EuJane Taylor


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EuJane Taylor




EuJane Taylor


Jane Davis

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Karey Bresenhan, in honor of Jewel Pearce Patterson


Houston, Texas


Jane Davis (JD): We see bars; it's all good, okay. This is Jane Davis. Today's date is November 3rd; it's 9:17 AM. I am conducting an interview with you, Jane Taylor.

EuJane Taylor (ET): Glad to meet you Jane.

JD: Nice seeing you. We're doing this for Quilter's S.O.S.- Save Our Stories, a project of the Alliance for American Quilts. You, Jane and I, are at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas. Will you tell me about the quilt you brought today?

ET: Well this was an I.Q.A. [International Quilt Association.] finalist and made in 1995. My quilts reflect my values, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is number one in my life, and then my family, and then my country; therefore, my quilts reflect that, the competition quilts, not the ones for the bed but the competition quilts all reflect my values. This one tells a story, this one has the tree of life in the center, a very old symbol of the light and knowledge of God. It has the bird of paradise and then it has the deceiver because we have the good and evil,We haveChrist, and then we have Satan. The shape of the pasture is self evident from the stories of the bible. The seasons of the Lord, surrounded by a grapevine, because "I am the vine,"John 15:3--" the truth and the life" in John 14:6. The seasons are depicted as the Lord commands around the cornucopias. It has much symbolism and I love the multiple genre while doing my own stories, it is not a depiction of a Baltimore [Maryland.] quilt but it uses much of the same techniques and I developed them before the books were written. The extensive inking and the extensive scherenschnitte and the dimensional appliqué were all things that I had been doing.

JD: Go back and use that word again.

ET: Which one? Scherenschnitte? Paper cutting, it's just the German word for paper cutting. It's the accepted word in the Baltimore [Maryland.] genre because it's more expressive than paper cutting.

JD: How do you use this quilt?

ET: This is a show quilt. I made it for that, I made it for I.Q.A. [International Quilt Association.] competition and was very blessed in getting it in the show and it was a finalist and won an honorable mention. I showed about, oh, eight or nine quilts in various I.Q.A.s and this was my top winner, if you want to call it that. My major rational for showing was to get my message of Christ, you know this, there's lots of Christian symbolism on the quilt, and there's lots of scripture on the quilt and because of inking I had the freedom to say what I wanted to say and get it out in front of upwards of 60,000 viewers. You can't get a much better audience than that.

JD: That's true. Do you use this theme in most of your quilts?

ET: My user quilts, no, I make a lot of bed quilts and I call them user quilts and they're given as gifts and I have been active in several volunteer organizations and we give like fifty a year to children for rescue and to give comfort to those who need, through a church.

JD: When did you learn how to quilt?

ET: I grew up with it in my genes. I was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. We've been here for thirty years so you know as soon as we could we got to Texas. I mean [laughs.] but my grandmother was a quilter, her mother was a quilter. My grandmother lived with us and she taught me to sew on her Singer treadle sewing machine. One day when I asked too many questions, I must have been five or six years old, we went down to the chest of drawers where she kept the scraps and we got out a cardboard for a template and I drew around it and cut them all up and I got to go on the treadle sewing machine, and that was my first piecing experience. Since then, I took up weaving, spinning, dyeing, knitting, she also taught me to knit and crochet and tat. She was a wonderful inspiration, and really the model for what I've done in my life.

JD: Of all these different genres that you're involved in, which is your favorite?

ET: Which is my favorite? That's like asking you which of your quilts is your favorite or which of your children is your favorite, I mean, when I'm doing it, that's my favorite, but quilting I always come back to because it allows me to express something that nothing else does. You get the aesthetics, the techniques, you get everything in one. I love the design process and that is probably my favorite part of quilting.

JD: Have you passed your love for quilting on to other people in your family?

ET: My daughter has done some of the contemporary mode, which is kind of interesting. I have passed it on to a lot of people through my teaching. I taught for several of the quilt shops, each quilt shop then closed and I'd move on to the next one, including Karey's, Great Expectations and it's been closed for several years now. I teach at a group, since my eyes are impaired, I teach as a volunteer at a church group and I've taught a lot of them, in fact one of my students has a quilt in the special exhibits, hanging right up there and I said, 'Yes.' When your students start to surpass you I think that's the greatest joy [laughs.]

JD: Do you belong to any quilt groups right now?

ET: Well just as a volunteer. I no longer am really active, I don't drive at night, and I stick pretty close to home and I enjoy most of all teaching, I get more out of books than I do anything else. I stay up with the quilt world partially through publications and of course the internet is an invaluable source, we're all connected internationally these days.

JD: Isn't it wonderful?

ET: It is indeed.

JD: Obviously the needle turn appliqué is probably your favorite technique?

ET: Absolutely and it is the only thing I do pretty much by hand now except knit and do baskets and tat. But yes, I have always done it. I like the organic approach. I simply cut a piece out freehand and pin it down and I proceed to do the appliqué and so I don't really follow patterns. I don't draw it out; it's whatever has let itself into my mind's eye that I then express myself with this freedom. Yes it's largely freehand pattern-less appliqué.

JD: I see you've handquilted this also. Do you still do handquilting?

ET: It's a choice. How many things can one do with hands? I just had my 69th birthday and I'm so thankful that I can still see but I've had two cornea transplants and my hands would need surgery if I did much with them, so I stick to the needle turn appliqué and just love it. Then I have a Handy-Quilter, the midarm, which does my quilting for me, again freehand..

JD: Wonderful.

ET: Which is great fun, you get to draw with a machine. It's all freehand.

JD: Again, that's where technology--

ET: Absolutely.

JD: Gives us a hand--

ET: Absolutely.

JD: What direction do you foresee quilting going in the future?

ET: That's the question that I hadn't really seen. I have recently completed documenting Karey's, the Corporate Collection of Quilts Incorporated, and my real love is bringing the traditional forward, not jumping into a contemporary quilt,, what I would call fiber arts, because they're mixed media. I really would love to see, and I think we see by the winners of the show, again, it's tradition driven a step forward as technology, as abilities, as the vision increases, we take traditional and we extend them into the future and that's what I see as being the longest lasting. Some of the techniques used by quilters today, in the contemporary mode primarily, using the bonding, which is a temporary and no telling how many tens of years it's going to last because it's a self-destruct. What they call resist, not resist dye, when you remove color from, discharge dyeing, they put terribly strong chemicals which is an instant destruct for the textiles themselves. If they want their work to last for the next hundred years, they're going to have to show respect for the materials, for the fibers themselves and they're not doing that. Sorry, I have a soapbox [laughs.] and I get on that soapbox. Everyone who loves fiber does. If you understand fiber and how fragile it is, and so many things can destroy it, but why destroy it at the beginning. Sorry, another piece of my soapbox.

JD: Well, we do want our things to last.

ET: We're doing it with our preservation techniques and with the techniques we have for keeping the age of it at bay, why there's no reason it can't last for 100 or 150 to 200 years. We have the technology in science to do it.

JD: Tell me about the quilt that's in the book.

ET: That was an interesting situation because I entered the fabric store challenge. Back in the days where the House of Fabrics was a national quilt or fabric store that had offices in California, they're no longer around, but , I saw the contest and having a huge stash at home I could not use was an interesting design challenge to me. How does one design with this limited number of items, fabrics available in the store. I cannot remember the theme of the contest, it was 1992, I do remember that because Columbus was prevalent in the historic influence. I saw in my mind, this eagle with Earth and the whole history of the United States in our exploration, that to me was the early theme of the United States, exploring first with the water and then with the air and having NASA here was also an inspiration. Anyway, I took the fabrics that were available and I used the panel of Ducks and I made an eagle out of him [laughs.] and I found a batik fabric, and it's the world and various other, I tye-dyed it, I changed that material as much as possible that one could do out of the kitchen cabinet. The ribbons that formed the banners, was a printed ribbon so it would not make curves, there was no give in that so I had to make little pleats. Therefore every place I made a pleat I made a flower [laughs.]. That's a great way to design something, by necessity. Then one morning I woke up realizing, of course that I had to ink Columbus, the whole story of Columbus and then NASA and the Wright brothers and all of the achievements that America has been so famous for in our search for exploration. Those fill in the area around the ribbon.

JD: Well it's a beautiful book.

ET: Thank you, it is beautiful, Kerry does a marvelous job in gathering together the finest ,she has the contacts and knows everyone in quilting.

JD: Do you use a design wall when you're working?

ET: I don't have space for it [laughs.]

JD: Again necessity, the function.

ET: One of the places I volunteer at is a church, we meet in the gymnasium. They have a carpeted wall, yes. I can get things up and save them there, so that's my design wall, it's at the church [laughs.]

JD: What do you think makes a great quilt?

ET: Of course, the immediate appeal. One glance sets it up, whether it is outstanding or just ordinary, they separate there. Then you go into the imagery, the design itself, the creativity involved is number one as far as I'm concerned. Number two is workmanship, is it top drawer, is it a fine exhibit of what the quiltmaker can do. Number three does it say something, does it express what the quilter's values are, does it express something the quiltmaker wants to say. That to me is very important and if it doesn't have that first appeal, if it doesn't have that workmanship and the design and the aesthetics about it, then that's not a great quilt. That's a user quilt, that's a Christmas present for someone [laughs.]

JD: Right. Through the years you've obviously made a lot of quilts, do you have any idea how many you may have made?

ET: No because in one charity, we used to give away fifty quilts a year and I did all of the finishing and cutting for them, and so I was dealing with the elderly, and so no I have no idea. It's in the hundreds, my walls are lined with them just in storage and so no, I have no idea.

JD: I imagine everyone in your family has a quilt.

ET: They keep warm. Every Christmas they have a new one [laughs.]

JD: Awe that's wonderful.

ET: I make at least seven of them to give each Christmas and then belong to a group at church where we make prayer shawls and comfort quilts and if a person has a serious crisis in their family, why they usually get something handmade, to know that people are praying for them.

JD: That's wonderful. Can you think of people who have been an inspiration to you in your quilting?

ET: Besides my grandmother?

JD: Yes.

ET: That's really really hard. I mean, you can't turn off your visual imagery, I would say that every visual image I've ever had is part of the inspiration and everyone that I see that is created within me. I can't say just people, it is the imagery, when I walk out in nature this is inspiration, when I think of the Lord and the blessings this is inspiration. As far as a person, there have been people instrumental in my life. Karey Bresenham for one, she has brought together such a marvelous collection of quilts with the Quilts Incorporated Collection and having the wonderful task of documenting them I got to see them up-close and personal and I'd have to say every quilt spoke something of the maker, of the times, of the technology, that's my source of inspiration. There's a lot of faceless inspiration points out there that I'd have to say inspired me a great deal.

JD: When you make your user quilts, what styles are you using mostly? Are they--

ET: Everything, I do most techniques, everything. The only thing I don't do is use bonding [laughs.] I'm sorry, I do not use bonding. I do everything from strip piecing to you know if it's a user quilt it's for the bed, it's to wear out, and so I do it however I think that person would enjoy it aesthetically, cuddle under it for warmth and comfort. You're thinking about the person while you're making the quilt and so every bit of every stitch is love.

JD: Do you do your labor intensive needle turn work for these user quilts?

ET: Sometimes they go as medallions [laughs.] Sometimes they get a little accent [laughs.] But no.

JD: Well I can't blame you for that. Is there any particular quilt artist who's work you're specifically drawn to?

ET: [pause 4 seconds.]

JD: We can come back to that one.

ET: Well it's so hard to say. Nancy Crow was so instrumental in bringing the traditional in to the contemporary. I think that that type of impetuous is important to me. The visual imagery of some of Carol Bryer Fallert's work is, I love her color sense and I love the freedom in some of her quilts, some of them are very structured but some of them have a life force in them that really appeals to me. Quiltmakers today, I'd have to go back to the ladies of Baltimore [Maryland.] in 1854-55, and the work that they put into their quilts and the imagery that they put into their quilts and the freedom they used in the symbolism of Christianity and the interest of life around them.. Those speak more clearly to me.

JD: Do you have a big stash?

ET: Huge.

JD: How do you store it?

ET: All over the house [laughs.] The house has unfortunatelyfilled with my interests, and my husband has a lot of interests too. He does plank on frame model boats; therefore, most of my quilts have boats in them, tall ships I should say. I don't speak boat so [laughs.] He has his interest now that he's retired, why, he gets to do that and so yes he has seen me go through from the spinning and dyeing to the weaving and all the equipment and I've gone through a lot of things, throwing pots and doing the glazing and even firing pots in our fireplace [laughs.] not a good scene.

JD: You've obviously led a creative life.

ET: I have a great supportive husband who, we were able to manage and he gave me the freedom to do, follow my muse, if one would say that, the inspiration that the Lord has given me. I'm actually a cellist, I've gone back to it, I was a music major when I met him, and we've been married for fifty years.Our fiftieth wedding anniversary quilt is in the special exhibits touring with the show.. [laughs.]

JD: You have one quilt in the exhibits here?

ET: Yes, my Fiftieth Anniversary. I exhibit now in the traditional treasures, anyway, in the special exhibits and because I no longer do the competitive, I like juried shows but not competitive ones. As I say, I've eye problems and I'm just thankful to see.

JD: Well you're enjoying the quilting to the best you can enjoy it now.

ET: Absolutely, as long as the Lord's got for me [laughs.]

JD: Nothing takes the joy out of it does it?

ET: That's right. Well, there's always something more to express.

JD: That's right.

ET: Or someone else needs to say more.

JD: What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today?

ET: Saying true to the inspiration that our grandmothers started. I think that it's really a separate category, a lot of the contemporary quilts with the mixed media, it is fiber arts. I think that the quilting itself is vibrant, it's progressive, and it will go a long way into the future. We've just started exploring where the quilting can go in the traditional frame. The fiber arts combine so many things and it has brought formally trained quote "Artists" into it, which is a wonderful addition to, say, other things and to do other things, but are they quilts? Are they going to give comfort, can you cuddle with them on a cold winter day?

JD: Well that's the question, what is a quilt?

ET: That's right. That is the question. What is a quilt? For me a quilt is something that can give comfort, express love, and provide some source of inspiration, aesthetic comfort, a means of expressing oneself, but it always has to have that three layers of backing, batting, top layer, quilted in some way, it has to stay together with techniques that are going to last for years. It can't be a throw away, I mean some mterials are an instant destruct, I mean the minute you handle it, it shatters, is that a quilt? I'd like to see that on a bed. Quite frankly, I'm sorry I'm on my second soap box here.

JD: But that's what's interesting. I mean we are interested in your input on this.

ET: The traditional values of quilting are not only to please people's eyes but to keep them warm physically. It warms the heart to see a beautiful quilt. The other's are wonderful social statements.

JD: Yes.

ET: But that's what they are, fiber arts.

JD: Do you consider a quilt art?

ET: Yes, absolutely. And it has been accepted in major museums as art. Yes finally. The Amish quilts were the source of inspiration for the hard edge graphics of the twenty's and thirty's. I mean, how much more accepted can you get? We are artists and we've always made art and not only women's art, we are also a men's art medium. There have been a lot of fine fine quilts made by men. A lot of the British army quilts were made by men while they were recuperating, they cut up uniforms and they made gorgeous quilts.

JD: To continue, let's talk some more about how quilts fit into the world today.

ET: I think that social expression in some of the contemporary quilts is marvelous. They bring a lot of social consciousness that actually should be brought to the Earth. We as a church built and sponsored an orphanage in Kenya, we personally sponsor a child, I think very strongly that we have a social responsibility. The Lord has given a mandate to take care of the widows, the orphans, this is important to me. The world needs clean water, the world needs social awareness of vital issues. But quilting as an art can have a social statement as well. My values are in my quilts. You can see my statement in my quilts. It's somewhat spoken without a word but with inking I can say the words too [laughs.]

JD: Yes, and your quilts show a great deal of love.

ET: That's what life is all about. Love, God is love, love for all who believe in Him, and that's what I try to express.

ED: What kind of fabrics do you like to work with, speaking of the designs of the fabrics?

ET: Everything. I am extremely eclectic in my taste. Everything from--, I love the marvelous Batiks of the Netherlands, a lot of them are sold in Indonesia, a lot of them are sold elsewhere, they absolutely fantastic pattern with explosions of color in the Vlisco fabrics and I have been blessed in traveling to the Netherlands. You see a Dutch flag down here, and that has a story. I was giving a class in dimensional appliqué to a class in the Netherlands and I, because I like to use actual flags on my quilts in small versions, I griped, yes I confess I griped to them that I couldn't find any small Dutch flags because I wanted to put it on my next quilt. So I have a piece of Vlisco Batik forming the vase and I have their eagle, their rampant lion, and then one of the ladies sent me a flag in the mail, she had taken it off of her son's army uniform, and told me to put it on a quilt, so that is a piece of Dutch army uniform [laughs.]

JD: What a wonderful story.

ET: And, she still makes the dimensional flowers I taught them to make and so we have a real feeling of kinship across the pond [laughs.]

JD: Yes, well you do a lot of teaching.

ET: I do a lot of teaching. I used to in the quilt shops, but I am one of those, I come from a long line of teachers and I love to impart of whatever knowledge, techniques, whatever aesthetics I can impart, my love for the Lord and for the art goes together, and yes I like to teach.

JD: Do you teach specific techniques? Or what do you mostly teach?

ET: My favorite is what I call the fun techniques. All the very esoteric, more needle turn, and reverse appliqué, you name it and then the dimensional appliqué. I will teach them anything from strip piecing as I do it, and I teach it [laughs.] So I tech beginners, I teach them how to draft a pattern, I teach them how to make their own templates and how to piece that pattern, and I teach them basics of course because it has all the elements that are best for learning to do needle turn appliqué, that's what I teach. I tell them, "Go to somebody else who teaches the others." There's a hundred ways of doing appliqué, but I find it most organic and most satisfying to do needle turn because the fabric and I speak to each other while I put it down.

JD: Now explain that, what do you mean by that?

ET: You have a feeling for textiles, for fiber, and something intrinsic within the feeling of the tactile feeling, it goes to the brain and it speaks to you, as opposed to, I can't, if I could explain it I would be a psychiatrist at least [laughs.] I'm a quilter. Actually I'm a home economist [laughs.]

JD: Well obviously you're a very good teacher.

ET: Thank you.

JD: How many people do you think you've taught through the years?

ET: Again, I have no idea because, and I'm very bad with names. I don't keep a record of students but its fun to see a student's work up on the competition and you have the satisfaction of saying, "I had a little input to that," you know, somehow I've passed on my love of quilting in, or whatever. That's the joy of teaching.

JD: When you come and go around in exhibits such as this, which quilts are you drawn to the most?

ET: Ones that say something, the aesthetics, do they appeal to me, are there interesting techniques, do I have something to learn from that quilt, have they used color in a different way then I would normally thought? Because I have students from Japan, from India, and I get all of these aesthetics that are indigenous to those areas, and I really love the input from these other cultures. So, you play a guessing game of this, you'll see a quilt that clearly is the normal palette of Japanese for instance, you can spot it down the road. Is it made by a Japanese from Japan or is it a Japanese-American? What influences have been there? You know it's all of the influences that go into what makes a quilt, it's an expression of everything that has gone into that person's life, every image that they've ever seen has been an input into their quilting.

JD: Are you ever influenced by the color trends? I mean were there years where you can only find these colors or those?

ET: That's why we want a stash isn't it?

JD: Yes it is.

ET: That sort of evens out. Now, there are fabrics today available that we wouldn't have dreamt of being available before. We have such a great great bouquet of cultures that are expressed in the fabrics that are made today. There are those favorites from the past that keep creeping up in the quilts because it was a special fabric that says exactly what you want it to say so you go back to it, you just keep picking at every little scrap. That's the beauty of appliqué; I find more appliqué pieces in waste baskets. We're the recyclers; nothing goes to waste [laughs.]

JD: Do you ever use other fabrics besides cotton in your quilts?

ET: Particularly for the dimensional appliqué because polyester adds it's perkiness. It doesn't wrinkle, it never fades down, it never really truly packs, it comes back. Frequently, if that's the color, if that's the fabric I want, I will use it. Silk? No because it's too easily destroyed.

JD: It's fragile.

ET: It's very fragile. Temperature, humidity, everything affects silk and so I do not because I'm hoping that my quilts will be around in one hundred years. Those competition quilts, not the user quilts [laughs.] I want them used up.

JD: And that's a wonderful attitude.

ET: Well, the Lord puts it into your heart to warm their bodies as well as their minds.

JD: Do you own any quilts that your grandmother made?

ET: Yes, and I have one that my great-grandmother made, a very old quilt, feathered stars, scrap quilt. I suspect my grandmother quilted it because she quilted it in a very usual way for hers, her quilting and the scallop boarder she liked to put on her quilts reflects so much of the twenty's and thirty's so I suspect that she quilted the quilt. It's a generational quilt, which is wonderful, yes.

JD: Are there any particular eras of quilts? For instance, when you look at quilts from the thirty's and there's particular fabrics that were used then, do you enjoy using specific fabrics like that? Like Civil War quilt fabrics, twenty's thirty's fabrics?

ET: I love to. I love keeping the timeframe fairly consistent. I will stretch the imagery and the patterns to be more what I want to say, but if I'm using thirty's fabrics, I try to stay within the thirty's aesthetic, keep it consistent with the thirty's, I try to keep the 1860s fabrics as 1860s and do scrap quilts from pretty much that time. I like to keep them consistent, because the styles fit the fabrics, and they speak with each other. But yes, as a matter of fact I've made quilts from all of the periods. My stash includes fabrics from all of the periods. I've said, "I'm eclectic" [laughs.]

JD: We're nearing the end of our time here, I wonder if there's something that we haven't talked about that you'd like to talk about?

ET: I think I've said.

JD: Do you have any other soap box things you'd like to mention?

ET: [laughs.] No thank you, in fact, you could please erase some of them. I probably have offended someone and I did not mean offence, everyone has their own. I guess I'm prejudice, I've seen the effects of some of these things, this discharged dyeing, and the effects are drastic. To see an antique quilt that has been cleaned up with a strong stain remover, I just cry over it, because they've destroyed history, they've destroyed their family legacy.

JD: What about cutter quilts? How do you feel about them?

ET: If a quilt is totally beyond preservation, if it has no more documentation that can be taken out of it, no more history within that quilt, I guess, you know if it's been the wrap for furniture, and eaten by rats and mice, and various human waste has been put on it, sometimes its time hs come, I guess.

JD: It's had its day.

ET: It, yes, and I guess put into a picture frame and said, "This is great-grandmother's quilt," is better than throwing it in the trash.

JD: Right.

ET: But you know, they destroy a document, a document of our history.

JD: Here we go. As a teacher--

ET: As a teacher, I try to stress some of these values and the legacy that they're leaving and they're giving their family, and the love that they express to the people who receive these quilts.

JD: Well I'd like to thank you--

ET: Thank you very much Jane, it was a pleasure meeting you.

JD: We've appreciated your allowing us to interview you here today and adding to the Quilters S.O.S.-Save Our Stories Oral History project. Our interview concluded at 10:54.

ET: And please excuse anything that I said that was distasteful to anyone else, I did not mean to be, to step on toes.

JD: But you haven't, it's a wonderful interview.


“EuJane Taylor,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 19, 2024,