Interview with Ami Simms, December 4, 2007

Quilt Alliance
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00:00:00 - About the touchstone quilt

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Partial Transcript: This is Karen Musgrave, I'm doing a Quilter's S.O.S. - Save Our Stories interview with Ami Simms. Today's date is December, 5th, 4th, I've already screwed up the tape. 2007, we're in Naperville, Illinois.

Segment Synopsis: Simms talks about her touchstone quilt, which was displayed in the Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece" exhibit, and shows the progression of her mother's Alzheimer's disease. She describes the appearance of the quilt Simms expresses her concerns about getting Alzheimer's herself. The quilt both expresses these anxieties and reflects "everyday interactions." Simms also addresses the emotional wear and tear of caretaking, as well as the difficulty of making the choice to place her mother in a facility..

Keywords: Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece; Techniques

Subjects: Alzheimer's disease

00:07:57 - Process of putting touchstone quilt together

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Partial Transcript: So how did you come about, um, putting the exhibition together, the Alzheimer's: Piece by Piece.

Segment Synopsis: When asked if she had made the quilt first and then start working on the exhibit, Simms says that her quilt was probably the last one in. When she did make it, she experienced extreme pressure, because the other quilts were "incredible." Simms did have the idea for the quilt and do a sketch of it the same day her mother went into her facility, but the rest of the process was very difficult,

Keywords: Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece; quiltmaking process

00:09:43 - Brief description of exhibition / Exhibition jurying process

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Partial Transcript: So tell me a little bit more about the exhibition?

Segment Synopsis: Simms describes the exhibit as consisting of fifty-two quilts, which had been created, by her count, by fifty-four artists. Simms invited a number of people she knew to show quilts in the exhibit, based on her familiarity with them and the quilts they made. Based on their reputations. Simms was able to make arrangements with six venues to show the exhibition, even though at that point none of the quilts had yet been made. The other quilts were "juried in," with Simms making the choice based on whether the quilt "at first glance, knocked me off," or, failing that, if the artist's statement was compelling.

Keywords: Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece; Quilt shows/exhibitions

Subjects: Alzheimer's disease

00:12:56 - Appreciation for contributors of quilts to the exhibit

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Partial Transcript: I have the highest regard for the people who have contributed quilts, not just because I share the pain that' they're going through, having had a loved one, in most cases, not all, with this disease, but the fact that they were willing to jump through my hoops for this, and there were plenty of hoops, they loaned their quilts for a period of three years, which is a long time, they did so without any compensation whatsoever, and, then furthermore, even when the book came out, they didn't even get a complimentary copy, Simms is very proud of the quilt contributors.

Segment Synopsis: Simms expresses, in detail, her appreciation for the other quilters who took park in the exhibit. . .

Keywords: Gratitude; Quilt Purpose - Charity; Quilt Purpose - Exhibition; Quilt shows/exhibitions

00:14:06 - Exhibit (basics of how it is displayed, educational purpose, and emotional impact)

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Partial Transcript: So, basically these quilts, travel around to different venues, mostly quilt shows, but now we're getting into some other areas, into, um, medical facilities, uh, retirement communities, sort of outside the quilting world.

Segment Synopsis: The quilt exhibition travels and is shown at various venues. The purpose of the quilts is to educate people about what it is like when someone close to you has Alzheimer's Disease. Some of them also educate people about what it is like to have Alzheimer's. Simms believe that the quilts are very good at these tasks. Simms also describes the emotional impact of the quilts on their audience.

Subjects: Quilts--United States--Exhibitions

00:16:40 - Priority Alzheimer's Quilts

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Partial Transcript: So, tell me about what else that you're doing with quilts, and the cause of Alzheimer's?

Segment Synopsis: Simms talks about Priority Alzheimer's Quilts, a sister project to the Alzheimer's Art Quilts Initiative. They are small quilts donated for auctions to raise money for Alzheimer's research. Since the beginning of the project, less than two years prior, more than 2,000 quilts have been donated. A new initiative, the Thousand Dollar Promise has more than 40 quilters who have committed themselves to making enough quilts to raise $1,000.

Keywords: Alzheimer's Art Quilts Initiative; Priority: Alzheimer's Quilt Challenge; Quilt Purpose - Fundraising; Thousand Dollar Promise

00:20:42 - Next steps (projected end date for exhibit and applying for non-profit status)

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Partial Transcript: So how long are you going to take this? How far are you going to take this?

Segment Synopsis: The Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece project started in January, 2006 and has a projected end date of July, 2009. Simms is applying for non-profit status, in order to keep going with the Alzheimer's Art Quilts Initiative, which she hopes will not only keep going, but will get larger. she hopes to create a charity that operates the way she thinks a charity ought to,

Keywords: Alzheimer's Arts Quilts Initiative; Charitable organization

00:24:10 - How became interested in quilting (including early sewing experiences and exposure to quilting while doing anthropological fieldwork)

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Partial Transcript: Let's, let's talk about, how you got involved in, in making quilts, and your, where, when you started.

Segment Synopsis: Simms says that she began sewing and using her mother's sewing machine early age. At around age ten, she made a number of outfits, starting with an elaborate Superman suit, for a very unappreciative cat. Simms's first major exposure to quilting came when she did six months of fieldwork for an anthropology senior thesis on the Old Order Amish. She attended a quilting bee, and was asked if she wanted to participate. She really enjoyed the experience and wanted to repeat it. She has been quilting since then.

Keywords: Anthropology fieldwork; Clothes for cat; Old Order Amish; Quilting

00:28:15 - When and how Simms became a professional quilter / Teaching

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Partial Transcript: So when did you become a professional, quilter?

Segment Synopsis: When asked when she became a professional quiltmaker, Simms could not pin down an exact date, but thought it was relatively soon after her 1977 marriage. She thinks that starting to teach marks the beginning of her professional quilting career. Simms fell into teaching by accident, After her first speaking engagement, Simms began to get other invitations, with information about her speaking spreading by word of mouth.

Keywords: Professional quiltmakers; Teaching

00:29:51 - Favorite parts of quilting

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Partial Transcript: What's your favorite part? What's your favorite part of quiltmaking?

Segment Synopsis: The things that Simms dislikes about quilting are the flip side of things she likes about quilting. Simms acknowledges that some aspects of quilting bore her. At the time of the interview, she has had little opportunity to quilt recently and experiences her desire to quilt as a strong need. Quilting lends itself to individual interpretation and there are multiple directions in which to take quilting. There is, according to Simms, no reason for a quilter to be bored. Simms says she has some project in process at all times.

00:33:11 - Balancing time and projects

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Partial Transcript: So how do you balance your time?

Segment Synopsis: Simms says that she is not good at balancing her time, and wishes she were better at it. She has been doing too much and needs to let go of some things.

Keywords: Balancing projects; Time management

00:34:35 - Worst Quilt in the World Contest

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Partial Transcript: Tell me about the worst quilt contest.

Segment Synopsis: Simms recounts that she created a parody of an entry form for a quilt show, but once she had done that, she wondered if a contest for the worst quilt was feasible. This developed into the Worst Quilt in the World Contest. Some people made quilts just to enter in this contest,. Simms remembers it as a fun project, even down to watching people laugh as they read the entry form. She eventually had to refuse to accept any additional entries.

Keywords: Parody; Quilt shows/exhibitions; Worst Quilt in the World Contest

00:38:18 - Similarities and differences of style of touchstone quilt to usual quilting style

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Partial Transcript: Well, okay, we-, believe it or not I don't have that much amount of time left, because So I want to go back to your quilt. Is this, if someone were to look at this, would they say, "This is a-, an Ami Simms quilt." Is it typical of your work?

Segment Synopsis: Simms says she does not believe that the touchstone quilt for this interview is typical of her work. It does not use the colors she would normally use. She thought, however, that the note of humor incorporated into the quilt is typical of her style. She adds that she would like to think that the "wonderful technique and fine stitching" are also typical. Simms discusses one of the more unusual techniques that she used.

Keywords: Quilting

Subjects: Techniques

00:40:21 - Style

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Partial Transcript: So what would you say the typical Ami Simms quilt?

Segment Synopsis: Simms describes her typical quilt as "loud, bright" and somewhat whimsical. She has worked in a number of different quilting styles. Someone told Simms that artists need to have a specific, recognizable style, and she reacted quite strongly to that advice. She suggests that perhaps she does not identify as an artist. Simms does, however, enjoy making quilts and the work she may have done last year is not relevant to what she is doing now. She veers off in too many different directions to ever develop a lifelong style.

Keywords: Quiltmaking style

00:41:57 - Art and artists

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Partial Transcript: But you don't consider yourself an artist?

Segment Synopsis: Under further questioning from the interviewer, Simms (in contrast to what she said in the last segment) admits that perhaps she actually does think of herself as an artist. She says that defining what an artist is difficult. Simms says, "To me art is something that elicits an emotional response in the viewer." She distinguishes between quilts meant to move the viewer and quilts made for her own amusement. Depending on which she is doing, she says, "At times I am an artist. At other times, I'm just having fun."

Keywords: Quilt Purpose - Artistic expression; Quilt Purpose - Personal enjoyment

00:43:02 - Different roles in quilting community / Passion as a necessary driver of projects

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Partial Transcript: So, you, you teach? You lecture? You write? You make quilts?

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer goes through a list of roles or tasks that Simms has undertaken in the quilting community. Simms affirms that she has done them and adds more roles to the list. When asked which role she likes the most, Simms replies, "I must like them all, otherwise I wouldn't do them." Simms describes the need for passion to drive what one does. She has experimented with a number of other crafts, but was not good at them and did not stick with them. She has retained her interest in quilting, on the other hand, for at least three decades.

Subjects: Quilting

00:44:57 - Expressions of gratitude

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Partial Transcript: Um, is there anything else that you would, like to share, before we close.

Segment Synopsis: Simms thanks the quilters who participated in the "Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece" project. She speaks about having seen the same quilts multiple times in the different venues, and still responding to them emotionally every time. Similarly, she cries, when she photographs new Priority Alzheimer's quilts and looks at the dedications. She also says she is "indebted forever" to the Amish women who taught her to quilt.