Jean Wells, owner of The Stitchin' Post quilt store in Sisters, Oregon, a town famous for its annual outdoor quilt show, is the author of several quiltmaking books. Along the Garden Path and Through the Garden Gate reflect Jean's love of gardening and are both published by C&T Publishing.
How did you decide to make quiltmaking a career? What led you in that direction?
I've always loved to sew and it has been a creative outlet for me since I was nine years old. I guess quiltmaking became a career when I decided to open a quilt shop in 1975. Since I had two young children it was a part time career. A couple of years later I wrote a book "Patchworthy Apparel" for Yours Truly and that cemented the deal. I feel so fortunate to be doing something I love as a career.
What inspires your work? How do new ideas come to you in quiltmaking?
Nature, and gardening in particular inspire me. I get so many ideas on color, design, and composition from what I see around me. There is something so relaxing to me about digging and planting and weeding the garden. I plan quilts at that time. Ideas usually come to me when I am not involved in the process of actually quilting. I like the thinking and planning that goes into a quilt. The decision making is the fun part for me. I do a lot of planning in the summer months when I am gardening and the store is busy. Then when fall comes and the garden is put to bed I start to quilt and quilt all winter. About January I start getting garden catalogues so I dream about the garden that I will have that summer.
You are involved in so many facets of quiltmaking--operating a retail shop, writing books, designing quilts and fabric, teaching, overseeing a whole-town quilt festival! . How are you able to manage all these and what challenges do you enjoy from each of them?
Managing all that I am involved in--probably the best response is that I don't do all of the tasks all of the time. First of all I have a fabulous staff at The Stitchin' Post and I believe in empowering my staff to do the jobs that they are hired for and I spend lots of time training them to do it the way I feel is best for the business. That allows me to do other projects at the same time. I try to have "key people in key places", whether it is someone to help me with sewing when I am on a deadline or someone to assist me on quilt show preparations. Learning to delegate and do what I really need to do works for me. It seems like everything I do all relates to each other so there is crossover. The greatest challenge is to pull it all off with the style in which it is intended. I like a job well done and don't like to be involved with things that are not well done. I guess I like new projects and most of all I love to share quilting and teach quilting. Most everything I do relates to sharing information and ideas in one way or another.
If you could offer one piece of advice for quiltmakers today, what would it be?
Be true to yourself when it comes to trusting your judgement in pattern and fabric selection. Look at things you like but be willing to look for your own voice and display that voice in your work. There is so much personal satisfaction to be had in the quiltmaking process. It feeds the soul.
Visit C&T Publishing for more information on Jean's books.