Interview with Liz Kettle, March 17, 2008

Quilt Alliance
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00:00:01 - About the touchstone quilt: "Tears Of..."

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Partial Transcript: This is Karen Musgrave, and I am doing a Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories interview with Liz Kettle. Liz is in Monument, Colorado, and I'm in Naperville, Illinois, so we are conducting this interview by telephone.

Segment Synopsis: Kettle talks about her great aunt, who taught her how to sew and had Alzheimer's. She details personal experiences she has had that led her to create a quilt representing the caregivers of those with memory loss. She says this is the only quilt she has made where the idea came to her fully intact, almost like a vision, rather than through her creative process. She explains the symbolism and concepts surrounding the imagery, including the heart, beads, cross stitched x's, words, and waves in the background.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece; Ami Simms; Beads; Cross stitch; Family; Quiltmaking inspiration; Tears Of

00:06:45 - Participating in the "Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece" exhibition

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Partial Transcript: How did you feel when it got accepted into the, um, exhibit?

Segment Synopsis: Kettle talks about the feedback she has gotten from exhibition attendees who had emotional responses to viewing her quilt, including caretakers and others going through various challenges. She says that she herself continues to have an emotional response to the quilt and struggled to record her artist statement without crying. She hopes that, after the exhibit, the quilt might go into a permanent collection where it can be displayed in a space accessible to caregivers.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece; Ami Simms; Quilt Purpose - Exhibition; Quilt purpose - Comfort; Quilt purpose - Disease/illness; Quilt shows/exhibitions

00:10:00 - Learning quiltmaking / Quiltmaking process

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Partial Transcript: Tell me about your interest in quiltmaking.

Segment Synopsis: Kettle talks about learning to quilt as a teenager and her first quilt, a cross stitch quilt. She talks about subsequent projects. She says that now she tends toward art quilting, but enjoys traditional quilting as well because she finds it calming. She dedicates Sundays to quiltmaking and finds one hour per day in her busy schedule to quilt. She describes the Front Range Contemporary Quilters group to which she belongs.

Keywords: Art quilts; Family life; Front Range Contemporary Quilters; Learning quiltmaking; Quilt guilds; Traditional quilts; Work and life balance

00:13:00 - Quilts as art

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

Segment Synopsis: Kettle argues that all quilting, whether traditional or art, is art. She excludes quilts made from kits.

Keywords: Art quiltmaking; Art quilts; Fiber artists; Quilt purpose - Art or personal expression; Quilt purpose - Artistic expression; Traditional quilts

00:14:55 - Studio space / Mixed media techniques

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned having a studio, so describe it.

Segment Synopsis: Kettle describes her basement studio, including the variety of material she keeps for her mixed media art quilts. She talks about the multiple techniques she will use in a quilt in order to achieve the effect she wants. She says she particularly adores fabric and manipulating and altering fabric. She explains why she is drawn to Laura Cater-Woods' and Leslie Riley's works.

Keywords: Collage; Embellishment techniques; Fabric choice; Fabric stash; Home studio; Laura Cater-Woods; Leslie Riley; Mixed media; Techniques; Work or studio space

00:19:26 - Advice for beginning quilters

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Partial Transcript: So what advice would you offer someone starting out?

Segment Synopsis: Kettle suggests new quilters not be hemmed in by rules but that they instead find their own process. She worries that a focus on perfection can impede creativity, self-expression, and the communication of a meaningful message. She connects the focus on perfection to a product driven rather than process driven ethos in the United States that devalues art. She highlights the importance of play, a respect of tradition and structure that also pleases the maker, and advises quiltmakers to take risks and put themselves into their work. She talks about the classes she takes outside the quiltmaking world, as well as how she designs her own quiltmaking classes to be oriented towards process rather than product.

Keywords: Art quiltmaking; Art quilts; Design process; Learning quitlmaking; Quiltmaking process; Quiltmaking style; Teaching quiltmaking

00:25:19 - Using words / Labeling and signing quilts

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned liking to use words. Tell me more about how you use words in your work.

Segment Synopsis: Kettle describes how she incorporates words into her work to communicate a story or emotion for a piece. She says she always signs the front of her work and suggests others do the same.

Keywords: Quilt labels; Quiltmaking style; Signatures; Words

00:28:02 - What makes a great quilt / Importance of quiltmaking

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Partial Transcript: What do you think makes a great quilt?

Segment Synopsis: Kettle discusses the importance of design--such as balance, rhythm, color value, and texture--and the communication of a thought or emotion in making a great quilt. She describes the reason why she prefers quiltmaking, or textiles, as an artistic medium as it is accessible to people. She considers the historic relationship between humans and fabric. She suggests it is this intimate relationship that makes textiles so relatable, compared to painting or ceramics, for example. She briefly talks about her family's response to her quiltmaking. She discusses how she uses the quiltmaking process to work through her emotions and describes quiltmaking as soothing and meditative. She talks about her use of traditional and art quilts in her own home.

Keywords: Color balance; Design process; Family; Quilt design; Quilt history; Quilt purpose - Comfort; Quilt purpose - Meditation/relaxation; Quiltmaking for family

00:34:10 - Reflecting community and region / Creativity in quiltmaking

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Partial Transcript: Do you think that your quilts reflect your community and region?

Segment Synopsis: Kettle discusses how her fiber book projects reflect her community and region, particularly the winter landscape. She and Musgrave talk about their use of color in the winter. She summarizes some of the main points of her interview and expands on the importance of play in her work. She describes her writing for Quilters' Home Magazine as well as an upcoming book that each speak about creativity for quilters. She describes the importance of journaling for quilters, whether in words or fabric. She talks about classes she teaches at her local quilt shop.

Keywords: Art quiltmaking; Art quilts; Creativity; Quilt purpose - Art or personal expression; Quilt purpose - Artistic expression; Quilters' Home Magazine; Teaching quiltmaking

00:39:21 - Engaging young quiltmakers / Hand work and slowing down

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Partial Transcript: Where do you think quiltmaking is going to go?

Segment Synopsis: Kettle considers the importance of encouraging young people to learn to sew and quilt. She advocates for quilters to teach them not in the traditional ways they learned, but in the ways young people prefer to learn. She thinks textile arts, specifically their tactile nature, are an important balance to the "computerization" of society. She suggests that the move towards quick quilts does not reflect the young generation of quilters, but instead the aforementioned focus on product over process. She hopes that quiltmakers can advocate for hand work and slowing down to balance the attention towards an end result that often necessitates fast and easy work.

Keywords: Generational quiltmaking; Hand piecing; Hand quilting; Knowledge transfer; Teaching quiltmaking