Welcome to Bonnie Christine’s Workroom
Creative dreams really can come true if you have the will, skill and initiative. Just look what happened to fabric designer BONNIE CHRISTINE, who is now an international name working out of an idyllic home studio. By Susan Hurley
There are thousands and thousands of eager artistic/inventive types out there, keen as mustard and capable of wonderful work, but floundering about how to get their ideas out of their notebooks and into the real world of crafting business. Well, here’s an encouraging story that will have them sparking on all cylinders, with a new skip in their step and fire in their tums!
It comes via the creative journey of Bonnie Christine. Today, she is an internationally successful artist and fabric designer, but for months and years, she struggled to find a foothold on the first rung of the creative ladder. As it turns out, the process was simple as pie and immensely rewarding.
“I decided that surface pattern design was my dream after attending college and working for a while in my mother’s fabric/quilt shop,” says Bonnie. “I spent a few years learning Adobe Illustrator and building my portfolio before I was ready to show my [fabric design] work. Because the fabric industry is where my passions began, I decided to attend International Quilt Market, in 2012, and took my portfolio and several projects I’d made using fabrics printed by a local company, using my designs. I also carried with me a small quilt my mother had made, to show my designs; it’s one of my favourite possessions.
“I met with several companies to show them my work and samples, but was most looking forward to the meeting I had arranged with Art Gallery Fabrics. From this meeting, I walked away a different person. The art director offered me a contract right away, and I left Quilt Market to begin my career as a fabric designer!
“Since then, I’m elated to say that I’m living my absolute creative dream. I’ve designed 10 fabric collections for Art Gallery Fabrics and have seen my work come to life on ribbons, wallpaper, iPhone cases, embroidery designs, photo books and more.”
Now, if that doesn’t boost flagging aspirations, nothing will. According to Bonnie, when shyly kicking off her dreams, she decided to employ her own “It only takes 10 seconds of courage” principle, whereby she takes a deep breath, girds the loins and plunges in with cold calls to potential new clients. It only takes 10 seconds of courage to dial a number and introduce yourself, according to Bonnie. And the dividends can be enormous.
But before we go fully into her success and creature comforts of her home studio, let’s go back a bit to her creative beginnings, courtesy of her mother, Maxie. “My childhood was saturated with creativity. I grew up spending time in my mother’s quilt shop, watching her sew and making things alongside her. We spend time learning crafts together, decorating the house and cooking meals. Whenever I wanted to learn a new craft, I knew I could turn to her. Creativity seems to seep from her pores, and it’s through her wisdom, willingness to teach and gentle guidance that I came to realise my world had to revolve around being creative, too.”
Fast forward to her marriage and children and a substantial Art Gallery Fabrics contract and you have the makings of a very contented designer indeed. “My work feels like a direct reflection of my very soul,” she coos. “I pour everything I have into each collection, then put it out into the world to see where it lands.”
And what’s the home base for all this creative and lifestyle satisfaction? Her lovely home in the countryside of the US Great Smoky Mountains, which comes complete with the following enviable trappings: “Farmland surrounds us and, during the summer, the sounds of nature fill our house. We listen to the birds sing in the morning and spend most warm nights watching for shooting stars in the sky.”
The studio we’re showing you is part of that home, which according to Bonnie, works seamless with her family flow. The house is relatively recently built to incorporate the perfect studio space for Bonnie. That was top of the construction priority list, and the finished room is filled with natural light and plenty of work space – and a cosy corner for her children to play in.
“I’ve had many studios that weren’t ideal – one in the corner of our bedroom and another in the attic of our last home. But when we built, I was able to create a 600-square-foot [ conversion] space that I’m truly in love with. Much planning went into our family flow and our work areas, so I can finally say that it meets all of our needs. ”
Since Bonnie’s world is filled with colour and pattern, she prefers to keep her studio surroundings clean, bright and light, mixing old and new and making sure that she has plenty of storage so that her business can operate smoothly. After all, her 200 bolts of fabric and oodles of notions need to be organised properly, so that everything runs as smoothly as possible.
She may state that “Making artwork is my happy place”. But at least a portion of that credit should go to the Smoky Mountains studio surroundings that daily inspire her creative output. And how could something as romantic of the Smoky Mountains not!
A WORD OF ADVICE
“Do one small thing every day,” suggests Bonnie. “When big dreams seem overwhelming, begin reaching towards them by doing just one small thing each day. At the end of a week, a month and a year, you will have made giant leaps towards accomplishing them. These will be the steps that will lead you to living your dream!” – Bonnie Christine
THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVOURITE THINGS
HANDMADE QUILTS – All made by my momma; they remind me of my roots.
COLLECTION OF BOOKS – Collected over time to help me gather inspiration.
ANTIQUE FABRIC STAMPS – Found at an antique store. They make me think about the history of design.
STUDENT TESTIMONIES – Gathered over time but always uplifting, because they remind me and of why I do what I do.
SKETCHBOOKS – Sketchbooks of all kinds, so that when inspiration strikes, I’m ready!
FABRICS: Available worldwide; check your local independent fabric stores or go to: liveartgalleryfabrics.com/where-to-buy/online-store.
ART PRINTS: Available for sale at: bonniechristine.com/the-shop