Becoming a Professional Quilter
Three months ago I left my job … to quilt full-time. I keep waking up thinking, “Is this really my reality – that I get to get up and quilt today?” For the last five years, I worked for an amazing non-profit in Downtown Seattle providing permanent, supportive housing to adults who have been homeless. Now I’m living off my craft – selling one-of-a-kind commissioned quilts, teaching youth to sew, showing my work at art shows, and sharing my creative process. Here’s a glimpse into what I’ve been up to over the last 90 days at the start of my new quilting career.
Candace’s Commissioned Quilt
My dear friend Candace was the first person to commission me to make a quilt. Her daughter Susha was getting married to her partner of seven years, Christy. While neither of them is pregnant yet, Candace asked me to make them a gender-neutral baby quilt as a wedding present. Once I finished the quilt, Candace and I drove down to Portland so she could give it to them. It was a blast to meet the quilt’s new owners and enjoy a meal and evening of games with them in their Portland home.
Y-WE Create Fashion Camp
One of my favorite non-profits in town is Young Women Empowered (Y-WE). For the last five years, I’ve volunteered in the kitchen during Y-WE retreats. This year, for the first time, the organization put together a week-long fashion camp for girls ages 13-17 and I was hired as a seamstress and mentor. I keep referring to the week as fulfilling my dream of participating in radical home ec. In the mornings we had engaging conversations about body image, size, race, conditions in sweatshops, and creative resistance. In the afternoons, the youth really went to town sewing their own clothes. To conclude the week, we put on a stunning fashion show for our friends, family, and community, which featured our unique creations and takeaways from a week of saying yes to creative risks.
Trans Youth Apparel
Another non-profit in town named foundry10 linked up with Y-WE to bring the Y-WE Create Fashion Camp to life. Jenna works at foundry10 and participated at camp as a mentor. After meeting at the Y-WE Create Fashion Camp, Jenna asked me if I’d be interested in working with two youth from foundry10 during their summer internship, creating a custom clothing line for trans youth. I thought, “Getting to sew and talk about gender identity? Could anything be more up my alley? This is the best of both worlds!” Fellow Y-WE Create Fashion Camp seamstress Wendy and I teamed up to work with recent high school graduates Fiona and Julia (pictured above) on their innovative project to create clothing that actually fits trans youth. You can check out their incredible project by going to their newly launched website for Trans Youth Apparel.
A Double Quilt for Diane
The evening after I turned in my resignation letter at my previous job, I was standing in front of the admin building and ran into Diane – a fellow co-worker. She asked me what I was up to next and I explained how I’d be taking some time to pursue another passion of mine which is quilting. The next day there was an email in my inbox asking me where I’d be selling my quilts. After seeing some photos of my work, Diane and her husband decided to commission a quilt from me. We got together to discuss the color palette, design ideas, and what to avoid. Their guest bedroom is currently plain, so I’m working on a double-size quilt to give the room a pop of color.
Mary’s 6’ x 4’ Wall Hanging
The first time Amy met me in kindergarten, she looked at her mom and said, “I want to be that girl’s friend.” We became friends shortly thereafter and have now built a 22-year strong friendship. Growing up, it was common for Amy to fall asleep while watching movies. This meant her mother Mary and I would often finish the movie together and then sit on the floor of their kitchen, eating cheese and crackers while chatting up a storm. Needless to say, Amy, as well as her family, are very important people in my life. While out to lunch with Amy and her parents a few weeks ago, we got to chatting about my new quilting endeavors. Mary expressed interest in commissioning a quilt from me. The next day, I had an email in my inbox from Mary saying she was serious about buying a quilt from me. I’m currently in the process of drafting a variety of design ideas for their 6’ x 4’ wall hanging, which will grace the stairway of their home – a special place to me considering all the time I’ve spent at their family home over the years.
At the end of each month, the calendar on my phone gives me a reminder. “Three months til QuiltCon submission due date” was the most recent message that popped up on my phone at the end of August. I’m hoping to complete and submit two quilts – one with lots of English Paper Piecing entered in the handwork category and another for the 60 Degree Triangle Quilt Challenge. As a diehard lecture fan, I’m ecstatic that the 4-day lecture pass has returned to QuiltCon. You’ll know where to find me in Pasadena this February – soaking in all those lectures at what I like to refer to as “quilt school”.
Month Long Show at Drygoods Design
Drygoods Design is my favorite fabric shop in town and it just so happens to be in my favorite neighborhood in Seattle – Pioneer Square. Drygoods’ fabulous owner Keli asked me if I’d like to have an art show at her shop for the month of February. I said, “Boy, would I!” I get to take over a 10’ x 15’ wall at her store for one month and the opening night reception will correspond with the First Thursday Pioneer Square Art Walk. I’m currently collecting a variety of picture frames with the intention to spray paint them all gold and then fill them with pieced fabric wall hangings to sell. Details below.
- Location: Drygoods Design (301 Occidental Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104)
- On Display: February 4th, 2016 – February 29th, 2016
- Opening Reception: Thursday, February 4th, 2016 from 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Speaking Gig in Woodinville
I’m embarrassed to admit, upon checking this blog after a long hiatus, I noticed a blog comment asking if I’d be willing to speak at a quilt guild on the east side. It sounded like an excellent offer … the only problem was that the comment was written back in December. After contacting the blog comment writer, I was overjoyed to learn that the offer still stood! I’ll be giving a 40 minute presentation followed by a question and answer session on two of my favorite topics: English Paper Piecing and my creative process. I’m so excited to meet the members of the Stray Threads Quilt Guild in Woodinville when I give this presentation.
An Embellished Shirt for Season
The place where I most commonly share my day-to-day creative process is on Instagram under the name @quiltingqueerly. Friend and quilter extraordinaire Season Evans of S.D. Evans Quilts left a comment on one of my posts requesting to buy an embellished shirt from me. I said, “For sure!” We corresponded about which of the previous embellishments I’ve made she liked best, so I could create something that fits her style. She sent me a long sleeve black t-shirt to embellish for her and I’m currently in the process of designing a long vertical strip of English Paper Piecing to attach to the shirt.
Wall Hangings at Seattle Pacific University
Fellow Seattle Modern Quilt Guild member Jessica Vehorn of Gild Studio asked me if I’d like to participate in a show she’s curating at her alma mater – Seattle Pacific University. I’m super excited to have a few small wall hangings (under 36” x 36”) for sale alongside the work of an incredible group of visual artists and quilters. Details below.
- Name of Show: COLOR FORMS
- Location: Seattle Pacific Art Center Gallery (3 West Cremona, Seattle, WA 98119)
- On Display: October 5th, 2015 – November 27th, 2015 during gallery hours which are Monday – Friday 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
- Opening Reception: Thursday, October 8th, 2015 from 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM
- Including Artwork From: Anna Boenish // Ara Jane Olufson // Blair Stocker // Chawne Kimber // Colleen Elizabeth // Hillary Goodwin // Jessica Vehorn // Jeffrey Maris // Julie Alpert // Kate Sweeney // Matt Macomber // Martha Peterson // Nicholas Sistler // Paul Komada // Ruby Hoppen // Season Evans // Shelby Marie Skumanich // Stephanie Ruyle // Wynde Dyer // Zak Foster
Making It Official
Moving from quilting as a hobby to quilting as a business has already included a steep learning curve. I officially got a business license and am now channeling more energy into other business details such as revamping this website, cultivating a blogging habit, creating a logo, and making business cards. I’ve been amazed by and incredibly grateful for how many quilting, sewing, teaching, and speaking opportunities have already come my way. A huge thank you to everyone who has supported me in getting to this point. I left my job with the inkling I could make it in the quilting world, but wasn’t quite sure how that would manifest itself. Three months in, it feels like the universe is saying, “Anna, you’re meant to pursue your passion for quilting. Let’s do this.”