Naomi Adams




Naomi Adams


Naomi Adams learned how to sew from her mother, and first learned quilting from her grandmother. She made her first quilt in 1996, and is now a quilt teacher as well as an interior designer, and caregiver. While her background was based in hand quilting she prefers machine quilting in order to quickly finish her projects. Adams considers herself to be an art quilter, and focuses on artistic nature and social messages in her own quilts.




Christine Sparta


Naomi Adams


Karen Musgrave

Interview Date


Interview sponsor

Lydia Donihe


Round Rock, Texas


Karen Musgrave


**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): I am conducting a Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories interview with Naomi Adams for the Alzheimer's Forgetting Piece by Piece Q.S.O.S. Since Naomi lives in Round Rock, Texas and I live in the Naperville, Illinois, we are conducting this interview by e-mail. Naomi thanks so much for taking time to do this interview with me. Please tell me about your quilt "Lost Moments."

Naomi Adams (NA): My quilt, "Lost Moments," is a piece I created based on experiences I had as a caregiver for a client with Alzheimer's disease. I have worked with many clients with Alzheimer's disease, but I decided to focus on one memorable relationship. When I look at my quilt, I think of him and smile. My quilt was created specifically for Ami Simms' exhibit, "Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece." This is an exhibit of 52 extraordinary art quilts about Alzheimer's disease that is traveling throughout the United States until October 2010. Ami chose some artists to create quilts and put out a call for entries to jury in the rest of the quilts for the exhibit. My quilt was juried in, and I'm pretty sure Ami chose it based on my artist's statement. My quilt needs a little explanation for viewers to understand the connection. Here is my artist's statement for "Lost Moments": 'My quilt is based on my experience working as a caregiver for a client with Alzheimer's disease. As the disease progressed, confusion set in and his abilities deteriorated. He also became unable to communicate. Often I was unsure of the best way to help him. Together, we were lost.' I found myself saying, 'Let's try this today and see how it goes. We'll take it one day at a time.' His lime green Special Olympics t-shirt appeared to provide familiarity and comfort in a sea of uncertainty. The only way he would change into clean clothes was to offer him yet another clean lime green Special Olympics t-shirt. Being a caregiver was very repetitive and often tedious, doing the same tasks over and over every day. It was exhausting for us to get through a day, much less to face a tomorrow. The present day was all that was manageable, making it through the 24 hours. I chose an orderly, pieced pattern of 1440, one inch, blocks to signify the 1440 minutes in a day. This represents the repetition of his care, taking it one day, even one minute at a time. The grid of squares echoes how a rigid daily routine can give a sense of familiarity for a client. I created a design that symbolizes characteristics of my caregiving experience. It was often repetitive, tedious, time consuming, yet a rewarding process. My fabric selection includes several black and white patterned fabrics and a black solid to make a high contrast base. This forms a sea of darkness with disjointed prints that the viewer becomes easily lost in, just as my client and I were lost. It almost hurts and fatigues the viewer's eyes to look at the quilt, their brain wanting to focus and find a sense of order. Indeed it is difficult to focus on the pain and loss represented by Alzheimer's disease and hard to make sense of why it happens. I chose a black border to represent being boxed in and controlled by the disease. The scattered lime green blocks represent my client's t-shirt that provided moments of comfort and solace in his day, and hope for me that tomorrow would be easier and he would have more moments of clarity and peace. It was a pleasure to serve this client, and this quilt is dedicated to my client and to all the caregivers who work tirelessly and often with no respite. This quilt was created with cotton fabrics and cotton/poly batting, polyester top stitching thread, all purpose cotton/polyester thread, and cotton embroidery thread. The quilt was machine pieced, machine quilted and hand tied.

KM: How did you feel when your quilt was accepted into the exhibit?

NA: I was very honored and excited to have my quilt included in the "Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece" exhibit! I made "Lost Moments" specifically for this exhibit, and I really wanted it to be shown with the other quilts to help tell the story of how Alzheimer's disease has affected our lives and culture. It was therapeutic for me to make this piece. I hoped that it would also be helpful for others to experience the story I had to tell. I work for a non-profit, and I see how powerful it can be for people to know that others have been through a similar experience. It is less isolating to know that others struggle with the responsibility of being a caregiver, or that others have also lost their loved ones to this disease. I had no idea that this project would snowball into participation in so much advocacy and other opportunities to give my time after I mailed my quilt away. Most art quilt exhibits are simple. You get in, you mail your quilt away, and it sells or comes back to you. Since 2006, the artist's who contributed quilts have been invited to participate in so many other ways! I'm on the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative Honor Roll for lots of fun things besides having a quilt in the traveling exhibit.

KM: You said that you thought it was your artist statement that got you in; tell me why you feel that way?

NA: Ami [Simms, curator.] wanted quilts with visually strong stories or moving artist's statements. My quilt, with its 1440 one-inch squares, is not one of the quilts in the exhibit that you "get" with one look. I think it is powerful once you read the artist's statement and the symbolism involved in my design choices. It needs a little storytelling to describe that each square represents one minute of exhausting care in each day. And the quilt makes more sense when you know that the lime green and black colors represent the only clothes that didn't disorient my client. I'm so happy Ami took the risk of publishing the book. It allows people the chance to read the stories of each piece of artwork in their own time.

KM: Tell me about your involvement with the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative.

NA: I have been fortunate enough to be involved in the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative in many ways. So many ways in fact that I'm sure I will forget something! To date, I have donated 24 Priority: Alzheimer's Quilts or Little Treasures quilts for auction for Alzheimer's research. I have also made the $1000 Promise, pledging to provide enough Priority: Alzheimer's Quilts to raise $1000 for research by June 2009. I was delighted to be an on-site volunteer coordinator for the Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece exhibit at the Dallas Quilt Guild show in March 2007. I was able to see the exhibit in person and all the people who were so moved by the quilts. I have talked to my quilt guild about how they can get involved in the AAQI so many times during show and tell that they know it's coming! Because my quilt, "Lost Moments," is in the traveling exhibit, I have recorded my audio statement for use on the CD. I have encouraged friends and family to purchase Priority: Alzheimer's Quilts and the "Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece" book. I have been honored to find out that many of them now have my little quilts in their possession. I created several free fabric postcard patterns for the AAQI, to help those who didn't feel that they could design their own art quilt for the project. This last week, my sister and her kiddos made fabric postcards to donate to the cause. I can't wait to bid on them!

KM: Tell me about your experience recording your artist statement for the CD.

NA: Well, if I had been able to rewrite my artist's statement to remove the word "tirelessly", I sure would have. I tripped over the word every time I recorded and re-recorded it. It was very nerve wracking to know that my spoken word was going to be heard by others, and not just on a temporary voice mail, but for history. I was definitely relieved to complete the task at hand, but of course happy to help.

KM: What are you plans for "Lost Moments" when it is returned to you?

NA: Well, I would love to see it tour or be in the public eye for as long as possible, as it was created for that purpose. When it does come home, I know my husband and I will hang it and really enjoy it. The quilt was finished for such a short time before it got shipped away. It will be nice to live with it. My husband also worked with the client that I made the quilt about, and I think I can speak for him in the sense that it also stimulates memories of the work that he did with that client.

KM: Tell me your impressions of the exhibit. Do you have any particular favorites?

NA: The exhibit is amazing. I think the quilts are so impressive and moving as a collection. However, there are four quilts that I particularly love to view over and over. I don't think it's because they are all near my quilt in the layout of the exhibition and they all have red in them, but who knows. Ann Louise Mullard-Pugh's quilt "Shattered Memories, Shattered Lives" is just a beautiful piece. It is so impressive in its layout, colors, and visual impact. Alzheimer's disease seems to "break" so many things, that it works for me on many levels. I also love your (Karen Musgrave) quilt "Shattered." The red shattered hands/arms in the center and the beige hands/arms grasping for help are telling of how Alzheimer's disease puts such a strain on relationships and leaves us feeling lost. I like how the caregiver or loved ones hands are a similar value to the background, representing to me how caregivers and loved ones feel powerless to help and that their efforts go unnoticed. This quilt has strong visual appeal to me. I feel that I can be connected to its strength immediately upon viewing it. Liz Kettle's quilt, "Tears of...", I love for how the visual impact changes as you view it from different distances. The red beads beautifully drip from the heart on a powerful black background with subtle red stitching. You see more and more detail of how the heart is bleeding or crying as you get closer to the quilt, which is symbolic of how tragic Alzheimer's disease continues to become as it progresses or as you become closer to a person with the disease. It is phenomenal to see this one in person. Lastly, I enjoy Ami Simms' quilt "Underlying Current" because of the subtle text of so many of the things that her Mom said as the disease progressed. The text is softly printed on the house and all over the quilt. This one is also amazing to experience in person and invest time in reading the text on the quilt.

KM: Thanks so much for your kind words about my quilt. Tell me about your interest in quiltmaking. When did you begin?

NA: Well, I guess the foundation is that my Mom taught me how to sew at a young age (as her Mom did for her). My Mom made all of my Sunday dresses and is a very talented seamstress, but she is decidedly not a quilter. I think that I have always had a soft spot in my heart for quilts, simply because of one quilt. It only takes one! My grandmother hand pieced and quilted a quilt for me that I slept under during most of my childhood. It is one of my most valuable possessions. I made my first quilt in 1996, and I am always delighted to tell frustrated beginner quilters that it is a disaster of a quilt! I am keeping it forever as a reminder of where I started. I began really committing a bulk of my creative time to art quilting in 1999 when I finished my bachelor of arts in interior design. I found out quickly that the design work I completed at my day job did not fulfill my need to create. I really love the whole process of art quilting, but my favorite part is the design decisions. I know this is a big part of why I am a machine quilter. I want to finish the project as fast as possible and move right on to the uncomfortable and exciting design phase of the next project!

KM: How many hours a week do you quilt?

NA: As many as I can! I started keeping a very official log this year to track studio time and administrative time as it relates to my quilting business. On average, I have been spending about 10-20 hours a week in the studio and 10 hours a week on administrative duties. It usually ebbs and flows due to deadlines and how many other social activities I need to attend to.

KM: You talked about your husband appreciating "Lost Moments." How does quiltmaking impact your family?

NA: My husband is hands down my biggest fan! He is super supportive and amazing. He often tells me that it makes his life better to have art constantly being created in our home. Our family life is very intertwined with my quilting. Right now our dining room table is covered with quilting. Last week, the kitchen counters were covered with fabric I had painted. We spend a lot of time conversing about it, because I like to hear his feedback about works in progress. We certainly make sacrifices and choices to spend money and time and space on my art quilting, which is amazing. My husband and I sleep in one of our little bedrooms, so that I can have the master bedroom for my studio. It is great. There is a lot of dog and cat hair in my studio, because our animals love to spend time with me there. My extended family and friends are also impacted and very supportive! One of my sisters is a sewer and quilter and my other sister is a sewer as well. We all love fabric and it is definitely a common interest. My first sewing machine was given to me by a friend, and the Bernina I now have my grandmother just passed down to me last year. Another friend is fabricating a special quilting table for me. Our friends and family kindly listen to me talk about current projects and offer support and help.

KM: Tell me about Killer Bee Designs.

NA: Killer Bee Designs is the name of my quilting business. My goal is to become a full time quilt artist and teacher, and my business is helping me get to this goal. It encompasses a lot of things. Right now I am working on marketing myself as a traveling art quilting teacher. I love teaching (I do it in my day job) and think education is a life enricher. I have also made quilting/sewing patterns, purses, business card holders, wine bottle carriers, and fabric postcards for sale. While I am moving away from selling "products", I sell them as part of my Killer Bee Designs business on I have a new blog this year, and I am listing my current artwork for sale on my website. We came up with the name Killer Bee Designs because I wanted a fun, edgy name to peak the interest of other young quilters to keep the industry growing and evolving. Aside from Jane Sassaman and myself, I don't think a lot of quilters have a skull quilt hanging in their living room!

KM: Whose works are you drawn to and why?

NA: I spend time thinking about this question pretty often, because I think it helps me identify how to focus my own work. If we're talking about art quilters, here are just a few artist's work that I love. Jane Sassaman's work is so amazingly unique, organic, and free. My work will always have a lot of structure to it because of who I am, but I love to learn from the freedom and beauty of her work. We are both influenced by decorative arts which draws me to her work as well. I also enjoy Kathy York's and Pam Rubert's work because they are both so whimsical, joyful, colorful, and full of life. I am drawn to the bright colors and vivaciousness of their work. I am interested in Jeanne Williamson's and Lisa Call's work in part because of their intense dedication to series work and their processes, but also because of the structured and linear qualities of their work. If we're talking about art in general, there are too many artists to list. I love abstract art. I also love Margaret and Charles Mackintosh. They designed furniture, interiors, and textiles together and had amazing talent for patterning and style. I am drawn to the organic nature of their work within linear confines, as well as the ease and simplicity of their work.

KM: You mentioned being drawn to series work. Do you work in series? Is "Lost Moments" typical of your work?

NA: I have not technically worked in a series yet. I have had some pretty intense needs to try out lots of different ideas and define where it is I want to go with my work. I definitely work with similar themes repeatedly, like abstracted trees and leaves or simple shapes. I am currently formulating and refining an idea in my sketchbook about a small format series, but I haven't started it yet.

KM: Is "Lost Moments" typical of your work?

NA: My work has changed a lot in my opinion since I made "Lost Moments", but it certainly is recognizable as mine. I love black and white prints, batiks, and a sense of order, regularity, and simplicity in my work. These themes are definitely evident in this piece.

KM: Do you belong to any art or quilt groups? How are they important to you?

NA: Yes, I belong to a Fiber Arts Bee that is a segment of our Austin Area Quilt Guild. I learn things all the time from the members in the group. Each person does very different work, and I love to learn new techniques or have my work seen with fresh eyes. I think it's important for all artist's to have supporters, and it's fun to talk with someone who knows why you might be searching the world over for the perfect 12 weight thread! I also think quilting groups are important because this is how quilters and women have been supporting each other for years. Women have long come together to quilt for those who have experience loss or joy. I think service projects are an important part of the heritage of quilting and these groups often perpetuate that past. As a feminist, it is sometimes weird to see that I have chosen such women-dominated fields to be involved in (interior design, quilting, and social work) but this is where I have chosen to be and I'm happy with the work.

KM: Do you consider yourself more as an artist or a quiltmaker or do you even make a distinction?

NA: I consider myself a textile artist or an art quilter. If I say that I'm a quiltmaker, there is an assumption that I create traditional bed quilts. But actually, I don't have a single bed with a quilt on it in my house. They are all on the walls. I find that if I tell someone that I am a textile artist or art quilter, then they will ask a few more questions to understand a bit better what I create. There's certainly a lot of discussion about how to increase acceptance of textile art in the art world, some of which is related to how we address ourselves and our work.

KM: How does being a feminist influence your work?

NA: I think that everything I do is influenced in some way by my desire for equality for everyone in our society. However, I wouldn't designate my artwork "feminist art". Certainly some pieces I have created, like "Lost Moments," have a specific social message, and I am working on other pieces with social messages. I am not sure if they are planning on holding the "Quilts for Change" show in the future, but I would love to make a piece for that show that speaks about violence against women in our society. The feminist movement has definitely changed all areas of art making, in making the message matter as much as the medium.

KM: Since we're talking about making quilts for causes, you participated in the exhibit that I curated "Put a Roof Over Our Head" for The Alliance for American Quilts so I'd love to hear your thoughts on that experience. What made you want to participate? Tell me about your house quilt.

NA: I was excited that the "Put a Roof Over Our Head" quilts were being used for the promotion of documenting our quilting history! The format was unusual: a "house" shaped quilt. My quilt "Fun House" was one of the last quilts I have made using a design from someone else, but it was just so perfect. The circus tent block from Kaffe Fasset's book "Glorious Patchwork" was also the same "house" shape of the quilt and was delightfully perfect. At the top of the quilt, I used a block that created a feeling of a stained glass window and created a focal point. I used tons of black and white print fabrics and bold purples, oranges, and reds. The bright colors and bold textures were chosen because I love them in my home, but they do end up making my house look like a fun house! This quilt exhibit traveled to several venues in the United States, and last year the quilts were auctioned on eBay to raise money for The Alliance for American Quilts. I hope the buyer of "Fun House" enjoys it!

KM: Me too! What advise would you offer someone starting out?

NA: It's okay not to follow the rules. Run with scissors! Take chances in your artwork and explore new ideas. You might stumble onto something even more exciting than what you had planned or imagined. I try to keep my eyes peeled for inspiration for new works and to document those thoughts in my sketchbook. You never know where you might find inspiration and ideas. It might be at a class, an art exhibit, on a walk, or in your own backyard. Also, labeling your quilts and getting them appraised is well worth it!

KM: Let's move into discussing aesthetics, craftsmanship and design. What do you think makes a great quilt?

NA: For me, powerful design and attention to details are paramount in a great quilt. I happen to obsess a bit over the details in my own work. I really want it to say what I intended it to say. In design school, it was always sad to see a phenomenal idea poorly executed. I never want that for my work. I'll rip stitches out for days to avoid it. I mean first, I'll argue with myself about it. But then I'll rip stitches out for days. In fact, I did that with "Lost Moments". On the other side of the coin, when I see a piece with amazing design that is well executed, I'm really excited for that artist. What an accomplishment.

KM: What makes a great quiltmaker?

NA: Someone who creates quilts with great design and craftsmanship. It doesn't have to be other people's vision of craftsmanship. It could just be whatever aesthetics are true to that piece or that artist's way of working.
KM: Do you find that you are a process or product driven person?

NA: I am extremely product driven. My art goals and task lists are housed in a detailed excel spreadsheet. I want to check it off my list, hang it, and enjoy the finished piece. That being said, I love the process. I love the messiness and uncertainty at the beginning of the creative process. I also love that the piece may not turn out at all like I initially planned. Right now I have almost finished a piece that I had a very clear design established at the beginning. In my head and goal spreadsheet, I was calling it the "Red Leaves" quilt. There are no red leaves on the quilt now. In fact, the design, fabrics, and color all changed in this piece by the end. At this point in time, I work on one large piece at a time. I immerse myself in that piece. As I get near the end of the project and I am doing routine things like quilting stitches, I consciously work out ideas for the next piece.

KM: What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today?

NA: I think a very large challenge is continuing the legacy of quilt making with further generations. Quilting skills are those that have often been taught informally or in alternative teaching settings. We need to continue to provide places for this to happen for those that want to learn!

KM: Before we end our time together, is there anything else that you would like to share?

NA: I would love to express my thanks to Ami Simms for the opportunity to be involved in the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative. Ami is truly a force of nature and an amazing community organizer. Karen, my gratitude goes out to you for taking so much of your time and energy to document this project for The Alliance for American Quilts!

KM: Naomi, you are more than welcome. Thanks again for sharing with me. Our interview concluded on February 19, 2008.


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