Now Touring: Bill Kerr and Weeks Ringle
the GenQ Crew • July 29, 2011 • 22 Comments

Bill Kerr and Weeks Ringle recently released their fourth book, Quilts Made Modern (C&T Publishing, 2010, $29.95), chronicling 10 quilt projects that reflect their love of simple, modern style. That’s enough right there to inspire any quilter to hit the floor pedals, and elevate Bill and Weeks to q-sainthood. There’s more to the story, though. This iconic couple is likely one of the first husband-wife teams to become recognized in the mainstream world for quilt design. From O: The Oprah Magazine to Time Magazine and Metropolitan Home, their work has graced print pages far beyond our quilt world. But their work is also readily accessible to us in pattern form in American Patchwork & Quilting (the first quilt magazine to feature their patterns and still a frequent publisher) and most recently, Quilter’s Home magazine, our former baby.

So what happens when a graphic designer meets a landscape designer? In the case of Bill Kerr and Weeks Ringle, they fell in love and got married.

But that wasn’t the end of their story because they wanted a career they could share. However, Weeks knew she wasn’t going to turn into a graphic designer and Bill sure as heck wasn’t going to become a landscape designer, so they locked brain cells, took stock of their skill sets. Now, they both love to make things and both knew how to sew. (Hmmm.) With an added dose of inspiration stemming from Week’s several years living in Japan and learning how to quilt, presto! FunQuilts was born, and Weeks was able to fulfill her goal of getting out of a corporate tower to build a life that would allow her to be accessible for their family.

That was in 1999, and the fun continues. For couples contemplating this path, they strongly recommend not quitting both jobs and just going for it. (Practical concerns like health insurance can torment entrepreneurs.) That aside, they’ve carved successful careers for themselves designing and making modern and contemporary quilts. In fact, they were among the first quilters to make distinctively modern-looking quilts, a fact that makes them chuckle and ruminate as they watch the flurry of quilt artisans come out with modern-influenced designs.  As you can imagine, they’ve got some comments about that …

Big Dots

Bill: It’s nice to see the resurgence. These things take a lot of time. When we released the Modern Quilt Workshop in 2005, we were facing the problem (of being a new style). Denyse Schmidt’s book came out within a month after.  Those two books–when they came out–were really fresh. It was a much smaller world. I think it has to do with the Internet. It’s taken years for it to really take off.

Weeks: I think it’s great that there’s a new generation of people who have not been drawn to traditional quilting, but have been drawn to modern quilting. I think fresh blood is great for the art and to continue making the art form grow. But I am saddened when people put labels on techniques and disparage tradition.

Weeks and Bill design both together and apart, and both are involved in all aspects of the evolving quilt. Says Bill, it’s a total split where they’re both drawing, thinking and diagramming all the time. We asked them in the original design is usually what can be seen at the end of a project…

Bill: It usually is that one of us has a nugget of an idea and then it bounces back and forth. About 70 percent of the time it ends up pretty unrecognizable.

Weeks: I think that’s wrong. I think 70 percent of the time it ends up like the original! There was one quilt that didn’t recently and it must be coloring your memory. I think most of the time, if you look back at the sketchbook for Quilts Made Modern, a lot of those quilts are exactly what is in one sketch or the other.

Bill: But a lot of the color work and proportion work changes back and forth. We’re design geeks and we love tweaking things, and being critics of each other’s work.

Fashion District

Exchanges like this throughout our conversation reveal two people very secure and respectful of the other. Their work is a give-and-take process and likely mirrors their marriage as well.

Weeks: People ask us a lot how do we not kill each other… My very serious answer is that each of us really respects what the other person brings to the table. I know that he’s going to make me a better designer and his input is going to make the process better. If he’s telling me he doesn’t like something,  he’s telling me because it needs to be worked on, not because he thinks I don’t have any talent.

Now in their 15th year of marriage, they share the joy of raising their 10-year-old daughter, Sophie. Weeks jokes that a marriage counselor would chastise them for how they work together.

Bill: We actually work side-by-side most of the day. I think it helps. That said there’s a lot of sketching in the evenings.

Weeks: I know that every marriage counselor out there would be horrified to hear this, but we actually sometimes have the laptop in bed designing quilts together. I know they would say that’s really bad.

Now, we wanted to do something beyond the norm for Bill and Weeks’ stop with GenQ on their book blog tour, so we invited them to a block challenge. Our Scott Hansen came up with the start of a block: and told our daring duo to each complete a block and color it without the other seeing it. Here are the results of the challenge. Don’t you love how their brains work?

The design frenzy isn’t over, though, and now it’s your turn! We’ve been given a copy of Quilts Made Modern to dangle before your eyes. You’ve got the weekend to finish your own version of a quilt block starting with this sketch and one lucky winner will receive a brand spanking new copy of Quilts Made Modern. If you want to play along, download the line drawing here, perform your magic with color and e-mail a scan or photo of your entry to Jake at alljake@hotmail.com. Entries are due by 9 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time on Monday, Aug. 1, and don’t forget to include full contact info in the e-mail, including your mailing address. The GenQ staff (and Bill and Weeks, if we can track them down) will choose the best of the best. And we’ll all have fun regardless of who wins!


 

22 Comments

  • kelly • 6 years ago
    COMMENT #1

    this challenge will be very fun. Thanks to you all for coming up with the idea. now, to get to work………

  • Kristy • 6 years ago
    COMMENT #2

    I bought Quilts Made Modern when it came out and thoroughly enjoy looking through it whenever I need a little inspiration motivation. Thanks for highlighting their work.

  • CaraQuilts • 6 years ago
    COMMENT #3

    I LOVE the interview! And seeing the different blocks makes me think of how often I use things like that as a jumping off point and how many different ways it can go depending on my mood etc

  • Jocelyn • 6 years ago
    COMMENT #4

    I think this book looks awesome. I haven’t a designing bone in my body, but it is very interesting to see how this takes shape. Thanks for the very informative interview. Love the Fashion District quilt.

  • Andee Neff • 6 years ago
    COMMENT #5

    Quite a challenge.. I may give it a shot! Enjoying the tour!

  • Holley • 6 years ago
    COMMENT #6

    Annnnnd now I want to make a quilt using both those blocks! The challenge looks like fun. I hope I’m up for it!

  • Lisa Marie • 6 years ago
    COMMENT #7

    I enjoyed this blog post and the challenge. I hope we’ll get to see some or all of the blocks submitted — that would be inspiring!

  • quiltzyx/sue • 6 years ago
    COMMENT #8

    Great interview!
    I’ve printed off the block-starter, but now their 2 blocks are stuck in my head! Guess I’d better go play a game to clear out my brain-cache….

  • CarolW • 6 years ago
    COMMENT #9

    Enjoyed the interview, wish I had the creativity to try the block design…

    • Scott • 6 years ago
      COMMENT #

      You DO have the creativity to do it!! just print it off and play with some lines. Try it, you’ll like it….and it is totally legal and even healthy to do so too!!

  • MiChal • 6 years ago
    COMMENT #10

    As a quilter, I’ve relied only on the creativity of others. Time to begin to break out of that rut…

  • MiChal • 6 years ago
    COMMENT #11

    This is much harder than I expected…

    • kelly • 6 years ago
      COMMENT #

      agreed 😉

  • MelodyJ • 6 years ago
    COMMENT #12

    This looks like a good book with fresh ideas.

    melodyj(at)gmail(dot)com

  • Ruthie • 6 years ago
    COMMENT #13

    Our guild had Bill as a speaker and he did a workshop…..WONDERFUL and INSPIRING!

  • Suzanne • 6 years ago
    COMMENT #14

    This was a great interview. I really enjoyed hearing how Weeks and Bill met as well as their process of designing together. Thank you. And thank you for the challenge. I’m intrigued about that quilt block. I may have to give it a try.

  • Sarah • 6 years ago
    COMMENT #15

    This was a great interview. They shared great insights on their design process which could help any collaboration. I started quilting right about when Modern Quilt Workshop came out. I stuck with quilting because that book showed me that quilters can be intellectual about their work, especially in terms of color theory. It was great to see a glimmer of creativity in a field that seemed dominated by an ethos of faster, easier, simpler, brainlessness. I think their work has influenced publishers generally to choose more thoughtful books. I’ve seen more books published since 2005 that take some time to discuss design choices beyond “try to find fabric that matches the picture,” that dominated the market pre-2005.

  • Joy • 6 years ago
    COMMENT #16

    How wonderful to see such a fun and successful marriage team. Thanks for the interview!

  • MarciaW • 6 years ago
    COMMENT #17

    I enjoyed your interview of Bill Kerr and Weeks Ringle – and their design process as a couple. I would like to try my hand at the block design yet get an Acrobat error that the file is damaged and cannot be downloaded.

    • Generation Q • 6 years ago
      COMMENT #

      It’s working fine on my end but I’ll send you the PDF in an email.

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