Designer Q&A Judy Whitman JBW Designs
Q: How did you become a needleart designer?
A: I combined my love for stitching with my teaching and art background, and began offering needlepoint classes to friends. I quickly realized that in order to be a good teacher, I would have to design a number of projects to use in my classes.
Many of those early needlepoint designs were converted to cross stitch patterns in the 1980s, and I began to think about selling my designs to a larger audience. I'm guessing that most designers are self-taught—using skills that we've acquired over the years. Q: When did you begin selling your designs?
A: I first exhibited at a wholesale trade show with a vendor who made quilted totes, so our products did not compete with one another. That experience allowed me to see how a booth was set up, how to fulfill orders, and what I needed to do to expand my line. Within a few years, I felt confident enough to exhibit on my own at my first wholesale show in a convention center in Charlotte, N.C. Q: What advice would you give to new cross-stitch designers?
A: First, study the industry in depth, as there are hundreds of cross-stitch designers in our field. The most important advice I can give is to make sure that your designs are unique to the industry. You need to have products which set you apart from everyone else. Ideally, you want your customers to recognize your style and want to see more of what you have designed.
My second suggestion is to find a unique company name and a logo.
And lastly, you need to establish a collection of products so that you have a variety of items to offer to shop owners. Q: What inspires you? A: For years I have kept a notebook of design ideas. Some are inspired by a color palette; others by antique sampler motifs, old alphabets, quotations and holiday themes; plus suggestions from shop owners and consumers. I often photograph buildings, interiors, rug borders, ceiling designs, etc., when we are traveling. Q: Do you have a favorite crossstitch design project?
A: Several years ago I was asked to design a book for the Kansas City Star Quilts publishing group. The project took about 10 months to complete. I chose to concentrate on elegant designs for special occasions and produced 11 designs for the publication.
One of the most interesting experiences was traveling to Kansas City to be a part of the photographic session. We worked in an antique mall, using not only antiques that I had brought with me, but also items that I found throughout the store to set up vignettes for each design. The company did an amazing job with the layout, the graphic designs and the photography, and I was very privileged to have worked on this 64-page book, called Affectionately Yours. Q: Describe your perfect cross stitch/design day.
A: I'd be up in my studio, which is a large space on the second floor of our home, and there would be soft music playing. The sun would be shining, and I'd have a cup of hot tea by my side. A perfect day would include stitching, selecting colors and fabrics, and planning the next designs. I often stitch in the evenings as there doesn't seem to be enough time during the day to finish all of my models. But isn't that the perfect way to end the day? Q: Do you have more advice for Just CrossStitch readers?
A: I just heard a quote last week that expresses my hope for our industry: “You always have enough to give someone something else.” Each one of us needs to think about sharing our love for cross stitch with a friend, a child or someone whom we think also might enjoy learning something new.
The art of stitching adds such a sense of peace and calm to our lives. What a thrill it is to share those skills with a family member or even a stranger. You never know what a difference you might make in someone's life.
The French Country line includes more than 50 designs made up of small sampler motifs. Each design contains motifs that correlate with the name and theme of the piece. For example, the Crow contains motifs including an acorn, a black cat, an owl, several smaller crows, a pumpkin and a squirrel. “They are such fun to design,” Jane Whitman said,” as it is similar to assembling a puzzle.”
"Frosty" is part of JBW's "Sing a Song of Christmas" line of patterns. Look for JBW designs at your local needlework shop. Note: Judy does not sell directly to consumers online, only to retailers and wholesalers.