They say there is always more than one route to a destination. Barbara Jones, a designer for Henry Glass, and owner of QuiltSoup Pattern Company is a perfect example of one who has taken one of the more interesting routes to becoming a fabric designer and pattern maker. First, she became a molecular biologist and worked in human genetics at the University of Utah. That certainly isn’t an ordinary route, but one that seems perfect for Barbara.
So what was the beginning of this journey? Barbara, of course, had endured her adventures in sewing, like many of us have, at the hands of zealous home economics teachers who insisted our seams be beautiful and the clothing we make in class actually fit. (Who among you ever actually WORE your first home economics project?). She knew she wanted nothing to do with that kind of sewing.
She started quilting very young… 18, as a matter of fact, in preparing for her first baby she ventured into quilting at an invitation from her mother-in-law. After that first glimmer of interest she set the hobby down until her first grandchild came along when she picked up quilting again, and hasn’t stopped for the last 30 years.
Her interest peaked when she saw a beautiful quilt in a store window that caught her eye. Here was a beautiful object that was flat, and didn’t have to ‘fit’ anybody. This was her kind of sewing. She inquired about the quilt, and was encouraged to take a class, as this particular quilt was an ‘advanced’ quilt with a lone star and log cabin blocks. So she started with the class, and a couple of others.
After making a few patterns, it occurred to Barbara that she never made the quilt the same as in the picture or even followed the pattern very closely. Every piece she created was truly something that she created from inspiration from the pattern, not the pattern itself. When she discovered applique, her own techniques blossomed, and soon after Barbara was designing quilt patterns herself.
Designing quilt patterns was really just a hobby, until friends started saying they wanted her patterns, and then the hobby became a full-time job at age 51. She quit her job sequencing the human genome, and focused her efforts on designing creative quilt patterns. Seven months later she went to her first quilt market and began to sell patterns.
It seems a logical question to ask, how does one get from a molecular biology lab working on the human genome project to designing quilts? How do those two pursuits fit in the same brain? “Very easily,” says Barbara. The two tasks are very similar in approach. They both require left brain and right brain thinking. They both require tremendous precision. They both require visualizing the results of an experiment. They both require inventing the manner that will show the result of what you are investigating.
And so when did designing fabric enter into the picture? At her second quilt market Barbara was approached by four different fabric companies to design fabrics. The first experience designing fabrics wasn’t what she thought it might be, so she gave up. Then, after some persistence by one of the Henry Glass lead stylists, Barbara joined the design team of Henry Glass. That was 8 years and 25 collections ago.
Barbara begins her design process with a concept, and she starts drawing or painting with every collection she starts. For instance with QuiltCamp it was the elements of the cute ‘glampers’ or retro 1950’s glamorous campers that are everywhere now. She thought the only way she would go camping would be with her quilt friends, and she knew that quilters can also be terrific cooks, so she added the cook-out elements to the line.
The Clean Living line was inspired by a recent move Barbara made to St. George and a total re-do of her home in the mid-century modern style. She had a few of her mother’s living room pieces from the era when avocado green, harvest gold and orange ruled the country’s palette. She even has a bright orange chair in her new living room to pull it all together! Once she began thinking about that time period there were lots of elements that just aren’t around any longer, like the starburst clocks, records and old TV’s. She has found that this time period resonated with a lot of people depending on how familiar they are with those years.
Barbara professes a LOVE for color, and creating the color palette for a collection in one of her favorite parts of fabric design. “It is part of the precision of the process, to be calculating and still visionary. You know it when you see it.”And in finishing up our interview with Barbara, she offered up her life’s philosophy, “With some sacrifices and hard work you can do just about anything you want. Change your mind and you can change your life. And, have a grateful mindset. Be grateful every day.“
Henry Glass is grateful too, to have an awesome designer like Barbara Jones on our team.