Today I have a special treat for you. I am introducing the first installment of a new feature on Reclaiming the Home. I am going to be sharing with you a detailed look at the people who inspire me most. My hope is that this will help to inspire each of you, and to share the wealth of information and creativity out there in the blog-world.
The first feature is on Weeks Ringle and her gorgeous blog, Craft Nectar. She also has a companion business, FunQuilts that is both an incredibly creative endeavor, and highly successful. She works with charities and helps to support those with Special Needs, qualities that are near and dear to my heart. She is also a published author with another book on the horizon in the near future!
As far as modern homemakers go, she is one of my heroes.
She graciously accepted when I asked her if she would do an interview for the blog and even offered to do a pretty amazing giveaway to the readers of Reclaiming The Home. She went all out with this piece, so I hope that you all will enjoy getting to know her, and find yourselves as inspired as I have.
My name is Weeks Ringle and I live in Oak Park, IL with my husband Bill Kerr and our daughter Sophie, whom we adopted from China when she was a baby. For the past 10 years, Bill and I have run FunQuilts, a contemporary design studio that makes contemporary quilts, designs fabric, sells patterns, writes books and teaches. Before meeting Bill I lived in Japan for nearly eight years and that experience continues to be one of the strongest influences in my life.
The purpose of Craft Nectar is to inspire people to make things for their home, their family and their friends. I think everyone needs to have a creative part of their life, even if it’s trying to rethink the system for office memos at their job. Some of my favorite posts became my favorite not because they got the most traffic (who knew that people would get so excited about a tutorial on cleaning a sewing machine!) but because my heart was so in them and I was happy with the tone of the writing. I can’t tell you how touched I was, however, by some of the lovely emails and comments I got before and after my Cowalunga ride. I think about those people and their stories often. I just felt one of those beautiful and genuine connections with them.
1. How long have you been crafting, and what was it that brought you to it in the first place?
I did not grow up in a crafting family but was always drawn to it as a child. I did what I could but it wasn’t really until I graduated from college that I had the time and money to be able to buy my own sewing machine and fabric and take classes in ikebana (Japanese flower arranging), ceramics, drawing, knitting and the care of bonsai. It was in graduate school, however, when I gained the design education I needed to take my interests to the professional level.
2. How do you Reclaim your own home?
There’s no way I can answer this succinctly. There are two homes that I was a part of that contributed to my vision for the kind of home I wanted. From 1984 to 1990, I spent most of the day every Saturday at the home of my flower-arranging teacher in Tokyo. Although I was paying her to learn flower arranging, I ended up learning how to be the woman that I really wanted to be and how to create a welcoming atmosphere in my home.
My teacher is the oldest of nine siblings and lived through World War II in rural Japan. She’s seen hardship that most Americans cannot even imagine and she knows what’s important. Although her home was not fancy by any stretch, I learned from her the true meaning of hospitality. The notion of hospitality that I grew up with was closer to the Martha Stewart model of perfectionism, which was often tension-filled. Sensei’s (and yes I have only called her sensei for the past 25 years!) home is one that welcomes you at the drop of a hat. It isn’t about whether or not things are ready or what she or the house looks like.
When I would go there it was about our friendship. She was always interested in what I had been up to each week and made me feel as though she had been waiting all week to see me. There was always enough food for someone to stay for dinner if our lessons ran long. Although I was there week after week for all of those years she made me feel special, appreciated, understood and welcome in good times and bad. Her goal was to put you at ease and make you feel comfortable. That place was all heart and I took a big piece of it with me when I moved back to the States. I keep a picture of her in that room hanging above our kitchen table to remind me of what I want our home to feel like.
The second home that influenced me was my late mother-in-law’s home. When I met her she had become a widow and was very ill. Later Bill and I would quit our jobs and move into her house to care for her for eight months as she transitioned to assisted living. Although I never witnessed the happy, fun atmosphere before Bill’s father died and before she got sick, I heard story after story after story about it from countless friends and family. One childhood friend of Bill’s talked about Bill’s home as the place he went to feel safe when his own parents were going through a messy divorce. Others recounted the fun public radio fundraisers when she would have hoards of people bring a bowl and she would make huge vats of soup. There were always interesting and creative people dropping in and there was a vibrancy to the house that so many remember. I was so inspired by the wonderful times that had been had in this house that I suggested that before we sold the house that we have our wedding reception there as a sort of farewell to the house.
I should note, however, that Bill’s mom managed to create a similar environment when she moved to the assisted living facility. Despite the massive oxygen compressors and tubing, her little apartment was charming and welcoming.
Inspired by these two homes I have sought to create a comfortable, welcoming and fun environment in our 1914 bungalow. I am also the chief prankster and mistress of fun in our home and am constantly playing practical jokes on and planning small but fun little celebrations for Bill and Sophie. When Bill kept saying that he was worried about forgetting his dentist appointment, I wrote out in Cheerios “dentist 7 am” on the kitchen table. On Election Day I printed up a family ballot with ballot initiatives that included choosing the food we would serve for Thanksgiving and what type of vacation we wanted. There are Easter Egg Hunts, special gatherings and our annual Luck and Love party at which we celebrate Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year. I make a special point of inviting single friends over for casual family dinners during the week and on the weekend because I remember how nice it was when I was single for people to invite me over for a larger, family-style meal that wasn’t practical to cook for one.
We live with just a few guidelines. The house is always tidy, not super neat but clean enough for someone to drop in and for us not be embarrassed. Everything has a place. Dinnertime is sacred. No phone calls, TVs or computers during meals. There’s always extra food for visitors who drop-in. It’s always OK to invite someone for dinner at the last minute. Mostly, we don’t allow anyone to be disrespectful or hurtful anyone in our home. Period. A big part of my definition of success as a wife and mom has to do with keeping our home comfortable, relaxed, safe and welcoming. All of us want that and I want that for people who visit as well.
3. What advice can you offer to others who enjoy crafting and home life?
I would advise people who enjoy crafting and a home life to organize your spaces and your time really well. You want to make sure that you have the time to do things that bring you pleasure and you don’t want to spend your crafting time looking for supplies. Also look at every time you are waiting for someone as an opportunity to make something. I always take a knitting bag to gymnastics registration, swim practice or the doctor’s office and never get on a plane without a project. Even if you just spend that time planning a project rather than reading a magazine in the waiting room, you’re making progress on a project.
(Click the photo to see "Oh Nancy Drew, Won't You Please Come to Our Sleepover?"
Below, click to read more about "Get a Clue")
Below, click to read more about "Get a Clue")
4. Can you tell us about your business, FunQuilts?
I can’t be succinct about FunQuilts either. Having been in business for 10 years now, we’ve learned so much. I still love, love, love going to work everyday but it’s not what people think. They think that we’re just sewing all day and that’s just not the case. We probably only make quilts about 20% of the time. There’s a tremendous amount of time spent dealing with contracts, making travel reservations, doing bookkeeping, writing, answering emails, booking gigs, taking orders and the list goes on and on.
My best advice to people who want to start a business is to find a way to apply the creativity you have for your craft to the business side of it. Like it or not, you will spend a huge amount of time dealing with the business part of it and I’ve seen a lot of artisans say that they don’t care about the business part or that it’s boring. Like all businesses, technology is always a challenge as is the economy. We are fortunate that we are booked for months and sometimes years ahead but we are constantly revisiting the business plan and trying new things.
We’re just finishing making the quilts for our next book, writing the text and illustrating the diagrams. Next on deck is a quilt for the cover of Quilts & More magazine, three quilts for a client in the British Isles and a one-of-a-kind wedding quilt for someone in Hollywood.
This is the floor-to-ceiling cork wall in kitchen that we installed to keep all of the things that we want to or need to remember. This wall is constantly changing. You can see some details of the cork wall below as well.
5. Tell us more about the blog. What started you blogging, and what keeps you at it? Do you ever have writer's block?
I never, ever have writer’s block. It’s only a matter of finding more time blogging. I want to have original content that is inspiring to the readers so that takes awhile.
WhipUp and really enjoyed it but I wanted to be able to talk more about what we were doing at FunQuilts, not just about a given project.
I love hearing from other people that something I’ve written about has inspired them. The thing I struggle with the most and Bill and I discuss endlessly is how much of me there should be in it. I want to inspire other people to make things and I really don’t think that I’m an important part of the equation. In other words, I think it’s about the project. Bill and others tell me that people want to know the writer more and that I should put more of myself in it. I just don’t want it to be one of those blogs where people are talking about how many loads of laundry they did that day. I just haven’t figured it out yet. I’d love some feedback on that one.
6. What is a fun fact we may not know about you?
When I get discouraged I visualize Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music on the bus en route to the Van Trapp family home. She gets off the bus and she starts swinging around her bag and her guitar while singing “I have confidence in sunshine. I have confidence in rain. I have confidence that spring will come again. Besides what you see I have confidence in me!” And then she jumps up and clicks her heels together and for a moment I think I can do anything. Pure magic I tell you.
7. Anything else you'd like to say?
I guess I’d like to say how appreciative I am to have so many readers and how much I enjoy dialog with them. Even more, I’d love to know what topics they’d like me to cover or what’s of interest to them. In other words, let me hear from you.
Weeks has been so very generous to offer up a gift to a lucky reader here at Reclaiming The Home! Included in this prize package are the totem quilt pattern, a beautiful package of fabric charm squares, and a gorgeous set of note cards from her online store.
In order to win this amazing prize package, simply leave a comment on this post with some feedback for Weeks.
If you would like to multiply your chances to win, then blog, facebook, or tweet about it and then come back here to let us know in another comment. You can gain another entry into the contest by heading over to Craft Nectar and saying hello (though you will need to come back here and tell us in the comments so that we can give you another entry). That is a total of 5 possible chances to win this amazing giveaway.
The giveaway will end Sunday September 20th at midnight CST, and at that time I will do a random number drawing and announce the winner.
Once again I would like to thank Weeks Ringle for taking the time to do this amazing interview with me and for being so generous to the readers of Reclaiming The Home. :)