I’m Designer, Author, and your host for this program, Pat Sloan. This year we challenged each designer to create a block inspired by our ‘Aurifil Color Builders’ collection. I assigned each month a color/city and the Designer can work their magic using either the City, the colors or both! Each designer has their box + matching Kona Cotton Solids from Robert Kaufman in the shades of the thread. I also gave each designer a charcoal linen from Robert Kaufman for them to use if they like.
Designer this month is Shannon and Jason Mullett-Bowlsby of The Shibaguyz. We are so thrilled to have this award winning duo as our Aurifl 2020 December designers. They bring their improv style to create a unique block to wrap up our ‘more’ than unique year.
I do believe Shannon and Jason were the ones to handle our Carrara color builder set. They zoned in on the beautiful marble for their block.
Did you miss a month from previous years? CLICK FOR PRIOR DESIGNER interviews.
We have a Challenge portion of our Designer of the Month interview. Each month we select one random winner to receive a 3 boxes from our Color Builder series. All you have to do is making the challenge block that you download below and share it at the link! Details at the end plus last month’s winner!
Let’s get to know Shannon and Jason!
Where do you live and what is your favorite spot there?
We live in Seattle, the neighborhood called West Seattle to be precise, just off of downtown. We love the energy of the downtown core and living here in West Seattle is just far enough away to relax a bit while being close enough to get into the city when we feel the urge. West Seattle has our favorite parks and overlooks featuring the city, mountains and the water that make up the area.
It’s hard to find an area around here that is not picturesque.
Shannon & Jason you have a deep creative background in designing with yarn. When you went looking for a sewing thread, how did your work with yarn influence what you were looking for in a thread??
In any project we do regardless of yarn, string, or thread, we always focus on using the right material for the job. We have never pinned ourselves to one yarn product before because we always liked to keep our options open when it came to picking the right yarn for the project. When it came to thread, we knew if we were going to settle on a single thread company, we needed a company that had a variety of thread weights that would work for the wide variety of projects we like to take on… including projects we hadn’t even dreamed of yet! What we didn’t want to have happen was to sit down to create “a thing” and not have what we needed to make that happen right there at hand. There is NOTHING more frustrating to us and nothing kills creative momentum faster.
Fortunately, from 12 wt for sashiko, top stitching, and quilting, to 50 wt as our general hand and machine sewing champion, to floss for Kogin and hand embroidery, Aurifil had everything we were looking for. After playing with various weights of Aurifil at a convention, we knew this was a high-quality product that came in weights that would work for most everything we produced. Again, that included projects we might not have even dreamed up yet. One never knows what inspiration or motivation might appear around the next turn in the creative road.
And, of course, we couldn’t have a discussion about our love of Aurifil thread without talking the color selection. GAH!! So many FAB colors! ‘Nuff said…
How are you incorporating sashiko into your projects??
We believe that all disciplines, techniques, and art forms inform one another. No one type of creativity stands as an island. Each is influenced by and given enlightenment by others. As that is true with all of our other creative disciplines, so too have sashiko and boro informed so much of our work. Hand sewing techniques related to the unshin (handling the needle) of Sashiko has changed how we do our hand quilting and how we think about quilting, mending, embroidery, and overall fabrication. Boro has led us to a broader view of abstract and improv fabric piecing and helped us see how these techniques, often only associated with quilting, can be incorporated into garment making, textile design, and, again, fabrication.
Further, sashiko and boro have given us a new understanding of how to work with existing fabrics to create new aggregate fabrics through patchwork, needle weaving, and different construction methods. Finally, the study of sashiko and boro gave us insights into the connectivity of hand sewing, patchwork, mending, and the cultural and socio-economical necessities that have led different cultures from all over the world to develop similar techniques independent of one another. Why did this happen? What was the common thread? What brought us all to these ways of doing things that all have such a similar look and feel? It’s been a fascinating journey for us, and we are learning more and discovering more every day.
What does your studio look like, and what would you change in it?
Here is what our studio spaces look like. We have converted two rooms in our house into workspaces. We live in a townhouse in a city, so these are not large rooms, so space saving features are vital for us. Every space and every surface must be a multi-tasker and, truly, the only sacred space in the house where work absolutely does not enter is our bedroom.
We love features like our cutting table, storage closets (note there is storage under even the cutting table), large shelving units like those in Jason’s space, and our Horn of America sewing cabinet which houses our BERNINA and a LOT of thread, tools, and notions. It is also invaluable working space… not sure what we’d do without this master of multi-taskers.
What would we change about them? BIGGER!! Much, much bigger. This has become an even more relevant part of our conversations since we have been working and teaching exclusively within the four walls of our house. We need more space! We would definitely add more defined spaces such as design walls, photography alcoves and teaching spaces, more shelves. We are fiends for reference books so dedicated library spaces for those by discipline. Separate spaces for different disciplines and their associated equipment. And, of course, a place to lounge and contemplate, take a meeting, or just take a break with the Shibakidz.
We’ve calculated the space and it would be, basically, as large as our existing house. We looked at the perfect space once in one of those work loft buildings and it would cost as much as our existing house too. And the problem with a separate space is that we can’t just dive in whenever inspiration hits us. So, for now, we will be happy with being small, compact, and mighty. For now… unless you know someone who wants to give us a bigger house… totally okay with that. Just sayin’…
What’s on your play list??
This is a tough one. Our musical tastes are all over the board. With few exceptions, we are music folx and like just about everything. We have probably (at least) a hundred playlists. We both grew up in musical families and continued music throughout college and now as adults. Music is an integral part of our lives… to say the least. Shannon will go back and forth between pop, Baroque, and dance music while Jason hits the show tunes, country pop, and Latin pop. There are days when Shannon is upstairs belting opera and Jason is downstairs crooning with some Broadway diva. On others, 80’s pop, EDM, Vivaldi, and Howard Jones might take center stage. That said, those genres don’t even come close to encompassing our playlists. Currently, our Amazon Music shows thousands and thousands of songs. It really depends on whether we need to concentrate or pick ourselves up or find the motivation to climb on the elliptical machine one more time. Music sets the mood for every task in our days and changes accordingly.
What do you collect??
We don’t know what you are talking about. We don’t have dinosaurs, mermen, or octopi things in our house. And there are not various and sundry chickens in cubby holes. Nope… we’re not those folx.
Are you a Dog or Cat person?
You might think that we are “dog people” but in fact we are animal people in general. We’ve obviously lived with the Shibakidz the longest, but we had cats for the first 15 years together with a short period of overlap with the first of the Shibakidz (tip: do not mix a 20 year old cat with three pack hunting dogs… just sayin’…). One of Jason’s majors in college was zoology… he’s a sucker for any fuzzy face he comes across domesticated or wild (this is not a direct reference to Shannon… no directly).
What is your favorite movie and why??
Shannon: Jurassic Park because, RAWR!!
What is your Favorite quote?
“Be so good, they can’t ignore you.” – Steve Martin
This speaks to us because we have always been told we were in a genre that wasn’t meant for us. Either because of our genders or our approach, folx have always kind of given us a side eye look so this has always served as a reminder that we just need to let them to see what it is we have to offer and to always strive to help them see that in a better light.
Favorite snack food?
Shannon is a sucker for popcorn. We keep a giant container of kernels in the pantry. And none of this microwave stuff… popped on the top of the stove in a pot. That’s true love right there. Jason generally has a sweet tooth… big time! Skittles, M&M’s, and, the big one, orange slices! Oh… and both of us love ice cream. Like… really love ice cream.
Where’s your favorite place to take an out-of-town guest?
THIS is a thing for us. We honestly believe we should be official tour guides for the city of Seattle because we love every little thing about this city. If you are coming to Seattle and we offer to take you around, please set aside at least three days for overviews of markets, food, sweeping vistas, food, shopping, food… did we mention the food? Every neighborhood has a unique personality and its own little pocket of culture to which we love to visit ourselves and introduce our guests. But, if we had to narrow it down to one day, we would take our guest on a drive around the peninsula of West Seattle for the views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains then drive into downtown where we would have our first taste of food in the International District. Then we’d drive up and over the hill to Queen Anne for the epic view above the Space Needle into downtown and our home of West Seattle. Finally, Pike Place Market would be a must with our favorite vendor stalls including our jewelry friends at Sabando Designs. And FOOD!! The French bakery, Market Spice Tea, the donut place! The Truffle Queen, Beecher’s Cheese, the piroshky place… yeah… three days. At least.
What else would you’d like to share?
Thanks for asking! We have a new book coming out in December 2020 from C&T Publishing called Boro & Sashiko – Harmonious Imperfection that we are extremely proud of. Since we started our answers for this interview, our book has dropped!! WOOHOO!! This is our first book outside of the yarn genre and the folx at C&T were FAB about letting us express our subject both technically and creatively. As you know, sashiko and boro have been a passion of ours for a few years now and this book is both instructional as well as a tribute to the Japanese people who developed and used these techniques as part of their everyday lives. As we say in the book, this once functional form of mending and reinforcing has now, through the lens of time, become a fascinating art form. We are so fortunate to have had the opportunity to study these techniques from the perspective of both academics and applications and turn that into this book. We can’t wait to share this with the rest of the creative world and, hopefully, inspire others to study and work with these intricate and engaging techniques.
Teaching… yup! We’re doing a lot of that! We are so fortunate to have been able to make the pivot to virtual teaching from here in our studios and our kitchen. Jason is a professional photographer, so we made major updates to our equipment for video and streaming and now are able to teach fiber arts, textile design, quilting, sewing, embroidery, crochet, knitting, photography, and now cooking classes. We are living our teaching dream by being able to offer a comprehensive series of classes to our students through several different platforms. The best way to keep up with our new teaching schedule is to look on the Classes page on our website. (link: https://www.designz.shibaguyz.com/shibaguyzclasses.html)
New projects are always in the works. We have a new series of cooking classes that will probably be on our schedule by the time this interview is published, and we have just developed a whole new series of workshops that we’ve never released before. Is there a new book? Probably… if we could talk about it we would but then we’d have to go all 007 on you.
Tell us how how Carrara Inspired your block
Looking the inspiration photos (and they are truly inspirational) we could not help from seeing the vertical and horizontal lines in the quarry. Like all things in nature, they were not exactly parallel, but ran slightly wonky… that’s a word we love to use… Using the idea of wonky sections of the quarry we started looking at the way the light hit the marble and from there it was an easy jump off to a wonky set of blocks stacked in rows.
Visit Shannon and Jason online:
Each year I make the Aurifil blocks in a totally different set of fabrics.
Enter your block BELOW by Jan 14, 2021 to be in the running to win a SET of 3 Aurifil Color Builder Thread Box!
******* JOIN our Aurifil Family *******
EACH MONTH we will pick one random winner that has made a block.. that person will receive a special Aurifil thread prize! Winners are all contacted email
November random number picker selected JNScomp’s fabulous block! You’ve been emailed
December random number picker selected Joy’s gorgeous block! You’ve been emailed