Lonni Rossi




Lonni Rossi


Rossi discusses her touchstone quilt, "Double Duende." She also talks about how she became interested in quilting, as well as her career as a graphic designer. Rossi expresses her opinions on the place of quilting in American history as well as women's history. She also talks about her association with the quilt festival Art Quilts at the Sedgwick, and her leadership role in the show.




Quilts--United States--History--20th century.
Quilting--United States--Patterns.
Quilts--United States--History--20th century--Exhibitions.
Quilts in art
Craft and art
Craft festivals.
Art festivals.


Lonni Rossi


Megan Dwyre

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Le Rowell


Wynnewood, Pennsylvania


Megan Dwyre


Megan Dwyre (MD): Today is July 22 at 2:50 in the afternoon. I'm interviewing Lonni Rossi in her studio for the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories oral history project. I guess we can start by talking about the quilt that we're looking at. Why don't you tell me about it?

Lonni Rossi (LR): The reason that I'm showing you this quilt in particular, I could have shown you a couple other ones, but this is the quilt that I did last and it was finished in February of this year. I generally make five or six quilts a year. This one was done quickly because I had an opportunity to hang my work at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. I had three quilts that I was prepared to hang there and it needed one more. I hung the other quilts at the end of January and this one was already in progress, so they allowed me to finish it so that it could hang in the show. And it was important that it did because this quilt is different from others that I have done in the past year. It is the first quilt that I have done that is a whole cloth quilt that I have painted from beginning to end. So the central portion of the quilt started out as white fabric, and I had collected two leaves from the lot outside my studio when I had my studio at the Sedgwick, and printed those leaves onto the white fabric and then painted through the paint that I originally put on with the leaves, as an offset print, and painted the background, and once that was completed I knew I wanted to turn it into a quilt. So the quilt you're looking at, the center portion is from here to here [measures with hands.], so that means that eight inches on one side and six inches on the other side were pieced, but the central portion, which is approximately 36 to 40 inches, is the whole cloth piece that has been totally embellished with embroidery, machine embroidery, fusing, lots and lots of machine quilting, and all those leaf motifs at the bottom are fused and embroidered. So this is a departure for me whereas most of my other quilts have been pieced and heavily embroidered. This one is not pieced all that much. It's really delving more into surface design, which is where I'm headed at this point.

MD: And what materials?

LR: The fabric that I originally started with is white cotton Pimtex. Since I'm also a surface designer, I paint with a nontoxic water-based paint called Pebeo Setacolor so that this cotton piece was painted with that in a combination with opaque metallic paints as well as the transparent paints. Anything that is fused on top is an unusual fabric, a large woven fabric that I bought in a paper shop and printed on, some silk organza that I stamped on and then fused onto the surface of the whole cloth piece, and then other painted fabric that I fused onto the bottom of the quilt. So if you really needed to know most of it is cotton. There is a little bit of silk. There's some organza and some woven metallic high-tech threads.

MD: But you designed all the fabric yourself?

LR: I designed all the fabric. It all started from white cotton.

MD: Do you think the quilt has a meaning? A meaning for you personally?

LR: Oh this quilt definitely has a meaning. Most of my work is based on something that's going on in my life and it usually has to do with relationships whether it's my relationship with my husband, or my children, or a friend, or my mother. Some of them have very deep personal meanings and others are just sort of happy on the surface kind of stuff. This one is the second quilt in a series that I have done about my relationship with my husband. The first one was done during a period of time when we were going through what people like to call a 'rough patch' [laughs.] but it was a very powerful quilt, and this one is reflective of a better time that we're living through, and I see this as the two leaves representing two souls or two spirits on a creative path separately but together, which I think is very good for a marriage, where you retain your separate creative path and yet you're traveling it with someone who is supportive and strong and willing to help you to get where you want to go, and that works both ways.

MD: I can definitely see that.

LR: I should tell you a little bit more about the name of the quilt.

MD: Oh yes, that's right.

LR: It's called "Double Duende." One of the pieces of fabrics that I have been working with as a motif for a number of years is called my Duende fabric and I found that word by reading a biography about the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, who was somewhat of a revolutionary. He had written a short essay about the spirit of creativity and he called it the 'duende,' which was the poltergeist of creative action, and I was just sort of drawn to that. Beside that the word 'duende' has this great sound to it it's almost like 'tawanda' if you remember watching or reading about Fried Green Tomatoes, that great story about women and relationships. That's what it sort of reminded me of, this word 'duende.' And since it was about creativity and that was the relationship I was trying to show between these two souls, it seemed appropriate. So if you look over here on this part of this quilt [points out.], this piece of fabric is one of the first pieces that I painted using that word 'duende' and it really clearly says it right there. So that's actually fused onto the surface of this part of the quilt.

MD: So would you say that you've used quilting to get through hard times in your life?

LR: I use anything that is a creative outlet to get through things in my life that are difficult. It doesn't have to be just making a quilt. I'm a graphic designer by profession. I've been a graphic designer for 30 years, which is why anything that has to do with typography or calligraphy, handwriting, finds its way into my fabric designs as well as into my quilts. And I could be designing a logo or creating a piece of black and white artwork like you see up here on the wall, which is another little experiment. I've been trying to play with shapes using a Chinese concept called notan, which means dark light. So I think anybody can use art, I mean they do have art therapists. But yes I find art very therapeutic, but it's my life so I can't really separate it and say the only time that I would create something is when I'm stressed or emotionally upset about something, but it is a catalyst. I think a lot of artists are motivated by strong emotions, whether they're joy or happiness or sorrow.

MD: How do you use this quilt?

LR: This quilt is meant to hang on the wall. It has been as I said, hanging in the Kimmel Center since February. It came down about a month ago. I've entered it into a couple of competitions and I'm waiting to hear whether it will get in, and I hope that I will be able to have it shown for at least two years and hopefully it will sell.

MD: So your future plans would be to show it and eventually sell it.

LR: Show it and then sell it, yes.

MD: To switch topics a little bit, when did you start quilting?

LR: You know I knew you were going to ask me that question and I spent some time yesterday really trying to go back and think about the first time that I really got interested in quote/unquote quilting. You had mentioned before [prior to interview.], yes I am self taught as far as quilting or making quilts goes, but I think when you're in a community, over time you learn from other quilters and you learn by taking classes. To answer your question about when did I make my first quilt I would have to say it was in high school around 19-- gee do I really have to say it? [laughter.] 1967. I was about to start college and in between working in the summertime painting theater pieces, I worked in a little shop in Camden where they painted backgrounds and props for Theater in the Round in New Jersey. It was Camden County Music Fair, Valley Forge Music Fair, that kind of thing. So the painting started then and that same year my mother was throwing out some old fabric, (my mother and my grandmother both made clothes). They sewed, and they did utilitarian sewing for the house like curtains, that kind of thing, but they never made a quilt, either one of them. But I thought gee how cool to take this fabric and cut it up and just sew it back together again, and that was the first quilt I made. I never finished it. I don't know what happened to it. I have no idea where it went or where it ended up, but it was about 1967 and it really wasn't until about 1984 that I started to get very interested in making quilts and started reading books. I never belonged to a guild. I never knew another quilter. I just saw certain exhibits that were going on. There was an exhibit of Amish quilts that really caught my eye, the Jonathan Holstein exhibit I think it was, in New York.

MD: At the Whitney?

LR: At the Whitney, yes. I still have the catalog and I was just so blown away by the color and the graphics of those quilts that I really started to become interested. When I got to college, to Moore College of Art, the first year, freshman year, we were given a project to design an imaginary country, come up with an imaginary country, create a flag for that country, and a symbol for that country, and then anything else that you felt would be part of the culture for that imaginary country. So I made the flag and I used sewing to make the flag, and I recall making a silkscreen and actually printing some fabric. So that was freshman year in college, and that was around 1967, something like that. I graduated from Moore in '70, so that sounds about right.

MD: So since high school age you've really--

LR: No it was really off and on because I went to art school and I was trained as a graphic designer so my focus was only on graphic design and anything that had to do with sewing was my leisure time. It wasn't a serious pursuit at that point because my serious pursuit was being a graphic designer and getting a job out of college, which I did. I freelanced while I was in college. I worked coincidentally at the music fair [laughter.] doing graphic design. The same people that I had painted sets for, I was doing graphic design for. So it wasn't really until I had my son in 1987 that I got serious about quilting because now I had my career under control. I had my own company. My graphic design company was fine. I had people working for me. I had gotten married and this was my first child, at 39. You know I'm having my first child so now I have some time to be 'mommy.' [phone rings. LR: Lauren would you get the phone so we can keep going? Thank you.] I'm missing doing some kind of artwork because I have a child, I have a new baby, and the first thing I turned to was fabric and making a quilt. Even though I didn't know what I was doing I remembered those Amish quilts and I started to make a baby quilt for my son with those colors.

MD: What's your first quilt memory?

LR: My first quilt memory as related to my entire life, is that what you're saying? Or not the first quilt that I made.

MD: Not necessarily the first quilt you made. Did you ever have quilts when you were a child?

LR: Of course. We never really had a handmade quilt in our house and my mother and my grandmother, nobody in our family was interested in quilts. They were into crocheting or embroidery. I do have a textile memory. It's not a quilt though. When I was about seven years old my mother gave me a skirt that she had from when she was a teenager. My mother was 35 then and I was seven so I would say this was 1930s fabric and I distinctly remember the fabric in that skirt were these unbelievably beautiful, large flowers, and that is a distinct memory. That textile, I loved it. I loved that skirt. I loved the textile. I loved the way it felt and that had to be the beginning of something.

MD: Ok, so why don't you talk about your interest in textiles.

LR: As a graphic designer I work in cyberspace, on a computer. It's the realm of concepts, the realm of the mind, solving problems visually. And I'm trained to do that; I've been a professional graphic designer for 35 years. I still do graphic design work and it's a totally different discipline, design discipline, than the kind that I employ when I'm doing fabric design or quilt design, and the reason that I got involved in textiles is because of the tactile quality of textiles and the fact that I can use many, many colors whereas in graphic design you're limited by the client's budget or what the project calls for. It may not necessarily call for full color. It may be a one color project; it could be a two color project. You might be dealing with the color of the paper and an ink color, but you're very limited as to how you can express the concept (colorwise). With quilting it's unlimited; there's no client breathing down my back. It's only the concept, or the emotion, or the image that I'm trying to convey or evoke that I'm dealing with.

MD: You dye all your own fabric.

LR: I don't use dyes, I only use paint. So I am therefore not a fabric dyer, I am a fabric surface designer. So I design the images that go on the surface and I use paint in order to get them there. This piece that you're looking at right behind you is a piece of brown dupioni silk, so I didn't do anything to color the background of the fabric. The images that are on that fabric were all silk-screened. They were all designed on my computer, made into a silkscreen, and then I create the pattern as I print the silkscreen. I only use paint that is nontoxic, and water based, and is heat set. Just the same thing that I used in this quilt.

MD: You mentioned before that you were influenced a lot by typography-- [LR: Yes.] and you put that in there. [LR: Yes.] Do you think that that comes from your graphic design background?

LR: Absolutely. There's no way that it doesn't. When I was in school one of my most favorite topics was the typography class and as a graphic design major you are required to take that every single year that you're in school. When I came back to teach at Moore from 1983 until 1987, I taught typography because it was something that I was very, very interested in. I totally enjoyed working with type as a graphic designer and one of the things that made me very, very happy about the coming of the Macintosh computer was that I no longer had to 'spec' type – type specification was very time consuming for short we called it "type spec'ing". And if you were a graphic designer back in 1980 you would understand what a happy day that was in 1984 when the Macintosh arrived because we could now set our own type. We could kernurn it; we could let it; we could enlarge it, skew it, make it do anything we wanted it to do, put shadows on it, outline it. All those things had to be either hand drawn or done by a photo, in phototype setter back in the seventies and you really had very little control. You could do a layout and give it to a typographer back then and you might get back something that looked sort of like it, but you just never really came that close. So I was really happy when the computer arrived. And typography is just, to me, an endless source of motifs that you can keep using over and over again in different ways as you can see by the fabric designs that I've got going here.

MD: Do you think that's kind of how quilting is? I know when a lot people talk a lot about quilting back in the sixties they say there really weren't any books. There really weren't any classes. There wasn't a lot of different kinds of fabric but now it seems like there's endless possibilities and technology.

LR: There's a quilt explosion. Yes I can compare those two things along the same timeline of how technology has come along so quickly since I graduated from college, which was in 1970 to today, so we're talking 30 years. How far has the world come in 30 years? Really, really far in a very, very short period of time and where can quilting go from here? How can it change, how can it grow with the technology? I don't think we want it to. It's a medium, like painting, that is timeless. It's been around for a really long time. It's traditionally been known as the woman's art, but more and more men are becoming interested in it as a medium that is much more expressive than painting or watercolor or sculpture. I think when you go back to something that started from a need, a need to keep your family warm, and still be able to create a beautiful piece of work that was functional, that quilting will always have that tradition. It's an important tradition that we don't want to lose. That's why my quilts still have a top, a middle, and a back, and they're meant to look like a quilt. A lot of art quilters today, I'm not going to say that they try really hard not to make their work look like a quilt but they do try to find innovative ways to use the medium, and I think that is where we can grow. How much can the human hand, male or female do with fabric, batting and thread? It's endless and joyful.

MD: Do you want to take a break at all?

LR: I'm good.

MD: Okay that kind of goes into a little bit about history. First, what do you think about the importance of quilts in American life?

LR: I don't think American life will ever be without some form of quilting, and there are many forms of it. There's functional quilts that are traditional patterns; there are baby quilts. They're part of our creature comforts and we will always want to have them, we will always need to have them. The kind of quilts that I make, even though I do make those comfort quilts and I could show you one that I have in progress right now that's a sample of a pattern that I devised. But the quilts that I make are part of a different kind of quilting, a different kind of movement that is the art quilt movement that is just taking off. Almost like the Impressionist art movement did or the Secessionist, Gustav Klimt who I love his work because he was part of that movement and people look at that new movement and they wonder, 'What are those people trying to do?' People will argue about that for centuries whether it's traditional, whether it's an art quilt, whether it's a traditional quilt, whether it should be on the wall, whether it should be on the bed. I don't care, I really don't. I enjoy making these kinds of quilts. I make them to hang on the wall. I make them for people to enjoy looking at the idea or being moved, or not, by the work itself and what I really try to do is create a good composition, a good design, that viewed from a distance makes you want to get closer and take a look at it. And when you get there I want you to be rewarded by seeing the detail that's in the work, and you can see that I put a lot of detail [laughs.] into the work.

MD: How many hours a week do you quilt?

LR: Well, that's tough because I run a quilt shop. I am a fabric designer. I paint commissioned fabric for clients that are one of a kind pieces. I'm a graphic designer and I try to have at least one quilt going all the time in some form of progress. Here's one right here hanging on the wall in pieces. There's another one next to my sewing machine. So how often do I quilt? As often as I possibly can, and some weeks I may not quilt at all because I have so many other things that have to be done first. The minute I have a second, when my mind is not totally occupied with one of those other things I just mentioned, you'll find me sitting at my sewing machine or working at something on the wall. I want to show you this just really quick, you can turn off that tape recorder if you want to. This design that you see on the wall that I talked about earlier, the notan. This is a direct result of coming up with that design and this is my commercial fabric that I cut out a stencil based on this design, and stenciled it onto the commercial fabric thus making it even more my own, and then I took the same design and cut it out of fabric that I fused onto another piece of fabric. So what I've done is I've taken the motif and used it four different ways so it's stenciled, it's fused, it very shortly will be quilted and embroidered, and I'm seeing this [quilt.] as a growth out of this. [original design.] In other words I'm taking every discipline that I use: design, my commercial fabrics, and other techniques that I use, and trying to combine them into one quilt.

MD: Are those parentheses [in fabric.]?

LR: Yes, those are parentheses. That is from my third collection for Andover Fabrics called

Retro Parens. It's Lonni's Odyssey Collection and I named it that because I felt like I was on this journey through typographic type styles in time.

MD: There's a lot of questions that I want to ask.

LR: Ask them all.

MD: [inaudible] Going back to history just for a second, what ways do you think quilts have special meaning for women's history in America?

LR: When I was in high school my girlfriends and I, we always used to laugh and joke about being a modern day pioneer women, and this was in the sixties. I think any woman at any time period is a pioneer woman because you're always trying to, and still today I think, we are still trying to live up to the double standard [laughs.] where sometimes women can do things and sometimes people look at them, certain people of another gender, which shall be nameless [laughter.] think that they shouldn't be doing those things. I've never belonged to that other group and don't think I ever will and I think women can be doing anything they can imagine that they can do. So those women on the prairie who took their clothing that was falling apart and made it into a blanket for the winter on the prairie, for their family, were doing something that they had to do because that's how they could survive and how their family would survive through the winter, by their creativity of figuring out a way to take the materials at hand and use them to survive, but also to express their desire to make a mark I think. So maybe that's why I like to quilt because I have a desire to make some sort of a mark with my art. And I consider it art. I think the women on the prairie didn't consider it art, they considered it something they had to do, but I think what they did was art because they were creative in how they used the materials at hand.

MD: So you think that when you look at a quilt the history of quilting is kind of connected to that even though it's not an old quilt?

LR: Absolutely. I really believe that anybody who makes a quilt today is still paying homage to the people who started making quilts centuries ago. The basic form is still there even though the need is no longer there.

MD: I'm going to switch subjects again, a little bit. I thought that you might want to talk about Art Quilts at the Sedgwick and how you got into it and what your role is in it.

LR: Five, almost six years ago, my friend Judy Smith-Kressley told me that she was having a meeting with a woman named Deborah Schwartzman in Mount Airy at a place called the Sedgwick Cultural Center and she said, 'It sounds really interesting and I think that you might want to become involved because they're just starting this up and I think it could grow into something meaningful for quilting.' She came back from the meeting with Debbie and said, 'I gave Debbie your name and she's probably going to call you and she'd like to talk to you.' So the very next day Debbie called me and she knew that I was a graphic designer and one of the things that she knew they were going to need was somebody to help them promote the show, and when she found out I was also a quilter, she thought she'd died and gone to heaven. [laughter.] So I, about a week later, went and met with her at the Sedgwick and I didn't feel hopeful because I looked at the building and the building needed some repair. It's very old it's from the 1920s, but it's a beautiful building and it has some beautiful Art Deco stenciling on the walls and the chandeliers are still there. The outside of the building, architecturally, is very beautiful and intact and over the past five years I must stay that the owners have done just an amazing amount of work to raise funds to restore this building. I don't know if it will ever get to its former glory, but it certainly is coming along. So at any rate, the first year there were only sixteen artists that were invited to show at the first Art Quilts at the Sedgwick exhibit. Judy was one of them, I was one of them, Debbie [Schwartzman.], Cindy [Friedman.], Emily Richardson, Emiko Toda Loeb from New York, Amy Orr. I can't remember all sixteen at the moment, but we were invited to show a piece of work and I felt really honored to be asked in part of this group of people whose names I knew, and I knew they were important artists, and I felt really lucky to be part of that group. I immediately just fell in love with Debbie and Cindy and the whole core group that had started, Leslie Pontz was the other, and we all agreed that we wanted the show to grow. The next year it was still an invitational show. We were asked, the sixteen artists were each asked to ask another artist. So the second year, there were 32 quilts in the show and we got more publicity. By the third year we had tried to build the show so that we could show at least 50 quilts and we had decided to go for a grant with the Pew Organization. We spent a lot of time, the core committee, Leslie, Cindy, Debbie, and myself to get this Pew grant written and then we didn't get it! Needless to say we still had the third show go on, but because of the impetus of writing this grant and really feeling that we were now capable, we hired a juror, who was Judi Warren Blayden. We opened the show up to be a juried show to the entire United States and we got quite a number of entries and were able to choose a beautiful show for the third year. This past year was our fifth year. We now have a panel of three jurors every year and we are well known in the Art Quilt community as being an east coast venue that happens every year. Art quilters, people from across the country and all over the world are now entering the show that just started with sixteen little artists, locally. But it is a testimony to nine women on this committee, and we've been the same nine since year three. The first two years there were not that many of us, but ever since the third year the nine people, Carolyn [Lee Vehslage.] is one of them, Carolyn has really boosted our visibility through the internet. Without her we would not be nearly as far along as we've come in the last three years, and my job in the committee is the graphic design end. I do ads, posters, the postcard, this year we did a printed calendar, and for the last three years we've done a CD-ROM catalog where I design the packaging and the look and feel of the contents, not of the CD, the outside of it. So I'm not totally involved with the inside graphics, that would be Cindy [Friedman.] and Steven, although I have consulted with both for design, etc., on the inside of the CD-ROM. We all work as a team and that's the way anything like this can happen. You have to have a team of dedicated people who each work independently and are good at their own job, and the nine people who are involved in this are really dedicated. We're volunteers, we don't get paid. We get nothing from doing this except the pleasure of seeing that show come to life every year, and we're not even allowed to enter our own show because it isn't ethical.

MD: Since you've seen a lot of quilts, I'm sure, in your involvement in that and otherwise, I'm going to ask you what do you think makes a great quilt great?

LR: The first three seconds that you see a piece of art. Whether it's a quilt, a sculpture, a piece of fabric, anything, and you feel that or you don't feel that something in your gut. Those first three seconds, that's what tells me that something is really great, is when I see it and I just sort of go, [gasp.], 'wow.' Then I start to look at it, and you might have to pull it apart, but I'm sorry, if I see something for the first time and it just wows me those first three seconds, to me that's something special. What is it that makes that something special? It's a combination of great design, graphic impact, in other words it's something that really draws you to the focal point or gets right to the meat of what that artist is trying to say. They're not beating around the bush, they want you to know how they feel, and whether they do it with color, line, shape, the sheer size of piece, or the sheer smallness of a piece, or that word sheer, using something as a sheer, overlays, layers, whatever you use to get your point across, as long as it's good design, good color, and has that immediate impact. I'm not saying that impact has to be great. It might be something that's just not pretty, it could be really ugly. It could be an ugly concept. It could be something as terrifying as a quilt about 9/11, but when you look at that you just know in your gut immediately that there's something about that, that you have to see more of it. And how do you make something like that? As an artist, that's what I'm always trying to answer. I don't think about, 'Oh, I'm gonna make a really great, impactful quilt this time.' No, you don't think that. You just do the work and you hope that what you see in your mind's eye you can bring to life somehow.

MD: We ask a lot of quiltmakers if, how do quilters learn the art of quilting? How do they learn to design a pattern and choose fabrics and colors?

LR: How do they do it? When I first started with textiles, with fabric, I didn't know what I was doing, and I met some people in a quilt guild that I hadn't joined yet. I'm still waiting to see if that's what I really wanted to do, but you meet these people and they sort of give you steps that are involved in making a quilt and I think if you're serious, you will take a serious class. Well by 1998, I decided I was serious and I took a two week intensive class with Nancy Crow because after looking at all of the other teachers who were available, the only one who I felt knew what she was talking about as far as design, color, and impact, was Nancy Crow. She's an amazing teacher. I didn't take any classes from anyone before her or after her, until I met Michael James, and I took an intensive with Michael James as well, in 1999. And because of that I really believe that I was able to create a piece of work that got into Quilt National.

MD: Because of the class with Michael James?

LR: Yes. In 2001.

MD: But do you think having an art background helped?

LR: Sure, having an art background is the ace up your sleeve in quilting. There are not many quilters who have an art background, but so what? That's formal training. What's in your soul is what's in your soul, and it's how you pull it out of it that counts. Quilters like Libby Lehman have never had, Debbie Schwartzman has never had an art background but she does beautiful work. Libby does unbelievable work.

MD: Yes, certainly.

LR: I don't think it really is necessary to have an art background or go to art school. The women on the prairie didn't go to art school. [laughter.]

MD: Well that kind of goes along with the next question which would be, what makes a great quilter?

LR: What makes a great quilter? I think she has to have a great book of recipes that's number one, and like chocolate, that's really important. [laughter.] I think a great quilter is someone that knows how to get along well with others because quilting is really a community affair a lot of times, but a person who makes wall pieces like I do, I find this to be a very solitary thing. Art quilts are much like painting because you're painting with fabric and thread, and I really can't pull out the work from my soul if I'm around other people. I have to have that solitude in order to do that. And I think most women will agree that the time between one and three in the morning is when you a) get your best ideas and get the most work done. If you're a mom, a wife, a person who works, those quiet hours when you're alone with your quilt and your machine is when you get the work done and it comes out the best. Until you look at it the next morning. [laughter.]. She said sarcastically. [laughter.]

MD: Alright we're almost out of time actually. There's a couple questions that I didn't get to, but I was wondering if there's anything that you wanted to talk about that we haven't talked about yet? What you want people to know about yourself or you want people to know about quilting?

LR: Before I entered the Paducah show, the National Quilt Association show in Paducah [Kentucky.] in 1999, in 1998 I didn't even know that you could enter shows. I just started making quilts and having fun doing it. And my friend Judy was the one who said, 'You should enter this show.' I said, 'Oh I'm not ready, I'm not ready. I'm just not good enough.' 'Yes you are,' she said. So I very reluctantly entered two quilts and one of them won the 1999 Best Wall Quilt award and is now in the museum of the American Quilters Society in Paducah. And I think that was a turning point because winning something like that first time out gives you impetus, makes you want to continue on. And it's just not about winning things; it's just about doing the work. It's about making something come to life from nothing, which is why I really like this particular quilt because I took a piece of white fabric and it turned into this, and I love doing everything about it. I love getting the idea of printing the fabric of painting the fabric and stitching and everything else. [technical difficulties.] That's all I have to say about that.

MD: Okay, well it's been about 45 minutes so I'd like to thank you. That was a really great interview. So I'm going to thank Lonni Rossi, this is Megan Dwyre, and we're doing an interview for the Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories project, and the time is 3:37.

[tape turns back on.]

MD: We have one more thing to add.

LR: Yes, I just wanted to bring up, go back to what we were saying about going to art school. Recently Michael James wrote an article in Popular Patchwork it's called, and it's not an American Magazine, where he said that a lot of things are going into shows that look very similar. Everything's starting to look sort of the same. It's almost sort of like other artists are feeding--I'll say it this way, art quilters are feeding off of other art quilters and what they're doing, their style, maybe taking too many classes or whatever. And his suggestion was that, even if you haven't been to art school, there's so much available out there for you to learn and for you to be inspired by, meaning study other kinds of artists. Study painters, study watercolors, study sculpture, graphic design. I mean there is just an endless amount of things that can inspire you as a quilter that my recommendation would be, for even a person who is a traditional quilter, to just take it on yourself to do a study program of a different kind of medium. Study the color and look at how the shapes relate to each other and think about how that particular artist was inspired, and why that particular artist decided to paint a flower, or to do a sculpture of a human form, and how does that relate to you as a person who makes quilts. I think that would be a good message to quilters in the future to think about, that this is just one medium of expression, it's not in and of itself. It's part of a bigger picture of art.

MD: Definitely, and I also think that it's like every person's life is unique and everyone has their own unique experiences to draw from.

LR: Exactly.

MD: It comes out in your quilts.

LR: Yes, not just in quilts though, that's what I'm saying. You might choose to express yourself by being a great dancer. [MD: Writers.] Or being a writer, or doing research, being a great researcher, a good interviewer. You could be the next Barbara Walters, who knows? [laughter.] But it's just a matter of the human spirit finding it's way to the surface and if quilting is what helps bring it out then I say that's what you should do.

MD: Do you think a lot of times women think that's more comfortable, more accepted?

LR: Yes exactly, it's non-threatening to people around them, and people can sort of say, 'Oh yes, she's decided to take up quilting' and, 'Isn't that great?' But if she decided to take up parachuting or bungi jumping [laughter.] at 55 or 60 years old, what would they think then? It should be the same thing. You shouldn't let other people limit you. You shouldn't be limiting yourself as to where your inspiration might come from. I think I'm done.

MD: Okay. [laughter.]

[tape shuts off.]

Interview Keyword

Lonni Rossi
Megan Dwyre
Graphic designers
Surface designers
Art Quilts at the Sedgwick


“Lonni Rossi,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 24, 2024, https://qsos.quiltalliance.org/items/show/2457.