I wanted to challenge myself and started entering contests. I was intrigued with miniature quilts and subscribed to Miniature Quilts Magazine. (These quilts I actually finished since I could quilt them easily on my sewing machine!) They had a yearly contest, Quilts from the Heart. I had just finished designing and working with a bed size quilt for the band's mom group raffle quilt for my son's high school band, so I decided to miniaturize it, donated it to the band dinner's silent auction and enter it into the contest. I was so surprized when I received a letter from the magazine tellng me that they wanted to publish it. I was even more surprized to see it on the cover! Mine is the red, white and blue one. (The person that won it in the auction would not sell it back to me so I don't have that quilt.)
The biggest revelation about fabrics and design for me was when I started entering the Hoffman Challenge in 1996. I realized that by starting with a fabric or collection of fabrics, I could design my own quilts to show off the fabric's designs. After winning a second place prize in the 1997 challenge I was spurred on to create and enter more contests! As I entered more contests and won more awards, in 2001 I decide to contact fabric companies about designing for their new fabric lines. P&B Textiles was the first company to take me on as a designer. Now I currently work with P&B, Timeless Treasures, Hoffman, Benartex, and RJR as a commissioned designer.
So to answer the question as to what inspires me to design a quilt.... I find that the fabric lines "talk to me" on what kind of quilt design best enhances their theme or colors. If it is a specific theme, such as Americana or Oriental, I would use a block or blocks that reflect that theme. Some fabrics scream "curved block", some "simple block" (well they don't really scream just a voice in my head). No, I'm not crazy, I don't hear voices! It's just my brain is always on design mode. I will lie in bed at night trying to think of the best way to work with a fabric group and get up in the morning with the idea clear or at least clearer. I encourage everyone to try that at least once. Even if it is looking at a fabric group and finding a pattern to go with it, instead of visa versa, you are thinking in a different way. For more about me and what inspires me take a look at my recent interviews http://resources.quiltwoman.com/blog/ and http://www.electricquilt.com/users/news/2009/2009_03_3.asp .
Everyday do what you love and love what you do. 'Til tomorrow, Toby