Today joining me for Thursday Inspiration is the glitter-tastic Joshua Helms who goes by the nom-de-quilt Molli Sparkles. Molli has drunk the quilting kool-aid and is now on a mission to bring quilting to the world.
Apart from Molli's quilts (let me tell you, the man has an eye for fabric combinations!), I admire his inclusiveness and positivity. He's really involved in the online quilting community, with a quilt-along, a number of bees, several tutorials and a linky party under his belt. He's not afraid to get out there and talk about the tricky issues either, which is awesome. Anyway, that's enough from me - here's Molli. As always, my questions are in bold and his answers are in normal text.
Does your family have a quilting or sewing history, or are you a first generation quilter?
My exposure to quilting came at an early age because of Grandma Sparkles. I have fond memories of rearranging nine-patch and appliquéd heart blocks on our living room (design) floor. She was always encouraging my input, and I’ve always felt that early development gave me a great foundation in composition and design throughout my artistic career. Oddly, I never learned to sew from her, but was always giving feedback on colour and fabrics! Opinionated even at a young age, of course!
How did you start quilting, and how long have you been quilting for?
I started my independent quilting journey on June 01, 2012 when I walked into Lincraft to buy the initial trappings of my first quilt. I had decided I wanted to make a yellow quilt for Grandma Sparkles as a thank you for all she had done for me throughout my life. I got my newly purchased rotary cutter, cutting mat and yellow fat quarters home and then realised: I don’t own a sewing machine! Details, details, details! I discovered that Ikea had started selling sewing machines ($79.95), so bought one of those to get me started. I’ve since moved on to my baby, my Juki, but it was a great way to start out.
|A lot of look|
How would you describe your quilting style?
I wrote a blog post talking about this exact thing! To quote: "In my first year of art school, Professor Julie Schneider said to me with her clever smile, "If you think you know your style now, you don't. You have to wait until the end to figure it out." The end? The end of what? The semester? Art school? Life? Since then, I've taken that to mean, don't let your style define what you create. Instead, let what you create define your style. Then you can look back at any stage, and confidently say, that your output is genuinely you.” Basically, I just make what strikes my creative instinct, and enjoy the journey!
Where do you find inspiration for your quilts?
I get asked this question a lot, and it is one of the most difficult for me to answer. It’s difficult because there is no singular answer; I get inspiration from everywhere! The photos I take, the pop songs I listen to (…don’t just stand there, let’s get to it, strike a pose…), other quilters, the urban landscape that surrounds me in Sydney, fashion, and most of all the fabrics. The fabrics! Did I say the fabrics? I’ve even started having dreams about fabrics and the quilt potential. Yes, this is what I’ve become!
Do you like to follow patterns or create your own designs (or a bit of both)?
Definitely a bit of both. I’ll vacillate between the two to keep my interesting going. That being said, even with a pattern, I have to put my own spin on it. With each successive quilt I make, I’m finding that I’m traveling off the beaten path, and looking to my own sense of design to create exactly what I want. That being said, there are amazing patterns out there, and sometime you just can’t resist!
Are you a member of a local guild?
I’m not! I have thought about it, but my schedule is always varied and so I have never thought I could make the commitment. My sense of community is currently being satiated by the online quilting community from around the world. Also, I don’t think Mr. Sparkles could stand me devoting any more time to quilting!
Have you ever met any of your online sewing friends in real life?
I have, and it has been the best experience. I have found that the “niceness” of the online quilty community carries over into real life as well. On a recent trip to California, I met up with Anne from Play-Crafts.com and another quilty friend, Amoreena. I also met a heap of the Glitterati at a meet and greet at The Intrepid Thread. Then there have been several trips to Japan where I got to do some fabric shopping with Alyce from Blossom Heart Quilts. Don’t even get me started about Quilt Jane, Gemma from Pretty Bobbins, and Jenn from Penny Poppleton! Love them all!
How did you decide to start your blog?
Oh, I was such a naive boy back then. I had this amazingly original thought when I started my first quilt, “Oh! I’ll start a blog about my quilting journey, no one’s done that before!” Ahem. Yes, clearly I was an ignorant fool, but I’m glad I did it anyway. Once I realised there were countless others out there, I just said to myself, “Oh well, just make it your own, and let your inner sparkle shine!” So that’s what I’ve done.
What is your favourite thing about the online quilting community? And what is one thing that you would change, if you could?
My favourite thing about the online quilting community is that it even exists! I would never have imagined that quilters were taking the Internet by storm with little bits of fabric. Gosh, what would I change?! Hmmm… who am I to say, but I do wish I had the chance to meet all of the Glitterati in person. I love all the emails of encouragement I get, and I just want to give each and everyone of my supporters a hug!
How have you been received as a male quilter, both online and in real life?
Well, it definitely hasn’t hurt! The gender card definitely has potential to be a hot topic, if you let it. Honestly, I’ve had criticism and praise of my role in the quilting community, both online and in real life. My LQS has been nothing but supportive, although I have had other customers give me stink eye when they hear me talking about quilts. I try not to think about it too much, and just get on with making quilts that I love. I still get the occasional email from someone telling me that they didn’t realise I was a guy, and I love that! I enjoy being a subversive voice in the quilt community, and I hope I can continue to defy what some people may believe about gender normative behaviour in quilting. My Masters thesis was actually about identity representation in online communities, so this is all up my intellectual alley. Somewhere along the way, I also managed to create the No Girls Allowed Quilt Bee, and the Men Who Quilt Facebook group, that now has 200+ members!
Confession time - how many quilts do you have in your house right now?
Oh, you’ve caught me at a great time! I just ran upstairs to the bathtub (isn’t that where you keep your quilts?) and counted nine, plus two on our bed, so that makes eleven! I’m in the throws of preparing for the Sydney Craft and Quilt Fair exhibition so I’ve been asking for all the quilts I have gifted back. I need to start making that a contingency for gifting someone a quilt!
|Sparkleworks (Molli works those batiks like nobody else!)|
Do you do any crafts other than quilting?
Okay, so the short answer is “no.” The longer answer is, I’ve tried a whole slew of things! I grew up in Oklahoma so there was a lot of crafty type of people there, and I was influenced by a lot of art teachers who dabbled in multiple disciplines. I remember doing some cross stitch as a kid, but never finished anything. Then when I got to college, I decoupaged one of my dorm room walls using magazine clippings and toothpaste. Yeah, I don’t know either! LOL! I tried to get into scrapbooking, but it didn’t fit my digital lifestyle. Then I went through a dry period, and finally found quilting. It’s definitely fits me like a couture sequinned gown!
Where do you see your quilting going - is it a career or a hobby for you and would you like to change that?
Right now it’s definitely a hobby, but a serious one in both time and money. I work full time, so I can’t see quilting taking over completely. I do, however, spend nearly every free moment thinking about or creating quilts! I like all the varied aspects of the quilting world, and am happy to explore all of them to see what works for me. I can’t wait to see my designs in my own fabric range!
Do you have any tips or tricks or things that have changed your quilting life that you'd like to share?
I’m always scared of giving advice on how to sew or make quilts because I definitely don’t consider myself an expert. I know the basics, and I just try to perfect the simple things. I figure if I get those right, they’ll sum up to make really amazing bigger things! That being said, I tend to always sew with a scant 1/4” seam. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to, but that’s what I do, and my seams have never been better.
What is your favourite part of the quilting process (and what's your least favourite part)?
My favourite part is definitely the design aspects, including picking fabrics, choosing colour ways and sketching out quilt ideas. It’s never ending! I walk past my sewing room, and I swear those damn fabrics are calling my name. “Make me! Make me! Make me!” Sometimes I stay strong and keep walking to my current WIPs and other times I turn into a big softy! I have yet to start my FMQ journey, and I haven’t fully decided if I’m that interested in getting it off the ground. So I guess the quilting would have to be my least favourite part … at the moment!
Are there any quilting (sewing) techniques you haven't tried yet but that you'd like to?
I would like to become more proficient at installing zippers. I’ve done a few, and I know I can do it, I just need to practice more. My thigh high boots could totally use some hot pink zip ups so I shall start there. Then I think I need to prepare myself about twenty pouches and then just go for gold! I guess I know what I’m gifting for Christmas!
What's something about you that people might be surprised to know?
I actually prefer cheap bubbles over the expensive stuff! I know! How?! How!? Probably just so I can drink more of it! Hiccup!
Thanks so much to Molli for participating. Bounce yourself over to Molli Sparkles to check out all his quilts!