Michael Caputo is a quilter, paper engineer and artist who we’ve admired for a long time here at Dashwood – and when he agreed to make an exclusive quilt using our latest collection Rain or Shine – we jumped at the chance!
Today on the blog we settle in for a good chat and catch up with the man himself, and discover where his passion for textiles and quilting came from, and how he turned it into a successful career….
How did you get into quilting and how long have you been doing it for?
My quilting start was sort of a joke. My mother is a quilter and a crafter and for years she was making quilts for everyone we knew. Everyone except me! She didn’t want my dog Lily to play on all her hard work when I was out of the apartment. So one year, I was sick over the Christmas Holidays and I asked her if she would bring in her spare machine in to the city (NYC) and show me what to do. Off I went to the City Quilter in New York City to buy some fabric. This was my first experience in a proper Quilting Shop.
I was overwhelmed but managed to select fabric based on what I liked. I had a copy of Denyse Schmidt’s book, Denyse Schmidt Quilts: 30 Colorful Quilt and Patchwork Projects and was working off one of her amazing quilt patterns. This was back in 2006.
What was the first quilt you ever made?
I might have bitten off a bit more than I could chew at the time. The piecing went smoothly. I made myself a card template for the gentle curves and precut all of my fabric, pinned and labeled everything so I could just sew. I wanted the top to sit a certain way so it ended up being very large. Somewhere in the neighborhood of a Super King! It sat in a plastic storage container for years, as I had no way of quilting it. About 6 years ago my mom bought a HandiQuilter Longarm and has it set up in her basement back home in New York. Last year while Victoria and I were home visiting I reached out to Denyse to see if she would mind a Studio visit. I was able to show her my first quilting project. I went home and threw it on the Longarm and for the next 2 days was in a quilting zone. It was finished by the time we made it back to London and is on the bed in our spare room.
Have you received any training or attended courses to enhance your skills?
I have no professional quilt training. Generally I try to figure things out myself but if I can’t I have a look online. Crafsty quilting classes are great. I have most of them in my account. I did also take a class when I first started with my mom years ago. It was a Log Cabin class. It was me and 8 women quilting away. Needless to say I was the only one to finish my quilt in the 2 classes. It was based on a pattern from a book which I can’t remember.
Do you use your sewing skills for making anything else?
My wife and I now have a little boy. Haydn is 11 months old and I have made him a few pairs of Overalls. I have been planning to make a few skirts for Victoria but haven’t gotten around to them yet.
You are also a paper engineer and artist, please tell us more about what that is and how you got into it?
Basically a paper engineer is someone who designs and creates the mechanical parts of pop-up books or novelty books. It can something as simple as a pull tab
….or a really complex cityscape of Paris for my 75th Anniversary Pop-Up for Madeline.
Basically I start out with an idea of what I am going to do and then I construct it in paper. This could take a few hours or a few days to get right. Once I have built a functioning model I dismantle it and make digital files to ensure all of my measurements are 100% correct.
I got into Pop-ups by accident as well. I was working for HarperCollins designing Children’s books back in NYC and a friend of mine was the Art Director at Simon & Schuster. They did a lot of Pop-Up books. Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart were looking for a intern to help with some projects they were working on and after meeting with them was asked if I could help them out. I worked every Saturday for lunch and got to learn from the Masters of the Pop-Up World.
How has your career developed as a paper engineer?
After I left HarperCollins, I worked at a few other place but always remained in touch with Robert and Matthew. Years later they were at a point where they needed a fulltime designer/engineer and so I was hired as the Art Director to design and help with the engineering of dozens of books and cards. I have worked on Cinderella, MegaBeasts, Sharks, Narnia, 12 Days of Christmas, Star Wars and many more.
Through another friend I found out that Penguin was looking for a Novelty Designer to try to revitalize an old imprint that used to do Pop-Ups. I was now able to design and engineer my own titles. I came in 2nd in the Novelty category in the 2010 NY Book Show for my book called “Everyone Says I Love You”,
….and 1st in 2012 for “Spin“.
Now I do freelance for companies I like both here in London and back home in NYC.
Do you find any synergies with working with paper and fabric?
I like to use my design background when creating my quilts. It is very easy for me to brainstorm with pencil and paper and then quickly mock things up on my computer. If I have access to digital images of the fabric I can place them and make a fully rendered representation of the quilt. Takes the guess work out of it and also allows the magazines a chance to see it before it is done.
Did you have a design in mind for the Dashwood Studio quilt before hand?
David messaged me on my blog page after seeing one of my projects in Quilt Now!.
He mentioned he had some strike off fabric as the final run was not complete and wanted to know if I would be interested in creating something to display the fabric for an upcoming show. Once he sent an image of the prints I had the idea.
What inspired the design of the quilt?
Because the prints are bright and playful I wanted to have them on a grey background so they would pop.
As this was a piece to be on display at shows I wanted to keep the print fabric as solid as possible so they can be seen in a larger section. The idea was to have a dark sky above an umbrella and a bright blue sky below. Once I saw the fabric in person I knew the idea was spot on.
How did you pick which prints from the collection to use, and where?
I only had a small piece of a few fabrics. I used nearly everything that David sent to me including the extra dots, which I used on the binding. The bright yellow Sun print and the Dark blue Umbrella print were a perfect choice for the big umbrella. The white background prints suited the raindrops.
Did you have a favourite print from the collection?
I actually like them all but as yellow is my favorite colour I am going to say the Sun print.
Please explain the process behind making the quilt – how long did it take you, what were the different stages etc?
The process was pretty straightforward. I picked out 4 grey Kona solids and 3 blue Kona solids for the base quilt. Mixing and stitching the pieces together I created a upper background and a lower background. All of the pieces of the Umbrella and the Raindrops were appliqued on using a decorative stitch. The pattern has been written up and will be in an upcoming issue of Quilt Now! Keep an eye out for the details on how to make your own….
Do you have a dedicated sewing/crafting space?
I have a separate room in our house. It is my office so it has a big iMac, a bigger printer and scanner and cutting mats on one side and the other has my Janome Horizon 7700.
It is usually a mess with both paper shavings and fabric slivers all over the table and floor. I have posters on the walls and my Pop-Up books on the shelves. Before we moved to this new house I had a Studio in Dalston which was twice the size but now I can work anytime I want and even in my pajamas. Usually I do my binding on the couch watching Law& Order reruns.
What helps you get into a project? Music? Company?
The music is always on when I am working. I have also been known to have Netflix on in the background. When we used to foster dogs from Battersea, they would come with me to the Studio when it was outside of the house. Now that I work from home and we don’t have a foster dog I just listen to music.
How do you document your ideas?
I’m not always the best at documenting things while I am working. My goal was to take pictures so I can post them on my blog. I get so focused that on what I am doing that the camera just sits quietly in its tripod, unused. I am getting better but still not where I would like it to be. As most of the newer stuff has a digital version and templates I have been organizing them in folders on my computer.
What are you working on next?
I am currently working on project for Love Patchwork & Quilting for the April issue and also another one for Quilt Now!. I think that is an April issue as well. Just finished and cool wall hanging for the March issue Quilt Now!. I was also asked by British Patchwork & Quilting magazine to do two articles for upcoming issues.I try to keep busy when I am not looking after the baby. Here are some of my newer projects.
A project I did for a blog hop by Emily Herrick.
My 2013 entry to the Festival of Quilts. James Dean done in Tula Pink’s prints.
My version of Andy Warhol’s Queen.
Jimi Hendrix at the London Modern Quilt Guild display, Festival of Quilts 2014
Scrap play with some old Kate Spain prints.
Commissioned quilt for the new DK book on Quilting.
You can find out more about Michael and his work, over at his website: http://www.patchworkandpaper.com/