Californee Here I Come

Tom on Simply Quilts

Alex Anderson and I discussing how I created my challenge quilt.

California or Bust Well, I finished my quilt, packed my bags, and headed for Cal-i-for-ni-a. The great land of . . . swimming pools . . . movie stars . . . and Simply Quilts!

Getting the opportunity to be on Simply Quilts was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Alex Anderson and her crew were so great to work with. They made the process of shooting the show enjoyable and easy. I need to clarify. They made it easy on the guests. Alex and her crew worked tirelessly to make sure everyone knew what was going on and where we needed to be as the filming progressed. (If you want to see my segment, click on the photo.)

On the day my show was filmed, they shot three other episodes. This makes for a long day for everyone involved with the show. As you are filming your segment with Alex, other guests are rehearsing in the background with their producers. Alex moves from segment to segment, and guest to guest effortlessly. She is amazing to watch. Especially when you understand there is no editing of her dialogue.

Password You may not fully understand what I mean. I mean that if Alex makes one mistake—just one—she has to start the dialogue completely over. Alex’s words may sound casual, but they are scripted. She needs to deliver her lines exactly as they are written to keep the production moving along. Her considerable verbal agility was put to the test when she had to explain the challenge rules to the audience before we were introduced. She talked for three straight minutes without a single uh, um, or pause. As I said, she was amazing to watch.

Besides being a talented host, she is just as friendly in person as she appears on TV. Yes, it was a great experience. No doubt about it.

The day starts pretty early in the TV business, so by the time lunch was served, everyone was ready for a break. During lunch I was able to meet and chat with my fellow challenge contestants, as well as meet the guests for the other shows. One guest and fellow challenge participant was Carolyn Reese.

Hollywood Squares You may or may not know Carolyn Reese by name, but I’m sure you know about her quilt show. Carolyn owns a little show named Road to California. I could hardly believe it. I LOVE Road to California!!!!, and here I was getting to meet the woman who owns it! (PINCH ME!!!—but not too hard. I bruise easily.) I could not believe this. Just before I left home, I received notification that one of my quilts (Sparkling Vases) had been accepted into this prestigious show. I was so thrilled to meet her, you just cannot imagine. Road is a really wonderful show and Carolyn is a wonderful lady.

During lunch I also met another quilter. I think you might recognize her name. She’s been generating a lot of buzz these last few years with her amazing work. At the time I met her she was just breaking into the quilting arena and no one knew her name.

What’s My Line? I’m pretty sure that unless you’ve been living under a pin cushion for the last few years, you know who she is. Her name is Sharon. Like Cher, Madonna, Marilyn, and now Tyra, this famous quilter doesn’t really need a last name to be recognized. The woman I met on my day of filming was Sharon Schamber. That’s right. I met Sharon on the Simply Quilts set. After seeing her work that day, I knew she was the quilter to watch. She was doing things in a way I had never seen before, and her work was breathtaking to look at. Since that day, Sharon and I have been friends. How ABSOLUTELY cool is that?

To Tell The Truth As I said in my last post, the Simply Quilts Challenge changed my life. That one challenge gave me the opportunity to be on one of the best quilt shows on television. Because of it, I got the opportunity to meet the owner of one of the best quilt shows in the country. I also met and became friends with one to the best quilters in the country—if not the world. See what can happen when you take a challenge?

Match Game A funny thing happens after you appear on TV—you are suddenly famous—or should I say, in my case “my quilt” was suddenly famous. I am not usually recognized by name or on sight. Most quilters couldn’t spot me in a lineup if their stash depended on it. This doesn’t bother me. I’m happy playing second fiddle to my quilts.

Usually when I present to a guild, only the program chair knows who I am. Most guild members are polite and nod hello as I wait for my time to present. Their expectations are very low because they don’t recognize my name. So I launch into my program and we have a laugh or two. We’re becoming good friends, even if they don’t know who I am. We are all just quilters, sharing what we love.

I continue talking and showing quilts, they continue laughing and looking at my work. They are very supportive of me and my efforts. I’m very happy to share. Mid-way through my program I mention being on Simply Quilts. This statement generates little to no reaction. Why should it? I’m a nobody. If I were somebody they would know it—quilters are like that.

Anyway, I talk about what I did to get on the show and what a great time I had. Then I show my quilt. Then they actually see me. Up until then, I’m just a guy who loves to quilt as much as they do. Once they see THE QUILT—I’m THAT GUY. I’m the GUY who made THAT QUILT. In a matter of seconds, I have gone from being a nobody to being a somebody. Each time it happens, it always makes me smile. It also reaffirms why I know that I am—truly—a lucky man.

Wheel of Fortune Fast-forward to 2008 After presenting my program to the Tri-County Quilt Guild in Houston, I was approached by one of its members. It just so happens, that this guild member is also a member of the hgtv.com message board. (Hi Lisa!)

She asked me if I would be interested in giving my presentation to this group? They were having their annual retreat in Houston, and she said that they would love to have me present my program. It seems that several members of the message board actually knew who I was. Can you imagine my surprise? I was going to present to a group who had actually heard of me.

Beyond being flattered by the invitation, I learned that something special had started on the message board because of my challenge quilt. What I learned was . . . .

Doh! I’ve done it again. I guess you’ll have to come back tomorrow and find out what I learned.

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8 Responses to “Californee Here I Come”

  1. Jayardi Says:

    • • • Not Fair!

    And you thought your blog would be boring. NOT in the least. Love the way you tell a story.

  2. Diane in Texas Says:

    Oh Tom…you are TOO famous – known and loved by all the best quilters, too! LOL
    I have your Simply Quilts episode on videotape, along with all my other favorite episodes.
    Great post!

    • Tom Russell Says:

      Well, Diane in Texas! What a surprise to see you here. I’m thrilled that you dropped by. Since you know me, then you are right. I am known by some of the best quilters, and I get the added benefit of calling them friend.

      Hope you are doing well, and getting to spend more time at home.

  3. Jim Gatling Says:

    Thanks for sharing the video! It’s really great to see the tools and how how your quilt was designed.

  4. Maureen Greeson Says:

    Tom, I love your newsletters. You are a wonderful writer as well as a great quilter. Thank you so much!

  5. Gari Says:

    Wow! Not just a great blog….but I love the technique you used for the leaves! Who’d’a thunk it!!! 😉 THANKS for sharing!!

  6. Simmie Plummer Says:

    Tom, I am making the Restore America quilt for friends who will be celebrating their 50th anniversary. I have been trying to find your video explaining the blocks, but I can’t find it anywhere. My friends have been active in preservation, and they would really enjoy your video. Do you have any suggestions?

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