Giuseppe Ribaudo has been wow-ing the quilting community with his creative designs. Sandi Sawa Hazlewood finds out more
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
I BECAME OBSESSED WITH FABRIC. THE DESIGNS AND THE COLOURS SPOKE TO ME IN A LANGUAGE I UNDERSTOOD
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
THE WAY I CHOOSE COLOUR IS INNATE, SO IT’S HARD TO ARTICULATE. I SORT OF JUST PULL COLOURS UNTIL I SMILE
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.
FOR MOONSTONE, I KNEW I WANTED A PATTERN YOU COULD FUSSY CUT LIKE CRAZY
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.
IF I HAD TO CHOOSE, I THINK MY BEST-CASE SCENARIO WOULD BE OWNING A QUILT SHOP IN A QUIET TOWN
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!