Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Helen Kelley, October 23, 1999

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Index
00:00:04 - "Grandma Kelley Quilts"

Play segment

Partial Transcript: --tario and I'm interviewing Helen Kelley from Minne--Minneapolis, Minnesota, here in Houston, Texas at the International Quilt Festival.

Segment Synopsis: Kelley describes the quilt that she brought. It is one of a series called "Grandma Kelley Quilts" that were created as gifts for her grandchildren. This quilt has a unicorn, inspired by Renaissance artwork that depicts Jesus and Christian figures. She also reflects on her inspiration and how she begins a quilt.

Keywords: "Grandma Kelley Quilts"; Christianity; Color palettes; Grandchildren; Inspiration; Jesus Christ; Quilting; Quilts; Renaissance influence; Stigmata; Symbolism; Traditional; Unconscious; Unicorns

Subjects: Artists; Arts and crafts.; Quilting.; Quiltmakers--United States.; Quilts--United States--Exhibitions.

00:07:14 - Choosing to quilt in ways that work for her and make her happy

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Um, tell me about, uh, the applique. Is that something that is part of most of your quilts?

Segment Synopsis: Kelley describes how she uses applique in her quilting process. She reflects on when she started quilting before she got married, and how she was self-taught. She tells how she would source her fabric, and how she is not a purist when it comes to materials; she will use what works in the moment and what makes her happy.

Keywords: 1946; Applique; Bed quilts; Fabric; Gifts; Hand quilting; Happiness; Marriage; Meditation; Methods; Piecing; Purists; Quilting; Quilts; Self-taught; Sourcing; Spray starch

Subjects: Appliqué--Patterns.; Quiltmakers--United States.; Quilts--Design.

00:11:25 - Teaching quilting at home and abroad / Finding quilt inspiration in everyday life

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Did you have quilters in your family?

Segment Synopsis: Kelley describes how when her daughter was getting married, she wanted to make a marriage quilt for her. She collected quilt squares from friends around the world, and it became so notable that the "Minneapolis Tribune" covered it. She talks about her experience teaching different groups in her city and abroad. Her traveling also gives her new inspiration for quilts because she sees quilting designs everywhere.

Keywords: Christianity; Color; Design; Form; Inspiration; Lutheran; Marriage quilts; Minneapolis Tribune; Quilt squares; Quilting groups; Quilting guilds; Quilting party; Shadow; Switzerland; Teaching; Traveling

Subjects: Appliqué--Patterns.; Artists; Patchwork quilts.; Quiltmakers--United States.; Quilts in art; Quilts--Design.

00:15:26 - Quilting inspiration from a grandmother, Norway, and history

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Has quilting affected your, your family life or your social life?

Segment Synopsis: Kelley was one of the founding members of the Minnesota Quilters Association, which now has about 1500 members. Kelley is included in the "100 Best Quilters of the Century." She discusses the inspiration for this quilt.

Keywords: "100 Best Quilters of the Century"; 1975; Community; Competition; Founders; Minnesota Historical Society; Minnesota Quilters; Nativity; Norway; Patterns; Quilt guilds; Quilting history; Social life; Teaching; Time management; Weavers

Subjects: Appliqué--Patterns.; Artists; Craft and art; Fabric arts; Quilting--United States--Patterns.; Quilting.; Quiltmakers--United States.; Quilts in art; Quilts.

00:24:42 - Inspiration from religion / Quilting book inspired by Native Americans

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Uh, are a lot of your quilts, um, religious-based?

Segment Synopsis: While Kelley uses Christianity as inspiration for some of her own quilts, she usually doesn't bring it up. She only has one lecture where the quilt used is inspired by Jesus Christ. Kelley talks about her publishing and her current book on Native American ribbon work.

Keywords: "Scarlet Ribbons"; American Indian; Applique; Christianity; Crib quilts; Historical; Indian; Indigenous; Inspiration; Lectures; Native American; Private; Publishing; Religion; Research; Sioux

Subjects: Appliqué--Patterns.; Crib quilts.; Fabric arts; Indian quilts; Indians of North America.; Native Americans.; Quilting.; Quiltmakers--United States.; Quilts.; Textile artists; Textile crafts

00:27:42 - Anxieties about money and tradition in quilting / Final thoughts about quilting

Play segment

Partial Transcript: What, what aspects of quilting do you see today that, uh, that you particularly like?

Segment Synopsis: Kelley describes some of the things she really likes about quilting today. She then talks about the money anxieties some quilters may have, and how they have to find easier, more cost-effective ways to do things. She mentions how English and American quilters approach tradition and creativity differently. Kelley values the relationships she has made because of quilting.

Keywords: Children; Creativity; Fabric manufacturing; Fabrics; History; Inspiration; Money; Patterns; People; Sewing machines; Tradition; Trends

Subjects: African American quilts.; Craft and art; Quilting.; Quiltmakers--United States.; Quilts. Quilts--Design.; Sewing machines.; Textile artists