Interview with Sarah Abright Dickson, November 3, 2011

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

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Partial Transcript: This is Hollis Chatelaine. Today's date is November 3rd, 2011, and it is 3:12 PM, and I am conducting an interview with Sarah Dickson for the Quilters' S.O.S., which is Save Our Stories, a project of The Alliance for the American Quilts. Sarah and I are at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas. Sarah, will you tell me about the quilt that you brought today?

Segment Synopsis: Dickson talks about making the touchstone quilt in 1978. Her mother had terminal cancer, and Dickson worked on the quilt while she was sitting at her bedside in the hospital. Dickson hand pieced the quilt using scraps of clothing that she made for her children and her mother. Each of the pieces is significant for Dickson. She finished piecing the quilt top during that time, but Dickson could not bring herself to finish the quilt after her mother passed away. Three years later, one of Dickson's friends encouraged her to finish it and helped with layering and basting the quilt.

Keywords: Family; Family life; Friendships through quilting; Hand piecing; Mothers; Quilt purpose - Bedcovering; Quilt purpose - Comfort; Traditional quilts

Subjects: Quilting; Quiltmakers--United States; Quilts--United States--Exhibitions.

00:01:48 - Personal significance / Using the touchstone quilt

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Partial Transcript: I know you've made many quilts, why did you choose to bring this quilt to the interview?

Segment Synopsis: Dickson says the touchstone quilt is more poignant than other significant quilts that she has made. Her mother did not understand why Dickson spent so much time quilting, but she still admires her mother and the quilt is very significant to her. The quilt is often used as a bedcovering and has stains on the back. Although the quilt is traditional, Dickson says that there is also another side of her that likes making more contemporary quilts.

Keywords: Everyday use; Family; Family life; Mothers; Quilt purpose - Bedcovering; Quiltmaking for family; Traditional quilts

00:03:19 - Learning quiltmaking / Time spent quilting

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Partial Transcript: And at what age did you start quilting?

Segment Synopsis: Dickson discusses learning to quilt when she was 40 years old after moving to Lubbock, Texas. She happened to have a conversation with Jackie Reis from Lubbock, who taught quilting classes. There was only one spot left in the class, and Dickson decided to join. After the first class, she was excited that quilting combined her interests in women's art, history, and Dikson's love of fabric and sewing. Now Dickson does at least a little sewing or quilting every day.

Keywords: Gender in quiltmaking; Jackie Reis; Learning quiltmaking; Quiltmaking classes; Sewing; Time management

Subjects: Lubbock (Tex.)

00:05:15 - First quilt memory / Family's response to quiltmaking

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Partial Transcript: What is your first quilt memory?

Segment Synopsis: Dickson describes the first quilt she ever made, which was a large bed quilt. She used a Hands All Around pattern. Dickson says it was too big for a beginning project. She also didn't use enough batting, so the quilt is very thin now. Dickson has friends who are quilters, but no one else in her family is interested in quiltmaking. She describes her family's initial reaction to quilting, which did not always seem supportive. Now that her children are older, she feels like her family is more understanding of her quilting than they were before.

Keywords: Family; Family life; Hands All Around - quilt pattern; Jackie Reis; Learning quiltmaking; Quilt memory

00:07:17 - Favorite and least favorite parts of quiltmaking / Quilt groups

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Partial Transcript: Tell me about an amusing experience that has occurred from your quiltmaking or teaching, or can you think of any stories that might be amusing?

Segment Synopsis: Dickson talks about the calming effects of hand dyeing fabrics and quilting in comparison to her stressful work and family life. Although she likes most aspects of quilting, she prefers not to hand applique. Dickson also does not enjoy layering and basting her quilts, because it is so time consuming. She discusses previously being a charter member in the San Antonio Quilt Guild when it was formed. Dickson was also a member of the quilt guild in Lubbock and Fiber Artists of San Antonio. Since returning to work full-time, Dickson has not participated in any of the guilds, because they required too much time.

Keywords: Applique; Fabric - Hand-dyed; Family life; Fiber Artists of San Antonio; Hand applique; Machine applique; Quilt guilds; Quilt purpose - Meditation/relaxation; San Antonio Quilt Guild; Time management; Work and life balance

Subjects: Lubbock (Tex.); San Antonio (Tex.)

00:09:25 - Favorite techniques / Studio / Design process

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Partial Transcript: Have the advances in technology influenced your art or your work? And if so, how have they influenced them?

Segment Synopsis: Dickson discusses her favorite quiltmaking techniques including piecing and hand dyeing. She describes her small studio space and how that has affected her quiltmaking process. Because Dickson lives in an apartment, she has had to get used to working in a very small area. Dickson discusses how she balances a full-time job with quilting and talks about her improvisational design process.

Keywords: Design process; Design walls; Fabric - Hand-dyed; Home studio; Improvisational piecing; Piecing; Quilt purpose - Meditation/relaxation; Time management; Work and life balance; Work or studio space

00:12:12 - What makes a great quilt and quilter / Inspiration from art quilts

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Partial Transcript: So, what do you think makes a wonderful quilt? What makes a great quilt for you?

Segment Synopsis: Dickson talks about the importance of design, fabric, and color choices when creating a great quilt. She is a self taught artist and wishes that she had more formal art and design training. She says what makes a great quilt that's worthy of being in a museum is subjective. Dickson thinks that a great quiltmaker has time, energy, and a love of fabric and art. She compares fabric piecing in quilts to painting on a canvas. Dickson has a strong admiration for art quilts. She considers art quilts to be a contemporary art form and is excited about their recent rise in popularity.

Keywords: Aesthetics; Color balance; Color theory; Fabric selection

Subjects: Art quilts; Quilt National

00:16:38 - Hand vs. machine piecing and quilting

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Partial Transcript: Alright. How do you feel about machine quilting versus hand quilting?

Segment Synopsis: Dickson does not mind when quilters use machine quilting. However, she prefers to do hand piecing and quilting, because she has limited space in her studio. She also finds hand quilting to be relaxing. Dickson does enjoy seeing other quilts that are machine pieced and quilted, although she finds a lot of long arm quilting to be too sterile.

Keywords: Hand piecing; Hand quilting; Long arm quilting; Machine piecing; Machine quilting

00:17:44 - Importance of quiltmaking / Inspiration and concerns / Quilt preservation

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Partial Transcript: And why is quiltmaking important to your life? You've mentioned that it was because it relaxes you. Are there other reasons?

Segment Synopsis: Dickson finds quiltmaking to be the creative outlet that she enjoys the most. She talks about being inspired by Amish quilts, especially their use of black and solid colors on the front and more elaborate patterns on the back. Dickson worries about appealing to the next generation of quiltmakers. She talks about the care needed to preserve quilts for the future but also suggests that she'd rather have her quilts used than stored.

Keywords: Amish quilts; Children's quilts; Color theory; Quilt preservation; Quilt purpose - Artistic expression; Quilt purpose - Utilitarian; Quiltmaking inspiration

00:20:59 - Quiltmaking for family / Challenges confronting quiltmakers

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Partial Transcript: What has happened to most of the quilts that you have made? Are they with friends or family?

Segment Synopsis: Dickson has made a lot of quilts as gifts for her family. She has sold some quilts, but Dickson does not necessary make quilts with the intention of selling them. Dickson also completed a series of twelve quilts for her future grandchildren. Her daughter told Dickson that the idea was morbid, so she is calling the series "The Morbids." Dickson discusses the importance of pursuing your own interests when quiltmaking rather than following trends or trying to meet other people's guidelines and expectations.

Keywords: Children's quilts; Quiltmaking for family; Selling quilts; children; grandchildren

00:23:33 - Fabric stash / Conclusion

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Partial Transcript: Do you feel like you would like to add anything more? That's a wonderful way, what you've just said, is there anything more you'd like to add?

Segment Synopsis: Dickson wishes she had more time for quiltmaking and thinks that quilting is a "beautiful outlet." She expresses regret that she won't be able to use the entirety of her fabric stash in her lifetime. Dickson hopes that someone else with a love of fabric will be able to inherit her stash and continue to use it.

Keywords: Fabric stash