LS: Art of Quilting Column December 21, 2008

Magazine editor keeps business close to home

It’s easy to imagine the executive editor of a prestigious quilt magazine arriving at work each morning after a long commute, then taking the elevator to her top-floor office in a high-rise office building.

That may be true for some, but it isn’t Christine Brown’s modus operandi. She likes to stay a bit closer to the action while she keeps her finger on the pulse of this nation’s quilters.

Brown works from the comfort of her suburban Colorado home in picturesque Castle Rock, where she enjoys scenic vistas from her windows.

For the past four years, Brown has edited American Quilter, the official magazine of the American Quilter’s Society.

She does not, however, show up for work in her pajamas, as tempting as that might be.

“I get dressed, have breakfast and comb my hair,” Brown says. “I may not always wear makeup, and sometimes I work in my slippers.”

The job has its share of stress and deadline pressure, but she manages those by being “ultra-organized.”

Not only does she select articles and patterns for publication, edit them and coordinate photography for them, but Brown also writes the editor’s letter and some articles and reviews new books and products.

The headquarters are in Paducah, Ky.

“I am the first off-site executive editor in the 25-year history of AQS,” she says.

Brown works from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mountain Standard Time to coincide with Paducah’s Central Standard Time office hours of 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Because she is a perfectionist and “somewhat of a workaholic,” Brown keeps life in perspective by closing the office door promptly at 3 o’clock and taking weekends off. She admits it takes discipline.

Her location works well because the job also involves travel to various national quilt shows, and Brown has access to major airports by living in the Denver area.

The society sponsors three big shows each year: in April at Paducah, in August at Knoxville, Tenn., and in October at Des Moines, Iowa.

Her husband, a retired airline pilot, is supportive and occasionally travels with her to quilt shows, Brown says. They have a son, 31, in California and a daughter, 28, in Denver.

Right now, Brown is immersed in producing the May issue of American Quilter. Conference calls and faxes and shipping content by FedEx and UPS are part of the job, not to mention her close relationship with a computer.

This year, the magazine changed from a quarterly publication to six issues a year. Three years ago, the magazine went from a members-only subscription to also being sold at newsstands.

That move more than doubled the circulation.

Her goal has been to change the magazine’s focus, making it more practical with patterns and how-to articles.

Brown says her vision is “tradition in transition.”

“I want a new freshness” that doesn’t forsake tradition. She offers quilters new techniques, responding to the trend of crossover quilters who are moving into art quilt methods.

“A lot of quilters are starting to use the computer more, even if it’s just to design and print out a label for their quilt back.

“Traditional quilters are playing with digital images, perhaps burned edges or fabric painting,” Brown says.

Yet, the core of traditional quilters is strong and still growing, from hand quilting to midarm and longarm machine quilting, she says.

Brown sees a niche for midarm machines such as the Handi Quilter as many people are gravitating to those.

“Quilters really like some type of extended-arm machine so they don’t have to bunch up their fabric in the throat area” of a typical domestic sewing machine, she says.

Much of Brown’s job is advance planning. In November, she started assembling a slate of
articles for the July issue. The process for one article may take four to eight months.

“I’m an absolute stickler for accuracy in patterns,” she says.

Obviously progressive in staff work practices, the American Quilter’s Society takes a multistate approach to publishing.

The pattern editor lives in Oregon, the ad representative lives in Indiana, the person who checks yardages and other math lives in Georgia and the printing shop is housed in Ohio.

Brown also has editors who are contract employees around the country watching for new talent, “giving American Quilter a new flavor.”

It’s a system that works smoothly, she says.

As for the industry’s future, Brown doesn’t worry much about today’s economy.

“It’s bound to trickle down to all areas, but women will still spend money on their crafts and hobbies,” she says, “because it brings them pleasure during the downturn.

“They are more apt to look into home improvement, decor items and things that are important
to them.”

Overall, quilting remains a strong industry, Brown says, and quilt shops will be vital in keeping it that way.

“Shops always come up with new ideas to entice quilters, and the quilters form a bond with their shops,” she says.

I know I’m always eager to escape the gloomy headlines about the country’s financial woes.

Nothing is quite so soothing as a trip to a quilt shop to fondle fabric. And the latest issue of American Quilter magazine is a perfect place to go for my inspiration.

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