I started quilting when I was nineteen years old. I had taken a class at a local art center, it was great. I was still living at home and there was a great local quilt shop in my home town. I would go there and pull bolts off the shelf, think about how to mix color choices together, check out all the tools, read the books and of course buy stuff. This was an immensely informative period for me. It was while going through the meandering aisles of this tiny local shop that I came up with the idea of going to school to learn to become a textile designer.
It took me six years to get a portfolio together and to muster the courage to apply to the Fashion Institute of Technology. When I did so, I created a portfolio with the requisite 15 pieces showing the depth and breadth of my artistic skills. But then , I also made my outfit-a silk blouse and a short skirt, portfolio case, I had woven the scarf I was wearing, and I might even have made the shoes I walked in with (that last part is a lie).
After I took the drawing test, I sat with two professors to discuss why I wanted to become a student at F.I.T. I told them that I had fallen in love with quilting and quilting fabrics and that I wanted to become a textile designer and work with the quilting industry. They promptly reminded me that this was a very small subset of the textile market. They also told me that they were suprised that I did not actually want to get into the fashion department through the ‘backdoor’ of Textile/Surface Design. They told me that they rarely did this and did not know if it was legal, but they accepted me right then and there, the acceptance letter that came in the mail a few weeks later was a formality.
After I left school, I blind called every quilt oriented textile house in New York City and I landed a job at a well loved and respected quilting textile house. Unfortunately, my skill set at the time was not up to the hopes of the head designer and they let me go after a six month period. Ouch. I went on quite a few interviews after that and I must say, the fashion industry (I had cast a wider net than just quilt textile houses at that point) was cut throat! I went on one interview where they asked me to take work home three times before rejecting me because my clothing was not up to their standards.
So I packed up my bags and took a job as a poster restoration artist that was based in my home town. I learned a heck of a lot while working that job. In retrospect it was quite an artistic life changer. I restored posters by Lichtenstein, Warhol, Mucha, Lautrec and on and on. I learned color mixing, I worked to deadline, I used every off hour to take workshops in surface design and quilting and to improve my artistic skill set. All while continuing to want to be a textile designer.
Then I was diagnosed with cancer and had a lot of time to think about what I really want out of life, and having a line of fabric with my name on the selvedge is still quite high on the list. This year, I have been working on creating a portfolio, putting motifs into repeat, printing the ideas on both paper and cloth, and now making these cloth samples into quilts and quilt tops to show perspective textile houses what my designs might look like in action. I have bought tickets to Quilt Market and I am going to try to make this dream a reality. If I am unable to woo anyone at Market, I have also come up with a Plan B- there is a trade show here in NYC for the broader market this coming winter.
As my good friend Stephanie reminded me yesterday, ‘If you have what it takes to go through treatment for cancer, you can do this’, and then she asked, ‘What is the worst that could happen?’ My response? Plan B
So wish me luck.