Designer Denyse Schmidt grew up in a family of makers of the hobbyist variety. Surrounded by old textile mills in central Massachusetts, she watched her mother sew her own clothes and her dad make furniture. Along the way (with a stopover at RISD) Denyse picked up the skills for what would become her business: patchwork quilts, colorful fabrics and paper goods.
Name/Location: Denyse Schmidt/Bridgeport, CT
Where did you grow up? West Boylston, MA
Where did you study/train? I studied Graphic Design at Rhode Island School of Design. My mother taught me to sew, and I later learned on-the-job during some stints sewing clothing and ecclesiastical vesture. As a quilter I am self-taught.
What was the first thing you made and sold? I made little animals out of glued-together stones. My dad saved some and had them on display – they are still at his house.
Who is your design idol? I love the ordinary folks who have made extraordinary quilts for hundreds of years. They managed to make intuitive masterpieces in their spare time, with tools and materials they had on hand, and without necessarily knowing much about art or design. They are humbling works.
Where do you find inspiration? In nature (walks in the woods), in art (Nick Cave, Tim Hawkinson, James Turrell, El Anatsui, Maira Kalman and so many more), at the flea market, driving on country roads.
What’s one thing you wish YOU had made or designed? Anything made by the Shakers.
What’s your advice for a designer/maker just starting out? Be clear about the lifestyle you want, and let that guide your decision-making. Persevere. Be true to who you are, not what you think you should be.
To see more of Denyse's work, check out her website: DS Quilts
(Images: 1. Allison Michael Orenstein, All others: Denyse Schmidt Quilts)