Heather Thomas

Heather Thomas

Heather is teaching classes:

Matt: How long have you been quilting? What made you begin quilting?

Heather: I have been quilting for 24 years. I made my first quilt when I was pregnant with my oldest daughter. My Grandmother was a scrap quilter and she taught me how to appliqué that first quilt using a template cut from a cereal box and the starch from a potato. I wanted to make a quilt for my new baby as well as spend some quality time with my grandmother, I never finished that first quilt but the time with Opal was wonderful.

M: Do you have a quilting studio? How big and is there anything unique that you keep in your studio?

H: I have a studio that is located in the Santa Fe Arts District here in Denver, CO. It is about 400 sq ft, has painted, white exposed brick walls and two, huge, east facing windows that let in amazing natural light. I have a cutting/painting table that is 6’ x 4’. It is my favorite studio possession. Most of my current work is painted and that table is where all the magic happens. I also have a doll (I hate to call him a doll, he’s so much more) that was made by one of my students, Joanne Pinto. He is called the Reluctant Knight. He’s about 3’ tall and he sits on top of one of my shelving units with his eye on the door. I feel like he is my studio protector. I spend between 30- 40 hours a week working there.

M: What do you consider your quilting “specialty” or what makes you unique in the quilting world?

H: Color. I consider myself a colorist first and foremost. I’ve been teaching color and design for more than a decade and find it the most fascinating, engaging, thing I’ve ever been involved with. My quilting style has changed in many ways over the years. When I first started designing and publishing my patterns 16 years ago I was into dimensional appliqué and paper piecing Mariner’s Compasses. Now I wet sculpt my wall art then paint it then heavily machine quilt it. Most people are hard pressed to figure out how I do what I do and what my art work is made from. I’m also very involved with surface design and embellishment. I like to explore and investigate new and unusual techniques and products to see if and how I can use them in my art work.

M: What is your favorite color scheme to work with?

H: I enjoy so many color combinations. I like working with contrasts, seeing how the colors interact with each other. I really like the dynamic of direct complements. Managing the power and reluctance of complementary colors is exhilarating and a great challenge. Now that I paint most of my own fabrics, the challenge is all new again and I’ve fallen back in love with my craft.

M: What books or articles have you written?

H: My first book, Fabric Embellishment; the Basics & Beyond came out last October. I wrote it with three of the teachers I had working for me at my store (which I have since closed). It is published by Landauer. I’m finishing up my second book, Color and Design; the Basics & Beyond which will be out this October and am working on a third book on free style machine quilting. I’ve written several articles for magazines, Quiltmaker and McCall’s Quilting and I’ve self published more than 100 quilt patterns.

M: What do you do while you quilt? Do you listen to music?

H: I have a great, little stereo system in my studio and listen to music the whole time I’m there. I match the music to my mood as well as the task I’m working on. If I’m doing something intricate I might listen to Bill Frisell play his beautiful Jazz guitar. If I’m painting I listen to something less relaxing like Lyle Lovitt or Keb Mo. When I’m machine quilting I usually listen to things that are more raucous such as Alanis Morrisette, the Beatles or the Stones. I wouldn’t want to work without music in the background. It’s great company.

M: What is your quilting inspiration?

H: It’s two fold. This is what I do for a living; make, teach and sell art and quilting is my medium. I’m in such a great space right now since developing the technique that I’m now using which incorporates my two favorite things; painting and machine quilting. What keeps me intrigued is the constant learning. I enter my studio and think, What can I come up with today?

M: What is the funniest moment you have had happen while you were teaching?

H: This is a tough one, for a while there I was teaching about 5-6 classes a week, with classes offered at 9 different stores/locations across the Front Range of Colorado and Santa Fe NM. One night I walked into a store in Boulder to teach a color class and no one was there. The store employee informed me that I was there on the wrong night just as my cell phone rang. It was a store in Colorado Springs, 90 miles away, wondering where I was. The students conducted their own show and tell and when I finally got there, I taught that months lesson then bought them all a round (a fat quarter) as an apology. I was so embarrassed! That has NEVER happened again.

M: What was the best class you have ever taken?

H: I’ve only taken two quilt classes in my whole life, one with Sally Collins about 20 years ago and one with Jodi Barrows about 14 years ago. Though both were good classes, I realized that I’m not into perfection or repeat designs. I’m pretty much an autodidact. I’m entirely self taught and I love to learn what I want to learn, when I want to learn it and how I want to learn it- so I’m not a very good student. I think this is what makes me a great teacher though. I understand that each student is in my class for her own reasons. In the first few minutes of my encounter with each student I try to discern what their desires and needs are from the class and provide that for them to the best of my ability. Some gals are there for the companionship, some come to learn while others come for the fun. I want my classes to always include fun!