Deanna Apfel




Deanna Apfel


While Deanna Apfel’s grandmother had been a quilter, she did not form a passion for it until she took a color and composition class in 1995. She is often inspired by her travels, and enjoys the diversity and sense of community quilt groups foster. Apfel created a website for her quilt group, and considered replacing it with a blog. She also enjoys working with a quilting group called Los Hilos de la Vida, which help provide a space for Latina women to be creative and express themselves as a form of therapy.




Christine Sparta


Deanna Apfel


Karen Musgrave

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

The Salser Family Foundation


Philo, California


Kim Greene


**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.** Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave. I'm conducting a Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories interview with Deanna Smith Apfel. I am in Philo, California. It is March 8, 2007, and thank you Deanna for doing this interview with me.

Deanna Apfel (DA): Thank you Karen. This is great.

KM: So tell me about the quilt that you selected for the interview.

DA: The name of the quilt is "Bombyx Mori." My quilt group had a challenge one year to create a quilt that had different sections, and you had to make it a certain size and the theme was time. I had just been to South East Asia, specifically to Bangkok and other parts of Thailand and Laos and had visited the villages and seen their silk making processes, and I have always loved silks. So, I decided to do the lifecycle of the silk moth. The quilt really shows the moth and her eggs and hatching of the silk worms and eating of the mulberry leaves and then the cocoons and then the process of getting silk out of the cocoons by boiling the cocoons and dyeing the silk and weaving. So I have a great affinity for silk and that is why I chose the silk moth.

KM: It is a beautiful quilt.

DA: Thank you.

KM: So what have you done with this quilt?

DA: The quilt was entered in the Ultimate Guild Challenge in Nashville along with a bunch of other quilts from my group. We didn't win anything there. It did take second place at the Audubon Center in Ohio where the show was "Insecta." So, it took a second place there and I was very pleased.

KM: What do you do with this quilt?

DA: I hang it in my house. [laughs.]

KM: Where in your house?

DA: In my living room. It is kind of the focus, the center of what you see when you are in the living room. All the lights seem to just be drawn to it; it shimmers with light because of the fabulous Dupioni silks. I love Dupioni. I have a real affinity for them.

KM: So, tell me about your interest in quilting.

DA: Well it is interesting, my grandmother quilted, but my mother didn't and in fact I have this little quilt I wanted to show you. My mom lived with us for three years before she died about two years ago and I had this old crazy quilt of my grandmother's. It eventually shredded because of the leaded silks, but I made it sort of a memorial quilt to my mom. My mom didn't quilt, but she did everything else. She sewed clothes for me. She knitted. She crocheted. So this little quilt has my grandmother in it, and it has a photo transfer of my mom and some of her crochet work and this is my grandmother's embroidery work and this is my mom's initials. So, this is real special to me, but it also kind of talks about my heritage in terms of sewing quilting and interest in that.

KM: What do you do with this quilt?

DA: It usually hangs in the hallway. We painted recently and I haven't hung my quilts back up, so that will be in the hallway. When mom came to live with us, she had had a stroke and she was doing fine, she could take care of herself but she couldn't live alone. She did embroidery, so I have a lot of embroidered pillowcases and odds and ends. It was the last thing that she could still do as she aged and that she had more diminished capacity, but she could still embroider. My quilt group comes here in July of every year. We call it the "Philo Retreat." They come here for two days and my mom for two years was part of the retreat and she would sit in her chair over by the door and do hand embroidery while we, you know, made a total mess in the living room doing our quilts. So she always talked about making a quilt, but she wasn't close to her mother and I have a feeling that there was some way in which she didn't want to do the work that her mother had done.

KM: What drove you to make quilts?

DA: I took a color and composition class from an artist in the Valley named Paula Gray and I just took to that class like a duck to water. I loved color and composition. I just love playing with color and shapes and line, and Paula just totally encouraged me and said, 'Oh, you really are a designer' and then one day she brought in a book and showed us Amish quilts and the light bulb went off and I went 'Oh, I don't have to make my grandmother's quilts, they don't have to be these kind of dull browns and it doesn't have to be traditional quiltmaking', and that's really when I realized that was what I really wanted to do. I always had fabric and collected fabric and was drawn to textiles of all different kinds, it is just one of those things I think, some women are and some women aren't, so that was really the beginning. And then I started off small making a few baby quilts. They usually ended up being more sort of art baby quilts, [laughs.] because I was sort of putting my heart and soul into them. Now I can do standard baby quilts, get them out. [laughs.] Get them out the door. But when I first started quilting I made little, little gems.

KM: When was this? When did you start?

DA: '95, I think around '95. And, I had, I met a woman at a class in Mendocino, it was on curved strip piecing with Sonya Lee Barrington. And, Joyce Patterson was a nurse and we kept in touch after that class, we really got along well and liked each other a lot. She had already been quilting, and she called me and said they were forming a quilt group and was I interested. This was probably in '92, '93, and I hadn't started quilting yet. I had been thinking about it, but I really hadn't gotten started and so I declined to join the group at that point and then once I had made my first quilt I called her and I said, 'Can I still join the group?' and she said, 'Sure.' So I have been in that group since, probably since '95. We have become very, very close knit and we have a retreat every year on the Mendocino coast. We spend four days together; eating, [laughs.], schmoozing, doing skits, laughing a lot and making something or other quilt wise. We push each other in terms of our art. We have some women that are very prolific and also our prize winning quilt artist which helps the rest of us, pushes us along and they are very encouraging and I like being part of a group like that.

KM: So how many women are in the group?

DA: We are eleven, eleven of us. We have thought about bringing in other members and have decided that we like it just the way it is. We meet in each other's homes twice a month, one evening a month and one day, one morning a month and just share what we are working on. We are about ready to start another group project. We found that it kind of draws us closer together when we have a group project in addition to our individual work.

KM: So is it the original members? Has it changed any?

DA: It changed a lot over time. There are only three of us left from that original group. But the members that are in the group now have been with the group for at least the last five years. We have become very close. We are very diverse, we have not, ah, we are not homogeneous politically and our age ranges from, well we are all over fifty at this point, we are going to celebrate the birthday of our oldest member who is seventy-five and she does a lot of hand quilting and hand piecing and is very traditional. Also she has pushed herself and created some art quilts and done very well with it. One member of our group does surface design and dyeing and she does scarves and things like that in addition to her quilts. So we are very, very diverse.

KM: Do they live here?

DA: I'm the only one in Anderson Valley, and the rest live in the area, including Ukiah and Redwood Valley and then another friend of mine lives in Willits, which is north of Ukiah. We are all in the same county. Within an hour, hour and fifteen minutes of each other.

KM: So you rotate houses?

DA: Except for my house, which is too far away, so that's why we have the retreat. That makes up for all of those meetings I can't have meetings at my house because it's too far, so we have the retreat here. My husband, Mark cooks us a salmon dinner and generally takes good care of us. [laughs.]

KM: How nice. What is your first memory of a quilt?

DA: My first memory of a quilt is going to my grandmother's house. My mother had eight brothers so I had a lot of cousins, and when we would all gather at my grandmother's the kids all wanted to sleep together, so they put us down in the parlor downstairs. Which is not a living room, it was a parlor. And put quilts on the floor to sleep on and under. There was one quilt in particular, which I have very fond memories of--it was a very thick quilt and that was the one that I slept on, so that was my first memory of a quilt. My grandmother never made quilts after I was aware of her. I can remember her sitting in her rocking chair knitting and crocheting, but she had finished with quilts. She had nine children and she provided numerous, numerous quilts for all of them, and for her own bed and this one work of art, her Victorian crazy quilt. She got as far as embroidering the names of seven of her children. And I think with the last two it must have just put her over the top in terms of work, I think she stopped quilting then. [laughs.]

KM: So how old were you, what age were you of this memory?

DA: I would say about seven or eight. About seven or eight. And she didn't hang quilts in her home of course, they were all on beds, always on beds.

KM: How does your quilting impact your family? What do they think of your quilting?

DA: Oh they are very proud of me and they brag about me all the time. I made a quilt for Mark, my husband, called "House Calls" that hangs in the Health Center. [laughs.] Mark is great at encouraging me. My daughters also, they think it is great. My oldest daughter is very drawn to textiles and often collects fabric. When we have the retreat here, sometimes she comes and goes through her fabric stash and lends fabric or gives fabric to people, suggest fabric for them, but she doesn't want to create quilts herself.

KM: Why is that? Is there a reason?

DA: No, no. She is just not drawn to it. My other daughter, my younger daughter can't even sew. She called me the other day, she's moving into a house, and she said, 'Mom, my couch zippers are coming lose from the cushions and I was wondering if you could fix them' and I said, 'Nope but you can.' [laughs.] So I think she will, I said, 'You really need to start doing this Lily, there is no excuse for it,' so she is going to. And now that she has a home it is going to be a lot different scene for her I think in terms of wanting to decorate and do things and maybe she will start to sew a little bit.

KM: Does she have a sewing machine?

DA: No, no. My oldest daughter did have one, but it, it got lent to a friend who never returned it and. They can always use my machines, I have more than one. [laughs.]

KM: You have more than one sewing machine?

DA: Yes.

KM: How many sewing machines do you have?

DA: I have four.

KM: Four sewing machines.

DA: I have a Janome 6500 which is the Quilters' Edition that is nice. It has the long harp. And I have my workhorse Bernina 930, and I have two Featherweights. I had bought a Featherweight, years ago my sister found it in an antique store and then one day I was driving through Anderson Valley and someone was having a garage sale and they had a Featherweight for five dollars. [laughs.]

KM: They didn't know what they had done, did they?

DA: They sure didn't. And I felt so guilty I gave them twenty. [laughs.]

KM: So do you use your Featherweights?

DA: Nope, no, in fact I think I am going to move them along. I think it is time to move them along. I really, I really mostly use the Janome at this point, but I won't ever get rid of the Bernina, that is a great machine.

KM: I had a 930. They are great workhorses.

DA: Yeah.

KM: Does yours have needle down?

DA: Yes.

KM: I bought mine the year before and they didn't have needle down, so finally when I upgraded. I mean basically I wanted to upgrade, I would still have had my 930 if I had had needle down. I hit the foot pedal. It was just to. It was time to be able to push a button.

DA: I like a lot of those features on the Janome where you can do needle up, needle down with a button and the thread cutter when I'm quilting is wonderful, you don't have to try to reach under there and find the thread that has been really great. At some point I may, I may go up to an even better machine, but at this point that is holding me pretty well.

KM: How much time was between your 930 and your Bernina?

DA: Oh, I bought the 930 when we moved to Berkeley in 1985. In fact that was kind of a gift from Mark really. I had an Elna that didn't have the free arm and took it into the place where I bought the Elna and ended up getting the Bernina for about a thousand dollars, which is still what it sells for. That is pretty good holding its value.

KM: I think that is the only Bernina that really does hold its value that well is the 930.

DA: It is really a wonderful machine.

KM: Tell me, describe your studio, talk about your studio?

DA: It is really a great space. My sewing machine faces a wall, but to the left I can look out a window and I have my bird feeder there, and so I have amusement there. I have my, um, my little stereo that plays CDs and cassettes and I often listen to books on tape, when I am doing mindless work. When I am designing or figuring things out, music works much better. I have a nice old antique oak desk that houses my computer and all my quilt records and files and things like that. My asset to my quilt group is the computer work that I do. I have a website. I won't say I maintain a website, but [laughs.] I did create a website and I think that we are probably going to go to a blog for the quilt group. It is just much easier to work with them.

KM: It is faster to update.

DA: Right. Faster to update and can always link to a website from a blog but I like blogs a lot. I really like the blogs. They are quite fascinating. In my studio, I have a custom made table, all of my tables were made by a local carpenter and we kind of designed them together. I figured out what I wanted and how it worked. My machine sits down in the table and with a nice plastic plate over it, I located a plastic store and figured out, how to have them cut the pattern for my machine and for my second machine, and I can switch machines the way the table works. It is very nicely done. And a big cutting table is quite large, three feet by six feet, and this was a former bedroom so the double closet stores some of my fabric and then some of my fabric is stored in all sorts of nocks and crannies around the house. [laughs.] It is hard to keep it in one place when you have too much, but I really like the room a lot, I spend a ton of time there, and it is around the corner from the kitchen, very convenient. I like being close to the center of the household. I don't think I could have a studio in another building. We have a guest house and I would never put a studio over there, it is just too far away from what's going on. I live in the country, so I am kind of surrounded by redwoods and I have animals, chickens, goats. Keeps me busy and also sort of keep me in touch with the natural world.

KM: Do you think of yourself as an artist or a quiltmaker, or do you even make the distinction?

DA: I struggle with thinking of myself as an artist, you know, inside I don't really think I'm an artist. I'm certainly a quiltmaker. I know that I'm creative, but I don't think I am. I have friends who are artists and I know that they have this burning compulsion to create and they create continually and constantly, and I do not, that description does not describe me. I'm much more thoughtful in my approach, take a lot more time. I do want to do work and do want to create things, but they often don't come from an emotional place, they come from, um, well they come from a joyful place but I tend not to quilt emotions as much as I do color and composition and design. I think I'm more of a designer than an artist.

KM: Do you use your computer to design?

DA: Occasionally. I sometimes use my computer to change images that I want to work with but I don't normally design on the computer.

KM: Do you do sketches, do you do drawings?

DA: I do a lot of my work on my design wall. I just kind of start from there. I'm so visual that I can't, well, I don't see it in my head, I only see it with my eyes so I start on my wall and go from there.

KM: Would you say this quilt is typical of your work?

DA: I think it is. I am beginning to see the work that I do and I can see that my work has its own vocabulary and I think it is color and design. I think it is that. I think I'm very strong also on composition. Another one of my favorite quilts that was a group project, um, we created different blocks every month and we all made the blocks to a certain color formula and at the end of the year we had stacks of ten or eleven blocks of all different patterns and we chose which blocks we wanted to make into a quilt. And, I chose, I knew I was going to, there were two different blocks made of African fabrics. One of the blocks was a New York Beauty, which I really loved and, had to fight Joyce for that one and I lost. [laughs.] So I took the other block, which is this huge twenty-five inch square block, which makes the quilt enormous, it is really a huge quilt. But the challenge that the group had was for us to put our stamp on these quilts. You know, you started with blocks that other people have made and how did you make them your own. And, I had been to Africa the previous year. I had been to Africa while we were doing these blocks in January of 2002, and we chose the blocks in May, and we had agreed, Paula Grey, my artist friend, is the Chair of the Art Department at Mendocino Community College and she also runs the gallery there, and she wanted to do a show of our work. And our challenge was to complete these quilts by August so they could hang in the gallery. So, it was a real race of time to complete the quilts, and because I had been to Africa I began to have an idea, I knew I wanted to have animals on it. We had gone to a game park and I just loved, loved that part of it and other parts of Africa too, the villages and some of the places we had seen, so I managed to incorporate those images in the border of the quilt. And I still see the quilt, even in the border speaks to color and design to me. And, I make a lot of travel quilts. We like to travel and I always feel compelled to do a quilt about where we traveled.

KM: Do you sell your quilts?

DA: I do. I have sold some of my quilts locally. I have produced a few chicken quilts. [laughs.] Farm animals are us. [laughs.] And I actually created a very fun quilt with Provencal fabric from our travels in France. That quilt just sold in a hot second, [laughs] at a local art show in the Valley. There is an art show every year in July and sometimes I'm part of that. I have a quilt there and I donate a lot of quilts to various causes in the Valley, and so they are sold at auction and there are a lot of people that will say, 'Oh I can't wait for the next one, I still don't have a Deanna Apfel quilt. I'm going to get mine.' I usually enter my quilts in the county fair, and all of my friends from all around the county look forward to coming to the fair to finding my quilts and other quilts in my quilt group. It is a very sweet, old time county fair. [laughs.]

KM: Very nice. What aspects of quilting do you not enjoy? Is there any?

DA: The initial getting started. I struggle, that is like this huge hill. Once, once I've gotten started then I'm usually pretty okay. But that, that jelling of the idea for the quilt sometimes I struggle with that. That is one thing that I would like to somehow just get over, it doesn't matter just do it, but I can't quite get that.

KM: How many hours a week do you quilt?

DA: Right now I'm also working with a group of Latina women in the Valley and that involves a lot of my time emotionally if not physical time. But I spend about a day with them and when I'm not with them quilting I'm also kind of helping them find resources, gathering fabric for them, supplies, ordering supplies and things like that. But working with them, and watching how quickly they can jump into quilts, I think is really going to over time change my own quilting. Make me more confident. I see them able to create in front of each other, which I always have a hard time with, I don't do well at retreats if we have to work on a creative project I sort of want to go back in my corner and not let anyone see it until I've perfected it. And, they just absolutely jump in. Someone told them you could throw fabric down and make a picture and they said, 'oh okay, and did it.' They are a wonderful group of women.

KM: How long have you been involved with them?

DA: About a year and a half. A woman in my quilt group started them quilting. She decided, she was going to work with them and their children and problems in the family, and they were not very forthcoming and she decided if they were sewing or doing something with their hands maybe they would start talking more. This how women work. [laughs.] Often times working together we can share, share what is going on in our lives.

KM: And did they do that?

DA: What Susan discovered is that they stopped having so many problems once they started creating quilts. [laughs.] Good therapy. They possibly were not really valued, they were just kind of caregivers and meal makers and when they started creating they started looking at themselves differently and had a different attitude towards themselves and their family--really all of their families are very supportive of their art. They are not always supported of their time away from the family. They are proud of them when they are in shows in the valley, but they, some of the women can travel to shows and some of them can't, you know, depending on their families. It really changed their attitude. Creating has really helped a lot of these women.

KM: Well and they also sell their work, so that has to help also.

DA: Yes it does, but you know, the thing of selling their work is that you realize that you can never be paid very well for your time, because it takes so much time to make a quilt. On the other hand, you know, if you enjoy doing it, you are totally enjoying your work and then you get a reward at the end too. A different one.

KM: So where do you see this quilt group going?

DA: The Hilos?

KM: Yeah, the Hilos.

DA: Los Hilos de la Vida. I think that they are just going to continue to evolve. Some of the women will continue. They do like checking in with class once a week, and I think that this is kind of jelling into a group where some women who are there almost every week. It has been hard to get that sense of the group because some women are there and some women aren't. Some women produce more quilts, some very few, some sell, some don't but I think over time there is going to be kind of a core group. But I think there are some women, and that is exciting to me who are coming into the group. I think that their ability to use sewing machines will get better. I think they are just going to continue to create their quilts.

KM: How many women are in the group? Do you know?

DA: I only know about fifteen women very well. Some kind of--there is a woman that comes from the coast. I was kind of amazed. Well I'm not amazed because Anderson Valley is a really special place and that's another thing that has significantly influenced my work. It is a very, very versatile community--a lot of Hispanics. There are a lot of hippies that came to the Valley during the back to the land movement in the '60s and '70s. There is also a really significant gay population, and an artist population because the area is so beautiful people are drawn to it. And, but with this sense of community, I mean we help each other. When someone is ill there is often a fundraiser, especially for people who don't have that much money, or people who are a significant part of the community, and everyone donates whatever they can, whether it is a load of manure or a quilt or an oil painting or a watercolor. I mean we all jump in and provide whatever we can. In addition, many of us work on other Valley projects, from raising money for the Education Foundation or the Health Center to the land trust to senior housing and affordable housing for people in the Valley, there are a lot of projects continually going on, but its this incredible sense of place and community that I love about living here, and that gives me kind of a sense of purpose and design to my life.

KM: How long have you lived here?

DA: Since 1987. I originally landed in Mendocino County in 1975, and also had land and vineyard over there and a cow. I milked a cow with my neighbor, one of us on each side. We did that for about five years, and then I went through a divorce and went back to school, moved to San Francisco, got my BS in accounting, but came back before I finished my degree, came back for the county fair. My daughter had been to the fair every year, she was six years old at that point, and I went with a friend who was an ER doctor and she had a little girl she eventually adopted. And we went with our little girls and went to the fair, and while we were at the fair our girls were on the Merry-Go-Round and this man walked by, and he remembered Jamie and he stopped to say hello to her and she introduced us and she thought that we knew each other because we both had been part of the medical community, but we had never met, though we had heard of each other, and one look and it was love at first sight. [laughs.] Right by the Merry-Go-Round at the Mendocino county fair. [laughs.] So that is what eventually brought me to Anderson Valley.

KM: And you are going to stay here?

DA: Oh yeah. [laughs.] My ashes will be here I'm sure.

KM: Wonderful. Let's talk a little bit more about why quilting is important to you. A little bit more about that.

DA: I think it goes back to living here in community, I talked about that, giving me a sense of purpose, but I think quiltmaking does too, an identity. It definitely is my identity and it is interesting that people around the Valley identify me that way also. I'm more identified often times as that, as Deanna makes these fabulous quilts then as anything else. That is a more important identify to me for sure. [laughs.]

KM: I think that is fabulous. I really do. Do you sleep under a quilt?

DA: No. No. I've found that I really like feather quilts because you can sleep under them year round. And also because we sleep with our windows open year round and it gets pretty cold in the winter time and a feather quilt is much more effective warmth, especially if you are sleeping with another warm body then a quilt would be. So, yes I sleep under a feather quilt.

KM: Is this is a typical size? What are the ranges of the size of your quilts?

DA: I've occasionally made for friends larger quilts that are more kind of bed quilts or, I should say couch quilts, you know the kind you would keep on your couch and snuggle under so those are more sort of double bed size, um eighty to ninety inches square usually inches square. But I really prefer working on that fifty or sixty inch quilt. That's a good size.

KM: Why square?

DA: Not for wallhangings, not necessarily square. The bigger quilts are easier square because they are blocks, and for a bed or couch, square seems best. On the other quilts I don't necessarily make them square, forty by sixty or 40 by 50. Basically that is my size, forty by sixty by whatever, you know, depending on what you are putting together.

KM: In what ways do you think quilts have special meaning for women's history?

DA: I think that most of us have in our backgrounds someone who sewed, someone who put needle to fabric. It is not true as true anymore unfortunately. Many of my friends do not sew. They may have a machine they got from their mother, but it's rarely used. I think for my grandmother certainly and for my friends' mothers and grandmothers, sewing was a necessity. You didn't have cheap clothing back then and clothing was expensive so you made it yourself, and I think that we can relate to quilts just from that aspect of memory and the tactile nature of the softness. Whenever a quilt is hanging people immediately go toward it with their hands. [laughs.] Can't keep their hands off quilts. People are not drawn to artwork in the same way. You know that is much more stand back and contemplate, and quilts are much more understandable on a visceral level.

KM: Do you think your group views what they are doing as art?

DA: The Hilos?

KM: Yeah the Hilos, do they view it as art?

DA: I think they do, because they are not drawn to make patchwork, yet..

KM: That was my next question. I wanted to know what they thought of making pretty little squares together and sewing them.

DA: I think they kind of think that was nuts. [laughs.] They actually, one woman is making a baby quilt. She is pregnant and due in a couple of months and she just kind of walked in the class and said she wanted to make a baby quilt.

KM: Was that the first?

DA: That was the first woman who suggested making a quilt. She didn't want to make a picture, she just wanted to make a quilt for her baby.

KM: So is it squares?

DA: Well, she had never sewn, so I thought, 'okay how are we going to do this?' So I told her to pick out some fabrics and then I cut strips and I told her to sew them together and when you need more fabric just add more to it and then when, when it is the right size you are done. So she did, she just did it. It is very much sort of a Gee's Bend. She added strips. Picked out all the fabrics that she thought would go together nicely and then we picked out a back fabric, and now she's quilting it. We talked about whether she wanted to, she didn't want to hand quilt it of course, but rather she wanted to tie it or machine quilt it. I said that if she was up for it, machine quilting would hold up better over time, so that's what she is doing. She is just doing it with a walking foot straight lines. And I haven't seen it lately, so I'm curious as to how far she has gotten, but that is going to be very fun to see the first quilt that comes out of the group. We have done some other group projects, rather than individual projects, they contributed squares. I want to show you that. The problem we have is when they are working on the squares that they are contributing for a quilt project they tend to come in slowly so it is really hard to get the whole quilt put together and completed but we did one when Katrina happened. I thought they might like to contribute something to the larger community. We never ended up sending the Katrina quilt off to any of the Katrina victims because the quilt is composed of sort of little art picture squares, which can't be washed, it is not something that you would sleep under. I think what we will end up doing is donating it to a fundraiser or auction of some kind. Molly will discuss with them which valley fundraiser to give it to..

KM: So who is Molly?

DA: Molly is the Even Start teacher at the Adult School, who also helped and keeps going Los Hilos de la Vida. She is a dynamo. She has gotten this little quilt group into shows all over California really and she is making connections and people want to hang their quilts in Washington, Colorado, and all over the place. So it would be up to Molly to talk to the group and find out whether they want to donate this quilt. I did a lot of the work on it, because I did the machine quilting, but we are also in the process of doing some other squares. They have donated squares for a quilt for Barbara Goodell who taught at the adult school who most of the women took classes from in English. They take English classes, they take business classes, there is going to be an exercise class, so these are all for Latina women. Some of the classes are open to others as well, Spanish is taught through the adult school too. Anyway they contributed squares for a quilt for Barbara with all of these charming little pictures of Barbara holding vegetables. Barbara started a group that created a salsa book that has become fairly famous. It is "The Secrets of Salsa," and these women are called Las Salsitas and they go around to farmers' markets around here and make these fabulous salsas and sell their cookbook. They will also make the cookbook is sold on Amazon. It is a wonderful book. So they contributed their squares for Barbara and as soon as I get that put together, I'm going to ask each one of them to quilt their individual square. I think group projects are good for everyone. They are working on another one to hang in the district office of the little squares that they have created that speak to school issues.

KM: They are producing a book?

DA: They are producing a book about their art quilts. These quilts really, really do come from their heart. There are stories of their lives; a lot of them are terrible, dangerous border crossings. They are so aware of people dying. Many of them have crossed the border. I know a woman who went home for a visit, then spent six months in Mexico because she couldn't get back across the border. They had to pay the Coyotes, these are the men that smuggle them over the border, fifteen hundred dollars, and that didn't even get her all the way to Northern California. So their work comes from a very emotional background.

KM: What else is in the book?

DA: The book is their quilts and their stories. One of the things that Molly has them do and part of the English component to the class is that they have to write a story about their quilt. Then Molly helps them with the English or for some of them, they write it themselves. And they work on the story in Spanish too.

KM: Tell me a little bit about the film, because also there is a film being made.

DA: There is a film being made. Lee Serrie worked on a film of the Secrets of Salsa group, which shows them making their salsa and just describes Anderson Valley and how that whole group started. In fact there is a scene in that DVD that was shot in my vegetable garden, because I have a big organic vegetable garden. But Lee has been photographing these women in class, at show openings, at farmers markets where their quilts hang, she has photographed them with Karen [laughs.] doing interviews and eventually she is going to put that together into a very wonderful movie about this group.

KM: The group is going to get famous really soon.

DA: I think so. [laughs.]

KM: Pretty soon it will be launched really far into the world.

DA: I'm amazed that there aren't more groups like this. I almost feel like Molly could write a manual you know for some of these adult schools that do deal with refugees. It doesn't have to be Latinas, you know it could be any women with stories to tell, but forming a group that then can get their work out there into shows and share their cultures.

KM: Good. Well, believe it or not we are just about out of time, so before the tape goes clunk, I want to thank you for allowing me to interview you, but also being a guest in your home.

DA: Thank you Karen.

KM: Thanks so much, I am going to conclude my interview at 9:14.


“Deanna Apfel,” Quilters' S.O.S. -- Save Our Stories, accessed June 16, 2024,