Cyndi Souder




Cyndi Souder




Cyndi Souder


Karen Musgrave

Interview Date



Annandale, Virginia


Kim Greene


Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave and I'm conducting a Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories interview with Cyndi Zacheis Souder. Cyndi is in Annandale, Virginia, and I'm in Naperville, Illinois. so we are conducting this interview over the telephone. Today's date is March 26, 2009. It is now 9:11 in the morning. Cyndi thank you so much for taking time out of your day to talk with me.

Cyndi Zacheis Souder (CS): Oh Karen, thanks for the opportunity.

KM: You are more than welcome. Please tell me about your quilt “Feverfew."

CS: “Feverfew" was a lot of fun to make. I was involved in the Healing Quilts in Medicine project and we were asked to choose a quilt to do for the project that was either a plant or some sort of organism that was used in cancer treatments or was being researched for the potential of cancer treatments. I chose “Feverfew" because it was being researched for cancer treatments, but it was also being researched as a possible treatment for migraines. I get migraines, so it resonated with me that [laughs.] they should be researching everything that they can for both causes. That is why I chose that particular topic. What would you like me to say about Healing Quilts in Medicine?

KM: Anything you would like to share. How did you get involved?

CS: Excellent, excellent. Ages ago a friend of mine, Linda Cooper, was taking classes with Judy House. Judy was teaching at a local quilt shop, the Quilt Patch. She was teaching art quilt study groups and Linda kept saying to me, 'You've got to take this class. You've got to take this class. You are going to love the teacher. This is fabulous.' I didn't know Judy House and it didn't occur to me that it was something that I needed to put very high on my priority list. I kept saying, 'Yes, I will,' but I was working full time and life intrudes when you have a to-do list. So finally I did get into the class after much cajoling from Linda Cooper and I'm so glad that I did. I joined the class, met Judy, and in that class met Lisa Ellis, which is where our friendship began.

As an outgrowth of that class, I was invited to join Healing Quilts in Medicine project. Judy House was battling cancer at that point, alternating between breast cancer and ovarian cancer. She wanted to do a project that would put a collection of art quilts into the Walter Reed Army Medical Center on the Oncology floor so that folks who were there would have an opportunity to not only to learn, because yes, you do learn when you read the Artist Statements about each of the organisms and plants, but also to have something that would make their waiting time a little more pleasant. Judy would say (and I quite agree), 'Cancer is about waiting.' You are waiting for results. You are waiting for tests. You are waiting to see doctors. It is very much a situation where you hurry up to get there and then you just wait. I experienced this with my sister when I was with her through her bout with ovarian cancer and then when Judy said, 'Cancer is about waiting,' it resonated. When Judy invited me to join the project I was honored ? surprised and honored. She invited people to join the project; it was not a volunteer kind of situation. When I showed up for the first meeting, I saw Lisa there. I knew her only from class and we connected.

The project itself lasted for quite some time. We met at the house of another participant and we would show quilts in progress, we would talk about the progress of the project, we would talk about the deadlines. We ultimately framed all of the quilts in plexi-glass because that was one of the requirements from the medical center. We would talk about how do we do this, how do we do that, how do we order them, how do we fund it. There were all of those project management questions. It was just a great experience. I would show up thinking about my own quilt, being very self-absorbed, thinking: 'My quilt is not done! Will my quilt be good enough?' And then I would get to the house and I would see everybody else's quilts and everything I was thinking would just fade away when I got to see this amazing collection of works in progress. The collection itself is fabulous.

KM: Is “Feverfew" typical of your style?

CS: [laughs.] That is a great question. One of the great debates in art quilting ? or in quilting in general I believe ? is, is it a good idea to have your own recognizable personal style or is it more important to have a little bit of everything in your style to absorb lots of different techniques? I would love to say that I have a recognizable style. Some of my students and friends tell me that I do, but I don't think that I do. I do so many commissions and challenge quilts that have other rules being enforced on the project that for some reason I don't think I have a style.

That said, how I approached the quilt was very much my style. I had a picture, had a concept and then I needed to figure out how to make that concept into reality.

KM: Tell me some more about your creative process.

CS: My creative process is a scary, scary dark place. [both laugh.] My creative process: it all starts with a spark, with an idea, with a germ, basically. Once I have an idea, this little fledgling idea wants to grow. Sometimes the idea seems to be fully developed when I get it, but those ideas rarely make it into a finished piece intact because it does not allow for the changes that occur throughout the process.

Sometimes I start with just this little concept, this shape of a building [clears throat.] or piece of fabric that has an image on it that resonates with me and I begin to collect things. I pull fabrics, threads, [clears throat.] excuse me, inspirational images, things from my design journal, embellishments, anything I can find that I think might actually work. At that stage, I would rather pull too much than not pull enough and then not have enough to work with. I put things in baskets and I lay them on the counters; I tack stuff up on the design wall and my whole studio sort of becomes an ode to whatever it is that I'm working on and you can definitely tell. When my friends come to my house [laughs.] the first thing they want to do is go to the studio to see what's in process.

After I live with all of this stuff for a little bit, sometimes only for a couple of hours and sometimes for days or weeks, sometimes I sketch. I try only to sketch far enough to get a feel for the construction. I used to sketch it out to the very final detail, but I found that when I do that, the construction becomes sort of an exercise and it is not fun anymore. I think it should not be an exercise; it should be sort of a dance between concept and the reality that the quilt will ultimately become. I love the process. I love the feel of freshly pressed fabric and the sound of the sewing machine. I love the finished product too, but the process, you have to enjoy the process.

KM: What techniques and materials did you use in “Feverfew"?

CS: In “Feverfew," I got to use my collection of black and whites. [pause to drink.] Sorry for that pause. My collection of black and whites: I got to learn a little bit about using black and whites, and cream and whites, and how some black and whites have grays. When quilters say I collect black and white fabrics, there is such a wide array of variations within that classification. I got really close, up close and personal to that when I was working on the quilt. I collected my own black and whites.

I searched pretty hard for an appropriate background but then I'd forgotten about it until just this moment when we lost Judy House. Before the project, the Healing Quilts in Medicine Project, was completed, we lost Judy and we continued with the project to complete it. Lisa Ellis and I both kind of stepped up and kind of took over whatever organizational tasks we could while Judy was becoming more and more ill. We just kind of stepped in and tried to take the things off of her shoulders so that she could concentrate on what was more important.

After she was gone, her family and some friends got together and went into the fabric stash and divided it up into bundles and pieces and whatever. They had a couple of days of sales in the house where you could go in and buy the fabric bundles and then determine whether you wanted your money to go to the American Cancer Society or Hospice. It was really a great way for people to get a remembrance of Judy and still do something good for an important cause.

A fair amount of the fabric that I used in “Feverfew" came from that sale, which to me was a poignant thing. Down the left side and across the bottom of the quilt, just inside the orange piping, there is a piece of black and white rickrack. I remember standing in Judy's house holding that rickrack and thinking, 'What in the world would I use this for?' But I really liked it, so I bought it and (What do you know?!) it's perfect for the quilt. There were a couple of things in the quilt that just kind of happened like that. I have a drawer still where I have Judy's fabric just sort of segregated out. Every once in a while, I will be working on a project and I will open the drawer and look in there and I will find something. For me, Judy sort of lives on because her fabric continues on in my projects.

KM: You mentioned the Artist Statement. How do you feel about writing Artist Statements?

CS: [laughs.] I'm a writer - bottom line. I have been writing forever. I taught writing, I now write for a magazine [Machine Quilting Unlimited.], and I have a communication business, and so I'm okay with writing Artist Statements. In fact, I have helped my friends do that. I like writing Artist Statements in that I want people who see my quilts to understand where I'm coming from. When they look at the quilt, it will give them, I hope, framework within which - context within which - to see the quilt.

Now I understand there is a controversy within the art world about Artist Statements, whether they should exist or not exist, whether they should be exhibited with the art or not. I believe that our statements should be exhibited because the viewers always have the opportunity to ignore them, whereas if you didn't write the Artist Statement and if the viewer wants it or needs it to truly understand the piece then it is not there. Artist Statements are good.

KM: Tell me some more about your interest in quiltmaking. How did you get started?

CS: How did I get started? Wow. Years and years ago [laughs] when dinosaurs roamed the earth [both laugh]…

I think you could probably say I was genetically destined to sew. Quilting is just the direction that it has taken. My grandmother, who lived with us, made puff quilts. I guess you would call them Biscuit quilts now, but we called them puff quilts and she made them for every child in my family [who wanted one] but me. I'm number six. She made five! [I think.] And so the very first quilt that I ever made was a puff quilt and I don't talk about it. I don't show it to anybody, but I will tell you it weighs 13 pounds and we have it locked in the closet. [both laugh.] Seriously.

My mother made everybody's clothes. She sewed constantly and so I started sewing by making clothes. I got sewing lessons from her and from my sister, who was 14 years older than I was. That is how I learned to sew.

Gosh, ages ago (Almost 30 years ago, I hate to say.) my sister taught me to piece by hand. Think paper templates and having to sharpen your pencil over and over again because the line would get thicker as the pencil got duller and the integrity of the line would change. How complicated [laughs.] things were back then. And so she taught me to piece by hand and to quilt by hand. She was taught by a friend who wouldn't take payment for the lessons. The friend told her that her payment was to pass on those lessons to someone else, and so she passed on quiltmaking to me and I spread the word wherever I can. All of that said, I am still learning. That is how I learned to begin quilting, and I still take lessons whenever I can.

KM: How many hours a week do you quilt?

CS: Not enough! [both laugh.] I'll bet everybody says that. My time is really chopped up right now. I teach art quilting at the local quilt shop, The Quilt Patch. I also travel to give lectures and workshops. Planning for all of that takes away from sewing time. I do commission work and some of that is quilting time but some of that is organizing. I write a column for Machine Quilting Unlimited and so I spend a lot of time on the computer. Now I'm ready to go back to a corporate position. The economy is pretty unwelcoming, so I opened another business designing websites and delivering communication services. That takes a lot of time away, too. The fallacy is that I'm here in my studio all day every day unless I'm traveling to do something. But the reality is that I'm in the studio with my back to my sewing machine working on my computer.

KM: What does your family think of your quiltmaking?

CS: My husband [Eric.] is very supportive. He was the one who suggested when we moved into the house originally that the dining room - where most people would have a dining room - should be my studio. Bless his heart. That way I can be on the main floor with the living room and the kitchen. If my studio were upstairs or in the basement, he would never see me. He does most of the cooking. I am so lucky. [laughs.] There is this pass-through between the kitchen and my studio. He can stand there and do cooking work, food prep, clean up, and when I'm in the studio, we can still talk and interact. I'm not isolated, and he is very supportive of this.

He is my biggest fan and always has an opinion. He has a design background. He always has an opinion about a quilt. We joke because he always thinks the quilt is done before I think it's done. I always want to add a little bit more and he thinks it is done. It is kind of fun.

KM: Since we are talking about your studio, describe it.

CS: [laughs.] Chaos. Now I'm allowed to say that because it's my studio. My friends would tell you, 'Oh, no, it is absolutely not chaos.' because they've seen it in better times whenever we have a party. The downfall of having a studio on the main floor is when you have people in your house, you have people in your studio. There is no way to get around that. I'm forced to clean and straighten on a pretty regular basis and that's a good thing.

I have a big design wall, or as big as the room will allow me. It is not a big room and the room is loaded to the gills. Every horizontal space has a basket, a box, a stack, something that is designated either as research or for a project or a tool of some kind - and lots and lots of books. I love being here. It is command central. If you want to see pictures of it neat, Morna Golletz featured my studio in her Winter 2008 Issue of Professional Quilter Magazine and so I always joke, 'If you've seen my studio in the magazine, yeah, it is always that neat.' Um hum. [both laugh.]

KM: Do you work on more than one project at a time or one project at a time?

CS: Wow, I always have a mess of things going. I will have at least one quilt somewhere in the process. Somewhere in the process means it could be on the wall, it's ready to be quilted, it needs binding, it needs embellishment, or it could be 'here is a stack of fabric and an idea' and so I always have several quilting projects going on. But then I also have other projects going on in addition to those that are sewing related and it all just kind of a big soup of things that are happening here.

KM: Tell me about your column in Machine Quilting Unlimited.

CS: I am so happy to have that column. When the magazine was just starting, Vicki Anderson, the publisher, put a little blurb on one of the listserves (QuiltArt, I think) that she was doing this. She was putting out a call for topics, what would we as readers like to see in a magazine that is devoted only to machine quilting. The magazine Machine Quilting Unlimited is devoted to machine quilting, but not to piecing, not to fabric choice, not to any of that. Only things that have to do with the quilting aspect of a quilt, which I think was an idea whose time had come. Threads, batting, things like that.

I e-mailed her, thinking 'No guts, no glory,' [laughs.] to quote my friend Mary Kerr. 'No guts, no glory.' I emailed her and I said I'm very interested in your magazine and I'm very happy that you are doing this. There is a place in the market for your magazine and I would like to write for you and I pitched her my first article. She bought it right away. She had never met me. She did not know me and she took a chance on me. I'm so glad that she did. I wrote an article on QuiltWriting (freemotion quilting in the form of words and letters) and then I pitched another idea and she liked that. So, I did an article on podcasts for quilters. By that time, she decided maybe I was going to be an okay writer for the long term and she gave me a column.

I write articles for--I don't want to say the beginner, but they are basics, very basic articles. There are other writers who address more complicated design topics like color choices. I don't want to say those are complicated things, but they are more advanced. I deal with the down and dirty topics: layering the quilt, basting the quilt. I'm currently writing an article that will come out with the next magazine on basics that every machine quilter should know, stitch-in-the-ditch, filler stitches, things like that. I would view my column as an entry-level sort of column for folks who want to know what they should be doing but are too intimidated by the complicated stuff they see on some of the other pages.

KM: You have a website and it's called Moonlighting Quilts. How did you come up with the name?

CS: [laughs.] I am so glad you asked that. My husband, the designer, was not crazy about the name and friends of mine who are in business told me that maybe I should have just gone with I do own and if you go there, it redirects you to

I started my business as a cover story. I'm trying to think how I want to frame this. My sister was ill with ovarian cancer. She was diagnosed as stage 3C, and it was ugly. It was very ugly. I was working fulltime in corporate America with a pretty demanding job. I had a phone on my hip so that at any time my sister could get a hold of me. If she needed anything, I was available. My boss even knew that if I was in his office and I got a phone call from her I was going to take it. He was good with that; it was really a good thing.

I had a really scary episode where I was going to visit my sister. I was just around the corner from her house and the phone rang. I expected it to be her with the 'Where are you? Are you going to be here soon?' kind of thing and it wasn't. It was the folks at the infusion center saying that she had a bad reaction to her chemo and they couldn't find her husband. Could I come right away and pick her up?

That was a turning point in my relationship with the job market. I went and got her and she was okay, but I had a conversation with my husband about it that night. I said, 'Something has got to change.' We looked at our finances and decided that for the short term I could certainly take some time away from work. And so I needed a cover story. My sister, a very Type A personality, would not have tolerated my leaving corporate America, leaving a perfectly good job and staying home to take care of her. So I developed a company, Moonlighting Quilts because at first I was just moonlighting. I like moons anyway. I collect moons and that kind of made sense but I was just moonlighting. Before I left the company where I was working, I started the company where I was going. I was still in corporate America putting in the time I needed to complete some projects before I actually left, but I had started the business, the quilt business and the lectures and all of that. It was a cover story and it worked.

Then after we lost her, I continued with Moonlighting Quilts in the hopes that it would get me to the other side of that dark place that we all visit when we've lost somebody that we love and it did. I am still working with the company, giving lectures and teaching and doing workshops, but I've also opened Moonlighting Studios,, a little plug there, where I am doing websites and communication consulting for emerging artists and for quilt-related organizations. I also do web design for a plant nursery and I do web design for other folks too, but I primarily focus on the quilt market.

KM: Very cool.

CS: Thank you.

KM: What advice would you offer someone starting out?

CS: I do absolutely have advice for folks who are starting out. I would say take all the classes you can, every class that you can, even if it is a technique that you don't think you are going to like because you will learn something. Guaranteed you will learn something. I took a class for the second time with Libby Leman, who, by the way, is one of my favorite teachers. I had already taken the class, but she was coming around again and so I took it a second time. I thought to myself, 'I will take this class. Hopefully she has changed the curriculum a little bit, but I will enjoy it because she is a really terrific teacher.' Well, she had changed things and I learned quite a bit and I was really, really happy that I had taken it a second time.

Take lots and lots of classes. Be not afraid. The worst thing that could happen is that you don't like what you've done if you try a new technique or you are trying a new pattern. On the bright side, if you've messed something up, you've learned something and you can buy more fabric and try again, or you can try something else. There is no reason to be afraid to try something in the quilting world. The only thing you should fear in the quilting world is an open rotary cutter. Besides that, everything is pretty safe.

Last, I think I would say join a group, join a group of like-minded quilters. This is probably the most valuable advice I could give anybody. The group will inspire you. The group will ground you, help and support you, and provide you with opportunities you just can't get on your own.

KM: You mentioned belonging to groups, so what groups do you belong to.

CS: Oh the list is long. [laughs.] I belong to the American Craft Council, the American Quilters Society, let me give you the big ones first. The International Quilt Association, Studio Art Quilt Associates, and I also belong to a few smaller groups: Fiber Artists @ Loose Ends, Mason Dixon Quilt Professionals' Network, Quilt Professionals' Network (two separate groups), and Quilters Unlimited. I belong to Burke Chapter of Quilters Unlimited. That is our local guild.

KM: Why is belonging to these groups important to you?

CS: Well, back to the 'Put yourself in groups with like-minded quilters.' Each of these groups serves a purpose. The American Craft Council gets me a magazine that exposes me to art as well as textiles that I find really valuable. With my dues, I get to support an organization that I believe in.

IQA [International Quilt Association.], you have to join to enter Houston. I've shown there a couple of times and so there's that - besides, again, supporting a group that is important to me. I get to [laughs.] get the little booklet that they send out and I get to put my quilts in front of some juries.

Some of the smaller groups like the Quilt Professional groups allow me entry into conferences and meetings where quilt professionals trade best practices and marketing ideas. And they allow me to network with other folks who are from other guilds.

I think Studio Art Quilt Associates, SAQA, is probably the group that is having the largest effect on my quilting life. I am currently curating Transformations '09: Reflections, which is a show that will be on the road for two years. The juror of that was Laura Cater-Wood. Last year, I also became a PAM, Professional Artist Member with SAQA, and that's given me a wider opening into the world of art quilting in general. I've been exposed to a lot more art quilters through the portfolio and books and exhibits. I think that all the groups are important for me. I think everybody else would have a different list.

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

CS: That is a great question. [laughs.] I would say that I'm a quilter, but I don't just quilt. I've always said, 'I'm not an artist. I just make stuff,' but for some reason it is really hard to proclaim myself as an artist. I hear this from a lot of other people. I have no trouble at all looking at my students and saying, 'Okay, you are an artist, and you are an artist, and you are an artist…', but for some reason I'm uncomfortable with it myself. I don't know why I am. I had a high school teacher who dissuaded me from taking art in college. I asked him what he thought, that this was what I was thinking about doing for a career, what did he think? I should not have asked. He told me I was good at copying but not so much with original ideas. People just don't understand how much impact they can have on other people. But my tax return says I'm an artist, so I guess I had better get comfortable with that label. [laughs.]

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

CS: Oh, easy, easy, two things. Time to quilt. I think the further we get in time, every year that goes by, we have less time to do things. Life gets busier, we have all of these ways of being connected. We have Facebook and LinkedIn and Tweeter and e-mail. You can be reached anywhere, no matter where you are now and because of that, but because of that, we have less time to do other things. Every once in a while I will see on Facebook (yes, I am guilty) that somebody is proclaiming it a studio day. Then I will see three or four or five more entries throughout the day from them on Facebook on their studio day and I'll think, 'Hmm.[laughs.] Okay, it is studio and Facebook day.' [KM laughs.] I find that we are all so connected with these things that, speaking for myself, I suffer withdraw if I don't have internet access. I'm headed to a professional conference this weekend up in Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania, in the middle of the mother ship Lancaster, and I had to make sure we were going to have internet connectivity in the meeting room. I'll be taking notes and I'll be able to research things as topics come up. I won't be on Facebook during the conference - I promise - for anybody who is at that conference and reading this, I was not on Facebook [laughs.] But it's all about connectivity.

The other big challenge I think that faces quilters today is the whole copyright thing. I think that folks don't understand copyright law. I think the awful truth of it, though, is that people understand it as well as they want to. I think that each time I stand in the local shop where I teach and somebody picks up a pattern and somebody else says to them, 'Oh, don't buy that; I will give you a copy of mine.' A little part of me just cringes. Sometimes I speak with them. If I know them, I will go and talk to them. I will explain to them gently why that's not a good idea and why it's not legal, but I know that by myself I can't change the world. I believe that the whole copyright issue is huge. People don't understand or they don't want to understand when they are infringing on copyrights. Big, big issue.

KM: What advances in technology have really influenced your work? You've talked about Facebook and Tweeter and LinkedIn.

CS: I'm going to say that Facebook has influenced my networking and through influencing my networking, it has influenced my work. Here is an example, because I know that was a really cryptic sentence.

On Facebook, I have friends. I friend people and people friend me. Sometimes I don't know them very well, and I will look at the name and I'll go, 'Hmm, I don't know them very well, but I recognize the name. I know their work. Let's go ahead and open that discussion.' I made the connection with Jane Davila and that was exciting: big name, books out, very exciting. Later, I was visiting a quilt friend in Connecticut to celebrate her birthday and we were talking about where we should go, what we should do. 'We've got to do a shop hop while you are up here,' and so the three of us went on a shop hop. She suggested that we go to the Country Quilter; that's Jane Davila's shop. I walked into the shop and held out my hand and said, 'Jane, my name is Cyndi Souder. We are friends on Facebook.' That opened a discussion that I would not have had if I didn't have Facebook and had not met her in that world. After the introduction, I had a chance to see all the art quilt stuff that was in the shop. I pay more attention now to Jane's work. I pay more attention now on Facebook to the pictures that she puts up and that is a connection. As I said, I would not have had that otherwise.

Technology, not electronic technology, but technology in the sense of industry is also changing tremendously and that changes how I work. Misty Fuse is a long way from Wonder Under, and so what I can do with fusible has changed because the technology has changed there. The paints that are coming out these days, Stewart Gill for example, so bright and shiny and highly pigmented, amazing, amazing stuff that we couldn't get before. We didn't know we wanted it because we didn't know it was possible. See how the bar has been raised when we see that we have these things. I think that technology and advances in engineering and just all kinds of big thinking continues to create wonderful new toys and tools for today's quilter.

KM: You mentioned several quiltmakers, so I'm going to ask you whose works are you drawn to and why?

CS: I was so afraid you were going to ask that. [KM and CS laughs.] It is a dangerous question because you are always afraid you are going to leave somebody out. [laughs.] I will say that my involvement with SAQA has really given me a bigger window into the world of other quilters. I like Pam Rubert's work (I'm not really sure how you pronounce it). Pam's work just makes me laugh out loud whenever I see one of her quilts. They are big and bold and brash and they address every woman I think. I love her stuff.

Mirjam Pet-Jacobs. Her work, I have yet to see a piece that she has done that I haven't liked. I'm particularly drawn to her Mimi series. There is something mysterious and beckoning about that series.

Two folks who work together--I'm going to mispronounce these names: Inge Mardal and Steen Hougs. I guess that's how it is said. [KM hums agreement.] If I won the lottery, I would buy their work and then I would buy a really big house with lots of wall space and I would buy more of their work. It's just, it amazes me. I was fortunate enough to meet them at a SAQA reception last year at Houston and I felt like a groupie. They were very generous and they told me about their process and their techniques and all I can say is 'wow.'

Libby Lehman. I mentioned she is an amazing teacher. She really blazed the trail for those of us who love to machine quilt and love to play with thread. She is just absolutely amazing and nice, to boot. That's a bonus when you see somebody's work and you like the work and then you get to meet the quilter and all of a sudden you realize she's talented and nice. Joan Colvin, compelling stuff. Erica Carter, Ruth McDowell.

Oh, okay strike all those names. Let me just say I am drawn to my students' work. From month to month, I get to hear about their process and I get to see the progress of these works as they evolve and as the quilters evolve. I get this window into this amazing world. And so I'm drawn to my students' work.

KM: How do you want to be remembered?

CS: I would like to be remembered as somebody who helped other people. I want to be remembered as being generous. I want to leave a positive mark. I think a lot of people would answer this question through their children: 'I would like to be remembered through my children.' That is one of the biggest creations. We don't have kids; I have a dog [laughs.] and so any mark that I leave on the world is going to have to be made in some other way. And so through my teaching and my encouragement of other quilters to get out there, to show their pieces, to enter shows, to try to leap and to be faithful that the net will appear, that is how I think I would like to be remembered.

KM: What makes a quilt artistically powerful to you?

CS: Subjective, it is a really subjective. I believe that the really truly powerful quilts in the world have three levels on which you can appreciate them.

I think the first level is when you are walking across the room, a gallery, the exhibit hall. You scan the distance and you see this beacon that draws you in and compels you to go and get a closer look at it. I want to see more and I get closer and the bonus is that I do see more.

The second level of this appreciation would be as I approach the quilt, I see more detail. I see aspects of the work that either I didn't expect to see or I couldn't see before because I was too far away. You think, 'Oh, that's how they created that effect,' or 'That color really isn't just a fabric. It's a fabric and a layer of tulle and maybe a little bit of beading on top of it.'

The third level would be when you get really up close and personal. I think every quilter has been there where you are at a show and you sidle up as close as you can get to whatever rope or partition or cording off that they have done to keep you away from the quilts and then you lean over, [laughs.] to get even closer. It is amazing that all of us don't just fall over these ropes. You look closer and you get that third level. You get detail. You are rewarded with just this final level of surprises. It might be some micro stippling or it might be a little message somewhere or it might be words that were incorporated into the quilt that you can't see from far away. You couldn't even see it as you approached. They were just elements, design elements, but then as you get closer you realize that they are something and getting really close gives you that detail. I think that the really powerful, really successful quilts will reward the viewer on all three levels. I have thought about this, if you can't tell.

KM: And you've done a good job.

CS: [laughs.] Thank you.

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

CS: You know there is, there is. If I could talk briefly about a quilt that I did with the help of a lot of friends called “Teal Beauty."

I've talked a little bit about Healing Quilts in Medicine, a very important project. I've also talked about my friendship that came from that with Lisa Ellis, and the connection with my sister. My sister had ovarian cancer and died about five years into her battle with it. I spent some time thinking about what quilts I would create to memorialize this, what I would do.

I made a small quilt from a picture that I had of her, a photograph that my father took of my sister when she was a teenager. That was a neat project and a good project for me to have done. Incidentally, that quilt will be in Sacred Threads this year. It is a small world.

I wanted to do something bigger. I wanted to do a quilt that was bigger than I was and would have an impact. And so I gathered some friends together and I said, 'I want to do this. I want to do something big. Will you help me?' I had a fair number of people say absolutely they would and so I bought a Judy Niemeyer pattern, Japanese Fan, which is based on New York Beauty. I started collecting teal and gold batiks and cut everything out and packaged these little blocks with pre-cut pieces of fabric and sent them off to my friends.

After a while these little pre-packaged things came back as beautiful blocks. I assembled the blocks with some help of some friends and pieced the top together, layered it, and quilted it myself. I don't normally quilt things that are that big, but I did. Full size quilt, it was. [laughs.] It seemed really big when I was quilting it. I'm sure it was much smaller when it was actually put in place.

I finished the quilt just in time to take it to a black tie event that my niece had organized in London [England.]. My sister's daughter, my niece Karen, was living in London and was very involved in fundraising for the Institute of Cancer Research in London. She organized several of these annual events and this time I took this quilt to be part of the silent auction. I am thrilled to say that the quilt, "Teal Beauty," brought in the second highest price of anything that was sold or auctioned off that night. It [laughs.] brought in £4,500 pounds sterling, which on that day's exchange rate was approximately $9,000 for the Institute of Cancer Research.

KM: Good for you.

CS: It was. I wanted to do something bigger than me and it was a lot [laughs.] bigger than me.

KM: I think this is a nice way to end on a very up note. I want to thank you so much for taking time out of your day to talk to me. We are going to conclude our interview at 9:56.


“Cyndi Souder,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 24, 2024,