Emily Temple




Emily Temple




Emily Temple


Joann Kensler Gordon

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Moda Fabrics


Hartwell, Georgia


Joann Kensler Gordon


Joann Kensler Gordon (JKG): My name is Joann Kensler Gordon and today's date is February 25, 2010, at 2:30 p.m. I am conducting an interview with Emily Temple in the Arts Center for the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project. We are doing this through the American Heritage Committee of the Georgia State Society Daughters of the American Revolution. Emily Temple is a quilter and is a member of the John Benson Chapter. So, tell me about the quilt that you brought today.

Emily Temple (ET): It's a Star Wars quilt that I made for my little nephew [Austin Humphree.], great nephew, who is 7 years old. I was going to make him one with dump trucks, but his grandmother said he preferred Star Wars.

JKG: Ok.

ET: Do you ask these questions, or do I just answer them?

JKG: No.

ET: Ok.

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

ET: Well, it's special because it was for a special person, and I enjoyed doing it for him because looking for the appropriate material and so forth was quite an endeavor.

JKG: Ok, so why did you choose this quilt to bring to the interview?

ET: It was one of the most fun quilts I've ever made, and I enjoyed making it and he was so excited about getting it.

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

ET: That straight lines was the only thing I could sew. [laughs.]

JKG: [laughs.]

ET: Isn't that the truth.

JKG: So, how does he use this quilt?

ET: He tells me he sleeps under it. That he enjoys sleeping under it. I don't know what he's gonna do this summer when it gets warm, though right now, he enjoys sleeping under it.

JKG: And how old is he?

ET: Seven.

JKG: He's seven.

ET: And just adorable, little red headed boy that gets into everything.

JKG: Ok, so tell me about your interest in quilt making.

ET: It started back when I was in the fourth grade. And I was staying with an aunt and uncle and my grandmother at the time, and to keep me busy and out of trouble, she started me quilting. And we pieced together some little sixteen-inch squares, just little tiny ones and did it all by hand. And I just put them up and kept them all these years, so I plan to get them out and do something else with them now. But that was my first remembrance of quilting.

JKG: Ok, so how many hours a week do you quilt now?

ET: Anywhere from none to five or six hours. It just depends on my schedule. Sometimes even more than that.

JKG: And so, this is your first quilt memory?

ET: Right.

JKG: So, did she--did your grandmother live near you?

ET: Not really, but we spent some time with her every summer, and she would rotate among her three daughters and spend two or three months with us as we went along. [She was my mother's mother -- Bertha Hearn Clardy.]

JKG: Oh, Ok.

ET: But this particular time, I was staying with her because my family was relocating.

JKG: Ok. So other than your grandmother -- are there any other members of your family or friends who quilt?

ET: I have several friends who quilt, but no one else in my family other than grandmother. Mother sewed and made most of our clothing when we were growing up, but with four children that was about as good as she could get. [laughs.]

JKG: And so how has quilt making--how does it impact your family?

ET: Well, so far, out of my four nieces, great nieces, and one great nephew, I have made all but one a completed quilt. I'm working on the last one now, and they've all been real excited about getting them, and it's just fun to give them something that you know they're going to be enjoying and use.

JKG: Have you ever used quilts to get through a difficult time?

ET: Oh, yes. Anytime something comes up, that it's a bad time, I have to do something that I really and truly enjoy, and quilting is one of them. And the time when my husband was so sick and I eventually lost him to cancer, the quilt guild was special to me and them--quilters just do that. They get you through whatever you've got to get through.

JKG: Tell me about an amusing experience that has occurred from your quilting making.

ET: Well, the Star Wars one really did. My brother, my nephew, who is almost 40 had some Star Wars quilts [sheets.] that were left over from when he was growing up and he reminded his mother about them and she got them out for me and gave me the two bottom sheets, but he said no way can you use the pillowcases. So, I cut them out and used those in my quilt for my little great nephew, and in the meantime, the nephew [John O'Farrell.] said he wanted one and my brother [R. Jackson Gaston.] who is the father, grandfather of the little nephew, said he wanted one. So, I have orders for two more Star Wars quilts. And I did embroider some little sayings in there. I went around to everybody I knew that were Star Wars [fans.] --because I really wasn't a Star Wars fan growing up. But I did "In a galaxy far, far away" and also the one about "May the force be with you." And when my little nephew wrote me his little thank you note, he said, in closing, he said, 'And may the force be with you.' And he printed it in real bold print.

JKG: [laughs.] So, what is this nephew going to--I mean why is he saving the pillowcases? What does he think he's gonna do with them?

ET: His mother saved everything the child ever had. [JKG laughs.] She had three children, and they bought a new house every once in a while, to keep everything. But I don't know what he's gonna do with them, but he just--I have a tendency to lose things, and so he didn't want them to get lost. That's what it is. [JKG laughs.] When he gets his quilt, I'm sure he'll get them out and use them.

JKG: That's right. Then they'll match. What do you find pleasing about quilt making?

ET: The joy of accomplishment and giving the gift to the children. And they have, so far, been so excited about it--and for me, completing a quilt.

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

ET: I had one ready to say, and it's gone out the window. Now, my mind is in park. But just getting in there to do it because I don't have my house situated right now to just go in and quilt. I've got to--it's a major undertaking and I've got to fix that.

JKG: What art or quilt groups do you belong to?

ET: Well, I'm in the Quilters from the Hart in Hartwell, Georgia. I go to Central, South Carolina once a month to quilt with a Thimbleberries Club and that's got women from around the general area of Central, South Carolina. And we do a block of the month quilt. Everyone does their own, and we have a finished quilt if we follow the procedures properly. Which I try to do, but I hadn't done it yet. [laughs.] Those are the two main ones.

JKG: Right, have advances in technology influenced your work?

ET: Yes, they make it a whole lot easier. The different things on your machine that you can set and so forth and they stay there. You don't have to reset it every time. And the paper piecing, different things like that, the different techniques that everybody learns as they go along.

JKG: Right, ok so what are your favorite techniques and materials?

ET: Straight line. [laughs.] I love Turning Twenty. Seriously, straight lines are the main things I like to do. I've learned triangles and things like that a little bit better, but I'm very slow in proving my quilting. [laughs.]

JKG: What about materials? I mean, are there certain fabrics that you like or are there certain tools that you like?

ET: I like the rotary cutter. And I enjoy just the cottons which I do mostly now. Every once in a while, I'll need a certain color or something and then have to get something that's not 100 % cotton, but most of the time I enjoy using the cotton.

JKG: Describe your studio or the place where you do your quilting.

ET: Well, I have my machine in the front bedroom, and I have my cutting on the kitchen counter. I have my ironing board in the dining room. So I really need to get collected [laughs.] and do it right. I have the room, I just need to clean it out and get it organized, but I'd rather sew and quilt and so forth than get organized.

JKG: Right, well maybe that could be a guild project. Let's go over and help you out. [laughs.]

JKG: Tell me about how you balance your time. I mean you said that you spend four or five hours a week, on average, working on a quilt.

ET: Well, since I retired, I don't really have that problem. Before I retired, I really would have a problem balancing my time with whatever else I was supposed to do, but as you can see, I'm not a housekeeper as such, so I can just do what I want to, whenever I want to. And some days I quilt all day until I have to rip out something and then I get frustrated, and I put it up for another day.

JKG: But you're involved in a lot of other things, like activities that--

ET: Oh, yes, yes, yes.

JKG: Sometimes it's hard to fit quilting in.

ET: Well, I can usually fit quilting in, but I can't fit in getting organized with it, you know. And then too, a lot of organizations, like D.A.R., is doing something with quilting and I was looking through my Garden Club booklet, and they are doing things with quilting. So, it seems to be coming up more as we go along.

JKG: Right. Do you use a design wall?

ET: No. I use the bed in the front bedroom and or one of the other bedrooms. I have used the floor in the living room [laughs.]

JKG: Right. [laughs.]

JKG: All right, so what do you think makes a great quilt?

ET: I think anytime anyone puts the time and the effort into doing a quilt, you've got to love it too and that to me makes a great quilt. It does not matter what it looks like or what colors are in it or what pattern they used or how well it's even constructed, it's just the fact that somebody took the time and the energy and the love to do it.

JKG: Which kind of brings me, I mean--I've often wondered when you're reading a quilting magazine or book, and they talk about it being a quilt. In my definition, a quilt has always been for a bed but now they're including wall hangings and couch throws and that sort of thing. Does that mean the same thing to you?

ET: To me a quilt is something you can snuggle under. And have good memories and know that love surrounds you. And it's not one that should go up on the wall, which are beautiful in some people's homes, but not for me. And I don't want--if one's behind the sofa, just thrown over the sofa or behind a chair or something like that, I usually just pick it up and crawl under it.

JKG: Use it.

ET: Hmm, Hmm.

JKG: In your mind, what makes a quilt artistically powerful?

ET: If I look at it and say, 'Oh, Wow.' I just-- it--but it doesn't have to be necessarily, again, a design. It's just the way the colors go together, and I don't know--I know if I like it or if I don't like it. That's about it. And some of the things I like, I never would have thought I would. If you describe something to me--'Ooh, yuck,' and then I'll see it and it'll just knock you off your feet.

JKG: Right. So, what makes a quilt appropriate for a museum or special collection?

ET: There, I think--why it was made, when it was made, who made it, maybe, and the history behind it. And the difficulty of the pattern, possibly, depending on what the museum is looking for for that particular show or that particular item.

JKG: So, do you think, for instance, that something you made could go into a museum or a special collection even though it's not an antique. In other words, does the quilt have to be an antique in order to go into a museum or special collection?

ET: I don't think so. I really don't. I think it's just got to meet certain standards of whatever they're trying to preserve. But my quilts I have completed so far for my nieces and nephews, I just hope they're gonna be loved and washed so much that they can't go anywhere. [laughs.]

JKG: So, what makes a great quiltmaker?

ET: I think someone who loves to quilt enjoys the colors, and putting the patterns together and shares the knowledge readily.

JKG: So, it's not necessarily somebody who does everything by hand, or somebody who does hand quilting, and their stitches are, you know, ten stitches to the inch, so it's broader than that?

ET: I think so, personally. Emily Temple does. [laughs.]

JKG: What works are you drawn to and why? Like if you go to a quilt show, which, in general--which quilts--types of quilts draw your attention the most?

ET: I just like to look at them all and then think how they would look in my house. Or, if I could do that one. It's not necessarily one particular kind or another, it's just I know what I like, I know what I don't like, but to put it in words, sometimes I can't. But I like to look at everything in a quilt show and some of them really do, you know, step back and look at it again. But sometimes it's the color, sometimes it's because of the intricacy--I can't say that word--of the pattern, and so forth. The needlework.

JKG: Ok, which artists have influenced you?

ET: I can't think of any names right off the hand, but I've always liked--you're talking about like an Alex Anderson and people like that?

JKG: Well, I don't know, it could be maybe you like Monet and all of the watercolors and that kind of thing, or maybe you like the artists who make--do their paintings in geometric shapes and bright colors, or it could be, like Alex Anderson who quilts. I mean, it just depends. It could be both.

ET: I like bright bold colors. And as far as quilting is concerned, I want them to go together nicely and easily. I don't like to stew over 'Is this gonna match or is that gonna match, am I gonna have to rip it out this time?'

JKG: I can see that.

ET: And I can't think of any one person, really, that would do all of that.

JKG: Right.

ET: I put a little bit of everything together.

JKG: So, your quilts in general, are not all the same color tone, for instance, or you don't use the same pattern for every quilt?

ET: No, not really, I like appliqué and I've done some appliquéing, and I have done some charity quilts with that 6-Hour deal, and they went together very rapidly and that was good for me. I started a Grandmother's Flower Garden, but I've started a lot, but don't follow through with them, and that's what I need to do more of.

JKG: And why don't you think you follow through?

ET: I just go on to something else. [laughs.] But I try to get better.

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

ET: Because of different people's health problems as well as eyesight, so forth--[background noise.] I think today it's whichever one suits the individual quilter better. As far as I'm concerned, I'm still trying to finish hand quilting one that we did in our guild when we first started the guild. It was a sampler and I've gotten about three-fourths of it hand quilted, but I haven't finished it. But one of these days I'm going to, and it will be a wall hanging. But machine quilting -- I think is beautiful when people know what they're doing, and most of the ones I have done have been machine quilted.

JKG: Have you done the machine quilting?

ET: No, but like the Star Wars one, when the lady did it, I said, 'If you can do something with stars in it, I would appreciate it.' So, when it got back, it had stars all over it. And the intertwining thing all around it. And then the one for my niece, she did one called "Roses in Bloom" or something of that nature, and it had roses all around it and leaves quilted in it with vines and she just did a beautiful job on all of them.

JKG: Do you think there is a difference between somebody doing machine quilting with a regular machine--regular sewing machine, as opposed to a longarm machine?

ET: It looks like to me the longarm machine would be much easier to do. Now, I think the end result--somebody just looking at it, would be hard pressed to tell the difference. Somebody who does machine quilting, longarm and with their regular machine, can probably tell the difference in a heartbeat, but I think the ordinary, run of the mill quilting--I don't think it would matter.

JKG: So why is quilt making important to you, to your life?

ET: It's something I enjoy doing. And I really do like the people involved when you're quilting. I never met a quilter I didn't really like. And that's the truth.

JKG: That's true.

ET: I've been to a quilt shop in Wisconsin that I dearly love; it's not too far from where I have a house up there and it's just--the people there are just so genuine. You go to anywhere down here where quilts are involved, and the people are genuine. They're caring and, you know, they're just a special breed of people.

JKG: They're just kind of different, aren't they?

ET: They are. But a good different.

JKG: That's right. In what ways do your quilts reflect your community or region?

ET: I don't know that mine necessarily do. They reflect me. And they're very simple and easy to do and put together and they're very serviceable. I have done some things that are very ornate or whatever, but not very many.

JKG: Having seen your quilts, I don't think you've used the same pattern twice, but I can't recall. I mean, you're not making every quilt that you give to your nephews the same, using the same pattern.

ET: The catch is to use extremely different material in those. Now, one I'm doing is an appliqué and it's gonna be totally different from the others. And one I did was an "I Spy" quilt when the child was much younger, and it was totally different from the others. But I have done three that were literally Turning Twenty; the Star Wars one, and then one with mostly flowers and pinks, pinks and yellow, and then the other one was fabric that my niece bought to match the child's room. It was Turning Twenty but if you put them all side by side, the three do not look at--

JKG: That's right. Based on the fabric you used and the choice. So, you're choosing the fabric based either on the child--

ET: Right.

JKG: Or where it's gonna go?

ET: Now I did one that was mostly pin wheels, and it was called Jacks because the pin wheel things were loose. And I did that one for the granddaughter of a very good friend of mine. And it--I just used different colors, sort of like a scrappy quilt except that the background was all pink. And it turned out real well. But, again, I chose it just because I thought it was a cute pattern and easy to do. [laughs.] Because it had straight lines to do too.

JKG: Well, I mean, if they come out so good, so what difference --

ET: It came out fine.

JKG: So, what do you think about the importance of quilts in American life?

ET: I think they're important for one reason, they show the change, changes through the years in the way that quilts are made and the fabric they were made from, and the reason they were made. I think originally, the quilts were made to keep you warm. Now, these crazy quilts and things like that were made to show off the ladies' different designs and hand work that they could do, and how expert they were and so forth. But today, most of your quilting is done for household decoration, as wall hangings or different things like that. And then, like mine, to give to the great nieces for something for them to enjoy.

JKG: Speaking of which, does that bother you--when you give somebody a quilt and when they first get it, they like it and that sort of thing, and then maybe five years later and you go, and you see it and the dog's laying on it. Does that bother you?

ET: That hasn't happened yet, but it might. [laughs.] But I feel like when you give something to somebody, you should not have strings attached on it, and they should be able to do with it what they want to do and enjoy it the way they want to enjoy it. And I do feel strongly about that.

JKG: So how do you think quilts can be used?

ET: I think they can be used any way the owner wants to use them. You can use them for cover, you can use them to display in your home some way or another, either small one for wall hangings and things of that nature, but almost any way you would like to use them for themselves.

[background noise: talking.]

JKG: Do you think quilts can be preserved for the future?

ET: Yes, by taking care of them. I don't want one I've got to wrap in this acid free paper and keep in a box under the bed all the time and turn around every three weeks or three months or something of that nature. If I can't use it and enjoy it--but if it's a quilt that you think should be preserved like that, then I think the owner should take care of it along those lines.

JKG: So, what has happened to the quilts that you have made or those of friends and family?

ET: So far as I know, the ones I've made definitely for someone, they have used them as bed covers or to snuggle under when they were watching TV or something like that. They haven't been abused that I know of [laughs.] They probably wouldn't tell me if they had. [laughs.]

JKG: So, what do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today?

ET: Mostly, finding time to quilt because so many people do still work outside the home, and have a husband and children and they've got to do with them and share their time with them. But finding the time. Because the tools and all of those are so advanced now that you--it doesn't take as much time to get things ready as it did before.

JKG: And it's nice since we have the rotary cutter--

ET: Right.

JKG: Not to have to cut out individual templates.

ET: And the dye cut, and so forth, can be very useful.

JKG: Is there anything else that you would like to add to this?

ET: I enjoy quilting even though I don't finish things like I should. That's one of my resolutions, not New Year's, but resolutions are to do better. But I--the people, the quilters--

JKG: I would like to thank Emily Temple for allowing me to interview her today as part of the Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories. Our interview concluded at 3:00 p.m. on February 25, 2010.


“Emily Temple,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 18, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/2112.