The Dark Queen of the Quilts: Mary Kenyon

I first saw Mary Kenyon’s work in a Gothic Beauty magazine. I instantly fell in love with her coffin quilts- full of color and dark art. I had the pleasure of interviewing her about what inspires her the most and what people really think of her coffin quilts!

When did you start making quilts?
I started making simple patchwork quilts about 10 years ago. These eventually progressed into appliqué and then art quilts which i have been producing and selling for the past 6 years or so.

Do you do any other kinds of crafts and or sewing?
I love all kinds of arts and crafts… crochet, collage, needle.

What inspires you the most?
Work, painting… about the only I can’t do is knit! My inspirations come mostly from color and texture… It’s something about the way my brain is wired. Color and texture is what I tend to focus on no matter what environment I’m in. I really enjoy buying fabrics from different cultures because they often have bold texture and unique color palettes. Japanese, Australian, and African fabrics are some of my favorites!

What made you come up with the idea to do coffin quilts?
The idea of “Coffin Quilts” really just fell together. I was already making tattoo style quilts and was discussing the concept of making a quilt that looked like a coffin… Somewhere in the conversation we came up with the idea to merge that two concepts and Coffin Quilts was born.

How long does it take you to complete one coffin quilt?
One quilt will take me 2 to 3 months on average. Two thirds of my time is spent brainstorming, conceptualizing and pouring over fabrics. Then once I have the idea in my head the production phase moves rather quickly.

How do people generally react to your quilts?
People are often caught off guard by my work but overwhelming majority are also very impressed. No one really makes quilts like me and often people don’t even realize they are made from fabric. While reviews of my work are almost always positive and I have had hard time getting published in the quilting world because I am just so different than anything they have seen before. It can be frustrating at times but then again there is nothing wrong with being ahead of the curve!

I noticed your quilts, aside from being coffins, have a dark edge to them. Pictures of Day of the Dead art and skulls are all over the front (which I adore!). Would you say this says a lot about your personality?
To be honest, I’m not a very dark person. My home is full of pastels and floras with lots of sunshine. Because of the style of my work people often assume that I have a Gothic vibe. In fairness, I am covered in tattoos and, when it comes to my work, I love subject matter that is dark or dirty- anything that pushes the envelope really gets me excited. But when it comes to my personal style you would be hard pressed to find anything with skulls in my home aside from a t-shirt, tattoo and a quilt or two!

Do you have any advice for readers trying to sell crafts?
I have 3 rules that I would follow when trying to market a craft. First: it is to really important pay attention to the amount of money you are spending compared to what you make in return. If you are buying $200 in fabric working for 20 hours and selling your quilt for $250-$300 your not making much money for your time. And if you purchased a booth at a craft show for $40 just to sell that quilt then your not really making any money at all. Buy in bulk and buy wholesale whenever possible and always buy quality material. If your goods are made with quality then you can charge more! Second, start slow. If you have never sold your crafts before try a local church or school show first before you drop $300 for the big expo center. The big shows are not for first timers. Instead, try a show that only costs $30 to $40 (preferably one with good advertising and no door fee). Take the money you saved and invest it in making your display look nice. Also be sure to order some business cards so the people you meet can contact you.

If craft shows are not your thing ,online site like etsy is always a great place to start. Lastly, make high quality products and make then standout! Let’s be realistic, if your crafts are not well made no one will buy them. Repeat customers and word of mouth are very important, if you make a good product they will come back and they will spread your name! Also, if you are making something a hundred people already make then how are you suppose to stand out? Find something you like to do but find a way to make it uniquely yours! Now you’re in business!

Dying for one of Mary’s coffin quilts? Like her Facebook page Mary Kenyon’s Coffin Quilts for updates and visit her website for upcoming events she’ll be attending.