Once upon a time, my husband thumbed through a copy of The American Quilter magazine and mentioned there was a big quilt show in Paducah KY and why didn't I go? My mental response was, why don't I go the moon? Not long after, he mentioned there was a program for appraisers and suggested I'd enjoy doing that, and my out-loud response was “And I could be an astronaut” which would make sense as I could then go to the moon too.
That was twenty five years ago. I did indeed go to Paducah to a quilt show – many, many times. I did become an appraiser, and have had the privilege of appraising literally thousands of quilts brought to me by trusting clients. I've put hundreds of thousand of miles on my cars, and logged just as many air miles all in the service of quilts or quilt history. I've answered thousands of questions, solved family mysteries, found inscriptions that families had searched for and missed, opened people's eyes to the treasures – or not – that they own, laughed, instructed, bit my tongue, rolled my eyes, suggested paths for genealogical research based on what I saw in a quilt, taught countless people about care and storage, given lectures to thousands, acted as consultant, and made friends that I will keep forever. Friends have been kind enough to put my quilts in important exhibits all over the country; other friends have included me in their books and magazines. How wonderful is that!
But twenty five years is a long time, a full career as I see it, and I'm ready to go on to other things. I've completed my last appraisal season. I will miss it immensely; my whole world has been quilt related for so long I wonder who I will be if I'm not the quilt lady. I feel as if I'm throwing away my entire identity, and I'll admit there is discomfort in the process, but it is time, without a doubt. No vacillating, no second thoughts. I am officially announcing my retirement.
My greatest regret is that I've no way to dump my knowledge of antique quilts into someone else's brain – these are things you can't learn from books or classes. It can only be learned from years of flapping quilts, talking to clients, putting that quilt on the table in context with the family history, weaving together those bits after thousands of quilts and making those deductions and connections for yourself. You see and learn facts that have never been in print or photograph; those facts are yours alone, and your files and your brain are overflowing with valuable information. Can I just stick one of those little jump drive things in my ear and download all this great stuff?
I hope to make some dynamite quilts. I hope to spend quality time with my hubby. And I plan to write. I was a writer – at least, I dreamed of being one – before I even knew what a quilt was. It's time to let the writer come out to play.
Thank you for any part you may have played in my quilting life and successful career. Man, it's been a wild ride!
But now, I have stories that I must tell.