Interview with Gay Ousley, February 12, 2008

Quilt Alliance
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Index
00:00:00 - Quilt for Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece exhibit

Play segment

Partial Transcript: This is Karen Musgrove. I am doing a Quilter's S.O.S. - Save our Stories interview with Gay Ousley. And she is in Montrose, Colorado, and I'm in Napervile, Illinois, so this interview is being conducted over the telephone.

Segment Synopsis: Upon reading Ami Simms's call for quilt entries, Ousley says that she knew she needed to make a quilt for it, but that it would be very hard. She discusses in detail the process of making her quilt, "She's Come Undone." The design was based on her mother's experience with Alzheimer's. When the quilt was accepted for the exhibit, Ousley felt a complicated range of emotions.

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

Subjects: Alzheimer's disease

00:05:02 - Personal plans for her quilt / Long-term plans for the exhibit

Play segment

Partial Transcript: What are your plans, um, for the quilt once it comes back?

Segment Synopsis: Ousley says that she is not sure what she will do with her quilt in the long-term. On the one hand, she does not think it is appropriate to display it at home, but, on the other hand, she does not expect to dispose of it. She expresses hope that the exhibit will be ongoing for a while. She points out that the total time for the exhibit has already been extended from three years total to, probably, three and a half. Ousley thinks that it will probably continue touring, so long as people continue to contact organizer Ami Simms to request it.

Keywords: Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece; Ami Simms

00:06:57 - Ousley's quilt compared to her typical work

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Is this, um, is this quilt typical of your work?

Segment Synopsis: Ousley said that her quilt for the Alzheimer: Forgetting Piece by Piece exhibit is not typical of her work. She used a different technique and a different type of design than she usually does. Ousley recently saw the exhibit in Abilene, Texas. She attended the opening reception and later gave a presentation about the Alzheimer's Art Group Initiative and the impact of Alzheimer's Disease to a group affiliated with the venue. Ousley quickly describes the project's book and CD and then talks about going to an Abilene bookstore that was selling them. She expresses pride about the amount of money the project has raised.

Keywords: Alzheimer's Art Quilts Initiative; Quilt Purpose - Exhibition; landscape quilt

Subjects: Alzheimer's disease

00:12:41 - Other quilts in the exhibit that Ousley is drawn to

Play segment

Partial Transcript: What quilt, what other quilts in the exhibit, are you drawn to?

Segment Synopsis: Ousley says that she particularly liked a quilt called "Sundown" or "Sundowner." (The interviewer identified the maker of that quilt as Beth Hartford.) Ousley digresses through a discussion of making long-term care decisions for her mother. She adds that she also liked a quilt with a heart and lots of beads. The interviewer says, and Ousley agrees, that that quilt is best seen with one's own eyes. Ousley strongly recommends attending the event, if possible, and going through it slowly.

Keywords: Beth Hartford

00:15:20 - Interest in and experience with quiltmaking

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Um, let's talk a little bit about your, um, quiltmaking experience, uh, tell me about your interest in, in making quilts.

Segment Synopsis: Ousley taught herself to sew at age 9. At age twelve, she wanted to make a quilt, but got no maternal support for that idea, as no one on that side of the family had any interest in sewing. Ousley's desire to quilt was put on hold, but she eventually found support for and advice about quilting from her mother-in-law. Initially, she had limited access to printed material about quilting, but then general interest in quilting increased, along with the number and diversity of quilting resources. Ousley started off making traditional quilts, but eventually became interested in art quilts.

Keywords: Katie Pasquini Masopust; Learning quiltmaking; Quilt Camp in the Pines; Quilters Newsletter Magazine

00:18:16 - Family opinions of quiltmaking / Techniques and materials

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So, what does your family think of, of your quiltmaking?

Segment Synopsis: Ousley says that her family is proud of her and her husband is actively helpful, picking up housework and cooking when needed. Ousley prefers to use cotton and silk, preferably white cloth that she can dye herself. She uses a sewing machine. She likes most aspects of quilting, although not necessarily some of the hand-sewing and other minor tasks. Another process she uses is breakdown printing, which she describes as a "screen printing process." Ousley describes it in detail.

Keywords: Ann Johnston; Breakdown printing; Fabric - Hand-dyed; Family; Family life; Fiber - Cotton; Fiber - Silk; Jane Dunnewold; Katie Widger; Techniques

00:21:50 - Ousley's studio

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So, describe your studio.

Segment Synopsis: Ousley, who just downsized from a four bedroom to a two bedroom apartment, does not currently have adequate sewing space and many of her supplies are stored in a garage. She is, however, looking forward to moving into a new house, which is currently being built, which will include a nice studio space with several nice features . She expects the move will happen in the summer.

Keywords: Home studio

00:23:39 - Quiltmaking as art / Advice for new quilters

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well, do you think of yourself more as an artist or a quiltmaker, or do you even make the distinction?

Segment Synopsis: Ousley thinks of herself as an artist, and believes that most quiltmakers are artists. Even while Ousley was making traditional quilts, she would choose some details, such as colors and borders, and she points out that making these choices is artistry. Ousley describes the design process she generally uses for landscape quilts in some detail. She would advise beginning quilters to "relax and have funny," but also recommends taking classes and being sure to obtain appropriate tools.

Keywords: Art quilts; Design process; Landscape quilts; Traditional quilts

00:25:15 - Biggest challenge for quiltmakers

Play segment

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

Segment Synopsis: Ousley says that the biggest challenge for her and, she thinks, other quiltmakers, is time and balancing quilting with life obligations. She adds that this is a particular problem for people who still have children at home. She thinks it is important for everyone to have an expressive outlet and suggests that maybe people with limited time who are living in a small space could make wall hangings, instead of full-sized quilts. She herself quilts 5 to 6 hours a day, with occasional days off to deal with other matters.

Keywords: Family life; Time management

00:27:15 - Selling priority art quilts / Quiltmakers Ousley admires

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Let's go back to the, um, to the, art quilts. Um, have you particpated in the priority quilts?

Segment Synopsis: Ousley has made three priority quilts. They each sold for $125, which went to Alzheimer's research. Ousley points out that a priority quilt is not a time-consuming project and that people who can't make them can buy them. When asked about quilters whose work she admires, Ousley specifically names Jane Dunnewold (for her "surface design techniques," which the interview identifies as "Complex Cloth" and Sue Benner (who dyes silk cloth and uses it in her projects). Ousley noted, though, that she likes the work of many people, but tends not to remember names.

Keywords: Art quilts; Jane Dunnewold; Priority: Alzheimer’s Quilt Challenge; Quilt Purpose - Charity; Quilt Purpose - Fundraising; Selling quilts; Sue Benner

00:29:38 - Quilt groups / Perceptions of art quilts

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Um, do you belong to any art or quilt groups?

Segment Synopsis: Ousley is a member of the Western Slope Art Quilts Association, the Studio Art Quilt Association, and the Friendship Quilters Group. Many people in the last group make traditional quilts. Ousley says that she has had past experience with people not liking art quilts or thinking that they are not legitimate, but she thinks the artistic, social, and networking advantages of art and traditional quilters working together outweigh the disadvantages. Ousley thinks that many of the people who object to art quilts do not like change. She also acknowledges that for her machine-stitching is a "compromise" that allows her to work faster and thinks that compromise may be exactly what some traditional quilters object to. She remembers when machine-stitching was controversial at a quilt show and points out that some art quilts are mixed media. The line between art shows and quilt shows is blurring.

Keywords: Art quilts; Friendship Quilters Group; Quilt groups; Quilt shows/exhibitions; Studio Art Quilt Association; Traditional quilts; Western Slope Art Quilts Association

00:34:04 - What Ousley does with her quilts

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Uh, what do you do with your quilts?

Segment Synopsis: She sells many of her quilts, but keeps some for her house and gives a few to her children. When asked if she thinks her quilts reflect her community or her region, Ousley says that they do. Her landscapes are almost always "southwest type things" and she has incorporated petrographs into her quilts. She discusses in considerable detail making cushion covers for a collaborative furniture-making project. Nevertheless, she think she would not be temperamentally able to work on a collaborative quilting project.

Keywords: Group projects; Regional motifs; Selling quilts

00:38:58 - Importance of quilts in the United States

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well, what do you think, um, about the importance of, of quilts in the United States?

Segment Synopsis: Ousley says that, the fact that some people think otherwise notwithstanding, quilting was created prior to the establishment of the United States. Nevertheless, people who know quite a bit about the history of quilts can draw on that knowledge to be able to talk about the country's history in some depth. According to Ousley, "Quilting has grown up with the country . . . ." Quilting's use as a bed covering, on the one hand and "as a very unique art form" on the other both came into fruition in the United Sates

Keywords: Quilt history

00:40:07 - Encouragement to see exhibit / Concerns about getting Alzheimer's / Personal preventive methods

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Is there anything else that you would like to share before we, um, end our time together?

Segment Synopsis: Ousley encourages listeners to see the Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece exhibit and to go through it slowly. She also reminds people who are caretaking that resources are available to them. She expresses hope that Alzheimer's can be defeated. She, personally, has concerns about getting Alzheimer's, because, not only has her mother been diagnosed with it, but her grandmother had some form of dementia, which was never specifically diagnosed. Ousley takes preventive methods herself and encourages others to maintain good eating habits and exercise, but tries not to spend much time worrying about it..

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