We love Etsy, it’s filled with handmade joy. We’ve been allowed to rummage through their blog archives and share our findings with you. This month’s article focuses on Denyse Schmidt, quiltmaker.
Trade shows are all about garnering attention, and if booths could talk, you’d hardly be able to hear yourself think as you cruised the aisles. “Pssst. Hold on! You, yeah, you. Hey, buddy! Over here!” The booths at last month’s International Quilt Market in Kansas City were no exception. Quilts and fabric in colors from taupe to turquoise to tangerine, pleated and ruffled, in prints and solids demanded attention at booth after booth. There were displays that put rooms from Apartment Therapy to shame, concocted from hand-painted walls, stacks of mid-century modern chairs upholstered in designer cloth, and fabric-covered everything – lampshades, hassocks, bulletin boards, and books.
In the midst of this textile abundance sat quilter and designer Denyse Schmidt, hand-sewing quilt blocks. Though she’s been on the quilting scene since 1996, this was the first time she’s had a booth at the bi-annual Market. Her display was low-key; a simple, white wall tacked with the images that inspired her new fabric line, Chicopee – a vintage map, line drawings, photos of the Brady Bunch and Sonny and Cher. Her quilt patterns rotated in a wire rack and quilts from her new book were folded on a rustic ladder or stacked on chairs. The booth resisted braying, “Hold on now! Take a look!” Even so, everyone did.
In part, that’s because Schmidt is something of a legend in the quilting world. That lofty status came after years pursuing other careers – she’s been a modern dancer, sewed ballet costumes and religious garments, and after graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), she worked as a graphic designer.
Along the way, Schmidt found herself attracted to old quilts. “They’re so full of stories and you wonder about the person who made them,” she says. She was especially drawn to those stitched with random fabrics, whose seam lines don’t meet exactly. “There is so much beauty and personality in the wonkiness- there’s a kind of looseness in them, like a hand-drawn line,” she says.
Mingling her own clean aesthetic with these off-kilter coverlets, she created a line of quilts and began selling them through interiors shows. She described her work as “modern quilting” to overcome assumptions interior designers might have about what constitutes a quilt.