The last two decades have been quite the ride for quilter, artist, and author Sherri Lynn Wood, who we were delighted to host last weekend in the Greenhouse, and we just had to get the full story! From selling quilts at a farmer's market less than 20 miles from Spoonflower's Durham HQ to putting the finshing touches on the manuscript for her first book, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters, Sherri shares her inspiration, creative process, and some of the steps along the way to her brilliant quilting career in this brief interview.
Sherri Lynn Wood is busy these days, to say the least! After a marathon writing session to finish a draft of her first book, The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters, due out next spring through STC Craft, she jetted from her current home in Oakland, CA, all the way to Durham, NC, for an east coast "tour" of teaching gigs that kicked off with an amazing lecture and workshop set right here in the Spoonflower Greenhouse. We were beyond excited to host Sherri Lynn Wood back in the area where her quilting journey began, and we couldn't help asking a few questions–7 to be exact–about the inspiring steps (and quilts) along the way!
Spoonflower co-founder Stephen Fraser and Sherri show off her Mod-Mood Quilt after a tour of our offices.
Read on for the full interview with Sherri Lynn Wood!
1. When and how did you start quilting?
Sherri: I began selling checkerboard quilts at the local Farmers' Market in Carrboro NC, more than 20 years ago. I loved to sew and I loved fabric. I had a great eye for color and patterns. I thought it would be a good way to make extra money. I sold my first quilt the second week out. Within a year I saw the first exhibition of African-American improvisational quilts, Who’d A Thought It, a show organized by Eli Leon at the Ackland Art Museum at UNC-Chapel Hill. It changed the course of my life. I began improvising in patchwork, which led to my professional career as an artist.
I remember selling my first improv piece for $1500 at the farmers’ market. I don’t have a good image of it but it was similar in design to this but square and in more primary colors. I couldn’t sleep that night I was so excited– my voice and vision was valued by someone I didn’t even know. I was hooked.
2. How did quilting become your career?
And now my career as an artist and quilt maker has come full circle. Two years ago, just as I began working on my first book about improvisational process and patchwork, I met Eli Leon at a talk I gave to the East Bay Modern Quilt Guild. He was in the audience and I was talking about how much his exhibition influenced me. We became friends and visit regularly to talk about the quits in his collection– some of the very same quilts hanging in the museum over 20 years ago! So much of his knowledge on the topic of improvisational aesthetics in African-American textiles has informed my writing as well as my quilt making. I’ve been given an incredible opportunity to translate some of Eli’s knowledge and combine it with my own into a practical format for modern quilters to learn by. I turned in my manuscript last week! The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters should be available through STC Craft in early 2015. I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. I am incredibly grateful.
Rainbow Cloud Quilt by Sherri Lynn Wood
3. What is the sewing notion you can't live without?
I just LOVE these little thread braids. I did a whole blog post about them because I couldn’t find them anymore, and readers from China and Canada both sent me thread braids. I love the online quilting community.
Sherri's must-have: bright woven thread braids.
4. What inspires your work?
I live in the inner city of East Oakland. My neighborhood is pretty rough and very colorful. I’m surrounded by graffiti. The exterior walls, fences and pillar are a constantly changing canvas of juxtaposed color and shapes. All I have to do is look out my window for inspiration. It’s the energy of the street.
We were excited to be a small part of Sherri's inspiration for her Daisy quilt!
5. What song best describes your creative process?
Bicycle [Race] by Queen, but I like this version by John Hollenbech, on his jazz album Songs I Like a Lot.
"I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike, I want to ride my bicycle. I want to ride it where I like!"
This song describes the freedom, will and joy I feel when I’m improvising.
Improvising on the fly, Sherri instructs students in arranging their curvy quilt tops at last Saturday's workshop.
6. Describe a day in your studio in just 3 words.
Chaos, Attention, Rhythm
Sherri's workspace while preparing one of the many projects for her book manuscript.
7. Any tips for folks interested in starting to sew or quilt?
Well these are my tips for people interested in improvised sewing and quilting, get curious, do what scares you, and evaluate your experience of making instead of judging what you make.
Sherri and the ladies who participated in her Get Your Curve On! workshop in the Greenhouse.
With Sherri's amazing advice in mind, here's to letting go and just creating quilts, crafts, and art from whatever it is that inspires you!
Thank you so much, Sherri Lynn Wood, for sharing an inspiring weekend with us!