Friday, December 5, 2008

Knitting Contrisstmas Day Five: Valori Wells

Valori Wells, woo hoo-----thanks for taking the time to be part of Knitting Contrisstmas--- we all really appreciate it! This year Contrisstmas is expanding a bit to include other creative types, such as quilters, of course another love of mine-- and I LOVE Valori Wells! Her fabric, her designs, the color----- all so clean and fresh and most desirable!

Valori and I met years ago at a Quilt event—I don’t even remember which one, not Houston I don’t think. She and her mother Jean Wells were there doing the show and Valori had just designed her first patterns and was mixing them with her photography.. I was working with my then baby, Gramma Ruth’s Gazette, the first of its kind online quilting magazine and she graciously did an interview back in 2001. I know that much has changed over the years!

KC: Valori you have come miles and miles since I first interviewed you, both personally and professionally! A married lady with two lovely children! Did that sort of sneak up on you as it does many of us?

Yes it did sneak up on me. I have been in the Quilting Industry for so many years (around 13 since my first book with my mom) and through these years I have gone from a college student to a mom and a wife and a business owner. It is hard to believe that I have grown up - there are times I still feel like I am in my 20's then someone calls me mommy.

KC: Your photography has always been stunning; do you photograph for your fabric line or just your blog?

I photograph for everything in my life; it is part of my core. My fabric collections start with a bunch of photographs and then they grow and develop into designs and paintings. I have a wall in my studio that I keep photos on that are my inspiration for the fabric I am working on. Sometimes they are photos from magazines, or photos that my mom has taken, what ever grabs my eye at the time.

KC: What inspires you when it comes to fabric design? You can tell a Valori Wells fabric from a mile off, you have your own voice.

Thank you that is a huge compliment!!! Most of the designs start with images of flowers. I love photographing flowers - especially close-up; I love the intimacy of a flower how it grows, the center, the back, and the stems and leaves the way the petals unfold and the color. I would say that beyond flowers it is where I live and the natural beauty that surrounds us in Sisters, OR.

KC: Do you get sick of people asking you how your Mother has inspired you in the quilting world?

No, never. She lets me be me and has helped me find my voice without pushing me in any direction but my own. She picks me up when I lose my confidence and is my biggest fan. Her own work is part of what inspires me, seeing her grow and continue to push herself creatively is huge, she never loses her drive to be better and to find new paths of creativity and that is inspiring.

KC: I know that you are also a knitter and you make no secret that it is difficult to find the time to “do it all”. Do you think that women, especially creative women still feel compelled to try to squeeze it all in?

Oh yeah! But what I find so wonderful about knitting is that I don't have to write instructions for what I knit or worry if it is going to do well at market, it is a fun thing for me. I can't remember when I made a quilt with the same feeling as I do when I knit, you know just for yourself. But as I say that I also love the idea of mixing knitting with quilting or just with fabric combining the two crafts and making something beautiful. I am always trying to figure it out but it just hasn't happened yet.

KC: Tell me a bit about how you got started, and where it has taken you.

Well, I did my first book with my mom when I was a junior in college - 23 I think - Everything Flowers. Now, at this time I did all of the photography and designed a quilt but did not sew it together. It got my feet wet and a couple of years later we did Through The Garden Gate - I made my first quilt in that book and that year I had my first collection of fabric. I started designing fabric with Springs Industries in their Quilters Only division. The fabric started with my photographs and then was developed in their studio. I did 4 or 5 collections that way and then did a series of batiks that I drew and worked up on my own, it was very freeing to have more control of how the fabric looked. When Free Spirit started I submitted my portfolio and was one of the first designers to work with Donna Wilder and Free Spirit Fabric. That was when I started doing all of the drawings and repeats, after a few collections I decided that I wanted to paint them so that it had my hand. With some help from my friend, Dennis McGregor, I tackled painting. Never thought I would be a painter. Since then I do all of the designs by hand and paint them by hand, they are then scanned for Free Spirit to make into fabric. In between all of the fabric design I have authored 3 books on my own and collaborated on 5 books with my mom and one with my girlfriend, Carolyn Spencer.

KC: Of course your latest collection is “Urban Flannels” love them!……….. can you tell us a little about them?

Urban Flannels is a collection that combines some of the designs from Olive Rose and a few new pieces that were inspired by my girls and a series of stuffed animals that I did for a pattern last spring. The new designs are very different for me, there is an allover print that has animals and some of my medallion design elements, and out of that design I pulled the little bird, and the little circle flowers. I have never done prints that are geared to kids or have animals in them. The colors are fresh and created to fit babies, kids and adults alike. I even made myself some pj bottoms from the green and grey rose. I loved creating something different and it was a push for me. I think that it is important to push myself so that I continue to grow and a designer and an artist.

KC: You have also designed a number of quilt patterns that show off your fabrics to their best advantage, some as freebies on your website/blog. When you design a quilt are you most inspired by the fabric or do you have the “look” in mind first?

I think that it is a little of both. The fabric is definately an inspiration and I always want to be able to show how to use the large prints in a way that goes beyond just using them in the border. But I also design for my lifestyle - busy - I come up with quilt designs that are simple and easy to put together. I am lucky to have a group of friends that love to make things - they don't think that they are all that experienced and they have busy lifestyles so there is not a lot of time for them to sit down and make a complicated quilt - they inspire me to create simple yet gratifying designs.

KC: What is your favorite type of quilt to make?

I would say that it depends on my mood and I don't have a lot of time to just make quilts. Most of the time I am making quilts to show off my fabric or for a pattern. I do love to work with hand dyes and solids and just play with design and color movement and then I love to make a quilt with lots of different prints and big pieces. I think the process of placing the fabric and moving the color throughout the design is my favorite type of quilt to make. If that makes any sense.

KC: Tell me about your knitting! What is your favorite thing to create with your knitting needles?

I love to make things for my girls; right now I am actually making my husband a vest. He is a big guy so it is taking me a long time I am happy I don’t have sleeves to make. I have started doing more lace work and I like that but it is definitely one of the types of knitting that I have to do when there are no distractions. I think that knitting is a part of my therapy, something that I can do at night when I don't have any energy to be in the studio but I really still want to make something.

KC: Tell me a little about your books please? Several books from the Sew Easy series as well as several books co-authored in the quilting series. (My personal favorite is “Through the Garden Gate”---- yummy, yummy, yummy!

I have authored three books on my own, Stitch n' Flip, Radiant New York Beauties and Simple Start Stunning Finish (not a big fan of that title but the publisher liked it) Then I have collaborated with my mom on 7 books and finally the last book I did was with my girlfriend. Mom and I did 4 garden inspired books and then we have an Oh Sew Easy Series of sewing books, Pillows, Duvet Covers and Curtains, and Table Toppers - these are geared to the new sewer and someone who would like the basics on adding fabric to their home. The book I did with my girlfriend Carolyn was a part of the Oh Sew Easy Series called LifeStyle - it is really geared towards lifestyle projects for the home and out and about. I think this is the first time I have sat down and figured out how many books that I have done. I didn't realize how many - it has been over so many years that you forget about them when they go out of print. Anyway, my books are always full of as many ideas and projects I can do - I want them to worth the cost of a book and for someone to want to make more than one project. I like to use lots of different fabrics so show how a variety of styles of fabric can be used in projects - everyone has different tastes. For the sewing books we really wanted to access the new sewer and someone who loves to make things especially for their home and for others.

KC: You know it must be time for my favorite question this year--It has become well known that I am the only"throwing" knitter left on the planet these days! Does speed matter?

Well I can do both (continental and English) - I decide to try to teach myself how to knit both ways so that if I am in the shop I can help customers. Granted I did teach my self so I think my purl is a little weird compared to what I have seen others do. I don't think that speed matters for me because it is more of a meditative craft than a get it done sort of thing.

KC: Are you a process or a product knitter? I think that also extends to quilting------ do you quilt for the product or the process? I wonder if the two outcomes are the same?

I think a little of both for knitting and quilting. I love the process of learning new knitting techniques but then I do just want to get it done. Especially when I am making a sweater and it gets a little boring. As far as quilting - I love designing but am not a huge fan of putting it all together it is more labor for me than anything but you have to do it to get to the end product and I love that end product. It really does depend on the project.

KC: Is there anything in the world of knitting AND quilting that you have not done and wish to tackle?

I would really like to know how to carry two yarns - I have tried once and got very frustrated so that is something. And I just got Leigh Radford's Alterknit Felts and I am totally excited to try some felting. Quilting I don't know - there are things that I have not done but don’t really have any desire to do.

KC: Are you a part of the Ravelry world, and if so, what is your Ravelry name?

I am totally embarrassed to say that I am a part of Ravelry but I have done nothing with it other than have a name and password. It is on my list but unfortunately not a high priority with everything else that is going on. I will pass on my name once I actually have something there.

KC: That is pretty funny, I have to say!

KC: What else do you do to feed your inner creative muse?

I am getting back into my darkroom. Since I was pregnant with Olivia I have not been in there and I miss it terribly. I also have taken up painting with acrylics - large flowers on large canvas. I also love to make things for the girls and for my friends whatever it may be.

KC: What do you do during the holidays? Anything special?

We had Thanksgiving at my house - I was totally excited I love entertaining! On the table I had one of my fabrics as the table cloth and these funky dishes and wine glasses…..For Christmas we spend it at home - I really want the girls to wake up at home on Christmas morning - develop that tradition. Our other tradition is Christmas Tree Hunting -every year we go with my parents and find the perfect tree LOVE IT. It is special just to get to spend time with my family and friends.

KC: What is coming up next in the world of Valori Wells?

Well, I have a new collection of fabric coming out early this spring - Delhi - inspired by Dahlias, I just went through my strike-offs and am very excited for all of the projects coming. I also am going to have a collection of batiks - Kashmir - YEAH. I used to do batiks with Springs and have wanted to do them again but that wasn't available to me. Westminster and Free Spirit agreed to do a collection with me they will be printed in India. I am hoping to travel to India at the beginning of the year to photograph the printing of the batiks and the Indian culture - then come home and make quilts and if it all comes together a sort of book with the story of the batiks - from my designs to the printing to the photographs that will inspire the quilts. It should be a great new project and something that is very rewarding as we are going to come up with a charity to donate some of the proceeds to. We will see how it all comes together. I hate to get too excited just in case something doesn't happen but at the same time I need to believe in my ideas and myself. Right?!?!

KC: I think you need a chaperone......... I am at your beck and call Valori! :-)

Beyond that there is always fabric in the works and quilts on the brain with knitting awaiting my hands and paintings calling my name at night and a darkroom needing some well deserved attention, on top of that I have an awesome family to hang out with.

KC: I'm tired just thinking about it and very excited to see what comes next! Thanks Valori, happy holidays to you and your family!


Carmen said...

Thanks for posting this wonderful interview--I love Val! Her fabric is ..."most desirable"

Pinktulip said...

Great interview! I am a huge fan of Valori's. She is such a lovely lady. She is down-to-earth and actually responds to e-mails from fans. I visit her blog daily and LOVE her fabrics. She deserves all the sucess! Loraine. South Africa