I’ve had so much I’ve wanted to say and write and blog about, but just haven’t had the time to sit down and get my thoughts out about it all. This summer has been a crazy whirlwind and it has a lot to do with a big announcement (that you might have already seen on my Instagram a couple months ago):
This fall (or in less than a month now), I’ll be moving to Savannah, Georgia to attend graduate school at the Savannah College of Art & Design in their Fibers department. (!!!)
Attending SCAD has been a dream of mine for a long time and it seems I’ve been on quite the adventure to get there. I first toured SCAD (the Atlanta campus) my junior year of high school and completely fell in love with it. I didn’t end up going there for undergrad because I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to study and I got a scholarship to Tulane. It wasn’t until I had moved to New Orleans and was part of the way into my study at Tulane that I realized I wanted to study graphic/pattern/textile design. I was frustrated that Tulane didn’t have a program for that and for a while I looked into transferring to SCAD or RISD, but I had already started a life in New Orleans and had an amazing scholarship to Tulane. I kept telling myself to just make it through and one day I could go to graduate school at SCAD to study design.
My senior year at Tulane, Drew and I took a weekend trip to Savannah to tour the Savannah SCAD campus and see the Fibers building and get a better idea of what I could study there and what I needed to do to make that happen. I left disappointed, because although I loved SCAD, the information I was given was a little disheartening. Because my undergrad degree was in English and Studio Art (Painting concentration), I was told I would have difficulties having the background info I needed to pursue a graduate degree in fibers/textile design. I was so overwhelmed at that time in my life (I had just gotten married, was having a really tough senior year of college, was crippled with the debt we already owed on Drew’s school, and had unresolved health issues – Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) that I just gave up on my SCAD dream. I was convinced I’d never have the money to go or the ability to get into the program without an undergrad degree in textiles.
I graduated from Tulane and started working in graphic design and enjoyed that just fine for a while, but I kept being pulled into the world of pattern and textile design. I was so inspired by what my favorite designers were doing and I wanted to have more creative freedom in my career (I love graphic design but also find it very artistically limiting). I was really inspired by Bonnie Christine (one of my favorite textile designers for quilting cottons who has an undergrad degree in business and taught herself Adobe Illustrator and surface pattern design via online tutorials and now is a very successful fabric designer). I followed along with Bonnie’s journey and was inspired to learn as much as I could on my own. I didn’t need grad school, I’d just teach myself! I had already worked in graphic design for several years at that point, so I knew Photoshop and InDesign well and the very basics of Illustrator. So I started taking online surface pattern design courses, attended Quilt Market, did a textile design workshop in NYC with Anna Maria Horner and Heather Ross, met all the designers of Cotton & Steel at another workshop and learned to quilt. I got to the point in my journey that I knew the basics and what I needed to do to move forward, but working full time I didn’t have the extra time to work on developing my signature style and to create the pattern portfolio I wanted to.
Last fall, as we started to see the light at the end of the tunnel of our debt pay-off plan approaching, Drew and I started to seriously talk about what was next for our lives. Over the past few years, I had always imagined that after paying off our debt, I’d finally be free to switch jobs, buy a house, and have kids. I wanted to work in textile design, but it was taking such a long time to get there with only being able to put in such a small amount of time towards that dream in the evenings and weekends. And after working a full-time job all day, I wasn’t always excited to get home and spend more time in front of a computer screen designing patterns. I did actually try to apply to some dream jobs with the small portfolio of work that I had created so far and was sad but not surprised when I never heard anything back. I started thinking two things: 1. that I didn’t want to have kids until I at least had my foot further in the door of the textile design world and 2. that if I was actually going to make it happen, I needed to quit my full-time job and focus fully on creating patterns and building a portfolio of work. This was when the idea of grad school came back into my life once again. Once we were debt free and didn’t have to rely as much on my income, I wanted to pour myself into making my dreams happen, but I was worried about doing that on my own. I was worried I wouldn’t be disciplined enough to make progress fast enough, about my mental health sitting at home alone all day making patterns, and I started to realize that making it into the textile world wasn’t only a beautiful portfolio, but it relied a lot on connections and although I had done a great job in the past year of making connections in the world of quilting cottons, I really needed the connections that SCAD could give me to appeal to my dream employers. I started to feel that to move my career forward, grad school seemed like the right option for me. (A special thanks to Kelsey from Pinegate Road for sharing her own SCAD story with me!)
So long story short, I started the application process to SCAD last fall. I told myself not to overthink it, to just apply and see what happened. If it didn’t work out this time, then it wasn’t meant to be. I submitted my initial application in November, reached out to a couple of my Tulane professors for recommendations and had my transcripts sent over in December, spent the entire month of January designing my fibers-specific portfolio and writing the written parts of the application, and submitted everything on February 1. I was told it typically only takes a couple weeks to hear back about their decision and at the same time I would be notified if I was awarded any academic or portfolio related scholarships. February and March were a weird flux period in which I had no idea which direction my life was about to go. It took almost two months before they got back to me, right before we left to go to Europe in April. It was worth the wait though (and all the effort I’d put into learning design on my own!), not only was I accepted as a graduate student in their Fibers department, but I was awarded one of the highest amounts of academic/portfolio based scholarships that they offer! (enough to cover about 30% of my tuition cost).
So eight years after first touring SCAD for undergrad and four years after touring it again for grad school, it is finally happening! It has been a long time coming, but I’m so happy with the way things have worked out. For me personally, the timing is really great. Looking back, I’m so grateful for the way our lives have been shaped by being in New Orleans and I think Tulane was exactly where I was supposed to be for undergrad, as frustrating and difficult as that time was. I think I needed the the last three years out of school to get over that stressful experience and look forward to being back in school again. I also think it is so essential how much I’ve evolved as an artist and designer in the last few years that I’m really excited to do grad school at SCAD now that I have a better idea of where I want it to take me and what I want to make of it. I’m so ready for a new adventure and I’m so glad I’m jumping in and doing this now, because I feel like if I waited any longer, Drew and I would be into the buy a house/start a family part of our lives, and it would be so much harder to make this work.
Speaking of Drew, even though I said the timing for me was really great, the timing for him to pick up and move somewhere else is not so great. He got a promotion at work the week before I found out I got accepted to SCAD. He is now the Director of Information Technology at all four ISL campuses, something he has worked hard for several years for. I’m so proud of him and the work that he does. He really loves his job and where he works and wants to have more time to be the IT Director before moving on. So things will be a little crazy for us for the next year or so! Drew will be staying in New Orleans a bit longer for work while I move to Savannah to start my program. Not ideal, but I think that we will be able to make it work just fine. It gives me the opportunity to really pour myself into my work and make the most of my time at SCAD and gives him the ability to work in a job he loves with a title he’s worked hard for. After being together for almost ten years, we rely a lot on each other and I think it will even be good for us to spend some time being a little more independent and appreciative of the time we have together and the things we do for each other. And with SCAD being on the quarter system with big breaks between quarters and Drew working in a school with a lot of breaks, we’ll still be seeing a lot of each other.
And since I know some of you may be thinking, “Grad school? But you just paid off your debt! Are you going into more debt!?” The answer to that is that no, we don’t plan to. We’ve continued to live on a minimal budget, and without any debt (no credit card, car, or student loan payments), we’ve been able to save up a pretty good amount of money pretty quickly with us both working (all the money we would have put towards our debt pay off has been going into savings for my tuition). The scholarship that I got from SCAD also helps a lot, as does the raise that came with Drew’s promotion. Our plan is to be able to pay for my school as I go. It is a little tricky with us now paying for housing in two separate cities, but we are making it work (and will be eating a lot of rice and beans yet again for the next while). We may have no money to spend on anything else, but we are chasing our dreams!
We’ve already paid the tuition for my first quarter, I have less than two weeks left at work, just three weeks left of living in New Orleans before I move to Savannah, and just a month before school starts. Things are getting very crazy, but also very exciting around here!
More to come of my adventures at SCAD!
One of my biggest (and scariest!) goals for 2015 was to learn to quilt. I grew up sewing and collecting fabric, but I’d never made a quilt before. It’s no secret that I would love to design my own fabric collections one day. Part of being a fabric designer (at least for quilting cotton collections) is making them into quilt patterns and quilts, so it was something I needed to learn to advance my career professionally. It was also something I wanted to know how to do. I studied quilts a bit in college and incorporated elements of them into my painting and art work. I even made a quilt top in college (that turned out rather horribly! I wish I knew then what I know now!), stretched it, and painted on it for my abstract painting class final (it is hanging in our living room!). I love quilts and the history in them. I love the mix of fabrics and the ability to put time and effort into something that can be used to cuddle up on the couch with and also pass along to children and grandchildren. Such beautiful works of art! I had also amassed a nice collection of fabrics and needed something to do with them!
You might remember this photo (above) that I posted on Instagram around this time last year. Last year for Christmas, I asked my dad to buy me a couple quilting books I wanted (LOVE this one) and some new fabrics from a local (to Southern IL) fabric store (the amazing Hancock’s of Paducah) to use in a quilt I wanted to make. My caption on this photo was, “Love, love, love all these new fabrics that I’ll be using this year as I teach myself to quilt! #2015 #makeithappen #starttoday” I’m so happy to say that I made it happen! I not only used those fabrics above (and more from my collection) to make this value quilt, but as you already know, this past summer I attended a Patchwork Weekend Workshop at Anna Maria Horner’s Craft South in Nashville with all the designers of Cotton and Steel. I learned some additional quilting tips there and pieced my Mod Hexagon Quilt. I did all the piecing on that quilt, but was nervous to do the quilting and binding myself, so I sent it off to a lady that I met at the workshop to long-arm quilt and bind it for me. It turned out wonderfully! But I’m happy to say that on my Value Quilt, I conquered my fears and did every single bit of it myself!! I pieced it (even designing a few of the fabrics myself!), quilted it, and bound it! I’ve done a lot of cool things this year, but making this quilt is perhaps my proudest accomplishment of the year!
Here are some photos from the process (with pretty afters!):
Pulling out fabrics from my collection and organizing them into light, medium, and dark values.
I had to set my old desk back up in my office to have a cutting table.
One of my greatest quilting fears was not getting the seams on the squares to line up correctly. I had a rather frightening experience with this when making the quilt top I painted on in college. But thanks to Alexia Abegg (one of the designers of Cotton and Steel), I did it! At the workshop I attended last summer, I asked her to show me her secrets to getting those intersections to line up perfectly. Turns out, it isn’t that hard! The secret is in making sure your blocks are the same size (I already knew that part), and then making sure you press your seams for the rows in opposite directions so that they nest into one another at the intersections. Before you sew, you nestle them together and pin in place. It worked wonderfully!
I was also really worried about whether or not I would even be able to quilt this on my basic Singer sewing machine. But it worked just fine! I did simple, straight line quilting on either side of the diagonals. Quilting it on a diagonal helped to reduce some of the bulk stuck under the neck of my sewing machine. Drew helped me pin baste the quilt sandwich together (you are the best, love!).
I also have to give a shout out to JoAnn Hinkle of In Stitches in Lebanon, TN. I fell madly in love with that black and white fabric (Faye Burgos of Marcus Brothers Fabrics, Medallion Trellis in Black from her Quartette Collection). But when I went to buy more of it online for the backing, it was out of stock everywhere! I guess it isn’t in print anymore. I searched the Marcus Brother’s fabrics website for retailers of their fabrics to see if I could find someone with it in stock. There weren’t any quilt shops that had it in New Orleans, so I looked around Southern IL (my hometown). Hancock’s of Paducah didn’t have it either. So I started looking at Quilt Shops in the Nashville/Lebanon, TN area (where my older sister lives). I got in touch with JoAnn of In Stitches and she tracked it down for me at a warehouse. Thank you so, so much JoAnn!
I had never made binding or bound a quilt before either, but it turned out wonderfully! These clips were great (there they are in a handmade bowl I threw in my ceramics studio!). The dark pink/wine colored thread that I used to hand sew the binding on the back of the quilt actually belonged to Marie, my first cousin twice removed (the daughter of my Papaw’s uncle Courtland). Her niece passed along a lot of her sewing things to me, mostly colorful spools of thread. Marie grew up on the same land that I did. Love that little extra bit of history included in this quilt.
Drew holding the finished pieced top up in City Park in New Orleans so I could get a nice photo of the top!
And now, the after photos:
This quilt is a memory quilt of sorts in that it contains fabrics from my collection through the years. Some of these I collected as a child for various sewing projects, some I bought in college for art projects, some I’ve collected as I’ve traveled – a cute fabric shop we went to in Portsmouth, NH on our honeymoon, some fabrics from Portland, OR, some from here, some from back home. It also contains fabrics from many of my favorite fabric designers, some of which I’ve had the opportunity to meet or get to know in the last year or two. I also designed a few of these fabrics and had them printed on Spoonflower. That rose pink floral on the eggplant background above is mine. That is a little rose I illustrated from the rosebushes we planted in the front yard of our apartment.
The handwriting fabric, above, is my Mamaw, Evelyn’s, handwriting. It is her telling me “I love you” on a note she gave me when I was little. I turned it into a pattern and had it printed. There is also another fabric in this quilt that is my handwriting saying “I love you” back. The small blue and white check next to it is actually a bit of one of my Papaw’s shirts.
I love the mix of colors along with bits of black and white (and metallic gold!). I have a slight obsession with black and white. I feel like you don’t see a lot of quilts that use black in them, but I love the sophistication it adds and helps to balance out the colors a bit. This quilt is so me!
I just love the way it came out so much! I love the simple diamond pattern on the back from the quilting.
I just finished sewing on the last bit of the binding last night. I can’t wait to snuggle up under it on the couch for movie nights! Violet loves sleeping under my last quilt, I’m curious if she’ll like this one just as much.
The flowers my dad gave me for Christmas look so pretty with it!
I put together this basic instruction guide on what I did, in case you want to make your own:
Many of you who know me well, might have found yourselves asking, “what’s up with the quatrefoil?” in reference to both my floral quatrefoil logo and the little quatrefoil necklace(s) I wear all the time. (I have quatrefoil bedding as well, in case you were curious).
Well, I’m glad you asked. The answer is a long one and is deeply tied into my creative story.
The quatrefoil symbol has been around quite a long time, most traditionally used in ancient church architecture. It is thought to have originated in ancient textile design. Some people think it means luck, like a 4-leaf clover, some say it is a version of the Greek cross and represents the four gospels in the Bible. It really could represent anything in fours – the four seasons, the four cardinal directions on a compass, the four elements, etc. I love the history in all of that, but for me the meaning is a little more complicated.
If I had to give you the shortest answer, I would say that, to me, it means that no matter the season, or the direction I would like to go, God has a plan for my life. I also really love the historical context, that it is tied to my art background, and that it is a version of a flower (I grew up in the country). I also just think it is a really pretty symbol.
Here is the longer story: (warning: lots of text and no pictures)
It’s no secret, if you’ve been around here for a while, that my college years were a rough time for me in many ways. I had health issues and was often sick (undiagnosed Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, hypothyroidism, and gluten intolerance), had extremely low energy (undiagnosed thyroid issues and general lack of sleep), missed my once close-knit family (that was beginning to fall apart), missed the country, and in general having a home and a place that felt settled and safe. Along with that, I struggled with figuring out what to do with my life, what to study, and what path to take to the career I wanted (along with the general stress of tough college courses and a heavy workload).
I’ve always been a creative person and I’ve loved art since I was really little. I would paint with watercolors at my Grandmother’s kitchen table for hours as a pre-schooler. In elementary school, my mom taught me to sew and embroider, knit and crochet. In middle school, I became interested in photography and digital design in Photoshop (it wasn’t until college that I learned Adobe InDesign or Illustrator). In high school, I was on the Publications team creating layout and ads for the yearbook, involved in designing and sewing costumes for school plays and musicals, and organized my school’s Fashion Show every year. But my small town background made me naive to the creative careers possible for me. I thought that the only way to work in the world of art was to be a painter or a photographer– selling your work on the street, at festivals, or online.
So when it came time to go to college, I began majoring in English, with the intention of becoming a teacher, just like my grandparents both were, and just like the majority of people I’d known in my life up to that point. While I enjoyed the way that my English classes made me think, analyze, and find deeper meaning, I didn’t feel like English nor teaching English were my true passions.
It wasn’t until part of the way through my freshman year of college that I heard the term “graphic designer.” I was on a field trip with my TIDES class (a required Tulane course in your choice of subject area to orient you to the unique culture of New Orleans). The TIDES course that I had chosen was called “Design It Yourself NOLA” and we spent our time learning about New Orleans architecture, graffiti culture, Katrina and the geography and history of the city, touring green-build houses, visiting a warehouse of Mardi Gras parade floats and learning how they were made, beading Mardi Gras Indian costumes, and going to Creole Creamery to learn how their ice cream was made. But the most influential stop, to me, was the day we toured a local art gallery and print/publications house. We met with a graphic designer who showed us the digital page layouts for a book she was designing about how to navigate a major city disaster like Katrina. I was amazed. Something that combined my love of art and English into one marketable and needed skill? Sign me up!
I went home and immediately started researching graphic designers. Why hadn’t I ever heard this word before or thought about something like this as a career? I did small graphic design projects for myself already (in Photoshop and Publisher, oy!). The more research I did, the more sure I felt that designing is what I needed to do with my life. The bad part came when I realized that Tulane, the University that I was already attending, didn’t have a graphic design program. I met with my (terrible) guidance counselor (who basically told me I shouldn’t have come to Tulane and should have gone to a trade school). She pointed me towards the art department and they directed me to the printmaking department. But I didn’t want to make books by hand, I wanted to design them digitally.
Through a long string of events, and many stressful nights and long cries, I did sign up for the first class in the string of art courses required for a major — beginning drawing. I was so confused as to what to do with my life, but seeing as I was already in college, I didn’t have a lot of time to figure it out. God was looking down on me though, and blessed me with the most amazing art professor and I was amazed at my progress from beginning to end in Drawing 105. So much so, that I started to wonder if I wasn’t in the right place after all and signed up for the next drawing class, along with a painting class, and an art history class. (and then printmaking, and ceramics, and more painting, and more drawing, etc…)
This story is taking a long time to get to quatrefoils, huh? I told you it was a long story.
I didn’t give up on my graphic design dream. The summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college, I did an internship with a small graphic design and printing company in my hometown. There I learned the very basics of Adobe InDesign and I started to begin familiarizing myself with Adobe Illustrator (but didn’t really get proficient at that until after college). I also became familiar with various printing processes — preparing files for print, screen printing, vinyl cutting, etc. I initially thought that I would like to work in the book/magazine publishing industry designing book or magazine layouts, and I was thrilled that this internship was getting me one step closer to that! However, that same summer, while living back at home, reading my mom’s Country Living magazines, I stumbled across an article on Anna Maria Horner and her career in fabric design. It was another lightbulb moment! I had grown up sewing and collecting fabric, I loved painting and art, but I also loved digital design. Did I really want to design book layouts or did I want to design FABRIC! Fabric, of course! This opened a whole new world of possibilities to me (read more about AMH and that article here).
The next semester at school, I took my first art history class (a beginning survey course) and fell in love with the history of art, particularly the design motifs in ancient church architecture. (SPOILER ALERT: THE QUATREFOIL!) On my class notes I would draw quatrefoils and trefoils, gothic arches, and rose windows. I dreamed of using my art skills and budding design skills to become a fabric designer and design patterns inspired by art history.
Fast forward through more school, more English classes, more art classes, more stress, and low energy. The final project for the first painting course I took at Tulane was two combine two objects — one that represented your past and one that represented your future. I could go into further detail about why I chose what I chose, but in the air of brevity, I’ll just tell you that I picked an antique watering can full of impatiens to represent my past and in the background I painted a turquoise and mint quatrefoil pattern to look like fabric to represent my future (you can see and read more about that painting here).
Fast forward even further — past the rest of my English and art classes, past starting my blog and following the blogs of my favorite designers, past my wedding, past opening a web and graphic design business with my husband, past diagnosis of my thyroid and gluten intolerance — to the summer after college graduation. What am I going to do with my life?! What is my next step? Where do I go from here??? With a degree in English and Studio Art (concentration in Painting) and a plethora of self-taught design skills, there were a lot of ways I could take my career. I (obviously) wanted to be a fabric designer (more largely a surface pattern designer), but I didn’t yet know how to make repeatable patterns or where to even start to get into that industry. I looked into going back to school for textile design, even started touring schools, but that was too expensive with my husband already having so many student loans (and I really wasn’t mentally ready to dive into more school just yet). I started to focus on finding a job within my skill-set to help pay the bills while I spent my free time figuring out how to design patterns and studying the industry. I didn’t know what that job would be, but I prayed and asked God to lead me to wherever I was supposed to go next. The end of that summer, I got a call from the Director of Administration at a church in New Orleans that was looking for a Web and Publications Coordinator. He had seen my resume online and said that with my English, art, and graphic design background, I seemed like the perfect candidate. A week or so later, I started working there, without having even applied for the job. Guess what the church logo is? A quatrefoil. I guess the painting about my future was right, even if it wasn’t in fabric.
After I’d worked at the church for a few months, I came across a little quatrefoil necklace on Etsy (pictured above). The quatrefoil charm was the exact same color of turquoise as the quatrefoil fabric I’d painted in that art class painting. Again, well before I knew it, God knew what would be in my future, even if it wasn’t exactly the way I’d envisioned it. I bought that necklace (actually Drew bought it for me for Christmas that year) and I wore it nearly every day until it started to look a little ragged and I replaced it with a little gold version (I also have a pearl one).
Now I know how to design repeatable patterns and I understand a lot more about how the fabric manufacturing industry works. I’m still working towards that fabric design dream. But to me — the little quatrefoil (and my floral quatrefoil logo) serve as a reminder of my story – that all those parts (that I didn’t understand at the time) had a purpose and were leading me where I needed to go. God will provide. I can make plans (four directions) and want them to happen when I want (four seasons), but God is directing my steps and will lead me where he sees my future. He’ll also lead me through tough times and deliver me from distress (Psalm 23).
On a side note, I designed a more floral quatrefoil for my personal logo, as a way to combine the quatrefoil with a flower, a symbol of my country upbringing and love of nature.
I hope this has fully answered all of your questions about my obsession with quatrefoils. :)
Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
This summer, my niece Ashley asked me if I would design a fabric for her senior Homecoming dress. She wanted a watercolor floral in pinks, purples, and blues.
I started with some quick watercolor sketches from photos I had taken last spring of my birthday peonies and some lilac photos (also from last spring) that my sisters, Blair and Jill, had sent me from their yards. Two of my favorite flowers and they don’t grow in New Orleans!
I scanned them in to my computer, vectorized and re-colored them, then turned them into this pattern:
We both liked it, but thought it needed less leaves and less white space to really pop on the dress. So I played around with a few more variations of it before we finally settled on this pattern:
She had envisioned the skirt to be made of light colored tulle, so I wanted to make sure that the pattern on top was bolder and colorful.
Then I ordered the fabric (on Spoonflower):
I sent it to her and after a drama where it got stuck in the mail for two weeks (and we thought it was lost!), she had it made into the dress and wore it last weekend for Homecoming. I think it turned out wonderfully!
It is so exciting to see my designs on fabric, but even more special to see them worn for a special event. I’m honored to have had a part in your senior year, Ashley!
P.S. Aren’t her and her boyfriend so cute? They remind me of Drew and I when we were in high school. So sweet! Ashley was in elementary school when Drew and I started dating! :)