The Spoonflower staff members unfortunate enough to draw me (Stephen F., Spoonflower co-founder) as a teammate this year were Kelly B. and Jesse, two fine individuals whom I fear deserved much better. When we first sat down to talk about what our quilt project would look like, I was, as usual, full of terrible ideas that if executed would only have rained humiliation down upon our heads.
Kelly described herself as a novice quilter, and Jesse and I were quick to admit that we were not going to be any help in this department, so we decided right away to go with a cheater quilt option. The only big question, then, was theme. Jesse suggested that we do something related to Durham, which is the North Carolina city where Spoonflower is located, and where many of our staffers live.
Durham, for those of you elsewhere in the world, is an interesting city. It grew up as the capital of the tobacco industry (and the tobacco industry's bankers), but is also home to Duke University and Duke Hospitals, and has become known in recent years – along with the surrounding Research Triangle Park area (RTP) -- as a hotbed for technology startups. Durham is very close to Chapel Hill, home of the University of North Carolina's flagship campus – and also to Raleigh, which is North Carolina's state capital. Durham is known as a 'grittier' city than its neighbors, which to some suggests higher rates of crime and poverty, but to many others serves as a sort of rallying cry that Durham is more welcoming to artists, food truck entrepreneurs, musicians and the like. It's not uncommon to see bumper stickers around town that say "Keep It Dirty, Durham." Kelly and I agreed that creating a quilt to celebrate Durham was a great idea, so we talked about trying to use an iconic image of the city like the Durham bull or the Lucky Strike tower downtown as a central focus.
A week after our first meeting I found myself attending an event at the Durham Library where I saw a young man show a slide that included a sign erected by the Durham electric company in downtown Durham in 1913 to promote the city. It read, spelled out in with 1,200 light bulbs, Durham | Renowned the World Around. Surrounding this were the words Health, Progress, Wealth, Success." (You can see the original photo on the blog Endangered Durham.) We decided this would be a perfect image around which to base our Durham quilt.
I took to Google and tracked down a high-resolution scan of the Durham city directory from 1929, a public domain document full of interesting trivia about the city, as well as old advertisements. I combined some of the pages of the directory with a couple of old ads and a 1919 map of Durham to create the fabric for the quilt back.
We chose a color palette we liked and set the quilt up at the size of a typical baby quilt, which is 36" wide by 52" long. Jesse and Kelly made a brilliant last minute decision to add a sort of background layer to the image on the front of the quilt that included the lines of the old map of Durham we used. Kelly ended up quilting not only the outlines of the text, but the street outlines from the old map on the front, which created an amazing effect and texture on both sides of the quilt.
In another blow to my team, I managed to schedule the staff challenge to start the week of the SXSW Interactive Festival, which means that I've been out of town while Jesse and Kelly B. (mostly Kelly B.) have been scrambling to get the quilt finished in time for voting to open up on Thursday.
A positive side-effect of my absence from the office, however, is that I am also absent from our team photos. In place of a photo of me, I'm including a photo of a van decorated as a giant stuffed rabbit that is parked in front the Austin Convention Center today.
Great job, Kelly and Jesse! Voilà- behold our finished staff project, the "Durham, Renowned the World Around Quilt:"