason that I have a hard time with quilting is I get this idea in my head that if I start I can't stop until I'm finished, and of course you have to take breaks. We have to raise our children and go to the bathroom and put food in our body and do the work that we need to do to pay our bills, but I mean once I get going on a quilt I just don't want to stop. That is something I hear a lot of quilters say. I really, really put my mind to it and over the course of these three days I got that quilt top pretty well put together. I had to use a lot of aggressive pressing. I used the non-conventional technique of duct taping my pieces to my concrete floor where they are likely to come in contact with all manner of dog and cat hair.

If you could see me work, you would probably wince and cover your eyes much the way that my sewing teacher used to wince and cover her eyes at my wrap-around skirt attempts. I got this quilt top done and then when it came time to put it together I used batting that I picked up at Joann Fabric that is, I am going to guess, about 80% cotton. It's as much cotton as I can get and I usually use a coupon so I get it for really cheap and then I can't even remember what I used for the back. I probably just used cheap cotton again that I got at a fabric store like Joann or something like that. Then it's time to sew the layers together and this is where I run into some difficulty because I don't have the time or the patience or the skill to stipple, I don't know how to do that. I don't really know how to use my sewing machine beyond straight seams and so what I do is [laughs.] I just cram the whole thing up in the sewing machine and I begin sewing sort of straight lines, by which I mean I don't draw it out on the quilt back ahead of time and very often my seams will wind up going at an angle and I will just be all hither and tither all over the back of that thing. I call that my “special design.” I'm trying to remember with Ori's quilt--sorry I don't have it here with me, I may have even employed what I call “the mowing the lawn' technique, which is kind of like a crop circley thing where you start in the middle and you kind of work your way out into, I don't know if you can say 'concentric squares' but kind of like straight seams, you just go around and around and kind of like a snail like fashion. I put the word “technique” in quotes; that is my technique. Anyway, I presented it to Ori and he was very pleased with it and he did have it on his bed for a while, but now he keeps it in a safe place. [laughs.] It sort of defeats the purpose.

When I see quilts at the quilt show I know that overwhelmingly, I am going to say like way overwhelmingly they are, those pieces are created as show pieces, either to hang on a wall or to be brought out to be displayed just for really special occasions or for the purpose of entering in the quilt show in the hopes of winning a competition. I understand that and I study quilts a lot, I interview quilt experts and historians all the time. I just got back from the Quilt Symposium in Lincoln, Nebraska. I was there in April and I understand the importance of really taking special care of these beautiful pieces of art, but perhaps as a response to the quilts that I write about and the artists I write about, or perhaps just because I really love the comforting notion of utilitarian quilts; the quilts that I make which are few and far between, it is my great hope that those quilts will be used. I want them to be used. I want them on beds. I want the dogs to roll around on them. I want to be able to throw them in the washer. I don't care if they get worn out and torn. We can either fix that or make another quilt. For somebody who spends an awful lot of time writing about prize quilts that are appraised, often appraised at really high value, for me personally when it's time to sit down and make something, I want it to be beautiful and kind of funny, which is my sloppy quilting technique. I want it to be utilitarian and that brings me to Voyager Press.

Voyager Press was very pleased with the book that I wrote about contemporary quilters and that book will be published in the fall of 2009. They asked me to write another book about quilting and this time they asked me to write a history of quilts from around the world, which I agreed to do and now that I'm in the mix of it I kind of wondering why I agreed to do it because it's tedious, to use another quilting analogy, it's on par with making a much more traditional quilt with many, many pieces. I'm doing tons and tons of research. I'm not doing that many interviews. There is a really limited number primary sources and it's very, very intense and at times kind of dry work.

Recently, about three weeks ago, my son was about to graduate from high school and the overwhelming excitement and stress of that combined with the intensity of the research on the quilt book, I had this very, very funny reaction. I got out my sewing machine, which I rarely get out. It is $100.00 Singer, cheap plastic machine and I got out some fat quarters that I had picked up at the Dallas Quilt Show when I was speaking to the Plano Quilt Guild and those fat quarters had pictures of wolves on them. My son gets a kick out of wolves. He ironically wears serious wolf tee shirts and I thought I want to make him a quilt. I want to make him a quilt. Just what every 18 year old rock and roll high school graduate wants is a quilt. But I just did not have the patience to cut up the pieces and so [laughs.] the blocks for that I think I maybe half or quartered the quarters. I mean this quilt is so hilarious. I put the top together in about two days. Ori tried to dissuade me, he pointed out that I had a lot going on with my book research, maybe I should just wait until I had more time, but I just got very determined, so I got out my duct tape and I got out my big quilt squares and I pieced this thing together, probably inside 24 hours I did the top. I went to the craft store and I got these incredibly silly google eyes and I put those on the wolves making them look very cartoonish and silly and that was something I think I picked up from Pam RuBert who does these really, really great, these great cartoonish art quilts. She is in the book, contemporary artists that I profiled and I learned so much from these artists that I meet, and even when what I learn from them is never going to show up in quilts, what I learn from them inspires me in my writing and in my knitting. I really like their attitudes and their free spiritedness. So I created this incredibly sloppy quilt for my son, which is almost finished now and which I think at least in part is a response to all of this serious, serious research I've done. I just had to kind of lash out and make a ridiculous, silly quilt. Now I'm going to stop and inhale. [breaths in and laughs.] It is your turn Karen.

KM: Let's go back to the first book. What was the reaction from the quilt world to your quilt book?

SG: The quilt world is so funny to me and I'm going to speak in sweeping generalizations here because you know, because I'm a black and white thinker and sweeping generalizations are fun; I'm going to say overwhelmingly the reaction to the book has been great. I get fan mail, not like every day, not even every week, but I do get notes from people and they get a kick out of it and I speak to quilt guilds with growing regularity. I have three talks I'm giving in August, so maybe somewhere between four and six times a year I get invited to speak to quilt guilds and I usually read a section about… like my attempts at sewing or like the first time I walked into the convention center in Houston and that really, really resonates for people. I'm going to say that the quilt world as far as guilds are concerned has really embraced the book and they have really welcomed me and really sent me nice letters. Now as far as the academic part of the quilting world goes, I think inviting a lot of experts, a lot of quilt scholars, and historians to participate in the book that I'm working on now, either to write a piece for it or to be interviewed for it and I think I have had an overwhelmingly positive response. I did have one very well known quilt expert. I will not name this person nor will I name this person's country of origin although this person is not from the United States. This expert after agreeing to an interview or to participate sent me an email recently saying that she looked me up on the internet and she saw that my other quilting book was nothing but like a hack work, just thrown together and I was not a serious writer and, like, how dare I undertake this project, and I mean she really came down hard on me. When you publish with an academic press, like I said UT Press has published a couple of my books, their process is the book has got to be pre-read by readers, two or three readers and those readers have got to approve the manuscript for publication. For the “Quilty” manuscript, I think they chose two readers and one of the readers said, 'Oh this quilting book is really great. Publish it.' Totally got it, totally got that it was a very conversational fun book, but the other reader they sent it to was clearly high up in command member of the Quilt Police [KM laughs.] and that reader was so offended that I would write about quilting in such a--it is not really irreverent but I think that was the perception that I was being irreverent. I was being self-deprecating certainly about my own quilting skills, but she said, 'Under no circumstances should the book be published,' and she was just outraged.

Overall though, the community is just welcoming and I don't pretend to be anything I'm not when I go and speak to guilds. I let them know that I'm a terrible seamstress. I usually am knitting while I'm talking to them so it makes it pretty clear where my passion lies, but I hope that if anyone really stops to like scrutinize my credentials or has a “how dare she” moment regarding my work. I'm a trained journalist and I've been a published journalist for 26 years and so what I lack in quilting skills hopefully what I bring to the table is an ability to observe and process and be like an outsider writing, hopefully really authentically about what these quilters are doing. Now I hope that doesn't sound real pompous and I don't mean it too, but I just want to be able to be the lay person between; I like my books to be kind of crossover and hopefully they are of interest to people who are not necessarily quilters because here is this really interesting world and what inspired the book “Quilty As Charged” is the book called “Word Freak” that Stefan Fatsis wrote about the incredible world of Scrabble champions and Scrabble championships and to immerse himself in that world, Stefan decided that he was going to become the best Scrabble player he could be and try to become a tournament player. He wasn't going to give up his life as a journalist and make that a lifelong goal but he wanted to do full some full immersion learning and that is what I do with my quilting books.

KM: Do you think you have more quilting books in your future.

SG: [laughs.] Perish the thought. [KM laughs.] I shouldn't say that and it is not a lack of gratitude toward the quilting community or anything like that, it is just that like I said this current book I'm working on is so labor intensive. When I talked to the academic community and mention I'm writing a history of like quilts throughout time around the world and I'm doing it in nine months, they just kind of like sort of do a cross between a gasp and a laugh, because they don't write dissertations on, they could write 200 pages on the meaning of stitches per inch, whereas I'm trying to cover an awful lot of ground, both chronologically and geographically, but I stress to the Academy that this is not an academic tome. On the other hand, I don't want it to just be a coffee table book. I hope it's kind of like a hybrid and I'm relying heavily on a lot of research done by academics. I'm so lucky to have that research. Right now I feel like the way I felt after my first quilting book came out. I feel like I'm going to finish this book, I'm going to turn it in September and I am going to get rid of my sewing machine and my various small stash and never even say the world quilt again. But I actually have a hunch that what will really happen is that, when the second quilt book comes out, which is just in a couple of months and then the third quilt book is that I really think and actually hope that I will be able to go out more on the guild speaking circuit because I love going to the meetings and I love meeting people and I love talking and I love sharing stuff that I learned. Like right now I'm thinking of writing a presentation about how it is so fascinating how politics and legislative action has affected textiles in general and quilting specifically over the centuries. Like in France and England and Japan there have been laws that have either directly or indirectly affected people's ability to access textiles necessary to make quilts. I thought, 'Well that might be interesting to look at sort of the laws throughout history and different countries.' Stuff that you would never even stop to think about when you are sitting down to make a quilt, it is pretty fascinating.

KM: How do you want to be remembered?

SG: In my life? [KM hums.] [SG laughs.] As a good mom, as a good companion to dogs, and as somebody who learned how to; you know the old lemonade thing, I was raised with a lot of anger. I actually have written a book about this and I have strived or striven, whichever the correct word is, in the past ten years to really learn the way that I perceive the world and to not assume that everybody is out to get me. That's been [laughs.], that has been a pretty constant struggle and none of those things actually have anything to do with quilting, except, and I know I don't have to tie it into quilting but I will say that when I'm actually sitting down at the machine and sewing, when I'm really into it and I'm listening to an audio book and I'm just going at it, I am as in the moment as I can be, which has been the biggest struggle for me is to learn how to be in the moment. For me that is what my knitting is about and I mediate every day and so since we are talking about quilting and you ask how I want to be remembered, I want to be remembered as somebody who really, really figured out how to live in the moment.

KM: Is there anything that you would like to share that we haven't touched upon before we conclude?

SG: I think I have pretty well covered it. I mean I can't, I could tell you that I have the pieces cut out for another quilt. [laughs.] I don't know if I'm actually going to make it, we will see.

KM: What advice would you offer someone starting out in quiltmaking?

SG: Oh gosh, well I'm going to take a sip of water here, excuse me. I was so lucky that, I'm trying to remember how I stumbled into Ricky Tims way back in the beginning. I think I must just have met him at the quilt show. Bob Ruggiero runs the publicity side for Quilts, Inc. He is a really key component in the International Quilt Festival and he has always been so generous with me, like connecting me with the right people, pointing me in the right direction, not minding when I was a complete novice. My hunch is that he said to me, 'You need to meet Ricky Tims.' When I met Ricky and I started writing about him and I've written a number of pieces about him and I filmed him for a quilt documentary that I haven't finished yet but I have all the footage for; Ricky who is such an accomplished quiltmaker, he can do the most incredible traditional quilts. He does these retreats where “Caveman” quilting or primitive quilting. He will take quilters, really precise quilters and he will force them to rip fabric instead of using scissors and he will give them a talk about that it is not important to have your seams lined up and they will talk about the fun and the power of making utilitarian quilt that you can take on a picnic, and I'm so lucky that I met Ricky early on and that I sat in on his workshops and I absorbed his wisdom because when I do make a quilt and I sit down, his voice is always in my head saying do not take this seriously. I know some people take it really seriously for these beautiful works, but for somebody just starting out, I would say please remember to have fun with it. Like for me it's the tactile sensation. It's the tactile thrill. It is a visual thrill. It is an audible thrill because you hear the sounds of the sewing machine. Really enjoy the sensual excitement of it and don't fall apart if your seams don't line up and by all means do not start out trying to do, I'm laughingly going to say, like that dentist from Waco who did a pixilated version of the Last Supper. I think it was it had 54,000 pieces that are one inch by one inch. [laughs.] A dentist, so he said that is bigger than the size of a tooth so that actually felt kind of big for him. Don't set yourself up for disappointment and failure by saying, 'I'm going to make a king size, hand appliquéd Hawaiian quilt.' Like don't do that. Just pick something real, real simple and enjoy it.

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

SG: I think the biggest challenge confronting any--I'm not sure it's the biggest challenge, but I want to say something that I encounter a lot and I often encounter this with knitters as well as quilters is that the stash, you know the hoarding, the stash and spending money. I'm all for, like if you have money to spend on a stash and it brings you joy. I travel a lot and whenever I travel I try to always go to a knitting shop and buy some yarn. That might be yarn that I could easily get at my favorite knitting shop, but when I buy the yarn I associate it with that store and that trip. Like when I was in Nebraska I went to two different knitting stores and I got some sock yarn at one and some really beautiful cashmere at another. What I'm getting at is I'm not saying, 'Oh you must be frugal,' but I do hear from quilters all the time about their mammoth stashes or they are never going to get to it and I think sometimes you can be really swept away by the beauty of the stash that surrounds you, but I actually think sometimes you can kind of be intimidated or find it daunting like not knowing where to begin, so I think especially for someone starting out the challenge is like don't go and buy $3,000 dollars worth of stash and supplies and a Bernina that can also do the dishes and walk the dogs. The challenge is to enter it simply because it is so easy. It is like saying on January 1, 'I'm going to lose 20 pounds,' and you sign up for the gym and then you go and buy $200 worth of Lycra clothing and all this and that. That is not going to lose the weight for you, you have to apply yourself. So I think the challenge is just sitting down and working on something.

KM: I want to thank you for taking time out of your day and sharing with me. You were a delight.

SG: Thanks.

KM: An easy interview.

SG: Ha-ha-ha.

KM: We are going to conclude our interview at 11:53.



“Spike Gillespie,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 16, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/2004.