Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Finnish Delights

The new issue of Stitch magazine is out. The Fall 2009 issue has lots more pages and projects than previous issues. This publication is a great combination of engaging articles and innovative projects that blur the lines of sewing—garments, home dec, quilt-y kinds of things. The issue has a global theme and articles on Japanese fabrics, fashion designer Max Osterweis and his sewn-in-Kenya collection using Kenyan fabrics, shopping for textiles in Hong Kong and (ta da!) an article on the history of Finnish manufacturer Marimekko's me!

That piece was such fun to write—I've long loved Marimekko, but didn't know anything about the history. In its early years, 90 percent of the company's staff was female. After Marimekko's founder died in 1979 the company was sold off and nearly run aground in the 1980s. But another woman, retired advertising executive Kirsti Paakkanen, bought the company and brought it back to life by shifting the focus from bureaucracy to the designers. Today, it's thriving.

At the time I was writing the article, I happened to mention it to Judy. Turns out Judy's mom had been one of the early adopters of Marimekko style, purchasing her dresses at the only shop at which you could buy them at the time, Design Research in Cambridge, Mass. Judy's mom remembered that her husband, photojournalist Ted Polumbaum, had photographed some Radcliffe students wearing Marimekko dresses for Life magazine. I shared this with Tricia, Stitch's editor, and lo and behold, she ended up using one of the photos. (For more of Polumbaum's photos, visit the Newseum site. His work is a great combination of the momentous and the great—Freedom Summer and Ted Kennedy—and the everyday and small—women wearing hats, reading on a park bench in Boston. There's a great shot of Julia Child, too, under the Curator's Choice link.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Final Market Update

Okay, so it's two weeks past Market and everyone else has long since posted their news (click on the KPKM post to the right and you'll find links to all kinds of blogs with Market news and photos). Better late than never, I say.

On Sunday, my friend Mary Lou Weidman arrived. Mary Lou is the person who invited me to Market with her last year. I read the term "Market doula" on someone's blog and I think Mary Lou definitely filled that role for me (and Mel...I missed you this year, Mel). Quilt Market is overwhelming the first time through—the sheer number of vendors and quilts is more than someone new to the industry can even imagine.

(I love the statistic that Quilt Market is the biggest convention that Houston hosts all year. That's right...the biggest! In Houston, they take good care of their quilters because they represent a big chunk of change for hotels, restaurants, and the like each year.)

At any rate, while it was fun to feel as though I'd taken off my Market training wheels this year, I'm always happy to see Mary Lou and was especially pleased to be with her this year when she got to see her new book for the very first time. Unfortunately, it's not yet for sale and there was a long line to get one of the autographed copies that Martingale was giving away at her book signing. But it looks fabulous and as I leafed through her copy, it was fun to see quilts by many people I've gotten to know, including most of the Lake Tahoe quilting gang. The quilt above is one of her "story quilts" and is an homage to Mary Lou's grandmother.

After checking out her new book, we wandered the aisles and soon found Mary Lou's friend, the very talented Paula Nadlestern. Paula had a one-woman show at the Museum of American Folk Art in NYC last year and Mary Lou always jokes that she's the only quilter at Market who dresses in black (she's a New Yorker). Paula had just gotten the first copies of some fabulous prints of her work (apologies, Paula, I can't remember the media in which they were done) and she got right down on the floor of the convention center and unwrapped them for us to see.

Soon after I met RaNae Merrill, whom I'd interviewed for American Patchwork and Quilting. It was fun to chat with her and she and Mary Lou exchanged information about teaching. I love the connections that occur as you walk the aisles and run into people.

This was also the day that I looked at quilts. There were some truly amazing pieces, and I took photos of several for a project I've got in the works.

In the late afternoon we decided to go get some lunch and ran into a group who were seated around a big round table. In the center of that table was...ta da...the armadillo cake, and we were invited to have a bite. The cake was made by LizzyHouse and it's obvious her talents extend far beyond illustration and pattern and textile design. She's a cake-maker extraordinaire! She'd created the cake for Pam and her traveling companion, who'd made the trip all the way from California without seeing a single armadillo. And not only was the cake a feast for the eyes, it was red velvet and delicious. I really did want seconds, but thought it best that when I left people didn't say "Who was that woman who just wolfed down half the cake?"

The group at the table included Jenny aka Tula Pink, a very talented designer (think Neptune. Nest. Flutterby). I'd had the pleasure of interviewing her for APQ, as well as meeting her at her mom's shop in Stewartsville, MO. It's called Country Expressions Quilt Shoppe and it's the classic example of why I think putting "country" in your name can be misleading. The name, the location (really off the beaten path), and even the simple style of the shop's exterior belie what's inside—a shop chockful of the most gorgeous, most colorful fabric around.

The day ended with dinner at the Hyatt in the company of Mary Lou and Brenda and Faye who are educators with Marti Michell. We also joined the lovely ladies, Linda, Brenda, and Linda, from Tennessee Quilts. Not only are they dynamic women (Linda, front left, still practices law while co-owning the shop with her sister-in-law, Brenda—she's on the right side in front) but their shop looks fantastic. I note that Kaffe Fassett was just here last week...not too shabby! In this photo we're all doing what my friend Emily calls "the author pose," the one where people gaze out from the dust jackets on their books with their hands under their chin, convinced it hides any multiples. I think it worked here, don't you?

I did have another picture of my tired feet, but I seem to have deleted it. So, my final picture is the next morning, when I stopped at Marti Michell's booth to see Brenda and Diane. I'd just made my big splurge purchase: an Arrow sewing cabinet. But more on that later.

There's no doubt that while Market is exhausting, it really recharged my batteries to be around so many others who share my depth of feeling for sewing and fabric and color and design and quilts.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Market's freshest produce

While seeing old friends and what they've been up to is one of Market's big pleasures, seeing what's new provides excitement, inspiration, and in many cases, awe. In this post, I'll share a bit of what I saw that I hadn't seen before.

First up was the fabric of Marcia Derse.
Her Gerta collection for Troy was fantastic—it's discharge dying in gorgeous colors and patterns writ large (as in large quantities). Marcia was delightful as well and helped me find a sales rep so that I could share her fabric with my shop-owning friend, Codi (I will stop by with his card, I promise Codi). Here are a couple of photos: one of Marcia in her booth and another of her fabrics. Note especially the fabulous pillows she made using them.

Next are the patterns of From Me to You, a design company from Walnut Creek, California. Neither of the designers was in the booth when I came by and I wish I'd gotten more photos, but this close-up of the basket pattern (with the dually appropriate name of Going to Market) gives you and idea of the fresh take on a traditional block that these gals create. This team has been designing for a number of years, as well as being thoroughly enmeshed in the quilting industry through writing books, patterns, and teaching. One of them is a co-founder of the Empty Spools Seminars in Asilomar, Calif., which I'd love to attend someday.

Another booth that made me drool was the Seven Seas Export group that includes Echino fabrics designed by Etsuko Furuya. Etsuko is very sweet and shy and the only photo I have of her smiling face is with my phone, and not very good. But do note an earlier shot I got of her back and the amazing dress she's wearing. I used her Dew Spring fabric to make a Birdie Sling and not only loved the print, but the fabric's heavier weight and texture, as well. From the looks of the booth, there's lots more to look forward to from this designer!

Also in the Seven Seas grouping was a booth of amazing felt creations. Last year, felt sushi made it big: this year it was felt desserts. There were all sorts of adorable kits available. In another section were the sweetest baby prints, stitched into blankets, diaper bags, and bibs. Japanese fabric overall seemed better represented at Market this year.

And this very kind (and jet-lagged) young woman from Hiroshima's Tulip Company, Ltd. was touting quilting needles and encouraging passersby to make a pincushion. She gave me a great sample packet of quilting needles (the packet claims "The Needles are Affection") which I look forward to trying.

Another team of designers who aren't new in the biz, but are currently captivating me are Piece O' Cake. I adore their bright colors and stylized designs. The brown pieced background with the stick-like, aqua trees appliqued atop makes me want to stop everything and stitch.

As if all the new fabrics and patterns aren't enough, there are also vendors at Market with amazing vintage textiles, jewelry, and more. This vintage button booth was like the dimestore of my youth. When I was in sixth grade and had just gotten my 50-cent allowance, my parents would let my younger sisters and me visit a store that offered penny candy. It was so hard to choose because the owners had everything imaginable. And being near these buttons felt just the same—unfortunately, they were more than a penny apiece.

End of day feet hurt. And you were wondering about the armadillo cake? Sorry, must wait for Day Two of Market and my next post.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

To Market, to Market

Finally, I've got a few minutes to sneak in some photos from Quilt Market. I had a wonderful time this year and it felt great to reconnect with people I'd met previously, as well as get to know some new folks.

Friday night I met up with the multi-talented Lila Scott (that's her on the left), the technical editor for American Patchwork and Quilting. I first "met" Lila when I interviewed her about her work. I'm still in awe of her skills—she tests all the patterns in APQ, Quilts and More, Quilt Sampler, and other publications—using math! This means she is so skilled with numbers that she can figure out the accuracy of a pattern without ever cutting out and stitching a piece of fabric. She also designs quilts herself (and builds stone walls in her spare time).

On Saturday, Lila's buddy Linda Lum DeBono (right) arrived. Linda was one of my earliest interviewees for Quilts and More and she's another dynamo. The three of us wandered around Market in the morning, taking it all in. Although I felt more "at home" this year, I was still stunned by the sheer number of booths and people at the event—a testament to the continued popularity of quilting, even during challenging economic times.

One of everyone's favorite booths (and ultimately a winner in the Best Booth category) included everyone's favorite fabric: Alexander Henry. The sister and brother design team Nicole and Philip DeLeon are not only the most versatile designers around, they're incredibly gracious (well, Nicole is—I didn't get to talk with Philip). Nicole admitted that she was responsible for their Halloween display that included a life-sized sewing witch (working on a spider web quilt) and artfully arranged tarantulas, rats, ravens an owl, and a warty toad (held here by Nicole). Sadly, my pictures don't do either the booth or Nicole justice. Their new fabrics are (as expected) so varied and so witty—a treat.

At lunch, I had the good fortune to meet Patrick Lose, a very friendly former Iowan and long-time designer of fabrics and patterns. He had been in North Liberty in June at Common Threads and has a special fondness for shop owner Peg (who doesn't?). He's got lots of adventures in his future and it was fun to talk with him about those, as well as to hear him brag about his granddaughter. I loved that he whipped out her picture to show friends at every opportunity.

Then I moseyed back to what I dubbed "the full-color corner," a section of the convention center that grouped Anna Maria Horner, Heather Bailey, Kaffe Fassett, Amy Butler, and others in close proximity. Squeals came from that part of Market all day, as visitors rounded the corner and were plunked over the head with a visual extravaganza.

Brandon Mabley was arranging things in the booth he shares with Kaffe Fassett—he explained that he'd hung the fabrics as if it were a carpet stall in a Middle Eastern market. When I asked if I could take a photo he started to step out of the shot. I said, "Oh, I'd love to have you in it because your shirt looks so fabulous with the other fabrics," and Mr. Fassett nodded and said rather thoughtfully, "Yes, it really does." I took this to mean that Kaffe shares my design sensibility and it made me very happy. To celebrate, I stopped across the way and bought a lovely umbrella covered with a melony Kaffe Fassett floral—it will definitely cheer me on grey days!

I stopped to say hello to Anna Maria Horner. I've had the opportunity to write about her twice—once for Quilts and More and once for her alumni magazine—and she is just a peach of a human being. I'm pleased to report that she's raised another fine member of society, her daughter, Juliana. Juliana is a senior in high school and interested in fashion journalism (again, my camera has not done the least bit of justice to how lovely she is). Having grown up surrounded by the fabric industry, she's got a real leg up over most folks her age. We chatted about the sad state of print journalism and I was so impressed with her maturity and friendliness. Best of luck getting into your school and program of choice, Juliana! Later in the day I also had the chance to chat with Anna Maria's assistant, Allie. She's another fabulous young woman—a graphic design student getting ready to graduate. She's got some wonderful samples of her work (materials she's pulled together of Anna Maria's lines) to share with future employers. She, too, was a little discouraged by the state of print, but she's got a good head on her shoulders about exploring her options. I never did get to say hello to Anna Maria, but I really enjoyed her "crew."

Heather Bailey's booth was another prizewinner, and I heard more than one viewer reverentially sigh and say "I want to LIVE here!" The fresh colors and the scenery—once again, my photos failed to capture just how lovely it was—Heather and her husband Issac rigged a clothesline and windows against a photo mural, so it looked as though there was view to the country just outside. Refreshing!

Amy Butler's booth was, of course, enchanting. I finally introduced myself to Amy—she was my very first profile for Quilts and More, back in 2006. She is absolutely the kindest person—I babbled on about how much I loved the Birdie Sling pattern and she acted as though I was a completely normal person. Her new fabrics are delicious and I'm especially drawn to her new Sweet Harmony bag—it's got that same comfy handle as the Birdie Sling. Must try one!

Okay, that's it for today. Much more Market to come...including an armadillo cake!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Applying the seat of one's pants to the seat of the chair

Just finished reading Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit. I'm not big on self-help books. As a matter of fact, I find many of them to be mindless drivel.

But Tharp has brains. She's well-read and draws on a range of sources to illustrate her points. While some might accuse her of pretension—her numerous references to Beethoven and Mozart and her name-dropping of Jerome Robbins and Barishnikov—I think they provide examples that make her points convincingly.

The bottom line: creativity requires discipline, but in order to remain creative, it has to be shaken up from time to time. So, applying one's rear to one's chair regularly is required (for a writer—a dancer would apply one's body to the gym regularly). No shortcuts.

More on my trip to Houston and the Quilt Market soon....maybe even tomorrow, if I apply the seat of my pants to my chair.

Friday, October 2, 2009

I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers—Claude Monet

In my quilt writing, I've had the opportunity to interview lots of different designers, and I'm always struck by how many seem to derive their inspiration (like Claude Monet) from nature. Lately, I've been on a nature kick in my blog entries—first spiders and now the incredible photographs of Deep Nature, a new book by the UI Press (disclosure: I worked for the Press many years ago).

Check these out as inspiration for your quilts—the color, the imagery, the shapes...they're stunning. If you're interested in more about the book, the Press has a new blog—Bur Oak Books—which I've added to my blog roll.

These photos are all from Deep Nature, photgraphed by Linda and Robert Scarth, (UI Press, 2009)