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Inspiration board...

Inspiration board...

Written by: 

I'm talking about an actual bulletin board of some kind that you attach pictures, images and "stuff" to, pictures that inspire you or just make you happy.


This is Mochi.  It's a quilt and pattern by Natalie Barnes of Beyond the Reef patterns.  Mochi is made with Jen Kingwell's Behind the Scenes, Lollies and Just a Speck collections.  I've had a picture of this quilt on my "inspiration board" in my sewing room since last October.

I'm an unabashed fan of Natalie's work - I can't think of one of her quilts that I haven't loved.  A friend asked me why, not because she didn't agree but because she was curious why I liked it so much.  It's simple, Natalie's work doesn't look like anybody else's.  She takes commonly seen-used elements and puts them together in a way that's original by her use of color, pattern and proportion.


That's Natalie and her buddy, Buddy.  (Duh. Of course I'm going to like a girl who loves her dog!)

Just so you know, most of the photographs here were "snipped" from Natalie's Instagram - she takes great pictures.


So... at QuiltCon last month, I pestered her (hounded?) to let me "interview" her.  Big surprise - she's funny, creative, and totally original.

How long have you been quilting?  How did you start - family, friends, just one of those things?

I had the best-dressed Barbie dolls in town!  My grandmother would knit full-length strap-less gowns for my dolls - all without a pattern, of course.  So I guess you could say that the "creative gene" is in my blood.  As for that transition from knitting and sewing to quilting, I started with a stack library books and some fabric from Woolworth's.  I checked out every book on quilting that the library owned - I might have been in junior high school at the time.

And true story - my high school boyfriend made me a quilt for a birthday gift.  To this day, I can’t use yellow as a predominant color in my quilts.


Flower Stalks.

How long have you been creating your own designs?  How long have you been doing Beyond The Reef?

From the moment I started quilting! Everyone I knew received a "big block" quilt out of that Woolworth's fabric.  I was creating from the beginning - it's the history of quilting, the stories that accompany every block.

It's probably a reason why I am also a designer by profession - I studied architecture and commercial interior design.  But on a trip to Hawaii, I created an appliqué kit that a good friend - and me - could stitch during the morning rains on the North Shore while we sat on the lanai drinking our coffee.  Her friends began asking her where they could get the pattern and... that's how it all started.

Did you have an eye toward doing patterns and making quilting a business?  Or was it "just one of those things" that kind of happened?

I might say that it’s the marriage of both that is the greatest gift.  I love quilts - all quilts.  I love the history of them, the color, the pattern and the design.  But I love the business of the quilt-pattern business too!  My grandfather owned his own "speak-easy", my father owned his own company and I owned my own design firm before starting Beyond The Reef.  I guess you could say that this passion and skill might also be in my genes.


Post & Beam.

Chicken or the egg - fabric or design/block?  Meaning - do your ideas start with the fabric first or with a design that you're then looking for the right fabric?

Oh my gosh, both!  We’ve all had that moment when we walk through our favorite quilt shop and we see a specific fabric and say, “Oooh, that would be perfect for <fill in the blank>.”  There are also times when I am developing a new project and it just has to have a certain fabric to “let the design out” of the block.  Some designs need a certain contrast while others need just the right colors.   So it's definitely both.


Heat Advisory.  (Made with Kate Spain's Canyon.)

Do you get creative blocks?  If they happen, is there anything in particular you do to un-block?

I do not.  I have the opposite problem. :::big smile:::

What's the one thing you know now that you wish you'd known when you first started your business?

This is a difficult one for me because I am a firm believer in the idea that we are all “always in our right place”.  That’s not to say that I believe in “dumb luck”.  One must definitely have the passion, a willingness to fail and the strength to get back up.  We have to have the tenacity to keep honing our skill.  But if I had known that “one thing”, would I have made the same decisions?  Would I be here today, having that knowledge set?

This is a tough question!

Okay, I would say that I wish I had known how many people I would meet that would really really touch my heart.  Bonds in the industry are forged in giving, and in creating, and by opening up that vulnerable part of your ‘self’ as a designer.  They are tested in deadlines.  And then celebrated once again when those same people move on - you're thankful that they touched your life, if even for just a moment.


Mochi in the making - I just love this picture.

Is there anything you're happy you didn't know?  (This is the "ignorance is bliss" question.)

Wait.  Is there something I should know that you’re not telling me?

Oh.  That I didn’t know… well, I don’t think so.  I love life so much and every twist and turn that bubbles up is a great big gift, if you ask me.  Let’s face it.  In our world - as it is at this very moment - things are moving so so very fast, that by the time I answer the question, that environment will have evolved and changed.


Blueberries - color inspiration.

Everyone now is an aspiring designer - what would you tell people wanting to get in the business?  Would you tell them anything - again, ignorance is bliss and there are things they can only learn by doing.

I think this is a really important question.  So many people do such great work in their own home studio and that’s a thing to be celebrated!  But is it something they want to convert into a business?  That’s the question.  The first thing I would have people ask themselves is this - do you like “designing quilts” for yourself, for your family because you like the process of designing in fabric?  Because you yourself like quilting?  Or do you really have a clear vision of helping other people to quilt?   If you really are interested in joining this industry, you need to remember that being “a designer” is a job.  It takes a certain skill set.  It is a profession.  Quilting is a big thriving industry!

If you want to be a designer in the quilting and sewing industry, you need to work up a business plan and take a look at 1-, 3- and 5-year goals with honest financial projections.  Take a look at your lifestyle and how the demands of commercial deadlines will fit into your days.  Starting a business and being a sole proprietor - or having employees - is not a simple decision to make.  Take care in doing the honest work of planning, before you jump in.

Marcus Lemons says this well, "The definition of an entrepreneur, to me, is the willingness to fail, and it takes a lot of guts and a lot of heart to take that chance.”


Another beautiful picture from Natalie's Instagram.

Gwen Marston - what led you to sponsor her exhibit at QuiltCon?

Here’s the very best thing about being able to sponsor Gwen’s exhibit - I had absolutely nothing to do with that idea.  Honestly.  Nothing.

Heather Grant - the QuiltCon chairperson - has just been so perceptive about me, about my company.  Last year, she chose do.good.stitches.  When I finally found the exhibit with our name on it, I stood in the room and cried.  Big, giant crocodile tears.  I was so touched that she knew so much about what I feel is important. People.  It’s always the people, for me.

As a result, when someone came in to the booth, thanking us for sponsoring the Marston exhibit... well, again, honestly, Gwen Marston's Liberated Quiltmaking was one of my very first “adult” quilt books.

How does Heather do it?  I don't know and  I don’t care.  I am just so thankful that she does.

Have you ever taken a workshop from Gwen?

I have not but I would absolutely LOVE to be in a classroom with her!


Hang Ten.

Are there any quilters-teachers, book or classes, or artists that you look to as inspiring you - as having changed the way you thought about your work?

I am inspired daily by the volume of talent “in the room”.  Gosh.  Everyone is doing such great work!  And I must say, I am an equal opportunity lover of quilts.  I can just swoon over a stunning Civil War quilt, bound in Velvet.  And a happy,cheery quilt of plain old blocks and bricks can put a smile on my face.  A stunning minimalist “composition” will take my breath away.  And well... good technique is good technique!  As quilters, there are days we remember the moment we first saw a quilt by Nancy Crow, and then there are also days when we just want to sew pretty fabrics into nine patches.  I am inspired by seeing a grandmother bring her grandchild to their very first quilt show as much as I am by the detailed works of the technicians and designers in today’s field.


Color Inspiration.

Vulcan mind-mend - if you could get inside the head of anyone in the industry-business for a day, a week or a month to see how they think and "do what they do", who would that be?  And why - what is it about this person's work that you really love?

From a business standpoint, Mark Dunn of Moda, of course — from the Collection for a Cause program to his ideal to “share what you love with others.” I am a great admirer of Mickey Krueger at Windham Fabrics’ business style.  Joanna Gaines of Magnolia Market and her home-renovation fame.  From a creative standpoint, it would be talents like Cheryl Freydburg - what a great collaborator - and Lissa Alexander.  Wow!

Finally, I think it would be really fun to spend a day being Madeline Tosh, the knitter and yarn designer, or Angela Walters.  What DOES she think about while she’s making that magic?  Or Anna Maria Horner - what it must be like to have such flourishing family!  And Denyse Schmidt! That studio and that amazing wealth of knowledge!  Heather Grant! How does she stay so organized... or or or… oh, sorry.  Was I only selecting one person?



What's the very best thing about getting to do what you do?

Getting to do what I do!  :::big smile:::

Well, okay... first of all, working from my home.  While I don’t have a large or luxurious studio, I do get to sit at my desk and look out at the garden, and get up and go for a walk along the coastline, at any given time in the day.

I have a “brain and a backpack” mentality, also.  Which means, I can pack up and work from “wherever I am”.  You know that saying, “wherever you go, there you will be...", that's me.

Finally, aside from my work life, the very best thing about getting to do what I do is the people.  From attending a quilt show and seeing three generations of quilters walking a show to teaching - that moment when I see the giant light bulb pop up over a student’s head - that aha moment.  Honestly, just seeing someone purchase one of my patterns and saying, “this is what I want to make” makes it all worthwhile.  I will walk over to that person and thank them for wanting to take their time to work on something I designed.  Some people become a little fearful though when I start to tear up at the sight of my pattern in their hand...


Mochi - the patterns and fabrics are now available.

You're now designing fabric for "another company" - congratulations! - and is that changing how you see fabric, yours and other people's?  Is this something you've always wanted to do - or did the idea of it have to grow on you?

Thank you so much!  I am thrilled.  Just thrilled.  My first collection “Hand Maker” will debut at Spring Market 2016 in Salt Lake City.

I have always wanted to create my own patterns and designs for quilting fabrics.  I have sketchbooks, photos, notes and books full of tear-sheets of color, shape and form.

I have to add - - I am also really excited about fabric in the quilting industry, in general.  The fabric part of the industry is really keeping up with a whole lot of “creative” out there. It really raises the collective bar, as it were, and that’s so exciting!  When I look at fabrics, I am inspired, too!  I am inspired to raise the bar for my own “view”.  Everywhere I go, everywhere I look, I see color, pattern, quilts and yes, and family, comfort and love, because, after all, isn’t that a big part of “why we quilt”?

Admit it.  You're a fan of Natalie's now too.