Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Brooke and apriltwoeightyquilts is my brand - april two eighty is my birthday! I grew up on the east coast in Maine, but moved across the country alone in 2014. I started in Los Angeles and did a quilting internship, and then moved off to a tiny town in northern AZ. I'm now in Tucson, further south, in the desert which I feel very akin to. I've spent a lot of my free time in Joshua Tree.
I started quilting around age 10, taught by my mother, who was always making clothes and quilts. I started selling on Etsy sometime around 2008.
I've since spent a lot of time building my business and coming into my style, learning how to dye my own fabrics, and have branched out to my own website and shop - http://www.
In my free time I like to do things like hiking, thrifting, reading, and taking naps! For all of the exploring and adventuring I do, I am also very much a homebody.
Can you recall the moment you realized you had a passion for quilting?
I have been quilting for a long time, but it was once I started traveling and seeing other landscapes that I really started to transform my work. I can't imagine doing anything else! I have always been a writer/blogger/photographer, and quilting really started going hand in hand with that once I realized I had stories that I wanted to tell in a more tactile way. The last few years have really found me very connected to my work, both from a business perspective and also emotionally.
How do you manage working a full time job and running a creative business?
I am very lucky that for the past few years my dayjob work schedule has been 6am-2:30pm, Monday thru Friday. This gives me time in the evenings and weekends to run my business. It's like working two full time jobs. I dedicate as much time as I can to my business, often forsaking socializing so that I can get the work done. It takes a lot of focus and planning. I always have a list in the notes on my phone of what needs to get finished and when, to meet my personal deadlines - often this is detailed down to the week or day. My studio space is in my home, I don't have a living room so that I can have the space to work. It makes it easier to just come home, or wake up, and get to working on projects!
Any tips for people looking to take their creative outlet to the next level?
It takes a lot of patience with yourself, knowing that things may not always go smoothly or right. But stick with it! Do your research on pricing and ask for what you're worth! (That has been the hardest part for me, since quilting and fabric dyeing are very time consuming.) Be focused and as dilligent as possible. Have a good social media presence (I post every day), and share as much as you're willing and able. Pay attention to how you are presenting yourself and be as true to yourself and your art/skill as you can be - people will connect with that! Engage in conversations online that help people understand what you do. Do some local markets whenever possible to have face to face time with the patrons in your area! I've met some other amazing local artists and entrepreneurs this way, which is so helpful in learning how to put yourself out there, and the support from other makers is priceless in being part of your community. And most importantly, for me, make things that you enjoy. I love my creative process and I find that it shows exponentially in my work.
Where do you find yourself drawing the most inspiration?
I draw my inspiration from my surroundings. My brand subtitle is Explore Create Connect, and that is what I feel really encompasses my craft - I travel when I can or visit places nearby to take in the beauty: colors, shapes, landscapes, people, moments and experiences - then I create a piece to honor them - and then I tell the story in a way that is approachable for my audience.
The desert has no shortage of inspiration for me. There is so much color here in nature (though I know folks who haven't experienced it may not think so). The sunsets are endless. The long dusty dirt road drives have shown me some of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.
Over the years I've told many of my personal stories this way, good and bad. This could be as simple as a beautiful sunset I saw, or as difficult as a fight with a partner. Inspiration doesn't have to come from just the pretty stuff. Sometimes I've needed a way to tell a really tough story without words. In doing so, though, I have turned something painful or hard into a beautiful quilt that will be able to be used forever. And the pretty stuff, well it just gets prettier.
You currently live in Tucson, AZ, which isn’t the easiest place to live come summer. How do you feel environment informs your work? How do you cope with intense summers?
Summers here are hot. We average between 105-110° every day. Last summer I remember a week where it was closer to 120°. When we are lucky we get some amazing monsoon rainstorms that just open the sky up and dump rain on us. But summers here make it a little unpleasant to be outside between 11am-5pm. Air conditioning is a must.. It's harsh heat.
I find that for me, this is the perfect time to stay inside and work instead of feeling guilty for not being outside. I save up my outdoor hiking and adventure time for the less hot months the rest of the year. The desert has really tried to teach me to slow down and rest in the summer, which I resisted adamantly when I first got here. It's much more balanced now, and I know that I can pump out work year-round (I release collections every few months or so), but in the summer I've given myself the OK to chill when I need or want to. Sometimes it's just too dang hot to do anything.
Describe the ideal studio day:
On weekends, I usually get up early to get started. I have a little breakfast and put on some Netflix in the background. These are the days that I stay in my pj's and put in at least six hours of sewing/quilting work when I'm working on a collection. On an ideal day I get a ton of work done and reward myself with a nap, and then get up to keep working.
During the week, after I get home from my dayjob, is usually when I focus on dyeing fabrics. It's a little less structured, a little easier on my brain and body after already working 8 hours. It's fun and kind of messy and the results come a lot faster.
I keep my studio space very tidy so that I can just jump into it and be ready. And since I already have an outline of what to work on, it's much easier to get to work (though there are days I stray from my to-do list if I'm feeling particularly inspired by something new).
What’s been your biggest success so far as a creative?
Being able to open my own stand-alone online shop and have it flourish has been very important to me. There's no parent platform (ie: Etsy) to draw folks to my work.
I was published in DESERT magazine last year, which was so awesome! Doing the amazing Cultivate Tucson markets (they are held twice a year here) has been incredible as well. To be recognized in print and also have folks recognize me locally from social media and buy my work has been humbling.
I take my successes day by day. Each quilt or pillow cover or dyed bandana/fabric that leaves my studio to go off to a new home is a success. Each conversation I have with someone via Instagram is a success. Being able to put my work out into the world is a success. Every project I finish is a big success to me and gets commemorated with a special photoshoot.
Is there any artists that inspire you?
I'm inspired by so many artists! My instagram friends feed is full of them, everyday. There are some long-time social media friends who are also quilters that have been inspiring me for years. Tucson is full of amazing artists of all kinds. My landlady at my previous place in Tucson is an amazing painter and conceptual artist whom I've had many great talks with (most of them while doing laundry) about art and business and travel and life. I'm finding new artists every day who touch me in some way with what they are doing.
My celebrity artist crush is Hayley Williams of the band Paramore. I've been following them from the beginning. The way she is so honest in her style and her writing/music is a never-ending source of inspo. She also runs her own hair dye business and as a female entrepreneur it's important to me to see her succeed. She's not a quilter, but I admire her drive and willingness to be open about the hard stuff as well as the success. Plus the music is fun to work/drive to!
If you could leave a mark on this world, what would it be?
I just want to make quilted pieces that folks enjoy. That they want to use in their homes and find comfort in. I want to show others that it's ok to tell your stories, even in a very time-consuming way - instant gratification isn't everything - and that doing what you love is the most important thing you can do. I would rather take months to make a quilted piece that is meaningful, than just whip up something quick for a buck. Quilting is a very historical and old craft, and I want to do my part to continue in that tradition for as long as I can.