Teresa Duryea Wong has been a regular contributor to ‘Curated Quilts’ since our Triangles issue in 2018. She is also the author of four fascinating books on textiles and quilting history in the U.S. and Japan, each of which is worth adding to your collection. Teresa began her career as a journalist and spent several years as the publisher of a fine art magazine. For two decades, she worked in corporate public affairs and eventually became Vice President of Communications for a large corporation. When her two children left for college, Teresa decided to return to college herself and earned a Master of Liberal Studies from Rice University and was named the ‘Faith P. and Charles L. Bybee Foundation Scholar’ by the Bybee Foundation and the Texas Quilt Museum.
We hope you enjoy our conversation with Teresa…
When did you start sewing/quilting?
I learned to do embroidery when I was eight years old and starting sewing clothes a few years later. In 1998 I learned to quilt and have been at it ever since.
Why do you quilt?
I love art and feel that quiltmaking allows me to express myself creatively, plus it keeps my mind and my hands busy. The joy of sewing things together and making something from nothing is very fulfilling. I dream of quilts! Then I wake up and make them.
In each edition of Curated Quilts, you give readers some historical context to the topic the journal is examining. Can you tell us a little bit about why you think looking to the past, as it relates to quilting is important and why modern quilters should care about the makers that came before us?
Women’s stories are mostly absent from our history books, especially the stories of things women created. I love to read old books, articles, journals, and newspapers and find those gems that connect me to the everyday lives of people who lived before us. Other than our own relatives, most people don’t spend much time thinking about individuals who lived a century or two ago. If we consider them at all, we assume their lives were simple or mundane. We take big chunks of history and lump entire cultures together in certain stereotypes. But our foremothers were just like us; they had joys and sorrows and dreams. We can learn about their lives through tangible items that live on, such as quilts. I find it fascinating to learn how and when their quilts were made and more importantly, who made them. I feel it is important for all types of quilters and artists today to realize these makers were not anonymous.
You've written about and lecture often about Japan and its relationship with quilting and fabric. Can you tell us a little more about your connection to the Japanese culture and why you have been so inspired by what you've learned there?
I became enamored with the Japanese aesthetic when I first began seeing Japanese quilts and fabrics at the International Quilt Festival. I quickly became a Japanese fabric groupie and loved both the traditional taupe and indigo prints, as well as the colorful contemporary quilting cotton. Eventually, I left my ‘day job’ and decided to focus all my energy on learning, researching, and sharing Japanese quilts through my books. I have written two books: “Japanese Contemporary Quilts & Quilters: The Story of an American Import” and “Cotton & Indigo from Japan.”
What kind of machine do you sew on?
I have a Bernina 820 (a sit-down domestic machine) and in July 2019 I purchased a longarm, a Bernina Q24. I only do free motion, no computers. I also have a professional leather machine and I love to make leather bags and totes.
What are a couple of your favorite, can’t live without, sewing/quilting tools?
My trusty box of Wheat Thins is always nearby. So is my dog Tom! I don’t think I would be in my studio without either of these.
Do you have a favorite part of the quilting process, if so what is it?
I like to have a balance between machine and handwork. For my first 15 years of quilting, I hand quilted everything. Now I mostly machine quilt, but I always have at least one quilt that I set aside for hand quilting. I also love hand appliqué and embroidery. Now that I have a longarm machine I absolutely love it. I feel that I have finally discovered the perfect stitch quality that you would expect from a machine and it is so fun to work with to do free motion quilting.
What is your remedy for burnout?
Travel! Get out of the house, out of my box and go experience something new.
When you’re not quilting or writing about quilting, how do you like to spend your time?
I travel a lot giving lectures to quilt guilds and also travel for fun. I love movies and as a researcher, I also spend a lot of time reading. There are several stacks of nonfiction history books on my coffee table and I am constantly reading one of them. Also, I love football – as crazy as that sounds. My husband and I have season tickets to the Houston Texans and we also follow a couple of other teams.
What book, if any, are you currently reading?
I have a tall stack of books on modern minimalism in art, architecture, and quilts. I have an even taller stack of books on Native American Indian history, specifically the lives of their women in the 19th century. I also have a stack of books on quilt history focused mostly on 1900-1940.
Is there anything you listen to or watch while you’re quilting? If so, what?
I love Abby Glassenberg’s podcast, which is now hosted on the Craft Industry Alliance. Abby is a great interviewer. I think of her as the ‘Terry Gross’ of the craft and quilting world and all of her interviews are interesting. I also listen to a lot of NPR podcasts and sewing podcasts and movie podcasts. I watch YouTube quilting shows, The Quilt Show with Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims, and Amy Ellis’ educational videos. Amy’s lessons are designed for beginners, but I always learn something new or a better way to do things.
What made you want to write 'Magic and Memories: 45 Years of International Quilt Festival'?
The International Quilt Festival is a seminal event and it has had a huge impact on my life. When I met the founders of this event, I began thinking about what it took to build the largest quilting event in the Western world. I wanted to know how they did it, and why, and what motivated them. So, I launched a quiet campaign to convince Nancy O’Bryant and Karey Bresenhan to allow me to tell their story and “Magic & Memories” is their biography. These two women truly changed the course of quilt history and I am so proud that their efforts and the story of running a women-owned business are now forever preserved.
Many modern quilters are very familiar with QuiltCon, but not as knowledgeable about the International Quilt Association and Quilt Festival. Is there anything you would say about why they might be interested in going to or submitting a quilt to the International Quilt Festival in Houston?
Attendance at the International Quilt Festival makes it the largest event in the U.S.; so, having a quilt on view at this show will allow tens of thousands of people to see it. The International Quilt Association is a non-profit that organizes the juried competition called ‘Quilts: A World of Beauty.’ There are several categories in this competition. Prizes include significant cash awards. For example, the Best of Show is awarded approximately $12,500. IQA also allows the quilter to keep her/his quilt (some competitions award cash prizes but keep the quilt for their permanent collections.)
In addition to the juried show, the International Quilt Festival has a huge educational component and they host a full week of classes with faculty from all over the world. These classes are an excellent opportunity to learn a new skill or simply be inspired by other talented individuals.
How do you decide on what you are going to write about next?
Writing a book is a long and lonely process, but it is one that I love. To take on a new subject, I have to really love it because I will spend years working on it. I look for topics that are first of all, untold. Second, they must have a lot of depth so I can expand the topic enough to make it a book.
Where are all the different places people can find you?
Facebook Page: Teresa Duryea Wong, Author
Magic and Memories: 45 Years of International Quilt Festival by Teresa Duryea Wong is a beautiful book about two women, Karey Patterson Bresenhan and Nancy O’Bryant Puentes, who have arguably had the biggest impact on the quilting community in the past 100 years.
You can read more about the interesting things Teresa Duryea Wong has to say about the historical significance of quilts and their impact on modern quilting in each issue of ‘Curated Quilts.’ Purchase an annual subscription or back issues at www.curatedquilts.com.