Interview with Dona McCready-Lewis, February 18, 2008

Quilt Alliance
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00:00:02 - About the touchstone quilt / Visiting the Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece exhibition

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Partial Transcript: Okay, this is Karen Musgrave and I'm doing a Quilter's S.O.S. - Save Our Stories interview with Dona McCready-Lewis. Dona is in Sun City, Arizona, and I'm in Naperville, Illinois, so we are doing this by telephone.

Segment Synopsis: McCready-Lewis's project, "Shattered Lives," was a joint project with her three sisters. The youngest, Timi Bronson asked the others to make a 12" x 12" block representing their feelings about Alzheimer's, as daughters of a woman with the disease. Bronson assembled the quilt. Despite being geographically distant, the sisters used similar color schemes and different styles. They were amazed when the quilt was accepted into the Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece exhibit. All of the sisters have seen the exhibit, and McCready-Lewis volunteered for white glove duty.

Keywords: Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece; Ami Simms; Group projects; Quilt shows/exhibitions; Timi Bronson

00:03:59 - White glove volunteer experience

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Partial Transcript: Doing the white glove was really a, um, very, very moving experience, because people would come up, and of course talk to you, or you would start talking to people, and the stories that they told were just amazing, as well.

Segment Synopsis: McCready-Lewis talks about her white glove volunteer experience at one of the Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece venues, with an emphasis on audience reactions.

Keywords: Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece; Quilt shows/exhibitions; White glove volunteer work

00:04:55 - Quiltmaking process

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Partial Transcript: Then, um, I'm trying to think how long it took.

Segment Synopsis: McCready-Lewis says that her quilt design was inspired by the title of the exhibit, which made her think of jigsaw puzzles. A picture of her mother's face was the basis for her design. She modified that picture multiple times, in accordance with the jigsaw theme. She found the process of cutting pieces out of the picture emotionally hard.

Keywords: Design process; Photography/photo transfer; Pictorial quilts; quiltmaking process

00:07:10 - Family

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Partial Transcript: Our mom is now, uh, approaching the final stages of Alzheimer's.

Segment Synopsis: McCready-Lewis talks about her mother's current health and living situation. She talks about where each of the four sisters lives. She briefly recounts going to the Northeast Quilt Festival with her sister, Timi Bronson, each summer. She then returns to talking about her mother's health and living situation, as well as the need to support Bronson, who is the primary caregiver, as their mother's situation becomes untenable.

Keywords: Caregiving; Family; Mothers; Northeast Quilt Festival; Sisters; Timi Bronson

Subjects: Alzheimer's disease

00:09:21 - Plans for the touchstone quilt

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Partial Transcript: Well, what are your plans for the quilt, once it comes back?

Segment Synopsis: McCready-Lewis says that the sisters have started talking about different options for the quilt in the long-term, but, at the time of the interview, they are leaning towards donating it. They have yet to research specific possibilities. McCready-Lewis is personally not in favor of taking the quilt apart for redistribution among the sisters.

Keywords: Donating quilts; Quilt Purpose - Charity

00:10:59 - Learning to sew / Quiltmaking in McCready-Lewis' family

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Partial Transcript: Did your mom quilt?

Segment Synopsis: McCready-Lewis's mother did not quilt, but she sewed a lot while the three older sisters were growing up. Those three learned to sew early on and eventually started making informal work clothes for themselves. The youngest sister, Timi Bronson, learned to sew as an adult and did not start quiltmaking until a while after that. When McCready-Lewis was living in Chicago, she, her mother, one of the other sisters, and Bronson went to to the quilt show in Paducah, Kentucky. Bronson was not immediately impressed by the quilt show, but after they returned home, asked their mother if she would be interested in taking a quiltmaking class with her.

Keywords: Family; Kentucky; Learning quiltmaking; Paducah; Quilt shows/exhibitions; Timmie Bronson; quiltmaking classes

Subjects: Sewing

00:14:32 - Learning quiltmaking / Development as a quiltmaker

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Partial Transcript: Um, I started, quilting, probably late Eighties. No, that's not true, probably early Eighties, late Seventies, because I found out that instead of needing two and three and four yards of something, I could get by with a half a yard of everything.

Segment Synopsis: McCready-Lewis began quilting around, very roughly, 1980. Her quilts progressed from very simple, to quite complex, to art quilts. Her favorite technique to to take photographs and turn them into printed fabric. She has occasionally had quilts in shows. At one point, she and her sisters did a quilt block round robin, each doing a central block and sending it around to the others to add borders. Later they entered their quilts in the Northeast Quilt Festival, which that year had a "family" theme. Her quilts won a second and third prize.

Keywords: Art quiltmaking; Art quilts; Group projects; Learning quiltmaking; Northeast Quilt Festival; Photography/photo transfer; Quilt Purpose - Exhibition

Subjects: Art quilts; Quilting

00:17:35 - Time spent quilting / Quilt groups

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Partial Transcript: How many hours a week, do you quilt?

Segment Synopsis: McCready-Lewis says that while she used to devote herself to quilting close to full-time, that she has had trouble finding time to quilt, now that she has retired and is living in Arizona. After moving, she initially joined a quilting group based at one of her retirement community's recreation centers. It was not a good fit, as the group consisted of traditional quilters, so some quilters got together to form a new group. That group was more successful than anticipated, grew quickly, and hosts a quilt show, which brings in well-known teachers and an appraiser, every two years.

Keywords: Art quilts; Quilt groups; Quilt shows/exhibitions; Time management; Traditional quilts

Subjects: Quilting

00:21:06 - Favorite parts of quiltmaking

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Partial Transcript: So what do you find most pleasing about quiltmaking?

Segment Synopsis: McCready-Lewis gives multiple reasons she likes quiltmaking, especially the "wearables" she creates. She makes a range of clothing and is now working on a coat, which she hopes to enter in the Road to California Quilter’s Conference and Showcase. McCready-Lewis talks about her quilt group, which will be attending the Road to California event with an opportunity quilt.

Keywords: Clothing; Opportunity quilts; Quilt conferences; Quilt shows/exhibitions; Road to California Quilter’s Conference and Showcase

00:24:03 - Quilting while traveling / Sewing room and equipment

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Partial Transcript: Do you quilt when you're in New York?

Segment Synopsis: McCready-Lewis reports that she always has a quilting project with her when she travels, but she has some trouble with the logistical problems this creates. She currently spends six months of each year in New York and moves a sewing machine back and forth between New York and Arizona. She also has a couple of other sewing machines and is thinking of getting a mid-arm quilting machine. In Arizona she has a sewing room.

Keywords: Home sewing machine; Mid-arm quilting machine; Sewing room

00:27:03 - What makes a great quilt

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Partial Transcript: So what do you think makes a great quilt?

Segment Synopsis: For McCready-Lewis, a great quilt is one that both stands out visually on first viewing, but also one where the viewer sees more and more as they keep looking at the quilt. McCready-Lewis also like quilts with humorous elements.

Keywords: Aesthetics; Humor; Quilt Festival Houston

Subjects: Quilts

00:29:19 - Advice for beginning quilters

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Partial Transcript: What advice would you offer someone starting out?

Segment Synopsis: McCready-Lewis would advise beginners to just go ahead and do it, rather than being fearful about starting. She thinks that beginners should not be concerned about "rules," although she also thinks that they should master basic skills and "the accepted way of doing things," so that they can later set those things aside, if that is the direction the beginner wants to go in. She encourages students in her quilt group's beginner classes by pointing out that every quilter starts with their first quilt.

Keywords: Learning quiltmaking

00:30:29 - Challenge confronting quiltmakers

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

Segment Synopsis: McCready-Lewis's initial response to being asked about challengers to quiltmakers is to say that it is people complaining about machine stitching, but she thinks that is no longer relevant. Instead, she would say that making sure innovation continues to happen is a challenge. It used to be controversial to consider quilting to be an art, but no longer. Quilting has been attracting younger participants with more exposure.

Keywords: Art quiltmaking; Machine quilting; Sewing

00:31:58 - Art quilts vs. utilitarian quilts / Working on multiple projects

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Partial Transcript: Now you talk about making art quilts, so do you think of yourself as more of an artist, or a quiltmaker, or do you even make the distinction?

Segment Synopsis: McCready-Lewis, when asked about whether she considers herself an artist, or a quiltmaker, says she does not think she makes the distinction. She describes a quilt project of hers based on a photograph, which she identifies as "kind of an art piece," but points out that she is working on bed quilts, too. She tends to move back and forth between different pieces, which, she says, gives her "a break" when she gets tired of a project.

Keywords: Art quilts; Photography/photo transfer; Quilt Purpose - Utilitarian

00:34:16 - Favorite techniques and materials

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Partial Transcript: So what are your favorite techniques and materials?

Segment Synopsis: McCready-Lewis says that she likes the technique of fusing, especially when using Mistyfuse, which she and her sister Timi Bronson were taught in a class by Esterita Austin. She also likes paper piecing, and the particular techniques used to create Mariner's Compass quilts and Karen Stone's "New York Beauty." She is currently interested in trying oil paint sticks for techniques such as stamping and painting.

Keywords: English paper piecing; Esterita Austin; Fusing; Karen Stone; Mariner's Compass - quilt pattern; Mistyfuse; New York Beauty - quilt pattern; Painting; Timi Bronson

00:36:23 - Favorite quilts in the exhibition

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Partial Transcript: Well, I'd like before we end to kind of, go back to the Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece exhibit.

Segment Synopsis: When asked whether she was particularly attracted to any of the quilts in the Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece exhibit, McCready-Lewis describes a particular quilt. Musgrave identifies Liz Kettle as the quilt's creator. Musgrave and McCready-Lewis agree that the quilt looks better in person than it does in a picture or on the CD. They also agree that the ways in which quilts are displayed at different venues also makes a difference in how they look. McCready-Lewis tells a story about a friend from her quilt group running into her sisters at the Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece exhibit when it was in Paducah, Kentucky.

Keywords: "Tears Of..."; Alzheimer's disease; Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece; American Quilter Society's QuiltWeek; Kentucky; Liz Kettle; Paducah; Quilt Purpose - Exhibition; Quilt shows/exhibitions; Road to California Quilter’s Conference and Showcase

00:40:34 - Quilting statistics / Effects of Alzheimer's disease / Promising Alzheimer's research

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Partial Transcript: You know there's, what, twenty-seven million of us, is that what they're saying now?

Segment Synopsis: McCready-Lewis and Musgrave talk about the total number of quilters and the value of the quilting industry. McCready-Lewis segues into discussing the number of Alzheimer's patients, especially people with early onset Alzheimer's. She and Musgrave discuss the financial problems for families of relatively young Alzheimer's patients. She talks about some of the more stressful aspects of Alzheimer's, as well as the genetic concerns that relatives of Alzheimer's patients have. She wraps up by discussing some of the promising Alzheimer's research.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Alzheimer's research; Family

Subjects: Alzheimer's disease; Quiltmakers