Rosa Angulo


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Rosa Angulo




Rosa Angulo


Karen Musgrave

Interview Date



Marysville, Ohio


Kim Greene


Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave and I'm conducting a Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories interview with Rosa Angulo. We are in Marysville, Ohio at the Ohio Reformatory for Women. Today's date is July 20, 2009. It is now 9:45 in the morning. Rosa thank you so much for doing this interview with me. Let's start out by your telling me why you are here.

Rosa Angulo (RA): First of all thanks, thank you for taking this time to being here with us. It is really an honor for me to be in front of you. Even that my quilt was considered for this. [laughs.] The reason that I'm here is I got involved into the using of drugs and that use took me to thinking that I could make easy money and I start trying to sell that drug and I got, I got caught like everything easy. Easy come, easy go. I got caught and my sentence is for trafficking of drugs and I got ten years for that. This is not easy. I had to say that it was a blessing for me to come here, even though I'm away from my daughters. I consider this a blessing because I'm learning here to find out about myself, which I didn't have the time out there because I was involved in a lot of problems and those problems took me to the use of drugs that I had a job that I was going to because my brother didn't understand that I was an adult. I was over my forties when I started my addiction and I thought I was hiding from my daughters. I think my oldest knew that I was using. They never know that I was trying to make money. [cries.] My youngest didn't know anything. She was thirteen at the time. [cries.]. They were proud of me [cries.] and with this calling I really feel bad because I feel like I let them down especially my youngest [cries.] because a thirteen year old daughter needs her mother by her. My stupid decisions. I can't be with her. I've been away from her for three and a half years now and it is not easy but like I said it is also a blessing for me because I'm learning here to find out about myself, about why was I involved in the addiction, why I listened to other people and tried to make a better way of living in an easy way.

KM: Let's talk about your quilt. Tell me about "Hope."

RA: "Hope." I always have hope. Once I got here and I started learning about recovery, I got involved in Recovery Services. I am going to meetings. I've been in this group Helping Hearts and this is a group of recovery but also it is a group about God, about hope. I don't know but I'm believing in hope and God. When Chaplain [Jami.] Burns called us and we had a meeting with the lady [Vikki Pignatelli.] from Sacred Thread and she said something about how she was expressing her feelings in material. This picture in my quilt, it was actually in some magazine. It's my inspiration. Not all of it. It was my making, but I saw this picture in a magazine and I really, really see what I wanted to say in my quilt because it really reflects my feelings. Like I said in my essay [artist statement.], these ribbons [points to the quilt.] I want them to represent the razor wire around this prison. It is all around us, it doesn't allow us to get out of here. The different patches in the quilt are the different stages in my life. It has always been up and down. The stitches around them is like the way I've been crawling out of my problems. My down, how I've been getting up some how. This part here is like the life, the life that I learned to see here in this place thanks to the Chaplain here, to Recovery Services. Like I said before and this bird, [points to the black bird on her quilt.] I want to be me. To me that is an eagle. That is a bird that I really admire. I love the way it soars through the air and I believe I included a Bible verse in my essay. It says something--Isaiah 40:53 I believe, I'm not sure about it, but it says that whoever have hope in the Lord will walk and don't get tired, will run and don't get faint, something like that, will soar the sky like an eagle and won't ever get tired. That is how I feel I'm going to be when I get out of here, like an eagle. I got the opportunity to learn about myself and I feel that I'm gaining the tools to make my life change. [laughs.] That is what I want my quilt to represent. [artist statement: I want to give my first quilt the name of hope...Because I'm trying to express it somehow. My life in this place is the patches and the stitches are the different stages I've been going through. The ribbons are the razor wire that surrounds this prison. And the eagle is me, who with the help I've been getting from recovery & religious services, and some of the staff members, I feel I will have the tools to fly when my time gets here. Like it says in Isaiah 40:31 'They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles' wings; they will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.' And she added as a personal note: I am 48 years old and the mother of three beautiful daughters and the grandmother of an eight year old girl. I work as a porter in my cottage, and love to do community service through the Stitching Post. I've never made a quilt before but I really enjoyed working on this one.]

KM: What was your favorite part of making the quilt?

RA: First of all this is my very first quilt. I didn't know anything about quilting. Now I'm learning because I'm working at Stitching Post and I'm learning the art of quilting because I found out that this is an art, it really is an art. Before I thought it was just pieces. It didn't make no sense to me, people ripping apart pieces of material and then putting them back together, but now I find out that it really is an art. My favorite part of making this quilt was that I had a chance to express myself and it really, really helped me. Sometimes when I was making it-- because it took me months to do it because like I said, I didn't have any knowledge about quilting. My favorite part was that I had to express, that I was able to express my feelings and that bird, that bird, I love that bird. [laughs.]

KM: How did you feel when your quilt got accepted into Sacred Threads?

RA: I feel excited. I didn't think I was going to make it. I feel really excited. I never thought I was going to make it. There are quilters here that are really knowledgeable people about quilting and some of them were in Sacred Threads so I never thought that my quilt was going to make it [laughs.] never, and when I was called to let me know about the interview, about you coming here, I was really surprised because I said, 'Well I tried not to do anything wrong, why is the Warden calling for me?' I knew there wasn't anything wrong, but when I got here I was kind of nervous. She said, 'Well, first of all you are not in trouble and second it is something good.' [laughs.] She started letting me know what it was about so I got excited. [laughs.] She also told me that not to be afraid. Of course if I wanted to that it was my decision, something that is not usual here [laughs.] to make our own decisions. [laughs.]

KM: I'm glad that you decided to be interviewed.

RA: [laughs.] I am glad, too. I am. It was something else that I asked her when I was here, so I know it was a challenged question because like she said, I asked her if my daughters were going to be able to see this interview and she [Elizabeth Wright, Administrative Assistant to the Warden.] said, 'Of course, if they have a computer, they will.' They are back in Mexico. I can't see them but I'm in touch with them by mail. To me, this was special. It was like the main thing about this interview that they will be able to see me. [cries.]

KM: What do you think they will think about the quilt?

RA: They are not going to be able to believe it. [laughs.] They know their mother is not a quilter, you know to put those pieces together.

KM: Now you see you are smart and creative.

RA: Thank you. I can't believe it. I see it and I can't believe that I did it.

KM: Do you like embroidery?

RA: I learned. I also learned this. [points to the embroidery on the quilt.]

KM: The feather stitch, yes.

RA: I didn't know it either.

KM: Do you like it?

RA: Yes, yes I do. Like I said, there were quilters in Sacred Threads and I had to ask. That is something that I'm not afraid of, asking if I don't know something. [laughs.]

KM: You hand stitched the quilt?

RA: Yes, yes I did.

KM: Is there any part of it that you didn't like?

RA: Any part that I didn't like? [KM agrees.] At first, I didn't like anything. [both laugh.] At first I didn't know what it was going to look like. I was looking at somebody else's quilt and I was looking at mine and I said, oh no. I was ashamed to bring it to the Rec Room to work on it because I didn't want anybody to see what I was doing. I didn't know how to put a quilt together.

KM: It is very powerful.

RA: Thank you. Thank you. I really feel like I accomplished what I wanted to. I really feel that way.

KM: A lot of people like your quilt.

RA: Thank you.

KM: Seriously. Tell me about the Stitching Post.

RA: Stitching Post is, how do you say? Please excuse my English it is not. Like I said I'm Mexican and I also learned in here how to speak. [laughs.]

KM: You do very well.

RA: To speak English is Social Services program. We make quilts there. We crochet. We knit, we provide. I feel so proud talking about it because I mean it is for homeless kids. It is for people that need this stuff. We got this Warm Up America Institution that they come and get our quilts. They get their very own blanket that goes to kids without anything and they get to keep the blankets with them. It is a very human program and I love working for it. It works for donations. Nobody in the institution buy anything for us. Everything comes from like churches outside, from people who donate those materials to us so we can make things happen.

KM: How long did it take you to make "Hope"?

RA: Nine months, probably a year. Yes, it was a long process. I can't believe it. It is such a small thing, a small piece and I can't believe that it took me that long. [laughs.]

KM: How was writing your artist statement? Tell me about that. You had to write an artist statement. You had to write your essay to go with the quilt for Sacred Threads. Tell me about that. Was that easy for you? Was it difficult for you?

RA: It wasn't really. I had to go and ask Chaplain Burns, 'What do you really want me to write?' and she said, 'We need an essay for each of the quilts that you guys make.' I didn't know what to say. She said, 'It has to come out of your heart and tell us what made you do this quilt. What do you want to express in it?' I had to work on it and ask how to begin, how to end, and what to say. Everybody would tell me the same thing. They all would say, 'What you feel.' [laughs.] 'Say what you want to express in it.' I did. I don't know if I really accomplished that, but I said what I felt like to make it.

KM: What advice would you offer somebody making their first quilt? What would you tell them to do?

RA: Just do it. If I can do it, anybody can. Anybody can do it because like I said I thought it was dumb to rip pieces of material and then put it together, back together, but it really is not and once you start doing it you love it. You really love it. Like I said, now I work on the sewing machine and I can sew my quilts and knowing that it is going to help somebody out, it gives me that inspiration to work then.

KM: Did you use the sewing machine on this one?

RA: No.

KM: This was all by hand?

RA: Yes, this is all by hand. I wasn't working at Stitching Post back then. I just started doing that. I had to say, they asked me, 'Do you know anything about quilting?' and I said, 'Nope.' I made one and it was for the Chaplain. I was talking about [laughs.] Sacred Threads. No, I don't know anything about it. They say, 'Okay, do you know how to sew?' 'Yes, I do know how to sew.' 'Do you know how to use a sewing machine?' 'Yes, I do.' They are teaching me now. I'm learning how to quilt, how to really quilt. [laughs.] This says what I want it to, but it really not a quilt.

KM: Yes, this is really a quilt. I'm going to tell you it is really a quilt.

RA: I love it.

KM: Good.

RA: I love it and I feel good because I don't know if we are going to be allowed to keep it or not.

KM: We don't know. [later we found out that while the women cannot keep the quilts in prison, they will be sent to a family member.]

RA: I don't know. If we are my daughters are going to have it and they will see [laughs.] their mother's work. That is the main thing, that is the main thing for me, for them to be able to see what I'm doing here. People got the bad information about institutions. I had in myself until I got in here. It is really what you make it because if you want to be in prison, you can be in prison in these walls, yes. If you want to be free you can be free in here and I feel free, I really do. I'm sad because I'm not at home with them but I feel free. I feel free now [cries.]. For them it might be weird that we were allowed to use needles, scissors, you know those stuff. We don't know when we are out here, we don't know if the inmates can do this stuff. They can find out. Their mother is not really in prison, that she can still work and do what she wants to even in here. [cries.] I don't know what else to say.

KM: That is alright.

RA: You can see I am easy to cry. [laughs.]

KM: That is alright. What did you think about the other quilts that were made?

RA: They were beautiful. Some of them were beautiful. I'm living with some of the girls who also work in Sacred Threads and they really make a good job. Most of them were not quilters either like myself and we were trying to help each other with giving ideas. They would come to me about decisions and they would say, 'Rosa, those stitches looks nice,' and I would say, 'Well thank you.' 'Will you teach me how to make them'? And I said, 'Well of course, somebody else teach me. Why not?' [laughs.] 'Yes, we really help each other.' That is another thing that I learn here in prison, there is good people around. Even sometimes it is hard being around women all the time, but I mean it is interesting to find out about how they are human beings. How they have struggles just like I had.

KM: What would you want, if somebody is looking at your quilt, what would you want them to take away? What message do you want?

RA: Hope. There is hope even here when you are down, you can get out of it if you really want to. You have to try. You have to work for it. There is hope, I really do.

KM: That is good. I'm so glad.

RA: Thank you.

KM: Is there anything else you would like to share? Do you consider yourself a quiltmaker now?

RA: No. It is going to take me a while to be a quiltmaker. [laughs.]

KM: You are a quiltmaker.

RA: Thank you.

KM: You can own it.

RA: [laughs.] Like I said, I'm learning. I'm still learning and Recovery Services here teach us to be open to learn, to be open, to always be open to new knowledge. There is always something that you can learn from anything. The lowest person can teach you a great lesson. That is something that I learned here. Nobody is too little.

KM: I'm glad you get to continue to make quilts. I think you will be a great quiltmaker.

RA: Thank you.

KM: What do you think makes a great quilt?

RA: That they decided to make it [laughs.] I think. It is really a challenge to put pieces together and make something nice out of it. Especially if it is for a good cause. You feel like you accomplished something and you are doing it for something, for a good reason and that makes it more interesting to do. The deciding, deciding to make it, to make something out of nothing.

KM: You made something great. Is there anything else you would like to share? I really want to thank you for sharing with me, sharing your quilt.

RA: Thank you. I would like to thank you for taking your time to come to this institution and give us your time.

KM: You are more than welcome, seriously.

RA: Thank you. Thanks a lot. Thank you for considering my quilt.

KM: Your quilt is fabulous.

RA: Thank you, thanks a lot.

KM: You are welcome. We are going to conclude our interview at 10:11.

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