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Q&A: Modern Quilt Relish

Marny Buck and Jill Guffy

A look around the fall Market show floor, and it was easy to see that Modern Quilting has surpassed being simply a “movement,” and has moved somewhere closer to phenomenon status. The number of fabric companies offering up collections that cater to the Modern Quilting aesthetic was substantial, the number of Modern-Quilting-related books, even more so, and even some of the more traditional quilt pattern companies have begun incorporating “modern” quilt elements into their designs.

Modern Quilt Relish’s “Recipe Cards” pattern

Still, among them are a number of companies who haven’t merely embraced the idea of Modern Quilting—it is their business. In the case of pattern design company Modern Quilt Relish, it was a love of contemporary and modern quilt design—and what they viewed, at that time, as a lack of patterns representing that style—that inspired Marny Buck and Jill Guffy to launch their business.

It’s been less than two years since the duo produced their first patterns, but their clean, modern designs have already garnered quite a following. For this edition of eInsider, we spoke with the longtime friends and business partners about the company and how they incorporate a bit of the “unexpected” into each of their designs.

eInsider: First, tell us about both of your backgrounds, and how your lives intersected.
Buck & Guffy: Jill is a Midwesterner, educated as a nurse, but with a continuing interest in interior design. Marny—a transplant to the Midwest from Hawaii and other western states—studied Molecular Biology, followed by Art History. We have each transitioned from science to art! Sewing, in many forms, has always been a part of our lives.

Modern Quilt Relish’s “The Modern Pickle Relish ” pattern

We met 22 years ago, retrieving our sons from a day camp experience. We are friends and tennis partners. Our 10 years of working together in a quilt shop and being experienced quilters ourselves gives us the background to write patterns in such a way as to help both shop owners and customers. 

Our sons, who are now best friends, are married to sisters! This makes us “outlaws” and requires us to be nice to one another forever. With this commitment in mind, we started our pattern company, Modern Quilt Relish.

eInsider: How and when did Modern Quilt Relish come to be?
Buck & Guffy: To be honest, Quilt Market itself is somewhat responsible for the path we have taken. We attended spring Market in Minneapolis 2010 as quilt shop representatives. Patterns aligned with our taste for the contemporary, modern design elements and clean lines were scarce. Schoolhouse sessions offered by printers and publishers were instrumental in giving us confidence. The light bulb went off on our drive home. Shortly thereafter, we were designing. Within six months, we had our first six patterns ready to sell.  

The “Brioche & Baguette” pattern

eInsider: Your goal, you say, is to bring customers contemporary, unexpected patterns. What do you feel makes them modern or contemporary, and how to you incorporate elements of the unexpected?
Buck & Guffy: Our quilts are often identifiable by our use of the modern principles and elements of design: negative space, asymmetry, simple geometric shapes, and the use of color and value to provide focus and depth. Our fresh, less-is-more, designs incorporate the unexpected when they take something a step further. 

For instance, in Modern Pickle Relish, the squares and rectangles could have been totally scrappy or a just a single fabric. Instead, we used a range of values, from dark to light, to create a sophisticated focus. Our quilt patterns are not improvisational; they provide a known and achievable outcome for the modern sewist. Easy can be fun and rewarding! We find that even though a customer might prefer the traditional designs for themselves, they are often sewing for others seeking a modern look.  

eInsider: And is your company finding an audience among members of the growing Modern Quilt movement?
Buck & Guffy: We belong to the Des Moines Modern Quilt Guild and look forward to speaking to the Kansas City Modern Quilt Guild in November. We are a Gold Sponsor of QuiltCon, a retail event presented by the Modern Quilt Guild in Austin, Texas, in February. More and more of our online interactions, be they through our blog, Facebook, or Pinterest involve members of geographically ranging Modern Quilters.

Modern Quilt Relish’s “Leftovers” pattern

eInsider: On that subject, how have you utilized an online presence/tools to grow your business? Do you feel that has been crucial to your success?
Buck & Guffy: The online community has been very supportive of us. It has given us opportunities we never would have found elsewhere. We recently enlisted professional help setting up a social media plan. Now, if we only had the time to implement it all!

We’ve judged an Ann Arbor Modern Quilt Guild competition, been interviewed by the Irish blogger Fluffy Sheep Quilting in her effort to help inform small start up businesses, made contact with numerous quilters we admire, and were able to start a small retail presence as our wholesale business got up and running. Much of our communication with quilt shops, distributors, printers, and individual customers takes place online.   

eInsider: And finally, what did attendees of fall Quilt Market in Houston get to see from Modern Quilt Relish?
Buck & Guffy: We shared information on our latest project, a soft-covered book! A supportive shop owner offered us an idea at the Kansas City Quilt Market. “How about a Modern block of the month suitable for shop owners and their retail customers alike?” We took her idea and ran with it! (Hope she doesn’t expect royalties...)

Our book, Picnic, features six Modern blocks, each of which has an additional one or two stand-alone projects. The use of parallelograms is explored, with a progression from simple to more complex, utilizing totally doable and well-illustrated techniques. Along the way, we touch on Modern design principles and elements and how they work in the quilts. We hope the shop owners enjoy offering Picnic to their customers.

For more information on Modern Quilt Relish, visit modernquiltrelish.blogspot.com/


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