Meet Barbara. She’s the owner of b/perrino Quilts on Etsy, where she runs an awesome business selling uber-modern quilts, pillows, and collages.
We’ve profiled quilters and designers before on RST, but we wanted to reach out to someone who makes a living selling her creations. It’s hard work running a business, taking custom orders, marketing yourself and your products, and doing all the behind-the-scenes work (like, you know, sewing!), so a little celebration is in order for these makers and all that they do. Barbara is a perfect example; her products are beautifully designed (all by her) and handmade. I especially love her keen eye for color, and how she is able to speak volumes with solids. Her designs are bold, happy, and a little bit in-your-face (she even says in her shop profile, “These aren’t your grandma’s quilts!”). That’s right in line with our “bitches-and-stitches” worldview, is it not? She’s a kindred spirit. Here Barbara shares a bit of her process and inspiration, as well as some of her fabulous work!
Barbara, what’s your sewing story?
I’m a Midwest girl by chance (Ohio) and an East Coast girl by choice (Rhode Island by way of New York). I’m also a product of the 1970’s, an era that continues to reverberate in most everything for me. My first professional creative outlet was photography. I stumbled into quilt design about 10 years ago and, like so many others, was completely hooked. The only real sewing instruction I’ve had was in 7th grade Home Economics class. I don’t really consider myself an accomplished seamstress by any stretch. I spent many years as a professional picture framer and the need for precision and care of materials in that field translates very nicely to what I’m doing now. Measure twice, cut once is a very good rule to live by. That, and the Golden Rule, of course.
What’s your quilting style?
I’ve never not worked from my own designs. I work almost exclusively with solid fabrics and prefer simple, straight quilting lines. I’ve done a little oil painting and suppose I employ a similar approach in both mediums, resulting more often in a central “image” as opposed to patterns or repeats.
Where do you find inspiration?
Well, if I’m paying enough attention, there is inspiration everywhere. I often notice color palettes or combinations first, then lines and shapes. These elements pepper my mental notes. There are so many artists whose work I will never tire of (Giorgio Morandi’s still lifes, Alex Katz’s watercolors, and Maira Kalman’s illustrations to name a few). Specific quilt works that I really admire include those of Marilyn Henrion and Nancy Crow. The very first quilt that made me stop in my tracks was the piece that Denyse Schmidt created for the American Folk Art Museum called “One Big Dog/Homage to Bill Traylor”. It was at that moment that I realized how limitless the possibilities were for working with fabric; quilting in particular.
How has your experience been selling on Etsy?
I enjoy selling on Etsy very much—they’re like the silent business partner that keeps track of everything that I would never be able to do by myself. I started on a whim a few years ago, and am so glad I did. The environment, in general, is one of mutual respect and support, and I’ve interacted with people from all across the globe. I think that part is pretty cool. Custom collaborations can be very gratifying, too, especially when working with people who think they have no design/creative skills. Turns out, almost everyone does!
If you could give one piece of advice to someone just starting to sell her work, what would it be?
Besides the obvious (work hard, don’t cut corners, and never underestimate the power of communicating) I would say that the way the work is presented is incredibly important. Good clean product photographs with the occasional style shot will attract bloggers and shoppers alike.
What project (either in-progress or completed) are you most proud of?
Hmmm, most proud of? I’m not sure. I am beyond flattered, though, when people take the time to compliment my work, or send a note of appreciation. I have started a series that I’m excited about pursuing – work heavily inspired by the textiles and paintings of Sonia Delaunay. The first in this series is to be included in a modern quilt exhibit in Tokyo this fall. So, there’s that. 🙂
Thanks so much, Barbara! Happy sewing!