Jeanne T. Bernardy




Jeanne T. Bernardy




Jeanne T. Bernardy


Jeanne Wright

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

A Friend of the Quilt Alliance


Cumberland Foreside, Maine


Jeanne Wright


Note: Jeanne Bernardy is not a member of the DAR. While this is a DAR quiltmaker documentation project, membership within the DAR is not required.

Jeanne Wright (JW): This is Jeanne Wright. Today is November 15, 2011. It's 1:30 in the afternoon. I'm conducting an interview with Jeanne Bernardy at her home in Cumberland Foreside, Maine. Jeanne, thank you for allowing us to come in and interview you today.

Jeanne Bernardy (JB): Well, thank you, dear. I think it's marvelous what you are doing, you know, this program you are involved in. It's great.

JW: I have so much fun.

JB: Yes.

JW: [beep sound is the timer starting.] You have a different type of quilt today. They are not Maine quilts, although you now live in Maine. Tell me about the quilt you chose for today.

JB: I chose it because that was my really, well not my beginning quilt. I was living in California at the time and my daughter was involved in quilting and I just loved what she was doing. She is a Renaissance gal. She took a couple of lessons, and she was ready to make a gorgeous Baltimore quilt. I thought, 'Oh, maybe this looks like something I would I like to.' I was a weaver at that time, and I was making all kinds of clothing and stuff as a weaver. So, she said, 'Mom, why don't you take a class with Linda?' So, I did. You have to begin with the beginner's class. You have to do the twelve blocks, the beginner's blocks and make a bedspread. Well, I did, but I didn't make a bedspread. I took it home. I looked at it and I tore it up and used it as a dust rag. [laughs.] I said, 'This is not me. I am not a traditionalist.' I didn't realize that until at the moment. I thought, well, we had bought our house in Sedona, Arizona at the time. We had a lot of emotional things going on at that time. I was looking forward to going to Sedona. I had been there before, and I knew I would love it. I thought, I don't have anything southwest because I was living in California, so I will make a southwest thing. All right? I had been very interested in the Hopi Indians, so I did some stitching on the background that is all these Hopi projects and some symbols. So that was my first thing. Then I got to Arizona, and I was still weaving. I thought, 'Well I can't do quilting and weaving at the same time in the same room.' I had a huge floor loom. So, I thought, 'What's it going to be, either quilting or weaving?' [laughs.] So, I got rid of my large loom and started quilting and got involved with a quilting store in Arizona there. I took some classes there and got to know the owner of the quilt store. Eventually, through the gals I met in Arizona, in Sedona, we, I started a co-op with the seven art medium artists. So, it was called the Fiber Art Gallery. We did that for about three years. People just started; I ended up taking most of the hours. That was crazy. I didn't think I could do that any longer. So, in the meantime, she had a big store, the owner, had a big store behind our quilt store and wanted to make it into a quilt gallery. So, her daughter and I got this big gallery together and went all over Sedona and Arizona. When I was traveling back here, to the east, in Maine and New Hampshire and D.C., I saw some artists I liked, so I got them involved. So, they put their things in the gallery too. It really took off and it was just a great gallery and still in existence now. So that was how I got started in quilting way back then. I've done it ever since. When I came here, I got involved in the quilt guild.

JW: Which guild was that?

JB: It's the Calico Quilters. [in Yarmouth, Maine.] A great bunch of ladies. [laughs.] I think all quilters are especially fine people. It's the same with the weavers. [laughs.] They are a crowd all unto themselves. Anyway, I got involved with them and I've just enjoyed all the classes I have taken with them and so forth. I'm not, what do I say? My techniques are terrible. I mean if I stitch in a straight line, it's a miracle. All right? But what I really love to do is, I find a fabric. I'm into batiks right now. I really don't think of me as a batiks lady. That's what they call me. I worship batiks. So when I see a design, which I have a lot of, I say, the Wow factor, you know, like Wow. And I just want to take it to my bosom. [laughs.] It's that kind of reaction to these fabrics and that's the basis of my usual quilts, the batik fabrics. Then I put it on my felt board there, downstairs, and I have no idea what I am going to do with it. I just let it, it just evolves, and I audition different fabrics to see which ones I'd like. As the process goes, I just make up the design because I don't like to do, if I copy somebody, I change it in many ways. So, my colors have changed over the years from the autumn colors and now I'm right into the bright happy colors. [laughs.] You know, it's just how you go through the stages? I just feel so good about the happy colors, the primary colors, and working with that. It's wonderful to be able to grow in different areas and not stay stuck, someone trying to tell me you do. Yes.

JW: With those [bright, primary.] colors, what do your patterns, what do they look like? What is the result?

JB: Who knows? [laughs.]

JW: Have you made many?

JB: I have quite a few that are my own designs, yes. It's hard to describe. One fabric just sends me off and I have no idea when I start out what it's going to be.

JW: How long have you been doing those, because I see most of the ones in browns and tans--

JB: This is a story. This was, this one that I made in Arizona.

JW: This quilt right here, on the wall?

JB: Right here. Yes, yes. And that's a story because this lady came and gave a class. She had these Lucite templates, you know?

JW: Mm-mm.

JB: I spent $100 for the dumb things. It was supposed to give perfect corners, right? Well, I took them. Guess what this quilt is called? [phones rings.]

JW: We were just interrupted for a minute by a phone call, but we are getting back to her quilt that she has here on the wall, which is not the same one she was talking about earlier. [the touchstone quilt.]

JB: As I say, from the templates, you know, they're supposed to have perfect corners? And so, I used the damn thing and here's what I ended up calling this quilt "How to Cut Corners." [both laugh.] They are all rounded. [both continue to laugh while looking at the wall hanging.] And I said, 'I don't think so.'

JW: Well, the colors you selected, they are beautiful, but the corners are--

JB: They are rounded.

JW: Yes. [both continue to laugh.] What special meaning does the quilt have for you that you chose today? How does it touch you?

JB: It's the beginning of a new life; a new way of looking at the future.

JW: How's that?

JB: Well, it was hard in California. I wasn't too happy there. I just knew when I went to Arizona I wanted to go there. I was drawn to go to Sedona because I had been there before and I got very involved in the Hopi Indians and I wanted to go back and study them and be amongst them, so that's why I had to go there. That's why I ended up in Arizona. I dragged my husband along. [laughs.]

JW: What percentage of your quilts, do you think, have that theme or are representative of that area?

JB: About thirty.

JW: I'm seeing mostly wall quilts, is that what you--

JB: I don't do big ones. [laughs.] I've got a couple of big ones under the bed that are really, could be a full-size for a twin bed or a big one, but I had to have somebody do the longarm [quilting.] because I can't quilt those big things myself, but I do have a couple of big ones.

JW: What do you think someone viewing your quilt would think about you, would say about you, would understand you?

JB: 'I think she's mixed up.' [laughs wholeheartedly.] I don't know.

JW: Why would you say that, mixed up?

JB: Because everything is so different. You know, where are you coming from lady? I'm not sure because everything I do is not in writing. So they probably, what are you doing? Are you learning anything in the process? It's, I don't think so because my techniques are just like straight sewing, except for my machine that has the fancy stitches on it; you get a little fancy stuff on it here and there.

JW: You don't think you are learning as you go?

JB: I am. I think I'm learning but I don't always take in things I've been taught. I'm a, I have to do something simple, so I'm straight sewing.

JW: Your work doesn't look simple to me. You've done a lovely job.

JB: I know, but the thing is, dear, I can't do all these fancy things. I don't do paper piecing, all that sort of stuff, all these new techniques. I just don't do them. I just like to play with the fabrics and my own design, and I just have no idea what I am going to be doing. It's just wonderful to see what happens. It's always kind of a magic thing. When I finish, oh, this is how it turned out. [both laugh.]

JW: What are your plans for the quilt you showed us today?

JB: I don't know. I don't think anybody wants it.

JW: Do you swap the quilts around to different walls?

JB: No.

JW: No. So, where it is, is its home.

JB: That's going to stay. [touchstone quilt hanging downstairs.] That's kind of my southwest room down there mainly.

JW: What about your interest in quilt making? Tell me a little more about that. You said you changed from being a weaver and you evolved into quilting. Once you did that, did you like that? Have you continued to enjoy that?

JB: Oh yes, very much so. I love, I've always been interested in fabrics because I was involved for a number of years in interior design and so that I always worked with fabrics, mostly with upholstery and all that sort of stuff. Then when I did my weaving, it was more or less fabric because I made wool clothes and so forth. So, I've always had some sort of background in working with fabrics and that's what I love to do. I love to design. I love the creativity. I'm just amazed at what somebody can come up with in their designs. I think, 'Wow, I wonder where they come from.' I wish I could do something like that, you know.

JW: They say the same thing about your work--

JB: Yes.

JW: --how does she do that?

JB: Yes.

JW: What age were you when you started quilting?

JB: I was--how old was I? I was sixty-two.

JW: So, in other words, you started later in life.

JB: Yes, I started as a senior citizen. [laughs.]

JW: Good for you.

JB: [continues to laugh.] Yes.

JW: Who did you learn to quilt from?

JB: The lady in Woodland Hills, California. I forget, Linda somebody or other, whatever her name is. She was the one who took that original class. But my daughter was the one who really, keeps taking, we are so in contact with each other. We just have the best time.

JW: You and your daughter?

JB: Yes. Yes.

JW: How many hours a week do you quilt? Do you have any pattern?

JB: Not as much as I used to because of this dumb oxygen stuff, but I would say probably three or four hours now a week maybe, sometimes ten, depending on what's going on or not going on, you know?

JW: Do you have one in progress right now?

JB: Yes, just starting. I had one on the felt board and I just took it down because I had about a third of it sewn together and I didn't like it. It didn't turn me on. So, I gave myself the privilege of taking it down and putting it aside. Maybe sometimes I will finish it, but who knows.

JW: It's a sense of freedom, isn't it?

JB: Yes, it is. I mean I am allowed to do that; you know? And I didn't feel guilty.

JW: Good for you. What's your first quilt memory?

JB: What do you mean by that, dear?

JW: The first time you noticed quilts a separate time, that it's not just somebody's blanket. It's a quilt.

JB: I guess it was my daughter. She really turned me on.

JW: Okay. Do you have other quiltmakers in your family then?

JB: Well, my daughter but that's about it.

JW: That's it.

JB: Yes.

JW: How does quilt making impact your family? You, what does your family think about this, like, 'Go Mom,' or--

JB: Oh yes. Oh yes. They are thrilled that I am doing it and they can't believe I am doing it. [laughs.]

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

JB: Oh yes, when I was a gal in California. That's the quilt that I have, you know, the one that I showed you, the Arizona quilt. That's what got me through a difficult time. It made me look forward to something that's going to be new and away from all the pain. So, I, and I called it, the quilt, "Welcome Sedona."

JW: Mmm. What do you enjoy the most about quilt making?

JB: Designing. Picking the fabrics. I love fabrics. I just want to hug them all. [laughs.]

JW: Do you have a large stash?

JB: I did. I still have a fair amount, but I've given a lot to my daughter, boxes and boxes of them, because in my lifetime I don't have too many years left that I'm going to be able to use all this stuff. [laughs.]

JW: Do you have an amusing experience you can tell me about, something that has to do with your quilting?

JB: Only this one, the one with the circles on it. [laughs.] I cut corners.

JW: What is something you don't like about quilt making? Is there anything?

JB: Yes. I don't like, myself, putting the front, the batting and the backing together. I used to do it on the floor, and it doesn't work. So, when I do anything big now, I'll send it out to one of these gals with the longarm machines. But I've done it, you know. I have that big table down there and also one of the leaves comes out so I can spread it out quite a bit and I can do it down there.

JW: Tell me about that area where you quilt.

JB: Well, it's my little hangout. [laughs.] I guess it's true because I have everything I need right there. All my threads and my fabrics are there. All the equipment I need, the scissors and all the tools you need are right there so all I have to do is stretch out my arms and pick them up. It's right there. I like it being there and it's very convenient too. It's kind of isolated too. When I go down there, I feel like I'm in another space. It's like a meditation sort of thing. You really kind of block out the world and you are just there, involved with your fabric and trying to come up with a design, nothing great, what you have, just flow. That's what I love being down there because that's where it happens.

JW: From your windows you are looking out at the edge of the woods. It's very natural.

JB: Right.

JW: It must be quite calming.

JB: It is.

JW: Not distracting when you try to come up with a plan.

JB: Oh, no, no, no.

JW: Do you have any UFOs? Do you have quilts that you haven't finished?

JB: [laughs and nods.]

JW: Do you intend to finish them?

JB: Well, I will someday. I've got one I really love. I've got it on a wood frame. It's a pretty good size. But it's, I've got to figure out how to get the backing on there so I--and also there are wild horses in all kinds of primary colors, racing horses. I don't know what to do next, but anyway. I want to do some Trapunto. I've done some quilting on there now, but I want to do some Trapunto to raise out some of the horses on there. So, I've got to do that. I have some beads; I use a lot of beads. [cleared her throat.]

JW: A lot of what?

JB: Beads. Yup, beads. Little gimmicks, whatever you call them, do-dahs. [laughs.]

JW: Embellishments?

JB: Yes. [laughs.] Yes.

JW: And I see that you have a design wall down there too. How does that affect your creative process, using one of those?

JB: It gives me a center. It's my center, like the core, and you just go from there and you put one fabric on, and things just sprout from there. So, it's the core and it's grown from there.

JW: Okay. I understand that you make wearable art. What's that about?

JB: Well, I did that, especially when I was in Arizona. I did run the gallery. I made quilted jackets, quilted coats, quilted vests, bags, you name it, and the quilts.

JW: Was that to go in a store or shop?

JB: It was in the fiber arts gallery that I started with co-op. Yes, we had that.

JW: So, it was for display?

JB: Oh, it was for sale. This was a store. Yes. We used to have fashion shows.

JW: You also have some pictures of some quilts that you've designed, some patterns.

JB: Right.

JW: Could you tell me about those?

JB: Well, I was involved with the quilt store as a [word unclear.]. The owner asked me if I could make some simple designs for the tourists using an Indian motif, so I made three. One is the bear which is for good health and prosperity. A Kokopelli which is the seed. The turtle, which is the beginning. The Hopis believe that the world came from the center of the turtle.

JW: That what came?

JB: The earth. The earth. The people came from the center of, from the turtle.

JW: Okay.

JB: So that's how I got started. Now they are still being sold in Arizona and on the website. This is after, about ten years ago. So that's pretty good. I'm still getting royalties, so I like that. You know, I used to do things like, you'll think I'm crazy. [laughs.]

JW: No.

JB: But anyway, I did this, it's the sort of thing I got involved with when I was in Sedona visiting somebody, looking at furniture for the gallery. But anyway, I went in their bathroom and I saw this frame that was just on the floor. I thought, I like that, so I asked if I could buy it. So I used that for a quilt I made. Here it is.

JW: A rustic looking--it has doors that open?

JB: Yes.

JW: Very much--

JB: No, no it doesn't open, dear. It's just the fabric. But here's the thing I used. So I do things like that.

JW: The colors are very rich in that.

JB: Yes.

JW: What do you think makes a great quilt?

JB: The workmanship. Originality. You can tell if somebody is really loving it, whoever made it. It's very special to them and then becomes very special to you. It can speak to you. It has all kinds of emotions that come from it. Does it make you happy? [Does it.] make you sad, or whatever it is?

JW: You can really read the person a little, is that what you are saying?

JB: Yes, you can I think. You have a feeling where they came from or where they are at least at the moment.

JW: What do you think makes it artistically powerful though?

JB: Again, it's the workmanship, the fine-ness of it, the details and so forth. The creativity of it. I just, I mean it's just so creative. Somebody just came up with the wonderful idea and was able to put it up into fruition and just got it made up.

JW: So if you walked into a room and saw a quilt there, the Wow factor to you would be--? What's the first thing?

JB: Well the design [laughs.] for one thing. And then the color. Color speaks to me because I love colors.

JW: What do you think makes a great quiltmaker?

JB: Somebody who cares what they are doing and is really involved, their whole soul is into it, I think. And they have taken some lessons and are willing to explore some techniques like I'm not, but it's all right with me. That's what makes a good quilter, somebody who really loves what they are doing.

JW: What do you think about machine quilting versus hand quilting and longarm quilting?

JB: I wish I could do hand quilting. I've tried. I've done a little bit, but my stitches are all different lengths. You never know what, [laughs.] what size they're going to be. So like when I do my hand quilting, it's usually in a soft area. Machine quilting, I have no problem, especially now with my new machine. I can do all these wonderful fancy stitches and it works great, great. You can be creative that way. The long thing, I don't have and I couldn't probably work it anyway, but I would love to have somebody do it for me. I'm not ashamed.

JW: Now is that for wall quilts as well as larger quilts?

JB: Mm-mm, because I've got some big ones. Quilts, you know, the wall, but--

JW: Do you have a longarm quilter that you always go to?

JB: I've had several. The one I really like moved away and hopefully I will be able to contact her again. Yes. But she's really great. I get very involved. I don't just say, here's the quilt, do something. I make sure we talk together and see, come up with a design that I like particularly. So I have my involvement with that.

JW: You hand quilted in the one [quilt.] we are looking at today.

JB: That's right.

JW: And those are specific quilting patterns. Tell me about that.

JB: How do you mean?

JW: How the quilting is in that one. You hand quilted and it went with the quilt.

JB: Oh, I have some cacti and I just did that on the plain fabric so it's just a repeated design of the cactus.

JW: Mm-mm.

JB: You know.

JW: What do you choose for the back of a quilt?

JB: Sometimes I think I use whatever I have on hand. But mostly I'm very particular. Right now I've gotten very fussy. I usually design the back of the quilt, the fabrics and the design and so forth, so it's not just plain old background. Actually I did, one of my quilts, my big quilts, I did the backing and people said, 'This is ridiculous. Why do you have it on the back?' they said, 'make it for a front.' [laughs.]

JW: You mean you piece the back?

JB: No. I just, I made another whole back with just a complete design, a big one. That was my backing. [They said,] 'this is ridiculous to have it on the back.' [They.] said, 'why don't you do that for the front?' So I took that, got another fabric and made the backing for a front for another big one. Does that make sense to you?

JW: You've made two quilt fronts--

JB: Yes.

JW: --out of what would be a quilt front and a back.

JB: Yes. Right.

JW: Now on each one, do you have a background on it? Or did you do that again?

JB: No, no. One has all kinds of funny things on it, I mean patterns. One has this kind of dots and things going on. It's just, you know, it's kind of dots in different colors, primary colors. Yes.

JW: That's very interesting.

JB: Mm-mm.

JW: Very interesting. Do you think your quilts reflect your community or your region? You've done a lot of quilting about Arizona.

JB: Yes. Right. I'm just thinking about here. [Maine.] I think for a while there I was doing the autumn colors and so forth, the rich colors, and now in the past year I've been really pushing forward and doing the bright, happy colors, because that's where I am. I am smiling all the time. [laughs.]

JW: Do you think that has anything to do with being here in Maine?

JB: Oh, yes. I love it here. I'm very happy. I've come home. I feel like I've come home because I'm from New England to start with anyway. So I was delighted to come back here.

JW: Mm-mm.

JB: Yes. I just feel that, this is the first time in years I really feel very comfortable. I just feel at ease.

JW: So the colors are bubbling up out of you.

JB: Yes, the brightness, is coming up. [laughs.] Yes.

JW: It's not specifically a Maine type of thing then? It's just where you are--

JB: Personally. Mm-mm. Yes.

JW: Is there anything else you'd like to try for regions that might be representative of another region?

JB: Can I name this country? [laughs.]

JW: Well, anywhere, anywhere.

JB: Oh, not the way it is now, but I love Greece, if it was way back then, but not today. I just like to [look at.] some of the designs, like the antiquities and so forth. Yes.

JW: The blues there.

JB: Oh, yes, yes. Because I spent some time in Greece so I know the colors and they are brilliant and--

JW: Now you've painted part of the background on the quilt we have here today.

JB: Right, right.

JW: Is that something you can see doing in the future?

JB: If it's necessary.

JW: Yes.

JB: If it was necessary. This was necessary because I couldn't find any fabric that would do what I wanted it to do. So if it comes to the point where I have to paint, I'll paint it.

JW: Yes. If you were doing one in Greece, to do with Greece, how do you see that? What would be--all I can see are blues and white.

JB: Yes, yes. Right.

JW: What do you think that might be like?

JB: More like a mosaic with all those wonderful colors and so forth. I kind of relate to design of the mosaic designs there. They are kind of free form and some of them are just beautiful. So it would be a mosaic. Yes.

JW: Speaking of mosaics, would something interest you like in England or somewhere where they have the large cathedrals and the floors.

JB: Yes, yes. I've been there too, so I know, that was my, almost my first thought was England. Then I thought, no. I loved it England. I was very happy there, but it's, to me it's a little bit depressing. [laughs.] You know? Maybe we were there at the wrong time of year because all the time it was rain.

JW: Oh.

JB: Yes. Okay? So it was the wrong time of the year, both times we were there.

JW: But did you like the mosaics?

JB: Oh yes.

JW: Was it something that you wanted to try?

JB: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. That kind of design, like this, mosaic sort of thing is what I do now. Yes.

JW: And it could still be a round design. [tongue in cheek.] You could just start with these round corners. [both laugh.]

JB: Right.

JW: Why is quilt making important in your life?

JB: It's connection with other people, especially with my daughter. I find that it gets for me to know other people and know where they are coming from and what's happened to them, the good and the bad, you know. We're not the only one who has had some problems. There are other people too. You have to understand and have some compassion. When my husband was alive and my son-in-law, they always went with us when we went quilting. When we were on a trip and we knew there was a quilt store near it, [laughs.] we would go. So they got used to it, you know, us going, and I often asked my husband whether they liked it or not. Sometimes he would say yes and sometimes he wouldn't say anything, which means they didn't care for it at all. Yes.

JW: Did he ever give you suggestions when you were quilting?

JB: Never. No. He was a word man. Yes, yes. He was on a mission.

JW: So he didn't come up and say, oh Jeanne, I think that should be--

JB: Oh, no. [laughs.] No input there.

JW: What about your daughter? Does she have any influence on what you do?

JB: Yes, she tells me when I don't [she doesn't.] think that's quite right and then we talk about it. I usually end up doing what I wanted to do in the first place. [laughs.]

JW: Mothers are like that. [both laugh.]

JB: No, we have a grand time because we share and we text things. She just starts one thing and two days later she's a master at it. Okay? Drives me crazy, but she does. She's just unbelievable.

JW: What type of quilting does she do?

JB: Everything. You name it. Everything. Right now she's in, big time, appliqué. She's, I mean, it's unbelievable what she does. I don't know how she does it, but she does it.

JW: How many quilts is she likely to make in a year?

JB: Oh. [laughs.]

JW: That many?

JB: Yes. [continues to laugh.] Yes. She whips them out like crazy.

JW: What about you? How many wall hangings would you tend to make in a year?

JB: I'm slow, dear, for labor, slow. Probably four or five. Not much. It'll take me a lot of time. I really am just slow.

JW: It sounds more like you give yourself the freedom to do it as you want to though. Like you're not thinking, I've got to produce.

JB: No, sometimes I must say, Jeanne, I feel I need a fix. I need a quick fix. Okay, we need to get some juices going here and then that's when I start. I find a fabric and go from there. But I really find that every once in a while, I need a fix.

JW: Have you ever owned a quilt shop or worked in one?

JB: Yes.

JW: Tell me about that.

JB: That was, again, in Arizona, in Sedona. You know, put it together and so forth in a quilt shop, in a quilter's gallery. We got it going and had some quilts in there and all kinds of things.

JW: What did you like best about it?

JB: Arranging. [laughs.]

JW: Oh, interesting.

JB: No, it's getting all these wonderful people's quilts and hanging them and making them so they stood out so they were perfect for anybody coming into the gallery. I sort of love friends who said I should be an agent because I had a lot of friends who weren't doing anything. I would just tell them, you've got to get involved. So I'd introduce them to a different studio, wherever it was and tell them to get going. So they did that.

JW: Do you sell any of your quilts now?

JB: You mean sell them, not save them?

JW: Do you sell quilts since you've come to Maine? Do you just sell them?

JB: No. I haven't sold any since I've been here.

JW: Is that something you might like to try?

JB: I could. Yes. I could. I could get rid of this one. [laughs.]

JW: Do you collect quilts still?

JB: No, dear. My own?

JW: Either.

JB: I have one old quilt that I got, I'm going back to Arizona again. I still love it here in Maine. I love it here, but anyway, I have one old quilt and, so--

JW: So you don't collect quilts then?

JB: No. I'm not like Kathy. [Kathy Kenny, a neighbor and previous interviewee for this AAQ project.]

JW: Kathy being another person that I've interviewed.

JB: Right. Right.

JW: Recently.

JB: Right. Yes.

JW: The importance of quilts in American life. What do you see? You've had a span of time. You started quilting in your more senior age. How do you see quilting being important in American life?

JB: I think one thing that makes me angry is that people don't think of it as a, they think of it as a craft. It's, since the beginning of time, it's been an art form. I don't care whether it was an old potato sack they made and so forth, but it was actually an art form. I think people have to realize this, that there is a lot of history behind the first quilts that were made and people should enjoy what's been done over the years. It always makes me so angry that painters do this small little painting, you pay $900 for it. You get a beautiful [quilted wall.] hanging and get maybe $300-$400 for it.

JW: For a wall hanging?

JB: Yes. It's more work in that quilt than it is in this splash of painting on a canvas. I don't think that's fair. I think the quilters should get money for their work because it is an art form and I think the public has to realize that it is truly an art form and we've got to educate them to let them know this is another art form and they should really enjoy it. It's special. Collect them.

JW: Does that have any influence on your thoughts about hand quilting and machine quilting? Do you see those as two different art forms? Or does it matter?

JB: It doesn't matter, whoever does it, whatever it is, it is still an art form, dear. You know?

JW: What about special meaning for women's history? Have you seen that at all, quilting?

JB: Yes. I think it's how people have been involved, you know, from the very beginning and so forth and how they've progressed and how they used their imagination as time went on to be, to stretch a bit, they've stretched to the next level. See what I can do with a potato sack. I can put it together and make a little apron. I can do a little something else. So it's just a progression of learning and don't give up. It still can keep on going and going and going. Don't give up.

JW: Is that it for women's history?

JB: Yes.

JW: Okay. How do you think quilts can be used? How should be quilts be used?

JB: Anywhere you want. [laughs.]

JW: Do you think when you make a new quilt you should use that quilt?

JB: You can.

JW: Have you ever used a quilt that you've made?

JB: I hang them on walls. [laughs.]

JW: But you don't sleep under a quilt.

JB: No, no.

JW: How do you think quilts should be preserved for the future?

JB: Course there are all kinds of techniques. They tell you how to preserve a quilt. I think anybody who's doing quilts should learn these things. Do some research and find out what is the best method right now for their quilt. Whether they use cotton. Of course I like Crazy Quilts. They've got every kind of fabric going, so you need to know how to preserve those too, that have all the different kind of fabrics, like felt, and so forth, and velvets and that sort of stuff.

JW: Do you think you've perhaps begun to do that yourself, preserve quilts? How would you do it?

JB: [whispers.] No, I haven't.

JW: Oh, we're all awful about that, aren't we?

JB: I'm terrible. [laughs.] No. No, no.

JW: What's happened to quilts you have made for friends and family and so forth? How have your quilts been used that you've given away?

JB: I have a couple that were put on their walls. Well, yes. I've had several here and also back in Arizona. They've put them on their walls.

JW: Have you seen one on their wall?

JB: Mm-mm.

JW: Then you know it's true. [laughs.] Your techniques that you use, you say you kind of design as you go. What would you call your technique?

JB: [laughs.] Come what may. [laughs.]

JW: Come what may. Have you ever done it any other way or that's just, that's you?

JB: I've taken something, like, here, what's her name? [She was searching for something on the table.] Of course, I can't find the magazine. Anyway. I love her. Kumiko Sodo. I love her quilts. Now she inspires me. I look at the book and I may just get an idea from her and just expand it. Okay? I just think she's wonderful.

JW: Do you have any other people that you look up to?

JB: Yes. I know he's getting boring now, but Kaffe Fassett.

JW: Mm-mm.

JB: Yes. Because these are really very, imaginative quilts, and so forth, I think. It's kind of that sort of thing that I do.

JW: Mm-mm. What's your favorite color?

JB: Well, it varies. [laughs.] I guess kind of an apricot-burnt orange.

JW: Oh.

JB: Yes, yes.

JW: Advances in technology, how do you see that affecting quilting? Both for yourself and out there. Technology, a good thing, bad thing?

JB: It's making it much easier; shall we say to quilt. With all these little gadgets I'm just thinking, now that I have, you know the board where you cut your fabrics, the big rulers, the, what do you call those things?

JW: Rotary cutters?

JB: Rotary cutters and all that sort of thing. We didn't have that before. You just had to hope that you were getting something straight, something the right size. These are all little things, but they are important to make life easy for you.

JW: Mm-mm. Do you think it's made it less of an art form to use the new technology?

JB: No. It's helped it. It helped it.

JW: Very good. Do you have any tips or advice for beginners?

JB: Don't quit.

JW: Don't quit?

JB: Don't quit. Because I could have quit when I first made that, that 4, 5, 8, what do you call it, 12 block quilt in the store and I threw it away. It was not me. I had to be willing to go beyond that and see what I could do.

JW: It sounds like quilter's block, writer's block.

JB: Yes. Right, right. And I needed to, I think, don't give up. Just, regardless of what age you are, you can still learn to quilt and do things to explore a new art form. It gives you so much pleasure.

JW: In what ways do you do that? What makes you get up and say, 'Okay, I'm going to quilt now?'

JB: As I get the urge. [laughs.]

JW: As you get the urge. But when you are telling someone about this and telling them don't quit, what do you think could inspire them, so okay, get out of bed and start?

JB: I think what I would do is probably try to find a gallery or a quilt store where you could show them the things that can be done, the different things. It can be real simple like making a little bag or an animal that you quilt or just something that might turn them on, and they can go from there. You know, just the simplest thing. To me, that's what happens often. You start with the simple and it grows and grows and grows.

JW: Now, what do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today?

JB: Not getting acknowledged for the fine work they are doing.

JW: Not getting the knowledge?

JB: I guess you've got to--

JW: Not getting knowledge?

JB: I guess you've got to, acknowledged.

JW: Oh, Mm-mm, acknowledged.

JB: Yes, that's what I feel. They don't, I think the public should be more aware of it. Because they do have these shows and so forth and people are becoming more aware of it and we are educating the public that this is like a similar to a painting art gallery where paintings and watercolors are, this is another form, and you should go and see this gallery. Yes.

JW: Would you like to see quilt galleries where they are not selling but they are more like a museum or gallery?

JB: Sure. Yes. But to sell is all right too. [laughs.]

JW: Have you been to any museums or galleries for quilts?

JB: Yes. Back in Portsmouth.

JW: New Hampshire?

JB: Mm-mm. Mm-mm. They have some great ones.

JW: Do you ever take a quilt just to find fabric?

JB: Oh, yes. All the time. [laughs.]

JW: How far away would you go to find fabric?

JB: Oh, let me see where I've gone. Up north to, ah, where is that little town? I've gone down to Portsmouth. I've gone to Brunswick. I've gone up to, oh gosh, what is the name of that? Not North something or other. It's up beyond Bar, Camden.

JW: Mm-mm. Bar Harbor?

JB: Yes. Yes, in that area. There's a couple of great quilt stores up there, so yes, so anytime I'm traveling, I always see if there is a quilt store in the area. Yes.

JW: Is it like a garage sale, if you see it, you stop, for a fix?

JB: [laughs.] I never can pass one up. [both laugh.]

JW: Okay. So, is there anything else that you'd like to add to this, some comments that you'd like to add?

JB: I don't know, dear. I'm just trying to think of it. It's tough. No, I guess I'm very happy that I'm quilting now. I can't think of anything else that I would rather be doing. I've done clothing. I've done needlepoint. I'm still doing some knitting. I do felting and I've made greeting cards, but this is, I put those aside now. I am no longer doing those. This past year I put those all aside to free things. Now I am just basically quilting.

JW: Is that something you think that you'll be doing for some time?

JB: Oh, yes. Oh, yes, I've got to use all that fabric. [laughs.]

JW: What's your next inspiration? Where do you think you are going next? What's the next quilt?

JB: I'm, I have to, I really, they know me as the Batik Lady. I just up and I fall in love with some batik. I don't know what it is. I can't tell you what it is, but every one of them says, oh, my lord, you need to get this, lady. [laughs.]

JW: It speaks to you.

JB: It speaks to me. [laughs.] And that's what I do. I just go and pick it up. So, I really never know until I go in different stores, and something just says, 'Oh, you've got to get me.' [both laugh.]

JW: All right. Is there anything else you'd like to add?

JB: I don't think so, Jeanne. I think we've covered quite a bit.

JW: Mm-mm. Mm-mm. Okay. Well, I'd like to thank you for allowing me to interview you today as part of the Quilter's S.O.S.--Save Our Stories, project. Our interview concluded about 2:15 on November 15, 2011. I want to really thank you for allowing us to do this.

JB: Thank you. This is a special time of fun.

JW: Oh, good, good. Thank you.

JB: I haven't talked so much in years. [laughs.] All about myself. [both laugh.]

Interview concludes.


“Jeanne T. Bernardy,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 19, 2024,