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Amy Ellis - Inspired Ideas
Amy Ellis - Inspired Ideas
My creative mind is constantly creating inspired ideas.
This was a recent feature on Amy's blog and social media - Creative Affirmations.
Quilt Festival - or QuiltFest - as it's become known on Instagram. Curated Quilts, a spectacular journal for modern quilters. Improv Challenges. Quilt Pattern Writing courses.
Moda's Michelle White is participating in QuiltFest2022 - @michellewhitemakes.
While there are so many "descriptions" that fit Amy - quilter, designer, author, publisher, business-owner, mom, wife, and the list goes on - what always comes through to me is that her energy is spent building a community of creatives, and quilters. She encourages, celebrates and promotes others, making them part of a bigger collective. She celebrates creativity in all it's forms and styles, and has a knack for empowering others to try new things. If there is one thing I love most about QuiltFest, it is that so many people share their ideas, their triumphs, and their stumbles. (I won't call them "fails" because many of us learn the most when something doesn't quite work how we thought it would.)
So it shouldn't be a surprise that I was excited to chat with Amy about a couple of her adventures, QuiltFest and Curated Quilts in particular. I had a lot of questions for her.
Where did the idea for Quiltfest come from? (And when was the first Quiltfest?)
The online Quilt Festival started all the way back in 2009! Like many others, I was blogging at the time, and was enamored with the photos from Quilt Market. So I created a way to celebrate the quilts we all were making, and not focus so much on what we were missing out on at Market. It happened in the Spring and the Fall, and when I entered the industry as an author, a few years later I was balancing both.
In 2016 I tested the Festival on Instagram. So many were asking to include a link from Instagram as they were no longer blogging, and I was already loving the community on Instagram. I posted a week of prompts that was an instant success, and I knew celebrating National Quilting Month every March was a better fit for the event than timing it with Quilt Market.
Amy has all of her Quilt Festival blog posts Archived here - Amy's Creative Side Blogger's Quilt Festival.
Did the idea come "fully formed", or was it a process of how to make it all work?
It has definitely been a process. Testing out different ideas and seeing how people respond. When I moved to a month-long event on Instagram, I had a sponsor a day for the first few years. That was a lot of fun, but SO much work to coordinate. In 2020, when everything shut down in March, that I decided to simplify it for the years to come. Now I limit it to five sponsors, andwe have weekly giveaways, meaning that I can enjoy the Festival as much as everyone else!
Prompts for QuiltFest 2022.
To me, it seemed like an immediate, huge success - folks loved it. Did it feel like that to you?
Yes, I’ve always had a great response, and felt that it was important to continue. I love the community online, and helping people with like interests find each other is so fun.
Year One to Year Two - did you make any changes?
How far in advance do you start planning for the next Quiltfest? Sponsors. Prompts. I have a working/living document that is always in flex for the Festival, along with a list of sponsors to reach out to. Generally I start actively planning in January for the March event.
IG QuiltFest Day 8 - Scrappy Finish.
How many of the prompts change year-to-year? From my observation, it seems like there are a few new ones each year, but maybe you've just switched up the order, or the wording.
I ask for feedback near the end of each Festival to see if the "creative hive mind" has ideas for prompts, and I will incorporate a few that feel right. However, there are definitely fan favorites that are always going to be included. Moving to a smaller number of sponsors, I’ve adjusted the placement of the more popular prompts to the days that there are giveaways.
Do you have a sense of how many people participate through the whole month? How many drop in and out?
There is a big flux in the numbers and it is harder to tell on Instagram how many people are participating. Using the day specific hashtags helps to get an idea of the numbers, my guess is 1500-2000 people are participating, and I know that lots more are just watching and taking in all the quilts.
For a quilter/maker who is on IG just for fun... what would you say to someone about why they should participate?
I encourage everyone to participate so they can get to know other quilters with similar style/likes/taste in quilts. Making friends online has never been more necessary, and its so simple when you have a shared love of fabric. The quilt you made will inspire someone else, and sharing your journey will too.
For a quilter/maker who is on IG to build a business... why they should participate?
If you have a business it’s an easy way to attract your ideal audience. Quilters that connect with you visually, will no doubt tap Follow, and then you have the opportunity to build that relationship over time.
And because I'm always interested in the lessons... What did you wish you'd know when you did the first Quiltfest?
I can’t think of anything! It’s been such a blast and I’ve learned a lot along the way about being a cheerleader for quilters everywhere.
Curated Quilts. Issue No. 19 is coming soon.
Amy! Starting any new venture - adventure - is exciting, challenging, scary as all get-out, and a big risk. (I think that's the fun of it.) When I saw the promos for the first issue, I remember thinking how cool it looked, how THIS was what quilt magazines "should" be. When the issue arrived, it was even better than that.
Thank you! We think of it as a journal, because it is so much more than a magazine.
Cover of Issue No. 18 - Collaboration.
So... did you know in your heart that this was going to work?
I think I did! I have a partner with a ton of publication and graphic design experience, and we both have a love of the modern quilt community. We weren’t sure about all the details, but felt that this is what was missing in the quilt publication world.
Content Page for Issue No. 18 - Collaboration.
How close to your original idea and vision was the first issue? Has that vision changed now that you're on Issue 19?
It was pretty close. We brainstormed what we wanted to include and how we were going to fill 96 pages every three months. We’ve had a few variations, usually less patterns and more articles if the theme is not conducive to pattern ideas, e.g., Youth.
Gallery for Issue No. 19 - Red.
But our Gallery includes twenty quilts, five articles - including a historical look, Creative Reset and Trends, and the Mini Quilt Challenge. That has been a reader favorite since day one. This was an inspired idea to build community around each individual issue - we have 100-150 submission each time and publish 24. For many of the artists, this is their first publication!
Mini Challenge for Issue No. 19 - Red.
Where do you hope to be for Issue 39?
I hope to have a more streamlined process with plenty of content to curate. A larger distribution network, and more staff to help manage the details.
How far in advance do you plan the contents of each issue?
We usually have a year to 18 months of topics, but what is actually included is booked about four months in advance.
Cover for Issue No. 19 - Red.
As before - biggest surprise?
We did it! and people were excited to support the idea - now we need to hurry up and do it again!
Content Pag for Issue No. 19 - Red.
And of course... what did you wish you'd know when you did the first issue of Curated Quilts?
There are so many details that go into each journal! Coordinating details has never been a problem for me, but now I’m also interacting with 50+ artists for each issue. We quickly learned to set up google forms for information intake, and now know that some email providers will shrink hi-resolution images at times. It can be tricky when working with artists from around the world, but we love that we don’t have to limit it.
Shipping is the other piece that I’ve learned too much about. Thankfully since we don’t have any ads we can use the media rate in the US but shipping abroad is expensive!
Is there anything you're happy you didn't know?
How much work it is - because it is so rewarding, and fun to put together.
If you're not a follower of Amy's blog or Instagram, we hope we've inspired you to give them a look.
One of my favorite Creative Affirmations from Amy's Instagram.
If Amy's there, we're right behind her, because we know it'll be great.