Melanie Testa




Melanie Testa


In this interview recorded live in front of an audience at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas, Amy Milne, executive director of the Quilt Alliance since 2006, interviewed artist, author, teacher, agent provocateur, and firebrand Melanie Testa about her history as a quiltmaker. Testa shares her story of how she began to explore the possibilities of approaching, making and creating her own quilt art in a figure drawing studio. Testa recounts how she was accepted into the Fashion Institute of Technology to now being a member in the Manhattan Quilters Guild, and on her love of teaching. Testa also discusses her advocacy for birds in decline such as the Northern Pintail and her quest to bring awareness through her quilt art on this issue.




Melanie Testa


Amy Milne

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Katherine Dossman


International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas


Sarah Godoshian


**This transcript was created by QSOS volunteers and was reviewed and, in some cases, edited by the interviewee. It may not exactly match the audio recording. For citations and interview quotations, please refer to the audio-recorded interview.** Amy Milne (AM): Okay, hi. This is Amy Milne interviewing Melanie Testa for Quilters' S.O.S.--Save Our Stories which is a project of The Alliance for American Quilts. And we're here at the International Quilt Festival in Houston. And it's November 5, 2010 and it's 1:22PM. Melanie, tell us about the quilt you chose to bring for the interview.

Melanie Testa (MT): I chose a quilt named "Repose." And I--this is a really pivotal quilt for me. I learned a lot and I engaged with this image in several ways prior to committing it. And it really opened up the possibility--the possibilities of how I approach making and creating my quilt art. So, you know a few years ago I decided that I wanted to learn how to draw using my sewing
machine. And I met a fine artist who was organizing a figure drawing studio. And which is a little different than a drawing class. A studio's--just a group of people meet--they rent--you know they pay a person to come and pose and everyone draws separately of one another. So you teach yourself. And so I met this fine artist who was organizing a figure drawing studio and I asked him, 'Do you mind if I bring my sewing machine?' And he said, 'No,' and I said, 'You realize that a sewing machine makes noise?' And he said, 'Yes.' I said, 'And do you think you might wanna ask your fellow participants whether or not that might bother them?' [AM laughs.] And he said, 'No, I think you should just bring it.' So I said, 'Okay.' And I did that for close to 3 months--2 or 3 months. And I--every
week--or every week that I felt like lugging my machine to the figure drawing studio. I would bring it. I also draw on paper, and some of the drawings that I did during that period were in a journal that I keep. And the image for "Repose" was drawn in my journal originally but from that same session--drawing studio session--that I engaged in. So the original drawing I kept it in just plain simple pencil sketch that is was and then I started playing with it in my journal, and experimenting with it in paint on paper, and then collaging and that sort of thing. So I would just transfer that, drawing to a different page
and experiment a little more and so this actual quilt is--was originally done in a five by eight inch journal--it opens up to ten by eight of course--but--and I recreated it and you know exactly as you can, and that kind of thing. So, and I was really in a sort of a really exuberant learning phase, and taking everything I possibly could in. And so I sat myself down during that period and just asked myself, you know, 'How come your journals are so expressive and intuitive and flow, how come they have such a flow? Why don't your quilts have that same sort of feel?' So I sat myself down and I made a list and I put two columns. And on
the left hand side was journaling, and on the right hand side was quilting. And I listed every technique that I used on the pages of my journals. And then I made an equivalent list of what the possibilities might be in fiber. And so I used paint, which on fiber for me is dye. I used tracing paper to transfer a design from one page to another, and the equivalent in fabric is organza. I used resists, which you know you can preserve a layer of paper in its original color by using either a paper it's called frisket. It comes in two types, it's liquid or paper. And the equivalent for it in cloth is either freezer paper or soy wax.
So I established my direct equivalent between the two, and then I sought out the means to learn the lapses in my textile knowledge. So I began taking classes in thickened dyes--using thickened dyes so that I could use it like paint. And just went on the adventure of trying to make my quilts more like my journals--which is still an approach that I engage in. So I do see them as more of a--I see them more like paintings. This image is actually much simpler than the way that I currently work, but it was the image that really made me see the possibility of similarities in the way I work.

AM: So when you--I want to go back to when you went to the figure drawing session. You were drawing with your sewing machine as the model was posing?

MT: Correct.

AM: So you weren't drawing with a sketchbook and then going back with the sewing machine?

MT: So yeah, what I did was I would take a--I took a piece of fabric before class, or you know the studio session, I would sew with my feed dogs down a grid in like 2 inch intervals of directions. And then when I sat in front of the machine you know it's--I just brought the machine, I didn't bring a table. And it was sort of, it was a very--sort of a strange setting 'cause it was a clay/oil studio. So I would put my machine down on the sturdiest table available, and drape the piece of fabric over the head of the machine and use
the grid that I had sewn on prior to class along with my fingers to plot out where--if the shoulder is two inches away from the elbow and two inches away from that. So you know I would sort of put my finger on one spot and plot where I wanted the machine to go and I would do my curves and flows as I saw. And I learned that contour drawing--which is not lifting your pencil, or in this case your needle, from the work--worked much better than any other approach. That you know I mean 'cause you only--in a figure drawing session you have warm ups that are like 30 seconds, and then you move to 2 minutes and then 5 minutes and then 20 minutes. And then it goes back to 2 minutes again. So like you build your skills up, and then back up, and then build them up again. So I didn't want like
loose threads getting in my way, and changing of colors or that sort of thing. So I dropped my feed dogs, I figured out how to continuously draw and you know like shadows would become a second line that I never had to take the needle out of the fabric.

AM: How did your--the fellow--

MT: Well you know--

AM: Fellow classmates--I mean fellow [MT laughs.] session mates respond?

MT: It was--it was kinda hard, you know like my first few sessions they would like--we would finish a session and then they'd like all come over to me and I'd be like, 'You know what, I'm doing stick figures over here, can you please leave me alone?' [AM and MT both laugh.] You know it's just like, 'You know what, I'm a little embarrassed with--I'm not really good yet. Can you please leave me alone?' But--and then as I progressed--you know and they couldn't help themselves, they just couldn't help themselves. And as I progressed they would all just gather around me at the end of it. And I think for me the most interesting thing was you know the man who was organizing the studio
he--very--Thomas Sweeney, great guy. He is also an architect. So his drawing skills are just amazing. He had no fear of hands, no fear of feet--you know and hands and feet are the hardest thing. If you look at drawings of even master artists, they often tend to leave out the hands or will make the hands the study. So it was really nice to see and evaluate his drawing skills and try to incorporate some of the ideas into my own approach. Not that I ever really did hands until the sewing machine--but I have gotten better at it.

AM: So [pauses for 3 seconds.] what--so you still own this quilt.

MT: I do.

AM: And do you--and it has special meaning for you because it sort of marked
that milestone of the turning point of how you thought about your quilts, but do you have any special plans for it? I mean, do you sell your work?

MT: I do. I would love for it to get bought. I would love--you know I have no special attachment to my work once it's finished. I would--I do appreciate what I've done and I learn from what I do, but it's really in the making that I find contentment. So yeah I would love to sell it. I would love to place it in its final home. And until then I'm okay with owning it.

AM: What do you think this quilt in particular says about you as an artist to an audience?

MT: It's a hard question--that I like to draw. And I think in the quilting world that drawing is not the first thing that comes to mind. So I think that's a striking element. I have attention to detail. I'm a little bit--if you, you know
get a detail shot of the quilting you'll see that it's pretty intense. So I have obsessive compulsive tendencies--not in a diagnosed sort of way or anything. But I can't get away from myself, you know and I--even if I try to tell myself to back away from the intensity I can't.

AM: Let's move to just sort of more--a little bit more--questions about how quiltmaking fits into your life. So, were any of your family members quiltmakers?

MT: No. My grandmother on my father's was a piece maker.

AM: Wow.

MT: And she worked in factories for her entire life. She did buy me my first sewing machine. She was illiterate. She came from Italy and she was just amazed
at my ability to read a pattern. And I love her to death. She's my patron saint. So--but she was never a quilter, she was a sewer. And I now own her sewing machine--

AM: Cool.

MT: --that she bought new.

AM: So when--so what's your first memory of a quilt? Were there quilts in your home growing up?

MT: No. I at age 19 decided I wanted a hobby and decided it would be quilting. I went and we have a local art center in my hometown, and I went and I looked at their catalog and there was a woman giving a class on Log Cabin, Rose of Sharon
and Grandmother's Flower Garden. And I fell in love, I just fell in love. And I can remember--you know I mean at 19 years old it was one hundred and twenty five dollars, it was a six week class, I knew I would need a whole bunch of supplies--and you know I mean that was all major for me. And luckily there was a beautiful quilt shop in my hometown and Sunday was always a family day, and my mom and I would go after dinner and go shopping and get stuff, and I fell in love with conversational prints in the fabric store, and decided that I wanted to go to school for that. And it took me another 8 years after that point to go to school. To you know focus myself and create a portfolio. And I got--the
interesting thing is you know I wanted to go to the Fashion Institute of Technology for textile design. So I read the rules and the rules said you could bring 15 pieces of art, they had to be-- they're up to eleven by seventeen inches, they should be focused on drawing, and you make your appointment and you go for your interview and you show your portfolio and then you sit down and you draw, in our case, some laurel leaves. So I said--and I'm always an overachiever. I always have to out-do. So I made my own portfolio case, I made my own blouse and skirt, I wore a woven scarf that I had done and you know I did get in and they were actually kind of surprised. Apparently a lot of people who
go to FIT use the textile design department to get into the backdoor of the fashion design department.

AM: Wow.

MT: And so they had--they were surprised to see that I actually wanted to go for textile design. And they said, 'It's really uncalled for that we'd tell you this at this point, but we've accepted you.' Right then and there. So it was a very exciting--

AM: Yeah.

MT: It was a very exciting day. And I had been married for 3 years and my husband was helping me and we just went and celebrated. It was great.

AM: That's so great. So what were you doing in between time? Were you still making work? I mean when you were making--obviously making work--

MT: Uh huh.

AM: Starting when you were 19. And you were--

MT: I have always had sewing or cloth related jobs. I didn't--my first job wasn't, but you know I mean you figure yourself out and my second job I worked
in a furniture factory. And I sewed the skirts and pillows for our sofas. And then I moved and became a sample cutter for a women's fashion sample room. And that was an amazing experience. I--at that point I was doing a lot more clothing, I was sewing a lot more clothing and not as engaged in quilting. I love to learn by osmosis, just being around and drinking it up. So I learned a lot. And I still like to make clothing for myself. I learned how to, you know fuss patterns, and move and shift, and make sure that the seams are where they ought to be. So I learned of that just by looking at the pattern makers make patterns and the seamstresses sew the clothing. And that job sent me away to go
to college.

AM: Wow. So how many hours a week would you say you quilt, or a day, would you say you quilt? This is your full time job now?

MT: Yes. So, at least 30 hours if not more. And when I'm in the middle of a project I'll just sew every day until it's done. I just recently started a piece and I'm right there with it. And if I weren't here in Houston I would be there and completing the piece.

AM: So describe your studio for us.

MT: I live in Brooklyn, New York. I wouldn't really consider what I have to be a studio. I--my apartment, my husband and I live in 550 square feet of space. And
we have one measly little stinking closet that takes up too much room for what it's worth. And my sewing room is in what would be a walk-in closet, were we normal people. So my dye studio is one third of what would be our living room--if we were again normal people. So I have a retractable clothesline that extends the width of my living room. And that is where I hang my pieces as I am dye painting them. And I am an extremely organized person--I don't really think of myself that way, but when I invite people into my home--I have a private student right now--and she looked at me in complete awe and said, 'Where did you learn to be so organized?' 'Well it's just because I love peg boards.' [AM and
MT laugh.] And so I have a work table in my kit--not my kitchen-- in my living room, that is 2 feet by 4 feet. And when I need that to be larger I put a padded surface that is actu--I think it is 32 by 42 inches--so that extends the work surface of my table. And I collect plexiglass. I piece the background with monoprinted, so I have a piece of plexiglass that is just slightly larger than this piece of work. And I collect it so I have quite a few pieces of it. And I just figure it out. And I'm also a sort of a fastidious person and a neat person. So I do not want to look at my stuff or the things that I use to make.
So I need to be organized. But it's also you know, after I got out of school I went to--and this is probably what hooked me--I got a job as a vintage poster restoration artist, and we worked on posters that were anywhere from 300 to 50,000 dollars. And when you do that you need to be organized, and you need to work within time constraints, and I was the person who organized the studio, and so I'm sure that helped me to figure it out.

AM: Right, valuable experience. So how does that impact your family life, the fact that you're workspace is at home, and--

MT: It's--you know my husband is a beautiful man. [AM laughs.] He is. And he
encourages me every step of the way. And he--I wouldn't be able to do any of this were it not for him and his faith in me. And I--you know I mean I have to say at one point he looked at me and he said 'You know Melanie, everything you have said you will do, you have done--'

AM: Wow.

MT: --'so whatever you want to do, just keep doing it.'

AM: Wow.

MT: So I--you know he does everything he can. He has a full time job--and I'm not saying that I pay our bills, you know I supplement our income--and he has a full time job. He loves to cook. He prefers to do laundry--although now that we don't have our washer and dryer I do go to the laundromat. And you know so we're truly a team. And we don't have children, so I--we just work. And he's a bit
more of a neat freak than I am, he has some military background. So but he has--you know I mean we've both committed to living a city lifestyle, so he doesn't look at my workspace, and he doesn't see the mess. Where I'm always like trying to work around and try to clean stuff up so that he doesn't have to look at it--it's not his worry anymore, he's let it go.

AM: So have you ever used quilts to get through a difficult time in your life--

MT: Sure.

AM: Of quiltmaking?

MT: Yeah. When I was 17 years old I hitchhiked across country. And I [MT pauses for 2 seconds.] I smoked marijuana [AM and MT both laugh.] and [MT laughs.] off the record? [AM laughs.] On the record? I don't know. And you know I got a
little lost. So when I returned back to Connecticut I decided that an addictive lifestyle wasn't--or a negatively addictive lifestyle--wasn't something that worked for me. So I think what I ended up doing was replacing a negative addiction with a positive one. 'Cause now I honestly use art making to clarify my mind. And it is very meditative that--it's an active meditation. You know I can really--when I'm sitting and machine quilting I'm just empty. And I'm not--you know I'm not going in the flutter of the montauk and so I use it everyday.

AM: So do you share that when--I know you do a lot of teaching, and do you--how
much of that mindset or that experience do you share with your students?

MT: I'm pretty much an open book. I don't, you know I don't really--I love to teach. And I [pause for 2 seconds.] I think that teaching is about [pause for 2 seconds.] removing individuals' inhibitions. It's not actually about trans--you know giving information even. I think it's really about just removing the inhibitions, making them possible, available, ready. And of course I mean I am--it is a focused thing and I do--you know I do soy wax batik classes, and right now teaching freezer paper resist with paint, and tomorrow I'll be teaching stamping--with again with paint on cloth. So I mean I do have a focused
thing but really the first things are just to you know make everyone feel comfortable enough to say okay. And--excuse me--that's the major impediment to most anyone's creative process. So--I don't know if I answered the question--

AM: Yeah!

MT: But that's what I think that teaching really boils down to.

AM: Yeah I think that definitely. Is there anything about the process of making your quilts that you don't enjoy? [MT laughs and then AM begins to laugh.]

MT: I absolutely hate sewing the sleeves on. The sleeves and you know, I appreciate--I like doing the borders--like this one doesn't actually have a border I finished it differently than most any other quilt I do. But yeah, the edging--I shouldn't call it a border it's an edging. I like that it's sort of meditative, but it seems like the more shows I enter the more they're asking for
very specific things. They want two sleeves on the top, and now I've decided that I like a sleeve with a weight on the bottom to really make it hang flat. And so it's just--it feels interminable. [AM laughs.]

AM: So do you belong to any like guilds or quilt groups? Crit groups?

MT: I am really happy to say that I am a member of--I am a new member of the Manhattan Quilt Guild.

AM: Oh cool.

MT: Which is a small group of focused, intentional quilt artists. Paula Nadelstern is a member, Robin Schwab is a member and--oh my god there's this woman named Erin Wilson--I love her. Her work is amazing. And it's nothing I would ever do, but she showed us just one strip of a 36 inch quilt. Right now
she and her mate have bought a plot of land and they're building a home on it. And so she is really architecturally focused. Each 3 inch square almost seemed like a little architectural drawing pieced, not really--I don't know how she does it, it's amazing. And she's young--I think she's 33 years old. And she's been in this guild that I was just invited into for 7 years.

AM: Wow.

MT: Fantastic.

AM: What other--I think we covered that section so I wanna go on and ask you, are there other people you find inspiring? And it could be a quiltmaker, it could be any artist. Where do you find inspiration?

MT: All over the place. And now that I live in New York City you know I mean it's-- I'm inundated with all of this. So when I was making "Repose" I had gone
to a Helen Frankenthaler show retrospective--I don't know if it was a retrospective-- at the Yale Museum of Art in New Haven, Connecticut. And I just fell in love with the intensity of color that she is able to build up using wood blocks. And so she was the person who started me off really using a lot of monoprinting and building of layers in my quilts. So this is the background--the background is monoprinted, and in a really--you know over the course of these last couple years been pushing that in my work--layering one color because the intensity of color and the texture of it. So you sort of get windows into--it's not just like painting a flat layer of color, it's just amazing.

AM: It really blends itself to the fabric.

MT: You're right.

MT: So Helen Frankenthaler is fantastic. I--there's so many artists. I--and you know of course continued to journal. And I just saw a bunch of Degas sketchbooks at The Morgan in Manhattan. And it's just amazing. I'm marveled at peoples' ability to draw. I just marvel at it.

AM: Yeah. [pause for 4 seconds.] Here are some questions about the sort of design aspects and craftsmanship about quiltmaking. What do you think makes a great quilt?

MT: I think that color is your main draw. And then from there your viewer is taken in by your composition and what you're trying to convey. So I think that
color is the intuitive, you know, connection. And then all else happens after that.

AM: [Pause for 5 seconds.] Do you have any feeling about how to--machine quilting versus hand quilting? Do you do both?

MT: I do, absolutely. I love the times I like to work quite small. And you know it--I [MT laughs.] the only way that I--the only thing I have ever found that I have been able to make for my husband are merit badges. And so these little things are circles, little like 2 inch circles, and he early on started calling me a hippo--a hippo! [AM and MT laugh.] And so I make the hippo in lots of situations. I've made the hippo on a merit badge as a drummer. I made the hippo
as a grogg drinking hippo. I've made him as a little flying bird in a nest. And I will sew these onto the inside of David's jackets, or on the inside of his briefcase so that it's not a public display of affection. So those are just 2 inches, and of course they're predominantly hand sewn. And--but I also, you know I mean I sell a lot of small works. And I--they're just easier to place than larger works. And so I can really put time into working by hand in a smaller piece. I love every aspect of what I do. From, you know, creating the image to collaging it to machine sewing it--like we see in "Repose." So, I mean as I said
I am a process person. So as for as long as I am engaged in the making, it is satisfying to me.

AM: [Pause for 4 seconds.] Do you think your quilts reflect anything about your community? Or your--where you live? Or--

MT: I am a birder. I like to bird. I love birds. And I just recently I was [pause for 2 seconds.] surfing the Internet and I came across of a list of birds in the climb. And these birds are not extinct yet, but they show marked [pause
for 2 seconds.] decrease in numbers. So, I was sitting in front of the computer and looking through and these are common birds. These are birds that we know whether or not we know them. And I just--a chill went through my body, and I said this is something I can do. I can help. And I have just embarked on a --I will make one piece of art for each of the top 20 birds on the list. And I have 1 of 19 complete. So the one that I have, I have with me. It is a Northern Pintail and its numbers have decreased by 77% in 40 years.

AM: Wow.

MT: So what I'm trying to do is as I make each of the pieces I am acquiring the information that people can utilize in order to help their local communities to
see the need. And as I progress I would also like to have some press releases in birding magazines. And I would like to get a traveling show with all of the information so that--and I hope you know when I'm finished with the project that I might also have it travel in the quilting realm. Because this is a major community that might also be affected by my mission.

AM: Good, interesting.

MT: Interesting.

AM: So what do you think about the importance of quilts in American life? And even more specifically in women's history? Did you think about that when you make you quilts?

MT: I definitely feel I--yes. I definitely feel as though my work in particular
is female oriented, or from a female perspective. Like, I know it's a quilt and all, and I know that there are male quilters, I think if we were to figure out how to flatten them out and compare them to fellow artists who were both male and female, that you could just tell that this particular artist is female. So and I mean I know the tradition of our craft and I know the place that I have in it. So yes I absolutely think about it and I struggle with it in terms of you know I mean I would very much like to--it's very difficult to enter into the fine art world making quilts, and I've been told by gallery owners, you know
where they don't know what to do with this, I don't know what to do with fiber. And it--you know my response at that is, 'You hang it on the wall. That's what you do with it.' [MT laughs.] So you know I do feel the challenges in a lot of different ways.

AM: What keeps you from--because you do draw and paint and--what keeps you, why is quiltmaking? Why is the quilt form important to you versus--

MT: Well you know, I mean I do have a--you know at one point--and I hate this question. [AM laughs.] I hate it. This man--and oh I hated his work. He was--he was really good, he was a landscape painter, but he always bordered an oil painting--big, big oil paints--and he always borders these beautiful paintings in burgundy. And he wrote like a letter to this poet in the bord-- in the
burgundy border. And it's just like 'Ugh! Why?' And he looked at me one say and he asked me the question I hate, 'Why quilts?' And I looked at him and I was just disgusted. [AM laughs.] And I said, 'Why oil?' [MT and AM laugh.] Do you know?

AM: Yeah.

MT: And I mean, basically that is I could not imagine not using the sewing machine after painting in my work. I couldn't imagine it. You know the drawing the thread up through the machine and all the different parts and, you know threading that needle, drawing that bobbin thread up and passing--I just couldn't imagine it.

AM: So something about the tool, the process, using that tool in particular--

MT: From start to finish.

AM: Yeah.

MT: I mean I get the best of all worlds because I get to use a paintbrush and I get to use a machine, a sewing machine.

AM: Yeah.

MT: So--

AM: I think I'll end with this question and then I'll let you add if there's other things you want to cover we can. What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today?

MT: We're an aging community. And I would love to figure out how to mentor or support younger people in committing to this as an art form. I also--you know I think we are, we are women and I think one of the hardest most difficult things is to place our art in context. You know it's fantastic to have to support of you know the quilt festivals and the quilt shows, but we also all need to learn
to put our best foot forward and have great editing skills. And you know as I teach I really struggle with--I do not put forward my negative work. So my students who are very much beginners see this most beautiful thing without seeing all the struggle and you know pain and swearing that go into making the mistakes that inform professional approach. So I very much appreciate being able to see everyone's work and I would like for us all to learn those editing skills as we proceed.

AM: Is there anything else you'd like to say or cover?

MT: Hmm, I don't know. I just love what I do and I love connecting with my
viewer. And conveying you know--and I love--it's fantastic to teach. Because I love, you know it's really an exchange. And you know when people come to me and say, 'Oh my God I love your work it's great.' But it's always--for me it's always like, 'You too can do this.' And so it's like a--you know it gives back and it--and I give too. So I think it's just amazing that you know I'm able to teach, and I'm able to write magazine articles, and I'm able to write my book, and I can do all of these things and place myself In this artistic realm. And just--you know for as much as I was talking about, you know, putting your best foot forward and I--it's also just good for women to have the chance to show
that first imperfect piece. So you know I mean I don't want to take away from what we need to do to heal as a culture within an art society. So you know for me it's all about encouragement. You know and sometimes I too, like because I only put my best foot forward people say, 'Oh, well you can draw.'

AM: Right.

MT: Do you know? And so my response to that is, 'Well I have been drawing for 15 years.' And so you know I'm--on day one it wasn't so hot. [MT and AM laugh.] Do you know? And it's interesting as I continue to teach--you know 'cause we live
in such a small house, we haven't lived in a small apartment for this long--as I teach I--my first sketch books are in storage. And so I can't show anyone my worst work. You know because it doesn't--it's not available to me because I no longer need it, but it's there. You know I mean--and we need to, like take away the fear of making the mistakes because this is a creative journey, it's not--you know you don't--it's not--you know you're not going to be perfect right out of the box.

AM: Right.

MT: This is a, 'Oh I screwed up,' and then, 'How do I fix this? How do I stick with this and learn this challenge?' You know and I think that is much more important to learn--that commitment to its end. You know I have one quilt that I
made that, it's called "Wandering in the Garden," and it's a nude from the back, and her hand is, you know, beside her. It's a beautiful little rendition of a hand. And when I printed it on the cotton and then went ahead and printed it on the organza, the organza--the thumb shifted and there was no way the I could pull the organza, and tug the organza--I couldn't make it match, I couldn't make it neat. And so there was a blur, you know and the imagery just didn't--so my first response of course is to swear, and to stand there and pull out my hair. And then my second response is, 'Well, you can figure this out.' You know and it's in figuring out that you become better. So if a new artist can commit to the middle part, you know to the uncomfortable, to the fixing, that is a
stepping beyond measure. And that's, you know, that's--I would love to support people at that juncture.

AM: That's such good advice. Well, um--

MT: Oh and can I say one more thing?

AM: Yeah!

MT: "Wandering in the Garden"-- that hand--it got into Quilting Arts Magazine, that's what they photographed for the detail. So um, I don't know, I think it was in a summer issue a few years ago, it's a purple background. So when you see it, just try to figure out what my mistake was. [AM and MT laugh.] Please. And email me when you figure it out.

AM: So it's a challenge at the end of the interview. [MT laughs.] That was really fun. We should do that every time. Well I'd like to thank Melanie Testa very much for allowing us to interview you for the Quilter’s SOS Save our Stories Project of the Alliance for American quilts. It remains November 5th 2010 and it is 2:07pm.

MT: Thank you.


“Melanie Testa,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed April 22, 2024,