Why Quilts Matter –
Question and Answer with Marianne Fons
At the top of our wish list to ask about Why Quilts Matter was quilting luminary Marianne Fons. Marianne was a mere twenty-something and at the center of quilting’s resurgence in the late 70’s. After meeting Liz Porter at a beginning quilter’s class in 1976, the two went on to co-author a succession of important books and programs around quilting.
In the following years, Marianne became (and still is) a sought-after quilt and fabric designer, teacher, lecturer and author. Her enthusiasm, energy and intense vitality continue to inspire and instruct the next generation of quilters. Rarely has Why Quilts Matter been able to sit down and speak to someone with so substantial a repository of quilting history and wisdom!
Did you sleep under quilts growing up? What got you started in quilting?
I grew up in a household that appreciated all art forms but did not have quilts. My intro to quilting as an art form was with the renewed interest in quilts that was part of the American Bicentennial in 1976. I was around 26 years old.
Is it important for quiltmakers to document and label their quilts properly?
I always advocate putting an informational label on a quilt. Daily, we wish we knew more about the quilters of the past, even just their names.
What are some of the greatest changes you have seen in the quilt movement in the past five years?
I’ve been totally pumped by the “modern movement.” Many of the quilters attracted to the “modern” aesthetic are youngish, and I have enjoyed the infusion of energy brought by younger quilters, especially in the industry side. The past five years includes the entry into quilt making by my own daughter, Mary Fons. Working with her on Love of Quilting on public television and just sharing the fun of both of us designing and making quilts has been a true joy.
What do you envision for quilting’s future?
I think it’s important to recognize that only from around 1940 to the American Bicentennial of 1976 did quilt making activity in America lag significantly, and even then lots of people were still making quilts. Still, many women at that time went to work in factories because of WWII, polyester became popular, and because of an upturned economy, buying textiles readymade was on-trend. Five to ten years ago people in the quilting industry were worried because the avid quilters of my generation, the Baby Boomers, were aging. “Where will the next generation of quilters come from,” many asked, and with good reason since we now have an actual “Quilting Industry” employing many people. This question has also been answered in the wonderful new fabric styles and as the “joy of making” attracts new quilters who have grown up with computer keyboards under their fingers. The idea of making something oneself has huge appeal, and why wouldn’t it? The best thing about applying the joy of making to quilt making specifically is that what you have at the end of the process is… A QUILT!
What is next for you?
After the 2006 sale of the Fons & Porter Company and brand to New Track Media, now owned by FW Media, Liz Porter’s and my longtime business partnership ended. After three years of Liz and me continuing to host TV, I agreed to continue for three additional years because my daughter Mary Fons had dipped her toe into quilting. Now, both Liz and I appear with Mary on episodes that feature quilts we have personally made.
I still design and make six quilts a year for Love of Quilting magazine and TV, which I love doing. I sometimes represent Fons & Porter at national events for FW Media. I’m having great fun for developing lectures with my daughter, Mary Fons. My favorite project is work on my novel, “My Life with Shelley,” a novel about Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein.
More about Marianne
As Liaison to the Quilting Industry, Marianne proudly serves on the Board of Directors of Quilts of Valor Foundation. She is usually out and about on her busy teaching schedule or filming episodes, but you can keep up with her on her Facebook page; the blog Fons and Porter’s Love of Quilting, and enjoy one of the many episodes of the Love of Quilting TV series.
Marianne Fons photo (courtesy of IQSC at the University of Nebraska); quilt images are courtesy of Marianne Fons.