Kathie Stull

Sometimes, we don’t even know who is responsible for the things we love. For example, how many of us have learned a new sewing or quilting skill from watching favorite how-to shows on public television?

Kathie Stull, KS ProductionsSo, who, or what, exactly, is KS Productions? Like so many other remarkable things in this world — there is a woman, the unsung hero. In this case, that woman is Katherine Stull, the owner of KS Productions. How did she become KS Productions — and what was her journey or moment of inspiration?

Kathie Stull loved “making things” when she was young, and started seriously sewing in high school. She took a beginner clothing class which totally changed the direction of her career path. She realized that she loved creating things. When she was a senior in high school, her first real job was working for Jo-Ann Stores in their corporate office as part of a ”Project Real” job study program. She took clothing and art electives — and by her second year of college had veered to a double major in marketing and design.

She always saw herself more on the business side and definitely behind the scenes. But she still wanted to have that creative side to her life — which, for her, became sewing. She loved fashion sewing and made her own clothes — everything from bathing suits to business suits.

After college, Kathie got a job as a buyer in the craft industry. She moved into advertising for print media and it seemed like a good fit. Public television was just starting to accept how-to as a viable category that would attract viewers. In 1987, she met David Larson, a pioneer in developing the first PBS how-to program that married TV with local underwriting. That chance meeting turned out to be the spark that lit a fire in Kathie’s professional life.

Ready, Set, Action!

Because she was involved in print advertising, she partnered with Larson on offering print and TV to manufacturers. This dovetailed with the Aleene’s Creative Living Program. Kathie believed that because crafting and sewing were such visual industries, print alone could not show a consumer how to use a product. Their customers needed education. Kathie saw an opportunity to start her own company — which was initially, strictly about marketing.

Kathie actually was a devoted DIY-person herself. She had a gift for visualizing what steps should be shown for the at-home viewer to “get it.” That led to learning segment producing. It didn’t take long before her imagination and enthusiasm led to developing new show concepts.

KS Productions is the largest provider of how-to content for PBS television.

Pretty impressive, right?

In 1990, KS Productions officially began producing shows. The first two programs were: Art of Sewing / America Sews with Sue Hausmann and Sew Creative with Donna Wilder. Kathie says, “I loved the creativity of bringing sewing projects full circle … showing the viewer how they could do it — from beginning to end.”

Her perKS Productions has seven shows currently in production on PBS.sonal “baby” was added: Hands on Crafts for Kids — with the premise that all kids are creative. Her mission for Crafts for Kids was to level the playing and crafting field for kids of all abilities and disabilities. It aired in schools and on PBS and still does today.

Over the last 32 years her company has developed over 21 different programs covering every possible category in the craft industry. They also developed in-store video programs for major retailers and have developed product videos for many of the leading manufacturers.

In Kathie’s case, starting her own business and becoming a producer was the perfect way to combine her business background with doing the creative things she loved.

After she started her family, her own personal sewing evolved into more specific projects: Lots of baby quilts, kids clothing, quick projects, gifts and some home dec. She loved working with Sue Hausmann as America Sews was developed — and Donna Wilder on Sew Creative. Those shows renewed her excitement and since then, has always had a sewing or quilting show in production.

For 20 plus years, KS Productions subcontracted their space and facilities. Five years ago, they built their own studio to suit their specific needs. The cameras and equipment are totally geared towards the specialty how-to industry. For example, a typical television studio green room is a small waiting room with make-up tables and snacks, but Kathie’s green room is huge — 40’ x 30’, set up with 14 tables. “We can accommodate multiple guests. Every table is wired for sewing machines and glue guns. We have an ironing station, a dressing room and 1,000 square feet for prop storage, etc.”

2016 Industry Achievement Award Craft and Hobby Association

2016 Industry Achievement Award
Craft and Hobby Association

Kathie says, “The biggest difference between when I started and now is that you can’t just produce a show for public television. Every show is also on CREATE (the how to channel for PBS … a whole other set of stations). Each show has its own website, and airs on-line too. Every show has a YouTube channel as well. Nowadays, the internet and social media presence is a part of our package with Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest. It is constantly evolving and changing.”

In 2016, Kathie was recognized for her accomplishments. She was honored with an Industry Achievement Award from CHA (Craft & Hobby Association).

An excerpt from her acceptance speech:

We are constantly striving to bring the message of crafting and creativity and teach people how to make a scrapbook page, or sew a skirt or make anything and everything thru video. I want to thank all of the people and companies with this shared vision for teaching that are willing to invest in building the whole industry, … I’d like to thank my husband and family, I could never have built this company without their support, especially when video technology absolutely never stops changing!

Kathie’s husband is a home inspector, and after they built their studio five years ago, he took on the added job of managing the facility. Their two sons live in the Cleveland area, and their daughter lives in Chicago.

Kathie’s personal sewing nowadays is often for a charitable cause or event. Her family is involved with giving back and making a difference. She started and chairs a family foundation in honor of Kathie’s mother, who died nine years ago.

From The AmaliaFoundation.org website:

The Amalia Foundation honors Kathie Stull's mother.

The Amalia Foundation honors Kathie’s mother.

The Amalia Foundation was founded in honor of our mother as a way to honor her legacy and help those with Parkinson’s Disease. Our goal is to support exercise programs for those with Parkinson’s. There are many excellent charities that support research and studies, but we wanted something that had the ability to positively influence people and caregivers in our own area and in their daily life. A simple exercise program has the ability to help ease the daily struggles of Parkinson’s, and delay some of the more devastating results of the disease. The Amalia Foundation sponsors the licensed Delay the Disease training program in Cleveland, for physical therapists and other health care professionals. Exercise classes are available at six locations in Northeast Ohio for those with Parkinson’s and their caregivers. The goal is to continue to add classes and locations to serve our community.

The motto of the Amalia Foundation was taken from a quote by Mother Theresa: “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”

Kathie Stull is a big believer in the power of learning. That it’s how we connect to one another, and it’s how we pass it on. Part of her philosophy is that if we thought about the sewing and craft industries as teaching people rather than selling, we can make a difference in people’s lives and add the joy of being creative.

http://www.ksonline.tv/

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