I Am GenQ: Carrie Bloomston

melissa • August 16, 2011 • 10 Comments

Fueled by gratitude, inspiration from her children and a loving acceptance of mistakes, sewist Carrie Bloomston is building a pattern and design business by reaching out to other stitching enthusiasts who also love fabric and the handmade vibe.

Although Carrie’s business, SUCH Designs, is still pretty young, her cred list is pretty long. She’s also a teacher, blogger, muralist and abstract painter, with a degree from Rhode Island School of Design. And having run a mural painting business, she’s a veteran small business owner.

Detail from Wonky Little Houses

The Princess & The Pea puppet set

Her lively, colorful patterns for children’s puppets (don’t miss the newest set, The Princess & The Pea), T-shirt flower jewelry, and her Wonky Little Houses Quilt and Pillow have a joyful, lighthearted appeal.

Carrie lives in Phoenix with her husband Kris Keul, a talented sculptor and painter in his own right who is studying to be a psychologist; son Ronan, 5 ½, and daughter Lucie, 2.  Those two little ones are where all her ideas come from, says Carrie. In fact, after years of creating with paint and brush, Carrie says started sewing when she was pregnant with Luci because of a hormone-fueled inspiration.

“There was there a voice…’you must start sewing right now!’” she says.

So Carrie and a friend crashed a sewing group of older women gathered at the Bernina Connection, a local dealership.  She says they wanted to sew reusable food bags—the kind lined with food-safe, eco-friendly vinyl—however, but that the friendships they formed with the other sewers were more successful than the food bag project. She later took some classes there, and began bringing in some of her original designs to show the group. That’s when the shop owner, Val, said she wanted to sell Carrie’s patterns and have her teach.

SUCH Designs was born after a tough time for the Keul/Bloomston family. In less than two years, Kris lost his father to cancer, Ronan was treated with chemotherapy for a rare medical condition, the couple’s mural business faltered due to the economy and their 14-year-old dog died. Rebound has been full of sweet rewards, though.

“My vibrant manifestation of life in my business is a direct response to that,” Carrie says. “The gratitude that we walk in in this family is what really grounds us.”

When she’s not designing or playing with fabric, Carrie is playing with Legos in her son’s bedroom. In fact, that’s probably where you can find the whole Keul-Bloomston family, if you dropped by some afternoon.

“I spend 3 hours a day playing with Legos. It is totally what I do: mom and Lego-playing person,” she says.  For her son, Ronan, it’s his expression of choice, and for Carrie, it’s a way to connect.  The whole family, in fact, finds contentment, she says, perched on ridiculously tiny stools around the Lego table in Ronan’s room.

“It’s quiet, nobody’s whining, we’re all just sitting, working,” she says. But sewing leaves an indelible impression on Carrie’s Lego creations. (Check out the itty-bitty Lego Bernina on her blog. She’s had so many comments on it that she says she’s writing a tutorial for this!)

Carrie by the quotes

On how she came up with her business’ name: “The name SUCH has been in my brain since my early 20s and I never knew what I was going to do with it. When I decided to do this thing, I knew I had to use it. If I say, ‘That is a cute bag,” it means one thing.  If I say ‘That is SUCH a cute bag’” it completely changes the nature of what I said. It makes all the other words brighter and more meaningful. That’s a little bit what I intend to do with my designs and my business….and what I’ve already gotten out of the modern craft movement.”

On how many Legos they really have: “Oh, it’s a problem. We have definitely thousands and thousands. I counted the little instruction maps, and we have over 70 of those maps, which means we have purchased or been given over 70 kits. That is just not right. It’s kind of like having a stash!”

On teaching others to sew: “When I teach, I say–first thing—‘I’m going to learn more from you than you will learn from me.’  I’m not holding my head high with arrogance. I really am humbled to be there to begin with. I’m really grateful and it’s so much fun for me.”

On the two most important lessons she learned in art school: “Presentation is everything. And it is. If you make a huge mess, you’re not going to be able to express yourself in a way that people will hear you. And then the other thing (is) you can’t really abstract something unless you know what it is.  For example, you can’t make an abstract painting of an apple without making a real painting of an apple.

On mistakes in sewing: “Mistakes are some of the freshest and most vibrant moments in my sewing. Maybe this would not work in a traditional quilt, but in what I’m doing, if I make a mistake, I find a way to work with it and I usually find that something fresh and interesting will come from it.”

On juggling a young family and a young business: “It’s really really not easy right now for me, figuring out how to manage all these things…but I think its really a normal, human state for the modern mom. But I am so inspired and grounded by the time I spend with my children.”

On the interest she’s received in her designs: “The community of people who have supported me all along are exactly the same people who encouraged me when I was just peeking in. I think it is the most benevolent supportive community anyone can be a part of.”

 Photography by Jill McNamara

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  • Jean • 13 years ago
    COMMENT #1

    Loving those wonky houses and that lego Bernina is just totally presh! I’m following her as well. I’m loving your blogmag… keep the good stuff coming!

  • Sarah Craig • 13 years ago
    COMMENT #2

    What a wonderful interview! Thanks for introducing me to Carrie and SUCH designs – love the little Princess and Pea puppets!! And those wonky houses!! So much inspiration here……

  • Tess Holland • 13 years ago
    COMMENT #3

    I was lucky enough to meet Carrie at the Long Beach Quilt Festival, and she is such a warm, lovely person! I cannot wait to make my Wonky Little Houses Pillow…

  • Lisa Sipes • 13 years ago
    COMMENT #4

    I really love that Wonky Little Houses quilt. And the lego sewing machine made me giggle!
    I’m looking forward to seeing/hearing/reading more about her in the future.

  • quiltzyx/sue • 13 years ago
    COMMENT #5

    SUCH a great interview! How could you go wrong – fabric & Legos at the same time.

  • Flip • 13 years ago
    COMMENT #6

    Wow! great article/interview and awesome art.
    And that’s coming from someone that can barely sew on a button 🙂

  • Sheri MacDonald • 13 years ago
    COMMENT #7

    That Lego Bernina is truly inspired! Love the designs Carrie, and your dedication!!

  • Chicken Julie • 13 years ago
    COMMENT #8

    I, too, met Carrie at the Long Beach Quilt Show and she is as lovely and warm and inspiring as her designs. Thanks for a great feature!!

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