Modern Quilt Studio – Part 2

This is the second part of a two-part blog about Modern Quilt Studio. Click HERE for Part 1.

Modern Quilt Studio Logo Inspired to SEW

Weeks and Bill both loved their careers, but they didn’t want to be forced to choose between having interesting work and raising a child. They envisioned a life where they could take their child to the zoo on a beautiful day, then go home and work while the baby was napping.

Bill was graduating from graduate school, and Weeks wanted to transition to a home-based, family-friendly business. They didn’t want to do street fairs, and they felt the quilt world was too conservative for their design ideas. Weeks’ philosophy is “Life Rewards Action.”

Weeks Ringle & Bill Kerr working in the studio.

Weeks & Bill working in the studio.

So, instead of attending Bill’s graduation, they invested their savings in a booth at the International Contemporary Furniture trade show in New York City. Weeks understood how buildings were built and funded. She also knew about decorating budgets. They went to that first show with the modern quilts they’d made. These were quilts people hadn’t seen before — all machine quilted. They weren’t trying to recreate nostalgia. They were making quilts that expressed the times in which we live. That trade show was the launch of their business. They scored numerous quilt commissions and established relationships with influential interior designers.

For the next five years, they sold finished quilts at museums in New York and had an eight month waiting list for commissions. A publisher approached them about writing a book and fabric companies wanted them to design fabric. Modern Quilts were starting to become embraced by the quilting world.

Bill, Sophie and Weeks at home with Kip.

Bill, Sophie and Weeks at home with Kip.

Weeks says, “Success didn’t come overnight. Sure, we had a bunch of quilts in the Oprah magazine, and we received lots of coverage in many prestigious magazines — but that didn’t just happen. We took risks and we invested our own money. Life rewards action — and we spent $5,000 for that booth. We printed a catalog, we sent out beautiful press releases (which looked like little fabric lunch bags). We worked hard and we took chances. We had a plan, and we were strategic. And now we have a workplace where, around 3:30 PM, when our daughter Sophie gets home from school, we make tea and a snack for ourselves and our staff. She’s a sophomore in high school. Our business predates her adoption so she always peeks over our shoulders to register her opinions on whatever we’re working on.

Although some quilters like to stick to one look or one technique, our work is quite varied. Our quilts are made using large and small pieces, hand and machine appliqué, hand and machine quilting and a variety of innovative construction techniques. We don’t want to end up in a rut so we are always trying new approaches to making quilts.”

Inspiration

Inspiration

When asked about where they get their inspiration, they had this to say:

Bill: We both keep sketchbooks on our desks and bedside tables to capture and share inspiration whenever it occurs. Weeks and I check in with each other to get opinions. I think the breadth of both of our interests and skills is vital to what we do. I tell my students that I hope they are as lucky as I in finding someone who is a great critic and editor of my work. Having a wonderful spouse whom you trust to give you honest feedback on your design, writing and business ideas is as good as it gets.

Weeks: Inspiration to us is not so much something you find on a shelf but a lifestyle choice. To be creative, you have to have a source of inspiration but you also have to have space in your head to do something with the inspiration. We find inspiration in the work of artists we follow, popular culture, and the desire to make quilts that are both innovative and practical. Every quilt we make is machine washable and dryable. Being able to use the quilt is an important part of making it for us.

It is hard to imagine what the Modern Quilt movement would look like if it weren’t for the partnership and influence of Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr. It would be like a peanut butter sandwich without the jelly. A cartoon with Tom but no Jerry. Macaroni without the cheese? Needle without thread.

www.modernquiltstudio.com

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