An Interview with Jody Houghton, designer of Circle of Family

Jody Houghton’s illustrations and writings have warmed the hearts of dedicated gift buyers and quilters for 30 years. Her down-to-earth point of view and unique artistic style is attributed to the longevity of her successful home-based business. We talked to Jody about her art and her new fabric collection, Circle of Family. We hope that as you read along, you will begin to love Jody and her work as much as we do.

Jody, tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a native Oregonian currently living in Salem. I am blessed with a son, Iain, who lives and works in Las Vegas, and a daughter, Michele, and son-in-law Brinker, who live in Menlo Park, California.  In September I was blessed with my first grandchild, Paige Katherine. What a wonderful blessing to be a first-time Grandmother-new life, and more joy!  I just love it.

My work has been licensed by major gift manufacturers and distributed worldwide.  For the past 7 years I have been the author of the GIRLFRIEND WISDOM column in the Country Register Newspapers.  I often use the voices of my characters, Faith, Hope, or Charity to tell a story or give inspirational, uplifting advice.

What is the inspiration for the Faith, Hope and Charity characters, featured in many of your designs?

I like to draw on my own life experiences and spiritual values in creating my characters and poetry. I try to use a positive and encouraging writing style that inspires my readers to celebrate life each and every moment. I also want my artistic expression to reveal a sense of whimsy with light-hearted humor and joy.

How did you get started painting and sewing?

I learned to sew on my Mom’s treadle sewing machine when I was about 8 years old and loved making doll clothes from scraps of fabric. I have often honored my mother for letting me make a mess in her bedroom with my creations.

Sue Scheewe was my tole painting teacher in the 1970’s.  Her fine art background taught me the skill and value of shading and highlighting.  Sue was the first artist who introduced me the world of licensing artwork.

Did you have any further formal art education?

Yes, I studied calligraphy, printmaking, and silk painting at Massachusetts College of the Arts in Boston for 2 years graduating in 1982.

What types of Mediums do you enjoy working with?

My work is truly an original technique of mixed media.  My artistic application is a life-long combination of skills, exhibiting my love for color, and arts and crafts. I like to use a detailed blending of watercolor paper, acrylic paint, stencil cutting, and pen and ink detailing. The computer has enhanced my technique by using Photoshop to make my designs versatile for borders, pattern repeats, and projects such as greeting cards. My love of sewing and quilt design skills are revealed in my creations.

Can you tell us a little about your newest fabric collection, Circle of Family?

If I could name a talent that I believe I have, it would be matching artwork with a message.  Apparently, I am a visual learner. I think and feel with pictures, then the words come.

I designed a tree with big leaves.  I receive a lot of my design inspiration for color from nature.  Nature’s range of the color green is amazing.  I like to shade and highlight my leaves to get as many shades of green as possible in each leaf.  You can find a vine of leaves in almost all of my work. I believe it gives a sense of life, growth, and vitality.

When my family grew this year with the birth of my first grandchild, my daughter and son-in-law grew from a couple to a family.

A family tree project came from that union and it flowed into the poem that I wrote for the art panel.  My writings have a rhythm and they flow from what I call “grace”. I usually type the words as I write because I can type faster than I can write by hand.  One phrase flows to the next and before I know it; the poem is complete.  It is a fun adventure and it warms my heart. I am always grateful for my writings as they appear on the paper and then from paper to fabric.

How do your designs go from idea to fabric collection?

So far in my fabric collections, I design one main focus piece or theme. Out of that artwork, I design the coordinating fabrics with the icons, or design elements I have used in the main piece.  The blenders are special and needed.  Even my pin dots are hand placed dots rather than computer generated in even rows.  My checks and pin dots are shaded and highlighted to give more vitality to the fabrics.  The coordinating pieces are often my biggest challenge in creating the repeats needed for the manufacturers.  I’m still learning and enjoying the process with the help of others.

As an artist who has spent a lifetime with arts and crafts, sewing and fabrics, I love creating a collection that will give each quilter their own tools to design sewing projects that fit their personal desires for gifts or home décor.  Walk any quilt show and you can see the wonderful range of creativity that begins on a bolt of fabric that has been matched up with a myriad of choices of color and design.  It is awesome!  I love to see the projects that others create from my designs.

To view the entire Circle of Family collection, click here: FABRICS

1 comment

  1. Linda Christianson - July 3, 2012

    The heart fabric would be fun to make into a quilt.