Diane Gaudynski




Diane Gaudynski




Diane Gaudynski


Joanne Gasperik

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Nancy O'Bryant Puentes


Waukesha, Wisconsin


Joanne Gasperik


Joanne Gasperik (JG): This is Joanne Gasperik. Today's date is August 12, 2003 and its 1:57 p.m. I am conducting an interview with Diane Gaudynski for Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project. We are in Diane's home in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Thank you, Diane for allowing me to interview you today. Tell me about the quilt you have here today. Its origin? The thoughts behind it? Describe it to us, the pattern and the material.

Diane Gaudynski (DG): It's a log cabin pattern so that's a traditional block that's been made since the 1800's. A very popular block that goes in and out of popularity. I've always liked it. This particular quilt is a remake of a quilt that I made when I was a beginner. I didn't have the skill or the design ability or the quilting skills, even the materials to make what I had in my mind. So I made that first quilt and I really liked it, but I knew I wasn't quite right. So it was used on my bed and the cats slept on it and I always knew that one day I would go back to that quilt and make it again. It's made of individual blocks, a light and a dark color on each side of the same color family, and then the center is a deep blue. I had seen an antique quilt, very poorly made of scrap fabrics, very old. Probably one of the early log cabins with blue as the center. And although red is traditional, there were many log cabin quilts that had yellow and black, and this was the only one that I have ever seen with that deep blue as the center. It stayed in my mind that I want to make one like that some day. I went with the color palette that I'm the most comfortable with and that's the very deep autumnal colors and brought out the light with the blue. I also changed some of the centers so that they were not only blue but violet, to give it even a little bit more interest. I thought that it was too flat the other way. My original quilt had bigger blocks and bigger logs, the individual pieces, the strips. When I went to remake it, I ventured into the world of hand-dyed fabrics that I had never done before, because I am such a traditionalist. Only art quilters used hand-dyed and I wanted to use them too, but in a traditional way. So instead of making each block two fabric choices, I went with colors instead, and put in many, many varieties of the same color range in each half of that one block. I looked at each block almost like a little quilt. I made, I'd say half of the blocks with twice the width of the logs and one fabric in each half and put them up on my design wall. My cat Fluffy and I looked at them and we both looked at each other and said 'No. This is all wrong this is totally a disaster, maybe this worked with prints,' because there was so much going on in the floral and there were a variety of colors, but with solid colors it was dying, very badly dying. So we just took them off the wall, stuffed them in a drawer, where they are still languishing for some future day when I want to finish them or do something else. And I looked at Fluffy. She is a tri-color pastel tortoise-shell. Nature does wonderful things with cat coloring. She was so many shades of those colors, all in one unit, and it blended and yet it had all the dimensions and they were so subtle. This was me in a nut-shell. This is was I like to do in quilting: subtle gradations, not high contrast. So I said, 'Fluffy, you know, I think if I got every color that's in your coat I could make a decent block for this quilt.' So I did. I got the tan and the gray and the silvery. I found all those colors, put the blue in the middle and the other side I went with the beiges and roses like her nose and toe pads, put it together and like the light came on over my head [laughs.] I said, 'Oh this is too exciting.' So then of course I had to go into all other color families, the russets, and the burgundies, the wines, the chocolates, the cashews, the chamois, the wonderful orangey tones of the Southwest. I put all of them in. Everyday I would say it needs a little something else, and I would send off an order to the hand-dyed fabric company and say, 'I want the heather assortment,' and I'd get the lilacs and the light teals and the misty heathery colors of Scotland and make blocks with those. And finally I knew what it needed, when the blocks were about 2/3 done, was sunlight. So I came up with a really brilliant yellow in there, and scattered it like drops of sunshine coming through a stained-glass window. That's where the name of the quilt came from; it was from that look of deep-dark fragments of color with sunlight piercing through. It just came to me as I was working on it. That's what quilters do frequently, is name their quilts as they are working and inspiration strikes, and I named it "Through a Glass Darkly." Then I also added on "An American Memory" because it is so reminiscent of all the quilts that have gone previous to this time, in our history. We as modern quilt makers are using everything new and fast and speedy. But I wanted that look and that heritage to be reinterpreted and reintroduced to a whole new generation of quilt makers. It has done that. I am very happy to say that people look at it and see in its simplicity such elegance that they have been moved to tears, just looking at this. And yet it's something that is so basic to our quilt making skills. This is the block that 9 year-old children learned to piece as their first block.

JG: So this is the meaning this quilt has for you, is going back in history and taking a very simple pattern and making it drop-dead gorgeous.

DG: Right. Just making it, it's something that is reinterpreted with modern materials and fabrics, but I wanted to save it. I wanted to put it out there for the public to see. I actually had--I was working on a project at the time for an exhibit in Tokyo, Japan. I had to send three pieces. All of my large pieces were--I didn't have access to them. So I thought, well I'll make this one first, because I need a recess from hard-to-do, difficult, competition-level quilts. I wanted to go back and just get into the roots of my quilt making and make this quilt. As it turned out, it became the central focus for my exhibit as one of the top thirty quilt artists in the world, in Tokyo. It has spoken to people all over the world. I didn't really set out with that in mind. I never did. It was going to be a recess quilt for me, a project where I could just have fun working with color. And then, when it almost didn't happen, because I was doing it incorrectly and my cat saved it, it became even more special. Because that's what happens to so many quilts: they get rolled up, thrown in a closet, tossed aside and never finished, because that inspiration to save them and change some little thing in them, just never hit you. That might have happened with this quilt, but it was saved that day [laughs.] and when inspiration struck I couldn't stop working on it then. It was like it took on a life of its own. With something that was meant to be a fun, relaxing break, not to be a competition quilt, it has won more awards for me [Master Quilter.] than any of the quilts I ever made with the intent of putting in a quilt show. I think that that speaks volumes about what is important in quiltmaking.

JG: Yes, right. Well, the blocks are simple, but your quilting in the border is spectacular, and that's really what you are known for.

DG: In my other quilts up to this time I had put the quilting throughout and put it on light colors, you could see it, added stuffing, so it really had dimension. In this quilt I let it be a simple frame. At a distance it looks like a simple wood frame to this color collection. But when you get up close, you see the carving in the wood. You see all of the detail. I had never done such detailed work, until this quilt. Again, it was fun. I didn't have time constraints. I was just working on it for fun. So I added so many layers of designs, rather than isolated designs. There was very little background quilting, there was more design going on. But yet the background quilting is important, because it makes the design stand out. I experimented for the first time with the use of silk thread for my quilting. So you can see the stitches a little bit better. It made it have a luster and a burnished look that I hadn't had up until that time. And you can see the even stitches; you can see the designs that I had spent many delightful hours drawing. They are all original. It's based on an old Victorian pitcher with an English staghound used as the handle and then from that pitcher in the center of each border I drew organic feather and leaf and animal designs that just circle the quilt.

JG: You doodle with your needle.

DG: I do. I absolutely do.

JG: Stunning. So how do you use this quilt?

DG: How do I use it? I would love to say I put it on the bed and sleep under it, although I did, because I think all quilts need to be slept under, to break them in. And, yes my cats have walked on it and helped me make it and bind it and all that. But now mostly it's stored carefully out of light and it is taken out every few months and is usually exhibited or shown or put in a static quilt event, and has allowed many people to see it that way. But I don't hang it in the home, because of fading. I'm not sure how these fabrics will stand the test of ultra-violet light. [JG agrees.]I get it out at the holidays every year and hang it for a few weeks, just to enjoy it myself. [laughs.]

JG: You mentioned earlier, 'your roots in quilting.'

DG: Yes.

JG: How did you get started in quilting? What are your roots?

DG: I grew up with quilts that my grandmother made. I think many of us that first started quilting back in the seventies, knew about quilts. Nowadays, when you get people interested in quilting, they may never have seen a quilt until they go to a quilt show. But I grew up with them. I always liked them, but there wasn't that instant 'I have to make these.' I always thought it was WAY too complicated, way too hard; that I would make one and that would be it. It started out like that, I did make one and I thought, 'Okay. That was good.' And I did not get hooked, like most quilters say they do. And it was because it was hand work. I like machine work. When I adapted the hand quilting techniques to machine quilting and I had that joy of sitting at the machine and working for hours on end, that way, rather than over a quilt frame, that is what appealed to me and then I was hooked. So I started with hand quilting, probably in the seventies and started machine quilting in the late eighties. So I had put in a number of years and a number of small quilts and big quilts with tying them and hand quilting them, until I discovered machine quilting. And then I did indeed become pretty much hooked on the whole process of making quilts and designing, because the speed was there, although I don't do them fast. I put quite a bit of time in each one. I am also, I like to call it 'focused,' other people call it a one-track mind. [laughs.] I'm not one of those who have many things going on at once. I like to just work on one project, from the beginning all the way through to the end, and then start another one. I will be working on more in my mind, but it's very hard for me to switch skills and go to marking and then walk over to the sewing machine and quilt. I like to do all of my marking and then the layering and then the quilting and do it in progression. I can't do it out of order. So that's how I work on my quilts. I like to put quite a bit of time into it because it is such a pleasurable process. I also think that if you take the time, even with machine work, it will raise the quality, rather than having to be a speed demon with it, which is how machine quilting started, really, was to speed things up and get it done fast. I look at it as just hand quilting with a machine. I still put a lot of time in it.

JG: So your grandmother was the quilter in your family and you saw that.

DG: Yes, we granddaughters all have one of her appliquéd and hand quilted quilts. The scrap ones that we had are now pretty much in pieces. There are some left, here and there, but we wore them out as kids. We had them on our beds and we used them. So I always had that in the back of my mind that quilts were to be used. It's only lately that I realized that some of them are special and need to be treasured and preserved, and not put on the bed and used up, and fading and ripping and things like that. I never saw my grandmother quilt, because we were a family of seven children and she put that away in her little house, when we would come and visit. But when I visited her on my own with my sister, we were allowed to play with her things and string buttons and she tried teaching us how to tat, but we just giggled and never really--see, handwork. [emphasizes.] I was fascinated with her sewing machine. If only she had let me sit at the sewing machine and sew [laughs.] but my mother did. I sewed on my mother's sewing machine from as long ago as I can remember, and always was fascinated with it and enjoyed it. So that was just a natural fit, when I realized the two went together, the making of quilts and the sewing machine. That made me a very happy, productive quilter.

JG: Eureka.

DG: Right, it was eureka, because for so long machine quilting was not accepted by the quilting establishment. It really wasn't. It was looked down upon. Even machine piecing was not accepted for a long time.

JG: You'd get the sneer, 'Well, no wonder, you can make so many.'

DG: Right. Right. Or, 'Well, your machine does it for you.' Now, and of course now, some of them do, because they're computer-controlled quilting machines. But, basically I just use electric power for a needle. It's from me; it's not from the machine.

JG: So, from whom did you learn to quilt? Was it your grandmother, or did you takes classes?

DG: I'm totally self-taught. My youngest sister was staying with me for a summer. She was 16. I was sewing clothing at the time. This was probably in the 70's. She was making her first patchwork block. I looked at it, she was learning from my mother, and I looked at it and I said, 'Well, that's impossible. How can you put all that intricate stuff together and have it all turn out?' So she showed me. I can remember my first simple block that had squares and a few triangles and I was just floored at, first of all the quarter inch seam-allowance, instead of 5/8", that I had been used to in clothing, and that everything had to be so perfect and lined up so correctly. If you traced a template just a little bit off, the whole thing would fall to complete disarray. So I learned from my 16 year-old younger sister about patchwork. Quilting was just something I had seen and figured it out on my own and then fine-tuned it, the hand quilting, as I went along. I figured there must be a way to put these edges together. There must be some 'thing' on the edge, called a 'something,' and discovered it was binding and learned how [to do.] that. I sent to Quilter's Newsletter Magazine for a little book they offered at the time, in black and white, with no pictures, a couple diagrams, called "How to Make a Quilt." That was my guide. And how to do binding, how to hand quilt, how to put the layers together, how to baste it, all of those things. And when it came to machine quilting, I learned the basics from Harriet Hargrave's first book. It was all self-taught and exploration, and this works and 'Why doesn't this work?' or this happened and "what can I do to prevent it?" and all of that, but I've never taken any classes. I've learned from books, from looking, from observing and from doing. Just figuring things out.

JG: Well you've inspired so many. We're fortunate that--now you've written a book--

DG: I have.

JG: And you've been on television--

DG: I have been on television. A daunting experience, but the book-writing was fun, because I have my training, my degree was in English and I taught high-school English for a number of years and I always enjoyed writing. I started that book by sounding like an overly-educated, pedantic quilt teacher and immediately said, 'No one will ever read this.' I changed what I had to say into what I call email language, a colloquial way of explaining things, like you were talking to your friend, instead of a textbook style. I would teach a class, and realize what I needed to tell my readers in the book. I would come home and that class taught me things I needed to tell others, that I would never have known so all of the people who were in my classes through the couple of years that I was writing the book, really wrote the book. Because they were the ones who had the problem with the walking foot, or 'why was the tension wrong?' or 'what order of quilting do you do?' I would come home from class and the very next day I would sit down and say, 'Okay, the big problem today was,' and I would write about that, and that little chapter. When I was all done with all of these things I had my cutting table in my sewing room had all the chapters in stacks. I just shuffled them around, put them in order, put them together and sent them off to my very patient editor, where she made them flow, one into the other, and put them together as the book.

JG: It's a wonderful book. I've read it cover to cover [laughs.] How many hours do you quilt a week?

DG: It all depends. It's because I'm that focused person. Right now I'm doing some things for classes, so I'm not working on a quilt. When I'm working on a quilt I will work on it 4 - 6 hours a day, every day, if I can, in the quilting and in the piecing so that I keep momentum going. I think so much of modern life interferes in modern quilter's work, that we get 15 minutes here, and a week we can't quilt, and then we go back. It loses its momentum and consistency. So I like to look at a project and know that I'll have at least a solid 6 months, when I can be at home and work on it at least 5 days a week. Maybe not every day, things happen and we have classes and we have family things. But at least a little bit every day. I don't do it in those 15 minute things. If I can't work for an hour I don't start. So that's how I work. Right now I'm not working on a big quilt, I'm doing small things. It's frustrating. I get done with them in a day. [both laugh.] Then you have to start over the next day. It's so nice to have a big project, because it doesn't end. One of the things about making quilts that so many quilters tell me is that they suffer a mild depression when the quilt is done. [JG laughs.] We get done, it's like, 'It's gone! It's done!' It's our life. We're working on it. We get up. We look at what we've done the day before; we work on it that day. We look forward to what we're going to do the next day. We don't look in terms of 'I want to finish this in one day.' It's that process, that slow building. When it's done, it's like, 'Now what?' It's always a mild depression. Everyone I talk to say the same thing, I thought it was just me [JG agrees.] that this is very common.

JG: But you were saying also, that you are planning, thinking about other quilts and other projects in your mind--

DG: Right--

JG: So that transition is--

DG: Right. So then you have those things waiting for you. They're like friends, that are waiting till you get done with this one thing and then you can go and give them some time. I think one of the most interesting things about machine quilting or anything that has a regular, repetitive feel to it, is that is meditative. During machine quilting I relax so much and your mind floats and you go over two colors that are next to each other in a quilt that you are quilting and you say, 'Hmm, I would like to do a whole quilt just with those two colors. Look how they work together.' Or you say, 'I love that little curl in that design. I want to enlarge that and make that in the border of my next quilt.' I have learned to take notes. I have learned not to let those thoughts fly out and never be retrieved. I put these things down and then when I am working on another quilt I'll sit down, and I'll go through my notebook and I'll say, 'Oh, that was a good idea. I forgot all about that.' And I'll say, 'I think I will do that. I think I'll take that little spiral, enlarge it, add it to this, use this from another quilt, put it in here and see what happens.' In this last project, I was working on I started thinking about all sorts of new embellishing techniques and I think it's because I recently judged a major quilt show and was able to look at those quilts that were not in my area of style. I looked at those up close and I was so drawn to some of the things that they had done in their style that I wanted to see how I could bring them into my work. Maybe if I hadn't been able to touch them and handle them and look at them so closely and feel so attuned to them and to the quiltmaker, by looking at her work, that I might not have had these ideas. So there is always going to be room to explore in our traditional quilt making. That's not to say that I'm going to go over and become, you know, paint fabric and become an art quilter, but I really think that traditional quilting can expand, can encompass so many of the things that come along by creative quilt makers of this generation and this time that we're living in, and these materials that we have, and only enrich the tradition, and not abandon it.

JG: [agrees.] Wonderful. How does quilting impact your family?

DG: [laughs.] Hmm! My husband says as we're riding along in the car, 'You're thinking about quilting again, aren't you?' [laughs.] As I'm looking at the color of something in the landscape. I said, 'Look at that field! Do you like the way that dark shadowing with those cornstalks--?' He said, 'I knew it, I knew it! You were thinking about quilting again!' Or I'll just be sitting, and we're watching television. He is paying attention. I'm daydreaming quilting. He realizes, my whole family realizes, my cats realize that everything revolves around quilting. Whether you're shopping or whether you're having dinner out, or talking with friends, always in the background, underlying everything, is letting yourself be open to things that will work back into your quilting, because that is such a big part of my life.

JG: Have you ever used quilting to get through a difficult time?

DG: I think all quilters have. I think it's one of the most soothing, rewarding things you can do when you're either stressed or grieving or just having a period of time where you are unsure of what is going on in your life. Quilting gives you that time with something that you are in control of. You can put your heart and soul into it and you're not going to get into trouble by doing that, in fact it makes it better. You can cry into your quilt when you're quilting and those tears become part of the quilt. All of those things, I think help us get through hard times; encourage us for the good times. I like to quilt when I'm happy, and quilting when I'm sad makes me feel better. So, absolutely.

JG: [agrees.] You did say earlier, 'It's meditative.'

DG: It is very meditative. I think, people are surprised when they hear that, because it's a sewing machine. So many people sit at the sewing machine and get tense. With me it's just the opposite. It has always been soothing. I think it's the feeling of being in control, even the sound that sound, that soothing noise. It's like white noise. You can just let your thoughts go where they will. I think it's in our modern times we need that. We don't take it. This was an unexpected bonus that came with quilting.

JG: What do you find pleasing about quilting aside from the meditative, the pleasure? What aspects of--

DG: Fabric! [laughs.] Doesn't everyone say that? All my life I have loved it. I think that even when I've had nieces and nephews visiting, they are drawn to it at such an early age, those colors and designs and textures and things going on in fabric. That's one of the most pleasing things; it's just being able to work with fabric. I tell students never feel guilty, if it doesn't become a quilt, because fabric is such a basic thing in our life. I'll just enjoy looking at it. Just open a drawer and there it is and I'll feel good. It's even better when you get to cut it up and sew it. It comes back tenfold when you piece with it or appliqué with it. And then a hundredfold when you quilt it and give it texture. So fabric is one of the most pleasing things.

JG: [both chuckling.] Is there anything about quilting that you do not enjoy?

DG: Oh, there is always something. There is always those mistakes that you make and I don't rip out much or unpick as the English say, or un-sew as some of my students say, that I don't enjoy, if you make a mistake and it's necessary, like you've quilted in the back corner of your quilt and you need that back corner to finish the quilt, so you really need to pick it apart. But I even enjoy the mundane things like binding or marking quilting designs. It's all part of getting to the point. You know every part of it I like. It's terrible to say that. It sounds like you're being a real Pollyanna about quilting. But I guess maybe the only thing is, some of the unexpected problems that come along, and even then, it's kind of a challenge to me to figure out a way to fix things. Every quilt has its problems and its pitfalls and its disasters. I tell my students that machine quilting is staying one step, just one step in front of the disaster, where the canoe goes over the waterfall or whatever. It's one step ahead, and that's a challenge. I like that challenge. I like to rise to the challenge, come up with a way to make a problem go away or to avert it in the first place, so that things go smoothly. Sometimes I'm quilting and it will be months and I'll say 'This is too easy; something is bound to go wrong here.' And usually there will be something. The binding won't go on right and I'll have to take it off and redo it. Or I remember that one quilt; there was nothing that went wrong in the whole quilt. I put the binding on. It looked great. But because I had added a piping it cut off the top of my border triangles. Totally unforeseen by me, so that I had to rip it apart and then make that last seam allowance for the binding 1/8" instead of ¼" and work with that teeny tiny little bit of quilt edge, so that when the 1/8" wide piping didn't cover the tops of the triangles. So that was a real challenge--I didn't foresee it. So it was the only problem in that whole quilt. I think every quilt has to have one, to be a real quilt.

JG: It keeps you humble.

DG: It does keep you humble. You can not feel like you know it all.

JG: Do you document your quilts?

DG: yes, I do. I usually keep a running journal too. I try to and write down the dates of when I start various things: what fabrics I'm using, what I'm doing to treat the fabric, all those little notes that you think you'll remember, but you won't. So somebody says, 'Did you pre-wash those fabrics?' or 'What size triangles are those?' You look at the finished quilt. You don't remember. And you have to go back to your notes to find out. So I do document it and keep track of everything as much as I can, and I try not to keep track of time. Because I don't think that it's crucial. I think some of us work very slowly and some of us work very quickly. It doesn't matter as long as the result is something that is worthy of what you put into it. It's doesn't matter if you are a fast or a slow worker. I kept track once. I never realized if that was a good amount of time or a bad amount of time. So I don't do it anymore. People would look at me when I'd say, 'Yes, I do know how long that took.' I would say, 'This took ten days.' Well, ten days isn't good enough. So if you say, 'Well this took 100 hours,' that sounds better, it's still 10 days. A hundred hours or ten thousand hours or whatever. It's just there is nothing to compare it to, so it's a meaningless amount of time. How many hours a day do you work? How fast you are, how slow you are, all of those things.

JG: So you keep a journal with photographs as well?

DG: Yes, I've learned to do that as well.

JG: Everybody wants to know: do you have a big stash?

DG: [laughs.] Yes. I do! [emphasizes laughing.] Although I would say in the last 3 or 4 years I have [sighs.] given myself this moratorium on fabric purchasing, because I'm at a stage in my life where I know, I'm going to be weaving rugs out of this stuff, because I'm never going to get enough quilts made, because I'm so busy, now that I have created quilts where people want to learn how to do this, I've just spent so many hours writing, traveling and teaching that I don't have as many hours as I once did, to quilt. Plus I also have a standard to keep up with my quilting, so I find I put more time into each quilt to keep it at a level that I am comfortable with. It's not something that's mandatory, it's my own feeling of, I don't want to go back and make something that I did in a style maybe 3 or 4 years ago, when I hadn't reached the skill I'm at now. So I put more time into it. That definitely takes away from how many things I make. Therefore that stash doesn't get decreased [laughs.] as readily as it once did. When I go into a quilt shop and there is a fabric I have to have I still get it, because I think that fabric is our inspiration. That fabric may not even go into a quilt, but the feel of it, the way the proportion of color to background color that actually might become the quilt and not the fabric. So fabric, as I said before, that's that important thing. And our stashes are so nice. When we're gone someone CAN weave rugs out of them. We don't have to worry. It will be used. [both laugh.]

JG: Well, okay, what would you like your legacy to be?

DG: I think I would like people to realize that you can make a beautiful quilt and machine quilt it. You can stay within the traditional format and create some thing new and exciting, but that you can use tools that maybe our grandmothers didn't use to make a quilt with, the sewing machine, the rotary cutter and all of those things. And yet make something that is so rich and vibrant and beautiful and have good quality as well as originality, and do it on a sewing machine. That's the legacy I'd like to leave, along with the skill that I can pass on to other quilters, so they can enjoy it like I do. I think teaching is probably the best thing I do, allowing other people to break that barrier that they have in their mind, that it's too hard, or they don't know how to do it, or they're not good enough or they've tried and tried and it doesn't work, to get through that and to allow them to enjoy what I enjoy, and to make more quilts. I am only one person. Now there are people all over making quilts like I made, using the techniques and the tools that I have learned how to use for myself. So there are so many more being made than I could ever do.

JG: What do you think makes a great quilt?

DG: There are so many things, and I guess the most important thing is indefinable. There is something about a great quilt that takes the quilter, the workmanship, the barebones, the skeleton of putting it together, somehow, sewing it, appliqué, pieced, quilting all of those workmanship things, putting that all together with the heart and soul of the quilter and the quilter's perspective on color and design, and the loving hands that go into it. All these things are combined and sometimes they create something that has a charisma, that is indefinable that you look at that quilt, and you don't have to be told. You know that this quilt has something special. That doesn't mean 10 stitches per inch or corners meeting, although that's part of it, because then it all works. But it's that something special and it's a communication from the quiltmaker to the viewer. And it's unexplainable, and it makes a great quilt. I think that some of us will think, one quilt might be great and another isn't. We all have our personal feelings and lists of what would be a great quilt. But maybe in the long run it's if you never get tired of looking at it... If you find something fresh in it every time, if you feel moved every time. It doesn't get old. It's always beautiful. It will stand the test of time.

JG: [agrees.] What makes a quilt artistically powerful?

DG: I think that art is something like many people say, 'I don't know anything about art. I just know what I like.' It's so variable. But the same principles that have been around forever in terms of composition, balance and design, light, dark, movement, proportions, scale are important in making a quilt have that artistic excellence. It can be in an abstract style of quilt, an art quilt or it can be block by block in a traditional quilt. So it's those things that go back through time, way back, in architecture and art and all of that. It's all there in quilting too.

JG: What do you think about the importance of quilts in American life? How have they been important? How might they continue to be important?

DG: I think it changes with the times. In the beginning of this country they were important because they were utilitarian. The shortage of fabrics in the colonies and making quilts was strictly to provide warmth. However, of course, you couldn't keep the quiltmaker from making them pretty. So the art was always there. Nowadays, you know, we've gone from utilitarian to competitive quilts, to art quilts. I think today they fulfill all of these purposes. You have quilters who make them just to keep warm, to give as gifts to grandchildren, to cuddle up in, to watch a football game under, to be colorful, to be fun, to just have as wonderful things in your home. They have advanced to become wall art, so they'll never see a bed. They are there for the artistic beauty of them. There are quilts that are made strictly for competition, so that that quiltmaker can win recognition for her work. So I think they're there in galleries and museums and homes and beds. They are going to be in all aspects of life and in corporate life too, as well as home.

JG: What do you think makes a quilt appropriate for a museum or for a special collection?

DG: I think probably the purpose of the collection. So you could have a collection that its purpose is folk art. You might want to find some of the things that were made during the Depression when there was no readily available fabric, money was scarce, and people made incredible beauty out of those fabrics. That might be the purpose. It depends on what that [purpose.] is. What sort of underlying, common ground that collection would have. And who is to say? That's the curator.

JG: [agrees.] And then some quilts are in quilt museums, of course, and some might just go in regular museums.

DG: Right. There are many that are in regular museums, not just dedicated for quilting, because they are such a part of our life and a reflection of the time and art. So you get all of that combined. There aren't very many other things that you can say that about, that combine art and our everyday life, and bring them together into something that could be museum quality and of course, the sheer workmanship, level of workmanship. Some things are so stupendous and so one-of-a-kind they HAVE to be preserved in a collection. That we can not let them be lost. I think that's probably one of those main important things that museums do, is save them.

JG: Yes. How do you think that they can be preserved for the future? Quilts, you mentioned earlier, some are used and some are preserved. Do you think that will always be the case that there will always be two kinds of quilts?

DG: I think so. I think that we are now recognizing the importance of those everyday kinds of quilts, and we are preserving those as well. Whereas before they were not. They were just lost. They were just used up. So we can't go and see the history. We have photos and we have a few remaining ones, but the vast majority of those were not kept. They were not valued. They are valued now. So I think we will have more of them treasured and preserved. Textiles are hard to preserve. That's where the controlled climate and all of that comes in, in museums.

JG: You make quilts for family and friends as gifts?

DG: I do. I still do. I think we have to keep the main reason you make quilts as an important thing, rather than just making them to show that you know how to make them well. You make something because you think, oh this color, this fabric, so-and-so is just going to love this, or this will be beautiful for this, a wedding gift or for a new baby or something like that.

JG: We are coming toward the end of the interview. Is there anything that you would like the listeners and the readers to know, anything that we have not touched on, that is important to you to convey to them?

DG: I think we have touched on everything possible, Joanne. [laughing.] I really do. I guess just to sum it up, quilting just has become a way of life for me and so many people. One of the nice things about the reemergence of quilting in this time in our history is the connection that we all make with one another, that we would never have had that chance. Distance, time are meaningless now, because of the ability to get together at quilting events, to communicate, to meet other people like us. It's wonderful. I think that's one of the best things about quilting.

JG: [agrees.] Do you think that your quilts in any way reflect your community or your region?

DG: Probably. We probably reflect all of those things and don't even know it. I know that mine do, in terms of color and tradition, living in the mid-west, reflecting the color of nature's palette, that is here, rather than maybe the palette that someone in Hawaii would use, or California. I think it's reflected in my quilt.

JG: Well, I guess we probably have covered a lot of territory here. So, I would like to thank you, Diane, for talking to me today for the Quilters' [S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project. We have concluded this interview at 2:37. Thank you, Diane.

DG: Thanks, Joanne.

[tape ends.]



“Diane Gaudynski,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 27, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/2092.