Giuseppe Ribaudo has been wow-ing the quilt­ing com­mu­nity with his cre­ative de­signs. Sandi Sawa Ha­zle­wood finds out more

Love Patchwork & Quilting - - FEATURES -

For Giuseppe Ribaudo a ca­reer as a the­atre ac­tor came sec­ond to his love of fab­rics and quilt de­sign, as Sandi Sawa Ha­zle­wood finds out

What can you tell us about your cre­ative jour­ney?

I re­mem­ber watch­ing my grand­mother trans­form fab­ric into beau­ti­ful gar­ments as a child. I was al­ways fas­ci­nated by the process of sewing. I’d stand be­side her at her in­dus­trial Singer and watch her cre­ate, ad­sorb­ing her me­thod­i­cal tech­niques, watch­ing her metic­u­lously craft cloth­ing, cur­tains, cos­tumes, pil­lows… I al­ways loved watch­ing her work but I never knew how to trans­late what I had learned from her into work of my own. I didn’t have much in­ter­est in mak­ing cloth­ing, but I knew I wanted to sew in some way.

When I was in col­lege study­ing the­atre, I dis­cov­ered quilt­ing and im­me­di­ately knew I had found my niche. I be­came ob­sessed with fab­ric – the de­signs and the colours spoke to me in a lan­guage I hadn’t heard be­fore but some­how com­pletely un­der­stood im­me­di­ately.

I honed my craft slowly, mak­ing a lot of bad stuff be­fore I cre­ated any­thing good. Af­ter a cou­ple years of ex­per­i­ment­ing, I bought my first quilt­ing book, El­iz­a­beth Hart­man’s The Prac­ti­cal Guide to Patch­work.

That was when I down­loaded Instagram and found a net­work of mak­ers who en­cour­aged me to keep sewing. Even­tu­ally, An­dover Fab­rics no­ticed me and started send­ing me fab­ric to pro­mote their col­lec­tions and make projects for trade shows. Other com­pa­nies fol­lowed suit.

I bounced around the coun­try for a bit work­ing as an ac­tor, all the while sewing be­tween shows. Burnt out on the­atre, I moved back home


to New York in the hopes of land­ing a job in the fab­ric in­dus­try. I fig­ured that if find­ing em­ploy­ment in fab­ric didn’t work out, at least I would be in New York City and could get right back to au­di­tion­ing.

Within five months of be­ing back in New York, An­dover Fab­rics of­fered me a job in their mar­ket­ing de­part­ment. Af­ter a year I was pro­moted from Mar­ket­ing As­so­ci­ate to Mul­ti­me­dia Man­ager.

It’s been a busy and pro­duc­tive cou­ple of years!

Your Instagram feed is gor­geous! What are you think­ing about when you add pic­tures to your feed? Thanks so much! When I post some­thing, I am al­ways try­ing to give some­one a look in­side. I am all about process. I rarely make any­thing for the sake of get­ting it done. If I am go­ing to in­vest a lot of time into a project, I have to want to work on it. So when I post it tends to be a lot of in-process pho­tos be­cause that’s what I en­joy the most – the pro­gres­sion of a project. I al­ways like see­ing some­thing fin­ished but what re­ally in­trigues me is how peo­ple work, get­ting to see a project change and grow.

Do you see a blog in your fu­ture?

A web­site, sure. I’ll have to get one even­tu­ally as I ex­pand my brand. But a blog, prob­a­bly not. I get asked that ques­tion a lot. It’s ac­tu­ally a point of pride for me that I don’t have a blog, or even a web­site for that mat­ter. As I was start­ing to take my work in this in­dus­try more se­ri­ously, I was told time and time again that I needed to start a blog if I wanted peo­ple to work with me. I was con­fi­dent that that wasn’t the case, that I could make a name for my­self just by us­ing Instagram. A few years later, I’ve got an awe­some job at a ma­jor fab­ric com­pany in the heart of New York City. So I kind of feel like I won that one…

I think a lot of peo­ple in this line of work who are try­ing to make a name for them­selves think a lit­tle too hard about how to “make it big.” You can put up blog posts all the time, read ar­ti­cles about how to grow your fol­low­ing, do ev­ery­thing the in­ter­net tells you to do to be the next big thing… But to me, it’s all about be­ing as true to your­self as you can. Work hard and be pos­i­tive. Good things will fol­low.

It seems like your fa­vorite colour is rain­bow! How do you se­lect colours for your quilts?

I am def­i­nitely a fiend for all things colour-or­der, there is no doubt about that. I’ve been ex­per­i­ment­ing with lim­it­ing my pal­ette a bit lately, but I al­ways come back to the spec­trum.

The more I think about it though, it’s not ex­actly the rain­bow I like. I think it’s the gra­da­tion of colour. It’s see­ing how colours can morph and change de­pend­ing on how they’re paired. How a colour can be yel­low next or­ange but that same yel­low can be­come earth­ier when it’s next to green. I love these weird tran­si­tional shades, the way a colour can shift so you see blue, I see teal. It’s my favourite thing about colour and a big part if why I love to use so much colour in my sewing.

I don’t re­ally have a process for choos­ing my colours or fab­rics for a project. I just trust my gut. I usu­ally see a piece of fab­ric I want to work with and just pull a bunch of stuff that goes with it. I find my­self try­ing out dif­fer­ent val­ues of the rain­bow all the time. Some­times it’s bright, some­times more au­tum­nal, at other times


it’s deeply sat­u­rated. I think the way I choose colour is in­nate, so it’s a hard thing to articulate how I choose what I choose. I sort of just pull colours un­til I smile. That’s when I know I’ve got it. If it doesn’t make me happy, I’m not work­ing with it.

How did you de­sign your English pa­per pieced quilt, Moonstone? For Moonstone, I knew I wanted a pat­tern you could fussy cut like crazy. I wanted a big piece so I could fussy cut larger prints and smaller ones so I could do the same with small scale de­signs. I started with a gi­ant oc­tagon, then played with sub­di­vi­sions within the block and added shapes out­side it. I played with quite a few it­er­a­tions. I knew I had it when I started to vi­su­alise all the things I could do with the block, how I could al­ter the look of it by rotating the blocks this way and that. It’s been in­cred­i­ble watch­ing peo­ple work with the pat­tern and see­ing them dis­cover new things with the de­sign. It never gets old.

In ad­di­tion to your visu­ally at­trac­tive de­signs, you’re al­ways kind and en­cour­ag­ing. How do you view your con­tri­bu­tion to the quilt­ing com­mu­nity?

I do try to be as kind and en­cour­ag­ing as I can be. I think that's be­cause I’ve never re­ally felt like I be­longed to any par­tic­u­lar group. Grow­ing up, I was con­stantly os­tracised. I was over­weight, gay, a the­atre kid, bald­ing at 16. I wasn't ex­actly ‘cool.’ Hon­estly, I didn't feel all that wel­comed when I started quilt­ing ei­ther. I’d go into a quilt shop and get treated like I didn’t be­long there or get asked if I was look­ing for my girl­friend.

Instagram changed that for me. That's where I found a net­work of peo­ple who cheered me on and told me to keep sewing. I'll never for­get the mo­ment that I thought to my­self that I had found my peo­ple. I had posted some­thing ques­tion­ing my skills and abil­i­ties, won­der­ing whether or not what I was do­ing was any good. Katy Jones com­mented that she too had strug­gled with what I was work­ing on and that I should keep it up and not get down on my­self. I'd been a great ad­mirer of her. Not just her work, but her style, her hu­mour and her in­flu­ence in the quilt­ing world. To have her say that to me, it meant ev­ery­thing. I've al­ways seen that as a defin­ing mo­ment in my sewing ca­reer. I felt so em­pow­ered. I hope to en­cour­age and in­spire peo­ple my­self. No one should feel they don't be­long in this com­mu­nity. We have to do all we can to make ev­ery­one feel a part of this awe­some craft. Sex, race, ori­en­ta­tion, these di­vi­sions do noth­ing to help us grow this in­dus­try.


I think it’s so im­por­tant to be pos­i­tive to peo­ple, es­pe­cially those just get­ting their start. Ev­ery Ali­son Glass, Tula Pink, and Car­olyn Fried­lan­der was a be­gin­ner be­fore they were a star.

How does liv­ing in New York af­fect your cre­ative process?

The city doesn’t re­ally in­spire me in terms of what I cre­ate, more so HOW I cre­ate. Liv­ing here def­i­nitely keeps me on my toes. The en­ergy is fre­netic. It never lets up. Some­times it's an in­cred­i­ble mo­ti­va­tor. New York City changes around you ev­ery day. I want to keep up. I want to try new things. My modus operandi is pretty much work, work, work, so be­ing in a city that is never still re­ally keeps me striv­ing to work harder.

At other times, though, it's ex­haust­ing. Be­cause the city is so fren­zied, I of­ten have a hard time slow­ing down. I don’t al­ways make time for my­self. Of­ten times when I am out hav­ing a great time, I find my­self feel­ing guilty that I am not work­ing. I’ve been do­ing bet­ter with this lately, I don’t beat my­self up as much as I used to when I am tak­ing time for me, but it’s still a chal­lenge. What would be your dream job?

I could be happy do­ing many things. That said, no mat­ter what I do in life, I think I will al­ways be wish­ing I was do­ing some­thing else. No mat­ter where I am, I won­der what is hap­pen­ing some­where else. No mat­ter what I am do­ing, I’m al­ways imag­in­ing do­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent. It’s just my na­ture. I’m never all the way con­tent. But I think that sort of wan­der­ing mind­ful­ness is what keeps things in­ter­est­ing. It’s what makes you al­ways want to try some­thing dif­fer­ent. That to me is in­cred­i­bly ex­cit­ing, al­ways be­ing in pur­suit of some­thing new.

But if I had to choose, I think my best-case sce­nario would be own­ing a quilt shop. Since I’ve been a per­former all my life, get­ting back to my roots of the­atre in some ca­pac­ity would be in­cred­i­ble. In a per­fect world, I would own a quilt shop in a quiet town and be able to tele­port from my sleepy shop at clos­ing time to New York City to per­form on Broad­way. It’s a dream job, right? I can use sci­ence fic­tion to get ev­ery­thing I want since it’s a dream.


Beau­ti­ful bight blocks from Giuseppe's Moonstone quilt

Above: This cool blue quilt is a fab ex­am­ple of Giuseppe's ex­per­i­ments with colour gra­da­tions

From cool blues to rain­bow brights, we think Giuseppe's pas­sion for colour is matched only by his love of fab­rics!

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