It’s a busy Wednesday morning on-set in our Bluprint photo studio, where half-stitched quilt tops are draped over chairs, tables and even the floor as the team hurries to put colorful spools of thread and bright stacks of fabric in place. But amid the bustle, quilting professional Nancy Smith radiates calm, focused creative energy.
We invited Nancy to chat about what makes a makerspace great — and it’s clear from her very first comment that there’s a lot more to a great quilting room than big tables and good lighting. Nancy closes her eyes, tips her chin upward and inhales as if savoring a favorite treat. “It’s silence,” she says. “It’s time to come back to yourself. It’s perfect.”
Quilting has always been at the center of Nancy’s life.
She was raised by a family of makers, and brought up her own daughters in her successful quilting store. But after 30 years in the shop, Nancy discovered a whole new experience when she transitioned her creative focus to her home. “At the store, there were many of us working, and these people were my friends. Quilting at that time was about connecting with others,” she explains.
“Today in my home space, it’s about connecting with myself. I can spin in the center of my studio and simply ask ‘what would I like to do today?’ It’s just heaven.”
The perfect space is all your own.
For Nancy, that ideal studio space includes a fabric collection arranged by color, lots of tidy drawer storage, a pinboard with favorite quotes and cards, and the constant companionship of her dog, Whiskey.
But she’s quick to point out that creativity is intensely personal, and the methods of organization and inspiration that work best for her might not be right for everyone. “For artists and creative people, it’s so important to have that space that’s just for you, that reflects who you are. I’m in charge in my studio, and no one’s telling me what to do. If you’re a messy person who’s happy with lots of clutter around, good for you! That’s your mess!
“If you can enter your creative space and feel completely yourself, that’s wonderful.”
For many quilters autumn brings a special kind of inspiration, and Nancy is no exception.
“It’s absolutely a time to come back to your craft,” she explains. “Maybe you’ve been busy with travel, or maybe you have kids who are going back to school.”
“Whatever stage of life you’re in, when fall comes it typically opens up more of that time for yourself, and that’s when we return to our quilting rooms.”
Changing seasons also mean new colors and fresh design ideas. “I walk every day with my dog and I like to bring some of that back to my quilting. I’m inspired by the autumn smells, the different look of the trees. I’ll even gather leaves and bring them into my studio, then use a printer to transfer their images directly onto fabric for my designs.”
When asked how she keeps her creativity flowing, Nancy just laughs.
“I’ve been doing this for so long and it’s so much a part of who I am — I’m constantly finding ideas. I’ll see someone’s shirt and ask to take a picture so I can use the colors in a quilt. I tear photos out of magazines constantly. don’t have to search for ways to start the inspiration. It’s more like I have to stop it!”
Get Nancy’s practical tips for creating your own best makerspace here.
Nancy Smith is a designer, instructor and author of more than 70 books on quilting. She has shared her creative passion in classes and workshops across the country — and right here on Bluprint. Explore her classes here.