Interview with Sharon Gaylord Chambers, February 15, 2012

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

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Partial Transcript: Okay, this is an interview of the Q.S.O.S. Quilter's Save Our Stories project of The Alliance for American Quilts. Today is February 15th, the day after Valentine's day, it's easy to remember, and it is, we'll use Eastern time, 3:28 in the afternoon Eastern time. Our quilter today is Sharon Gaylord, and Sharon you're from where in Arkansas?

Segment Synopsis: Chambers describes her touchstone quilt as a folk art quilt. She created it while teaching a group of quilters in Texas. The class focused on combining different patterns to create a folk art look. Chambers calls it a mystery quilt, because the class did not know what the quilt would look like until it was finished. Chambers says the class did not like using a plaid background for the quilt, but Steiner and Chambers agree that the use of plaid makes the quilt special.

Keywords: Angela Steiner; Fabric - Plaid; Quilt Purpose - Teaching or learning sample; Teaching quiltmaking; Texas

Subjects: Folk art; Mena (Ark.); Quilts--United States

00:02:11 - Special meaning / What the quilt says about Chambers / Quilt use

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Partial Transcript: What special meaning does this quilt have for you?

Segment Synopsis: Chambers feels like this quilt exemplifies a quiltmaking style that she has become known for, and it represents her creativity. She chose to bring this quilt to the interview because she views it as being different, particularly due to its use of plaid, and finds it to be a good representation of her style. She says the quilt shows her creativity and ability to “think outside the box.” Chambers uses her quilt as a wall hanging in her house and does not have any other plans for the quilt.

Keywords: Fabric - Plaid; Quilt Purpose - Home decoration; Quiltmaking style

00:04:15 - Interest in quiltmaking

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Partial Transcript: The next questions are about your involvement in quiltmaking. Tell me about your interest in quiltmaking.

Segment Synopsis: Chambers says she thinks about quilting all of the time. She enjoys going to the fabric store and losing herself while looking at the fabric. Chambers wants to spend all of her free time quiltmaking. She describes having a special place where she quilts, and Chambers was working on a quilt for several hours before the interview.

Keywords: Fabric/Quilt shops; Family; Home studio; Husbands; Shopping for fabric

Subjects: Quiltmakers

00:05:07 - Learning quiltmaking

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Partial Transcript: That's great, you answered the question well. What age did you start making quilts?

Segment Synopsis: Chambers began making quilts in 1974, when she was in her mid-thirties. Her husband asked Chambers to make a quilt out of corduroy. Chambers did not grow up with quilts, so she researched how to quilt and taught herself. She tried to enter the first corduroy quilt she made into the Texas State Fair, but it was not accepted. However, Chambers still has the corduroy quilt and brings it out to use every October.

Keywords: Everyday use; Fabric - Corduroy; Learning quiltmaking; Quilt Purpose - Utilitarian; Quilt shows/exhibitions; Quiltmaking for family; Texas State Fair

00:07:03 - Time spent quilting

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Partial Transcript: How many hours a week do you think you quilt?

Segment Synopsis: Chambers estimates that she quilts for about two to three hours per day. She mentions doing applique in the evenings. In total, Chambers thinks she probably quilts about twenty to thirty hours a week.

Keywords: Applique; Time management

00:07:23 - Quilt memory

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Partial Transcript: What is your first quilt memory?

Segment Synopsis: Chambers says that her family did not have quilts when she was a child. Her first quilt memory was making the corduroy quilt for her husband. Soon after making that quilt, she attended a quilt show in Dallas and was impressed by the quilts. Chambers then discovered quilt shops and realized that she could make quilts from fabric other than scraps. She began reading quilting magazines, where she learned about the International Quilt Festival. She also participated in quilting bees and the Dallas Quilt Guild.

Keywords: Dallas Quilt Guid; Fabric - Corduroy; Fabric/Quilt shops; Guild activities; International Quilt Festival; Quilt guilds; Quilt magazines; Quilt memory; Quilt shops; Quilt shows/exhibitions; Quilting bee; Scrap quilts; Social quiltmaking activities

00:09:14 - Impact on family

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Partial Transcript: So how does quiltmaking impact your family?

Segment Synopsis: Chambers says that quiltmaking has had a very big impact on her family. In addition to spending lots of time making quilts, she displays them in her home, and her children grew up having quilts on their beds. Chambers says quilting is such a large part of her life, that she doesn't think her family thinks of her without thinking about quilts.

Keywords: Children; Children's quilts; Everyday use; Family; Quilt Purpose - Bedcovering; Quilt Purpose - Home decoration; Quiltmaking for family; Time management

00:09:53 - Quilting to get through difficult times / Hand vs. machine quilting

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Partial Transcript: Have you ever used quilts to get through a difficult time?

Segment Synopsis: Chambers has used quiltmaking to help her get through difficult times. She describes how quilting helped her while recovering from having two knee replacements. Chambers notes that hand quilting allows her to lose herself in the work and makes it easier to pass the time. She also likes to have a quilt to work on during uncomfortable situations. Chambers used to only do hand quilting. Now she is machine quilting more often, because it is less time consuming.

Keywords: Family; Hand quilting; Machine quilting; Marking; Quilt Purpose - Therapy; Time management

00:11:28 - Pleasing parts of quiltmaking / Current project

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Partial Transcript: Tell me about an amusing experience that has occurred from your quiltmaking.

Segment Synopsis: Chambers says the most pleasing part of quiltmaking is the finished product. She enjoys feeling accomplished and proud after finishing her quilts. Chambers compares the process of working on a quilt to raising a child. It requires a lot of work, and "sometimes they're not great, and sometimes they're great, and sometimes everything in it is just perfect." Chambers describes the quilt she is currently working on, which uses hand applique and bright colors with whimsical elements from Piece O' Cake.

Keywords: Applique; Becky Goldsmith; Hand applique; Hand quilting; Piece O’ Cake Designs; Quilt design

00:13:46 - Least favorite parts of quiltmaking

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Partial Transcript: What aspects of actual quiltmaking do you not enjoy?

Segment Synopsis: Chambers says that she is not a good machine quilter. She has to force herself to do machine quilting and piecing, but she is currently making a quilt using Civil War reproduction fabrics to use her machine piecing skills.

Keywords: Courthouse Square - quilt pattern; Fabric - Reproduction; Home sewing machine; Machine piecing; Machine quilting

00:14:28 - Quilt groups

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Partial Transcript: What art or quilt groups do you belong to? I think you may have already answered this.

Segment Synopsis: Chambers belongs to a quilt guild in Mena, Arkansas. She teaches lessons for the quilt guild, and they have a show every year. Chambers has moved on from her group in Dallas, Texas because she has been living in Mena for about ten years. She is also part of a regular quilting group with about ten women who sit around a quilt frame in a church and socialize while hand quilting.

Keywords: Guild activities; Hand quilting; Knowledge transfer; Quilt Purpose - Therapy; Quilt guilds; Quilt shows/exhibitions; Social quiltmaking activities; Teaching quiltmaking

Subjects: Dallas (Tex.); Mena (Ark.)

00:16:18 - Technology

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Partial Transcript: Have advances in technology influenced your work at all?

Segment Synopsis: Chambers is slowly adopting new quiltmaking technology. She comments on the improvements from making her own cardboard templates in the 1970s, when she began quiltmaking, to using rotary cutters, rulers, and cutting mats. Chambers enjoys drawing and cutting her own applique pieces, so she is hesitant to use a die cutting machine.

Keywords: Applique; Cardboard templates; Plastic templates; Rotary cutters; Technology in quiltmaking

00:17:39 - Favorite techniques and materials

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Partial Transcript: What are your favorite techniques and materials?

Segment Synopsis: Chambers' favorite technique is applique. She recently discovered using freezer paper to make applique templates. That has become her favorite material, because it is more affordable than using plastic templates, and Chambers can use the freezer paper over and over again when making templates.

Keywords: Applique; Freezer paper templates; Plastic templates

00:18:31 - Studio

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Partial Transcript: Describe the area in which you create.

Segment Synopsis: Chambers describes her home studio in Mena, Arkansas. After moving there, she had an extra room built on top of a second garage that doubles as a studio and guest room. Chambers has a huge window in her studio with a view of the woods and mountains. She likes being able to leave her work in progress without cleaning up whenever she goes back into the house.

Keywords: Fabric stash; Home studio; Work or Studio space

Subjects: Mena (Ark.)

00:19:53 - Design wall

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Partial Transcript: Do you use a design wall?

Segment Synopsis: Chambers uses a design wall when making her quilts. She also says another important tool to use is a reducing glass. Chambers connects the two because when using a design wall, she looks through the reducing glass and can see the errors in her quilt.

Keywords: Design process; Design walls; Reducing glass

00:20:22 - What makes a great quilt

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Partial Transcript: Okay, we're going to switch to the aesthetics, craftsmanship, and design aspects of quiltmaking. First question is, what do you think makes a great quilt?

Segment Synopsis: Chamber thinks that color balance makes a great quilt. She says it is important that no color or element stands out more than the others, so the quilt is balanced overall. Chambers discusses drawing inspiration from antique quilts, and then adapting the colors and designs to make them her own style.

Keywords: Aesthetics; Antique quilts; Color balance; Color theory; Quiltmaking inspiration; Quiltmaking style

00:22:12 - What makes a quilt appropriate for a museum

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Partial Transcript: What makes a quilt appropriate for a museum or a special collection?

Segment Synopsis: Chambers jokes that a quilt is appropriate for a museum if someone is willing to spend money on it. She also notes that a quilt must be in good condition and well taken care of to be in a museum. She mentions high quality antique quilts as good candidates for museum collections. Chambers also says the quilts selected for the “Lone Stars III: A Legacy of Texas Quilts, 1986-2011” book are amazing pieces.

Keywords: "Lone Stars III: A Legacy of Texas Quilts"; Antique quilts

00:22:55 - What makes a great quiltmaker / Inspirational quiltmakers

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Partial Transcript: What makes a great quiltmaker?

Segment Synopsis: Chambers says that what makes a great quiltmaker is someone who has the dedication and desire. She also notes that it is important to have support from others who allow them to make quilts. Chambers discusses quiltmakers she enjoys including Pat Campbell. She was fortunate to take a lesson with Campbell as one of her early students. Chambers also mentions apprecaiting other artists in the "Lone Stars III: A Legacy of Texas Quilts" book. She especially enjoys the work of Libby Lehman.

Keywords: "Lone Stars III: A Legacy of Texas Quilts"; Jacobean applique; Libby Lehman; Pat Campbell; Quiltmaking classes; Quiltmaking inspiration

00:24:27 - Importance of quiltmaking to Chambers

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Partial Transcript: Let's go to the function and meaning of quilts in American life. Why is quiltmaking important in your life?

Segment Synopsis: Chambers says that quiltmaking is important to her life because it allows her to be somebody. She was a homemaker but did not want to be identified by her job. Quiltmaking gave her an identity. In her community, she has become known as the “quilt lady.” Chambers also notes that quiltmaking has allowed her to be an artist.

Keywords: Female quiltmakers; Quilt purpose - Art or personal expression; Quilt purpose - Artistic expression

Subjects: Quiltmakers--United States

00:25:43 - Importance of quilts in American life

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Partial Transcript: What do you think about the importance of quilts in American life?

Segment Synopsis: Chambers says she does not view quilts as an important part of current American life. She thinks they were important in the past, but now it is up to individual quiltmakers and their families "to make them important." Chambers points out that the children of quiltmakers, including her own children, give importance to the quilts made by their family members. However, she does not think that is a part of average American life.

Keywords: Children; Family; Quilt history; Quiltmaking for family

00:26:37 - Special meaning for women's history in America / Quiltmaking for family

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Partial Transcript: In what ways do you think quilts have special meaning for women's history in America?

Segment Synopsis: Chambers says that women have used quiltmaking as a way to express their feelings and cope with traumatic events in history. She mentions Civil War quilts and Bible quilts as examples of quilts that have historic meanings. Chambers has given a few quilts to her family members, but she has kept most of them. She wants to make sure that the quilts will be safe and well-cared for before giving them away. She is not sure what will happen to her quilts in the future, but Chambers would like to donate them somewhere that they will be used, appreciated, and kept safe.

Keywords: Female quiltmakers; Quilt Purpose - Gift or presentation; Quilt Purpose - Therapy; Quilt history; Quilt preservation; Quilt purpose - Art or personal expression; Quiltmaking for family

00:28:11 - Challenges confronting quiltmakers

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Partial Transcript: What do you think is the biggest challenge confronting quiltmakers today?

Segment Synopsis: Chambers says that finding time to practice their craft is the biggest challenge for quiltmakers today. With most women working outside of the home, they do not have the time to work on quilts. Chambers notes that she has been privileged to be able to focus on quiltmaking while working and then continue her passion into retirement.

Keywords: Female quiltmakers; Retired; Time management

00:28:50 - Quilts in the “Lone Stars III” book / Teaching quiltmaking

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Partial Transcript: Now, tell me about your quilt was in the Texas quilt book.

Segment Synopsis: Chambers discusses having two quilts in the book, “Lone Stars III: A Legacy of Texas Quilts, 1986-2011.” The first quilt is a Jacobean applique quilt that Chambers made while taking a class with Pat Campbell. The second quilt is a Princess Feather pattern that is a variation of a red and green four-block quilt, which Chambers titled "Feathered Rose." Chambers says that she likes making scrap quilts and using patterned fabrics for the backgrounds. She recalls being surprised when she learned her quilts would be published in the book. Chambers also discusses teaching for her local quilt guild. She gets great pleasure from seeing the women in her quiltmaking classes bring their own creativity to the patterns and learn from the process.

Keywords: Applique; Barbara Hartman; Fabric - Batiks; Fabric choice; Fabric selection; Guild leadership; Jacobean applique; Machine piecing; Pat Campbell; Princess Feather - quilt pattern; Published work - Quilts; Quilt guilds; Quiltmaking style; Scrap quilts; Teaching quiltmaking; “Feathered Rose”; “Lone Stars III: A Legacy of Texas Quilts, 1986-2011”

00:35:44 - Support from Chambers' husband and quilt groups

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Partial Transcript: Well I have just one more question, and that is because your husband is the one who suggested you start quilting, what does he think of all of this?

Segment Synopsis: Chambers' husband is very supportive of her quiltmaking. He wrote an article for Quilters Newsletter magazine and is proud of what Chambers has accomplished. She mentions other people who have been influential to her development as a quiltmaker. When Chambers lived in Dallas, she would take bus trips to Iowa with other quiltmakers to see Amish communities and quilts. She also learned the best way to use color in her quilts from a member of her Dallas quilt group, the Material Girls. Chambers concludes by saying she is grateful for the support of her husband and quilt groups.

Keywords: Amish quilts; Color theory; Family; Friendships through quilting; Iowa; Material Girls; Pat Campbell; Quilt guilds; Quilt magazines; Quilters Newsletter Magazine; Social quiltmaking activities; Traveling for quilt shows

Subjects: Dallas (Tex.)