(Originally published in SCHMETZ Inspired to SEW #84, December 2020. Written by Rita Farro.)
Imagine this unlikely scenario; a man in Toronto, Canada, (who, in 2009 didn’t even know there was such a thing as batting), enters his first competition quilt at the gigantic, prestigious 2020 Modern Quilt Guild Show (QuiltCon), and walks away with TWO of the top four prizes. Peter Byrne hit the modern quilting world like a meteorite. How did this happen? What’s so special about his quilts? Did he really, overnight, become an international award-winning, published modern quilter and teacher? To understand the secret sauce that is Peter Byrne, we have to go back to his childhood. (Isn’t that always the way?) Raised in a family of five children by a very creative mother and a hard-working father, Peter was four when he started to exhibit artistic talent. The next-door neighbor taught him how to draw and paint. They spent countless hours creating in his garage. When Peter was 8, he took a leatherwork class, and the instructor encouraged his parents to supply him with the best tools because he had never seen such talent in a student. Peter went on to teach leatherwork at his local Boys Club.
Hairdressing was Peter’s first passion, but this did not fill 24 hours a day.
At age 11, Peter learned how to macramé. He turned that passion into his first business and supplied the local gardening store and department store with macramé plant hangers. He took custom orders and made plant hangers that hung in 20-foot foyers. Throughout his life, he has loved creating and learning in equal measure. After high school, he enrolled in a hairdressing school. He finished his apprenticeship and opened his first hair salon at the age of 20. He enjoyed his work and opened several successful salons over the next 25 years. Although hairdressing was his first passion, it could not fill 24 hours of his day. In his 30’s, he developed a passion for gardening. His specialty was designing and installing perennial gardens. He and his team of landscapers planted growing beds throughout Toronto. Every spring he would harvest 50 percent of the plant material, pot, and sell them. Eventually, Peter Byrne Gardens decorated every neighborhood in the city. However, gardening was seasonal, so in the winter, he would change hats and move into construction. Over the years, he enjoyed learning new trades and became very good at designing and installing bathrooms and kitchens. Throughout his adult life, he had his fingers in many pies, but there was always a common theme. Design and Installation. In 2009, he was dealing with serious health concerns and decided it was time to retire. He was only 45 years old, and he had to reimagine his life. He decided to simplify his lifestyle. He sold his house in the East End, the cars, the businesses, and moved to an apartment in the heart of downtown Toronto, Canada. Click HERE to read the whole story of Peter Byrne.