Thursday 5 June 2014

Thursday Inspiration: Anne from Play Crafts

Today I'm sharing my interview with Anne from Play Crafts.  I was looking back at my emails to work out how Anne and I first got to know each other, and she must have been one of the earliest commenters on my blog - all the way back in 2012 when I felt like I was writing to the vast empty internet!  I got to know Anne better when we co-hosted the 2014 Pantone Quilt Challenge.  Anne was a really incredible co-host and I'm convinced that's simply because she is a really incredible person through and through.

As well as being a crazy talented quilter and designer, Anne has that rare gift of bringing people together and fostering their creativity.  You can see it in her Quilt Design a Day group (more on that later) where she has taken a design challenge she set for herself and made it something everyone can participate in.  Anne is heavily involved in the group and comments on almost everyone's designs with thought and kindness, as far as I can tell, just for the joy of seeing other people exercise their creativity and grow their design skills.

Ok, that's enough from me!  Here is my interview with Anne - my questions are in bold and her answers are in normal text:

Does your family have a quilting or sewing history, or are you a first generation quilter?
I'm the first quilter, although my mom did garment sewing, and most of the females in my family did needleworking. Some of my fondest memories from my childhood are of holidays sitting in the front room (while the men were off in the family room) with my mom, grandma and aunt, while we all worked on our cross-stitch projects.

How did you start quilting, and how long have you been quilting for?
I quilted (very briefly) when I was younger but deemed it BORrrrring and moved on to other things. (Yes, I recognize that I just said I cross-stitched in a previous paragraph but for what it's worth, I never finished one of those projects, either.) It was in grad school that I picked it up and stuck with it. Our research group studied video games, but our lab was a boring cube farm. My friend and I decided we should make it prettier, so I made a pixel-pillow of the 1UP mushroom from Mario. Because "I knew how to quilt" I didn't bother reading instructions or anything, and used 5/8" seams because that's what I knew from doing garment sewing with my mom. I believe it was when I started looking for tutorials on how to make my pillow front into a pillow that I stumbled onto the modern quilting scene, and I've never left! I've been quilting for 4-5 years at this point, with some big breaks in there to work on my thesis and such.

Nyan Cat - another pixel project!

How would you describe your quilting style?
Ummm. Evolving? ;) I'm still finding elements I'm attracted to and figuring out how they do and don't fit together. It's only recently that I've really delved into designing my own quilts, and I'm definitely happiest with that. But there are still a lot of days where I have no idea what I'm doing! Also I am apparently incredibly fickle. Yesterday's masterpiece is today's "what was I thinking?" So.. still trying to nail that one down!

This is the quilt inspired by the Eragon dragon books (better known as the Dragon Quilt of Doomity-Doom-Doom-Doom).

Where do you find inspiration for your quilts?
Everywhere! Blogs, flickr and instagram are what I mainly use to keep up with the modern quilting scene. That definitely influences my work, but the designs come from everywhere and anything. I recently made a quilt that was a design inspired by those French macarons. And one of the quilts before that was inspired by Charley Harper's work and the one before that was inspired by the Eragon dragon books.

This is the Charley Harper inspired quilt - how amazing!

Do you like to follow patterns or create your own designs (or a bit of both)?
I definitely prefer to create my own designs. I was never terribly good at following patterns, so as soon as I figured out how to make my own, I finally felt like I had the room to stretch my creative wings. I started a group called Quilt Design A Day in which every day we take one of the new design-seeds offerings, and create a quilt inspired by the image using the color palette that comes with it. The designs are little sketches, done in 15-30 minutes without worrying about how something might be made. I've been doing this for over 3 months now, and it's helped more than anything in helping me learn a bit more about what my style might be. It turns out doing a quick design sketch is a lot faster than making an entire quilt, so I'm able to iterate a lot faster. Also it means when I want to work on a new quilt, I have a LOT of designs to choose from!

The Macaron Quilt Top

I know your professional background is in computer programming - does that influence your quilt designs? 
Probably! I feel like I have to really fight with my brain to move away from very regimented/linear things. I'm not sure if that's because of years of programming or if that's just what my brain likes. Paper-piecing is like breathing and improv is like trying to do a backwards somersault on a high wire wearing grease shoes. It does oddly mean that I'm more comfortable with random than you might expect. A lot of my work was in artificial intelligence which often uses some randomness to make the computer feel less computer-like. I was a graphic designer for a few years, and that probably has a lot more influence on the actual designs I do. Now that I'm getting more comfortable with the quilt-design-a-day thing, I'm finding my designs are going more minimal and a bit more abstract which is an aesthetic I was drawn to when I was a graphic designer. That's not necessarily the types of quilts I like to make though, so there's a bit of a disconnect there! :)

Are you a member of a local guild?
Yep! I helped start and am currently the vice-president of the South Bay Area Modern Quilt Guild.

Have you ever met any of your online sewing friends in real life? 
Yes! That's the best part of going to QuiltCon and Sewing Summit and things like that! I just recently drove 7 hours (one way) to catch a workshop done by Sarah @ {no} hats in the house because I'm such a huge fan of her work and wanted to meet her. That's probably the craziest thing I've done to meet an online sewing friend. So far. ;)

As well as mad quilting skills, Anne has some mad photography skills, as proven by this mini quilt, which is an interpretation of one of her photographs!

How did you decide to start your blog?
I think I decided to start one because at the time there was no guild and I was hoping to find a way to connect and share what I was doing with other quilters. I didn't know anyone else who quilted really and I didn't want to feel like I was the only weirdo doing this modern quilt thing.

What is your favourite thing about the online quilting community? And what is one thing that you would change, if you could?
My favorite thing is definitely the supportive nature of the quilting community. It was kind of incredible to go from computer science academic conferences with its fair share of sexism and academic one upsmanship to a quilting conference where the whole community seems to be looking out for each other. Talk about a breath of fresh air!

As for what I would change? That's a really hard question. I wish there was a place for talking about things that may or may not matter to everyone. Like there's this weirdly disjointed debate going on about "what is modern quilting" and I'd love to take part in that conversation. However other than launching a blog post out into interspace and leaving some comments on other blog posts, there's no real option to have an actual conversation with a group of people who care about the subject. Before that was the discussion on We are $ew worth it, and there have been others as well. That might be my academic side coming out!

Confession time - how many quilts do you have in your house right now?
If you don't count minis, 1. Just my bed quilt! My partner was getting frustrated at me because I kept giving away quilts without making one for us, so I finally finished our quilt for Christmas last year. I admit, I LOVE having it, and I think that number will increase this year. :) If you count minis, I think 4? I have some challenge and tutorial minis I've made that don't really have a home and they live in my cupboard. Let's not talk about quilt TOPS or WIPs though, shall we? ;)

Anne's Modified Bento Box quilt - the only one she's kept so far.

Do you do any crafts other than quilting?
Yes! Tons! I used to joke that my hobby was collecting hobbies. I have tried everything from lampworking (glass bead making) to needlework to knitting and crochet to jewelry making. Right now I'm playing with e-textiles, which is about adding electronics (light and sound mostly) to needlework/clothing/etc. I'm absolutely loving that.

Where do you see your quilting going - is it a career or a hobby for you and would you like to change that?
Technically right now it is my job. Play Crafts is a corporation and our goal is to create tools and patterns and things that crafters (right now predominantly quilters) would like to use. That's why the palette builder was created and why we've been working with different companies to match to various things. We're looking at different options since we are a for-profit company, and right now most of what we do is given away for free. So we'll see where that ends up going!

Do you have any tips or tricks or things that have changed your quilting life that you'd like to share? 
I think my 1/4" foot is the thing that changed my quilting life the most. My favorite tip is that just because something is hard the first time you do it, doesn't mean you're not good at it. It just means you need to practice it more, and there's nothing wrong with that. Also, don't use 5/8" seams. ;)

What is your favourite part of the quilting process (and what's your least favourite part)? 
My favorite part is easily the design stage. I love pulling fabrics and playing with colors and thinking up what the quilt is going to be. Least favorite is easily basting. I'm not sure who thought THAT was a good idea.

Are there any quilting techniques you haven't tried yet but that you'd like to?
Probably! Although I seek out new things to try every year, and my list is getting pretty short. I definitely wish I was better at FMQ and I'd love to practice thread sketching more. I haven't tried some of the textural techniques, or the fabric folding ones, those look like they could be fun!

What's something about you that people might be surprised to know? 
I couldn't think of anything, so I asked my partner. His response was, "you believe that there's more than one shade of white." Maybe I'll just stick with the fact that I'm a lefty!

Thank you so much to Anne for participating!  I learned a lot from her answers and I think they provide great insight into how she works as a quilter.  Make sure you check out Anne's blog, Play Crafts and all her other projects!

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Beth said...

This was such a great interview! It was great getting to know more about Anne.

Heather said...

Thanks for running this series - both interviews have been great so far. I enjoy learning more about the bloggers I follow.

Wendy @ Wendysquiltsandmore said...

These are really interesting interviews thank you. It's good to read how other people came to be at the point they are at now. The quilting community is made up of such a wide variety of people and they all contribute to make it what it is. said...

Greta interview. I love Anne such a great personality and person!!

Joanna @ Riddle and {Whimsy} said...

What Anne says about about the one thing she could change about the quilting community makes me sad that the site LiveJournal is just not what it used to be because its premise would be pretty much perfect for what she describes.

You have your own personal journal for your own stuff, and can follow others just like we do now. Then you make community groups where members can post and create discussions in the post comments. I guess the closest that I've seen to quilters doing this is by joining flickr groups as the "community" arena and discussing things there!

Charlotte said...

I *love* Anne! We met at QuiltCon and she is just as lovely and hilarious in real life as she comes across on the internet. Also, there are SO MANY shades of white!

pennydog said...

But Mr PC- there IS more than one shade of white...

valerie boudier said...

Of course there is more than one shade of white!!

Kristy said...

Wonderful interview! These sort of in-depth questions are always interesting to read. Keep it coming.

LethargicLass said...

Anne is seriously one of my favourite people in this world :) Thanks for sharing her with everyone!

Elmosmate said...

Loved the interview, thanks Adrianne. Anne sounds fab, with a name like Anne I would expect nothing less. I really enjoy her Quilt design a day IG photos, sew creative. from Elmosmate (Anne)

Little Island Quilting said...

I love that you tailor each set of questions to something particular to the person and therefore scratch beneath the surface which is always more interesting :-)

Vera said...

Yeah, we can start a fanclub of Anne :-) Thanks for sharing.

Nat at Made in Home said...

Those rabbits! How cute!