Mary Schilke




Mary Schilke




Mary Schilke


Nola Forbes

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


Wells River, Vermont


Edna Curtin


Please note: Mary is not a member of the DAR. While this is a DAR quiltmaker documentation project, membership in the DAR is not required for participation.

Nola Forbes (NF): My name is Nola A. Forbes and today's date is August 17, 2009, at 1:10 p.m. I am conducting an interview with Mary Elizabeth Furs Schilke in her studio in Wells River, Vermont for the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project. We are doing this through the American Heritage Committee of the Vermont State Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Mary is a quilter. Tell me about the quilt you brought in today.

MS: The quilt I brought in today is a great example of what quilting's all about, because I actually made that at a retreat. It's a great chance for you to learn new techniques and to meet other people who share your same passion. That was made in January at a retreat I go to every year. We did that on Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts.

NF: What was the title that you are calling this?

MS: My grandson has named that "In the Jungle" based on what he asked me to quilt into it and the animals that are hidden in the fabric around the outside edges of the quilt.

NF: Would you describe how you accomplished those designs?

MS: The quilting designs themselves were machine quilted. I used a robotic quilter to set a pantograph design onto the quilt top. The brand of robotic quilter I used is called an Intelliquilter. You can pretty much manipulate and create numerous designs, more than you could ever think about in your lifetime. That's how we quilted that quilt.

NF: Would you describe the close-ups that I photographed?

MS: The close-ups that you took were of the hippopotamus, the giraffe. There's actually crocodiles and jungle leaves. There's lions and a lioness. So, most of the animals that you see in the outside fabric were digitized and made into a pattern so that they could be a part of the quilting.

NF: What special meaning does this quilt have for you?

MS: This is my grandson's fifth quilt. I make one for him every year. This is his five-year. He turned six today, so I have to get jumping on his six-year quilt. [laughs.]

NF: Why did you choose this quilt to bring to the interview?

MS: Because of the retreat. It's a good way to preserve that retreats still are being held. It's a great chance for people to get together and learn together.

NF: What do you think someone viewing your quilt might conclude about you?

MS: I like bright colors. I usually tend to use lots of bright colors on all of my quilts, which is the complete opposite of my house. That always amazes me. I just don't get it. I just always go for the bright batiks and the fluorescents and that's what I like to do when I'm creating.

NF: How will this quilt be used?

MS: It will be for my grandson's bed. It will be used. [laughs.]

NF: It's a little premature to think about future plans for that quilt. What do you think, in the crystal ball, will happen to this quilt?

MS: My grandson, since he could stand, has been in my quilt studio with me. I'm sure he will keep each and every quilt that I make. He's right into choosing the fabrics. He chooses fabrics for lots of things I make. He'll tell me what it needs. So, I think he'll take care of it. He's gonna be taught that.

NF: What did he do to help one of the other wall hangings?

MS: Oh, he helps all the time. I like to make art quilts. He actually colored in different sections of the cloth and made embellishments out of rotary cut shreds of fabric and glued them on.

NF: Tell me about your interest in quilt making.

MS: I started really quilt making when I moved to Vermont, and I took an adult education class. Before that I had made one quilt when I lived in Connecticut as something I thought I would like to try. I was never a sewer, but I always was a quilter.

NF: Where in Connecticut was that?

MS: Naugatuck, Connecticut. Where were we?

NF: At about what age you started actually quilt making?

MS: I was probably about twenty-two. I started with traditional piecing. I started with a Lone Star quilt which was taught to me by Evelyn Barber at that previously mentioned Home Ec class at night. That's a big quilt to bite off for your first quilt. After that I took her sampler class then we did another class. That's what gave me the basics of piecing and ironing to get me launched into my art quilting. I love my art quilting more than anything. Because there's no wrong or right, you can just do it.

NF: How many hours a week do you work on quilts now?

MS: How many hours a week. I probably spend at least six hours a day, minimum. Sometimes, because I quilt for other people, I can spend possibly twelve hours, fourteen hours a day quilting. So, I eat, live and breathe quilting.

NF: That's part of a business?

MS: It is. It's a longarm machine quilting business.

NF: The name is?

MS: Catamount Quilt Studio.

NF: What is your first, very first, quilt memory?

MS: Was making the log cabin quilt that I did in Connecticut. It was supposed to be a Quilt in a Day. It was an Eleanor Burns book. Most everybody will jump into that book and do that quilt. That's how I got started. There were no quilters in my family. There was nobody who even could sew a button on. I like to do it all. I like to do the quilting, the knitting, and crocheting. If I could find a book on the subject, I would teach myself. I've always liked to do needlework.

NF: Would you tell me about some of your friends who are quiltmakers?

MS: Well, Evelyn Barber is a very prolific quilter. I believe she's won the Best in Show at the Vermont Quilt Festival at least once that I know of. She's the one that gave me the basis of my quilting. Then Doris Anderson, she lives in Corinth. [Vermont.] She is the most prolific hand quilter I have ever met. She has so many quilts and she uses them and loves them. Not to be just looked at from afar. Most of the people I know that are quilters, we use our quilts.

NF: How does quilt making impact your family?

MS: Because my studio's in my home they know I'm always quilting, plus I own one of the largest machine quilting shows in the country, and that's called Machine Quilter's Exposition. [also known as MQX.] So, when I'm not quilting, I'm trying to spread education of quilting to students from as far away as Africa, Australia and England. Right now, we have an annual event that we hold in the spring. Actually, 2010 we will be in Providence, Rhode Island Convention Center. We hope to someday grow it to as big as Houston [Texas.]. What started out as a group of forty women, I think last year we had just shy of eighteen-hundred students come through the door. It's just our joy. My joy is to make sure that everybody can learn to quilt.

NF: Does your whole family help out?

MS: They do. My husband is there from day one. He helps with numerous tasks. Carrying boxes, loading quilts, setting up the show. My grandson stuffs envelopes, my son's moved things for me. It's a family business. On both sides, yes.

NF: Tell me if you have ever used quilts to get through a difficult time.

MS: I've made quilts. Actually, I have one quilt that's hanging on the wall. My son was dating a young lady that passed away suddenly from a brain aneurism. That was great healing. I still get choked up. Stop that. [laughs.] Don't do that. [NF shows sympathy.] It was the first time he'd smiled some after she passed away. So, I did use that, and it does heal. I've made quilts for people who lost soldiers in Iraq. I've taken their faces and photo transferred them and created images so their families could have something of them. So, I have used quilts for therapy.

NF: Would you tell about an amusing experience that occurred from your quilt making or quilt teaching or the retreats.

MS: [pauses 3 seconds.] Well, I always tend to find that the time I do my best stitching on a quilt is when the bottom thread has run out. [both laugh.] Gosh, one time I was teaching a girl how to do a quilting design on a quilt, and I took a piece of plastic. I said, 'This won't hurt the quilt.' I took what I thought was a water-soluble marker and I drew the design on the plastic so she could preview the design. It turned out to be a permanent marker and it also turned out that she had moved the plastic when I turned my back. So, I actually drew on her quilt with a permanent marker.

NF: Oh, no.

MS: But we learned. We fixed it. We covered it with thread and we appliqu├ęd a button and it was beautiful. So, it was a learning experience. [laughs.]

NF: What do you find pleasing about quilt making?

MS: It takes you into a whole world. There's nothing besides quilting when you're quilting. It's relaxation, its creation, it's peaceful. You lose track of time.

NF: What aspects of quilt making do you not enjoy?

MS: I don't particularly care to put bindings on. I can do it. Most of my art quilts I don't even put bindings on. I'll zigzag the edges or couch 'em, or I'll hang embellishments off of them. I would say binding is the least favorite part. And then ripping out mistakes. That would be a huge one as a professional quilter. What can take me five minutes to quilt can take six hours to rip out.

NF: Would you talk about your involvement with Green Mountain Quilters' Guild?

MS: I have been a member of the Green Mountain Quilters' Guild for many years. I was also President for several years ending in 2005. That's a wonderful time. We meet twice a year. We have a spring and a fall meeting. It's just great to see what everybody does. Everybody shares their ideas and eggs each other on. We have a Show and Tell. The spring auction's always fun, they have a Chinese auction. People donate things. You can take chances on winning. The vendors are there. You get to see what's new in the industry. It's just a great place to meet, again, people who share your passion.

NF: What local quilt groups do you belong to?

MS: I belong to the Oxbee Quilt Guild which is now located in Corinth. It used to be held in Bradford. I belong to the Northern Lights Quilt Guild which is held in Lebanon, New Hampshire. That's a good fifty-minute ride. But it's worth the trip because there's approximately 150 members that go to. It's your chance, again, to get inspired, to finish your projects, to meet people who share the same passions you do and to get classes with nationally known teachers.

NF: How often do those groups meet?

MS: Once a month, generally once a month.

NF: You also have an art group that you are part of?

MS: I have an on-line art group that I go to. Then there's a group called Art Quilting. It's a blog spot. It's actually my blog. I post projects that I'm working on or I talk about different art techniques. Then, once you're on that blog you can just type in art quilts and find other people who are doing things with dyeing, and burning and Lutrador and all these wonderful new textiles that are out there. [blog is www.artquilting.blogspot.]

NF: What advances in technology influence your work?

MS: Computerization has really influenced the work because now the sky's the limit as far as designs. To be able to digitize a drawing and put that drawing into stitches on a quilt can really open up new doors for a lot of people. [traffic noise in the background.]

NF: How have you used it recently?

MS: As I said, I own an Intelliquilter, so I quilt people's quilts with that. It's a no hands, once it's set and running. You can basically go and sit at your sewing machine and piece. It gives me more time to make my own quilts while that's quilting.

NF: What are your favorite techniques and materials?

MS: I like to do thread painting on my domestic sewing machine. I use a Bernina right now, that's where you just paint with thread. I like to create animals, different flowers and vines, and just free motion draw.

NF: What kinds of materials do you prefer?

MS: When it comes to the art quilt, I'll use anything that I can adhere to another piece of fabric. I've used glued beads, I've used metallic flake, gold foil, rubber stamping. I've used the Lutrador. You can paint it and bend it and shape it. I've used all kinds of upholstery fabrics, silks, batiks, you name it, hand dyed yarns, everything.

NF: Describe the studio where you create your wonderful work.

MS: Oh, gosh. This is actually part of an historic house that is at the beginning of the Bailey-Hazen Road which was commissioned by General George Washington to get the troops up to the [Canadian.] border to stop the English from invading. This house was built in 1864, I believe. I have been living here about seven years. My studio is located in what once was probably the carriage shed at one time. So, it's a big, open, cathedral ceiling studio. I have a design wall and I have a place to hang the quilts. I have a fourteen-foot Gammill Optimum with a computerized unit on it. Then I have four or five sewing machines, because you can never have enough sewing machines. It's very open. I have a cutting station; I have tons of threads. I have a place for my ribbons. I have art quilts that are done, art quilts that I'm working on. It's a great spot.

NF: It looks very well organized.

MS: [laughs.] Kind of, kind of. Messy art quilts. [laughs.]

NF: Tell me how you balance your time.

MS: Between, quilting's my life. I don't work anywhere else. I work for myself quilting. When I'm not quilting, I'm working on a quilt show. I guess that's where, my family is involved with the quilting so they can be part of me, because I'm usually doing quilt related things most of the time. But there's always time to stop and play with the grandkids or talk to somebody. It's a big hassle when you work out of your home because people always stop in and they're curious to see what you're doing.

NF: Do you teach classes?

MS: I have taught classes, but I haven't recently. I've taught people different art techniques, or piecing classes. We like to find, like, one quilt a year. The local girls will come over. My whole third floor is a studio, too. It used to be an internet service provider so there's skylights over every desk station. People can come and sit and just sew and leave their stuff out. It's kind of a retreat room for quilters.

NF: You used to have a different aspect of your business?

MS: I used to have a quilt shop.

NF: What was its name?

MS: It was Catamount Quilt Shop. I closed it in January of this year because it wasn't worth my time to stay open. I find that a lot of people are buying on-line. They're not supporting their local retailers. It's really key that people still support their local retailers. I shut it down, and now that I'm closed, I get more people knocking than I did when I was open. I still help them out and establish quilt relationships with them.

NF: Would you talk about how you go about your creative process?

MS: When I'm going to make an art piece I usually can get inspired by a photo. Right now, I'm inspired by trees. I've showed you the sample that I did with my grandson which was ripping strips of fabric, gluing them down and coloring them in with a laundry marker. From there, we throw things on like shredded fabrics, leaves. If I wanted to do a portrait of somebody, I would trace the bare outlines of a picture, enlarge it, then fill it in with fabric and then use my thread for more detail. Most of my artworks are inspired by things I like to do or things I love. That's where I get my inspiration.

NF: When you are taking in quilts where the quilter would like you to do the longarm quilting, how do you decide on designs to use for their quilts?

MS: I ask them a series of questions. I ask them what the quilt's going to be used for first because if it's a show quilt then they'll want more in depth quilting. I ask them if it's a family quilt. And if it's for a family member, perhaps, maybe there's a part of the fabric that inspired them to make it. Like maybe this person liked boats and they would like a boat design on their quilt. Or maybe they like going a special place. I did a quilt for a lady whose brother had passed away. He was into wine, and sailing, and he collected gargoyles. He had numerous interests. I created the design for every one of his interests and imported those motifs. At that time, I didn't have the computerized system, I just had the longarm. So, I had to draw out each design as a continuous line so I wouldn't have to start and stop. Those motifs were placed into the quilt.

NF: When you did that did you use graph paper to help--

MS: I did.

NF: To get in proportion.

MS: I did graph paper and tracing paper. I used tracing paper to trace the outline of the design and then I used an overhead projector to enlarge it to the size that I wanted. Then I actually stitched through the tracing paper right on the quilt and then tore the paper off when I was done. Now they have the water-soluble tracing paper which you just rip away most as you can then when you wash the quilt the remaining pieces are gone.

NF: Would you explain a little of what you showed me with your touch screen on your computer system with the quilting machine?

MS: That is a Linux-based tablet. [computer.] It's all touch screen. Actually, if you chose drive wheels that are placed on the x and y axis of the long-arm machine, it controls the motor. It tells it how to turn. So once a design is digitized you can actually rotate, you can clip it and stretch it. You could repeat it numerous times just by touching the screen. It's an amazing piece of machinery.

NF: It looks exciting to me.

MS: It is.

NF: What do you think makes a great quilt?

MS: I just think if you made it and you love it, it's a great quilt. If you look at something and it's absolutely perfect, that's good, too. But if somebody can cuddle up in a quilt and love it, that's fine by me.

NF: What makes a quilt artistically powerful?

MS: I think first would be your view of it. Your first impact, your visual view of it. Oftentimes it can be a simple quilt, but when you read what the person thought as they made the quilt, the description of the quilt is what is the most impact.

NF: What makes a quilt appropriate for a museum or a special collection?

MS: Precision. Although now we have the Gee's. What is that? The Gee's?

NF: The Gee's Bend.

MS: The Gee's Bend quilts going around which would be like something that most people would hide and they're famous. So now they're museum quality. So, it's the story behind the quilt, I guess, that makes it museum quality.

NF: What makes a great quiltmaker?

MS: Patience. I think you have to have patience. You have to know that if you love it, then that's fine. There is no wrong. If it's okay in your eyes, it's fine.

NF: Whose works are you drawn to and why?

MS: I love Ellen Ann Eddy because she does the thread painting. I love Libby Lehman because the colors and the shapes in the quilt are phenomenal. I love Hollis Chatelain because she does the dye painting on the fabric and the images are so beautiful. Ricky Tims. I could go on and on. [laughs.] I kind of get a kick out of Mark Lipinski's fabrics and quilts. I met him last year, and the story behind his quilts make them really great.

NF: Are there other artists who've influenced you?

MS: Well, there's painters that I look at, that I like to reproduce their quilts. There's local quilt artists, too like Christine Fries from the Barre area [Vermont.]. She's phenomenal at art quilting. Cathy Wiggins is a great quilter. Those are all people who take photos of quilts [sound of a train whistle in background.] and transform them into fabric. I have the wonderful task of hiring the teachers for my shows. I deal with fifty teachers a year. I get to see all their work, so it's hard not to like everybody.

NF: How do you feel about machine quilting vs. hand quilting?

MS: I like machine quilting. As was experienced with the $100,000 quilt challenge which was won by a longarm quilter, it has its place. I think the beauty of hand quilting is you can sit there, spend your time creating an heirloom quilt that you know you did 100% by hand. Yet, you can have all your other jobs sent out and be machine quilted and have them finished. There's a place for both. I do hand quilt, but not often anymore.

NF: Some extra thoughts on longarm quilting?

MS: It's an art. It's just as much an art as hand quilting. There's just so much you have to think about. You have to think about balance. You have to think about your starts and your stops, and what's going to enhance the quilt, whether you want the thread to be brought forward, or the quilting design. It's about educating the piecer because when you machine quilt a quilt it's 100% different than if you're going to hand quilt the quilt. When you stretch it in the hoop, you're taking away any place where there might be extra fabric because you're stretching it tight. With machine quilting when it's loaded onto a frame, if your quilt is 80 inches at one end and 100 inches at the other, there's going to be a lot of puckering. There's nothing to do but take a pleat. You just have to educate and learn.

NF: Why is quilt making important to your life?

MS: Like I said, I eat it, breathe it and sleep it. It's peaceful. It's tradition. A hundred years from now nobody's going to care if I had dust balls underneath the couch, but when somebody goes to a yard sale and pulls my quilts out then they'll say, 'Wow. I wonder what that lady was like.'

NF: In what ways do your quilts reflect your community or region?

MS: I like to do a lot of deer, and local animal and fauna in my quilts. The particular quilt we showed today obviously is not in our area, it's a jungle quilt. But Vermont has a huge tradition of being a quilt community. Just by quilting alone it is part of the Vermont tradition.

NF: Would you talk about a few of the quilts I see hanging here in your studio.

MS: Yes, this piece here is actually done by a lady named Karen McTavish who is very well known in the machine quilting world. This was at an auction for a charity, and I happened to win it. That's with shadow trapunto and then she painted on top of it when she was done quilting it. So, it's quite unique. This quilt here is actually one I started. It's my dd. My dad had Parkinson's, but he always used to love to go to the beach and he'd always sit in a chair till the sun set. He would always get so dark and tan. That's going to be part of a piece that has all kinds of seashells and embellishments around the outside edge of it.

NF: Did you paint that on fabric?

MS: I did. That was painted. I took a class with Hollis Chatelain. She showed me her technique of using sodium alginate, I think it's called. It's like a gel that you use as a medium to float your paints on fabric. This piece was done by a friend of mine called Deb Geisler. She actually [traffic noise in the background.] creates computerized designs and this was her little sample of how you can just use quilting to create a quilt. It's just exquisite. It's perfect designs placed exactly and sewed beautifully. The piece behind you on the wall is one of my favorite things to do. That's thread painting. It's all done on a domestic sewing machine. Drawing the thread just back and forth with a zigzag stitch. It's layers and layers and layers of fabric.

NF: It looks like a heron?

MS: Yes. It's called "Do Unto Others" because the heron's going to eat the frog, the frog's eating the fly. It was part of an Aesop's fable type of thing I was working on. That quilt over there is another thread painting. That one has all kinds of animals in the quilting, that are hidden in behind. That's all-free hand, no pattern, no design other than looking at a botanical book to see what a parrot really was supposed to look at. Then there's two snakes and there's two lizards, and there's a parrot and a deer and a toucan. It's kind of like a search and find.

NF: What are the embellishments?

MS: On that one I fused beads down, glass beads on flowers, and I couched down ribbons and used upholstery fabrics and velvet for the leaves. There's some Angelina fibers on that. There's Seniko inks, too. That piece over there is part of an online challenge called a Farthing where you had to send a photo in. You cut their photo in four, blew it up, three other people got a section of the picture to interpret however they liked. I've gotten two pieces back. The photo's hanging there. I have to do one and then I have one piece I'm expecting back in the mail. Then it will be all put together.

NF: What will happen to that one after it's finished?

MS: That I will keep. I'll probably display in my living room because that's where I go on my vacation every year. Special meaning quilt. That's the buoy house from Cliff Island, Maine.

NF: I see a cow? And Flowers?

MS: It's a moose.

NF: Moose.

MS: I should put his antlers up behind his head. That was done with watercolors squares on the fusible foundation. That was just a quick little quilt. The flower quilt that's hanging there? I quilted a piece of fabric and laid that fabric onto another piece of fabric. Then I took silk flowers off the stems, and I took shreds of tulle and ribbons and all kinds of fibers and yarns, and I covered it with a water-soluble film. Then I quilted over all of it to make it stick to the first quilt. When I was done, I rinsed away the water soluble and created an art quilt. The fish quilts that you see are quilts where you just lay your fabric and use different designs to, the most outrageous designs, like zebra fabric to make fins on fish. They're outside the box.

NF: So, your stash is pretty extensive to do this.

MS: I have more thread than I have fabric right now. But I do have lots of weird fabrics. Lots of batiks and silks. I like to go online. I like to use Quilting Arts magazine for inspiration. They have great, great techniques in there. Silk flowers and going to a rubber-stamping store is just as good as a quilt shop to me, because there's all kinds of embellishments that I can get there to put on my quilts.

NF: What do you think about the importance of quilts in American life?

MS: They've been there since the beginning. They're worldwide. They're not just American, but I think the American quilts, old ones, are phenomenal. I actually have a sample of one that has a quilt inside of it. I didn't even realize it until I was looking at the quilt pattern and said, 'That's not following the design on the front.' It's gorgeous, from the handyman's quilts that were tied to the ones that were heavily quilted. I think they have a place in museums.

NF: In what ways do you think quilts have special meaning for women's history in America?

MS: Starting with the Underground Railroad and on up, there's just so many hidden messages in quilts. Again, that goes back to knowing the description or following your history. They were used as signals. They were used as raising money for breast cancer, Alzheimer's, Lou Gehrig's. [traffic noise in the background.] It's very important that the women's voices are heard one way or the other. We make sure it gets known. [laughs.]

NF: How do you think quilts can be used?

MS: I've seen them used from everything for underneath the car to change your oil [laughs.] to hanging in a museum. I'm in Vermont. There's lots of times I've gone to yard sales and got quilts that were like, 'Oh my goodness.' A good example is that one time I was walking in and thought 'Oh, that's a mattress pad', and then I stopped and looked and said, 'No, it's a whole cloth quilt.' I said to the people, 'Is that a quilt?' and they said, 'Oh, yeah, we won it in an auction. If you want it you can have it for twenty dollars.' I said 'Yeah, sure. You realize it's worth a lot more. She said 'We don't care. We only paid $5.00.' It was just all hand quilted, white whole cloth quilt. I gave it to a good friend of mine. She was not a quilter, but she wanted a quilt in her life. It's amazing what you can find if you look around.

NF: How do you think quilts can be preserved for the future?

MS: I love to use my quilts, but I know it's important to preserve them. So, I always try to make sure they're wrapped in an acid free tissue. And be documented. They have to really be labeled. I try to put a label on all my quilts. I try to keep them out of direct sunlight or Scotch Guard them, so they don't fade and to educate our children how to take care of them. That's the best preservation.

NF: You have helped with the Vermont Quilt Search?

MS: I have.

NF: Would you explain?

MS: We did that with the Oxbee Quilt Guild. We had some very, very knowledgeable people who do a quilt search. Gerald Roy was one of them. I don't know if Richard Cleveland was there that time. There were two other ladies who are certified quilt appraisers. They ask that people bring in quilts from the area and document who made them, who owned them, what kind of materials they are, and then they gave a value of them and educated the person on how to take care of them. That's a great thing to be a part of.

NF: What has happened to the quilts that you have made for others?

MS: I think use them. Some people don't. Some people display them, or they buy quilt racks and use them just for show. They were made to be used, and I tell people that. Most of the quilts I give to others, they're appreciated. Some have gone on to be in magazines, with the example of the quilt I made for Lois Knight, whose son was killed in Iraq. She actually used that as a fund raiser to raise money for soldiers over in Iraq. Got a special exhibit of quilts going, I believe, in Colorado at the museum there so it was used as a steppingstone to raise money.

NF: Have you won awards with some of your quilts?

MS: I've entered quilt shows and won awards, yup. I have a few.

NF: Which shows?

MS: Vermont Quilt Festival. I won a ribbon at the Machine Quilters' Showcase in Illinois. I don't compete in my own show because to me, that would be wrong. Local guild shows, fairs, things like that, I've won ribbons.

NF: Have any of your pieces been published?

MS: Yes, Quilters' Newsletter magazine actually has a quilt I just did for my oldest son that has images of a lizard on it that were based on a tattoo he has. I was recently on Quilt Out Loud, which is a new internet TV show with Mark Lipinski. There were many of my quilts that we showed as samples. We discussed long-arm quilting. They're out there. [laughs.]

NF: Where in the world do you think some of your pieces have ended up?

MS: Actually, I think it's either Indonesia or Pakistan, one of my quilts is hanging. I quilted it for a customer, and it ended up being hung in the state capitol's-- [pauses 4 seconds.] it's like when one country gives a gift to another country. Not their hospitality--

NF: Their embassy?

MS: Yeah, it's in their embassy. I can't think what you call it. Anyway, it's hanging there on view. I believe it was Pakistan. I have quilted quilts for a children's orphanage in Africa, so there's quilts over in Africa. I have sold some of my quilts to people in Italy so there's quilts in Italy. I believe there's also one of my art quilts in Australia. I have to get better about keeping track of where they actually are.

NF: You need postcards from the quilts.

MS: Yeah, yeah.

NF: Have you helped with other charity quilt projects?

MS: At the show every year we have a different charity. We have a challenge quilt that all the proceeds from the people registering for that, the money goes to a charity. We've done breast cancer. We've done the ASPCA [American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.] because we're animal nuts. And we've also done quilts for breast cancer awareness. We do a lot with Quilts of Valor. We actually give them a booth at our show every year and have the soldiers come in. It's really moving to see them come in and get their quilts. We do support the Quilts of Valor.

NF: Thank you, that's very special. What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today?

MS: The lack of stores. The stores are all closing. At this time the economy is not viable for people to spend on fabrics. As a matter of fact I just went to the Lowell Quilt Show [Lowell, Massachusetts.] and everybody was saying, 'I'm not buying any more fabric.' I think right now it's in our best interests to support our local quilt shops and to make sure our children and our neighbors learn to quilt so they'll all buoy the industry back up.

NF: Mary is there anything else that you would like to add to this interview?

MS: I just think it's an art, and from the lowliest rag, I know a girl that has her first baby quilt, just a mass of threads, she still carries it with her everywhere. To the most precisely quilted heirloom quality quilt. They were all made with love by the maker. There's nobody that ever made a quilt who didn't love what they were doing. They might not have liked it after they were done, but they loved it. That's what quilts are all about.

NF: Could you talk a little about a current project?

MS: A current project I have is, actually, I'm going to be taking my grandson at age five. I'm going to have him riding a bumblebee through a field of flowers. That's my next big thing to bite off and chew. I've actually drawn his shape, and I'm going to be choosing fabrics for that, then figuring how to make the bee look appropriate, the flowers, and hopefully enter that in the Vermont Quilt Festival next summer.

NF: I'd like to thank Mary Elizabeth Furs Schilke for allowing me to interview her today as part of the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories. Our interview concluded at1:52 p.m. on August 17, 2009.

[interview concludes.]


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