An Interview with the Mother of Modern Quilting
There is no denying that there is one person who has influenced every modern quilter, either directly or indirectly. No other quilter has influenced more people both inside and outside the quilting community in the last 10 years. The one quilter the general public could name would be Denyse Schmidt, with her work being featured in dozens of prominent magazines, newspapers and television. She is the mother of modern quilting.
I first came across Denyse Schmidt’s work in 1999 when she was featured on Martha Stewart’s television show. It was my first exposure to think about quilting in an entirely different way. She was creating these amazing quilts, steeped in traditional technique but with a fully modern perspective. Honestly, I was puzzled when I first watched the segment, but over the weeks and years I kept coming back to it. I kept remembering how revolutionary her work was. I didn’t quilt much for several years, because the quilting style did not match my own. When I did come back to quilting, my first quilt was from her book Denyse Schmidt Quilts.
Her book brought me back to quilting and modernized my work. She made me realize quilting isn’t confined to a grid, that negative space is really awesome and that perfection isn’t always square. Quilting didn’t have to look like old and fuddy, it could be stylish and real.
Denyse Schmidt attended the Rhode Island School of Design and lives in Bridgeport, Connecticut where she teaches workshops in her studio. She has several collections of quilts including custom couture quilts, patterns and a line of fabric with FreeSpirit. Her new book Denyse Schmidt: Modern Quilts, Traditional Inspiration is coming out in April 2012 and from the excerpt I read it will likely to be more amazing than her first. Additional information about her work is on her website.
An original design by Denyse Schmidt, you can view her newest work at Ralph Pucci, under Fine Art.
What is your chief characteristic? Creativity.
What is your main fault? Perfectionism.
What is your favorite occupation? Walking in the woods or on the beach.
What is your idea of happiness? Nothing to do and lots of time.
What is your idea of misery? No time and never-ending deadlines.
If not yourself, who would you be? A monk, or one of my cats.
What is the quality you most admire in someone? Optimism.
What do you appreciate most in friends? Authenticity, kindness.
What inspires you? Nature, music, fashion, art, smart design, simplicity.
Who is your favorite artist? Maria Kalman.
Who is your favorite non-fabric designer? Tyler Hayes (BDDW).
What is your favorite color? Persimmon or olive-y green.
What is your favorite neutral? Warm grey.
When did you complete your first quilt? Where is it now? Probably around 1990. It was a gift for an old boyfriend, so I’m not sure where it ended up.
What are the number of WIPs, UFOs and projects on your to do list? If we count any kind (not just quilt or craft related) too many to count. At least 24.
How old is your oldest UFO? That I still have? Maybe 5 years old.
What is the current state of your studio? Post-sample-sale tidy.
What do you listen to when you sew? NPR, my “Sufjan Stevens” mix on Pandora.
What was your first machine? It was a toy machine. It was frustrating because it didn’t sew well. After that I used my mother’s old Singer.
What is your current machine? A 20-year-old Brother industrial.
What is your favorite sewing tool? Any kind of scissors, but especially embroidery snips.
What was the last piece of fabric you bought? Ticking stripes, for a show of quilts at Ralph Pucci. I also bought a piece of leather to make a bag, but not sure if that counts.
What was your last completed project? New fabric designs for spring, new DSQ quilt patterns with Flea Market Fancy, the above-mentioned quilts.
Do you have one of your quilts on your bed? Yes, Tangerine/Poppy, a Works Special Edition quilt.
What is your favorite part of the quilting process? Designing.
What is your least favorite part of the quilting process? Making the back.
What is your favorite time of day to sew? Late afternoons, or mornings.
Do you fudge? With skill and style.
Cats or Dogs? Cats!
Your favorite motto “Believing in your own self”
I won’t be posting any quilts till Monday due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Have a Happy Thankgiving! For my non-US readers, have a fantastic weekend!