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00:00:00 - About the touchstone quilt: "My roots are in the Smoky Mountains"

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Partial Transcript: I'm Amy Milne, and I'm the Executive Director of the Quilt Alliance. I'm doing a Quilter's Save Our Stories, QSOS, interview today on Saturday, March 18, 2023, which is National Quilting Day. I'm doing the interview with Frances Owl-Smith, and we're here at the beautiful Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual in the gallery and the education space, and it is such a great treat for me to get to interview you. I first want to ask you to tell me about the quilt that you brought today.

Segment Synopsis: Owl-Smith discusses the quilt that she made, which is a wall hanging. She made it after returning to North Carolina. She'd been living away for about twenty years. Owl-Smith says it is a self-affirmation quilt, and the title is "My roots are in the Smoky Mountains." The quilt is mixed media and represents Owl-Smith's ancestral roots in Western North Carolina. It includes a pieced background, appliqued trillium flowers, and embellished strings and beads that are the roots of the trillium flowers.

Keywords: Amy Milne; Cherokee; Embellishment techniques; North Carolina; Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual Co-Op; applique; piecing

Subjects: Mixed media textiles; Quiltmakers--United States

00:02:27 - Donating and selling quilts

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Partial Transcript: Frances, this is a quilt that you still own, I assume. Do you still own a lot of your quilts?

Segment Synopsis: Owl-Smith says that she still owns the touchstone quilt. However, she doesn't keep many of her other quilts. She has given quilts to friends and family members, and also donated quilts to charities and fundraising events. She's made corporate quilts and often sells her quilts. When Owl-Smith began selling her quilts, she saved the money and used it to pay for a trip to Paris.

Keywords: Quilt Purpose - Charity; Quilt Purpose - Fundraising; Quiltmaking for family; Selling quilts

00:03:48 - Design elements of the touchstone quilt

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Partial Transcript: What do you think people would gather about you as an artist when they see this quilt?

Segment Synopsis: Owl-Smith hopes that people will recognize her use of color when they see her quilt. She used a color wash technique, so the colors are lighter in the center and became darker as she added squares. Owl-Smith also focuses on balance in the quilt and discusses the importance of wildflowers in Western North Carolina. Trillium is one of her favorite wildflowers, and it is featured in the quilt.

Keywords: Aesthetics; Color balance; Color theory; Color wash quilts; North Carolina; Quilt design; Quilt purpose - Art or personal expression; Wildflowers

Subjects: Art quilts

00:04:49 - First quilting memory / Learning to quilt

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Partial Transcript: I'm going to move on to the next topic, which is just your involvement with quiltmaking in general. What's the first memory you have of a quilt or quiltmaking?

Segment Synopsis: Owl-Smith remembers her maternal grandmother quilting using a quilt frame when she was a child. Her grandmother would ask Owl-Smith to go underneath the quilt frame and push the needle back up for her. She mentions quilting was a necessity for many women in the Appalachian Mountains. She also remembers growing up with quilts on the bed and how heavy they felt in the winter. Owl-Smith says that even though her grandmother quilted and her mother made clothes by hand, she didn't become interested in quilting until she was older. She eventually learned to quilt on her own.

Keywords: Appalachian Mountains; Family; Grandmothers; Learning quiltmaking; Quilt Purpose - Bedcovering; Quilt Purpose - Utilitarian; grandchildren

Subjects: Quilts--United States; Quilts--United States--History--20th century

00:06:42 - Background and education

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Partial Transcript: You have done a lot at one time. You were raising your children when you were in medical school. For those who don't know, Frances is the first female physician in the Eastern Band of Cherokee, and you didn't go to school until later.

Segment Synopsis: Owl-Smith discusses her background. She got married after high school and is still married to her husband of fifty-five years. Owl-Smith decided to go to college after having children. She attended Western Carolina University for her bachelor's degree and the went to medical school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was still raising her children while in medical school and became interested in quilting then.

Keywords: Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians; North Carolina; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Western Carolina University; Work and life balance

00:07:50 - Beginning to quilt

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Partial Transcript: And what made you think, let me add more to this plate?

Segment Synopsis: Owl-Smith explains that she became more interested in quilting after taking a day trip to Virginia with her husband. She saw women selling quilts and quilt tops by the side of the road. One of the quilt tops that interested Owl-Smith was called "Chicken Gizzards." It was a scrap quilt that was similar to an Apple Core pattern. She purchased the quilt top and worked over several years to quilt it. She then attended an Amish quilt show in Raleigh, North Carolina and made a small Railroad Tracks quilt using a pattern from a book. After moving to Phoenix, Arizona, she bought a good sewing machine and started taking quilting classes. Owl-Smith continued developing as a quilter while living in New Mexico, where she joined a quilt guild and a quilting bee.

Keywords: Apple Core - quilt pattern; Arizona; New Mexico; North Carolina; Phoenix; Quilt guild; Railroad Tracks - quilt pattern; Raleigh; Scrap quilts; Virginia; quilting bee

Subjects: Amish quilts; Quilts--Southwest, New

00:10:12 - Showing her quilts / Quilting for family

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Partial Transcript: Had you shown any of your quilts in your workplace at that point?

Segment Synopsis: Owl-Smith began showing quilts with her guild in Farmington, New Mexico. She also exhibited quilts in the county and state fairs. When she first began quilting, her quilts were mostly purposeful. She made them as gifts for family members, including a wedding quilt for her sister. She also made friendship quilts with her quilting bee in New Mexico.

Keywords: Family; Farmington; New Mexico; Quilt Purpose - Exhibition; Quilt Purpose - Gift or presentation; Quilt Purpose - Utilitarian; Quilt Purpose - Wedding; Quilt shows/exhibitions; Quiltmaking for family; quilting bee

Subjects: Friendship quilts; Quilts--Southwest, New

00:11:27 - Favorite part of quilting / Comparison with pathology

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Partial Transcript: I'm curious about what you like most about the process.

Segment Synopsis: Owl-Smith enjoys choosing the fabric and cutting it for her quilts. She jokes that someone once told her she likes cutting fabric because she's a pathologist. Owl-Smith explains that her work as a pathologist involves looking through a microscope at colors and patterns. This focus on color, pattern, and scale has likely influenced her color and design choices for quilts.

Keywords: Aesthetics; Color theory; Pathology; Rotary cutter

00:13:17 - Studio space / Free motion quilting

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Partial Transcript: So what is your quiltmaking space like?

Segment Synopsis: Owl-Smith has a dedicated quilting studio in her home. She admits that it is pretty cluttered with quilting supplies she's collected over the past thirty years. Owl-Smith has a 16 inch Handi Quilter machine that she uses for free motion quilting. She doesn't make many large quilts anymore. When she does, Owl-Smith asks her friends with longarm machines to finish any pieces that would be too difficult to quilt on her machine.

Keywords: Free motion quilting; Handi Quilter; Home studio; Long arm quilting machine; Technology in quiltmaking; Work or Studio space

Subjects: Machine sewing; Sewing machines

00:15:28 - Cherokee Quilters' Guild

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Partial Transcript: So you do belong to a guild now, right?

Segment Synopsis: Owl-Smith is a member of the Cherokee Quilters' Guild. Being part of the guild provides a social connection with other like-minded women. The guild is currently working on a project for Quilts of Valor. They have donated other quilts to the hospital and sick members in the community.

Keywords: Cherokee Quilters' Guild; Quilt Purpose - Charity; Quilt guild; Quilts of Valor; Social quiltmaking activities

00:16:36 - What makes a great quilt?

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Partial Transcript: What do you think makes a great quilt?

Segment Synopsis: Owl-Smith says that she's not sure she has ever seen an ugly quilt. She enjoys seeing all quilts and is often curious about who made a quilt, even when it's not known. Owl-Smith jokes that her quilts aren't of the same caliber as other quilts that she's seen in shows. She is interested in hearing the stories about quilts and says it's important to understand more about the person who made a quilt, even if it's not necessarily well-made.

Keywords: Aesthetics; Quilt history

00:18:28 - Selecting artwork for / Donating a quilt to the Cherokee Indian Hospital

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Partial Transcript: Well as far as the hospital, you're on the governing board for the Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority Foundation, which is supportive of the hospital, and you have been really instrumental in curating and commissioning works for the hospital. What do you look for, and what makes quilts different than other types of artwork that you have placed? Because one of your pieces, at least one, is in the hospital.

Segment Synopsis: Owl-Smith is on the Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority Governing Board, and she was a member of the Elements Committee when planning the new Cherokee Indian Hospital. The committee wanted the new facility to be a beautiful place. They worked on selecting the colors, art, and aesthetics of the hospital. She says that it was hard to do but was a rewarding experience. The Cherokee Quilters' Group created a quilt that is on the hospice ward of the hospital. Owl-Smith also had breast cancer, and quilting helped her get through that time. She wanted to donate a quilt to the hospital and created one for the chapel. Owl-Smith says that naming quilts is very important to her, so she named the quilt "Sunshine After the Rain." It's a color wash quilt with a large gold lame sun in the middle. She is hopeful that the quilt gives hope to visitors in the hospital chapel. Owl-Smith says that there are several quilts on display in the hospital, in addition to other artwork from many local artists. She explains that because quilts are soft and textural, she thinks they are comforting to view when compared to other art forms.

Keywords: Aesthetics; Cherokee Indian Hospital; Cherokee Quilters' Group; Color wash quilts; Quilt Purpose - Therapy; Sunshine After the Rain

00:22:50 - The meaning of quilts

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Partial Transcript: What do you think about the meaning of quilts? What do they mean for you?

Segment Synopsis: Owl-Smith explains that quilts are going to outlive the people who make them. When a quiltmaker gives their quilt to a friend or family member, they are giving away a part of their heart to the recipient, which then may get passed along to others. Although the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians does not have a historical quilting pattern like some other tribes, they have done a lot of patchwork quilts and continue to carry on that history. Milne notes that Owl-Smith has also included parts of Appalachian life in her quilts, like the trillium flowers in her touchstone quilt.

Keywords: Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians; Female quiltmakers; Patchwork quilts; Quilt history; Quilt purpose - Heirloom; Quiltmaking for family

00:25:02 - Importance of quiltmaking

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Partial Transcript: Why is quiltmaking still important to you personally?

Segment Synopsis: Owl-Smith loves quilting and the process of creating and finishing a quilt. Her legacy will be continued through the quilts that she has made and passed on to other family members. Owl-Smith mentions that she has given quilts to her daughter and granddaughter. Her husband also has a quilt at home that was made by his grandmother. She finds quilting to be a creative outlet, but it's also therapeutic and can help her focus on using her creativity during difficult times.

Keywords: Grandmothers; Quilt Purpose - Artistic expression; Quilt Purpose - Therapy; Quiltmaking for family; grandchildren; quiltmaking process

00:26:37 - Current and future plans for quilting

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Partial Transcript: What's next? What is your current fascination, curiosity, with quilting?

Segment Synopsis: Owl-Smith says that she has started making smaller quilts as she's gotten older. She now uses a lot of scraps for her quilts. Using scraps brings back memories of where Owl-Smith originally bought the fabric and when she used it in other quilts. She is also interested in crumb quilting, which is a newer technique that uses small scraps of fabric to create larger pieces.

Keywords: Crumb quilting; Fabric - Multiple scrap; Scrap quilts; Techniques

00:28:34 - Appreciation for the quilting community

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Partial Transcript: Is there anything else that you'd like to say that I haven't asked you?

Segment Synopsis: Owl-Smith says it's wonderful to have a community of quilters around to ask questions and go on quilting retreats with. Milne agrees that the quilt community is a giving and generous community.

Keywords: Friendships through quilting; Quilting communities; quilting retreat