Interview with Leila Kazimi, March 9, 2007

Quilt Alliance
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00:00:01 - 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 Leila Ka-, Kazimi, thank you, I'm getting tired, it is March 9th, 2007, and I am in, Ukiah, California, and it is 2:42 in the afternoon.

Segment Synopsis: Kazimi's touchstone quilt was done as a Mendocino Quilt Artists project, where each member picked a form of dance and depicted it on a quilt. Since Kazimi was about to go to Jerusalem at the time, she picked the Palestinian Debke Dance, with the idea that she could get material and take photos for her quilt there. This project was, in part, a way of learning more about her Palestinian ancestry on her father's side. Kazimi used multiple techniques to photo transfer her photos to the quilt,

Keywords: Dance; Jerusalem; Mendocino Quilt Artists; Photography/photo transfer; Touchstone quilt

00:04:35 - Trip to Jerusalem / Imagery and techniques in the touchstone quilt

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Partial Transcript: And when I went, I went with a group that was, um, going to different holy sites, that was the kind of, purpose, and also working with different peace groups there, but we went to the holy sites of all the different religions.

Segment Synopsis: Kazimi traveled to Jerusalem as part of a group. They toured holy sites and also "work[ed] with different peace groups." Palestinians, according to Kazimi, practice either Christianity or Islam. Kazimi incorporated symbols from both religions into the quilt. Kazimi describes some of the techniques she used. When asked if the quilt is typical of her work, Kazimi says that she enjoys using surface design. She has a degree in textiles and clothing. She likes doing different things, using different techniques. She sells hand-painted silk scarves. She describes the techniques she uses on them. When Kazimi makes a quilt, the project is typically "driven by some kind of an idea or theme or something that I want to develop..." For the most part, she uses cloth she made herself.

Keywords: Imagery; Jerusalem; Surface design; Techniques; Touchstone quilt

00:10:31 - Starting to quilt

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Partial Transcript: So when did you start making quilts?

Segment Synopsis: Kazimi started making quilts about eight years prior to the interview, when she joined the quilt group. It was a natural transition for her, since she works in a number of mediums and works with fabric in other ways. Initially, she made quilts from "regular patterns from the store," and then she started using her own cloth. She credits the other members of the group with teaching her everything she knows about quilting, specifically, but notes that she had a background in sewing and pattern drafting.

Keywords: Flying Geese (quilt block pattern); Learning quiltmaking

00:12:45 - Family background / Early sewing experiences

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Partial Transcript: Is there quiltmaking in your family at all?

Segment Synopsis: None of her relatives quilt. In fact, in a family consisting largely of mathematicians and engineers, Kazimi's interests in art and sewing stood out. Although she was good at math, unlike other family members, she was not intensely interested in it. Some of the Portuguese relatives on Kazimi's mother's side embroidered, but her mother did very little embroidery. Kazimi started sewing at an early age and was largely self-taught, other than school sewing classes. She also was interested in pattern drafting, which she thinks resembles engineering, at an early age and she was good at it.

Keywords: Family; Sewing

00:16:12 - Planning quilts

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Partial Transcript: Now do you draw out your, do you plan your designs ahead of time?

Segment Synopsis: When asked if she draws her quilt designs out on paper, Kazimi does not directly answer the question, but says, "the biggest thing is the creative, it's kind of trying to plug into what, the piece is trying to tell me, or what the idea, and that is, I listen to that..." For her, this quilt is about her ethnic background, especially the embroidery and "Palestinian costuming;" a place that exists solely as a memory; and life in rural areas and the Old City. She found working with photography helpful in creating a quilt that had human figures in it. Kazimi describes the Palestinian embroidery tradition and the embroidery in the quilt. She also discusses putting the folds into the clothing of the figures. She adds that because she does not keep doing the same things, she does not necessarily became really adept at all techniques and that she thinks her quilts are not quite as good as they could be.

Keywords: Embroidery; Techniques

00:21:06 - How the touchstone quilt was received / Communicating with quilts

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Partial Transcript: So how do you use this quilt?

Segment Synopsis: Kazimi says the quilt is kept with other quilts and is not displayed. She did, however, show it to her father. His response was emotional. The quilt made it possible for him and Kazimi to communicate about parts of his life he normally does not discuss. Art and song, in Kazimi's opinion, are good methods for discussing things that are otherwise too emotionally laden to talk about. Kazimi was conflicted about making the quilt, as, on the one hand, she does not "want to be controversial," but does "want to be seen as Palestinian-American." She was also afraid, as she views the States as not particularly receptive to "the Arab experience." Kazimi feels that the message of the quilt is to depict a Palestinian person as a person, with a culture, who is dancing. Kazimi is not sure how the quilt was received at the quilt shows where it was displayed, but members of her quilt group had no objection to it. She views the quilt as "just, you know, a little step and a little something that I could do."

Keywords: Family; Quilt purpose - cultural education

00:26:47 - Models for quilt figures / Quilt group

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Partial Transcript: So I was going to look for some really, um, cute [?] young thing, uh, to be the Palestinian girl, so I just used myself as a model first, to get, you know, the figure in there, and then I,I had this friend who's in my gallery and, I, I and he does folk dancing, and I said, "Why don't you just pose for me?" and, and, you know, "I'll just get this started, and I'll get some other people to fill in."

Segment Synopsis: Kazimi initially used herself and a male folk dancer friend as models for the two figures on the quilt. She had intended to find replacements, but as the deadline approached, realized she did not have the luxury of doing so. Thus the woman depicted on the quilt is a younger version of herself. Kazimi really likes the way her quilt group has worked out. After the interviewer points out that the members have quite different lives, she says, "And we're very different, and we all bring different things and different personalities to the group..." She feels that there is a group sense that this diversity is not only acceptable, but a positive thing. They can deal with each other's failings, whether through laughter or speech..

Keywords: Quilt groups

00:31:06 - Quilt retreats

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Partial Transcript: Tell me about your retreats.

Segment Synopsis: Typically the Mendocino Quilt Artists' retreats have a theme, which leaders Joyce Paterson and Ann Horton come up with. At one point, Kazimi felt that the process should be more collaborative, but when she thought how much work that would entail and realized that Paterson and Horton do a good job and are receptive to other points of view, she changed her mind. The retreats are good places to learn about quilting and each other. Kazimi feels that there is a lot of trust in the group. She has a hard time with the creating things at retreats, because her process involves a lot of thought and figuring out ways to work around numerous blocks. She often does not get much done, but did at the last retreat where the group members collaborated on one project.

Keywords: Ann Horton; Joyce Paterson; Mendocino Quilt Artists; Quilt retreats; quilt groups; quiltmaking process

00:34:37 - Collaboration with another quilter

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Partial Transcript: So tell me about your, collaboration, work.

Segment Synopsis: When asked about collaborative work, Kazimi describes her collaboration with Betty Lacy on a quilt. Kazimi thought that worked well, because getting things done is a weakness for her, but a strength for Lacy. Lacy. also really encouraged Kazimi's efforts, which meant that Kazimi was more able to do things. Kazimi usually has problems with collaboration, because her "vision is, um, it's really personal," and she does not like the compromise involved in working with other people, but she found the support from Lacy counterbalanced that and also that Lacy was, for the most part, good at listening. Kazimi learned from the project that she needs to cheer herself on more. She knows group membership involves some feedback, but is leery about too much feedback, as the relationship between herself as artist and the art she is creating is so personal.

Keywords: Betty Lacy; Collaboration

00:38:18 - Reason for collaboration with another quilter

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Partial Transcript: Um, well what made you decide to collaborate this time, together.

Segment Synopsis: The collaboration between Kazimi and Lacy arose out of a situation where all twelve members of the group would make quilts for a competition to which they could only submit a maximum of ten quilts, so two quilts would be voted out. Kazimi eventually said that this system made her really uncomfortable and said that she personally would not keep participating. The result was a compromise, whereby everyone would work on something else, but those people who wanted to participate in the competition could, on the understanding that they would be willing to be excluded. Only seven people wanted to participate and a minimum of eight quilts were required. Kazimi and Lacy were both too busy to take on another whole quilt, but agreed to work together to make the eighth quilt.

Keywords: Collaboration; Quilt competitions

00:41:27 - Studio / Time spent quilting

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Partial Transcript: So describe your studio to me.

Segment Synopsis: Kazimi has a large room above a barn as her studio, but she uses it only for other art projects, not for quilting. Since her children have moved out of the top floor of the house, she is in the process of changing that space into a quilt studio, but it is cold in that area, so at certain stages in the process, she works in the kitchen, which severely limits other uses of the kitchen. She estimates that she spends about three hours a week quilting, but that does not include the making of fabric which might be used in a quilt. She always has a theme and likes to incorporate symbols into her quilts.

Keywords: Work or Studio space