Designer Interview: Jody Houghton
3.10.2016

For Jody Houghton, the intention behind design is always the same: to bring joy and possibly even a little giggle to the quilters supporting her work.  Her motto has always been “Creating a Life, while Creating a Living”, and, after being in the gift business for 25 years, she expanded her interest in crafts to include quilting. Even after designing for 34 years, she is still creating whimsical and heartfelt patterns, labels, and greeting cards that her followers can gift to loved ones, girlfriends, or keep for their homes.While she still produces labels and greeting cards, her passion for art and quilting has taken her further than she ever imagined. Inspired by being a new grandmother, Jody’s newest collection, Baby Blessings, is available at Connecting Threads and can be found here.

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How long have you been working with Connecting Threads? I am going to guess five years.  I love working with the CT!  Their focus on the Quilter makes the work more personal. The organized structure makes the process enjoyable and not stressful.  The people are wonderful and so positive. I also enjoy slipping in a few gifts like my quilt labels or greeting cards that match my fabric collections.

Of all of the fabrics you have designed for Connecting Threads, which is your favorite? Which are you most proud of? Like so many artists, I do have to say the most current is my favorite.  Baby Blessings turned out great! And my next collection, Autumn Joy, is really exciting as well.  Because I am always learning new techniques and skills, it will probably always be the current or next collection that will be my “favorite”.

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What is the typical process for designing a collection? I begin by asking what time of year my line will be published.  This often sets the subject matter.  Next I decide on a theme, which takes me to the decision of my basic color palette. With my characters, Faith, Hope, and Charity, I begin with each one and start playing “dress-up”.  Each girl is adorned with a theme icon in her attire what she is holding in her hands or by her side.  As an example, in my Morning Glory Farm collection, Faith is carrying a basket of eggs, so naturally the Chicken became her icon. Charity is holding a bottle of milk, so the black and white cow is by her side. Check out her boots, the fringe is also utter-like! It just evolves, one step at a time, coordinates are usually from a design in a blouse, or flowers in a hat from Faith, Hope, and Charity.

You have been designing for years- how have your collections changed? I used to hand draw and hand paint all of my designs. That process worked for me until the development of the Baby Blessings collection.  CT and I worked for two years to “birth” that collection at the print stage and could not get the colors that we desired; I had too much shading and highlighting in my designs that only complicated matching the coordinates. I changed my color application process to more solid colors, maybe even with an outline, then filled it in and added shading and highlighting in a more controlled fashion.  It was a major change for me and the results have been fabulous!  My new process has even opened new processes like the ability to have my designs digitized for Machine Embroidery. 

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What’s the most rewarding part of creating these collections? The most rewarding part is from quilters who tell me stories about what they created from my designs. How their creations brought joy to those who received their work.  I love to see quilters at shows that decorate shirts with my ladies and using them as their Shop Hop uniforms and Quilt Retreat attire.  I have started a “Show and Tell” invitation on my Facebook page and it is lots of fun.

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What would you consider to be the biggest influence in your creations? How did you think up Faith, Hope, and Charity, the characters you often use in your work? The biggest influence in my creations is everyday life as seen through my characters Faith, Hope, and Charity. In 2000, I was asked by a gift shop owner in Sisters, Oregon to create a T-shirt design.  As a child, my family had lots of camping trips through that area.  As a creative child, I often gave inanimate objects, like rocks and flowers, personalities and made families out of them for pretend play. While sitting in the backseat on those trips, I viewed the Three Sisters Mountains as family of three girls, just like mine.  I am the middle child so Hope, would be my mountain. The mapping title of the Three Sisters Mountains is: North Sister, Middle Sister, South Sister.  The nicknames for the mountains are Faith, Hope, and Charity.  I had not given names to my design characters up to that time.  When the Sisters, Oregon shop owner asked for a new design with my characters, I immediately knew that I would name my girls Faith, Hope, and Charity.  These would be names that I could develop personality characteristics with elements of the virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity (love).

In 2002, I was asked to create gift books for Harper Collins Zondervan entitled, Everyday Faith, Always Hope, and Abiding Charity.  As I retold the story of how I came up with the names for the characters, I contacted the Chamber of Commerce for Sisters, Oregon to clarify how the mountains got their nicknames.  As I received an email back from them, I was awe-struck!  As the email stated each mountain, they included the elevation of the mountain.  Hope, (Middle Sister), MY mountain, was 10,747 feet.  I was born October 7, 1947 – 10-7-47!!!! I have taken that information as a Divine message that my work is my mission to spread as much joy and Faith, Hope, and Love into the world as possible.  My avenue in fulfilling that mission is through my artwork…… I also write a column for Country Register called Girlfriend Wisdom sharing joyful messages.

What can we look forward to seeing from you in the future? Autumn Joy!  My “girls” are honoring the time of year I also love, autumn.  I attended Massachusetts College of the Arts to formalize my skills and loved New England’s autumn colors.  Faith has acorn earrings, Hope has Pennsylvania-Dutch style Chrysanthemums, and Charity is donning a pumpkin hat! On the Art Panel, Faith has a message of encouragement from William Ward:  “Faith sees a beautiful blossom in a bulb, a lovely garden in a seed, and a giant oak in an acorn.”  I hope the quilters love the colors as much as I do!

For more on Jody and her unique artistic style, visit her Etsy or Facebook.