Member Spotlight: Seven Veronica Victor

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In a region called the Sunny South East of Ireland, there is a woman from Tampa, Florida, who is quilting with a color palette of gray, black, and white. When I get on the phone with Seven Veronica Victor, also known as “Ronnie," she politely requests to not be described as an ex-pat in this article. “I refer to myself as an immigrant because politically, in Europe, there is this notion that immigrants are brown and ex-pats are white,” Victor explains, “I try to break down that class difference.” For the last 10 years, Victor has been moving: for independence, for love, and most recently, for tranquility. “I moved to Dusseldorf, Germany from San Francisco to be with my husband, where we lived together for about two and a half years,” says Victor. “Then we got sick of the city; it was taking a toll on us. We were like, let’s retire to the country!” The couple packed their bags and escaped to the countryside of Ireland into a home that overlooked an endless horizon of green valleys and would require Victor to drive an hour for essentials. “I’m in Dublin once or twice a week, and that’s about an hour and forty-five minutes one way. Now, for us, that’s no big deal.”

Victor and her husband run a business together; he is the science writer, and she is the graphic designer. “His part of the job is the majority of the business. He works full-time and he’s disabled,” she explains. “A lot of the responsibility running the house falls on me. In between those times, I find time to create.” Arts and crafts started early for Victor; it was her stepmom who taught her how to cross stitch. Next, it was sewing, and soon, she would discover how to make her own clothes. But it wasn’t until Victor was looking for a new sewing machine, after having to leave her old machine in San Francisco, that she would find one that was able to do free motion quilting. “Like with everything that I do, I did it full force.”

When asked to explain her relationship to quilting, she explains it as a political act. Her quilts don’t make explicit statements, but having been made by a trans-woman they will always invite critique. “From a gender perspective, my identity will always be called into question in comparison to what I create, Victor says.” She describes how even after she transitioned, the women’s groups at her quilting school would inquire whether her palette would change to pastels, now that she was a woman. “I shut the conversation down,” Victor says. “My color palette is not masculine, it’s just neutrals. Loads of women quilt the same way.”

There are days when Victor sews until the green view from her craft room turns to black, and months when the fabric will run out and embroidery will become her pleasure. But she always returns to quilting, whether in her personal work or through her teaching.

Victor teaches a class of middle-age Irish women at a sewing school that is forty minutes from her home. “I have one major rule in my classes: if you wouldn’t say it to another student, you’re not allowed to say it about yourself.” When we talk about how her quilting students have responded to her transition, Victor seems hopeful, and tells me that she hasn’t had any problems. “I haven’t had any students deliberately misgender me in a hurtful way,” she says, sounding cheerful. “Whatever they think in their heads, or they tell people at home, I really don’t care, as long as they don’t disrespect me to my face.” In an open-format class, she asks her students to bring their own projects to the class where she teaches quilting techniques. She finds that students benefit more from the individual coaching, and they get a boost in self-confidence when they work on their own pieces, rather than making the same quilt. Every one of her students has picked up nesting seams with ease, but ironing their quilts, instead of pressing them, is her second biggest reminder to her class. “Teaching has really taught me patience, and to understand that just because I’m using words that seem perfectly clear to me, it does not mean that everyone around me hears them the same way.”

She has simple goals for her quilts: well-made, a refined color palette, sophisticated design, and worth every penny. “I want to make things that I find are pretty, and have people give me their money,” she jokes. If there was anything that Victor would change about the quilting community, as she works to improve in her own life, it would be mindfulness when it comes to inclusivity. “I think the modern quilt guild is doing a really good job at trying, but I’d like to break down some of the racial, gender, and class assumptions,” she says referring to QuiltCon. “It's an educational opportunity. The lectures are why I go. It's an opportunity to meet people and learn. So, when people go just because they want to show off their money, it makes me uncomfortable.” Buy the things you need, Victor says; it’s not worth it to go overboard.