Modern quilter finds her design niche after leaving corporate branding world
Julie Cooper | November 9, 2018
Kristi Schroeder Larson is getting very good at reinventing herself.
This creative communications design graduate (B.F.A ’03) said goodbye to the corporate world a few years back and now has her own business, a book, and a new baby in that order.
In her Austin-based business, Initial K Studio: Modern Quilts by Design, Larson is part of the booming business of crafting. Modern quilting is known for bold colors, minimalism, improvisational piecing, high contrast, more experimental, with an emphasis on negative space. She designs patterns, conducts workshops, and creates commissioned quilts.
“I started sewing as a pastime when I was working for the architectural firm,” Larson says. Her mother was a quilter, but more in the traditional sense. “She tried to get me interested, but I had no interest.” It wasn’t until she discovered a modern fabric store in Dallas that she came over to the world of quilting and what started as a hobby became a home business four years ago.
Larson grew up in Port Lavaca and her family now lives in Port Aransas and Corpus Christi. Her mother was the artistic one, her father was in the oil and gas industry. Larsen earned her first degree in English literature, with a minor in Spanish, from the University of Puget Sound.
Following graduation from Texas State, Larson traveled to Chicago and landed a job as part of a branding team with Accenture. “We did brand management. We evaluated everything that was produced before it went out the door,” she says. Larson calls it an amazing job where she learned all the “ins and outs” before moving on. Because two winters in Chicago was enough, she headed west to California. In San Francisco, Larson worked at a marketing company that served Fortune 500 companies.
But Texas was calling her home, so she moved to Dallas for a job as in-house designer for Corgan, an architecture and design firm. The company — with offices around the world — specializes in aviation, commercial, education, and healthcare. Larson spent about six years with Corgan before joining Neiman Marcus as a senior designer. It’s where she handled big campaigns, including seasonal trends, print work in the mail, and the in-store graphics.
Larson says she wanted a creative outlet for her free time that did not include sitting in front of a computer — that’s when quilting came in.
It was in Austin at QuiltCon, the largest modern quilting show held each year, that Larson first pitched her idea for a book. Southwest Modern: From Marfa to New Mexico (Lucky Spool Media, 2018), is part travel guide and part quilt book and was created to appeal to quilters and non-quilters. The quilts inside are designed with a nod to Larson’s favorite places in the Southwest. She has been featured in Love Patchwork & Quilting, Make Modern Magazine, D Magazine, and Cowboys & Indians.
Larson also teaches and lectures about modern quilting at quilt shops and quilt guilds. “I couldn’t make a living just with the pattern design or speaking.” Her patterns are available through her website and at shops. Quilt commissions often come through interior designers, with prices ranging from a few hundred dollars to $2,500 for a king-size quilt. Coming up in 2019, Larson is planning a video workshop and hopes to do another book in 2020.
Larson says the corporate experience taught her the skills she uses to run her business, before adding, “I tell people, do what you love.”