Spotlight: Pat Sloan, Quilt and Fabric Designer
Pat Sloan’s focus on quilting has been nonstop for the 30 years she has been creating with fabric, the last 20 as a busy full-time business. With a prior career in computers, Pat was one of the first quilters to launch a website, blazing a trail for others to follow. Not surprisingly, she maintains an active online presence with sew-alongs, tutorials, block-of-the-month projects, a YouTube channel and, well, you get the idea!
How did you get started quilting?
When I worked in computers one of the ladies on my staff, Gwen, suggested that I learn to quilt. She signed me up for the 12 week all by hand ‘Learn to Quilt’ class, and I loved it!
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When did your interest in quilting become a passion?
I imagine many people are like this – a passion sneaks up on you. I loved doing the quilting and jumped in with both feet. Since I have done almost every craft there is, I did not expect to still love quilting and be immersed in it so fully for over 30 years. But when did I realize it? Maybe when I knew it was the business I’d been looking for.
What was the turning point when the business side of your art really took off?
I created a business on purpose. I quit my full time job of 20 years in computers and started my business. My husband also quit his full time job to work with me. It was not an accidental business; I researched the industry and developed the type of company I wanted.
How do you balance your creative life with running a business?
It is all one. I work on deadlines, so I create to my deadlines. I like to work like this, creating with defined purpose.
Tell us about your blog and website. What do you hope people will gain by visiting?
My website is my home base where anyone can find out what I’m working on. I started my business when hardly anyone even had a website. It was built in 1998, maybe the first quilting website. With most people online now, searching and using websites is the common way to find businesses, information and techniques.
Of all the people you have interviewed on your podcast, who would you most like to follow around for a day?
It was a lot of fun to run a weekly podcast for 10 years. I interviewed 2 to 4 people each week. What I’d like to do is spend some time with my very creative friend Roseann Kermes who was a frequent guest. We have been friends a long time, only seeing each other at business events. We have never had a few days to just hang out.
When it comes to creating, are you more of a planner or an improviser?
100% planner. I was born with a schedule in my hand.
How do you make the leap from an idea in your head to the art you produce?
Since I run a lot of projects and do a lot of designs each year, I’m working to that schedule. When it is time for a project to develop, I sit down and do that, then take it to fabric for the quilt.
On the rare occasion that I’m doing a challenge piece or a family quilt, there is still that schedule that keeps everything moving.
Who or what has inspired/influenced/empowered you?
Nancy Crow Workshop – as a very new quilter I was looking for something besides traditional patchwork. When I saw the Nancy Crow exhibit at the Renwick Gallery in DC I was captivated and thrilled to see fabric used for quilts in a totally non-traditional manner. I then had the opportunity to take a 3-day workshop with her and learned how to work in a new way. What we now call improvisational, but it was not called that then.
Gwen Marston – I took her process workshop that showed me how to think about creating original appliqué designs.
Red & White Quilt Exhibit in NYC took my breath away. I love red and white and to see such a brilliant display of so many quilts was exciting and rejuvenating for my soul.
How has your work changed over time?
Being in business 20 years, my look has evolved from more simplistic style with lots of folk art appliqué to more patchwork.
How does your studio organization contribute to your work process?
I like to be tidy and organized. My home is very small and we run the business out it, so keeping things in their place is key.
What are the indispensable tools and materials in your studio? How do they improve your work?
Being a quilter I’m pretty basic. My Babylock Solari, OLFA mats and cutters, gorgeous Aurifil thread, Oliso irons…. And Shipping boxes to send my quilts to the ‘spa’ to be longarm quilted by my friends Cindy and Dennis.
What is your favorite lesser-known tool for your trade?
My tools are pretty normal. I do like my rolling carts.
Have you taken something designed for another use and repurposed it for your studio?
Not really. I use quilt tools and office furniture.
Do you use a sketchbook or journal?
When my design software was new to me I did a lot more sketching on pieces of paper and notepads. But years ago that changed, so I use my computer to design. I do still sketch a little on paper to get an idea going.
What plays in the background while you work? Silence? Music, audiobooks, podcasts, movies? If so, what kind?
Usually nothing. I will sometimes play jazz or salsa when I’m sewing.
How do you get unstuck creatively?
If I’m stuck it is because I’m doing too much writing. If the business side of my brain is doing all the work then it is hard to call up my creative side.
How many UFOs do you have? Do you have a system for keeping them under control?
There are a lot of unfinished projects here with no system, ha! I do have all the quilts that need binding together, all the quilt tops that need to be quilted are together. I usually do a list once a year and forget to update it, then do the list again the next year. For a group nudge, I host UFO finishes on a regular basis with my community. That is when I focus on one to move it forward or finish it. If I need a ‘Tom Sawyer’ binding party, I’ll provide the pizza instead of paint!
Tell us about a challenging piece. What were the obstacles and how did you get past them?
That is a hard question as I really don’t have anything that has stumped or blocked me in a very long time. Years ago when I only had a few years of experience, I had a project that I wanted to add appliqué to, but I didn’t know how. So that got put away.
But a challenging ‘time in my life’ has been this summer when I tripped and broke both of my wrists and some bones in my hands. I had no use of my hands and arms for 2 months. My entire world stopped as I could not do much. This challenge is still going on for me and it has been over 3 months since my fall. I’m still working on recovering my range of motion and my strength. I called in a lot of friends to help me keep my work projects moving, and I do my daily videos to connect to my community.
When you have time to create for yourself, what kinds of projects do you make?
I like to putter in my garden, bake and travel. I look forward to my wrists healing so I can get back to those activities until we can travel again.
Where can quilters find you?
Sign up for my emails then join me at my fun Facebook Group and watch my Daily Videos!
Interview with Pat Sloan published September 2020
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