Laura Preston of Vacilando Quilting is not only a talented quilter and designer but also has an inspiring story to tell of how it all started. In 2013 the Texan and former Brooklynite found herself stuck in an uninspiring 9 - 5 job and jumped at the chance to make her boyfriend's Airstream road-trip dreams come true. The two of them took 2 1/2 years to cruise around the US in an Airstream and along the way Laura built upon her basic sewing skills and taught herself how to make beautiful quilts, pillows and bags. She has since parked the Airstream but continues to work and live out of it in sunny California.
Tell me about what you do and what your favorite part about what you do is?
I design and make modern, heirloom-quality quilts, pillows and useful canvas goods in my Airstream trailer studio/home. My favorite part is making a product that's equally special and useful - something that you'd keep forever and pass down through your family, but still get used every day.
How did the Airstream studio come about?
I was living in Brooklyn, stuck in an unfulfilling job and tired of city life. My boyfriend proposed a crazy idea just a few months after we started dating: he wanted to travel around the U.S. in his mom's Airstream trailer (that was gathering dust in storage) and asked me if I wanted to come with him. I said yes (of course!), we quit our jobs, sold most everything we had and hit the road in February of 2013. We spent two and a half amazing years traveling full-time and visited 39 states, but recently settled in the Bay Area. We're still living in the Airstream though - it's home for us.
How did you learn how to quilt? Are you self taught or did you study traditionally?
I taught myself how to quilt about two years ago while we were on the road. My original artistic medium was oil painting, so I brought all my painting supplies with me when I started traveling, but didn't pull them out once. The process and the product just seemed completely impractical. But I needed some kind of creative outlet that could also be something useful. After much frustrated searching, I decided I just needed to buy some fabric and make a quilt. I had (very) rudimentary sewing skills and was inspired by a couple of modern quilters I followed on Instagram. I googled many things, read a ton of online tutorials, and watched many a YouTube video, but mostly kinda winged it. With every quilt, I've learned a new technique, gotten a little faster and more precise, but it's definitely been a process and I'm still learning new things all the time.
Where are you from and has that played a part in your creative process?
I grew up in Dallas, Texas but I would say that my family played a bigger part in my creative nature. Both my parents are architects, my grandfather was a tinsmith and my grandmother collected vintage Amish quilts, so I was raised around a very particular aesthetic with the notion that creating, making and mastering a craft was valuable. We used to drive down to the Texas hill country four or five times a year to visit my grandparents and would end up helping out at craft fairs or trying my hand at hammering tin in the workshop. I didn't realize until I started quilting how influenced I was by growing up around the tradition of craft.
Do you have a design philosophy or a set of values that applies to your work?
I design all my own quilt patterns and recently have been incredibly inspired by traditional Native American textiles. I spent the first half of this year traveling through the Southwest - the rich culture, amazing landscapes and abundant natural beauty of that part of the country had a really profound impact on me and my work. I'm partial to large blocks of solid color in graphic, symmetrical designs and I use hand-quilting to accentuate the design. The colors palettes that I use are taken from beautiful and memorable places I've visited during my travels and named accordingly. I prefer to use only natural fibers, as they wear and age the most gracefully. That, and they just feel better to the touch. The majority of Vacilando quilts are made with 100% cotton fabric and batting and every single piece is machine-pieced, hand-quilted and hand-bound by me.
Walk me through your a typical day for you?
My days are always a little different, which is one of my favorite parts of running a business. Typically I wake up around 8am, walk the dogs and make a pot of coffee and see the boyfriend off to work. I spend an hour or so checking and replying to emails, social media-ing and planning out my day before getting down to work. Some days that means sketching new designs, picking out fabric colors for a custom order, piecing a quilt top together, hand quilting for hours on end or whipping up a couple canvas tote bags. Usually it's a mix of all of that. Lunch happens quickly somewhere in there. I'll walk the dogs again around 5pm, work for another hour or two, depending on whether I have a pressing deadline. I usually wrap up my day with a glass of wine or whiskey, make dinner and relax (or do some hand quilting + Netflix) for the rest of the evening.
If you could give another designer advice for success in running your own business what would it be?
Oh man...well I'm still figuring it out (aren't we all!), but one piece of advice that has kept me going is "Don't give up". Running a business, especially at the beginning is hard, scary and stressful. There have been a million times I've wanted to throw in the towel, but then I remind myself that successful people didn't get to where they are because they gave up. They fought through the hard stuff, tried something new and kept on going.
What does the future hold for you? Whats your next project? Where do you see yourself in 3-5 years?
All kinds of exciting things! I'm currently working on collaborations with two friends to introduce some hand-printed fabric and block-printed canvas to Vacilando's product line. I'm also working with a local craft cocktail bar on a line of canvas bartender aprons that should be really fantastic and may wind up in the shop. I would love to eventually offer wholesale, experiment with naturally dyed fabrics, open up a storefront/studio and maybe even hire an employee!