Beth Johnson




Beth Johnson




Beth Johnson


Ellen Cabluck

Interview Date



Houston, Texas

Interview indexer

Jesse Moore


Alana Zakowski


Ellen Cabluck (EC): Where did you come from initially?

Beth Johnson (BJ): I grew up in Tennessee. When I got married we lived at quite a few places. The last place we lived before Houston [Texas.] was Colorado.

EC: A lot of Tennesseans have come to Texas to help us, and helped fight in the Alamo; I’m a docent at the history museum. Are we about ready? This is Ellen Cabluck. Today’s date is November the fourth, 2011, it is 11 A.M., and I’m conducting an interview with Beth Johnson for Quilters’ S.O.S. Save Our Stories, a project of the Alliance for American Quilts. Beth and I are at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas. Beth, would you tell me about the quilt you brought today?

BJ: This is a quilt I did early, soon after I started quilting, and it’s based on a photograph I took of my son in Trafalgar Square in London [England.] This is when he was about six or seven, but he was a grownup when I did the quilt, since I wasn’t a quilter back then. I just enjoy the pose and the body language so much. I drew it out, and I pieced it. It’s all pieced except for the overhangs and his nose and mouth around there are appliquéd where I didn’t trust myself, but the rest is all pieced; the birds are all pieced. When I was working on it I realized it was too small of a quilt for what I wanted. Since I had already started and didn’t want to work, re-design it, so I added this big border and when I did that, it made the quilt stronger because I didn’t want the border to look like it was an after thought, you know like a mistake, "Oh we got to make it bigger, let’s add a border." I added these other birds and I think they really helped the piece. It was one of those things; mistakes make it better.

EC: I agree. This is just really great. Well you’ve told us about the meaning that it has, why did you choose this quilt to bring?

BJ: Why did I choose it? Because it’s my husband’s favorite, I think [laughs.]

EC: Oh that’s nice.

BJ: I kept saying, "What quilt should I bring?" and I was thinking about what I’ve done, you know, the first quilt, or the quilts about my mother, or you know, 9/11." Those are sort of expected choices. He (my husband) kept saying, "Bring the Kevin quilt," as he calls thisquilt. I realized that’s one of his favorites. I’ll bring the Kevin quilt [laughs.]

EC: Oh that’s wonderful; wonderful story. How did you get interested in quiltmaking?

BJ: I was not a quilter until I moved to Houston [Texas.] In Colorado I was an art teacher and I painted, and I didn’t even go into those fields until I was an adult and had a kid and then went back to school. I was in the math and education. Then I gott into the arts. When we were about to move here, my mother had just started quilting, so I wasn’t with her when she started quilting. She was doing an art quilt. We had painted together, and so she kept saying, "When you move to Houston [Texas.] you’re going to become a quilter." All I needed was one more thing, you know to be jack of all trades and master of none. I kept poo-pooing. I sewed when my son was little and for myself, but I hadn’t even sewn in years. She kept saying, "And there’s this big show," she couldn’t remember the name of it, "And you’re going to have to go, and they’ll be things about it, you’ll see it, and you have to go and you’re going to be a quilter. I’m just know." We moved here in June, we didn’t get into our house until October and typical with new houses, you’re waiting for them to come fix something. I was just real frustrated, didn’t know people, and I saw the big (newspaper) thing that year on a quilt festival. I said, "I’m going to go downtown." I got in the car, "The George Brown is next to a freeway, I can get there," well, we all made those mistakes [laughs.]

EC: [laughs.] Yes.

BJ: But anyway, I got here. It was a Friday afternoon: I was so blown away by the quilts. The show was smaller back then, it was two ballrooms. I was so blown away. I particularly liked the traditional quilts that were done in modern fabrics.

EC: Yes.

BJ: They had an exhibit on the Oklahoma bombing, the response to the Oklahoma bombing. I never thought about quilts as being in an artistic forum in that way. I was blown away. I went to see my mother about two weeks later and I was talking to her, how it (the show) was really interesting, and I really loved. I don’t know about sewing all that, but I would love to design with these fabrics. I was just so excited, I had to come back (to the show) two more times that weekend.

EC: Great.

BJ: Didn’t sew, didn’t quilt, but I had to keep coming back. Then the last day of my visit after I talked to my mother about it, she comes popping out of the bedroom and said basically, "Put your money where your mouth is." There was a call for Tennessee artists by a hospital for artwork by Tennessee (artists), and she says, "We ought to design for it." We went over there and looked at the site. We started designing a quilt, but by then I had gone home, so we’re designing a quilt, if you can imagine, long-distance. She had made one art quilt, none of us knew the rules, and then we heard that we were about to, we were in the top three (finalists). and we still don’t know how to quilt, so we start to panic, Even though this is going to be an art quilt, we need to know basics. So I signed up here for a beginning class, because I’d rather know the rules before I tried breaking them. Then the hospital changed hands; they held up the selection. We thought, "Gosh, we got to make one anyway." Anyway, we end up making the quilt,the hospital didn’t want any fine art and I kept the quilt. It was wonderful because they didn’t deserve the quilt. My mother did most of it, I designed it and painted it, but that was the beginning.

EC: Oh wonderful.

BJ: So, a good story anyway! [laughs.]

EC: I think it’s a terrific story, and the quilt show, the International Quilt Festival inspired you.

BJ: It did, it totally did.

EC: That’s great.

BJ: My mother was right; you know it’s one of those things. I was real close to my mother, but still she didn’t have to be right about one more thing! [laughs.]

EC: [laughs.] So what is your favorite part about quiltmaking, the design process or the actual work?

BJ: Both.

EC: Great.

BJ: I like it. I think quiltmaking is like raising a kid. You know you have this thing in your head and you’re all excited, so that’s like when you’re thinking about the pregnancy. Then it’s hard to translate that into paper, that’s sort of the birth.

EC: Yes.

BJ: Then it comes along, and you’re all excited. You’re getting your fabrics, you’re touching stuff, and I love that part. Then you get to that stage when it’s not really what was in your mind; you know it’s sort of taking on it’s own little life and you have this little thought in your head and I’m thinking. So I call that the, you know, the terrible twos stage.

EC: [laughs.]

BJ: Then you sort of get past that stage and you are doing really fine. You’re really get going, and you’re responding to the quilt now. I love that part, where you just, "Oh no, I can change that and make it work." Then I get to what I call the teenage stage.

EC: [laughs.]

BJ: It’s almost done. You know it’s working, but it’s just not quite right, and you know it’s not going to take much, but something. So I had those little hiccup places, but I like it all.

EC: It doesn’t look like it.

BJ: Oh [laughs.]

EC: Is there anything you don’t like about quiltmaking or any processes?

BJ: I like the quilting process once I get into it, but it’s the hardest for me. I don’t like the hand appliqué, but I can do it when that’s what’s needed. I don’t enjoy it as much as handling the fabric. But yeah, I guess I enjoy most of it.

EC: That’s great. It obviously was meant for you. Let’s see. Do you use a design wall?

BJ: Yes. I wouldn’t do without it, yeah.

EC: Do you leave things up all the time, or do you put them up as you’re working, or do you work all the time, that’s a better question.

BJ: I wish I could say I worked all the time. The last two years I haven’t worked as much because my mother was dying of cancer and othre family matters.. But yeah, I pretty much continuously have something going, but I don’t have tremendous output. I have something going, but it may take a long time in that incubation stage. I keep the drawings up, if I’m in the drawing,. Where I’m planning a design, I keep what I’m thinking about up on the design wall where I’ve got my drawing. Like now. I have a drawing up on there. and a first selection of fabrics up there. Yeah, and then as I’m working I have stuff up there. Yes I have it all up there.

EC: It’s really about your process--

BJ: Yeah--

EC: And it’s helpful to know--

BJ: Yes.

EC: I’m getting clues here.

BJ: That’s fine.

EC: What do you think makes a great quilt?

BJ: I’m coming from my art background; I think strong design is number one--

EC: Okay.

BJ: And I think the traditional quilts all have that. So. as much as I can think of myself as an art quilter, I think traditional quilts do that beautifully. I think technique has to be there, but I don’t think it should be number one, but I think it can’t be so bad that it gets in your way of the enjoyment of the quilt.

EC: Right.

BJ: That pretty much covers everything about a quilt.

EC: What do you think makes it artistically powerful as an art quilt?

BJ: The designs.

EC: Just that--

BJ: Well I think it’s everything. I mean design covers everything; it would cover the texture--

EC: The colors.

BJ: The colors. I like strong values but that’s a personal aesthetic, I don’t think necessarily that a quilt without that is bad, but I really like strong values in a quilt. I like color but not necessarily everything with a lot of color.

EC: Right.

BJ: Oh, the one thing I like about design or don’t like about design, I hate things put on a quilt just because they can, you know. Whatever the new product, for example, you know you got the new yoyo maker so we’re going to fill our quilt with yoyos; I want the yoyos to be integrated into the design, there’s a reason that’s there. I’m not really real fond of over abundance, endless, the quilt is about overabundance--

EC: Right.

BJ: Then it’s appropriate. I want it to be appropriate, I don’t want a lot of quilting lines just because I have a new machine. I want every quilting line to add to the overall design. . I think those decisions are made in the designing, or as you progress. I know in this quilt, for instance, I put in a lot more quilting lines in, and I had to take them out because I thought they distracted. That’s not to say now I might have known how to do that in a different way to maybe enhance it. I think sometimes more is just more.

EC: Right.

BJ: Other times I think more is good.

EC: Are you quilting into it more now that you have more experience than you did?

BJ: Yes, I am.

EC: Well you already said your mother was your big influence, are there any quilt artists that were a big influence to you, art quiltmakers?

BJ: I think Ruth McDowell probably more than any other quilter. I bought her books before I ever became a quilter because I loved how she used fabric and that was something I wasn’t seeing in the painting world, because we had to add all our pattern.

EC: Right.

BJ: Here she was taking this wonderful patterned fabric and using it. I bought also Katie Pasquini Masopust’s books, her early art and inspiration book before I ever became a quilter. So yes.

EC: It sounds like your destiny.

BJ: Yeah, yeah.

EC: It really does. Are those the people whose works you’re drawn to, or do you have other quilters who?

BJ: I like so many quilters now; those are the early ones just because I was working more in that style m with my painting. I almost hate to put names because there’s just so many wonderful ones.

EC: Well its okay and we know that you might left some out, but it’s nice to hear a few.

BJ: Right now I’m very fond of Peggy Brown’s work and I knew her as a watercolor, I mean I knew of her work as a watercolorist. I love how she translates it to fabric and it’s very abstract. I love Hollis Chatelain’s work, I love, there’s just so many people’s work I love, I can’t even start to do justice.

EC: Yeah.

BJ: And I have many good friends who work traditionally, and I felt like this show this year was very strong in that.

EC: Yes.

BJ: And resonated within me.

EC: Do you belong to a quilt group, an art quilt bee?

BJ: Yes. I belong to the Lakeview [Texas.] quilters’ guild which is in the Clear Lake area, south Houston [Texas.] Then I have, I belong to two bees. One is Kindred Spirits and we meet once a week in people’s homes. It’s a mix of quilters, you know, and we’ve been together for years and are very supportive. Then I belong to an art quilt group, a critique group that meets once a month and that has great energy, so you come from one with the support of women and you come from one with creative synergizing energy.

EC: That’s wonderful.

BJ: Yeah, it is.

EC: Why is quiltmaking important in your life? I think you’ve partly answered that but that’s one of my questions.

BJ: I think it just resonates with me. When I got into it, I thought I would both paint and quilt, but really quilting sort has taken over. I think I just enjoy handling the fabrics. I like all the choices out there. I like that it’s--I think it’s much more social than painting and I think I like that connection with other women even though other women aren’t doing my quilts. I think that’s important to me. Every once and a while, I’ll do a traditional quilt--just because, and I really like going back to that once and while because it makes me realize why people like patterns and like fabric because its something tremendously satisfying about just putting fabric together. So every year, I teach for my sister, who now has a quilt store. We brought her to festival one year, and, lo and behold, she owns a quilt store. So it all started from that first visit![laughs.]

EC: That’s amazing, and your mother knew! [laughs.]

BJ: Yeah she did, didn’t she?

EC: Do you think that quilts have an importance in the history of women in America?

BJ: I do. I didn’t really appreciate that before I got into quilting. I thought until that first show it was little old ladies quilting, and I take that back, because I actually did know people who were doing beautiful quilting in Colorado. I just, I just did not understand the interest or appreciate the interest, and they were doing beautiful though traditional type quilts. I had my painting and I couldn’t imagine why this (quilting) would be more exciting and until I got into it, and the more I’m into it, the more appreciation I have for it’s history and it’s influence and what made it important, what not important and the difference between countries. I think it’s an amazing thing, an amazing connection.

EC: Do you dye your own fabrics or do you by commercial?

BJ: Occasionally, both. I collect both [laughs.]

EC: Great. Well good.

BJ: Yeah I do both.

EC: What do you do with your quilts when you’re finished? Do you give them away or do you sell them?

BJ: I do not sell. I do give some away.

EC: To your friends or your family?

BJ: Yeah, especially with the quilts, you know the big bed quilts and things. I don’t make too many of those, but I usually have somebody in mind when I even make them. You know, my son, the grandchildren, of course, have to have quilts.

EC: Of course.

BJ: Sometimes they’re practical things like I’ll give them to my sister for her shop samples, that kind of thing. The art quilts I’m much more picky about who gets them.

EC: Yes.

BJ: I don’t, I haven’t given them to my son yet, and it’s not because I don’t think he won’t love them or his wife won’t love them, my daughter-in-law is very appreciative. I don’t think they’re ready for them in their lives yet. They pretty much on the go, and to be honest, I don’t have a single one of my quilts hanging in my house.

EC: That’s interesting.

BJ: It took me years before I put my paintings in my house and so the paintings are there, so I figure the next house the quilts will go up [laughs.] I don’t know.

EC: Do you teach at your sister’s shop or at any shops?

BJ: I teach at my sister’s shop because they’re in a small town in Tennessee and they do not get many people. Their guild isn’t like our guild which can bring in names, so they think anybody from Texas is and lives in Houston [Texas.] has got to be a big name [laughs.] They’re really excited when I come.

EC: With all your wonderful quilts I think you are. What do you think is the biggest challenge that quiltmakers have today?

BJ: I think probably is the same challenge they’ve had for years: making people realize what a contribution it makes; what an industry it is. Iin the art quilt fields-- the recognition it is indeed an art form and should be accepted as some. I think all those things are ongoing challenges, but I think the world is getting smarter.

EC: Yes, I think so. Your quilts are mostly hung on the wall, right?

BJ: Yes.

EC: They are not used?

BJ: The majority of them, yes.

EC: Do you think your quilts reflect where you live, or do you think they are more wide in scope?

BJ: I like to think they’re wider in scope than where I live. I would like to think they resonate with viewers that are not just from Texas.

EC: Absolutely. I think they are, but I wanted to be sure. I wanted to ask you.

BJ: [laughs.] Yeah, you know, yeah I do the quilt, mosly for myself, that’s the reason I make a quilt--

EC: That’s pretty important.

BJ: I wanted to make this quilt and I don’t worry about competitions, I don’t worry about possibilities, I have just learned to trust myself and to do that quilt. Then if there’s a venue for it, then there’s a venue for it, but it doesn’t really make any difference. After I finish the quilt, I’m not as concerned about it for some reason.

EC: Good. The awards are not important, it’s just the doing.

BJ: No, it’s a nice validation, I think all artists love to have their work validated, but I would be doing it without that. I appreciate that I’ve had these opportunities to show work. For instance the 9/11 quilt I had to make that that year; I had to make it. , I went around to all my friends I knew \ to get the right fabric. Then to quilt shops. Anyway, I was thrilled later there was a venue to share my response, but it didn’t make any difference: that quilt was being made and that’s pretty much the way my other quilts, with one or two exceptions.

EC: You feel emotions of course, obviously when you make them.

BJ: Oh yeah.

EC: Did you make anything besides that 9/11 quilt that would commemorate a specific event like that?

BJ: My mother and I, we did the I Remember Mama quilts for three years. The first year was the first quilt my mother and I had made.That first year was all nurturing quilts, or quilts about nurturing your mother and they could be any quilt. My mother and I did that first quilt that we had made, that started the quilt career. We entered that and got in; well then, we had to remake half the quilt because we didn’t want anybody seeing our first mistakes[laughs.] But we made the quilt and it hanged, and mother was always pleased because she felt like it (the quilt) hadn’t gotten "it’s just desserts" Then next year it had to be a generational quilt, if you remember.

EC: Yes.

BJ: My mother, my sister, myself, (my sister’s my twin, I should’ve said that). My mother, my sister, myself, my sister’s daughters, she has daughter’s, I have a son, she, her daughter and her granddaughter all made, worked on that quilt. We had the great granddaughter who was four, we had her stamp fabric, my niece, so my sister’s daughter whio would no more come near a sewing machine, but she sewed a few seams and anyway--

EC: How wonderful.

BJ: Then it (the quilt) was all about pictures of us holding our daughters as babies and then we beaded it. Everybody sort of had a job; mother had a job of trapunto, and I had a job with the piecing and beading, and Jeanette had a job of this and, yeah, so that (quilt) had meaning. So the next year was to be in honor of my mother. She was present, and my mother-in-law had gotten very ill at that time, my mother kept saying, "You have to finish this quilt," and I kept saying, "I don’t know if I can deal with it." I think I was sort of concerned too, you know, I don’t mean this to sound morbid or anything, but when somebody has passed away, it’s easier to do a quilt about in their memory, than sometimes to do a quilt when they’re honored because you don’t, you don’t know what, how they’re going to react to what you are choosing to put in a quilt. I chose memories from my childhood and my son’s memories of his grandmother and so forth and made this quilt. When she cried she saw it, I knew it was the right choices--

EC: Absolutely.

BJ: So yeah, I almost always choose a quilt with emotion, or meaning to me, whether or not it has meaning to someone else.

EC: I think they evoke emotions, I definitely do. Well you’ve already said your mother and sister were quilters, now your sister’s daughter didn’t become a quilter, she just participated?

BJ: That’s right.

EC: Give her time.

BJ: The granddaughter is starting to quilt though.

EC: Oh how nice.

BJ: So I’m starting to wonder if it’s skipping every other generation.

EC: It might be. How do you balance your time to have time to quilt?

BJ: I’m lucky enough, I’m not working. I used to teach in school system, I don’t teach now. I probably don’t use my time as wisely as women who work outside the home and are gainfully employed, so I have a lot of choices,. I have the option of choosing to be in my studio when I want to be.

EC: What’s your studio like?

BJ: It’s wonderful. When we moved to this house my husband was so pleased that I had given up my studio and my friends back home, the big deal was to have a nice studio, so the children’s room, because we didn’t have children then, our son was in college, they had a big playroom so I designed it for an artist studio, well that’s not the same as a quilter’s studio. It gets you there and then I had later cabinets put in to store fabric. So it’s a nice big room, it has a sewing table and a sewing machine and a design wall.

EC: Great room. Do you have friends to come over to sew with you or do you solitary mostly?

BJ: I pretty much do my sewing solitary. Once I’m in that groove, I don’t do very well with people. You know, I like feedback, but not once I’m sewing, I like feedback during the process, I don’t want all my feedback at the end because then it’s too late, I’m not likely--

EC: Right.

BJ: To make any changes.

EC: [laughs.]

BJ: I like feedback during that, but generally when I’m sewing and making color choices and all that, I’m working by myself.

EC: How do you feel about, you do machine quilting, you don’t do hand quilting?

BJ: I do.

EC: How do you feel about longarm quilting?

BJ: I think it’s beautiful work. I love the people who use it, especially when they put something of themselves in it and I see it in their work. I guess one of my concerns, and I don’t know if I even want to be on record in saying this, but one of my concerns is we have strived for perfection so much, that I wonder if we’re losing some of the soul. I don’t know how to stop that or get around it or how we can put the brakes on that. I think we just keep moving as these things become available, and the bar gets set higher and higher. Sometimes I’m wondering if it’s starting to look mechanical, it’s beautiful but it doesn’t have that substance. However, I think people can use a longarm and use these things and include emotion. I think Caryl Bryer Fallert-- there’s no question her machine quilting you know, she’s using a sit down longarm, but there’s no question is has some soul. I think there are a lot of longarm quilters who do that, but as we get more help with the quilting, people feel that the quilt police are there, and so a stitch that’s not perfect is not valued. I have some concerns, I think we’re losing, I think we have the tendency to lose some people who have opportunities to quilt and enjoy it because they feel like they can’t achieve that perfection, or they can’t compete. I don’t think quilting should be that competing anyway, but I think it’s a tough issue.

EC: Well obviously quilting is very important to your life.

BJ: Mhm. (Yes!)

EC: And your family--

BJ: Mhm. (Yes1)

EC: Helps with that being to the extent that they support you.

BJ: My husband’s been a wonderful support. He did when I was a painter; he now is when I’m a quilter. I think he’s excited when I get excited about what I’m doing. He’s a scientist so we’re sort of at opposite poles [laughs.]

EC: Right.

BJ: Spectrum.

EC: Right brain and left brain.

BJ: Yeah it’s been, it’s very gratifying to have someone who, while they may not understand why you have to do it, but they understand that you do; and they support you so that you can. So you know if I’m really in a creative mood, he’s say, "Well I’ll do dishes, you go on upstairs," you know, or, "Yeah you need this room and you need this." At the same time I’m not crazy.

EC: Sounds real normal.

BJ: Yeah [laughs.]

EC: What do you think is somebody’s looking at your quilt what they might conclude about you? Any of your quilts.

BJ: I don’t think, I think they probably say she’s sort of, my quilts seem to be pretty clean cut, so I’m guessing they I’m a nice, neat orderly person; I don’t know what they would suggest [laughs.] I think I would really like to get more mystery into my quilts and I’m sort of fighting it because it’s not coming naturally.

EC: Do you feel that you’re still growing as a quiltmaker?

BJ: Well I think that’s how I need to grow.. Obviously I like shape and I like value in those things I use consistently in every quilt, and I think those will always be important. I guess I want, not everything in front of me, I think when you look at that quilt you know everything there is about this story, or you can make up a good story.

EC: Right.

BJ: And I would like now to have a little bit more not quite so much story in the quilt.

EC: I didn’t ask you what your favorite techniques were and the tools that you might lose for them, so how about that?

BJ: Techniques I do are mostly piecing or I do invisible machine appliqué. I’m still fighting with raw edges [laughs.] and I think that’s a bias that’s mine individually that’s really not just a fight. I think I’m stuck somewhere and I’m not sure that’s a valid concern.

EC: Do you think that might have something to do with the length of the time that you’ve been involved with quiltmaking, maybe?

BJ: I really don’t know. I just think I’ve always liked the clean edges and turned edges. I think we some people first start using fusible it wasn’t real neat and clean, and now it is so it’s better materials and better use of material. I’m still stuck with I like that. I think the advantage to not having, of being able to use those things is you can respond very intuitively where once you start a quilt like this. I made changes but it’s more difficult to make changes, you know you get this thing pieced and then you realize that didn’t work, well you have to either start over or cover it up somehow.

EC: Do you ever completely start over on something just because you decided it didn’t work?

BJ: Yes, rarely, I mean very rare. But on the Quilter, which is in the museum--

EC: Right I know that one, yes.

BJ: The design process took forever and then I actually did a painting to try to work out the color. I rarely work that way, it’s too planned. I just knew something bothered me and it just, I started that design over a million times.

EC: Well it works.

BJ: It works now, thankfully but yeah, it took, sometimes you just have to say either you got to figure out something else or you got to say this isn’t going to work and I was almost at that point on that quilt in saying, "It’s okay then to give up this idea if it’s not working." I finally figured out what bothered me, and then I could go for it.

EC: That’s absolutely wonderful. Is there any other thing that would comment about what quilting has meant to you?

BJ: Well clearly it’s you know, changed my direction about the third year. My very first quilt was a response to my art group, my painting group, not art quilts, they didn’t know anything and then I was so surprised I wanted to take myself seriously, so that’s when I started to enter shows. The first quilt gets in the show; well, now I know just how extraordinary that is. My husband had to come to festival one year just to see what sparked all this change in my direction because I was a pretty serious painter. I still use some painting, like on this quilt I used soft pastel chalks to get my. you know, shading in the face and so I’ve experimented with techniques that maybe other people don’t use, but still I’m using some of my painting, that’s just the design skills. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to not quilting. You know, I can’t quite give up my paints, but I don’t think I want to be a whole cloth painter, I love those quilts, but I think there’s something about--

EC: You like the textiles too--

BJ: The fabric, I like the fabrics--

EC: Yes.

BJ: I like changing the fabrics. This year I’ve really given, this year I’ve been more introspective of why do I like this so it’s interesting having this interview and you asking these questions. I don’t know if that’s an age thing, or we’ve lost both parents within a few years. So,it’s an introspection thing, I know. We’re at a different point in our lives.

EC: Absolutely. Looking to see if there’s anything else that I haven’t asked. You’ve answered these so well. One of the questions is have you ever used difficult times to get through, well you have because you’ve made these quilts.

BJ: Yes, in fact it’s the quilt that’s in the juried show now was the quilt I worked on to get through my mother’s chemo. The top was almost done. We had moved her (My mother’s) bed into her studio, because that was the biggest room. I put the quilt up beside her bed and it was still most, I mean it was mostly pieced but it was still in pieces with decisions being made. Every morning she told me that the quilt got her through the night, that she would check and see what kind of fabrics I used. I mean it was unexpected fabrics. So yeah, it gets me through.

EC: Well that’s wonderful.

BJ: It’s a happy quilt, surprisingly but it’s over in the show. I’ve done quilts in response to challenges when I felt like it was expected of me to participate. I’ve liked those the least, but some of them have been the most recognized quilts. So it’s, I think they have a good place in pushing us, challenges and whatever. But emotionally, yeah I know I’ll pretty much respond to anything. I don’t know if that makes me a wimp or what.

EC: Do you think there’s any special way to preserve quilts for the future? I mean, your quilts or whatever.

BJ: I sure the people there know more than I do. I take old carpet rolls or the rolls that upholstery fabric comes on; I cover them with batting and muslin; and then I roll my quilts around there.

EC: Oh good idea.

BJ: I think they do better than folding because of some of my surfaces. I think as long as we’re sort of careful. I want my quilts to not fall apart, so I try to pay attention to using good materials, and I felt that way about my paint. I think if I know it’s a bad thing to do, I try not to do it. At the same time I’m not trying to let whether future generations may or may not have of my quilts rule what I’m doing--

EC: Good.

BJ: Because I think the process and the present is more important than what may be tomorrow.

EC: Yes, I agree. Well, I’ve just learned so much about you from you this is just delightful--

BJ: [inaudible.] Such a captive audience [laughs.]

EC: You’ve, there’s a list of questions, you’ve really answered them in part of what you’re saying. So I’d like to thank you--

BJ: You’re welcome.

EC: For this interview and let’s see for the, let me start that over. I’d like to thank you Beth for allowing you to interview, allowing me to interview you for the Quilters’ S.O.S. Save Our Stories oral history project. Our interview concluded at 11:34.


“Beth Johnson,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed May 27, 2024,