Featured Designer - Shannon Brinkley July 01 2016
Our featured designer for July is Quilter, Designer, Author and Teacher - Shannon Brinkley. Shannon is known for turning scraps of fabric into gorgeous, modern art quilts by collaging a variety of fabrics, vintage and new, with different colors, tones, and patterns to create really interesting and unique textures.
Now let's get to know Shannon!
Jen: Where were you born and raised?
Shannon: I was born in Houston, TX and raised mostly in Katy, which is just outside of Houston. Though when I was 6 years old, my father was transferred to Amsterdam where we lived for several years.
Jen: Tell us about your quilting journey. How did you learn to sew and quilt? Have you always worked with collage fiber art?
Shannon: I have always been a maker: cross stitching, weaving, collaging (paper), to name a small few of my childhood hobbies. In 5th grade, I made probably 50+ dream catchers (the evidence of this is still scattered between various family members' homes). My grandmother taught me to sew when I was around 12, but I didn't begin quilting until college. I studied education, and in my Children's Literature class, we were assigned to create a timeline of children's literature. For some reason, lost to time, I decided to create a quilted timeline. It was a simple patchwork grid quilt with images of the sequential influential book covers, and was way above and beyond what I needed to do for the assignment-- but I received a 100% and was hooked. Shortly after that, I visited the International Quilt Festival in Houston where I fell in love with the craft, and with raw edge appliqué in particular. It was then that I began playing with fabric.
Jen: How did your book Scrappy Bits Appliqué come to be?
Shannon: I approached the craft of quilting in an unusual way. Unlike most sane people (who, to learn a new skill, buy books, take classes, etc), I jumped right in and just began to play and experiment. I knew raw-edge appliqué had something to do with fusible web, and I went from there. I later did seek out books and classes to improve my skills, but that was after I developed my own style and technique. After years of perfecting this process and after more exposure to the quilting arena, I noticed that I did not see anyone creating quilts in a similar manner. It was here that the notion of writing a book to teach the process was born. I did a little research on quilt publishers, discovered and swooned over Stash Books' style, called and chatted with the acquisitions editor, submitted a book proposal, and boom. I think it was that playful, exploratory approach to quilting that made my style so unique, and ultimately secured the book deal.
Jen: Tell us about the process for designing your patterns. What are your inspirations?
Shannon: That's a great question. Initially, my inspiration was simply, "What kind of images would be interesting on a quilt? What images would kids want to cuddle with? What images would I like to hang on my wall?" I still ask these questions but have a lot of other sources for inspiration as well.
I think it is important as a designer not to seek inspiration solely in your field. This is not a new idea, but it is a crucial one if you want to be unique. So I don't pay too close attention to what other quilters are making (just enough so I can stay aware of what's going on in the industry), rather, I find shape and color inspiration in nature, literature, sculptures and other fine art, old books, maps, architecture, fashion-- really everywhere. My eyes are always open to interesting color palettes, shapes, and concepts. I always carry a notebook around where I scribble all my random ideas and inspiration, and the camera roll on my phone is full of pictures and screen shots of inspiring images, most of which are completely unrelated to textiles.
Jen: Complete this sentence. When I am not sewing, I am…
Shannon: Listening to audiobooks (though I do that when sewing too), writing, cooking, practicing yoga, and spending as much time outside as possible. Not doing anything tremendously active, mind you, I just love a good walk, and my soul required a daily allotment of trees. My husband and I also love craft beer and travel.
Jen: What sewing machine do you use?
Shannon: I have a Janome Horizon 8900. It's stellar.
Jen: What is your worst sewing habit?
Shannon: Hmmm.. I don't know that I believe in a worst sewing habit. I am an unrepentant rule breaker. Hence, the diving into quilting without first reading a book. I take craftsmanship very seriously and strive to constantly improve, but I am also completely okay with breaking any rule I feel so inclined as to break. I sometimes don't hide my threads between the quilt layers, and just lockstitch and snip. I measure as seldom as humanly possible. I haven't serviced my machine in forever (that might be one I should fix). Otherwise, I make the quilts I want to make in the way I want to make them and worry not of rules.
Jen: What is one sewing notion that you can't live without?
Shannon: Probably my "grip gloves." They are almost always on my hands when I'm sewing. It makes me feel like I'm dealing with important artifacts or performing surgery! That aside, I like having more control over the fabric, so I will wear them not only when free-motion quilting, but satin stitching, binding, often even piecing.
Jen: Any big plans for the rest of the year?
Shannon: Always. I have several new quilt patterns that I am dancing-around-the-room-excited about. A few are very different from those in my current collection. I will be traveling to teach and speak a ton, which I love doing. I'm designing another fabric collection, and I have another super secret project that I have been dreaming about for years, and am now working on everyday! Stay tuned.
I am curious to know more about this secret project! Maybe I can squeeze more out of Shannon when I see her at Fall Market in Houston later this year.
In the meantime, you can learn more about Shannon's technique in her book Scrappy Bits Appliqué or take a her Scrappy Appliqué Workshop online.
Also, we will be adding a selection of Shannon's PDF patterns to the Red Thread Studio website. Which skylines are you interested in making?