Along-standing theory holds that "left brain" thinkers are analytical. They're able to look at a series of puzzle pieces and quickly decide how they fit together in a rational, sequential fashion.
Right brain thinkers, on the other hand, are creative individuals who delight in hands-on activities that let their imaginations take over.
So that makes Cheryl Phillips a bit of a conundrum. A talented quilter who takes pleasure in combining colors and patterns, she is also a mathematical whiz who is intrigued by the power of numbers. She speaks passionately of mathematical sequences, geometric relationships, the golden ratio . . . then uses them as the basis for distinctive quilt designs.
The owner of Phillips Fine Arts, Cheryl has been quilting since she was a young girl. In the early '90s she came across a wedge-shaped ruler which enabled her to take her designs to the next level and led to the publication of her first book, "Quilts Without Corners."
In her book she acknowledges Marilyn Doheny, who developed the nine-degree wedge ruler and opened the world of circular quilts for Phillips and other quilt makers.
Since the publication of her first book in 1992, Cheryl has developed 26 quilt patterns, designed 16 useful tools, and written 10 books. All the products can be found on her website, phillipsfiberart.com, as well as quilt shops around the world. The nerve center of this operation is a small "fulfillment center" on 2nd Street in Delta, where the boxes being loaded onto the UPS truck are the only sign of a flourishing business.
Cheryl rarely makes it into the shop, relying on office managers Juleen Feazell and Chris Anderson to handle the orders which come in by phone or through the Internet. She primarily works from her home in North Delta, where the second floor of her home is given over to designing and quilting. One bedroom contains two computers and multiple screens, where Cheryl moves virtual quilt pieces around, asking herself, "What if . . ." as she experiments with angles and geometric shapes.
A sewing area occupies the second bedroom; an adjacent storage area is filled with fabrics. A self-confessed "work-aholic," Cheryl spends hours and hours lost in the creative process. She says she can get by with just a few hours of sleep.
The majority of Cheryl's designs are based on circles, but she has also ventured into the world of pentagons, an interest fueled by Fibonacci sequences. To facilitate those designs, she developed a starmaker tool.
The "Cut A Round" is another of her innovations.With that tool, quilters can cut perfect circles as they piece and layer together the projects found in "Drunkard's Path," "Circle A Round" and other books in the "Cut A Round" designer series. And with a tool dubbed "Simple Curves," quilters can incorporate gentle curves into a wide variety of designs.
The "Simple Curves" and another innovation, the "Squedge" — a squared wedge — were among the seven new tools Cheryl introduced at the International Quilt Show in Houston a few weeks ago. Cheryl says the response was beyond her wildest expectations. Distributors, quilt shop owners and magazine writers are all looking for quilting ideas and products that consumers will find fun, creative and do-able.
Each of Cheryl's designs is tested by quilters who take her instructions, and the fabric she has provided, and try to replicate the picture on the cover of the pattern. They let Cheryl know if they find any step confusing so she can clarify the instructions before the final booklet, complete with full color graphics, is assembled.
Cheryl recalls making her first quilt when she was in third grade. She stitched together some of her mother's scraps and gave the finished product to her grandmother, who was delighted with her effort. Cheryl says her mother always encouraged her children's creative endeavors. Even today, when she and her brother get together at their mom's house, they each have a doodle pad in front of them to jot down their ideas.
One of Cheryl's ideas hadn't made the transition from computer screen to reality before it started generating sales. A fabric manufacturer provided her with digital images of a line of fabrics it planned to produce and asked her to create a quilt design utilizing those fabrics. She downloaded the images onto her computer screen and began playing around with a pattern which was eventually titled "Moroccan Tile." The manufacturer featured the "virtual quilt" in its advertising and orders began pouring in for a pattern that had yet to be produced.
Cheryl found herself in a similar situation after she appeared on HGTV's "Simply Quilts." At the time, she recalls, she and her husband couldn't afford cable, yet she was asked to demonstrate "Wedgeworks." Viewer response was immediate. Cheryl didn't even have a credit card machine, so she sent out the books with an invoice. Her trust was not unfounded; very few people failed to mail back a check.
Altogether Cheryl has appeared on "Simply Quilts" three times and on Kaye Woods' quilting show on PBS three times. Now she's "starring" in her own tutorials, some of which can be found on her website and YouTube.
What was once a source of extra income has become a way of life for Cheryl and her husband Gary. For many years, they manufactured the tools in house. As their business grew, they were running the laser machines 24 hours a day — and unknowingly causing Cheryl's health to suffer. They were living in Fruita at the time, running Phillips Fiber Arts out of their home, when Cheryl's health problems prompted them to begin looking for a new location. After making frequent trips to Delta to pick up screen printing from Ernie Norfleet, the owner of Corsair Graphics, Gary suggested Delta would be a great fit. Now Cheryl calls herself a Delta "rah rah" fan and can't imagine doing business anywhere else.
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