KC: Your designs are fresh and wonderful, your quilts are smashing and your fabrics are so inspiring! You definitely have your own viewpoint---- how did you arrive at what made you……….. well you! :)
I have always been inspired by antique quilts and antique color palettes in things like vintage children’s toys, china patterns, vintage textiles and advertising signs and posters. When I tried to find those color combinations in quilts and fabrics being designed today, I couldn’t. So first I started making my own combinations of other peoples fabrics, then I started designing my own patterns inspired by those vintage quilts that I loved and then finally I had the great opportunity to start working on my own fabric collections. I have been happily working with color and design ever since. There is something so wonderful about being both a quilter and a fabric designer since I get to visualize the final product of the quilt from the very beginning – designing the very fabrics I am going to use to make that particular design. I like to keep my designs fresh enough for the younger generation but always rooted enough in the past to entice the more traditional quilter or sewer. I love working on keeping that balance between the two.
KC: You have a new line of fabrics that is yummy, Patisserie………. Will there be patterns that will support it as well?
Absolutely! I never release a collection without simultaneously releasing a whole group of goodies to go with it. This time we have quilts, bags, slippers, purses and other fun stuff! They are all on our website. Sometimes I talk about the process of designing them on my blog.
KC: How often do you design a new line of fabric?
Usually 3 times a year, one at each market and then one in between somewhere.
KC: Your colors are fabulous and very distinctive. How did you come to this palette of beautiful color? Do you think that all of your fabrics will continue to draw from the same range of colors?
I think I will always stay with this general palette. I like to call them the “forgotten colors” because they are the same colors that used to be used in those vintage items I was talking about before. All of the colors are somewhat cream based with a somewhat yellow or soft tone to them. For example, I will never use a straight blue but always a somewhat greener, aqua blue that feels aged somewhat and yet still fresh. Every color can be mellowed and aged just a bit to fit in this palette that I love. Every few collections I like to add a new let’s say “trendy” color but still mellow it to fit the Fresh Vintage™ look I love so much.
KC: What has been your favorite quilt design this past year?
Personally “Butterscotch Tart” or “Snowflake Rose” are my favorites. But “My Paris Traveler’s Bag” is making me happy right now since I have been traveling. Its hard to find a favorite for the year, more like my favorite for right now!
KC: I’m working on “Jelly Stars” your really fab star quilt pattern! I love the innovative use of jelly rolls and the way it all comes together. My fabric choice is the yummy Fig Tree fabrics in your Dandelion Girl collection. How did you discover this cool way to put together this quilt block that has sort of a bad reputation for being tricky?
One of the things I love to do the most is to make traditional patterns that are known for being difficult, remaster them mathematically and make them more accessible to quilters today. I don’t like using difficult techniques like “y” seams, piecing templates and curved piecing so I am always trying to figure out ways to work around those things and still create the design as close as possible to the way it was intended. Jelly Stars is one of those patterns. I had always wanted to make lone stars but there was just no way I was going to use templates or “y” seams to join them. I am really happy with the result. KC: ME TOOOO!!!!!!!
KC: What has been your most complicated quilt pattern?
My most complicated design was maybe Quilted Lace. I got inspired to make a giant block that actually looked like a piece of lace. When people saw it from far away, they had to come and make sure it wasn’t actually a giant piece of appliqué.
KC: What has been your “most quilted” design?
I have one favorite quilter who works on all of my quilts and she does simply wonderful wreath and feather designs that I have her put on lots of different patterns. I’m not sure what is the most quilted design. Most recently probably the “Strawberry Lilies” pattern. It is a classic red, green and cream quilt that I absolutely love to bring out at Christmas. In fact I am secretly happy when it is not traveling around the Christmas season so that I can display it on my favorite living room chair.
KC: What is your favorite type of quilt? Can you define it?
I love traditional graphic blocks that are set in some unusual way and then embellished with just a bit of applique. My favorite quilts always have some kind of an unusual setting or color combination… or both. Something has to stand out and be a bit different about it…
KC: I’ve been asking everyone this year if they are a process or product knitter. This translates to quilters well. When you quilt, do you more enjoy the process of creating the pattern, the construction and quilting itself, or look forward to the completed item?
I definitely enjoy the process of design the most and then the beginning of the construction to see if what is in my head will actually produce the result that I am hoping for. After a couple of blocks I would as soon be done. At that point I want to see the final product and start working on the next design. There are times when I enjoy the process of sitting down and doing the routine work of piecing an entire quilt. But not usually.
KC: You are a quilt and fabric designer of much acclaim, do other designers inspire you? If so, who rings your bells?
Its kind of funny to think of myself the way you just described me because in my head that is not how I see “me”. I am inspired by so many different things and people. I love looking at Japanese and French quilting and fashion magazines. I love pouring over vintage quilt books. I really enjoy the work of Tricia Guild, Cath Kidston, Tracy Porter, Amy Butler. In our industry I love the colors and life of Heather Bailey’s work and enjoy the traditional interpretations of Minick & Simpson collections.
KC: Is there anything in the world of quilting that you have not done and wish to tackle?
That is a good question… I am not sure. I consider myself so lucky to work with some of the best companies in our industry: MODA to create my designs into fabric collections, Martingale/That Patchwork Place to publish my books, American Patchwork & Quilting for magazine submissions just to name a few. We publish our own patterns and love the creative control and freedom that gives us. I guess I need to think about that one a bit more… I know I would love to see how our fabrics are printed and woven one day and maybe design a line of home dec fabrics.
KC: What else do you do to feed your inner creative muse?
Flea Markets and going to Europe are easily my two favorite creative inspirations. Clearly I can do one a lot more than the other. I go to our local flea market once a month and sometimes try to get away on a weekend day to one of the many cute little towns in the Bay Area that have an array of beautiful boutiques and antique stores. I always come back inspired by some little thing or another. Going to Europe is my great inspiration. Weather it is Paris or the tiny villages of the Cottwalds [2 of my favorite places] in the British countryside, there is something about the personality, the palettes and the way of being that inspires me. Being born in Europe, it also always feel like a bit of a coming home for me every time I get the chance to go even if it is just for a few days. This year I had the great indulgence of going twice, Poland and England this summer and Madrid and Paris just this past week. I am still swimming in ideas from both trips.
KC: On that note, I have really enjoyed your recent blog posts from Paris, the photos of life there (and the patisseries) were glorious!
KC: What will you be doing during the holidays 2008?
After my trip to teach in Madrid and Paris, I will settle in at home and not go anywhere for a while. The Christmas tree is waiting for me to help decorate the second I walk in the door as my family went to pick it out without me this year for the first time. I will go overboard on decorating the house [as usual] and then look forward to some of our regular traditions with my munchkins. We do an advent calendar each day, make home made goodies for their teachers and cook a traditional Polish Christmas dinner.
KC: What is coming up for Joanna and Fig Tree in the coming year?
I am actually trying to slow down a bit this next year. Of course this doesn’t mean that there will be any less fabric or patterns to design, but I am trying to find a better balance in my design work and the rest of my life. I want to learn how to knit! Maybe you could give me some pointers. I really also want to sew more with my kids.
KC: I am patting the chair next to me Joanna! Come right on over, I'll put on a pot of tea and put some needles in your hands! I encourage you to learn to knit, you will love it! I think the best advice to non-knitters who want to learn is that a scarf is not necessarily the best project to learn with. It is sort of like that endless quilt where you get the concept after a couple of blocks and then are incredibly bored with the whole thing. A trip to your local knit shop, a simple project like an easy vest or something of the sort can be very good for the beginner. I can't wait to hear what you choose! I know a lot of quilters who want to learn to knit and actually, there are a fair amount of knitters who have the desire to quilt!
On the work front, I am currently working on my newest line [my 14th line for MODA… wow that sounds like a lot] (NOTE FROM KC: IT ISSSSSS!) and in fact I was just looking at color swatches this morning. We are introducing another new color to our palette and I want to make sure that it is just exactly the right shade. We will definitely be doing more of our newly popular Fig Tree Threads™ patterns that focus on smaller sewing type projects. Folks are really liking how simple they are and that they are more affordable than traditional quilting patterns and are attracting a totally different kind of customer. We also have a few fun quilts that we are working on for multiple author books and magazines; we have a new book due out in the Spring, a couple of international projects and a couple of other new things in the works…. I guess maybe it won’t be such a slow year after all… Thanks for talking with me. Its been fun.
KC: Thank YOU Joanna------ I really appreciate the fact that you took time out of your very busy schedule to make time for Knitting Contrisstmas! I can speak for all of us and say that we can't wait to see what comes next from Fig Tree, we love it all. Now...................... to finish Jelly Stars!
I send warm holiday blessings to you and your family!