Interview with Donna Hudson, February 18, 2008

Quilt Alliance
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00:00:00 - About the touchstone quilt: "Holes in My Memory"

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Partial Transcript: This is Karen Musgrave. I'm doing a Quilters' S.O.S. - Save My [Our] Stories interview with Donna Hudson. We are doing a special project for Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece Q.S.O.S. Donna is in Seattle, Washington, and I'm in Naperville, Illinois, so we are conducting this interview by phone. Today's date is February 18, 2008, and it is 3:33 in the afternoon. And Donna, thank you so much for doing this interview with me.

Segment Synopsis: Hudson's touchstone quilt, "Holes in My Memory" incorporates a hole in its fabric and was inspired by the "blank spots" in her grandmother's memory when she was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Hudson's father told her and other family members that there was no point in going to see her grandmother as she would not remember them anyway. Before Hudson saw the Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece call for entries, she had taken a design class with Lorraine Torrance. They had done an exercise on "intuitive, spontaneous quilt design," during which they were supposed to create a quilt in three hours, without thinking everything out beforehand. Hudson liked that approach and started putting her quilt together for the exhibition in a similar way after seeing the call for entries. Hudson describes the colors, design, and construction process for the quilt, as well as the imagery and her family's experiences with Alzheimer's disease.

Keywords: Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece; Family; Fathers; Grandmothers; Holes in My Memory; Lorraine Torrence; Quilt Purpose - Exhibition; Quilt Purpose - Memorial; Quilt design

Subjects: Art quilts

00:03:46 - Typical quilting work / Quilt series

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Partial Transcript: Is this quilt typical of your work?

Segment Synopsis: Hudson says that her touchstone quilt is not typical of her previous work, which was much more structured. However, she has since made a second quilt with some of the same design features that is part of a series. In response to Musgrave asking whether she typically works in series, Hudson says that that is a change in her approach that she attributes to the design class. Hudson adds that the benefit to working in a series is having a second opportunity to work on a project, as the quilt never comes out quite the way she wants it to the first time.

00:05:40 - Participating in the Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece exhibition

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Partial Transcript: So how did you feel when you got accepted into the exhibit?

Segment Synopsis: Hudson was stunned and very happy when her quilt was accepted for the exhibit. She saw the exhibit in another city. Her opinion is that the quilts look better in the show than they do in the book or website. Her favorite quilt was Claudia Comay's "Left Behind," because "it's got impact, it's abstract, it's colorful colors, the sharp edges." She found doing the recording of her artist statement to be difficult. The timing was challenging, because Hudson was leaving for a two-week vacation without the phone or Internet, so she had to rush to do it and heard when she got back that there was a technological problem with her statement. Fortunately, Ami Simms managed to fix the problem.

Keywords: Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece; Ami Simms; Artist statement; Claudia Comay; Quilt Purpose - Exhibition; Quilt shows/exhibitions

00:08:58 - Plans for the touchstone quilt / Learning quiltmaking / Time spent quilting

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Partial Transcript: So what are your plans for the quilt, when it comes back to you?

Segment Synopsis: Hudson does not know what she will do with her touchstone quilt when it is returned to her. She thought of giving it to her father, but he died a couple of months prior to the interview. She might give it to her mother or donate it. What Hudson likes about quiltmaking is "playing with the fabric and the colors." When she made her first quilt, there were fewer fabric choices and no rotary cutters. At the time, she did not feel like quiltmaking was particularly fun, but she is very pleased with the changes that have taken place since then. Her impetus for getting really involved with quiltmaking again was a computer job in a very male-oriented context. She needed something to balance that environment out. Hudson built on her previous sewing and quiltmaking experience by reading books, taking classes, and engaging in hands-on experiences. She estimates that currently she spends about ten hours a week quiltmaking.

Keywords: Learning quiltmaking; Rotary cutters; Time management; quiltmaking classes

00:12:00 - Art groups / Identifying as a fabric artist

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Partial Transcript: Do you belong to any art or quilt groups?

Segment Synopsis: Hudson is a member of a "mixed art group," consisting of quilters and painters. She also attends a design class that has been going for so long that it constitutes an "unofficial group." Hudson reports that all the members of the mixed art group have things in common ("design, composition, color") regardless of their medium and can learn from each other. Hudson is currently trying to define herself as a fabric artist. She explains that people outside of the quilting community have outdated ideas about what "quiltmaking" means. Quiltmaking is changing and quilters are working in a different style than before. Musgrave and Hudson agree that current quiltmakers are "building" on the work of the past.

Keywords: Fabric arts; Quilt guilds; Traditional quilts

Subjects: Art quilts

00:14:13 - Inspirational quiltmakers / Favorite techniques and materials

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Partial Transcript: Whose works are you drawn to and why?

Segment Synopsis: Hudson is drawn to the work of Carol Taylor and Nancy Crow, because of their use of color, abstraction, and geometry. Their work also contrasts with her work at this time, which is quite representational, something that was a stretch for her. Hudson works primarily with cotton, but she has been trying other kinds of fabric. She works with a number of different techniques. Musgrave asks about Hudson's use of tulle in her touchstone quilt. Hudson says that her process for using tulle was probably unnecessarily difficult, but she learned from working with it.

Keywords: Carol Taylor; Fabric - Tulle; Fiber - Cotton; Techniques

Subjects: Crow, Nancy, 1943-

00:17:00 - Studio / Family

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Partial Transcript: Describe your studio.

Segment Synopsis: Her studio is a small extra bedroom with good light and containers of fabric. She thinks decent storage shelves would go a long way to make up for the lack of space. Because she starts off by looking for fabric, the room is a mess at the beginning of a project. She often has a couple of projects in process at a time. Her father saw photographs of her touchstone quilt and liked it. Her family is generally happy about and supportive of her quilting, largely because Hudson worked as a systems analyst for years. Her sister, especially, is pleased to see her do something more artistic and personally develop in a more artistic direction.

Keywords: Fabric stash; Family; Home studio; Work or Studio space

00:19:36 - First quilt memory / Advice for beginning quilters

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Partial Transcript: What is your first quilt memory?

Segment Synopsis: Hudson's mother repaired blankets by sewing pieces of cloth over the holes. Sometimes she would strategically arrange two blankets so that their holes were in different places and sew cloth over the holes. Hudson thinks of these repaired blankets as "quilts." She says that they were heavy but warm. Hudson's mother no longer makes quilts, but she does do origami. Hudson has one of her own quilts on her bed. She describes its composition and imagery. Hudson would advise new quilters to choose something that they like -- a style or a pattern -- as a goal. She recommends books and quiltmaking classes. She points out that as mistakes go, making an error on a quilt is insignificant.

Keywords: Family; Quilt Purpose - Bedcovering; Quilt Purpose - Utilitarian; Quilt memory

00:22:55 - What makes a great quilt / Surface design work

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk about aesthetics now. What do you think makes a great quilt?

Segment Synopsis: Hudson thinks that the "basics" are important for a great quilt. This includes "good color theory" and "basic composition factors." For traditional quilts, craftsmanship is essential. Hudson praises the Contemporary Quilt Art Association (CQA) for their work. Hudson is starting to experiment with various forms of surface design. Seattle is very humid, which makes fabric painting there difficult. Dyeing requires a greater commitment than she is prepared to make. She paints when she visits her mother in very dry Tucson and is working towards increasingly intricate designs. When asked about the influence of technology on her work, Hudson's first answer is the better range of fabrics to buy. She thinks that change of attitudes in the quilt community to "anything can go" has been the most significant influence on her work.

Keywords: Aesthetics; Color theory; Contemporary Quilt Art Association (CQA); Surface design; Techniques; Technology in quiltmaking

Subjects: Textile painting

00:26:15 - Planning vs. spontaneity / Challenges confronting quiltmakers

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Partial Transcript: Are you someone who, plans everything out or?

Segment Synopsis: Hudson used to plan, but she is working very hard on being more spontaneous and making decisions for one step after finishing the previous step. She says a series of design classes was helpful in developing a more flexible approach. Hudson decided to take up quilting rather than another form of self expression, partly because of previous good experiences with fabric and because quiltmaking is not messy and does not require a lot of clean up. Hudson thinks that the biggest challenge facing quiltmakers is "having their work accepted as art."

Keywords: Art quilts; Design process

00:28:57 - Published quilts / Influence of art groups

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Partial Transcript: Now, Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece, that was the first time you've had your work exhibited nationally, correct? Has anything changed since then?

Segment Synopsis: Hudson's work was first shown in a national context at the Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece exhibit. Since then, a picture of one of her works appeared in a newsletter with international circulation and also a picture of one of her Grand Canyon quilts was printed on a conference poster. Hudson has also shown the Grand Canyon quilts locally. In response to Musgrave's question about the influence of painters and other quiltmakers in her art groups, Hudson says the members make very different work. In the design class, she sometimes sees work that she wants to do something similar to. She acknowledges that, differences or not, there are likely some influences.

Keywords: Published work - Quilts; Quilt Purpose - Exhibition; Quilt shows/exhibitions

00:33:10 - Priority quilts

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Partial Transcript: Let's bring it back to the Alzheimer's before we end. Have you participated in Priority quilts at all?

Segment Synopsis: Hudson's Priority quilts have been "studies" for her series of larger Alzheimer's quilts. She thinks that she has done three Priority quilts. She says they were very different from the piece she submitted for the exhibit. For one of them, she tried working with chenille. She thought the "fuzzy, frayed edges" worked well with the Alzheimer's theme. Musgrave adds that Priority quilts are auctioned to raise funds for Alzheimer's research. Neither Hudson nor Musgrave, as of the time of the interview, have bought a Priority quilt, although Musgrave has made bids on Priority quilts and lost.

Keywords: Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece; Fabric - Chinelle; Priority: Alzheimer’s Quilt Challenge; Quilt Purpose - Charity; Quilt Purpose - Fundraising

Subjects: Chenille

00:35:27 - Concerns about Alzheimer's

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Partial Transcript: Do you fear getting Alzheimer's?

Segment Synopsis: When asked if she is afraid of getting Alzheimer's, Hudson expresses hope that there will be a treatment at that point. She adds that she knows getting Alzheimer's is a possibility, but she is not preoccupied by it. Speaking from the vantage point of having recently visited her father as he was dying, she says, "we have got to be able to learn how to die with dignity." She does not like the concept of not being aware of her surroundings at a basic level for years of one's life. She hopes for both medical progress and "some way of being able to die more gracefully."

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Family; Fathers

00:36:50 - Advice to caregivers

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Partial Transcript: Um, I always ask people at the end if there's anything else that they would like to share. So, I am giving you this opportunity before we conclude our interview. Is there anything else that you would like to share with me?

Segment Synopsis: Hudson advises caregivers to take care of themselves. She recommends having some project or activity, such as quilting or knitting, that can be done while caring for someone with Alzheimer's, but that does not depend on that person's awareness of their presence. Hudson adds that "the collateral damage" is a "scary part about Alzheimer's." It creates enormous stress for family members. She adds, however, that "there are some bright spots." Musgrave advocates humor as a coping strategy.

Keywords: Family