Thursday, October 19, 2017

Meet Your (quilt) Maker: Charlotte Howard

If you've been at Guild meeting/events recently then you're familiar with our amazing QuiltCon 2018 design. We almost completed the top at Sew Boston, there are just a couple of adjustments we still need to make. So while we can't show it to you quite yet, we can introduce you to the amazing graphic artist behind the design. 

Meet Charlotte Howard:

What’s your favorite podcast/music/audiobook genre to listen to when you quilt?

If I am hand-sewing a binding, I'll listen to This American Life and RadioLab, or watch a really bad movie/TV show that doesn't require much attention. Otherwise, I prefer to work in silence so I can hear my thoughts. Plus, I get vicious migraines from noise and vibration, so I have to wear ear plugs when I'm using the sewing machine.

What sewing skill are you most proud of?

I would say my hand-sewing skills are rudimentary, at best. But, I can do a mean Satin Stitch on the machine!

What skill are you itching to master?

I finally learned how to do French Knots a few weeks ago! That was a major victory, although it only took a few minutes of reading a tutorial to achieve. I am hankering to try making a bias tape quilt.

Do you sew for a living?

In the past decade, I returned to my first career as a graphic designer. These days, I mostly do freelance book cover designs for small presses. I love the work as I get to research images and art reproductions from all different historical periods, and figure out how to integrate text to tell a story about what's inside the book.

It is challenging and satisfying work, except for the part where I don't get to touch anything but the computer keyboard, and where I get eyestrain and migraines from the computer screen. Quilting is a way for me to create stuff with my hands, and to give my eyes a rest.

What kind of fabric are you most attracted to?

I prefer rich, warm, solid fabrics, like those found in Amish quilts. My parents run a furniture store, so from birth I was surrounded by passionate discussions about upholstery fabrics. One of my favorite jobs at the store was straightening up the fabric sample shelf in the back office. So many heavy binders full of gorgeous, thick, luscious fabric squares from each was a tactile heaven of cut velvets, damasks, silks, & leathers.

Tell us about the quilt that means the most to you and why. This doesn’t have to be one that you made. And we’d love to see a picture! 

The first "quilt" I made was in Los Angeles in 2000. I was working 80-hour weeks editing horrible TV shows in small, dark rooms with multiple huge video screens and no windows. I was desperate to do something with my hands, so I took two sheets and cut them into triangles. It was such a relief to play around with layout and then (rather haphazardly) stitch them together. There's no actual batting, and I had no idea how to attach a backing properly, but it's still the quilt I use the most. because it makes me so happy.

How/When did you start quilting? 

See above. Before that, I had stayed away from any kind of sewing due to getting a "D" in Home Economics in the 8th Grade. I finally got up the courage to take a beginning sewing course at Brookline Adult Ed in 2011, and the teacher was much more positiveI told her I was interested in quilting, and she turned me on to a free quilt class at the Allston Public Library. People in that class mentioned Gather Here, and I've been taking quilting classes at Gather Here ever since.
From designing and picking fabrics to watching a recipient’s face when they see your quilt for the first time, what is your favorite part of the whole process?

For me, the most satisfying part is the process of designing the quilt. This Charity Quilt design is the only quilt design I've ever done on the computer, though it was simply a more complex version of a quilt I did for a Michael Miller Fabric Challenge.

Every other quilt has been about selecting/discarding colors, laying shapes out on my living room floor, staring at things for an hour/day/month/year, rearranging, sewing, ripping out seams, resewing. It's not a fast process, and sometimes it's not fun, as I tend to deconstruct the meaning of colors/symbols/life, which can lead to some angst. But once I find a solution, then I feel as though the process has been worthwhile for me.

What do you do to get over a hump when you get stuck on a quilt?

First, I go see a movie. Then I go for a drive in an area I know nothing about. Then I put the quilt away for several months/years. Whatever it takes to distance myself from the project and get a fresh perspective/new inspiration. I put this Drunkard's Path quilt away for almost a year before I knew exactly how I wanted to complete it.

What kinds of other crafts are you into besides quilting?

I'm not so into differentiating between "arts" and "crafts." The division is often a culturally imposed one that discredits the importance of work created by women and/or people from "other" socio-economic backgrounds.  I've tried all sorts of arts & crafts processes, including stained glass, handbuilt ceramic sculptures, photomontages, jewelry beading, letterpress printing, silk batik, weaving...

I miss doing ceramic work as 3D sculptural pieces are very satisfying to create. Ceramics are heavy to cart around though! Quilts are much lighter.
Where’s your fave place to eat in Cambridge?

I used to love Algiers on Brattle Street, though their ownership has changed and their hummus isn't so heavenly anymore. The Afghan restaurant, Helmand, is quite good. Anything Middle Eastern is high on my list. I am itching to try Oleanna.
Do you have any favorite blogs/insta accounts we should know about? And where can we find you on the internet?

I'm on Instagram @charlaralotte
My (very outdated) graphic design portfolio is here.

Anything else you want us to know about you? 

The first quilt guild meeting I ever attended was a revelation. I was terrified going in, as I thought the meeting would be like the harsh & bitter art critiques of college. Thankfully, that format has never been in evidence. There's such a great positivity that means so much to me. Even if I haven't been doing a lot of quilting, I am always rejuvenated and reinvigorated creatively after guild meetings. So, thank you to everyone who attends and makes the meetings these delightful afternoon escapes from the cut-throat world outside.

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