For today’s installment of the Crafting a Book series, I am excited to share with you the insights of Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr. Weeks and Bill are among the pioneers of the modern quilting movement, and if you are a modern quilter you are no doubt already familiar with their work.
If, somehow, you have not yet run across their books or other materials, you should absolutely seek them out. They are the owners of Modern Quilt Studio (formerly Fun Quilts), have authored several books–including The Modern Quilt Workshop, Transparency Quilts, Quiltmaker’s Color Workshop and, with their daughter, the forthcoming A Kid’s Guide to Sewing. Their work has frequently garnered national attention.
One of my favorite things about their book Quilts Made Modern and about Weeks’s Craftsy course, Designing Modern Quilts, is that they delve into the design process as much as the technical side of quilt making. The lessons one takes away are as applicable to designing original quilts as they are to following pre-written patterns.
If you can’t tell already, I am a huge fan of Bill’s and Weeks’s work. I was incredibly excited and flattered when they agreed to take part in this interview for the series. I hope you enjoy what they had to say!
How did you initially get interested in publishing your books?
We decided in 2001, when no one used “modern” and “quilting” in the same sentence, that we would need to write a book explaining the concept of modern quilting if we wanted to build an audience for our work.
What did the proposal process look like for you–any tips for readers thinking of proposing their own books?
There wasn’t really a proposal process. Rockport Publishing called us and asked us to write a book for them. We had a good presence in the design world and they had seen our work published in various newspapers and magazines so they came to us.
What was the writing process like for you?
Very fluid and very natural. We were just writing what Bill and I had been discussing for years so it came very easily.
What were some of your favorite parts of the process?
We liked having a lot of ideas in one place and we were excited that the first book was soon translated into both German and French, which is unusual for quilting books.
Three times we’ve been asked to write a book in two months.
Were there any aspects that you found surprising?
We were surprised that the first book had an end cap display at Barnes and Noble in NYC, that friends in Brazil and Bill’s sister in France could find it but that we rarely saw it quilt shops. It was 2002 and it was before Amy Butler had a fabric line to give you an idea of where things were in the quilting industry. Quilts Made Modern and Transparency Quilts were easier to find in quilt shops because modern quilting had found a larger audience by the time those books were published.
I’ve always heard that the deadlines in craft book publishing are intense, and now I’m experiencing that first hand. How did you juggle making so many projects in this type of time frame?
I used to manage large construction projects so I am accustomed to breaking down big projects into stages and interim deadlines. I used a massive 4-month wall calendar and broke down the writing and the projects into interim deadlines. There are times when we’ve had a job to make 22 queen size quilts for a B&B in 12 weeks so we’re accustomed to managing time and deadlines. Our deadlines extend to 2015 right now so a book schedule is usually no big deal to us.
What was it like working with a team of editors?
It all depends on the team you get. For five of our books, the editing process was a piece of cake; minimal changes and everyone was on the same page. For one of the books, it felt like a marathon.
What kind of design input did you have in producing your book?
At Rockport, they allowed us to fully design the cover. At C&T, we gave input and were happy with the results.
What was it like working with a design team?
We worked with Kristy Zacharias at C&T and she just does a beautiful job. She designed all of our books at C&T and we love everything she’s ever done for us. She’s a rock star.
How did you promote your book once it was released?
We’ve done blog tours, Skype session giveaways and this summer a West Coast Road Trip. I think the best way to promote it is to sell it at quilt shows and to make sure people see the quilts in person, whether it’s lecturing, vending at shows or teaching. In our second book, Modern Quilt Workshop (2005) an online quilting bee began around the book and that was wonderful.
Are there any other parts of the publishing experience that you found particularly interesting?
Bill is a professor of graphic design so he has strong feelings about the way pattern instructions are communicated to readers. His interest and mine in experimenting with the visual communication of quilt construction led us to begin publishing our own magazine Modern Quilts Illustrated in 2011. That magazine is now sold worldwide at quilt shops and JoAnn Fabrics.
If you are interested in hearing more from Weeks and Bill, you can find them in the following places on the web: