Spotlight on Jo Avery
Jo Avery is arguably one of the busiest ladies in quilting. She is the owner of craft store myBearpaw which has swiftly become a go to place for crafters in Edinburgh, you can shop for fabrics, yarn and tapestry kits as well as taking a workshops in sewing, quilting, embroidery or crochet taught by Jo herself.
When she is not there Jo can be found her displaying her quilts at one of the many quilt shows across the UK, organising quilting holidays for the Stitch Gathering Retreat and writing about her upcoming projects on her must read blog mybearpaw.com.
So we were over-joyed when Jo agreed to take some time out from her schedule to take over our Festival of Quilts Instagram account and we even managed to catch a quick five minutes with her to find out her views on modern quilting.
You first business was in designing and making tapestry kits how did you make the jump to quilting?
Jo: I had actually started quilting before I discovered tapestry and when tapestry kits became my business quilting became my ‘hobby’ craft. But after a while I got more and more interested in quilting as it seemed to offer more potential for creativity. I sold the tapestry kit business but couldn’t really pursue quilting as a career at that time due to family commitments. I came back to quilting about ten years ago and as my life was then at a different stage I was able to throw myself into it.
You are known for your amazing modern quilts. Where do you get your inspiration from?
Jo: I lot of it comes from seeing other quilts, both old and new. Sometimes I will see a quilt with a really clever idea and I will start to think about how I could use that idea but for a different kind of quilt. Often the finished result looks nothing like the original inspiration, I just need that an initial spark to get going. I am also very inspired by nature and the shapes and colours around me, or by other mediums of art such as architecture and painting.
Modern quilting has been around for a long time but has only recently come into the limelight – why do you think it has taken so long for modern quilting to get the attention it deserves?
Jo: I think one of the reasons it has caught on recently is that a lot of quilters have finally got themselves on social media and the quilts and quilters they are finding there are predominantly modern, as the whole movement was started and grown through social media. It really hasn’t been around that long, not much more than a decade and was like a secret internet cult for the first few years! I do struggle also with being thought of as a modern quilter as some of my quilts (like the BOM quilt I am just finishing up for Today’s Quilter) are quite traditional. I think that traditional quilters see me as modern and really modern quilters might think me quite traditional – so I guess I swing both ways! In the end, whether we think of ourself as modern or traditional, we are all just crazy people who cut fabric up and sew it together again!
You host the Stitch Gathering Retreat in Edinburgh for modern quilters can you tell us a bit more about how it works and how the idea came about?
Jo: The original idea came after I attended the first Fat Quarterly retreat in London 5 years ago. Quilters came from all over the UK and we had the most amazing time. But it was expensive to travel and stay in Central London and I knew I wouldn’t be able to justify it every year and a lot of my quilting friends couldn’t afford to do it at all. So I decided to host a similar, though smaller event in Edinburgh so that there was something on offer at our end of the country. We started with 55 attendees and it has slowly grown to 90. This will be our 5th Stitch Gathering event in October and it seems as popular as ever, selling out after just a few weeks. It is a one-day event on a Sunday (though we always organise a pre-event dinner on the Saturday night too) with workshops, swaps, fun activities like Tombolas, lunch and a legendary goody bag full of amazing stuff from our sponsors. We have a mix of local teachers and some that come from further afield and our classes are a mix of hand and machine, beginner and intermediate. Hopefully something for everyone. But basically it is a day of friendliness and fun where like minded people get to sew together.
Happy customers at one of Jo’s Stitch Gathering Retreats
Finally what are you most looking forward to at this year’s Festival of Quilts?
Jo: I am looking forward to so much this year! Mainly it is a wonderful way of connecting with many friends and colleagues. I am staying for three days this year (my longest time yet) which means I will have time for some ‘apres show’ fun with quilting pals! I will be teaching some workshops and then I have an exciting launch happening on one of the stands (which is still too secret to mention at the moment!). I am also looking forward to seeing all the incredible quilts, not just the competition quilts but the special exhibits like the Best of QuiltCon and the Nancy Crow curated gallery, she is one of my quilting heroes so this is a must-see for me.