When and how did you first start sewing? I started sewing somewhere between age 5-7. I would go to my grandma’s farm and read all of her Hershner’s catalogs and I would look at photos and try to figure out how projects and patterns were created. I guess I started teaching myself at an early age how to think creatively and to figure out how things are put together. I hand sewed a lot for several years and started using a sewing machine around age 11. I think I was the only kid who asked for gift cards to House of Fabrics for Christmas.
What advice would you give to someone who just started sewing/making their own clothing? I encourage my students to gain a love of sewing first before perfection. Too many people are hard on themselves when they are learning and get frustrated in our instant result society. IF you are taking piano lessons you don’t expect to master the piano after one class or retreat and you don’t skip the intermediate recital just because you are not a maestro. I want new sewists to love and be proud of their first projects. Mastery comes with repetition, and remember no one sewist is a master of every fabric and technique.
What are your must-have tools in your studio? Several different types of quality scissors as they are all for different things, true tailor’s chalk, and my industrial iron. You need an iron that can provide heat and pressure for professional results.
What inspires you and gets your creativity flowing? I am super creative so ideas come pretty easy, but I find I read fabric and design around the strengths of an individual fabric; how it will drape, how it will hang, how the grain can be manipulated for fit and function. Additionally, I love problem solving so when someone poses a project scenario I just love tossing out all sorts of idea (not all are good) and the creative process.
How did you become the face of Nancy’s Notion’s Wardrobe Builder? It’s such an honor and I loved talking to Nancy about her favorite type of sewing and I loved when she would comment on my work. Last year I was reaching out to Jenny about an idea and she said that she had an idea for me and had the team contact me. We had several planning and brainstorming meetings and WB was born. I am so excited about this program because we have such a beautiful blend of quality hand picked fabrics that work so well with our monthly projects, we have a fantastic team working behind the scenes and I love teaching technique. My approach is very much making sewing approachable for all skill levels while being able to toss in my personal experiences and professional techniques.
When and how did you first start knitting? Almost 20 years ago, I had a Lucy moment and convinced my best friend Becca to go a knitting class. The class was a disaster. I don’t think we ever got past the cast on row. Looking back, it was quite hilarious, but at the time I was so frustrated!!! After that we stuck to books from the library and local yarn shops for tips and tricks.
What advice would you give to someone who just started knitting? Be Patient and Persistent. Knitting is a labor of love. It takes time to master. But if you keep at it, soon you’ll be able to knit up some beautiful works of art and we all have to start somewhere.
What are your must-have tools in your studio? BAGS! I love all the bags. I have so many! Seriously. I have a thing for my knitting bags. I also love the clicking row counter and my locking stitch makers. The markers help keep me on track especially when my babies need me.
What inspires you and gets your creativity flowing? I’m inspired by the yarn. It’s almost like the yarn tells me what it wants to be. I soak in the color, fiber content and how its spun. Then I vision the fabric it will make, from that something usually pops into my head.. like, this texture would make a good scarf. Ok, this yarn wants to be a scarf.
How did you become the face of One Big Happy? Everyone that knows me knows I love to knit. Fortunately for me, when MSQC decided to start selling yarn, I already worked for the company. I’m local, a part of the family and have a passion for knitting and sharing my knowledge of the craft. We did a test run and so far it seems to be working. Being the face of the company just kind of happened.
Not everyone has a ton of time or space to create. That’s why we’ve made it easy for you to start now. We’ll encourage you to try new things and take risks. We’ll laugh with you when things don’t turn out quite as planned. We promise to challenge you and to teach you to enjoy the process of making art. If you promise to be kind to yourself, not to compare your art to others, and to have fun, then we’re going to have a great time together. Let’s make some art!
When and how did you first start painting? I have always had a love and passion for art. Painting, drawing, creating was something that I did as a child and simply never stopped. When it came time to pick a career, I decided to pick art as my major in college and a year after graduating, I started Let’s Make Art with my business partner.
What advice would you give to someone who just started painting? Be kind to yourself. Do not compare. Remember to have fun.
What are your must-have tools in your studio? Must have tools: Paint supplies and music. You know when I am in the zone by how much I am singing along to whatever is playing while I paint 🙂
What inspires you and gets your creativity flowing? I think inspiration is a tricky beast and I am learning that mostly what it means to get creativity flowing is to show up consistently. I don’t always have the flutter feeling of inspiration BEFORE I start painting, but I almost always feel better when I am done painting. I view creating as a practice that I am passionate about and committed to instead of this magical, elusive thing. Sometimes the magic is there and sometimes it isn’t, but either way, I am making something.
How did you become the face of Let’s Make Art? As co-founder of Let’s Make Art, there weren’t a lot of people or options (or money for that matter) that we could use as a resource to help us find “the face”. And honestly, I am not entirely sure that it was strategic on what being “the face” actually means. All I know is that I had a vision for how art should and could be taught. And I thought, “Maybe if I could open up, and share with them everything: the supplies, how to use them, the mistakes, the joy, the fear, the techniques, the why – then maybe it won’t feel so out of reach for people who have always wanted to try.” So that’s what I did. I simply gave all of myself to this company.
When and how did you first start lettering? In 2012 I started with a personal challenge to create something every day. I had absolutely no idea that that would be a catalyst for a career of creating, teaching and expressing myself through art!
What advice would you give to someone who just started lettering? Tap into your inner child-like wonder that is there inside of you. Yes, it might need some dusting off, but it is in there, simply waiting to be free and create!
What are your must-have tools in your studio? Watercolor paints and two brushes – a small one to letter with and a round larger one to paint with!
What inspires you and gets your creativity flowing? The colors that illuminate the sky when the sun goes down. Sunsets are Mother Nature’s beautiful daily light shows and have been the source of my creativity recently!
How did you become the host of your own Let’s Make Art series? The internet makes the world smaller! Sarah Cray and I were both teaching an online workshop and she reached out about a company she was starting, Let’s Make Art. She enjoyed my teaching style, lettering books (see links below), and we instantly connected after one visit! Lettering became the second subscription box at Let’s Make Art and it was so much fun! Then, in the summer of 2020, I felt an urge and a need to create for kids. I transitioned from teaching lettering to creating a kids program and art box for our Little Artists! It has been so much fun, and we just launched our kids-only Instagram!
When and how did you first start journaling? I’ve been making art for as long as I can remember. I made my own art journals in first grade and laminated the covers with all my Mom’s scotch tape. My parents tried really hard to discourage me from making art my career, but I’ve always been a rebel. 😉
What advice would you give to someone who just started journaling? Don’t be too precious. The only wasted paint is the paint that is still in the tube!
What are your must-have tools in your studio? I like to start with a great surface, a mixed media journal paper, or a sturdy panel. I love rich pigmented paints and working with a craft knife and collage paper. Yes! Paste is my favorite adhesive.
What inspires you and gets your creativity flowing? My creative ritual keeps me grounded and inspired. I like to start out my studio time with some calm music and sketching or a painting sort of warm-up before I get into anything too serious. Sometimes these low-pressure warm-ups lead to big ideas.
How did you become the host of your own Let’s Make Art series? I’ve worked in the craft industry for a big chunk of my career and I really wanted to see a different format of creativity be offered. I’ve always made art journals and creative sketchbooks on my own while creating products for creative memory keeping in major retail stores. I wanted to offer more education around those ideas. I pitched the idea of doing an art journal subscription box to one of the Let’s Make Art co-founders, Al Doan, and the rest is history!
Whether you’re a total beginner or you’ve mastered the arts, the supplies and tutorials in this monthly art box are designed to encourage, support, and enhance your experience with Art Journaling. The monthly box provides the supplies you’ll need and a free video tutorial released weekly.
Many have wondered, “Are quilts art or craft?” Well, the answer can be yes to either. Confused yet? Let’s start with the definition of art. In the Oxford dictionary art is said to be, “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”
In that sense, quilts can be considered an artform. Although quilts are created to serve a purpose, most often to keep us warm, they are also made to be nice to look at. It takes skill and imagination to create a quilt. In addition to this, many quilts are created to celebrate a special occasion, mourn a loss, mark time passing, and so on. They are literal representations of love. Emotion is stitched into every square inch.
Contrary to this definition, are some quilts made without great skill or imagination? Sure. Are some simply utilitarian, without much thought given to the design? Yes. But these early attempts are a first step in learning how to make quilts that could be considered art. The first time we create anything is a trial period. There should be no high expectations. It’s a time to build skill and learn from experience. As we grow, we become more creative in our approach to quilting, gaining confidence in our design choices, and more skilled in quilting techniques. No matter where we begin, we can always improve.
Quilts can also be considered a craft. The definition of craft is, “An activity involving skill in making things by hand.” Simple enough. Quilting is a skill that can be learned by anyone and it can be fun to do even if we don’t view it as an artform. Regardless of what our intent is when we make quilts, they can be both incredibly beautiful and useful. Let’s hear what our customers had to say about quilts being art or craft:
“They are both. When I was in school, many many years ago we could make a quilt in our home economics class as a sewing craft and make another in art class as art.” -Denise Vasel
“In my 3-dimensional design art class in college, we were given the assignment of turning linocut prints we made into quilts. I would say there isn’t much distinction in my mind between craft and art. It’s all art.” -Denise Fox Eskridge
“Both. Craft because you are making something and art because the material, pattern and colors you use makes it unique.” -Paula Herbst
“A quilt is art that you craft.” -Sharon Crouch
“Both, art and craft. You create your own concept, pattern, and color, and craft because it is handmade.” -Pat Trueblood
“They can be both. I think some people are confused because a quilt is used. It’s functional art. It’s consider myself an artist.” -Julie Tierney
“Craft, art, and love.” -Debbie Torrey
“Both but also much more. They are art in the selection of color, fabric, and design. They are craft in the construction and quality of quilting. On top of all that, they are heart, and love, and passion.” -Victoria Hubbard
“Both. Quilting is a work of art and it’s like putting a puzzle together. I never knew I could be so artsy and crafty. Love love love it!” -Alice Hayden
“I was disappointed to have an art teacher tell me that quilting was a craft not art. I believe she is wrong. I have seen so many works of art made from fabric.” -Leslie Savitsky
“Quilting is an art. When you thoughtfully and methodically pick out a pattern and figure out an eye-catching layout and fabric placement for a quilt, that’s art.” -Suzanne K. Einspahr
We completely agree! You are all wonderfully skilled, artistic quilters and we love seeing what you make. Share your beautiful creations with us at #msqcshowandtell and keep on creating your beautifully crafted works of art!
Almost 20 years ago, the tiny, rural community of Gee’s Bend was brought into prominence when their quilts were discovered to be works of art, not just the simple bed coverings they’d always believed they had been making. Their quilts were purchased by collectors and displayed in art museums across the country causing quilting to be elevated from folk art to masterpieces. In one of the first reviews of their artwork in 2002, Michael Kimmelman of the The New York Times called the Gee’s Bend quilts “some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced” comparing them to renowned artists like Henri Matisse and Paul Klee.
The exceptional modern art style of Gee’s Bend quilts might be attributed in part to their unique community. Their isolated town is nestled in a crook of the Alabama River, surrounded on three sides by water without a bridge or ferry. Being a close-knit group of only a few hundred, the quilters of Gee’s Bend have passed on their knowledge and skill to subsequent generations, untouched by outside influences, allowing their patterns and variations on patterns to live on. In their insular community, they have taken traditional quilt blocks and molded them to fit their own preferences with astonishing results.
Another reason the Gee’s Bend quilters’ style is so unique is their utilitarian spirit. They are a make-do group of women who have taken old work clothing, worn out blue jeans, scraps of corduroy left over from a sewing contract with Sears in the 70s, and just about any kind of fabric they could get their hands on, to make their incredible abstract quilt designs. Without the means to simply buy fabric, they made their scarcity into a feast for the eyes.
They design innately, inspired by their surroundings and what they have on hand, creating organic quilt compositions that go far beyond the precise, mail-order quilts they had once produced back in the 1960s for the Freedom Quilting Bee to sell in department stores like Bloomingdales and Saks 5th Avenue. They allow their quilts to wibble and wobble. The colors alternate as they see fit. They don’t have straight borders. These quilts don’t play by the “rules.”
It’s such a pleasure to marvel at the improvisational prowess of the Gee’s Bend quilters—a surprising addition of yellow blocks in a mostly blue, brown, and maroon quilt is a welcome sight. A half-log cabin quilt with blocks turned this way and that feels so freeing. Rows and rows of blue jeans with faded knees turns into a master work when discarded work pants are pieced together just as they are, allowing them to speak clearly of their origins.
In the Gee’s Bend quilts are innumerable variations of the well-known “housetop” quilt block, that many of us might recognize as “courthouse steps,” a variation of the log cabin. They take this block that is built strip by strip, and add vibrant centers or ignore the centers altogether, focusing more on the contrast of light and dark in the strips themselves. They add a few pieces of striped fabric for interest wherever they please. Patterns and solids are used in wildly varying combinations and the colors just seem to work.
After taking in such freely interpreted designs, we hope you feel yourself filled with the desire to play with fabric again, cut it without squinting at the markings on a ruler, and sew it together without a pin in sight. Why not? There are no mistakes to be made when you simply allow yourself to create.
Souls Grown Deep
Ever since their quilts have been discovered to be the works of art they truly are, the quilters of Gee’s Bend have experienced a renaissance of creativity in their community. Those who had long since put down the needle and thread have picked it up again in the fervor of renewed quiltmaking, and those who had never been interested in the art of making quilts before suddenly found themselves longing to be a part of this vibrant group of quilters. All were welcomed in and during the past 20 or so years, more quilts have been made than ever before. And they’re just as beautiful and inspiring as we remember.
To help this community continue to promote their art and to protect the livelihoods of these quilters, Souls Grown Deep has partnered with Nest to help the quilters of Gee’s Bend. The Nest team has spent time in Gee’s Bend with the quilters there, building relationships and getting to know these wonderful women to help them market their world-renowned quilts and make sure their unique stories are heard.
Gee’s Bend has an average annual income of $12,000 and more than half of their population struggles with poverty. Many don’t have internet access in their homes and as a result, it has hindered their ability to connect with those outside their community and reach a wider audience to sell and to display their quilts. Souls Grown Deep, with their partner Nest, is working with these wonderful quilters to help them receive fair payment for their quilts and build a strong foundation for future financial success.