Interview with Marti Michell, October 22, 1999

Quilt Alliance
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00:00:11 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: I'm Brenda Horton, and I'm interviewing Marti Michell.

Segment Synopsis: Horton gives a brief introduction to the interview.

00:00:25 - "My Provence Memory Quilt"

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Partial Transcript: Marti, tell me about what you brought today.

Segment Synopsis: Michell explains her touchstone quilt, "My Provence Memory Quilt." She discusses its origins in the International Quilt Expo in Lyon, France, and her planning for the quilt prior to the trip. She explains her justification for using the quilt as an example in her book.

Keywords: Fabric - Provencal; International Quilt Expo; Quilt purpose - Personal enjoyment; Quilting books

00:03:39 - Other options for her touchstone quilt

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Partial Transcript: And I think one of the reasons I brought it today - when they asked us to bring one quilt, I was like "ooh, what am I gonna bring?"

Segment Synopsis: Michell discusses other quilts she considered for her touchstone quilt, including an antique quilt and a quilt with a pattern that was very influential when it was first published. She explains why she eventually decided to bring "My Provence Memory Quilt" instead of any of her other options.

Keywords: Antique quilts; Log Cabin (quilt pattern); Quilt business; Quilt memory

Subjects: Log cabin quilts

00:06:04 - Pictorial design of "My Provence Memory Quilt"

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Partial Transcript: I noticed as you cut these pieces and put them in here together, you've cut them so that the bees face out here and the flowers are centered here.

Segment Synopsis: Michell explains some of her process with creating "My Provence Memory Quilt," including her selection of specific images and the symbolism behind some of them. She tells the story behind her inclusion of sunflowers, based on a trip to Tokyo, Japan, with her daughter.

Keywords: Fussy cut; Quilt design; Symbolism

Subjects: Quilts--Design

00:08:46 - Most expensive quilt to sell

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Partial Transcript: 84 million. I wonder what the most expensive quilt has ever sold for?

Segment Synopsis: Michell quickly answers Horton's question about the most expensive quilt to ever sell.

Keywords: Baltimore Album quilts

Subjects: Album quilts

00:09:20 - Family

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned - we talked a little bit about your husband and Stacy. Tell us some more about your family.

Segment Synopsis: Michell gives details about her children and their families, including how her grandchildren have been involved with shopping and quiltmaking.

Keywords: Family

00:11:05 - Quilt-related travel

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Partial Transcript: Is all your travel quilt-related?

Segment Synopsis: Michell talks about how much she travels for her quilt business.

Keywords: Quilt business; Traveling for quilt shows

00:11:52 - Greatest quilting accomplishments

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Partial Transcript: Um, I'll come back to the business in a minute, but what is - you mentioned being on four continents. What is your greatest quilting accomplishment?

Segment Synopsis: Michell explains how she enjoys helping people to get started in quilting. She also talks about receiving the first Michael Kile Award from the Quilt Market Advisory Council. She briefly answers Horton's question about how many awards she's won.

Keywords: Awards; Michael Kile; Teaching quilting

00:14:25 - Does not make contest quilts

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Partial Transcript: Do you enter - do you make quilts that are just competition quilts?

Segment Synopsis: Michell explains why she does not make quilts for contests.

Keywords: Quilt purpose - Challenge or contest entry

00:15:00 - Beginning to quilt

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Partial Transcript: And in fact, I was teaching sewing classes at home.

Segment Synopsis: Michell explains how she started quilting from her background in clothing design and teaching sewing classes. She briefly discusses her resources for first getting into quilting. She tells the story of one of the first quilting classes she took, taught by a "Georgia mountain lady."

Keywords: Learning quiltmaking; Sewing classes

Subjects: Sewing

00:18:01 - Beginning the quilt business

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Partial Transcript: Well, that was when this actually turned into a business. So I was just teaching quilting, and then a friend decided that we should do a craft show.

Segment Synopsis: Michell talks about her first experiences with craft shows and how that led to her and her husband making quilted pillow kits to sell. She explains the initial components and popularity of the kits, and mentions the reaction of craft shows. She discusses the expansion of the business from craft shows and booths at local stores to the Yours Truly company.

Keywords: Craft festivals; Family; Quilt business; Quilting kits

00:23:18 - Books published by Yours Truly

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Partial Transcript: In 1977, uh, we published the first book that was sold directly to quilt shops.

Segment Synopsis: Michell discusses the publication of Yours Truly's first book and how its distribution model differed from that of other quilting books. She talks about how some books are still in print and which authors they chose to publish.

Keywords: Quilting books

00:25:54 - Highs and lows of Yours Truly

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Partial Transcript: And, and, you know, at that time there were a lot of things that made me really proud of Yours Truly.

Segment Synopsis: Michell explains the reasons why she was proud of her company. She mentions why she had to sell the company and how her work continued afterwards.

Keywords: Quilt business

00:27:47 - More about books published by Yours Truly

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Partial Transcript: What are the - you mentioned that you thought five of your books were still being published. Which ones?

Segment Synopsis: Michell discusses the publication histories of four books previously published by Yours Truly and several books that were in the process of being published when the company was sold. They include books by Mary Ellen Hopkins, Cheryl Bradkin, Elisabeth Porter, Marianne Fons, Harriet Hargrave, Bettina Havig, and Judith Baker Montano.

Keywords: Quilting books

00:29:37 - Focus on machine quilting

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Partial Transcript: I'm sorry, techniques? Well I'm a machine person.

Segment Synopsis: Michell explains why her company looked for machine techniques in the books they printed. She talks about the introduction of the rotary cutter in quilting as well as hiring Mary Ellen Hopkins and Harriet Hargrave to teach classes. She explains the switch from hiding machine quilting to not having to hide it. She mentions that she used a variety of techniques for her touchstone quilt.

Keywords: Machine quilting; Rotary cutters; Techniques

Subjects: Machine quilting

00:33:48 - Personal biography

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Partial Transcript: Have you always lived in Atlanta?

Segment Synopsis: Michell briefly outlines where she's lived during her lifetime. She talks about the family farm where she grew up. She tells the story of her grandfather and why her family's generations are spread out in age.

Keywords: Family

00:35:57 - Impact of quilt history

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Partial Transcript: How does quilt history fit into what you do? Has it influenced you as a quilter or what you are producing?

Segment Synopsis: Michell talks about her engagement with quilt history through reading. She explains how the Sunburst quilt pattern had historical roots.

Keywords: Quilt history; Sunburst (quilt pattern)

00:37:44 - Childhood quilts

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Partial Transcript: Well what is your first memory of a quilt?

Segment Synopsis: Michell describes her first memory of a church raffle butterfly quilt. She talks about the impact of this quilt on her later work. Horton makes a connection to "I Spy" quilts and Michell talks about "I Spy" quilts.

Keywords: Butterfly (quilt pattern); Childhood; I Spy quilts; Scrap quilts

00:41:47 - Getting (grand)children involved with quilts

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Partial Transcript: I want to know if you're going to be, um, let's see - if you were going to make a recommendation for when a person should start learning about quilts, how old would they be?

Segment Synopsis: Michell talks about teaching her grandchildren about quilts. She explains an approach to get children interested in quilts. She tells a story about taking one of her grandchildren out for the day, going into quilt shops, and picking out fabric with him.

Keywords: Children; Grandchildren; Shopping for fabric

00:46:38 - Future of the industry

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Partial Transcript: I'll ask one last question. What are your plans for the future, new projects or new - what vision do you see things going in?

Segment Synopsis: Michell talks about her and her husband's plans for continuing work. She explains their views of the continuation of the quilting industry.

Keywords: Quilt business

Subjects: Quilting today

00:49:43 - Husband's careers and the quilt business

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Partial Transcript: When you started making the kits and you were just doing them as craft and your love and then - what was your husband doing at that time?

Segment Synopsis: Michell talks about her husband's career with nuclear power and how he started working with the quilt business instead. She discusses how large the Yours Truly business grew. She explains what all the company did in terms of purchasing versus creating products itself.

Keywords: Quilt business

00:53:05 - Conclusion

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Partial Transcript: Well we could just keep going and going on this, and I hate to call it to a close.

Segment Synopsis: Horton concludes the interview and mentions that Michell is the new President of the International Quilt Association.