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Nugget News

Mother-daughter partnership revels in the joy of color
By Jim Cornelius

Valori and Jean Wells
Photo by Lynn Woodward

Jean and Valori Wells each have made a significant mark in the world of fabric arts.

Jean is the founder of the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show and owner of the renowned quilt and fabric store Stitchin' Post. She's a respected teacher and the author of 28 books.

Jean's daughter Valori is a respected fabric designer, a photographer, a quilter and an author.

But it is in the partnership that has developed between them over the past decade that both artists now thrive. Both consider themselves better artists for their alliance. It's a relationship that seems so natural, yet it is, in fact rare: a mother-daughter collaboration based upon trust, respect, and a shared vision.

"We both respect what each other does and what we do well, and both want the same end result," Jean says.
Valori elaborates: "We both want each other to have a creative outlet – to be creative and to be successful being creative."

And successful they are.

Valori's designs help make Stitchin' Post unique and are used in the design and pattern production marketed through the store. She's also responsible for keeping up-to-date on new technologies and for marketing the store and the artists through social media.

For her part, Jean brings to bear her experience as an artist and a teacher and an intuitive sense of color, which she nurtured in Valori.

"She does what she does well and I do what I do well – and I think that's part of what makes us successful," says Valori.

While both Valori and her brother Jason grew up in their mom's store and Valori remembers talking color with her mom as a young child, the mother-daughter collaboration did not catch fire early.

"In the back of my mind, I always hoped she'd be interested, but I never put any pressure on her in any way," Jean says. "There was never any interest until she was in her 20s. When you have strong-willed children, they have to find their own path."

Valori's path took her to college in Portland at Pacific Northwest College of Art, where she studied black-and-white photography. Then she headed across the country to North Carolina. Ironically, she took a job at a quilt shop, which made her appreciate how special Stitchin' Post was, and she began designing fabric of her own.
Valori  recalls, "I made my first quilt and I sent it to my mom through the mail from North Caorlina."
"And I cried," says Jean.

Between Valori's junior and senior year, Jean asked her to handle photography for the book "Everything Flowers" and later for  "Through the Garden Gate: Quilters and Their Gardens." The partnership was on its way.

Quilting, sewing and knitting have become a significant part of Valori's work.

"I don't want to be the one that does designs in my head and never gets to touch the fabric," she says.

The pair bounces ideas off each other in rapid-fire succession, exploring color combinations with an ease that bespeaks their comfort working together.

"We are both good at collaborating," Jean says. "It's like brainstorming. We both have ideas all the time."
Jean's ideas often come from nature and she stresses the importance of observation to the artist.

"You can't just walk by everything," she says. "Sometimes you have to stop and look at things or stand back and look at things."

Valori admits that early on there was a sense that she was working in her mother's long shadow – but that has dissipated with time and her own success.

"I feel like I have my own identity with my fabric now and more confidence in what I'm doing," she says.

The pair has pushed Stitchin' Post into the forefront of the industry, with a broad palette of classes to choose from and fabric selections that appeal to both traditional quilters and a new generation of fabric artists.

Both women have become skilled businesswomen as well as artists.Valori has a new fabric collection called Novella coming out in the fall, while Jean's latest book, "Journey to Inspired Art Quilting," will be out in July.

And a new generation is waiting in the wings. Valori and her husband, Ross Kennedy, live just outside of Sisters with their two daughters, Olivia Rose and Violette Grace, and son Teague Ashton. The kids love to play in their mom's studio and experiment with colors and fabrics.

The two artists keep each other inspired and their respect for each other is palpable.

"We're really close friends," Valori says. "We're not just mother-daughter; we have a really tight friendship and a tight relationship as artists."
For more information on Valori Wells' designs, visit www.valoriwells.com and her blog at http://valoriwells.typepad.com. For information on Jean Wells' designs, visit www.jeanwellsquilts.com.

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