Guest series :: Never let a crisis go to waste

by contributor on 30/06/2012

in Guest series 2012, Quilting

Guest series 2012: I asked fellow bloggers, makers and creators to write on their creativity and focus their essay on one of four topics: creativity and health, creativity and business, creativity and parenting or creativity and process. I am very excited to have a wonderful lot of fellow creative folk guest posting here at whipup.net over the next couple of months. Please welcome…

Weeks Ringle {blog}, together with her husband Bill Kerr run the Modern Quilt Design Studio (previously FunQuilts), they have a new book Transparency Quilts just out, and they also publish a magazine Modern Quilts Illustrated.

Infinity © FunQuilts

We started our business in 1999 with virtually no planning. I had been making modern quilts since 1987 and Bill began making them with me when we met in 1995. We both had other careers but wanted to work together and wanted to integrate a business into our home lives. It was not ideal but sometimes you can’t wait for the right moment and you just have to go for it. And we did.

We began making high-end custom quilts for interior designers, architects, gallery owners and individuals. The design world embraced us and soon our quilts were in magazines and newspapers across the country. At the time there was no Modern Quilt movement and we were not optimistic that there ever would be. We were criticized for machine quilting our quilts and for doing minimal and improvisational quilt patterns. We had no desire to try to covert the quilting industry to our way of thinking because it was so futile at the time.

Outside the Box © FunQuilts

We were making and selling our quilts primarily in New York. On September 10, 2001 we received large orders from two museums that we thought would provide a good amount of income for us for the coming months. At that time, the waiting time for orders was about eight months. Then came September 11.

Bill and I first watched in horror at what we were seeing. Later we started to feel the effects on our business. Within days both museums cancelled all of their orders, worried about the future of tourism in New York. I remember sitting in our old offices and saying to Bill, “We need to totally redesign our business. Today. I’m wondering if we should think about trying to teach a class in our studio.” Years later former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and current mayor of Chicago would have a sign on his desk that reads, “Never let a crisis go to waste.” That was our mindset at the time. Bad news: We had the feeling that we were about to lose everything. Good news: We had nothing left to lose.

We had already booked a show at a local art gallery. I asked if we could put out a simple brochure for classes. Within a week, the class was filled with people who had seen our work in magazines and at the show. Orders from other parts of the country came in and we thought that we could balance things out even without New York.

Color Conspiracy © FunQuilts

Eventually both FreeSpirit and Rockport, our first publisher, called asking us to work with them. Bill and I went to Quilt Market and watched an unknown designer also with FreeSpirit, named Amy Butler, launch her first line. “Maybe there will be a place for Modern Quilting after all,” I remember saying. It was 2003. We proposed our second book Modern Quilt Workshop to Rockport soon after and it became the first book printed that we know of with “Modern Quilts” in the title.

“You were too early,” are words we hear a lot. Now the bookshelves are full of books on lots of different aspects of Modern Quilting and few can believe that we were given a hard time by a quilt magazine editor for making an orange quilt. It’s a different world now, which has both its pluses and minuses for us.

Jewel Box © FunQuilts

The crises are still there and even after 13 years in business, five books, over 100 fabrics, features in over 70 magazines and our own magazine, we still don’t feel as though we’re an established company. Everyday continues to have its own surprises and challenges. We continue to work 15-17 hr days six to seven days a week (because that’s what it takes to make a living in a rough economy when you own a business, not because we’re workaholics) with breaks for our daughter, soccer games, getting exercise, cooking dinner and such. But we’re never, ever bored.

Horizon 1999

[I was just reading an old post that Weeks reminded me of … She wrote this post for Whipup back in 2006 and back then was hopeful that one day there might be a modern quilt conference where all the modernists could hang out together … so exciting to see it all happening with Quilt Con coming up next year – and Weeks and Bill will be there teaching and talking. Ed.]

 

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Craftyman July 4, 2012 at 5:40 am

In one word mind blowing..

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2 princesshotflash July 12, 2012 at 4:11 pm

Just what I needed to hear, I’m inspired.

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3 Mary ann August 3, 2012 at 12:55 am

I am so thrilled to see the quilting world opening up with such fervor! And you lead the way as well.

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4 Byrd August 3, 2012 at 7:44 am

Essays like these are a breath of fresh air to me. The accompanying quilts are gorgeous. Thank you Weeks, Ed and Whipup! Take care, Byrd

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5 Connie August 3, 2012 at 9:25 am

Love, love, LOVE your work! Sending positive vibes your way for continued success. Connie in California

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6 Donna Keating August 3, 2012 at 8:33 pm

Enjoyed this article and love her work.

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