We can’t think of a better way to kick off the new year than with a new Member Spotlight. This month, we’re featuring Sonja Callaghan. Sonja is a talented designer of paper-pieced patterns. Sonja’s blog, Artisania, is a treasure-trove of free patterns and tutorials (including how-to videos), and you can also buy Sonja’s patterns. Her work – which has a super cute and quirky style – has been featured in books and magazines. She recently put on a workshop for VMQG and introduced a whole new crop of quilters to the fun of paper piecing. Late last year, Sonja “retired” as VMQG’s photographer after over two years of dedicated volunteer service. We’re so grateful for all of the time and talent Sonja shared with VMQG. Now she can sit back and relax during the meetings for a change!
When did you start quilting?
I made my first quilt in 2001 when I was pregnant with my daughter. One of my Martha Stewart Baby magazines had a simple patchwork heirloom quilt which inspired me to try. Of course I didn’t follow any of the instructions. Baste the whole thing just to rip it out again? Nah, I just started quilting it. It’s safe to say a long and meaningful relationship with my seam ripper started that day.
Why do you quilt/create/make?
Looking back, I think my sewing and designing obsession started out as a creative outlet replacement for playing the piano. I’ve had 20 years of classical piano training, and when my children were little I was often so frustrated that I couldn’t play while they were napping, or late at night. Sewing was the perfect quiet solution for my restless hands.
I also think I continuously create because I can’t stand being so horrible at something! That first quilt was so hilariously bad, I just had to try again, not only to prove to myself that I could indeed make a decent quilt, but to see how far I can hone and perfect my sewing and quilting skills.
It took me a whole week of failed attempts to finally figure out how to paper piece. I remember saying to myself, “I’m a reasonably intelligent person, and I should be able to figure this out, honestly!” Stubborn tenacity and an over-achiever syndrome just might explain some things.
What inspires you?
I love modern graphic art, honest candid portraiture, and vintage modern stylings. I also love ideas or images that capture and warm my heart, cleverness, and anything that makes me giggle.
I’m constantly inspired by what other people are making and sewing. I love seeing fresh fabric and colour pairings, and I’m always wondering why they chose those quilting motifs in particular.
I also find naturally occurring colour and texture combos extremely inspiring. It does gets a bit hairy when I spy something while I’m driving however.
What is your favourite project?
I think that would be the Halloween Quilt of Awesomeness, as it was a fun collaborative design project for my family. Our daughter Maya came up with the idea, my hubby Vince drew all the monsters, our son Liam named everyone, and I designed the patterns. It was my first whole quilt pattern, and having Paul, Paula and Laurraine from the VMQG help with the sewing and finishing was wonderful. Krista Withers’ long armed magic is definitely the icing on the cake! When it’s not participating in quilt shows, it hangs in the entrance to our bedroom.
Where do you create?
Up in my studio is where I do all the computer work and sewing. I usually carry a notepad and pencil in my purse so I can jot down any ideas that suddenly come to mind. I find my local Blenz a comfy place to sketch when I need to dream up new ideas.
What is one thing VMQG members may not know about you?
When I was 18, my occupation of choice was to be a search and rescue helicopter pilot.