Handmade Conversations: Heather Jones, Quilter and Crafter
In our "Handmade Conversations" series, we ask amazing people in the craft, food and fashion industries a few questions that provide you with a glimpse into their world.
This week's featured person is Heather Jones, designer, seamstress, quilter and the blogger behind Olive and Ollie. Heather is the founder and president of the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild. She is also the owner of the Olive and Ollie shop, a small business that specializes in clothing and accessories for infants and children. Three of her quilts have been chosen as winners of the Modern Quilt Guild's Project Modern Challenges, a year-long national quilting competition.
"This photo is of me as a child on my 9th birthday. My aunty Judy made me a Michael Jackson cake. I loved him!"
I’ve always been crafty, from as far back as I can remember. I remember making “pottery” out of mud, letting it dry in the sun and then painting it when I was like 3 or 4 years old. Another early piece of mine is a collage with a hand-drawn leprechaun, complete with mug of beer in his hand; it said, “Kiss me, I’m Irish." I think I made that one in first grade. I think my first sewn item was a stuffed Scottie Dog from a purchased kit in my seventh grade Home Economics class.
What is your craft medium of choice? Why do you prefer that one?
These days it’s fabric, although I used to paint and draw a lot. I started a handmade business after I became pregnant with my first child, where I designed and sold children’s clothing and accessories. After I started hearing about The Modern Quilt Guild and the modern quilting movement, I began to make time to work on quilts, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I had made some quilts prior to that, but not to a great extent. I love the entire process of quilt-making, from designing them in my sketchbook, to choosing colors and fabrics, to sewing them together and then quilting and binding them. And I love to create things that are meant to be used, things that aren’t just decorative. The great thing about quilts is they can be both utilitarian and beautiful works as well.
Who or what inspires your creativity?
My biggest source of inspiration is my husband and children, and honestly without them, I wouldn’t be doing what I do. My husband is a painter, and his work is very minimal. I can say that he has taught me to open my eyes to the world differently than I did before. He has shown me how powerful the most subtle and minimal things can be. In terms of quilters, I’m very much inspired by the work of Denyse Schmidt and the quilters of Gee’s Bend. I saw the original exhibition of Gee’s Bend quilts in Cleveland in 2004 and was in awe. It was seriously a life-changing moment for me. Their quilts were some of the most beautiful things I had ever seen. And Denyse constantly blows me away with her amazing eye and how she expresses her aesthetic in her quilts.
Heather's wonky log cabin quilt
Probably a quilt that is still a work in process, even though I started it about two years ago. It’s a scrappy, wonky log cabin quilt. I finally have finished the top and one of these days I’ll make the back and finish it. But it’s one of those things where I kind of got burnt out on it, so it’s put up for the time being.
I usually do the vast majority of my work either very early in the morning (like starting at 5 a.m.), or very late at night. Since my kids are so young, and they are with me the vast majority of the time, it’s really the only opportunity I often have to work uninterrupted. I like to listen to Pandora while I’m working. If I’m doing something more mindless, like quilting on my home machine, I’ll often have something streaming on my computer from Netflix or Hulu, as well.
What is your dream craft project?
An improv quilt that I design as I sew.
Describe your personal style in 3 words.
Vintage-modern, classic, fun.
In addition to crafting, what other talents do you have?
I love to bake and make some pretty mean desserts. My first love was actually fine arts, and I used to paint a lot, epecially when I was in high school and college. I’d like to get back into that one day.
What advice would you give to aspiring craft authors, professional crafters and/or designers?
Focus on doing the best work that you can do. Don’t compare yourself to others, and don’t worry what other people are doing. Do what you love, and use that passion to create amazing work.
If you were only allowed to send out one tweet for the rest of this year, what would you say?
That’s a hard one, because I love Twitter! It would probably be, “I’ll miss you!” My Twitter handle is @oliveandollie.