Monday, July 14, 2008

"Quilting Changed My Life!"

[Pam RuBert's In Bed With a Bad Cold]

Warren and I had the best, best time in Springfield, MO this weekend visiting with Pam and Russ RuBert. I mentioned in an earlier post that they live in a 22,000 square foot warehouse. This is a great example of journalistic error. They actually live in a super cool house with a super cool dog and they work in their super cool warehouse—she on her quilts and he on his sculptures, aluminum and neon. Her work shows all over the country at quilt shows. His is displayed as public art.

We were there for a whopping 36 hours but I have to say we packed in a full week’s worth of vacation fun in addition to our “work.” I put work in quotations because, even though Warren and I are working on this quilting book, it’s such enjoyable work that I think there needs to be a different word for it. I interviewed Pam (and Russ a little bit, too) for a couple of hours while Warren shot pictures of her quilts and studio, which is this super awesome space filled with all sorts of surprises—cool old collectibles—and covered with her work.

When we flew in Friday night, they picked us up at the adorable little airport (I am a huge fan of small airports) and drove us to a nearby park, where Russ’s 23 foot K-Man is the main attraction. As it happens, there was a ballgame finishing up at the stadium next door, and when it concluded, they set off fireworks, which were bursting in the air above K-Man’s head. I suggested they’d orchestrated this to impress Warren and me and to secure a spot on the cover of the book. Pam and Russ also took us out on their boat, and Warren managed to get vertical water-skiing (I didn’t even try—I know my limits), which prompted him to say, “Quilting changed my life!” We pointed out they were setting the bar awfully high for the other quilters we’ll be visiting. Now we expect a personalized theme park treatment from everyone else.

[Russ's K-Man]

I looked at some of the pictures last night and they turned out great. We’re scheduled to meet with a bunch of other quilters over the next six or seven weeks and it’s going to be a major task narrowing down which photos to use for the book.

I was so thrilled that this, our first trip, was so fruitful and so fun, that I got heavily into the fantasy of spending the rest of my working days writing about subcultures and profiling people with niche passions. When I first started writing about quilts, I was interviewing Hollis Chatelain—who’s won a ton of prizes—for Quilty as Charged: Undercover in the Material World, when she told me something that stuck. She pointed out that, like the world of fishing, the world of quilting is this place that, if you’re unaware of it, is a secret, unknown mystery thing. But once you find it, and immerse yourself in it, it’s massive.

There are around 30 million quilters in the US – bear in mind this includes everyone from the fulltime professional artists to folks like me who have some pieces cut out that we keep meaning to get to but sort of never do. Of these, if I’m recalling the stats right, there’s around a million dedicated quilters—those who spend x amount of dollars per year, and lots and lots of time on quilts. And many/most have a dedicated quilting room. A million is a pretty lot, you know? And if I profile them all, twenty at a time (as I am in Quilting Art), well that could keep me busy for a long time.

As for me, when my roommate moves out next month, I’m thinking of turning her room into a dedicated quilting/sewing room. This is sort of funny—last time that room was vacant I made it my dedicated yoga room, by which I mean I put a yoga mat in there, closed the door, and never went in. Hopefully though, I’ll have better luck using it for crafts.

Meanwhile, thank you Pam and Russ. What a weekend!


Sherryl said...

Sounds like a great way to make a living! At least you won't be pricking your fingers, LOL.

PaMdora said...

Hey Spike, we loved having you both. My dog Mochi keeps looking in the spare bedroom, then at me as if to say, "Where did those fun people go?"

As for your dilemma to make a yoga or craft room, I saw a documentary on the traditional Japanese house last month, and one thing stuck with me. Rooms in a house like that are not defined, except by the objects that you move the in and out. So what I'm trying to do more of is design flexible spaces that I can adapt at will. In my living room, I moved all the furniture to the edges so I can do yoga in the middle, but it still works as a room to sit and read books too. Just a thought!

Kathleen McKenna Murphy said...

I am looking forward to your book, great title! A dedicated space for quilting will change your life. I go to my studio everyday if I can. It is my yoga for the mind. I do real yoga too.

Pam is a favorite of mine, her work is cool, plain and simple.