Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Paula Nadelstern, October 22, 1999

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:04 - From hobby to professional quilter

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Partial Transcript: Paula, my name is Lorraine Jackson and we're just delighted to have you here to participate in our, uh, Quilt Oral History Project at the, uh, festival in Houston.

Segment Synopsis: Nadelstern talks about the quilt she has with her, "Kaleidoscopic XX: Elegant After Maths." Nadelstern is a quilter who combines the look and geometry of a kaleidoscope with quilting techniques. She describes her beginnings with quilt making and how she came to be an author and traveling teacher to make quilting her career. She lives in an apartment in New York with her husband and daughter. Both are very supportive of the work she does.

Keywords: "Kaleidoscopic XX: Elegant After Maths"; Careers; College freshman; Community; Daughters; Family; Frugality; Group quilts; Hand-quilting; Hobby; Husbands; Kaleidoscope patches; Kitchen table; Machine quilting; New York City (N.Y.); Patchwork; Professional; Quilting; Quilting books; Quilts; Studios; Supportive; Teaching; Traveling

Subjects: Machine quilting; Patchwork quilts; Quilting; Quilting shops; Quilting--Patterns; Quilting--Vocational guidance; Quiltmakers; Sewing; Sewing machines

00:05:55 - Kaleidoscope patterns / Collecting fabrics

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Partial Transcript: What does this quilt ["Kaleidoscopic XX: Elegant After Maths"] mean to you?

Segment Synopsis: Nadelstern talks about her growth in skills and inspiration within her kaleidoscope quilt series. She talks about the fabric choice and creating a kaleidoscope pattern. Nadelstern talks about her quilts and their travels. When she travels, Nadelstern collects fabrics to use in later quilts.

Keywords: "Kaleidoscopic XXI: The Thank Your Lucky Star Memorial Quilt"; Exhibits; Fabrics; Geometry; Meaning; Quilt series; Quilting; Selling; Sentimental value; Sewing; Silk dyer; Silks; Storage; Teaching; Techniques; Traveling quilt; Vintage silk

Subjects: Machine appliqué--Patterns; Machine quilting; Quilting; Quilting--Vocational guidance; Quiltmakers; Sewing; Sewing machines

00:10:55 - Creating kaleidoscope quilts

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Partial Transcript: How much, uh, time do you find, when you're at home, to, uh, be, uh, quilting?

Segment Synopsis: Nadelstern talks about how she budgets her time like any wife and mother. Then, she talks about her inspiration and being part of The Brewster Kaleidoscope Society, and how movement, shapes, and the fabric are important to her. She describes how she uses traditional quilting techniques to create the kaleidoscope patterns. Nadelstern gives a brief history of the kaleidoscope.

Keywords: Budgeting time; Civil War; Color; Construction; Design; Discovery; Fabric; Geometry; Ideas; Inspiration; Kaleidoscope history; Kaleidoscopes; Movement; Parlor toys; Pyramid built; Quilt-making; Quilting; Quilts; Schedule; Sewing; Shapes; Six-sided pyramid quilt; Surprise; The Brewster Kaleidoscope Society; Traditional techniques; Triangles

Subjects: Kaleidoscope quilts; Kaleidoscopes; Kaleidoscopes in art; Machine quilting; Quilting; Quiltmakers; Sewing; Signature quilts

00:15:38 - Career in quilting

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Partial Transcript: Now, you've written books. How many books have you written?

Segment Synopsis: Nadelstern talks about her career as professional quilter and writing books about quilting. She thinks that her previous career of occupational therapy helped her to be a better teacher. She talks about her daughter getting into quilting too.

Keywords: "Kaleidoscopes & Quilts"; "Snowflakes & Quilts"; Admiration; Books; Career; Collectors; Colors; Daughters; Featherweight sewing; Full time artists; Guilds; Interest; Occupational therapy; Patterns; Photographs; Quilt shops; Respect; Spontaneity; Teaching; Technically; Techniques

Subjects: Machine quilting; Quilting; Quilting shops; Quilting--Vocational guidance; Quiltmakers; Sewing; Sewing machines; Sewing-machine industry

00:20:00 - Recognition of quilting as art

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Partial Transcript: What does quilt me--quilting mean to you as a person?

Segment Synopsis: Nadelstern talks about what quilting means to her. She talks about the women she has met because of her quilting travel, and the relationships and community she is a part of. Nadelstern talks about how fiber art isn't recognized as a legitimate form of art, and one of her goals is for MOMA to exhibit quilts and fabric art like they are legitimate. She also talks about capturing her art through photography and exhibitions.

Keywords: Adulthood; American woman; Art Quilt Network; Artistry; Community; Craftsman; Exhibits; Fiber art; Future; MOMA; Meaning; People; Photographers; Photographs; Purpose; Quilters; Quilting; Quilting associations; Quilts; Recognition; Relationships; Serious art; Smithsonian Museum; Space restraints; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Women; Young women

Subjects: Kaleidoscope quilts; Quilting; Quilting--Vocational guidance; Quiltmakers; Sewing; Signature quilts

00:25:12 - The balance of a quality quilt / The importance of fabric

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Partial Transcript: Do you, uh, you make quilts to give to your friends or other members of your family?

Segment Synopsis: Nadelstern talks about not having the time to make gifts for family and friends. She notes that her quilts are kept in basic storage at her apartment because of the lack of room. She reflects on "museum quality" quilts and how they have to be engaging enough from far away for the viewer to come closer, but also be technically sound to look good up close. For her, the fabric is the most important part of the piece, and she enjoys having the NYC garment district in her "backyard."

Keywords: Baby quilts; Bed quilts; Childhood; Color; Design; Down comforters; Dyed fabrics; Fabric; Family quilts; Friends; Garment district; Gifts; Impression; Museum quilts; New York City; Perfect; Pleasing; Preservation; Quality; Seams; Stitching; Storage; Technique

Subjects: Kaleidoscope quilts; Machine quilting; Quilting; Quilting shops; Quiltmakers; Sewing

00:30:29 - "Kaleidoscopic XX: Elegant After Maths" fabrics and signature

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Partial Transcript: Are there other things that you would like to tell us about quilting experience or this quilt that, uh, we haven't explored through some of the, the questions and answers that we've had in this interview?

Segment Synopsis: Nadelstern thinks about her quilt collection and how it shows the history of fabric and trends of what was available at that time. She explains the design process that she goes through to design fabric. She explains how she signs her quilts.

Keywords: "Serendipity"; Applique work; Benartex; Body of work; Design; Design process; Embroidery; Fabric line; Fabrics; Found colors; Garment district; Group quilts; History of fabric; Inspiration; Mix colors; Painter; Painting; Patterns; Signed quilts; Suede; Trends

Subjects: Appliqué; Kaleidoscope quilts; Quilting; Quilting shops; Quiltmakers; Sewing; Signature quilts

00:36:02 - Community influence / Inspiration for kaleidoscope quilts

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Partial Transcript: Do you think that your, uh, quilts, uh, reflect, uh, something specific about the community and, uh, area that you have grown up in?

Segment Synopsis: Nadelstern reflects on how her community and home may have influenced her quilt-making. She also talks about how "the rules" of quilting do not matter as much now, and people can do what they like. She talks about how she came to invent and do kaleidoscope quilts. She talks about her current quilt, and she notes that in the magazine with the "100 greatest quilts" her quilt is upside down.

Keywords: Applique; Art medium; Block sets; Colors; Community; Diversity; Effects; Fabric; Future; Garment district; Group quilts; Impact; Influence; Kaleidoscope stores; Kaleidoscopes; Layout; Medallion; New York; Patchwork; People; Personalization; Reflection; Rules; Techniques; Traditional; Unique

Subjects: Appliqué; Kaleidoscope quilts; Machine quilting; Patchwork quilts; Quilting; Quilting shops; Quiltmakers; Sewing