Amy Ellis and Christine Ricks, co-founders of Curated Quilts.
Amy has already built a successful career in the quilting industry. She’s written five books, designs fabric for Moda, is a Baby Lock sewing machine ambassador, and has a range of patterns. She’s also the host of a popular online event, The Blogger’s Quilt Festival. Christine is the designer of Block and Mod Block magazines published by Missouri Star Quilt Company. She’s also a modern quilter.
The two met through mutual friends at Missouri Star. “They were like ‘You guys should connect. You’d have fun together!’ So we started having lunch,” Amy says. “We live about 45 minutes away from each other [in the Salt Lake City area] and we get together every other month.” The idea for Curated Quilts came out of one of their lunch dates.
“There’s a lot of creativity and enthusiasm around quilting in Salt Lake, but there wasn’t a lot celebrating the modern quilter,” Amy says. “We were talking about putting together a show and hanging quilts up somewhere to showcase the modern slant in quilt making.” When they weren’t able to find an affordable venue, though, they began brainstorming other ideas.
“Christine being a graphic designer and me being more of a face in the quilt industry we were like, ‘We could produce a journal and publish it ourselves’ and we just threw Curated Quilts out there as an idea; something that we would collect and curate and share from the community at large,” Amy explains. “We decided to go for it.”
Each issue of Curated Quilts has a central theme. Past themes have been “linear” and “log cabin” and the upcoming issue will be all about minimalist quilts.
The magazine’s central focus is to provide inspiration. Twenty of the 96 pages function as a gallery of quilts, each with a 200-word caption written by the maker. “There’s open space in the layout so there’s room to allow your eye to rest and breathe and take in all the pieces that are presented,” Amy says. “It’s more inspirational and less pattern and project driven” than other quilting magazines on the market. “There’s more eye candy.”
The quality of the paper is also far superior to the majority of magazines available on newsstands. Each issue weighs in at a pound “so it’s a hefty book, pretty much,” Amy laughs. The magazine is printed near their homes in Salt Lake City.
Building community is another piece of the Curated Quilt’s mission. There’s a mini-quilt challenge in each issue that encourages readers to create together. “We have a prompt and then a color palette so that they can create,” Amy says. “We’ve been getting 75-100 mini quilts submitted for each challenge and we curate down to 25. It’s fun to see how different people interpret the prompt.” To enter people upload their photo on the Curated Quilts website.
The magazine also features books, patterns, and fabrics that fit with each issue’s theme plus articles written by Amy and freelance contributors (check out the submission guidelines here). The first three issues have also included articles by Mary Fons focusing on the history of the theme and how it relates to what’s happening in quilting today. (Fons has recently taken on the role of Editorial Director of Quiltfolk, another quilting quarterly.) There are a few patterns in each issue as well.
The new Dawn of Passionate Print Publications
Curated Quilts is one of several independently published, ad-free, highly produced, print-only craft magazines on the market now including Quiltfolk, ByHand Serial, Making Magazine, and UPPERCASE. These are publications created by passionate makers with a deep understanding of the market whose businesses focus on building relationships with readers. They’re also almost entirely funded through subscriptions.
At a time when craft media giant F+W is closing beloved titles such as Quilters Newsletter while laughing at the idea (16:30) that there could be a future in the magazine subscription model, these publications are proving that there is indeed an audience for quality print magazines for a passionate audience who connect with one another online.
“I value my subscribers dearly,” Janine Vangool, editor of UPPERCASE told me in an email. She describes her business model this way: “Find other enthusiastic readers like me who want a long-term relationship with a print magazine and build the business around this relationship.”
Michael McCormick, founder of Quiltfolk echoes this sentiment. “Our readers are our family,” he wrote to me in an email. “We intend to build a community that enjoys and supports the work we do, and who has a vested interest in our ongoing role within the quilting community.”
Curated Quilts has chosen a subscription-based revenue model because they, too, believe in those relationships. “There’s no advertising and we don’t intend to ever have any,” Amy explains. “That’s another way to keep [the layout] really clean. Having the subscriber revenue versus ad revenue just makes more sense for us. We want people that are excited about what we’re producing to be the main source of income.” Amy and Christine are working on adding new distribution channels over time. Checker Distributors just picked up the magazine so it will be sold in more quilt shops and they’re looking into other national options.
“We shipped half of our printing for the second issue immediately so that’s exciting,” Amy says. “My hope and goal is just that it continues to grow and inspire and as we connect with more people that it continues to spiral. There are subscribers around the world which is amazing. It’s taken on a life of it’s own.”