The current issue of The Professional Quilter features a profile of IAPQ member Mary Kerr. Mary has fashioned a career in our industry from her love of vintage textiles. Here’s an excerpt of the article by Eileen Doughty.
Why do vintage textiles (textiles from a previous era) hold such a strong appeal to you?
I have always loved vintage fabrics – their stories, patterns, colors. What I enjoy most about using them is the challenge of working with the materials on hand – what can I create to honor this piece?
I grew up with quilts but did not start making them myself until 1986, when my daughter was born. I spent a lot of time with my grandmothers, asking questions and making every mistake in the book. In 1997, I started teaching; my first class was a pieced shirt!
You use the term “compilation quilt” to describe your work.
A “compilation quilt” is anything that has been created using fabrics, blocks or textiles from different time periods. I marry several eras of materials and love seeing the mix of styles and color that span several generations.
How did you grow your business?
My business focus evolved along with my family circumstances. I have been an active military wife and a stay-at-home mom. When my children were small, I taught classes locally and provided restoration and repair services. As my children grew up and needed less care (more worry, but less hand-holding), I expanded into the regional teaching and lecture market and studied to become a certified American Quilt Society appraiser. My serious traveling did not start until my husband was no longer on active duty (read: gone most of the time) and my children were leaving home.
Although I did not have a specific mentor, I did (and still do) surround myself with strong, active women. We can learn a tremendous amount from each other and find a constant source of support. Today, we call this networking.
How have you come to be seen as a professional in a field that the general public might view more as a hobby?
If I want to be viewed as a professional (in both the quilt and business world) then I have a responsibility to behave in a professional manner, approach my dealings as a professional and learn what is expected in order to be taken seriously in either world. I have found that people respond to me in the manner that I present myself. If I do not take myself seriously as a businesswoman, how can I expect the rest of the world to do so?
The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business. Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership and join here.