Flipping through a parenting magazine at a doctor’s office recently I ran across an article about the kinds of friends every parent needs. The article talked about the guidance and inspiration that one gains from surrounding oneself with friends with different kinds of life experiences.
Immediately I thought of the parallel to the maker’s life. In addition to belonging to a needlework group and a charity knitting group, I started a group called the Quilter’s Exchange four or five years ago because I wanted a place to talk about quilting without being the teacher. I wanted to learn from other people who have talents that are different than mine. There are nine of us ranging in age from early 30s to retirement age and we meet once a month. The rules are that you have to bring something to show, even if it’s just a sketch of something that you’re working on, and you have to be willing to take and give constructive criticism.
One member has a lot of experience in garment construction and can sew anything, while another is a master of crazy quilt stitching and is the sage of the group. A couple of them have very organic design methods that don’t involve the dozens and dozens of sketchbooks and prototypes that dominate my design process.
Others show up at every meeting with a book I’ve never seen or heard of that is incredibly useful. For example, did you know that the Illustrated Book of Math will give you the formula for the circumference of an oval if you’ve designing a totebag with an oval bottom? Still another has always just returned from some great museum exhibit and tells us all about it. There are several quilts each month that blow me away. These women also serve as our exclusive focus group for FunQuilts by giving us the thumbs up or down with every new fabric line, pattern or book concept. I’m grateful that they’ll tell us when they think we’re headed in the wrong direction. I’d rather hear it from them than the marketplace. In fact, I’m especially grateful for truth-tellers, especially those with tact.
At the last meeting one member, Mary Beth, brought an incredible collection of pieces that she has been working on as part of a Challenge of the Month program at a local quilt shop. I just had to include pictures of one of them here because the detail in her work is something that inspires everyone who sees it. The photos above were for a challenge entitled “Sweet Tooth.” I’m proud that one of the fabrics from our first line serves as the rind on the Key Lime Pie. I just love this piece. Can you believe that crust on the tarts? Don’t you love the “silver” tray and how smart she was using a lace placemat as the base? You can’t help but smile when you’re looking at it. It’s just so fun and so different from the things I make.
This group also reminds me of the kind of friend that I want to be to these other makers. More than once I have stayed up late on a Friday night so I could finish something to show them at our Saturday meeting. Several members say that they do the same thing. We can’t bear to show up empty handed. Some of them drive great distances to get to the meeting so I want them to feel inspired when they leave. Throughout the month I think of things that I can share with them, remembering each person’s interests, but I’d be totally misrepresenting reality if I didn’t also tell you that these people have become my dearest friends. Among the group we’ve lost weight and gained weight, welcomed a new baby and several grandchildren, weathered a host of illnesses and career setbacks, laughed about the things our loved ones do that drive us crazy and comforted each other through sad and scary times. I’m pretty sure that if you locked us in a room for a few hours with some good snacks that we could solve this whole health care mess and finish a few quilts to boot. Those are the friends that everyone needs.