Interview with Alice R. Dove, June 1, 2010

Quilt Alliance
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00:00:03 - About the first touchstone quilt

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Partial Transcript: This is Evelyn Salinger, and I'm conducting a Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories interview with Alice R. Dove. Today's date is June 1, 2010. The time is 11:00 a.m.

Segment Synopsis: Dove brought two touchstone quilts to the interview. She made the first quilt shortly after retiring and joining the Daughters of Dorcas and Sons. Dove retired from teaching kindergarten, and she was thinking about not being there for the first day of school. The quilt includes images of her nephew and daughter. Dove primarily taught in Washington, DC, so she included landmarks including the Washington Monument and Capital. Dove says that she loves colors, but as she gets older, she is moving toward using a "more subtle palate."

Keywords: Color theory; Daughters; Evelyn Salinger; Family; Daughters of Dorcas

Subjects: Art quilts; Washington (D.C.)

00:02:38 - Techniques

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Partial Transcript: Now, when you blew up the photographs, how do you get the pictures that you did, with the arms and the face, mainly, and then the body you could put clothes, fabric on?

Segment Synopsis: Dove and Salinger discuss the techniques Dove used in the quilt, including projecting photos onto the fabric. Dove also used machine stitching and hand work. The quilt is structured so that the sky is the bottom piece and the "magic carpet" is layered on top of it. Other pieces were appliqued to those two layers later in the process. Dove did much of the quilting by hand, even though she does not think of herself as a particularly good hand quilter. She says, "I try to determine what is best, will the quilt be best served with me doing hand work, or will, can it be best served by me doing machine work?" Dove also discusses using hand-dyed fabrics and how she used them to accentuate parts of the quilt.

Keywords: Applique; Fabric - Hand-dyed; Fabric selection; Machine quilting; Photography/photo transfer; Pictorial quilts; Stitching; Techniques; Hand quilting

00:06:12 - Learning quiltmaking / Quilt labels

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Partial Transcript: Where did you learn all these different techniques?

Segment Synopsis: Dove learned most of the techniques she used by reading quiltmaking books. She credits her education for being able to research and figure out how to do something new. Dove was an art major in college. Salinger thinks that accounts for the creativity in Dove's quilts. Dove describes the label on the back of the quilt. She says the label "will reflect those bright, intense, saturated colors that I love." She also likes the colors that result from hand-dyeing. Salinger asks Dove to read the label on the back of the quilt. The quilt was made with the 2005 quilt exhibit at the Charles Sumner School Museum and Archives in mind. The theme of that exhibit was education.

Keywords: Charles Sumner School; Fabric - Hand-dyed; Learning quiltmaking; Quilt labels; Quilt purpose - Artistic expression; Quilt purpose - Exhibition; Quilt shows/exhibitions; Techniques; Laura Schwartz

00:08:35 - About the second touchstone quilt: "Plucked from my Garden"

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Partial Transcript: Well, we don't always have two quilts, but I think your second one would be interesting as a contrast with this, to describe, because you do such artistic things.

Segment Synopsis: Dove's second touchstone quilt, "Plucked from my Garden," depicts roses in a variety of colors and sizes. Dove describes the techniques she used to create it. The flowers are mostly hand appliqued and padded with a little batting, but there is at least one flower created using free motion quilting. Dove spent a considerable amount of time watching YouTube tutorial videos, so she could learn how to free motion quilt. Dove and Salinger briefly discuss some of the fabrics she chose from her fabric stash. Dove jokes that "it's scary how much fabric you wind up collecting."

Keywords: "Plucked from my Garden"; Color balance; Free motion quilting; Hand applique; Learning quiltmaking; Machine quilting; Quiltmaking process; Sharon Schamber; Techniques; Fabric stash

Subjects: Art quilts

00:12:43 - Plans for the touchstone quilts / Quiltmaking style / Hand vs. machine quilting

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Partial Transcript: Now do you have these hanging at your house?

Segment Synopsis: Dove does not have her touchstone quilts hanging in her house. She is planning to give the first touchstone quilt to her sister, because Dove's nephew is in it. Dove also has limited wall space in her home for hanging quilts. She makes lap quilts, because she prefers to work on projects that can be completed faster than making bed-sized quilts. Dove's first sewing machine was a Singer, which she liked very much. She loves sewing and used to make reproduction dolls and doll costumes. Dove eventually got a Bernina sewing machine and took classes about using the Bernina, including classes on heirloom sewing. She loves using her sewing machine but notes that she still has more to learn about using it.

Keywords: Family; Hand quilting; Home sewing machine; Machine quilting; Quilt purpose - Gift or presentation; Quiltmaking style; Singer Featherweight sewing machine; Sisters; Bernina

00:14:51 - Praise for quiltmakers' dedication / Importance of quilt groups

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Partial Transcript: You know, I love to see people who can do the handwork. I'm just amazed by their patience, by their dedication.

Segment Synopsis: Dove praises the work of hand quilters. She admires how hand quilters are able to spend many hours working on a single quilting project. Dove says that most people who are not quiltmakers don't understand how much work goes into making a quilt. She says "that's a part of their life that has gone into that quilt." Salinger comments on how much work must have gone into making even one of the flowers on Dove's second touchstone quilt. Dove also notes that quiltmaking requires making decisions and can be very solitary. However, Dove says it is "stimulating" when quiltmakers get together as guilds or groups, because they are not alone and can share their different approaches to quilting.

Keywords: Hand quilting; Quilt guilds; Social quiltmaking activities; Time management

00:16:14 - Antique quilts / Making contemporary and art quilts / Appreciating other works

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Partial Transcript: I love looking at antique quilts and appreciating what a person must have gone through years ago, who didn't even have the things we have to work with, and to be able to see what they did.

Segment Synopsis: Dove appreciates seeing antique quilts, especially because the quilters who made them did not have modern quilting resources. She remembers how her grandmother made a quilt from a newspaper article. Dove is moving towards creating more contemporary and art quilts, and she thinks there's a slight distinction between the two. Salinger says that many quiltmakers work with traditional patterns, because they do not have the "vision" to do more contemporary work like Dove's. Dove says she loves traditional patterns, but she likes when contemporary quilters add a new perspective to them. Dove describes buying an antique kimono, because she admired its embroidery and enjoyed looking at it. She appreciates how much artists dedicate to their work, although Dove points out that many people don't value the amount of effort that goes into making it.

Keywords: Embroidery; Family; Grandmothers; Traditional quilts; Antique quilts

Subjects: Art quilts

00:19:30 - Quilt memory / Learning quiltmaking

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Partial Transcript: Well you've mentioned having some quilts from your grandmother. What other quilt experiences did you have?

Segment Synopsis: Although Dove had some exposure to quilts through her maternal grandmother, she did not see quilts much as a child. She lived with her paternal grandmother, who sewed clothing. When Dove was young, she learned to sew using a needle and thread by "just tracing around the design" on a napkin. As an adult, Dove saw a Dakota quilt in Washington, DC and decided she wanted to make a quilt. Her first attempt was a disaster, because she had no idea how to make a quilt. She eventually gave up on that quilt, but Dove told herself she would learn how to quilt when she retired. Before retirement, she took a short class taught by Eleanor Burns about making log cabin quilts, but she decided to wait until after retiring to do more quiltmaking.

Keywords: Eleanor Burns; Family; Grandmothers; Home sewing machine; Learning quiltmaking; Log Cabin - quilt pattern; Machine quilting; Quiltmaking classes; Dakota quilts

00:21:32 - Time spent quilting / Design process / Cultural connections

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Partial Transcript: How much time do you put into it per day or per week?

Segment Synopsis: Family illness makes it difficult for Dove to work on her quilts consistently. She says, "sometimes it's a great stress relief to have something like this to work on, but then the other times you don't want to get locked into it..." Dove spends at least thirty minutes a day planning and sketching for her quiltmaking projects. She researches quilts from other countries using Google Images. Dove is interested in cultural connections between different groups, especially when one country was colonized by another. She is also interested when cultures without obvious connections have similarities.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Family; Illness; Mothers; Design process

00:23:34 - Teaching crafts / Commissions and competitions

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Partial Transcript: But do you, have you been teaching other people?

Segment Synopsis: Dove used to teach craft classes through an adult program run by the school system. When people offer to buy her work, she volunteers to teach them how to make their own quilts instead. She does not take commissions for quilts, although she used to do them for dolls. Dove used to enter her dolls into competitions, but she didn't always find the feedback to be useful. Now she makes quilts for herself instead entering them into competitions, although Dove doesn't mind exhibiting her work.

Keywords: Quilt purpose - Art or personal expression; Quilt purpose - Exhibition; Quilt shows/exhibitions; Log Cabin - quilt pattern

Subjects: Arts and crafts; Art--Commissioning

00:25:13 - Favorite parts of quiltmaking / Current project

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Partial Transcript: What are your favorite parts of this whole process?

Segment Synopsis: When asked about her favorite parts of quiltmaking, Dove says she likes "the study of it," including learning new techniques. She has started dyeing her own fabric and plans to dye only once a year, because she has so much fabric already. Dove says, "I like the surprise factor of dyeing your own fabric, and then it starts to talk to you, and then it starts to work with you, in terms of what you're going to create and use it for." She says commercial fabric doesn't always speak to her in the same way. Dove says she likes everything about quiltmaking. Dove's current project is a quilt called "The Trilogy." Dove was widowed recently and that has changed her perspective, especially in terms of how she uses her time. She is currently collecting notes and making sketches of ideas she might use in a quilt. Dove sometimes looks at pictures of quilts and tries to figure out how she could use its elements to make something new. She says, "You just start pulling everything that you have learned together, to make the unit, to make the quilt.

Keywords: Fabric selection; Fabric stash; Quilt purpose - Therapy; Quiltmaking process; Techniques; Fabric dyeing

00:28:41 - What makes a great quilt / Quilt guilds / Advice for beginning quiltmakers

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Partial Transcript: You are a true artist. I think, you are definitely so different from so many of us who just really don't have that vision, as I said before.

Segment Synopsis: When complimented about her abilities as an artist, Dove points out that re-interpreting a pattern is also a form of creativity. She adds that not everyone can do it. Dove also notes that workmanship is also important. Dove hopes that people will still be making quilts in another century, and quiltmaking won't be a "lost art." She says that even though quilting is continuing to change, in its most basic form, a quilt is still something soft and warm. Dove participates in "Sew Sociables" at the Wellness Center in Washington, DC, as well as the Daughters of Dorcas. Dove is hesitant to join any other groups, because they tend to require a bigger commitment, and she doesn't want that to take away from her own work. She praises the Daughters of Dorcas for being a warm and inviting group. Dove advises new quiltmakers to just "jump right in there and look for somebody like me who would be glad to help you." She discusses teaching art to her students and how she enjoyed doing that.

Keywords: Quilt guilds; Sew Sociables; Social quiltmaking activities; Viola Canady; Daughters of Dorcas

Subjects: Washington (D.C.)

00:33:26 - Quilt documentation

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Partial Transcript: Oh I guess I could ask a couple picky questions. One is, do you keep track with pictures, or do you keep track of what you've done?

Segment Synopsis: Dove has photographs of most of her quilts. The prints are currently stored in an envelope, and she still needs to print a few photos that are on her digital camera. Dove notes that she doesn't produce as many quilts as some people, but she has documented the ones that she's done.

Keywords: Quilt documentation