Nao Nomura


Nomura NE68508-001.jpg


Nao Nomura


Nomura, the interviewee, discusses the patchwork MacBook case she has present with her at the interview, her history and interests in quilting, what she thinks makes a good quilt, and her current position as collections manager at a quilt research center.




Art festivals.
Arts and crafts.
Quilts in interior decoration.
Quilts--United States--Exhibitions.
Quilts in art
Patchwork quilts.


Nao Nomura


Janneken Smucker

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Leslie Tucker Jenison


Lincoln, Nebraska


Tomme Fent


**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.** Please note: the following transcript was generated by a volunteer transcriber and reviewed by the interviewee, and may not exactly match the audio recording. For the official record of this interview, please refer to the interview recording in the "Interview" tab.

Janneken Smucker (JS): Good morning. I'm here today with Nao Nomura. My name is Janneken Smucker. Thank you, Nao, for agreeing to sit for a Quilters' S.O.S. - [Save Our Stories.] interview. Today is March 2nd [2007.], and the time is 9:40 [a.m.].

Nao Nomura (NN): [inaudible, as though she's talking to someone in background.]

JS: Well, let's begin by looking at your touchstone object. What have you brought with us today, brought with you today?

NN: It is just a--it's not quilted. It's a patchwork purse that I made specifically for a laptop that I knew I was getting and I wanted to have a bag, cute bag that would work holding my pretty laptop that I just got last month. It deserved one, a cute bag, I think.

JS: [laughs.] Okay. Can you tell me about some of these fabrics that you've used in your bag?

NN: Sure. I bought some of the [inaudible.] fabrics that I used in--what do you call this block?

JS: Half-square triangles?

NN: Half-square triangles. And whenever I was at a board meeting, last year I believe, and I wanted to really use those fabrics but I only had eight fat eighths of it so I had to piece them to--I had to piece those little, small fabrics. And instead of playing with those fabrics that I wanted to, I decided I wanted to make a bag for my laptop, so I purchased a few more fabrics to match the fabrics I already had. And I developed my fascination with bright colors since I moved here, so that's what I chose for my fabrics.

JS: Those are very bright colors. You said you developed them since you were here, what do you mean by that?

NN: I always liked blacks and dark colors when I was living in Japan, and I met friends who--or met 'a' friend or 'the' friend who really loved bright colors, and when I went to fabric shops with her, I became more interested in using bright colors in my projects.

JS: Since you're from Tokyo originally, do you consider this a Japanese style patchwork or how do you characterize your own quiltmaking?

NN: I've asked myself that question, too. When we hosted a group of Japanese quiltmakers here in Lincoln for workshop, one of the Japanese ladies told me that my purse, a pieced purse that I had when I was with them, looked really American and it didn't look--the color combination didn't look Japanese at all. And they said, 'Oh, because you live in America, you have American tastes.' And I don't really know if that's true but that's a comment that a lot of Japanese quiltmakers that I've met told me.

JS: How did you first become interested in American quiltmaking?

NN: I always liked fabrics since I was a little girl but I wasn't really interested--I guess I didn't know quilts existed when I was growing up because I don't have quiltmakers in my family. But when I was in high school, I checked out a 'how to' quiltmaking book from a library and that's how I started learning about quilts and quiltmaking. But I didn't really develop--I didn't really have interest in quilts then. When I was in high school, I liked making little projects, quilted projects, but I think my interest in quilts really developed when I lived in Indiana, for an exchange program when I was in college, and when I saw a quilt exhibition at Earlham College where I was studying, and I was really fascinated with the colors and styles and just wonderful quilts that American women made a hundred years ago.

JS: And now what is your position?

NN: I'm at the International Quilt Study Center as Collections Manager, and I'm in charge of collections care at the Center.

JS: How does being around all of these quilts, couple thousand quilts, affect your own quiltmaking?

NN: I try to ignore them when I work on my projects because at work, I see quilts with twenty stitches [per inch.], twenty-eight sometimes, and my stitches are like six to eight [per inch.] when I can do really well. So I see antique quilts totally separate from my own quilts that I make. When I see quilts at work, I see them as study objects, especially for American antique quilts, I see them as research projects.

JS: Can you tell me how you first came to Lincoln?

NN: The James Collection came to Tokyo in 1998, and that's when I saw, probably for the first time, to see many American quilts at one exhibit. They brought eighty-eight quilts from the James Collection and I just fell in love with one of the quilts, specifically, but I really liked those quilts in that collection. And after, two years after I went to that exhibit, I started looking for a graduate program where I could study about history and textiles and I remembered Nebraska, and I don't know if I really--I was an American Studies major in undergrad, but I don't remember if I knew Nebraska was a state, but I knew the word 'Nebraska,' so I started to research quilts in Nebraska, and that's how I found out about the graduate program here. And a year later, I was here.

JS: What do you think makes a really great quilt?

NN: For my own research purposes, which is to research mainly antique, older quilts, provenance is of more value to quilts, I think, because you can find out more about the quilt itself and the maker, and if it has the maker you can really get into in-depth research about the society that the maker was living in, the history, geographic influences, these sort of things. And provenance and information, that information, adds more research value to quilts. For my own research purpose, I think that would make--those kinds of information make better, good quilts.

For art quilts, designs and originality and how artists express their message or what they want to say in their piece, I think that sort of thing would make--if it has a strong message in the piece, I think it makes a good quilt.

JS: What has happened to the quilts that you have made? Where are they now?

NN: Most of them, except for one, are back home. I made three crib quilts for my nephews last summer, and I made three quilts for my boyfriend, one of which he really hated or he didn't think it went well with his interior. I made it with reproduction fabrics from the mid-nineteenth century and, of course, it's not really 'guy themed,' I guess. Ohio Star pattern with pretty, floral prints, and he just didn't think it would fit, so it was stored away in his closet. And I said, 'Well, if you're not going to use it, I'm going to give it to my mom, who would appreciate it more.' So now it's on my mom's bed. She uses it every day. But he got two quilts. I don't know if he's using them or not.

JS: Do you think your own quilts should be preserved like all the quilts that you've helped take care of?

NN: No, they're just quilts that I made for my--I would love them if they were handed down within my family, so I would probably tell my mom how to document it so that the information won't get lost. That's what I learned during--while I was working at the Center. So I would probably tell her [to write down.] when she got it, how she got it, and who made it, but I wouldn't mind if they don't make it into a museum. They can be just cherished within my family.

JS: What does your mom think about your quiltmaking?

NN: She thinks it's great and it's a way to share what I'm interested in with my mother and my family, because they don't really know what I study. They know that I study quilts but I don't think they really understand what I study about quilts. So it's a way to share what I'm interested in by making a quilt and showing them what I care about.

JS: Are you also interested in Japanese textile tradition?

NN: I'm beginning to become more interested in Japanese textiles, and I really feel bad that I know more about American textiles and European textiles, and when people find out that I'm from Japan, they often ask me a lot of questions about Japanese textiles. So I've just begun to study Japanese textiles. I know as I was growing up, I saw my grandma's kimonos and old textiles and that's what I kind of played with when I was growing up, so I sort of know informally but I don't know about them formally as a scholar or--it's kind of embarrassing to call myself a scholar, but if I'm going to talk about them, I really want to know well about textiles that I'm talking about, so I'd like to learn more about Japan--the textiles of my own culture.

JS: Are there any other topics that you'd like to discuss today in our interview?

NN: If you asked questions that you wanted to learn from me, I guess we are through.

JS: Okay. Well, I thank you so much, Nao Nomura, for joining me today for a Quilters' S.O.S - Save Our Stories interview. The time is now 9:53 [a.m.], and this concludes our interview. Thank you, Nao.

NN: You're welcome. Thank you.

Interview Keyword

American textiles
MacBook cases
Japanese textiles
Family gifts
Quilt exhibitions
American history
Quilts as art
Quilt research



“Nao Nomura,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed July 24, 2024,