Jonathan Shannon was the first male winner of the American Quilter's Society Best of Show Award in 1993 with his quilt, "Air Show".
"I've always been very, very interested in textiles. And in my long and varied career, I've often had a lot to do with textiles in both fashion and interior designing.
"So when I was 50, I suddenly had a lot of time, freedom. I have a degree in fine arts in painting, years and years ago and I always thought I'd go back to painting.
"Well, somehow quilt making happened to me instead. And I'm totally enamored with the ability of using textile as a medium to create my artistic images or ideas. I think there's something incredibly primeval about textiles in that they are universal and ubiquitous as symbols of power in all primitive cultures and even today we use them as very powerful images: flags, national flags as an example. So it's wonderful to draw upon that power and to try to give a little of my own vision.
"I knew quite a lot about sewing from fashion and I thought, I actually thought that I'd just sit down and make a quilt. And it turns out it's just a little bit more technical knowledge needed than that. So right away I started taking classes, I've had classes from very, very good quilt makers. And then just working, working and working and working.
"And it didn't take very long before I was working eight, ten hours a day to the detriment of all my social life and everybody I used to know. But it's amazing that it has opened up such an incredible world. I became a judge accredited by the National Quilting Association several years ago, and have judged all over the world, I've judged several times in National shows, in South Africa, I've judged in England, and everywhere I go there are quilt makers that I've met at one festival or another so it's a marvelous, encompassing world of people.
"I'm also very, very interested in seeing how far the medium can be pushed and still in some way call it quilt, because I think there are some artists who move away from quilts and become painters although they are still using textile. It's a subtle line, but I think it's fascinating to see, and there's incredible work being done today in fine art quilts, which are in no way being appreciated as yet except by other quilt makers.
"You know it's interesting, in every quilt you're working with hope, a lot of the time. In the beginning, it's really exciting and you're sure that your ideas are going to be absolutely fabulous. You get it half done, maybe a little more than that, and you think, 'Why am I doing this?, this is so banal, this is so uninteresting, this is not going to work, what can I do?' And it's at that point that I think one has to rely on one's initial concept, one's sense of training, you have to trust yourself that it's gonna be o.k. and you just keep doing it. You keep going on it. When it gets to about that three-quarter period, then you know, you know you've got it."