Thursday, January 21, 2016

Throwback Thursday: 2013, The First Book Deal

"New York Beauty, Quilts from the Volckening Collection" - click here for info

In the summer of 2013, I was getting ready for an exhibition of quilts from my collection at San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles when I received a message from Jane Lury, a New York quilt dealer who had recently sold me a Capper's Weekly Springtime in the Rockies quilt. She had friends from France who would be in Portland for Quilt Market, and they had a magazine. Her friends liked visiting homes with quilts to feature in the magazine. I had not heard of the magazine before.

As much as I appreciated the offer, I declined. The year before, there was a big feature article in Quilters Newsletter. That article was how San Jose found me. "Do I need more press?" I asked myself. "Not really," was the answer. Also, the house was a complete mess. That was my real excuse. I did not want a camera crew coming in when there were quilts piled up all over the place. In getting ready for the exhibition, it looked like a hoarder's house. "Maybe they can come the next time they're in town," I said in my reply.

They were persistent, and did not seem to want to take no for an answer. "Could we come at the end of the week?" they asked. In the meantime, I was asking friends on Facebook if they'd ever heard of the magazine before. It was called Quiltmania.

My friends urged me to let them come, so eventually I agreed to a visit. Three people from Quiltmania came to my home in the afternoon on Sunday, May 19th; Carol Veillon, Christelle Leveque and Guy Yoyotte-Husson. We looked at a lot of quilts together. Carol and Christelle took notes, and Guy took photos. I was very impressed with all of them; they were professional, fun and knew exactly what they wanted, especially Carol. That is why she is so successful.

The article appeared in the September/October 2013 issue of the magazine, but that was not the only thing we planned the day of the visit. I would write a coffee table book about my collection of New York Beauty quilts and have an exhibition of 50 quilts at the 2015 Pour l'Amour du Fil in Nantes. Book copy was due in September, 2014.

no, not good enough!
About five months before my deadline, I received a note asking if I would do all the photography for the book. I would receive extra compensation, and it would resolve the dilemma of having to ship quilts so far in advance of the Pour l'Amour du Fil. I agreed to do the photos, thinking I'd already done the work, but when I looked at the photos I had, they were not good enough.

much, much better!
Around the same time, I photographed a quilt in my loft during the late hours of the afternoon, when sun was pouring in through the front window and bouncing off the wall toward the loft wall, with more light from a skylight above. When I looked at the photos, and realized how much better they were with almost perfectly balanced light revealing quilting detail in the full view, I started rephotographing all 70 quilts.

It took a whole month, including photo editing. which really took most of the time. The best light for shooting was only available for an hour or two each day. The remaining time was spent editing. During this period, which included an additional month writing, I barely left the house. The Washington County Museum was having a lecture series and quilt exhibition, so I would go once a week to hear the lectures. Other than that, I only left the house for food.

The following month, June, I wrote all the descriptions of the quilts. All of those, and all the photos, were delivered two months early. I sent in the foreword, written by Shelly Zegart, and my introduction a bit later, closer to the deadline. When I wrote the descriptions, it was important to make sure everything I said was the truth. I made no assumptions about quilts made by unknown makers. This approach eliminated romanticism. The people who enjoy that kind of thing were left to find it elsewhere, but that did not weigh on me. It was more like a weight lifted off my shoulders.

At some point in the process, I received a note from Quiltmania, asking if they could use an image of one of the quilts on a bag. They would give be a bunch of bags in return, so I said yes. I didn't give it much thought until I was in Nantes and saw people carrying the bags around at Pour l'Amour du Fil.

The book was beautiful. Quiltmania does a superb job with its publications. The books are well designed, well printed and a pleasure to read. My book was over 300 pages, hardcover with partial sleeve, and bilingual. I think for the rest of my life, when people mention the book I will say, "My first book!" and will always feel a sense of disbelief that my first book was that book.

Mom and I traveled to France together in April for the Pour l'Amour du Fil. My sister, Libby, could not make it. She will soon have a hip replacement. We missed her, but spent time with my longtime high school friend, David Nemitz, and his wife Ninette in Paris. They could not make it to Nantes, but we were in the same hotel as other exhibitors. Kaye England was one of them. Mom and Kaye really hit it off. I love Kaye and was so happy to get to know her.

The event was magnificent. Carol Veillon and her staff put on a fabulous event. One of the most interesting things I learned was there were not as many fabric and notions shops throughout Europe, so people relied on events like the Pour l'Amour du Fil to stock up for the year. The vendor area was a madhouse! I stayed by my exhibit, signing books and greeting the people who came by. I tried my best to speak French, with varying degrees of success.

When I returned home, it seemed like a dream. It was hard to believe what just happened. I even posted a message on Facebook, "Wow, that really happened!"

So, that is the story of my first book, the first book deal, and where it took me. There was a little luck, but as the saying goes, "luck is when preparation meets opportunity."

When you come out of nowhere the way I did, people sometimes think all kinds of strange things. That's OK. They can do that. I'll do this. To buy the book, click here. Thank you for reading!


  1. Your throwback deal is a beaut.... and knowing more about its story is great fun. Now that Quiltmania has a USA office must get one of those bags....