Cori Derksen and Myra Harder
Friends for life. Although their business and personal lives have gone through several changes throughout the years, these two authors, pattern and fabric designers seem destined to quilt together. Read more about Cori Derksen and Myra Harder in this interview from Quiltmaker magazine and on their website, bluemeadowdesigns.com. You can also keep up-to-date on this dynamic duo by dropping by their online blog at bluemeadowdesigns.blogspot.com.
How did you decide to make quiltmaking a career?
It was a hobby and I love being creative; it was started as a "sideline" hobby. It began in Myra's mom's quilt shop, where I also worked. I had only made a few quilts before I began designing with Myra.
The short version of the story is that my mother had a quilting store for 19 years. Of course I had NO interest in quilting, even though it literally surrounded me. She opened her store in 1984, in one corner of our basement.
The store grew, and when it moved into a large retail space, I began to work there doing the paper work and accounting. Only after Cori made her first quilt, did I start to look at my surroundings in a new light.
What led you in that direction?
We knew that we could bring different and new ideas to the industry. We started writing our own patterns and then went on to write books for Martingale & Co. We have never designed only one look, and we are not known for only one technique. We like variety, which keeps our customers guessing! We think of ourselves as versatile designers.
I must admit that another reason I began to like the fabrics in the store was because they were always getting better. I remember the selection that was available when my mother started her store in the early 80's. There wasn't much choice, and it was a far cry from the beautiful fabrics that now stock our shelves. Beautiful fabric can be addictive. I began to experiment with different color combinations and using large scale prints as backgrounds. It opened up my eyes to what could be done. New quilting books were also changing the way quilts looked, and I found quilting to be much more appealing.
And how did you get your own fabric line with RJR Fabrics?
We sent a proposal to RJR and they were very interested! We had a concept, experience in the book industry and we are young. I think that is what they were looking for at the time.
By the grace of God. As I look back on it now, I am in awe that we were able to become a part of a company that has deep roots in the industry. Looking back to the early years of my mother's store, there were very few fabric companies, but I knew of RJR because they produced Jinny Beyer fabrics. RJR continued being a strong force in the industry by adding Lynette Jensen of Thimbleberries as one of their designers. When Cori and I were considering which company we wanted to make our first fabric proposal to, we chose RJR. If they said no to us, we didn't even have a second company in mind that we wanted to work for. We were going to cross that bridge if we needed to.
I also look at the 11 years that I worked in my mothers store as my 'schooling' for being a fabric designer. I was always anxious to see our sales representative who had all the new samples. After a decade of looking at fabric, I could see what worked, and what didn't. Cori and I know what is needed to make a quilt, and we bring that experience with us to the design board. Each fabric is designed for a reason. In the store, there were times when we made the mistake of buying fabric that was very striking, but it turned out to be hard to work with. Often it was the coloring that was a little off, or the direction of the print made it hard to work with. We try to keep that in mind as we draw and color all of the prints.
What inspires your work? How do new ideas come to you in quiltmaking?
I am a magazine junky–finding inspiration in home dec and fashion magazines is fun for me. I am also a scrapbooker and that has really influenced my quilt design over the past few years. A quilt design can come from the little things in the background of an advertisement.
I often come up with new quilt ideas by NOT looking at other quilts. I have read and studied countless quilting books and magazines, so I am grounded in knowing what has already been done. But when I look around at things in my home or read newsstand magazines, I will find things that inspire me. It may be certain color combinations or the simple arrangement of a carpet pattern. There are thousands of subtle patterns all around us; we just need to see them and know how to translate them into a quilt layout.
We know that as young quilters, you've got great ideas about what it takes to get young people interested in quilting. Could you share some of them?
The do-it-yourself industry is huge and young people seem to be eager to try new things. We need to target this demographic differently than that of a seasoned quilter. They like "different" and they like options. That is what Myra and I try to do. Young women want an alternative to traditional design and that is what we like to do–we like to provide a different option.
I was in my early 20's when I started quilting. I like decorating and that is what attracted me to making quilts–projects that I could display in my home. We need to emphasize to young people that quilts are art. I know that some young women think of quilting as a 'grandma' thing, but once they get introduced properly to this hobby, they do enjoy it and look at it differently than they did before.
I think to get young people into quilting would be very easy: they just need to discover all the beautiful fabric that is out there. Young women are very creative, and they have many great ideas about what to do with fabric, once they just spend a little time with it.
If you could offer one piece of advice for quiltmakers today, what would it be?
Do not get stuck in a rut! Try different things: colors, fabrics, quilt designs. If it doesn't turn out or it's not your favorite, chances are it will broaden your horizons.
My advice is to not rush through your projects, but enjoy the journey. It can be very rewarding to spend just a little extra time, and make a great quilt that will last for many generations. I have seen examples where too many shortcuts were taken, and the quilt was barely hanging together.
Remember when women gathered together to quilt? It wasn't just about the quilt, it was about spending time with others and creating something beautiful, that also had memories stitched into it.
-----Cori and Myra
Cori Derksen's and Myra Harder's Garden Tiles quilt is patterned in the March/April '07 (No. 114) issue of QUILTMAKER magazine.