Sandi Goldman




Sandi Goldman




Sandi Goldman


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 Sandi Goldman. Sandi is in Annandale, Virginia and I'm in Naperville, Illinois, so we are conducting this interview over the telephone. Today's date is March 31, 2009. It is now 9:15 a.m. Sandi, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to do this interview with me. Please tell me about your quilt "Encouraging Words."

Sandi Goldman (SG): I was asked to participate in a group started by Judy House, "Healing Quilts in Medicine" and all of the quilts were to be based on plants and organisms that are used to treat cancer and the quilts were to be hung at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, that's where she was receiving her treatments for cancer.

KM: What techniques did you use to make the quilt?

SG: I decided to use the Madagascar periwinkle plant. I did a lot of research on the plant, the look of the plant and drew it oversized. I sketched it onto tracing paper and then decided to use fairly light-colored fabrics and hand paint on top of the flowers with words. I hand pieced the background and then the words are done with stencils of varying sizes and type fonts, fabric paints, colored pencils dipped into textile medium and my own handwriting. Then I layered the quilt together and decided to use hand quilting with a very large stitch. I also have words stitched in the background and there is also some beading on the quilt for the center of the flowers.

KM: How did you go about choosing the words?

SG: I thought of words, and I kept a journal of words and ideas, things that I wanted people to feel when they looked at the quilt and to think about and I wanted them all to be positive.

KM: Is this quilt typical of your style?

SG: This was the first piece I did in this style, and I felt a real kinship with adding words to my quilts and so I've continued on with it. It has really given me a voice with many quilts, and I've enjoyed adding that extra dimension to my quilts (with the painting) and that comes from my background in graphics and art I believe--to be able to paint on the quilt and feel confident to do the painting.

KM: How did you meet Judy?

SG: I was involved with an Art Quilt Study Group that Judy started at a local quilt store in Fairfax, Virginia, The Quilt Patch, and she ended up teaching a group of us for about four years. Also, I knew Judy from my quilt guild which is Quilters Unlimited in McLean, Virginia. She was very well known in our area.

KM: Do you belong to any other art or quilt groups?

SG: Yes, I'm very active in the guild I just mentioned, McLean Quilters Unlimited and I've been vice president of that group and I've helped plan the programs for the last two years which I enjoy a lot. I'm also involved with a group that continued on with Judy's vision. We are called Fiber Artists @ Loose Ends and we make quilts for a diabetes center in Michigan [that is going to be built.] called the Brehm Center and for the University of Michigan Cancer Center, we've been doing quilts for them. I'm also a member of SAQA [Studio Art Quilt Associates.] and I'm going to be teaching at the Virginia Consortium of Quilters, but I'm not a member, but I may join this group.

KM: Why is it important for you to belong to these groups?

SG: It really energizes you to see what other people are doing and to get feedback. And the Fiber Artists @ Loose Ends, we've been challenging each other, and we have been hanging a group show for the last three years so, that has been a really nice experience to put shows together and see what everyone else is doing.

KM: This quilt is 25 inches by 29 inches. Is that a typical size for you?

SG: I have gone to doing smaller quilts. I've done many bed quilts and wanted to start working smaller for a while so, I've been kind of sticking to that size in the last few years. I may go back and do some bigger quilts and I've done bigger quilts for commissions, but I feel very comfortable with the small size, and I can work on it in different areas and take it with me, which I like to do.

KM: You have to write Artist Statements for these works, how do you feel about writing Artist Statements?

SG: I like to write the Artist Statement. I wonder sometimes if people do read them and I've read pros and cons on Artist Statements, but if you have something special to say I think it is good and especially with this "Healing Quilts in Medicine" project. It is nice for the viewer to see which plants or organisms you choose and why you choose them and giving them some scientific information. I also like the idea that a quilt can speak for itself which I feel with the words on it, it really does speak for itself and sends its own message.

KM: Tell me about your interest in quilt making.

SG: I started off being interested in art for as long as I can remember and was lucky enough to major in art and textile design at East Carolina University and dabbled with all different mediums in the textile field. In the past I have woven and done batiks and fabric dyeing and so on and then when my daughter, Rachel, was a baby I decided to teach myself to make her a quilt. I checked out some books at the library and renewed my interest in that kind of textiles, quilting, and started taking some classes and have never gone back to any other textile medium like weaving.

KM: How long have you been making quilts?

SG: About 15 years. I did make some quilt like pieces in college, but they were very different from what I'm doing now. I don't know if they official could be called a quilt.

KM: How many hours a week do you quilt?

SG: The weeks vary, some weeks every free moment I have I'm quilting and some weeks I'm designing and doing research on the computer, so I would say it varies week to week.

KM: What is your first quilt memory? [SG long pause.] When did you first become aware of quilts?

SG: I first became aware of quilts while growing up, we would take vacations into Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. My parents actually bought two quilts back then, so I think that's my first real memory of quilting. The Amish quilts are very appealing to me, I like their simpleness and the beautiful patterns so that would probably be my first memory of handmade beautiful quilts.

KM: How have advances in technology influenced your work?

SG: I like the simplicity of quilting. I'm not big on a lot of gadgets. I like to hand piece and to hand quilt, [which I don't always do.] and I do sketch in a sketchbook. I haven't gone to designing my quilts on the computer. Sometimes I use graph paper, tissue paper and I really feel the need for putting my pencil on the paper and designing that way, so I don't think technology has influenced me that much in my work. It is really nice to be able to go on the Internet and see other people's works and that is an influence or to do research to do the quilts but, I like to stick to the basics in the quilt making process. A little bit of the old fashion way and that could be influenced from the Amish, I'm not sure. I do get a lot of satisfaction out of creating with my hands.

KM: Describe your studio.

SG: My studio is generally very messy. [laughs.] I have piles of papers and books in different places, and I have the fabric organized and then I start pulling it out and it ends up everywhere. Since I work by hand, which is very nice I can sit in different areas of the house and visit with my family or watch TV or enjoy sitting on the porch and quilt. I'm not always in the studio per se, the studio where everything is.

KM: How do you have your fabrics stored?

SG: It is mostly in wired drawers that are bins that you can pull out. I've tried to organize it in color, and I tried to keep the pieces that I've hand dyed separately, and I keep what I call my special fabrics that may come from different countries together. I have books and I have them organized with books on clothing in certain areas and books on design in certain areas so I can go and find a book that I want to get a little inspiration from.

KM: Do you have a design wall?

SG: I have two design walls. One is very big, and I can keep a couple of different projects going on at one time. I generally tend to work on a couple of projects at one time and then I have a portable design wall that I can put up. So, I do utilize the design wall a lot.

KM: Whose works are you drawn to and why?

SG: As far as quilters, I'm drawn to Nancy Crow through the simplicity, especially of her newer pieces and that she likes her pieces hand quilted. I like the look of hand quilted quilts. In my house I have quite a few Judy House's quilts hanging up and those seem to be an influence also.

KM: How did Judy's quilts speak to you?

SG: They speak to me from her beautiful use of color and the fabrics that she chooses and the joy that she got out of making quilts and I can feel it.

KM: Anyone else?

SG: I took a class two summers ago from-- [fax machine screech is heard. interview was terminated while KM called SG back in less than a minute.]

KM: This is Karen Musgrave, and I am resuming my interview with Sandi Goldman. It is now 9:31. Go ahead.

SG: We were talking about.

KM: Influence.

SG: Oh, I was telling you about.

KM: The class.

SG: I took a class at Quilt Surface Design Symposium with Cynthia Corbin. She is a quilter from Washington State, and I had a really good experience in that class, and I learned a lot.

KM: What did you learn?

SG: Different way of designing quilts and looking at the shapes in the pieces and simplifying things and even how to work in a series and just simplify and look at shape.

KM: Have you worked in a series?

SG: I've worked in a few series. I worked in a Bargello series, and I've done about five pieces in that series where I free form cut without using any rulers and play with the Bargello which is a style of needlework. I just recently incorporated a piece of that into a jacket, (that technique) and I'm in the process of working on a series using circles. I've done three pieces so far and I feel like I have a lot of things I want to do with circles right now.

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

SG: I think of myself as both an artist and a quiltmaker and I enjoy being able to add paint and layer things on to my quilts. Definitely an artist, using the fabric as a background when I add the words, I definitely feel that I'm an artist.

KM: What does your family think of your quilt making?

SG: My family is my biggest fans. They are crazy about my quilt making from my parents [Rhoda and Lennie Goldman.] to my husband [Steve House.] to my daughter [Rachel Hettler.], they really appreciate what I do and support me in what I do.

KM: Have you ever used quilt making to get through a difficult time?

SG: Yes, recently when I was going through a divorce and separation, I found quilt making to really help me.

KM: Is there any aspects of quilt making that you do not enjoy?

SG: I really like the whole process of quilt making. I like coming up with the ideas and making the quilt tops, putting the quilts together. I also really enjoy teaching. That is something that we haven't touched upon but, I like to get people excited about quilting and teach them.

KM: Tell me some more about your teaching.

SG: I teach a lot of beginning classes in the area for a local quilt store and generally I have about two or three students at a time, and we just spend a day trying to finish a project and I get a lot of satisfaction out of helping them and getting them excited about quilting.

KM: What advice would you offer someone starting out?

SG: I would just say have fun and go join a quilt guild and meet other quilters and just learn all you can. Because it is beautiful, and it is a nice process especially for women to be able to get back to getting together and to have quilting bees and talk and doing something for yourself. That is something I think is really wonderful about quilting, it is really doing something for yourself, that carries on what you did, and you can pass it on. Pass on part of your history, part of yourself, it hopefully will last a long time.

KM: How do you want to be remembered?

SG: I want to be remembered as being a good and caring person and hopefully making the world a little prettier place with my quilts. It is nice that "Healing Quilts in Medicine" are hanging right now at Walter Reed [Army Medical Center.] for all the families that walk through the Oncology ward or staying in one of the rooms that have our quilts. It is a very good feeling to know that we are hopefully making their lives a little brighter. When Walter Reed closes, we hope that our quilts will be moved to Bethesda [Navy Medical Center.] and continue to make people happy and to brighten their lives. I think there is something about fabric that can really speak to people, they can appreciate it. It is not complicated.

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

SG: I think the biggest challenge would be importing quilts (that are not up to par) from other countries that are taking away from what American quiltmakers are doing. Probably the commercialization of quilts, I mean bed quilts and so on.

KM: Why is quilt making important to you?

SG: For me it's an outlet and I don't know if I've every totally thought about what it means to me, but I just need to do it. I need to touch the fabric and paint on the fabric and just enjoy the process of putting it all together and let it happen. I work very intuitively, some of the time. Once I get an idea I start sewing and just putting it together and I like to see what happens. I'm not always sticking to my original plan.

KM: Tell me some more about your creative process.

SG: Depending upon the project I have my initial sketches and then I dig through my stash and decide what fabrics I want to use and just start working and adding things and just letting it happen. Sometimes I cut and sew and cut and sew and I don't like it and I can put it aside, but I will save it because heaven forbid, I would throw it away. I like to save all my scraps and put them to use for some projects. Sometimes I just make a project that I don't even think about- just to sew.

KM: Do you get stuck often?

SG: No, I haven't had a bad period of being stuck. Right at the moment I'm at a quiet period where I've finished a few projects and I'm not really deeply involved in any quilt so, I'm looking. I guess to getting refreshed and ready to start some new projects. I just finished a few big projects.

KM: How do you go about getting commissions?

SG: I have a website which I developed and built myself and word of mouth. I got a recent commission through a photographer that I used to photograph my quilts and he had also done some photography for me, and they linked me up with a woman that wanted a quilt for her sister's birthday; that was my last commission. I've done commissions for friends and my art quilt group [Fiber Artist @ Loose Ends.], we have a big commission with the University of Michigan, which I mentioned before. These are things that I can always work on, making more quilts for the Cancer Center or the Diabetes Center.

KM: Of all the things you do, what is your favorite part? I mean you teach, you do commissions, you do Healing Quilts in Medicine.

SG: I work at a quilt store.

KM: Oh okay.

SG: I would like to mention that-working at the quilt store. I really enjoy working with people and helping them pick fabrics for their quilts. I get a lot of enjoyment out of putting colors together. I find that the color aspect of quilts really draws me. I have a comfort zone of course with colors for myself, but I try to push myself out of it. I feel like I can really help people in any style that they want to work in, to pick colors and put things together. I feel that I'm very good at using color and working one-on-one with my students and my customers at the quilt shop.

KM: How many hours a week do you work?

SG: I work maybe one day a week, sometimes two days a week. It depends on the week. It is very loose.

KM: Very nice.

SG: I'm lucky with that.

KM: What makes a quilt artistically powerful to you?

SG: The use of color is artistically powerful. When a quilt is very well done, I can really appreciate a technically masterful quilt that people have put a lot of hours into and worked really hard on. I appreciate that- even if it is not the style of quilting that I do I can appreciate the time that goes into very traditional quilts and very contemporary quilts. I like many, all kinds of quilts.

KM: Do you sleep under a quilt?

SG: Yes, I definitely sleep under a quilt, and I have quilted pillows on my couches and all the beds in our house have quilts on them and a lot of the walls have quilts on them. We definitely live with quilts. They are beautiful.

KM: What does your quilt on your bed look like?

SG: My quilt on my bed is a very bright, unstructured Log Cabin that I must have made about 10 years ago and I had a lot of fun with it. It was one of the first times where I found a solution to make the quilt bigger that was really exciting. That is when I found my way into working my way out of problems just by doing something different, not what was expected. It was a fairly contemporary quilt, and it is also hand quilted and it was one of the first very large quilts that I hand quilted, and I combined different threads in the hand quilting from traditional lightweight cottons and I also incorporated some larger pearl cottons. It is when I started using the larger pearl cottons and hand painted cottons in my quilting.

KM: In what ways do you think your quilts reflect your community or your region, or do they?

SG: I don't. I wouldn't say that my quilts reflect my community or my region. I don't see other people doing exactly what I'm doing which is good. I feel especially with painting very large words on my quilts that just comes from inside of me. I don't know anyone else that is working in that kind of style.

KM: In what ways do you think quilts can have special meanings for women's history?

SG: That is very important to me- for women to continue making quilts and to document what they do on their quilt labels. I love reading about the history of quilting and listening to lectures and going to museums to visit the older quilts. I think it is very important for women to do and it has been a great outlet for women for hundreds of years. I see a lot of beauty in what the old quilts have to say and the women that used their little, tiny bits of spare time and probably really poor lighting to be able to make beautiful quilts, I really appreciate that. I definitely love the old quilts and their history, and they do send a message to women that you can create from small scraps of things as memories and fabrics that were used in family's lives.

KM: You mentioned taking a piece and making it into a jacket. Do you make wearable art?

SG: Yes, I do make wearable art. I've made quite a few jackets and ensembles. In fact, some of my garments are going to be in a fashion show at Quilters Heritage Celebration in Lancaster [Pennsylvania.] this week. One of the pieces I just finished was a jacket. I mentioned it earlier in the interview about using Bargello and using fabrics from a designer that paints her own fabrics, her name is Heide Stoll Weber, she is German. It was a challenge to use her fabrics, not necessarily in clothing but in a quilt. I do enjoy making clothing and my clothing has changed throughout the years- the way I'm trying to make simpler pieces that are wearable art but are not on the total wild side.

KM: How do you balance your time?

SG: It is very hard to balance your time. [laughs.] I find sometimes the computer to be too distracting so maybe technology sometimes isn't a great thing. To balance your family life and, it is hard to do everything and do things for yourself.

KM: You mentioned your daughter, does she quilt?

SG: My daughter has made one quilt and I have it hanging in my studio. She has been a little bit influenced by me, she says she doesn't want to quilt, maybe she will in the future, she knows it is there. She has done some things with beads, and she has done some friendship bracelets [weaving of the threads.] and she knits. I've taught her to knit so that is her outlet right now is knitting.

KM: What does her quilt look like?

SG: Her quilt was based on I believe it was an Old Testament quote and it is a white background with all different white fabrics and threads, and she actually did some hand quilting and some beading, and she did use some bright colors for the world on that piece. It is a small piece. I say it is probably 18 [inches.] by 20 [inches.], something like that.

KM: Do you use a machine at all?

SG: I do use my machine depending upon the use of the quilt and I combine machine work and hand work. I find I'm quicker with the machine, but I can't get a lot of the curves and things that I would like to so, I go back to hand quilting because if it doesn't come out just right then I will rip it out and end up doing it by hand. I feel I have more control with hand work, and I like the portability of hand work. I can go to a meeting and work on a quilt, or I can watch a TV show.

KM: Do you use a hoop?

SG: No, I don't use a hoop. I know you are supposed to use a hoop and I always tell people that they are supposed to use a hoop. I just have a way to manipulate them (quilts) that they don't wrinkle. I don't use a hoop very often. I have used a hoop though.

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

SG: I feel I have a lot of quilts in me and I'm excited to keep making quilts and being part of my art quilt group, that we have been lucky enough to get the commissions from the University of Michigan and the Brehm Center to be able to make quilts. That is an exciting part of my life and something that I think will keep going on. Making quilts that go into healthcare situations is very exciting. I didn't get to tell you about the healing quilt, "Encouraging Words" has gotten a lot of publicity. It was written up in Oncology Today magazine and also, I was contacted by a man that was making a website for a group of Oncologists and it was going to be used as an E-Card. I feel that quilt is one of my favorite quilts and it brought something very special out in me. I think a lot of people really relate to this quilt and I've been lucky that it's brought happiness to a lot of people, they feel an affinity to this quilt and that's what it was meant to do, and I'm very happy with the results of the quilt. It took a while for it to come into to fruition. I couldn't quite figure out what I was going to do in the beginning when I started that quilt but I'm totally pleased with the results.

KM: You mentioned Fiber Arts @ Loose Ends having annual shows or exhibits that you've done. What is your favorite one?

SG: My favorite one was the self-portraits that we did and I'm trying to think of the title of the show ["Identity Crisis."]. I did a piece that was called "The Goddess In Me" and I did myself as a very simple goddess and then I painted the words that I felt were going on inside of me (in my body) and things that people were thinking of me on the outside. I really enjoyed making that piece, it was very cathartic, it helped me get through the parts of my life at that time. I spent many, many hours painting and writing on the quilt. It was really fascinating to see how each artist interpreted themselves. We set the size of the quilt as the consistency (everyone had to do the same size quilt) but from then you were able to do whatever you wanted within those confines.

KM: How do you use "The Goddess In Me"?

SG: That quilt? [KM hums agreement.] They ["Identity Crisis" exhibit.] have been kept together. There are about a dozen quilts and they have been in various shows in the area and they will be heading to a show in New Jersey in June. I haven't actually gotten the quilt back. It's a really a good piece and I think that everyone that made quilts enjoyed them. That was my favorite. I like challenges where we stick to a certain size and a certain theme and then we go from there. That's been a good part of this group that we challenge ourselves once a year to make a piece and then get them shown in a public venue or many public venues.

KM: When the quilt comes back, what do you plan to do with it?

SG: It may end up being rolled up with my other quilts. Since, it is a long and thin quilt I think I could find a place to hang it. I thought of something else to tell you and it just went out of my head. We had a recent show where we did humorous quilts and that was a lot of fun. It was a little bit hard to think of what to do when we first set ourselves a goal and then I found a piece of 1930's or vintage ‘30s comic strip fabric and I had fun interpreting that. That was our last group show. We also had a show a year ago June at a museum in Bethesda [Maryland.], The Dennis and Philip Ratner Museum and there was ten of us participating. We hung the show ourselves, we had an opening reception and it was up for a month and we did publicity. That was really a big challenge for our group and plus some nice exposure. As a group, we've been together over three years and we are doing wonderful things. We are very supportive with each other and that's what we need from the group; that is Fiber Artists @ Loose Ends.

KM: I think that is a nice way for us to conclude our interview. I want to thank you for taking time out of your day and sharing with me. We are going to conclude our interview at 9:58.


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