Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Jonathan Shannon, October 23, 1999

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:03 - Talking about his most famous quilts, "Air Show" and "Amigos Muertos"

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Partial Transcript: My name is Flavin Glover. Today is October 23rd, 1999.

Segment Synopsis: Shannon's quilt "Air Show" is on display, and he refers to it winning Best of Show and how it appeals to some of the husbands of other quilters. He relates how he started quilting, and he describes how his process of creating "Amigos Muertos," another of his famous quilts.

Keywords: "Air Show"; "Amigos Muertos"; 1930s airplanes; 1993 Best of Show; AIDS; Classes; Gender roles; History; Husbands; Males; Men; National Quilting Association; Quiltmakers--United States.; Quilts; Textiles; Traditional; Visual art; Workshops

Subjects: Craft festivals.; HIV/AIDS awareness; Male quiltmakers; Quilting arts workshop; Quilting.; Quilts--United States--Exhibitions.; Quilts--United States--History--20th century.; Textile artists

00:08:32 - Multi-cultural fabrics in quilting / Economic independence enabling quilting

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Partial Transcript: So I, I stopped doing these very highly rendered pictorial quilts, and turned to an examination of, of textile itself.

Segment Synopsis: Shannon talks about how he views textiles as a "spiritual force" throughout history. He talks about his combining of different cultural textiles from around the world. He talks about not needing to sell his quilts to make a living, and how that economic independence enabled him to quilt as he liked.

Keywords: "Power of the cloth"; "Spiritual forces"; Economic independence; Economics; Emotions; Endowment; History; Identity; International cultures; Money; Piecing; Response; Scholarship; Textiles

Subjects: Craft festivals.; Fabric arts; Male quiltmakers; Quilting today; Quilting.; Quiltmakers--United States.; Quilts--Design.; Quilts--United States--Exhibitions.; Textile artists

00:15:31 - The controversy surrounding his "Amigos Muertos" quilt

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Partial Transcript: Now the other quilt, "Amigos Muertos," as I say was made the year after this show, and, and there was a very interesting controversy about that quilt...

Segment Synopsis: Shannon relates the controversy and initial rejection of "Amigos Muertos" for being "offensive" to visitors. He also talks about the political parts of quiltmaking.

Keywords: 'Amigos Muertos"; American Quilter's Society Show; Censorship; Content; Controversy; Grief; Offensive; Pleasant; Political; Rejection; Visitors

Subjects: Art festivals.; HIV/AIDS awareness; Male quiltmakers; Quilting.; Quiltmakers--United States.; Quilts--Design.; Quilts--United States--Exhibitions.; Quilts--United States--History--20th century--Exhibitions.; Quilts.

00:20:27 - Teaching quilting / Gathering inspiration from Amish quilts and Victorian crazy quilts

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Partial Transcript: With the--all the quilts that you have made, has teaching, uh, quilting, has that been a part of your life?

Segment Synopsis: Shannon talks about how he doesn't really teach except for an occasional longer seminar on the design process. He reflects on what he considers a "great quilt" and what influences his own design process.

Keywords: Artistic integrity; Classes; Creativity; Early Amish quilts; Great quilt; Influences; Inspiration; Personal; Pictorial quilts; Quilt design; Quilting; Quiltmaking; Seminars; Sewing; Teaching; Technique; Victorian crazy quilts; Workshops

Subjects: Amish quilts.; Craft and art; Crazy quilts.; Male quiltmakers; Quilting arts workshop; Quilting.; Quilts in art; Quilts--Design.

00:26:18 - Emotional response in quilt design / Description of his art studio

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Partial Transcript: I'm seeing here in the quilt, "Air Show," uh, a tremendous use of color.

Segment Synopsis: Shannon talks about his art training, but that the "rules" of intellectual art doesn't constrain his choice in colors and textures; he goes on emotional response. He talks about his quilting studio, and how when he started quilting he was not working full time.

Keywords: Art theory; Art training; Color sense; Emotional response; Fabric; Moving tables; Palette; Quilting studio; Textiles; Textures; Work outside of quilting

Subjects: Artists; Craft and art; Male quiltmakers; Quilts in art; Quilts--United States--Exhibitions.; Quilts.

00:30:23 - Fabric collection / Quilting techniques

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Partial Transcript: Well it appears that you get your fabric, maybe, from literally everywhere. Is, is that true?

Segment Synopsis: Shannon talks about how he collected his variety of quilts, and how he sometimes paints and dyes fabric. He also explains his quilting process with the sewing machine and hand quilting.

Keywords: Dyes; Exotic fabrics; Fabrics; Hand quilting; Hand sewing; International; Ironing; Machine piecing; Machine sewing; Painting fabric; Rare fabrics; Techniques; Textiles; Tropical

Subjects: Fabrics; Male quiltmakers; Quilting.; Quiltmakers--United States.; Quilts--Design.; Sewing machines.

00:33:18 - The "language of quiltmaking" / Childhood

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Partial Transcript: Is there any particular, uh, story that you would want to tell us about--or something that--where the quilts have got you into, uh, a situation in your life or an, an experience that you never dreamed would happen?

Segment Synopsis: Shannon says that the "language of quiltmaking" allows him to make connections with people around the world. He reflects on his childhood, and how his mother and grandmother would allow him explore art how he wanted. It wasn't until he went to school that he learned about expected gender roles.

Keywords: "Amigos Muertos"; AIDs Awareness; Artistic; Childhood; Gender expectations; Gender roles; Language of quiltmaking; Oakland; Quilters; Quilting; Relationships; South Africa

Subjects: HIV/AIDS awareness; Male quiltmakers; Quilting.; Quilts--Design.; Quilts.

00:38:27 - Thoughts on the challenges of choosing textiles as a career / The current trends of quilting

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Partial Transcript: Well, as you have aged and, um, and in not only, uh, yourself physically but also as your quilts have, uh, are there any other influences that you--or that age itself has brought to quilting?

Segment Synopsis: Shannon talks about how he shares his story with young quiltmakers, but also how he warns them of the economic strain because quilts are not as valued as other forms of art. He also talks about his feelings toward current trends of quilting and the appreciation of quilting.

Keywords: Age; Aging; Artists; Colors; Commercialization; Commission; Design; Economics; Graduate degrees; Inspiration; Museums; Older people; Passion; Preservation; Quiltmaking; Quilts; Selling; Stories; Textiles

Subjects: Art--Commissioning.; Artists; Craft and art; Craft festivals.; Male quiltmakers; Quilting.; Quiltmakers--United States.; Quilts--Design.; Quilts--United States--Exhibitions.; Quilts.; Textile artists; Textile crafts