My Life Story (or, I Cried on Camera)

Back in October, national quilting celebrities Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims spent three days in Winterset. They’re hosts of the online program “The Quilt Show,” which they created and which has thousands of subscribers. The ten-person videography team spent Day One taping episodes at Piece Works quilt shop, Day Two at the Iowa Quilt Museum, and Day Three at my house, featuring me as their 2018 “Quilt Show Legend.”

During my 20+ years on public television I’ve spent plenty of time in front of a camera, usually four big ones, on the set of  “Love of Quilting.” Delivering the goods in my home was a different, but great, experience.

I greeted Alex and Ricky at the front door (holding my dog Scrabble) and showed them into the living room. I toured them through the house and into my bedroom, where we had stacked some favorite quilts on the bed. The camera operator, in order to properly frame the shot, opened my closet door and backed in, carefully avoiding my shoes. As we turned the quilts, I explained what inspired each—including “Unrattled Mom,” the one I made in 1987 after I shot a 42-inch rattlesnake with a .22 rifle out in Lincoln Township and made the front page of the Des Moines Register.

In my sewing room, Alex and I chatted about my history with Quilts of Valor Foundation, which was meaningful, since Alex’s participation in two Iowa Public Television Quilts of Valor specials is what turned our relationship into a friendship.

After lunch, the producer sat me down opposite her, both of us in identical dining room chairs so we’d be at exact eye level. Shelly had already talked with me at length on the phone, honing her many questions for the on-camera deep dive into my life. Like famous interviewer Barbara Walters, Shelly is a masterful prober.

Over what seemed like hours, with the full crew silently watching, Shelly took me back in time. I described my childhood, my youthful dreams, my introduction to quilting in my 20s, my business partnership with Liz Porter, and my quilting career. I spoke of my children and my pride in each, of how I met Mark through his mother Vonda (a quilter) and married him. I explained my newfound love for my home town of Winterset, and my encore career as a novelist.

Where I got choked up was in the segment on my family background, when asked for the secret of my success. I related an anecdote about my mother Dorothy Graham. Years ago, someone commenting to her on my accomplishments, said, “You must be so proud of Marianne.” My mother responded, “I’ve been proud of Marianne from the moment she was born.” I didn’t feel the emotion coming, but when I described my mother’s unconditional love, there it was.

How fitting it feels—now that I’ve retired from TV to devote my time to Winterset and writing—to have the opportunity to look back on my life, to summarize my pursuits, to sift through old photos to find the perfect still shots for the beautiful video The Quilt Show created.

From now through January 13, you can watch this 45-minute episode FREE, without subscribing to The Quilt Show. Click here and go back in time with me.

Thank you, Alex, Ricky, and all the Quilt Show team!

21 Responses

  1. Lori Bain
    | Reply

    What a wonderful story. Made my eyes leak!

    • Marianne Fons
      | Reply

      Both our eyes were leaking!

  2. Lisa Toth
    | Reply

    Congratulations on being selected as 2018 quilt show legend. It was a wonderful episode. I enjoyed learning more about you and your career. Good luck on you new endeavors.

    • Marianne Fons
      | Reply

      Lisa, thank you for watching! I’m glad you enjoyed!

  3. Jean Lickun
    | Reply

    Marianne,
    I just watched your Quilt Show segment and loved it. You have worked hard to earn our admiration and wonder. Your pride in your children is moving. I’m looking forward to reading your novel.

    • Marianne Fons
      | Reply

      Jean, thank you so much for your kind words. Keep your fingers crossed my agent in New York will find the perfect publisher for MY LIFE WITH SHELLEY in 2019!

  4. Meg Cox
    | Reply

    Marianne—
    Holy Moly! I was unaware of your Annie Oakley street cred. I will definitely watch the episode. I had an emotional experience myself with TQS and Alex and Ricky, but on set in Denver. And that Shelly Heesacker! A genius producer and wonderful human being.
    Love the photo you shared. Those quilts! The red shoes!
    Happy New Year!
    xo, Meg

    • Marianne Fons
      | Reply

      Meg—thanks so much! Agree totally about Shelly’s production chops and wonderfulness as a person. I’m glad you noticed my red shoes (I’m thinking the sandals in the photo with my two prizewinning quilts). There was a time when I made sure I had red sandals, red boots (with a heel) and red flats in my closet. To a few Winterset locals I’m still more famous for shooting the rattlesnake than making quilts. A couple years earlier, I killed an even longer one with a spade, then drove to town (seven miles) in the pickup with the emergency brake on I was so shaken.

  5. Sue Reich
    | Reply

    Cannot wait to see the entirety of the Story of Mairanne Fons. I’ve been fortunate to witness only bits and pieces over the years. It’s an honor to know you and to have experienced some of your passion and dedication to quiltmaking.

  6. Sue Reich
    | Reply

    Cannot wait to see the entirety of the Story of Marianne Fons. I’ve been fortunate to witness only bits and pieces over the years. It’s an honor to know you and to have experienced some of your passion and dedication to quiltmaking.

    • Marianne Fons
      | Reply

      Sue, my life is better through knowing YOU. Hope you like the episode!

  7. Melissa Mitchell
    | Reply

    I watched the show and loved it. Great seeing and hearing the story of the your farmhouse home and the quilts. The show also alerted me to the fact that you have this Blog.

    • Marianne Fons
      | Reply

      Melissa, thank you for watching and reading my post. As mentioned in the Quilt Show episode, my blog space is relatively new (less than a year). I hope you’ll subscribe! I promise to keep my posts short, and I only write about once a week. This week was an exception. Happy 2019!

  8. Elizabeth Pierson
    | Reply

    I watch the episode and also had leaky eyes. Marianne you are such a wonderful person and I feel great full to have meet you. You have touched my life more than you know. Looking forward to your book!

    • Marianne Fons
      | Reply

      Thank you so much. Though MY LIFE WITH SHELLEY is not about quilting, I think quilters will love it. At my book’s core is what it means to be a mother. Modern day protagonist Grace is surrounded by her children. Mary Shelley lost all but one of hers. Mary Shelley’s story deserves a wide audience.

  9. Glenda johnstone
    | Reply

    Dear Marianne,
    I have been such a life time follower of Fons and Porter Love of Quilting. I was sad when Liz retired, but I hung on to you. Then you retired and I have missed you so much. I was so happy to see the Quilt Show with you visit.
    Life is a changing moving experience. Our quilt legends retire and we keep on quilting. Such a blessing you have been to my life all these years.
    Glenda Johnstone

    • Marianne Fons
      | Reply

      Glenda, you are so nice. Thank you for your kind words!

  10. Colleen Tauke
    | Reply

    Sitting on the steps, crouched in the window, propped against a sofa, perched in a studio…..I have enjoyed every moment, and learned more than I can ever convey in words. I thank you for lifting the quilt world to a credible career and a profession I enjoyed thoroughly.
    Hats off to you Lady! and tell that daughter of yours hello from CoCo;)
    Happy New Year, may it bring blessings beyond imagination.

    • Marianne Fons
      | Reply

      Thanks heaps, Coco! I’ll deliver the message.

  11. diana hearit
    | Reply

    Marianne, I so enjoyed the TQS episode, but I must confess my joy was lessened in learning your taping of episodes this season for LOQ is to be your final. Such sad news. I watch when I can, but I miss how you and Liz did the step by step and actually sewed on camera. I think many, like me, learned some important techniques this way. That aside, I will miss your optimistic personality and warmth. Congrats on being recognized by Alex and Ricky.

    • Marianne Fons
      | Reply

      Diana, thanks for your kind words, and apologies for disappointing you. The time to go (away from TV) had come. I’m so glad you learned valuable skills from Liz and me. Happy stitching!

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