You might know Mary Fons for her Paper Girl blog, her relation to her famous mother, Marianne Fons, or her classes on quilting. What she is soon to be MOST famous for is her amazing new line, Small Wonders. More about the line later, but first an interview with Mary.
When did you start quilting?
I started quilting about six years ago. Most people think I must’ve been making quilts since I was a kid because my mom is a famous quilter. But I didn’t start till I was 28 or so. Not everyone comes to quilt making because they need therapy or they need to work out a traumatic thing in their lives — in fact, most quilters come to the craft for joy because of new babies or weddings, etc. — but for me, I needed to make a quilt because my life had been torn to a million pieces with catastrophic illness and a divorce.
When life is torn into a million pieces, it makes perfect sense to tear up perfectly good fabric and sew it back together again. Every quilter out there knows what I mean.
What was the catalyst to doing something you previously viewed as your “mother’s work?”
It was absolutely nothing I planned on. The catalyst was the sale of my mom’s and Liz Porter’s company. They sold in 2008 and Liz was ready to retire completely — though they both agreed to have a hand in F&P projects and still do, but it was a lot less than they were doing before. Mom was willing to keep doing a bit more than that, including TV, but she didn’t want to do the show with just anyone.
I had been a guest on the show before and people seemed to like the mother-daughter dynamic — and of course, I had been making quilts like crazy. The new owners asked me if I wanted to be on the show more and I said yes. I was making my living as a freelance writer and frankly, this was a good gig. As a freelancer, you pretty much take anything that comes along.
And it grew from there. I created Quilty for the company; there are over 250 episodes we made over 5 years; Quilty magazine existed for four of those and I served as editor/creative director; I wrote a book. Now I’m designing fabric, which has been a dream of mine for years. I’m also writing a column for Quilts, Inc. called The Quilt Scout. Writing and designing are my favorite roles so far. Well, I loved being an editor, too, but as you can see, it’s not the on-camera stuff I like the best. Video is hard, hard work and it exists on the web forever. Bad hair day? Welcome to permanence.
What do you love about quilting?
Pretty much everything. I love, love shopping for fabric. I love, love, love beginning a new quilt. I love teaching (took me awhile, but I really like it now), I adore lecturing (my favorite), and simply sitting at the machine is incredible. We are so lucky, us quilters, that we have this craft in our lives.
What do you hate about quilting?
Binding. God, I hate binding so much. Not turning it. I like that. But connecting one side to the other is just… I hate it. I won’t hate it forever, but I always do it wrong like six times.
How has quilting enhanced your life?
When my head can’t handle any more, I use my hands. I have this amazing hobby, this incredible art I get to make. I get to make patchwork and quilts. No one can ever take it away from me and there are so many incredible skills out there that I can learn.
To make a quilt is to make functional art. It’s fine to make model airplanes and I am an amateur (but not too shabby) cook. Both things do yield something real: you have a model airplane or a beautiful meal. But you can’t keep warm with a model airplane. It’s not functional. It’s decoration.
And a meal is amazing and soul-filling as well as tummy-filling, but it’s gone in a matter of minutes, really. Then you make another.
But a quilt… A quilt lasts more or less forever. You get the joy of making and then you get the joy of using. And giving. That’s the kind of making I want to do and do for as long as I can.
To say that quilting has enhanced my life is to understate something. Quilting has made my life joyful in a way I never expected. Remember, I started making quilts relatively later in life, considering my mother’s quilt-centered life. Most folks think I must’ve started as a kid, but I started at 28. It’s a great age to start; I had the interest at an age when I was ready to sit down for five minutes.