Bertha Arizmendi




Bertha Arizmendi


Bertha Arizmendi is a hispanic quilter from Boonville, California. She began quilting in 2006 with the guild Los Hilos de la Vida. Her favorite part of quilting is designing, and she began quilting for income but became interested in the design process of quiltmaking along the way.




Melanie Grear


Bertha Arizmendi


Karen Musgrave

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

The Salser Family Foundation


Boonville, California


Kim Greene


**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.** Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave. I'm doing a Quilters' S.O.S. - Save our Stories interview with Bertha Arizmendi. We are in Boonville, California on March 8, 2007, and it is 10:25 in the morning. So thank you for doing this interview with me. I am very happy that you are here. Please tell me about the quilt you brought today. Tell me the story behind this quilt.

Bertha Arizmendi (BA): This is my grandpa and my brother, my big brother. This is about the, I don't know how to say, that is where they put the animals to sleep and my grandpa he was old and my brother help him to take care of the animals. He was a really nice man. I never seen him mad or grumpy or nothing, he was a really nice man. My brother was his favorite grandson. He loved him. I don't know why, maybe because he was the first born of us. It is only one thing. I put this house with trees around and animals and water, because I dreamt about it. I want to have one of these place too for my kids. My kids love living in the forest. Well I came from the forest and I want to return back. But I can't right now. When I want to live now with my kids, now with the forest but we can't. We don't have enough money. We were really poor there, but I love this picture.

KM: It is wonderful. Tell me about the bird with the leaf in its.

BA: This bird, I put this bird, because there are a lot of birds, lots of birds and sounds and everything, especially in the mornings. And this bird, I copied from a book, this bird, then I say well this birds bring a leaf or something for his nest, and food and that is what I did.

KM: That is very good. How many quilts have you made?

BA: I have made three quilts and a half.

KM: Which one is this one?

BA: The second.

KM: The second one.

BA: I cut everything and I put everything, I two hours and a half.

KM: Wow.

BA: But then it takes me like three months to four months to finish. Because I don't do everything, sometimes every two weeks, sometimes a month and. I have a little time on this, but I take a long time to finish.

KM: I love his beard, how you stitched. Did you do this by hand?

BA: I did this by hand. This man, I copied. I saw my little boy has a book of a family and I copy and I say maybe I'll make something for kids. Then I copy Barney and I put it right here and I say well this looks like grandpa, it is nice, I will make it with white and black hair and a beard and everything and it looks like a grandpa. And that is what I say, I think this boy is like my grandpa, his face. That's.

KM: What does your family think of your quiltmaking?

BA: They say, wow it is really nice and they love that grandpa too, that beard, and my kids love this mustache.

KM: You did a great job.

BA: That is the same as my grandpa. They ask me who is this, and I say well it is you, one of my sons, it is you with your grandpa or it's my brother with my grandpa. One of my sons says it is me with my grandpa.

KM: That is sweet.

BA: These are my cows, he says. They want to live like that with animals.

KM: Do you have a sewing machine at home?

BA: Yeah I have a sewing machine. One of my customers where I work, they gave it to me and she said it doesn't work but you can get it fixed. I put oil and it started to move and, and it works really nice.

KM: Where do you sew?

BA: In my house on my table.

KM: In the kitchen?

BA: Yeah.

KM: A lot of people do that.

BA: I don't have, some have places for everything. I have four kids and I have four rooms, but everything is full.

KM: How much time do you spend quilting in a week?

BA: Well.

KM: Do you try to do it often?

BA: No sometimes I do often, sometimes not, because we do a lot of different things, like crocheting and sometimes I want, like I don't want to quilt, but I think now I'm quilting like two or three days a week, right now.

KM: Very good. Did you sew before you started quilting?

BA: No. This time. I didn't sew before I started sewing quilts. I like putting the pieces.

KM: When did you make your first quilt?

BA: In May of 2006.

KM: How did you find the group? How did you come to take classes?

BA: First my sister, Oliva who is with an American guy and he is a friend of Molly's [Johnson Martinez.]. He is the nephew of Molly's friend La Rue. La Rue told my sister about this quilting class because my sister [Oliva.] used to be in Molly's English class so she knows Molly. Oliva came and told me about Molly and other things, and she said oh Molly is this and this. I say, wow but I thought she made quilt; bed quilts for beds like that. I told her, you know what? I would like to do that, I want to learn how you do quilts. If I'm going to Mexico that is what I think I want to do over there, quilts. Bed quilts.

And then my teacher [Grace Van Doren.] two times showed us flyers and papers and pictures of the class. She told us about the program but I felt embarrassed to ask. I want to ask, you know. One time, it is not nice, but I took the paper home that Grace was passing around. I thought it would have contact information so I could call Molly and then I could just return it to Grace the next class. I didn't tell the teacher, but when I got it home there was not telephone number. I'm embarrassed to ask. I take to my home and I see that she did not have her phone number there. I looked at the picture more I thought maybe bigger quilts, but I can do this. Then the next time we had class I brought the picture back. This time Grace brought she bring other papers and invitations, and she said, 'Oh Molly is coming to Mendocino, to the Mendocino Hotel to have a quilt show.' Then I say, 'Oh she is coming and what time?' I am still asking her and I say, 'I want to learn how to do that. Maybe I can do that.' She said, 'okay if somebody wants to go she is there at this time.' I said okay and then I was hollering at my house, but I said I want to go, I want to go, and then I went to Mendocino and I saw her. I went with my children. I felt self-conscious because there were lots of other Mexican ladies. I feel like embarrassed or something but they were nice. I said, 'oh no,' and I came to listen. Then I started asking her, about the Hilos program. I say, 'I'm Bertha.' Molly remembers my brother Israel and sister Oliva from English Class in Fort Bragg and she say, oh, she was really nice and she says you want to come? I say I want to come and I want to! That is how it started and I started looking at the pictures and I brought one of my sons and he said wow it looks really nice. I asked Molly when I can come or what time and if it is okay I can come one hour or any time and she said yes you can come on Wednesday from 11:00 to 3:00 and I say okay I want to go there.

KM: So you started coming?

BA: Um, hum, I am still coming there.

KM: How long did it take you to get her from Fort Bragg?

BA: It is one hour and fifty minutes if you come faster, but it is more today. It is like one hour and thirty minutes.

KM: You come to class?

BA: Yeah.

KM: What do you think of the group now?

BA: How?

KM: Now that you are in the quilt group?

BA: I feel nice. I feel good and just yesterday Molly told me I already sold one quilt. She sold one, I feel excited. That is what I thought. I thought this picture would be good to sell because it is like a model. I said, 'I can make a picture.' I like that.

KM: You sold your quilt?

BA: I sold which one. I don't think it could be sold.

KM: It was a surprise.

BA: It feels really nice because that is the first quilt that I sold.

KM: Very good. Is this going to be in the book?

BA: Yeah.

KM: Is this the one that is going to be in the book?

BA: Yes, this one.

KM: How do you feel about the book?

BA: Well I don't feel nothing because I don't see the book. I see nothing about the book. When I came I don't come often, but I come once in awhile because I have kids at school and I can't come because I work. I work only one day and I don't have money enough to pay for the gas to come every time. I try to come every month, every month and a half and pick up fabric. I come here only to, so they can see my pictures, what kind of colors I can put around, or if I need something more. That is only when I come. When I write my story that is only. I don't feel excited because I don't know anything yet.

KM: Do you like writing the story part?

BA: I like it, but it is hard for me, because first I can't think of anything and but then, when I start writing a lot of things come.

KM: That is good. Do you think about the story first, or do you think about the quilt first?

BA: The quilt first.

KM: The quilt first and then you write the story?

BA: Then I write the story. I started only writing on paper, not on the computer because I can't, I don't know how to, I don't know how to use computers. I start writing. It is hard for me, but Molly is helping me to learn computer too.

KM: That is good. What does your next quilt look like?

BA: My next quilt is like a house and a barn where they put a lot of pesticide. This is a farm in Mexico where we grow different kind of vegetables.

KM: Garden.

BA: Right like that. Maybe a man working over there, but I'm not sure.

KM: Is this kind of typical. Do you plan on doing more farms and animals?

BA: Yeah. I like this, because I grew up like this. I grew up with every kind of animals.

KM: You miss that?

BA: Um, hum. Yeah, now my kids say I want to have one of this and one of this.

KM: It is good. What is your favorite part of making the quilts?

BA: About what?

KM: What is your favorite part? Do you like designing it, do you like sewing it?

BA: I like designing.

KM: You like designing. Putting the fabrics all together.

BA: Yeah.

KM: Do you plan things or do you just kind of let them happen?

BA: No, I only let things happen. My husband says you put a lot of things You don't finish with something only, you put more, more, more, and you make the picture really full [of detail].

KM: I think it is great. Do you have any quilts hanging at your house at all?

BA: No, only the one I am doing now.

KM: Do you ever think you will have a quilt hanging in your house?

BA: Yeah.

KM: Do you think you will ever make a quilt to sleep under? A big one.

BA: I want to do one.

KM: You want to do a bed quilt?

BA: I do want to do a bed quilt and I want to do one for me. [laughs.]

KM: What will it look like?

BA: Well.

KM: Do you have any ideas?

BA: I don't have ideas now, but I want to do a nice picture. Big, big picture like just for one bed.

KM: That would be wonderful. Are most of your quilts this size or smaller or--

BA: No, most are this size.

KM: You like this size?

BA: It is more easy for me to sew because I don't have a place, my table and my machine is you can't put big fabric. It is more easy.

KM: Why is quilting important to you?

BA: Well, I start doing this because I need money and I have my baby and I don't want to leave her with a baby sitter. I say I can make money if I can start doing quilts. But, then I start thinking and I say well this is something to learn more about pictures, drawing, because I like to see the pictures, especially the painting and I want to learn how to do that and I can't and I tell my children that sometimes I don't want to do nothing, and they say do this and do this and you learn a lot of things. They say, 'Why do you want to learn another thing?' And I say, 'Because it is nice when you want to know a lot of things.' I want to learn how to draw and everything because I like the pictures and I want to do them myself. And that is what I said about the stuff doing this, pictures, and I work with some people who paint, and I say well this is good like art and someday I can do more, and more, and more and maybe I can be famous.

KM: It is 10:45, do we need to end.

BA: Okay, yeah.

KM: Thank you very much, I know you have to leave. I appreciate you coming in and doing this with me. [the interview had to be cut short because BA needed to leave.]


“Bertha Arizmendi,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed June 23, 2024,