I met Sandi Goldman in the Artists In Residence program at the Schar Cancer Institute where we both work with the arts to promote healing. I knew she was a quilter but didn’t know how astonishingly accomplished she is until she did this interview for my blog and talked to me about her work, her inspiration and process. And how quilting has helped cancer patients through their healing journeys.
I think Sandi must have more color and light receptors in her eyes than a bumblebee does. Her love of design, her strength in color and texture combine to make her quilts far more than “nice sofa pillows.”
She is a well-known quilt artist in the DC metro area, has shown her work at many exhibitions and won many awards for her quilts. Her quilts are layered with texture, color, pattern and meaning, all brought together as stories told by threads. The rhythm and beauty of her work expresses hope, healing, peace, and joy.
TH: Thank you for taking the time during this pandemic and during your own stressful times to talk to me about your quilts. What’s your background in making quilts?
SG: My passion for Fiber began at East Carolina University where I majored in Textile Design. I became immersed in quilting in 1993 when I took a class and created a beautiful jacket; I haven’t looked back since. I continue to take a variety workshops and classes, enter national and international quilt shows, and I am active in various local and national guilds including the Fiber Artists@loose ends art group.
I specialize in creating one-of-a-kind pieces and have also been making art for health care spaces including The University of Michigan Cancer Center and The Auburn University Women’s Health Resource Center. My art can be seen on Instagram @quilts4celebration.
In March 2009, I was privileged to be interviewed by Karen Musgrave, for The Quilt Alliance “Save Our Stories” project, which captures and archives the stories of quilters and their quilts. My piece Encouraging Words was featured in this interview and is currently on display at The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
TH: Tell me how you started quilting–what gave you the idea to quilt?
SG: As a child, I was always interested in art. My parents nurtured my talent with painting lessons, knitting lessons and art camps. We didn’t have any quilters in our family so I was never exposed to quilting at an early age.
In college, I tried my hand at all things fiber–from surface design to weaving to batik, and I did some weaving and knitting after college.
I started quilting when my daughter was in pre-school and a few of the other mothers and I took a quilting class together and I was hooked! Since I was already familiar with the basic use of a sewing machine, picking it up wasn’t hard. I also joined the local quilt guild and they were the most supportive and encouraging people one could hope to meet.
I also learned a lot about hand piecing and hand quilting when I worked for Jinny Beyer at her studio in Great Falls.
TH: You’ve mentioned “traditional quilting,” what I guess is following a certain pattern but choosing your own colors–is that right?
But then you’ve shown me quilts like I can’t even imagine how you conceived of their design, let alone, made them. How do you decide whether to make traditional quilts or these other… graphical? photographical? abstract? many-layered, almost 3-D quilts?
I guess I really want to know what comes to you to get you started on a quilt? An image in your mind? Fabric you see and like? A story you want to tell?
SG: Well, for example, my process in creating the Encouraging Words quilt involved me researching a flower from the list of flowers we were supposed to choose from for the project. I then made a large sketch that I could work from and so I could stay within the size requirements for the project. I first put the pieces together, then painted the words on top–always hoping I wasn’t making a spelling error! Lucky for me I had a big stash of fabric–and still do–so I didn’t have to run out and buy fabric!
“Encouraging Words,” hangs at Walter Reed Medical Center and was made for the www.healingquiltsinmedicine.org project.
The late Judy House who founded the project asked artists all over the country to make quilts based on plants and organisms used to treat cancer.
I choose the Rosy Periwinkle as my flower because it hadn’t already been taken. Then I added words that would inspire and challenge the patients, family and staff to do whatever is necessary to fight this disease.
“Healing yourself is connected with
healing others.” –Yoko Ono
“Hashtags Around the World,” was accepted into Fiber National 2018 show at the Workhouse Arts Center, Lorton, VA. It was my third quilt in a series using the hashtag symbol. I am amazed how fast we can get our thoughts and messages around the world with a hashtag. I was drawn to all the possibilities using the hashtag with different background colors. The traditional “trip around the world” quilt design felt like the perfect use for the rainbow colors in the Moda fabric company’s challenge, where we had to use only their fabric and our quilts had to be from specific fabrics and be a certain size.
I had been exploring the hashtag symbol and all its graphic possibilities. Sometimes, it’s thick and sometimes it’s thin, it can be wavy or uneven. The lines are not consistent; they vary like handwriting does when you pick up different writing implements. There is also interest in the negative space, the organic shapes that form without being planned.
The quilt features contemporary machine pieced squares set in a traditional quilt style. The fabrics chosen were simple solids and it is hand quilted with a big stitch in black cotton to enhance the grid effect.
“Stitching the Blues” was given the Bunny Clark Award for Excellence at the Fiber National 2020 show. Who knew the color of the year would be classic blue when I started “Stitching The Blues”? I wanted to repurpose some gray fabric blocks so, I added some traditional Japanese shibori stitching to them, and then threw them into an indigo pot to dye them. The stitching created the color modulation—the faint stripes—on the fabric. And lucky for me they went perfectly with the leaf print squares I had previously created. The subtle lights and darks in the blues created in the dying process were apparent to me as I hand-stitched the lines throughout this piece.
TH: How do you feel when you are quilting? Are you very in the moment, watching a quilt grow? Or are you constantly planning the next step, the next shape or color? Do you lose track of time when you do it?
SG: When I’m quilting, I like to work in silence especially when I’m making the top of a quilt. Most of the time I work intuitively and just let the piece flow. My mind might wander to what I’m going to do next or that idea might come to me at night before I fall asleep. Hand quilting does lend itself to watching tv shows and I have been known to binge watch things to meet a deadline.
TH: Do you prefer machine stitching or hand-stitching your work? And what is the difference of experience for you when using either/both?
SG: I really like to hand quilt my work because it’s meditative and relaxing for me, and the stitches aren’t perfect and I like that about big stitches. I have more control of the stitches and can vary them easier by hand than on a machine.
But, sometimes machine quilting is called for. Generally the piece tells me what it needs or if it’s going to get a lot of use–for example, a baby quilt–then I machine quilt it.
TH: You work at the Schar Cancer Institute as an Artist in Residence (AIR), teaching quilting. Could you tell us what you actually do with patients–I’m assuming it’s patients and not staff? How can someone learn to quilt in just an hour or so? What has it been like for you to work there?
SG: I’m really honored to be a part of the AIR program at Schar. I have mostly worked with patients and caregivers making comfort packs filled with rice and lavender. We stitch them all by hand, including a small amount of patchwork.
It takes the person about an hour to make one. But many times, I have finished the project for them if they get tired. I am also a knitter and have enjoyed teaching knitting when I’m at the hospital. I love going to Schar and being able to greet the staff and patients I’ve encountered a few times before. I love how art can bring happiness and comfort to everyone.
“The art of sewing is a process of emotional repair.” –Louise Bourgeois
TH: Final question: Your quilts are so inspirational. What would you say to someone who feels a connection to your quilts and might want to learn how to do it? Are there tutorials that help people learn the basics? Books that help? Or would you say, just start?
SG: I would say that I’d love to be able to teach you to quilt! But, in the absence of that, Jinny Beyer has lots of resources, books and fabrics to inspire a quilter. (Jinny is the world renown quilter I worked for–as I mentioned earlier.)
I get a lot of inspiration from Pinterest myself and that’s a great way to out how to make many things. And, of course there is searching “learn to quilt” on YouTube.
But, there’s nothing like watching someone quilt in person and learning together like our grandmothers and great-grandmothers did.
I’m looking forward to the time when there is a vaccine for COVID, and we can get people together in closer proximity, in many settings, to work together to make something wonderful.
Artist’s Statement: I am an art quilter with a deep appreciation for traditional quilts. I work intuitively to create varied constructions that can be minimalist or complex in their design aesthetic. Quilting both by hand and machine gives me a sense of connection to my grandmothers who knit, crocheted and embroidered. My devotion to fiber and creating is rooted in this history of women who make beautiful things for the people they love.
I am currently a member of the Fiber Artists @ Loose Ends art quilt group. We encourage members to explore new ideas and techniques and inspire and nurture each other’s creativity. By sharing our work in private and public venues, we express our passion for the textile medium.
I am also an active member of the Sacred Threads Exhibition committee and we put on a biennial exhibition in Northern Virginia.
For 9 years I was a juried member of the Workhouse Arts Center, in Lorton, VA, and part of their Studio Fiber Arts.
I have taught classes privately, nationally and locally for quilt guilds and given lectures about my work to those who are interested.
My work is available for purchase and can be seen on my Instagram page, @quilts4celebration. I’m available for commission work, too. You can also reach me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.