Robert Ignaszak




Robert Ignaszak




Robert Ignaszak


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 November 12th, 2006 and it is 2:50 in the afternoon. I'm conducting an interview with Robert Ignaszak for Quilters'[S.O.S.-] Save Our Stories project. We are in his home in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Thank you, Robert allowing me to interview you today.

Robert Ignaszak (RI): Thank you for asking.

JG: Tell me please the story about your quilt, your touchstone. Who is it made for and when did you start it, the provenance.

RI: The quilt is made for my daughter Victoria and the title of the quilt is "A Modern Victorian." We live in a Victorian house. She’s named for my grandmother, Victoria, and yet Vicki is a very modern young lady, so we wanted to have--our likes in this house tends to be a mix of very traditional and modern and artistic influences, so what I tried to bring into this quilt, is tradition and modern, modern technique, machine quilting, machine appliqué and elements of traditional design. And yet zinging in color too.

JG: And you started with a treasured fabric from when she was a wee little girl.

RI: We chose fabrics, my wife and I chose a focus fabric based on what we thought we would like her room to look like. And then started adding and pulling from that, used that focus to pull the fabrics and I made sure we went darker and brighter in value from what was there. We kept the tulip in mind as the focal point. So the appliqué became tulip, the border fabric became tulip, the center of the pieced blocks have a fussy-cut tulip to keep the theme going. The quilting designs tend to be very organic and flowing. They aren’t tulip-related, but they are organic growing related designs.

JG: Yeah, it’s beautifully quilted. It’s just magnificently quilted all free-hand.

RI: All free-motion, yes, using silk thread on the top. 100 weight silk.

JG: You are a musician. You are a music teacher. So you have an arts background. What brought you to quilting as an art?

RI: I have always been involved in crafts and handiwork besides music. When I was a kid I would do one craft or another craft. If my mother was crocheting I learned how to crochet. And I wanted to learn how to knit, when I was younger. Of course, because it was a machine I needed to learn how to use the sewing machine as well as my dad’s power tools. Anything creative I could use, I wanted to do. Eventually I realized I was the person who could translate patterns and read directions. So I would read directions. My Mom wanted to learn to crochet this stitch. I would read the directions and show her, because she was a visual learner and I could do the logical translation from paper. So I would do that. As far as sewing, if I wanted something, I sewed it. And sometimes they were just made-up patterns. I made a heavy cover out of old-fashioned Naugahyde for a violin case, put in a zipper and totally messed up all the tension on my mother’s old Singer. [RI laughs. JG laughs.] I didn’t know about leather needles at this time and different things as I was growing up. And then it was utilitarian sewing, like odd-shaped windows -I’d make the curtains. When we moved into this house, although my wife sews and she loves fabric, I’m the project-oriented one, so I shorten the curtains. I made the pillows. I did the bathroom curtains that way. Along the line I had a friend that I had met through another activity, who had done stained glass, which is also something I have always loved. So I have been doing stained glass and I appreciate quilt patterns and actually have done some windows based on quilt patterns. I made the lamp that’s over your head.

JG: I see. I see. And then Lucky. [points to a stained glass picture of a Sheltie.]

RI: Actually, that was made by the people who taught me to do stained glass.

JG: Oh, okay, yeah, yeah.

RI: Yes, the stained glass dog was made by a friend.

JG: So when did you really learn to use the sewing machine? How old were you?

RI: Oh, I was a teenager when I really learned how to do it, and I remember once I mended a store-bought quilt of mine and it of course was puckering and pulling and I was thinking why would I ever learn to sew all these layers together? How can they do this? You need special equipment. Well, little did I know that later I would learn how to do it and control it? But from stained glass I loved design and color and working with shapes. And quilting to me seemed like a really close approximation to it. Now when we were expecting my oldest child, my son, we together chose fabrics to match the wallpaper that was in his room, and made a layette, including a quilt. So my very first quilt was his baby quilt. And it’s actually appliqué that I traced off of the wallpaper and then blew up on the Xerox machine. So I appliquéd dinosaurs and tied the quilt with a ruffled edge.

JG: Magnificent.

RI: And it’s all lumpy and bumpy and doesn’t lie flat, but it was his baby quilt.

JG: Well he was lumpy and bumpy too as a baby. [both laugh.] So when was this?

RI: Thirteen years ago. Well, he’s over thirteen now. So it was about fourteen years ago that I made the first quilt.

JG: Your first quilt.

RI: And then having watched Eleanor Burns on TV and other quilting shows I thought, well there are all these scraps. I’m going to try to piece something with the left-over scraps, so I’ll make a pillow for the chair in his bedroom. And using half-inch seam allowances [laughs.] I did an eight-point star, not knowing what I was doing with set-in seams. [laughing.] And I still have it and I actually got it to lay flat. But I kind of started in the middle and worked out. So everything was a set-in seam. [RI laughs. JG groans.] I didn’t know what I was doing at the time. Then I thought, ‘Hey, this was kind of fun.'Maybe I would like to make another quilt. And I got hold of some Eleanor books. And I did a couple of "Quilt in a Day" quilts, and did numerous quilts from this one pattern and another pattern and her Morning Star quilt. That first quilt is still in use. It’s tied in the middle and eventually I did quilt the borders so that they weren’t so floppy. That’s the quilt that everyone uses on the floor, and rolls around in and it’s okay for the dogs to crawl in and things like that. It’s still there in the living room.

JG: [nods.] So your first quilting that you did, you didn’t take classes, because you were--

RI: I went from a book. The very first quilting class I took, I was going to make that same pattern for my in-laws. We went to a quilt shop to buy the fabric. At the quilt shop Diane Gaudynski was teaching a class and I signed up for that class. Well, in the meantime that store actually closed. [JG: Pamela’s?] Yes. And the class moved to another location. But I took the class [dog barking.] Once I saw what could be done and that I could learn to do it, I actually made some other quilts to practice on before I did that quilt top. [JG nods.] That was an anniversary present for them and they have it now. [JG: Oh, how special.] And I did quilt it and actually I learned a lot since then because that quilt now, if I were to make, I wouldn’t do as elaborate quilting on, because it had a lot of print fabrics. The elaborate quilting was really hard to do and hard to see on all the print fabrics. I’d use a little more tone-on-tone and solid and some prints to bring it out. But it worked well and in the meantime I had made two or three other quilts, [JG: Yes.] and Vickie had come along and I made her baby quilt. And then I am a person who always has six or seven in the ‘work'as you can see by the design wall. I have two projects on the design wall and three others in the drawer here, you know. So they all have to get done sooner or later.

JG: Right, yes.

RI: But you take a new class. You start a new project. You get a new idea. And now that I’m teaching some classes, I taught a class yesterday morning. And as I was talking about fabric choices, I started seeing this quilt or that quilt, you know. The stacks behind me are some things I took to show and I probably have about five or six ideas in that stack there.

JG: Oh, for heaven’s sake. Well that is one of the questions. So you’re teaching quilting?

RI: I’m teaching a few classes here. I haven’t taught many, but I’m teaching a few at the local store here.

JG: Okay. Are they beginner’s classes or design classes?

RI: I’m teaching machine trapunto.

JG: Oh, yes.

RI: And I’ve been teaching Ricky Tims'"Harmonic Convergence." [JG: Yes.] That’s what we did yesterday.

JG: Well inspired by seeing him in Madison [Wisconsin.] this summer. [laughs.]

RI: Yes. I saw him in Madison and I took the class from him a long time ago. I would say he is a big influence on me. Primarily Diane [Gaudynski.] and then Ricky probably the next strongest influence on me.

JG: Yes, yes. Oh. How exciting.

RI: Then I have some paper-pieced classes, two different patterns, that I’ve made up. One with curved Flying Geese in a block. That is actually based on the Wisconsin Quilters block. A number of years ago when we had [JG: The contest?] the contest for the block, not two, not three or four, but like six years ago, the one I entered, I took the Wisconsin Quilters logo block and curved all the lines. And then I made a little wall quilt out of it. That’s the class I’m teaching. Hopefully, eventually I’ll make larger quilt, with multiple of the block. But then it’s doing the paper-piecing with freezer-paper-on-top method, [JG: Okay.] so you’re not sewing through the paper and it makes it so much easier.

JG: Yes, to remove it. Sure, Yeah, you’re not--so besides teaching in school you’ve got the night classes or Saturday classes?

RI: Two of them have been Saturdays and I’ve scheduled some in the evening and they haven’t always had enrollment for this past quarter. Just doing that on the side. I’d rather teach something other than music during the evening, if I’m teaching music all day, although I love music and teaching it.

JG: Are there quilters in your family? Past or present.

RI: Presently, yes. In the past, no. My family, my heritage is Polish, from the South side [of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.]. And I don’t think there was a lot of quilting background there, that I’m aware of. My sister has always wanted to make a quilt after I have made some quilts. She is now quilting. And her daughter, my oldest niece is quilting, so--

JG: You infected them.

RI: Yes. And my niece, at one of her jobs had worked with people who were quilters and they kind of got her interested and so we’ll get together and we’ll talk quilting. [JG: Yes.] We’re saying we’re going to get together and sew all day one day, just the three of us.

JG: Sure. And they’re in close enough proximity that you can meet and exchange.

RI: They live in Milwaukee and so it’s a half an hour drive.

JG: How many hours do you quilt in a week?

RI: It really varies. There are weeks that go by where I don’t do any and there are weeks where I just try to let everything else go and work. And I’ll do a couple of hours every evening and then try to clear a large block of time on Saturday or Sunday to get more work done. Sometimes I’ll tell my family, ‘Sunday after lunch, till I stop, it’s my time. You can do you homework. You can do this, but Dad is going to be in there sewing.’

JG: Yes, yes. You have a wide range of palette, so you’ve experimented with all kinds of colors? You stretch?

RI: Yes I love color and stretch. I think in my local guild, the Patched Lives Quilt Guild, when I first joined, people had said, ‘Those look like your colors.' And I thought, ‘No, those aren’t really my colors. Those just happened to be what I worked with right now.'But I did happen to bring a couple of things along that line. And some of them are similar to the touchstone quilt, because I had a lot of fabric for that. So I tended to have pinks and greens and deep reds. And I think, if I have to say there is one thing I use a lot of, it is red. I like red. But I’ve been bringing yellows and rusts and I have recently gotten into batiks and things. What you’re actually seeing is batiks here [RI is shuffling through a stack of fabric.] from a fabric exchange over the internet. [JG: Ah, I see.] I ‘m a member of the "Quilt Guy" list and this was all male quilters exchanging fabric.

JG: [exclaims.] How big is that group? Do you know? Is it several hundred?

RI: No I think it’s more like fifty to seventy.

JG: All across the nation?

RI: Some from Canada. All across, yes.

JG: Quilt Guy. So is Ricky Tims in there too?

RI: I’m not sure. If he is he doesn’t take part very much in the discussion. He may a member who reads it.

JG: Yes. How did you find that group?

RI: I’m not sure how I did. But do you know the magazine Quilters Home? It’s a relatively new magazine.

JG: I’ve heard of it.

RI: Quilters Home, the publisher of that magazine is a member of the group. That maybe how I found it. Mark Lipinski. [JG nods.] But it’s interesting to hear people and what people are doing and just share some stories about when you go fabric shopping and they say, ‘Oh, did you wife send you in for thread?'[JG laughs.] ‘No, I’m looking for the thread.’

JG: Yeah, yeah. Well more and more, there are so many male quilters.

RI: I think there are more and more male quilters, but there have always been quite a number of male quilters, but people weren’t necessarily letting it be known. And it was okay to go into the fabric store and pretend that Suzanne was choosing the fabric and I was just there for the ride. [JG nods.] Some days you get a warm welcome and other days you get such surprise and incredible [dog barks.] ‘Do you really quilt?' [JG laughs.] and disbelief and I’ve never had anyone be negative about it, but sometimes that incredible reaction, it’s old. So you just become anonymous.

JG: But I have always said, ‘There were tailors before there were seamstresses.’

RI: Yes, yes.

JG: And male cooks before. The women did the cooking in the home, but at the courts, the males were the cooks, etc. So in World War One my grampa was doing stitching and hardanger when he was in the lazarette in the hospital.

RI: Look at how many sailors [JG: Yes.] on the clipper ships would do intricate knotting. That was directly descended by all the macramé that people did in the seventies. [JG: Exactly.] I can remember doing that back in high school. Doing macramé.

JG: Exactly. Oh, yes. Indeed, indeed. Yes. So what is your first quilt memory?

RI: First quilt memory.

JG: Maybe the one that sparked you to make a quilt.

RI: [eight second pause.] I can’t remember my first quilt memory. I can tell you a strong quilt memory.

JG: Okay.

RI: I can remember I made a queen-sized Roman Stripe quilt for my niece, and her husband for a wedding present. My wife Suzanne and I were trying to lay it all out and baste the layers together. We had to move every scrap of furniture out of the dining room to have enough room [laughs.] and we’re both in stocking feet and crawling around on the quilt. And this is two days before the wedding. [both laugh.]

JG: Nothing like a deadline. [laughs.]

RI: That was all needless to say, walking foot and in-the-ditch quilting. But that was a traditional Roman Stripe in that half the squares were black and [dog barks. inaudible.] with bright-colored stripes on the other side. I thought it was really striking, but I will admit now that it probably didn’t lay very flat because it was so big. And I was in a hurry.

JG: Those are milestones. Those are merely just milestones on our way to becoming more accomplished.

RI: So I have this strong picture in my mind of Suzanne crawling over here to straighten while I’m on the other side, [both laugh.] trying to tug it. I think we didn’t even bind that quilt. We did the turn [JG: Envelope.] envelope with the queen-size, so we were really trying to tug it straight.

JG: How does quilting impact your family?

RI: Oh I think it impacts it in a lot of ways. One, they often know where to find me. Two, they all love the quilts and I think it’s an outlet for me, which sometimes keeps me a little more level-headed in a stressful situation. [laughs.] There are times when I don’t get to do it, that I feel a little out of sorts and I need a creative outlet here. You would think being a musician and teaching students all day that ‘yeah, that’s creative,'but it’s also my job and I need something more [JG: More soothing.] separate and something that’s all my own. And that’s part of the reason I hesitated teaching a quilting class because when I first set up to do some I thought, ‘I’m going to try this and if I find that it takes my enjoyment out of quilting to be teaching it, then I won’t teach it any more.'And so far I’ve come home from every class I’ve taught wanting to come home and sew. And it’s just like when I have a music student and I’m really working with them hard on a piece of music and they leave and we’ve had a successful lesson I want to get my instrument out and practice. [dog barks.] I want to play something. The energy and enthusiasm are contagious, is the word I want.

JG: Yes, I did hear you mention, referring to the class that you were inspired by your students. You get an idea from them and you want to run home.

RI: I think all good teachers learn as much as they teach.

JG: What do you find pleasing about quilting?

RI: The feel of the fabric. The look of the colors. The possibility. The hum of the sewing machine. If I’m just sewing strips, to me it’s very relaxing just to have it going zoom zoom zoom in the background. [JG: The Mantra.] We’ll be purring along and be sewing and yet be paying attention to details and accuracy. I never thought of it that way, but maybe it has something to do with. [dog barks.] I always teach my students in school to look for details and work for accuracy. But as the teacher of younger students I don’t always have control over every detail that they do. It’s a large group, varied ability levels and I’m trying to help everybody move up to a new level. But I know that I can’t get every detail the way I would want it. And maybe in my quilting I have more control of the details. I have had to learn to say to myself, ‘Those points are close enough.'Or ‘no, I’m going to rip it and make those.'And you make those decisions about how good is good enough?
JG: For you.

RI: For me. But I can’t do that with my students, because it’s their decision to make in school. That is what I was just saying to a student yesterday, "you have to make your decision. Yes it’s been a mistake. You make the decision. Do we take it apart or do we leave that misplaced piece and call it a design element? It’s a happy accident.

JG: Yes, yes.

Suzanne Ignaszak (SI): Bob, can I let the dogs loose?

RI: Yes. [there is another short exchange between RI and SI.]

JG: Do you document your quilts?

RI: Yes I do. Right now I have some of my quilts documented on my website and I have photos of all of the quilts and I have been keeping a picture album. And I do have a quilt journal somewhere, but I've never sat down to write about each quilt. I have taken a piece of paper, somewhere in my pile of notes here, and listed every quilt I could remember making. [dogs barking.] Now it’s got to be over 25 or thirty at this point. With at least ten more in the works. Looking at them I want to be able to write down details on what I was thinking at the time I did them and things like that but I haven’t gotten to that stage yet.

JG: So many of them were a goal actually? They were a gift for someone?

RI: I did a lot of gifts and if you count some appliqué wall hangings that were quilted and if you count pillows, then the count goes incredibly high. I did fifteen or sixteen quilted pillow tops for Christmas one year. [dog continues to bark.]

JG: All right!

RI: There were all trapunto and I did different designs. It’s when I did my practicing before I tackled bigger quilts. I did pillow tops and some of them are here in the house. They have come back after--the one you’re sitting on was actually a practice block for a big quilt. And the box over here [inaudible.]

JG: Well Diane [Gaudynski.] says don’t make a practice piece; make a piece that you can use.

RI: Actually I do make practice pieces, but I find uses for them.

JG: For your free motion.

RI : I just take fabric that I don’t'want to use in a quilt any more, like some of this printed white -on-white that leaves needle holes [JG agrees.] But then that’s test-out on the machine. And then when that’s done I serge off the edge and I put it away. If we need a case for something or I need to patch something or you need a tablecloth or something. I’ll find a use for them, I don’t try to design every practice piece into a beautiful looking little--

JG: There are some swatches that we do run through the machine. Exactly. Now I know that you’ve shown your quilts at many venues. Tell me some of the special venues where you have exhibited your quilts.

RI: I have exhibited at Wisconsin State Fair on a number of times--

JG: And, did you win an award there?

RI: Well I have some ribbons from the fair. And I would have to look at them, the back of the ribbons, to remember which quilt [JG laughs.] I have a lot of second and third places and I have no blue ribbons. [laughs.] Except kind of I do. Because just a couple of weeks ago, when the Wisconsin Quilters [Inc.] charity project works for the Guest House [in Milwaukee.] I did not make a quilt individually for that. But Linda Halpin made a quilt. And then Penny Gerds quilted it and I bound it. And it was best in the group category. So I guess there is a first place there now. [laughs.]

JG: Well yes indeed. You certainly shared in that labor of love.

RI: And I have a 2nd place in the miniature category, for the miniature quilt auction at Wisconsin Quilters [Inc.]. I was a second place one year and I was thrilled, with all the little miniatures to be in second place in that category. And actually I have third places on some jumpers that I have sewn for my wife to wear from the [Wisconsin.] State Fair, actually two or three times. So I have ribbons in clothing.

JG: Have you quilted a vest for yourself, for instance?

RI: I have thought of doing it, but I just haven’t made that yet.

JG: But you’ve made garments?

RI: Yes, I’ve made garments and actually on my website is a little section of Halloween costumes that I’ve made for my kids. That became a yearly thing to make Halloween costumes. When my machine was in the shop in the past couple of weeks and I had the older machine out I had to sew a corduroy lined vest on the old machine, so that my daughter could be Will Turner and have a pirate vest. [JG laughs.] And here I am trying to use a rotary cutter on thick corduroy [laughs.] and sew with the old machine that I’m not used to. We got it done and it’s fully lined and [inaudible, dog is barking.]

JG: So, what is your website?

RI: What is my website? It’s

JG: Aha. I’ll have to look it up.

RI: It’s Roadrunner. There are home pages. Bob Quilts is mine.

JG: Okay. Okay. I’ll look it up. I’ll look it up. What aspects of quilting do you not enjoy? Or are there any?

RI: I will say that by myself laying out and pin-basting a big quilt is not my favorite thing to do and yet I really, really do enjoy doing it as long as I have somebody else to talk to. So I enjoy doing it, but I’d rather be doing it with somebody. And there my family is really good, because they will come and they’ll help smooth. It goes so much faster to do that. I’m lucky in not having a place at home where I can lay out a big quilt, but to have a couple of places where they have said I can come in and pin-baste a quilt when I want to. So I have three different venues that I could use to do that. If I can get some of my family there, it goes very quickly and that’s kind of nice to do it that way and then I know the quilt is all there. There is a quilt in that footstool that is waiting to be pin-basted, till that other one is finished.

JG: Yes, yes right. Because I was thinking in my mind with two dogs--I know what it’s like with five cats trying to [laughs.] baste a quilt.

RI: And then to wash it and block it and lay it out. [JG laughs.] Little pieces aren’t a problem, because I can clear off a table space or lay it out. Sometimes I’ll take everything off except the sheet on the bed. And then I lay out a plastic table cloth and we have a ceiling fan right near the bed. So if I lay that out in the morning with the ceiling fan on, the quilt has finished drying a lot of the way over the course of the day and I don’t have to worry about where am I going to sleep tonight, [laughs.] if my quilt is drying on the bed.

JG: Exactly, exactly. [laughs.] What do you think makes a great quilt?

RI: I think a great quilt is a combination of design and workmanship. There has to be a certain balance within the design, both with line and color. And there has to be a level of workmanship that really makes it stand out. Or at least a consistency of workmanship. I think some of those quilts from the Gees Bend Exhibit are absolutely wonderful quilts and they’re great quilts. And there is workmanship there, but it’s not what we would consider traditional workmanship, with everything parallel or angled perfect, but there is a consistency in the workmanship and a design aesthetic in there. And I guess it depends on the type of quilt too, how much the technique and how much the design aesthetic takes over. If everything is fused and you do bobbin work and a highly ornamented quilt, that becomes the overriding aesthetic. And yet too, if you look at a pieced quilt and the color sings, or you look at a quilt that is highly machine quilted or hand quilted and the detail is in the quilting, there is the workmanship and the design factor.

JG: What kind of quilts draw you at a quilt show? Where do you run up to--what kind of a quilt?

RI: I would have trouble saying. I think I enjoy all of them, anything that has some sparkle or color to it or detail in a whole cloth, in antique quilts, too. I’m lucky in that, you asked if my family was quilters. My family is not, but my wife’s family was. And we are lucky to have seven or eight antique quilts from her family. I love to look at antique quilts. I have the "Wisconsin Quilts - Stories in the Stitches" book and I have the Iowa Quilt stories book, and the Mississippi Quilt Stories book and numerous other states, I have the book and things I have taken out from the library. I just enjoy looking at them and often if I am looking for am idea I’ll go back and I’ll look at one of those quilts. I have to say I followed some of the things like the "Dear Jane" quilts and I really appreciate the details. I don’t think I have the patience to do something that different, do every block different and tiny details. Although I guess I have the patience to do something like that quilting. I’m not sure I feel that way in piecing. I may some day.

JG: Maybe some day.

RI: I like to do machine work. Machines interest me. I’m a computer person too. I love computers and electronic machines interest me and that’s part of it. I have the embroidery machine sitting there. It’s a bottom line embroidery machine, but I love to make my quilt labels with it. And things like that. I would love to incorporate more of that into my quilts, too, some ways.

JG: Do you do any kind of hand work?

RI: Yes, I do. I often wanted to learn to hand appliqué and do needle turn appliqué and was always frustrated by it. One time the light went on in my head and I said, 'If you can sew the binding to the back of a quilt and can sew the label on the back of a quilt, what is so hard about--

JG: Hand appliqué.

RI: Hand appliqué. So I did some practice and I then I did another practice. And I currently have this really irregular blob, for lack of a better word a blobby shape.

JG: It has inside-outside points?

RI: When there is a second when I know I ‘m going to have to sit in the car and wait for one of my kids or something like that I have it all and I pull it out and even if I just do a few inches I realized I can do that. I don’t know if I’m going to want to make a whole quilt that way, but I wanted to learn. [JG nods.] I feel like I can do hand work if I need to, when that Halloween costume comes. A lot of the lining had to be hand finished. So I will do that. One of the art quilts that’s in works I have chosen beads that I want to do after I have quilted and couched, so that will all be hand work. It’s not that I’m opposed to hand work, I just like the machine work too.

JG: Sure. We are coming to a close. Are there questions that you thought I would ask you that I didn’t? What would you like to share with our readers, our listeners?

RI: I don’t know if there is anything that we haven’t covered or I haven’t volunteered. I guess what I’d like to share maybe as a closing thought is that I think it’s an important part of every person to express themselves aesthetically some way, whether it’s through music or through art or woodcarving. My father was not someone who got into a lot of different crafting things, but looking in retrospect, he was a very craft-oriented person. I have in the basement his own designed and painted wood lawn ornaments, where he cut them out of plywood and he painted Santa and the reindeer. He did the painting. He didn’t trace them. So there is an aesthetic and that was his way of expressing himself. I think we are lucky in that we are recognized as an aesthetic expression and some people do it by the way they arrange their gardens. I think that’s a real important part of most people and that is part of the reason I’m a music teacher, is that I think every student that comes through school should have that experience of music and learn what it can teach them about their own selves. Hopefully the kids that I’m teaching to play musical instruments will have that expression and appreciation for the rest of their life, whether they continue to play or not, they’ll have gained something, some knowledge about themselves and an artistic balance. I think quilters share that visually. We are lucky to be able to do that.

JG: Well you use your design wall, clearly. Do you ever make spontaneous decisions about a quilt?

RI: Oh, yes. A lot of them are spontaneous. Some are real thought out, but others are right on the last minute. It’s always changing. This particular project [points to his design wall.] really needed to be on a design wall because everything is so different from each other. Actually I got to a certain point and then I put everything into the computer so I could play with it different ways. I didn’t start on the computer [inaudible, dog is barking.]

JG: Where do you think quilting is going to go in the future?

RI: Oh, I think it’s just going to continue to get broader. I think we’re always going to have traditional quilters. I think people have gotten to the point and the museums have recognized the old quilts as art. And we’ll have that tradition to continue. But I also think we’re going to continue to see new avenues in the [inaudible.] Now we are seeing these longarm machines that are computer guided. Those are wonderful, but you’re going to have the people who are hand quilting and the people who are quilting on our standard traditional machines. Just a wide variety. I think the most important thing is where people are expressing themselves with their own design sense and their own color and their own fabric. I think we’re going to see more and more people experimenting with different fabrics. We are lucky to have all the cottons and different prints and different styles. And now you see people bringing sateens in and then the lamés and depending on the venue you’re going to see that it even expands more.

JG: Almost full circle, back to the Crazy Quilters where we’re not doing those patterns, but multitudes of fabrics.

RI: It might be a little Crazy Quilts that are made exclusively of cigar ribbons and boxes, ribbons from the cigar boxes and put them together in a quilt. It would be so cool to do something like that one time.

JG Yeah, it’s just very good. Well you touched on a lot. You even mentioned the long-arm quilting and that’s one of the questions too. Do you think all quilts should be used or should some go to a museum or just preserved?

RI: I think there is a whole spectrum. I think quilts that are made to be used should be used. And I think quilts that are made to be used for special occasions, should be kept that way. I would hope that my daughter, as she uses this modern Victorian quilt will keep it for special occasions and not drag it around the bedroom floor with the puppy dogs. Some quilts that are made to go to a museum or hang on the wall are pieces of art and then they need to be treated that way. When I make a wall quilt or an art quilt it’s meant to be an art quilt. If somebody is cold and they want to snuggle in it, okay, but most of the time it’s meant to be up on the wall. It may not necessarily have the softest feel to it if I put nylon thread or sparkly thread on it. [JG responds to someone speaking outside the room about the barking dog.] I think the knights and the royalty back in the Medieval Ages that had quilted clothing knew something about staying warm. With the energy costs right now, quilted clothing could become way back in rage. You could have some real stylish-looking outfits that quilters have made.

JG: Yes, indeed, Yes. It keeps cycling. It keeps cycling. And talk about from hundreds of years back: quilted clothing, Marseille quilts, you know the quilted petticoats, quilted under garments.

RI: I saw a beautiful book one summer when I was taking a class in teaching. I had the opportunity to visit a different library. The book was in their textile division, was on-- I’m not even sure they called them quilts, but they were quilted garments and quilted beddings from France two and three hundred years ago. That aspect was almost all whole cloth quilting. I know Diane [Gaudynski.] has done that Provence quilt. It’s really worth looking at, because the designs and things are just so intriguing. You could sit and study them for hours.

JG: Yes. So you look at a pattern, but you also look at the quilt design and get--

RI: Oh, yes, I’m always looking at books and quilt designs. I’ll go to the library and bring home a bag of books. Even if I’ve had them before I’ll bring home a bag of books and just pour through them and look for ideas.

JG: Yes, yes. Well, Robert we really do have to come to a close now. I thank you so much for your time.

RI You’re welcome. I’ve enjoyed talking with you.

JG: I am so glad that we had this chance to chat and the interview is concluded at 3:36 [p.m.] Thank you.
RI: Thank you.



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