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.”
Right now in life, I am:
MAKING lots of art this month! India ink sketches, sketchbook drawings, experimenting with block printing (pictured below). LOVE getting to spend more time making art lately (all for surface pattern design work).
COOKING meals from Hello Fresh and Blue Apron. How nice to have all the ingredients for meals delivered right to your door! Use code: CEFVYJ for $40 off your first Hello Fresh box! Also cooking with lots of fresh veggies from my sister and dad’s gardens. Loving all the summer fruit out too — love me some peaches and cherries! And of course, lots of Plum Street Snoballs (pictured above).
DRINKING Lemon Shake Ups with Drew and Gigi at the Nashville Flea Market.
READING Creative Girl: The Ultimate Guide for Turning Talent and Creativity into a Real Career by Katharine Sise. I’m really taking my time reading through this and thinking about/writing through all the prompts. If you are thinking about a creative career, so far this is really a great read! I feel like so much of it is speaking directly to me!
WANTING to continue experimenting with different art and styles of surface pattern design. Really working on figuring out my style and the voice I bring to that industry.
PLAYING Kacey Musgraves’ new album, Pageant Material (like seriously on repeat the first couple weeks it came out). Listening to lots of music on Spotify this month as we took two different road trips. Also lots of records playing in our house, especially after Drew went record shopping all over Nashville.
SEWING all the things! Actually just a quilt, but a really awesome one at the Cotton and Steel Patchwork Weekend Workshop at Craft South in Nashville.
CROCHETING nothing lately. I have multiple projects in the works, just haven’t worked on them recently. Crocheting has taken a back seat to other creative endeavors.
WISHING for a great month of August as we work on home projects and I continue quilting and working on pattern design work.
ENJOYING family time! When visiting Nashville for the Craft South Workshop, we stayed with my older sister and her husband and kids that live there and my parents and younger sisters came down from Illinois too. Drew, Gigi, and I went to the Nashville Flea Market, we had a tie-dye birthday party for my niece, Evie, and then my sister, Kelsey, and niece, Evie, rode back to New Orleans with us and spent a few days here. Then my dad came to New Orleans to bring me my furniture (and pick Kelsey and Evie up). So much family time this month!
WAITING to work on/finish up some fun house projects in our foyer/dining room!
LIKING having my work office back in order after crazy renovations all summer!
WONDERING why Drew and I didn’t join the New Orleans JCC (Jewish Community Center) sooner! We aren’t Jewish, but we love using their amazing gym facilities. I’m loving the Pilates and yoga classes, the pool, the steam room/sauna/whirlpool and Drew loves the exercise equipment. We put off gym memberships for so long, but for the price, and the exercise/stress relief it provides — so worth it! It is way too hot outside to just go on walks around our neighborhood! (unless we are walking to the sno ball shop…)
LOVING Asheville! We took a trip there over the 4th of July weekend and it was amazing! Great weather, amazing views, delicious GF food. It was just a wonderful and relaxing trip.
HOPING to continue working on my Cotton and Steel / Anna Maria Horner quilt I started at Craft South. I’ve wanted to get into quilting for a long time, I can’t wait to finish this one!
MARVELING at all the wonderful adventures we’ve been on this summer.
NEEDING a creek like this in my life all the time.
LEARNING more about my design style the more patterns I make! And this month I made several! See some here, here, here, and the one I made from a hand-carved and printed block print, here. Also a couple more for an exciting project, here and here.
SMELLING peaches? snoballs? heat? Oh the smells of summer.
WEARING new jeans I got from Madewell (my first pair from them and loving them so far). Lace kimonos, breezy summer tees, jean shorts (while on vacations).
FOLLOWING me around and having to be in the middle of everything (Violet that is) — she hopped right up onto the fabric I had printed as soon as I set it on the table for a photo. Love seeing my designs on fabric!!
NOTICING this amazing mirrored tile wall at the French Quarter Sucre.
KNOWING that although I didn’t study design like I wanted to in college, that I’m so thankful for my art degree and what it taught me (and the skills I have because of it!).
THINKING about the talented designers that designed old book covers and pages. Such beautiful patterns!
BOOKMARKING lots of patterned sheets for our bedroom bedding. Target is sold out of the black and white plus sheets I wanted! Boo! :(
CELEBRATING Evie’s birthday, vacations and road trips, time at home. Lots of lovely this month.
OPENING the door for Drew and his friend as they unloaded the furniture into the house that my dad finally brought me from Illinois. Our church pew finally arrived as did our mid-century modern cabinet/dresser. LOVE them!!
LAUGHING at Violet and her silly ways. Always.
FEELING grateful for how full and amazing this summer has been in so many ways.
Past Life Right Now posts:
June 2015 | May 2015 | April 2015 | March 2015 | February 2015 | January 2015
December 2014 | November 2014 | October 2014 | September 2014 | August 2014 | July 2014 | June 2014
Last weekend, I attended the Cotton and Steel Patchwork Weekend Workshop hosted by Anna Maria Horner at her new (and fabulous!) shop, Craft South, in Nashville, Tennessee.
Craft South is so insanely beautiful and inspiring. You can’t walk into this space and not be inspired to create. How I wish this space existed in New Orleans (or that I lived closer to Nashville!).
I love the workshops that Craft South is putting together. So many great things happening there! (see upcoming workshops and classes here).
As you all already know, Anna Maria Horner and her fabulous fabric design skills have been an inspiration to me for quite a while (read more about that, here), so I’ve been dying to get to Craft South and take a workshop ever since she announced that it was happening (she started Craft South workshops last summer in another location and then opened Craft South the store this past May).
When I saw that she had put together a weekend workshop with all five of the founding designers of the fabulous Cotton and Steel, I jumped at the opportunity! Six amazing fabric designers all under one roof teaching me how to quilt and chatting about the industry? YES!!
My older sister lives right outside Nashville, and we love the area, so it is always nice to have an excuse to make a visit up there. It is only a few hours from my hometown, so my parents and sisters also came down to visit while we were in town for the workshop (we had a tie-dye birthday party for my niece, Evie, while I was there too!).
I loved getting to explore the 12 South neighborhood of Nashville that Craft South is in. I hadn’t spent much time in that area before, but it is a great little area! Lots of cool restaurants and shops.
I was a little nervous to take the workshop considering I’ve never actually made a quilt before. But I have a sewing background and I’d done some other quilting-type projects before (I made a quilt top and stretched it like a canvas to paint on in college and when I was younger I did some paper piecing), so I was prepared enough. If you remember from my goals for 2015, quilting was one of them!
I really love the way my quilt is starting out! LOVE those little paper airplanes! The quilt pattern we worked from for the workshop is the Mod Hexagon Quilt by Rashida Coleman-Hale (one of the designers for Cotton and Steel). The patterned fabrics I’m using are fat quarters of different prints from Cotton and Steel and Anna Maria Horner. For the background fabric, I’m using a metallic woven from Anna Maria’s Loominous fabric line (it is so pretty and sparkly – I wish you could see that better in the photos).
We also learned how to make fabric yo-yos and patchwork zip and Gamaguchi pouches, but I mostly stuck to working on my quilt. I wanted to get as much as I could done while I was there. I still have quite a bit left to do. I enjoyed getting to sew on the Janome machines while I was there. Craft South is also a Janome dealer if you are in the area and looking for a new machine. If I decide to keep quilting, I will probably have to eventually upgrade my basic Singer machine, but for now I can make it work.
Here are some other photos of the workshop posted on Instagram by the Cotton and Steel designers or other workshop attendees:
It really was such a great weekend and I’m so glad I went! All the other workshop attendees were the best and I enjoyed hanging out and sewing with them for the weekend (and learning from them!). All the designers of Cotton and Steel (Melody Miller, Rashida Coleman-Hale, Alexia Abegg, Sarah Watts, and Kim Kight) are seriously some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. It was such a treat learning from them about sewing, quilting, and the fabric design industry. I especially chatted with Melody and Alexia at dinner both nights and loved hearing about their stories, successes, and advice they had for others wanting to explore the fabric design and manufacturing industry.
If you get the opportunity to meet these amazing ladies or take a class at Craft South, do it!!