I met Thomas Knauer in Kansas City during a meetup at Quilt Market in the spring of 2012. When I met him, I hated his guts. He was snarky, completely shocked that I had no idea who he was, and absolutely obnoxious. I thought to myself, “Is this guy on drugs?”
Our paths wouldn’t cross again until February of this year. QuiltCon was well underway, and my buddy Melody Miller and I were coming back from an event at my shop that Melody had graciously agreed to host. We were catching Denyse Schmidt’s inspiring keynote speech. As it ended, and the lights went up, Thomas was sitting behind us. He said hi to Melody and reached out his hand to introduce himself to me.
“I know who you are. We met in Kansas City last year. You know, you were kind of an asshole to me.”
Before I could even stop myself, the words came flowing out of my mouth. I have the worst case of No Filter Mouth at the most inappropriate times.
Melody, wide-eyed, slowly inched away from me. “I have to catch my plane. It was great seeing you!”
Then he laughed.
“You know, I probably really was completely insufferable. I’m sorry! It was a stressful Market. You know I even...”
....and before I knew it, one snarky punk and another snarky punk became friends.
Thomas and me in my booth at QuiltCon, February 2013
As the past year has progressed I have come to view Thomas as a mentor, confidante, and friend. Both of us share a love for fine art and counterculture and the beautiful blend that is intricately woven between them. We together feel that there is a unique subculture of modern/ post-modern quilters forming, and that the industry is changing.
When I had the worst year ever, filled with tragic events, I felt comfortable telling him when things just plain sucked. “There’s beauty in the breakdown. This will further your art.” He would gently remind me of these things from time to time.
When I couldn’t create from burnout after closing the shop, we had an intimate talk, hemispheres away from each other; I on a weekend trip to Houston, and Thomas in Cambridge for the year. I confessed my sheer relief from closing up the storefront, and how much I loved to longarm, and to make art quilts, but felt like there was never enough time for either, or to grow as an artist.
“You just gotta make stuff. Make art. Make bad art. Eventually you’ll make good art. I can’t tell you how many things I threw away in grad school. In time things will just click, and you’ll start flowing again. It’s not a well, Jessica- your creativity will not run dry.”
What I’ve learned from Thomas, or rather, what I’ve been consciously reminded, is that in order to be unique and relevant, everything that we create must have meaning. Most importantly, I learned that no matter what is at stake, one must always be true to oneself.
I also learned that although we are all very busy, it is important to take your time and do it right. (SOS Band, anyone?) In order to facilitate this, I put up a little Thomas montage in my studio. Thomas is always watching me, so I can't cut crooked anymore.
Thomas is always watching.
I’m introducing my newest 3 patterns under my new(ish) pattern design company, Homegrown; the first of which is called Ups and Downs. I named it Ups and Downs because I felt it was an appropriate description of my year, and also because of the directions of the arrow blocks.
Ups and Downs
available thru Villa Rosa Designs
There is a tutorial for this pattern coming soon. I wanted to have it finished before I published this post, but all things must happen in the order in which one is able to complete each task at hand. I have come to make my peace that I am only one person trying to do the work of many people.
Lovingly pieced and edited by Kate Griffin,
quilted and bound by moi
I used Thomas’ final fabric line with Andover, Thesaurus, to pay homage to my friend. I watched him grow as a designer, take ballsy risks, and make tough decisions while maintaining his personal beliefs and integrity in the process. I can only imagine how difficult it’s been to be a man in a female-dominated industry such as ours, and I’ve seen him handle sexism with grace and humor.
I feel like although it’s kind of cheesy, I dedicate this simple pattern to my buddy T.K. because he’s a real artist, he takes no shit, and because he has the heart of a lion.
Thomas- you are a great teacher, and sometimes an asshole, but most of all an inspiring person and a fantastic friend. : ) I couldn't have found my voice without you. This pattern is for you.