An Interview with Sandra Magsamen, author, artist and encourager.

On a recent Friday, Sandra Magsamen gave StudioE a few minutes to catch a glimpse into her life and work. She was in route from her home and studio in Vermont to visit family in Maryland. She was at that moment a perfect passenger with hubby at the wheel and plenty of time to chat.

Sandra with daughter Hannah in Paris

I commented on how many of her recent Instagram photos were in Paris! Sandra’s daughter Hannah has been living there for the past five years, having completed grad school, she followed with a certificate from Parsons Paris in painting and dedicated herself to becoming fluent in reading and writing French (says proud Mom).

Sandra joined her daughter in Paris for a month-long visit in January and had her own reflection period. The kind that one can only get in a distant place. Fine French food and fabulous museums doesn’t hurt, either. She jokes that she ate her way through Paris. And the happy outcome is that daughter Hannah decided to move home too, to start putting roots down closer to family.

Children enjoying one of Sandra’s books.

At the core of Sandra’s time in Paris, during her personal reflection period, she got to think about what excites her most which is; connection from the heart. She immensely enjoys her work writing for the young.

That is where her soul is drawn. In a larger sense she is a giver, and creates all things in her art to give to another for the sole purpose of making a connection with a heartfelt message.

Sandra with the book panel for “My Little Chickadee” from Sandra’s Huggable and Lovable collection with StudioE Fabrics

In a moment, she was happily talking about the books she has designed for Studio E Fabrics, and shared how she imagines them being used.

One of the books from StudioE’s Huggable and Lovable collection, “Because I love you”

She has fond thoughts of mothers or grandmothers making them for their children, or perhaps for a new baby. She imagines a young mother reading a fabric book made with love to her new baby. From the creation of her designs, to the selection at the store, to the making of the books and the final act of sharing, Sandra’s hope is for connection.

Sandra’s compassion began at a young age when she herself went through her own trauma. At 12, she was accidentally pinned underneath a piece of one ton farm equipment. She credits her twin sister, Susan, for supernatural adrenaline and the power of love to lift the equipment off Sandra to save her. Sandra spent a year sheltered away, first in the hospital and then home convalescing to recuperate. During that time, her very close family encouraged her to make things to send to school to her school mates that she missed. With four sisters to help serve as messengers, Sandra’s days were spent making drawings, knitting, painting, sewing or crafting up all sorts of things, to be delivered to those whom she wanted to keep connections.

Sandra in her home studio that she shares with her husband.

That beginning is the legacy of her work. “Ultimately, we all want to connect to be loved”, she says.  While much of her book writing (over 55 now) has been dedicated to the very young, she has found that all of her art is about finding that language of encouragement. She has been an art therapist working with deaf children, as well as older adults who are facing difficult seasons of depression or mental digressions.  She has also written cards for Hallmark.

So, what’s next? Sandra wants to enlarge her sphere of influence to begin writing for the young school-age child. She recalls the books we read as children ourselves that influenced us toward transformation. She envisions sharing through nature and metaphor that a young child should begin by believing in the wonderful grown up person that a small person will become.

Flowers harvested from the community garden where Sandra and her husband have devoted their time.

She also excitedly shared a local community project that her and her husband have undertaken by partnering with a local school and delivering a horticultural program for young students by way of a community garden.

Sandra Magsamen has lots of fires burning on all fronts; creatively, in business, in her community and for her family. Her calm soft voice communicates that she is confident and clear of them all having a positive outcome. She is lucky, she says, to be able to follow her dream and to have had the experiences and travels that she has enjoyed.

All her experiences can be summed up in the mission she describes quite simply; to connect one heart with another.

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: The Yenta Is Baaaaack!

Happy Monday Yentees,

The Yenta is back with another installment of news a.k.a. gossip.  Like I mentioned last time, I don’t really consider it to be gossip since it really is all fact in spite of what some want to believe.  The only thing is that it might be gossip to you since you haven’t heard it until now.  Before I get in to the heart of the Yenta for this week, I wanted to clarify one thing from the first Yenta installment.  Regarding the contraction that I predicted in the fabric industry, you should know that the contraction will affect everyone including my companies too. Unfortunately, no one is immune.  So in spite of what some might have thought I said, the contraction is hitting everyone, but it just hits everyone differently….some worse than others.

Anyway, last week I discussed the unfortunate demise of a couple companies/divisions to the benefit of the rest of the industry, but this week I am discussing the combination (mergers & acquisitions) of others. I have two to discuss:

  1. This is old news by now, but news nonetheless.  On or around the time of the 2016 October Quilt Market, Wyndham bought Anthology Fabrics.
  2. Just this past week, it was announced that the distributor, Troy Corporation, out of Chicago, Illinois was purchased by a company that I had never heard of before, Midwest Embroidery Supplies out of Farmington, Missouri.  I look forward to meeting the new owners and working closely with them as we have had a longstanding and fantastic relationship with the Troy’s.

Congratulations to all companies involved with these deals.  Good luck!

My brief comments on the M&A are this.  The Wyndham deal is a good one for our industry as it combines two entities that can now benefit from the synergies of being one combined entity.  More  deals like this would be welcomed in our industry as far as I am concerned.  It would also help to reduce the number of suppliers as there is just an overabundance.  On the other hand, the Troy/Midwest deal doesn’t really have any major benefit to the future of our industry because it really just keeps Troy in the game under a new owner who isn’t a big player in fabric at all.  That being said, it is probably a good deal for Troy, but it doesn’t help the other fabric distributors or convertors who are dealing with the contraction.

Mary Jo Cloninger of Mary Jo’s Cloth Shop.

I unfortunately have some very sad news to report.  This past Friday I got an email informing me that Mary Jo Cloninger of Mary Jo’s Cloth Store in Gastonia, North Carolina passed away at 85 years old.  Since I go down to the Carolina’s most frequently on business, I often had the opportunity to work with Mary Jo on various occasions.  The one thing I would never forget about Mary Jo was how she would always insist on 20-25 yard bolts.  She would always say anything less than that is a remnant.  She was always shocked to hear that the chain stores were taking 8 yard bolts. Anyway, the fabric industry is losing a true gem.  Rest in peace Mary Jo, you will be missed.  My thoughts and prayers go out to your family.

On a lighter note, as a follow up to my previous blog about Monopoly changing their game pieces, it’s official that the thimble, shoe, wheelbarrow and iron are gone.  In is the rubber duck, penguin and Tyrannosaurus rex…really?  They will join the Scottie dog, top hat, cat, race car and battleship.  Next year, we fabric people should vote for the sewing machine.  The Yenta is now out of ammo for the time being.

Until Next Week,

This is Scott Fortunoff the fabric yenta signing off.

PEACE!

 

 

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: The Fabric Yenta Is Here!

The fabric yenta?  Yenta is a Jewish/Yiddish word for a person who is a gossiper.  Speaking of Jewish though, I would be remiss if I didn’t say my piece about how disgusting it is that there are cowards making robo-calls to JCCs (Jewish Community Centers) throughout the US.  They are trying to instill fear upon these amazing establishments and all the people that enjoy them (both Jewish and non-Jewish) on a daily basis.  Not only that, but loads of other Jewish organizations are being bombarded with antisemitic threats too. Without going in to too much more detail on my fabric blog, my parting words to these cowardly haters, and all haters for that matter is,  shame on you and get a life you disrespectful freaking losers!  Finally, in case you were wondering what you could do to support a JCC, please check out this link as it contains some good ideas.

Before going any further, I am going to take a quick little victory lap around my little office and pat myself on the back too.  Ewww…that feels kind of nice.  The victory lap is not for the victory, but more for predicting what I saw coming in the quilting industry.  Anyway, it is not a victory because I am not happy to see this happen to our industry, nor am I am happy that this is happening to some of my friends.  But, that all being said, I think this will be healthy for the industry.  What’s going on in the industry Scott?  For a while now, I have been predicting, on my blogs, a contraction in our industry where the number of suppliers and resellers of fabric would be reduced. In other words, it’s like Darwin’s survival of the fittest.
So the fabric yenta is here to tell you what’s going on.  The truth is that what I am going to tell you are facts so I don’t know if spreading facts is considered gossip or not, but that is what I am going to call it.  Ok, ok…I know you can’t take the suspense.  The contraction or shrinkage of our industry has begun.  For starters, we not too long ago lost Hancock Fabrics to bankruptcy and there are now only about 3 real major big box chains selling fabric.  Number two, Kona Bay just shut its doors after over 26 years in business.  Number three, just last week Red Rooster shut its doors and the owners are just sticking with their P&B brand. Number four, I hear on a weekly basis that more and more quilt shops are closing their doors too.  This is probably just the beginning.

There is more though.  Big shots in our industry i.e. the heavy hitters who we all know so well are losing their jobs.  There are many stories like this, but I am not going to name all the names.  I will speculate that companies can’t continue to pay high earners what they are used to making because sales no longer justify it.  It is as simple as that.

I am going to mention specifically what is going on at Fabric-Quilt, Inc. John & Sue, who I am sure you all know and thought owned Fabric-Quilt, Inc. (they didn’t) were let go, fired, quit, separated, retired or something like that. You can classify it how you want, but long story short is that they are no longer with Fabric-Quilt, Inc.  I have to tell you that the timing of that separation was flat out bad in my humble opinion. This is not the time to let go the people that are considered to be the faces of the company and the backbone too.  I guess we will have to wait and see how that decision pans out….my guess is not so well.

There is still more though.  Rumors of companies not able to pay their bills and bouncing checks.  Sales reps not getting paid on time or not getting paid at all. Suppliers cutting their work weeks down to 3 or 4 days. Companies are cutting travel and the expenses that go with it. And of course, people are going to be shrinking their quilt market footprint or they are not going to attend at all.  As for smaller regional shows, those too are struggling.  The list goes on and on and the carnage continues to grow.  People, our industry is in a mini-crisis and the dominoes are starting to fall. Please be careful and try not to be part of the bloodshed. With that, I would say it is time to take a gut check and evaluate if your business can survive what is clearly before us…the contraction.

To wrap this up, I wanted to let you know that you can rest assured that Jaftex and all its companies (Studioe Fabrics, Henry Glass Fabrics, The Blank Quilting Corp., A.E. Nathan Co., Inc. & Fabric Editions) are in a strong financial position and you can certainly rely on us as a loyal supplier and friend for many more years to come.  Finally, for our competitors that are struggling, you know that you can always come and talk to us about joining our organization as we would welcome the opportunity to add more strong brands to our arsenal as well as your experienced employees.

Until Next Week,

This is Scott Fortunoff the fabric yenta signing off.

PEACE!

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: Time To Post Your American Honor Contest Entry

Happy Monday Everyone,

I know that this is really supposed to be my blog just for Studioe Fabrics stuff, but since I am the president of Studioe Fabrics and The Blank Quilting Corp., I sometimes need to blur those lines and mix things up. Who is kidding who?  This is my blog and I can do as I wish, right?  If you have a problem with that, you can start your own blog and write something unique and special every single week for the rest of your life. How do you really feel Scott (lol)?  I digress. Anyway, I feel that this is an important message for all as this is for such a great cause and everyone could have some fun at the same time.

American Honor Quilt Challenge

In any case, last year The Blank Quilting Corp. came out with a line called American Honor by Tana Mueller of Western Denim & Dirt. The American Honor line evoked a lot of emotions pertaining to American Soldiers who lost their lives protecting this great country. With those emotions came the idea of creating a contest using the American Honor fabric line.  Here is a link to the American Honor line in case you haven’t seen it.  It is really something else in that it really hits home.

So, what I am here to tell you today, and for the whole month of March, is that the time has finally come for all entrants to start posting their projects on the contest landing page.   As of the first week of March, we have not yet received one submission… WAAHHH!  I am sure that everyone is putting the finishing touches on their masterpieces as they want to put their best foot forward to try and get their hands on one of the great prizes that are being offered.  One special feature of this contest is that not only do top 10 contestants win, but also the top 10 contestants’ shops of choice win too.  Go to this link and skip down to the prizes section to see what the winners will get.  You could also view all the rules and other info about the contest.

That is my message for this week.  Keep in mind also that it is only March 6, so there is definitely still time to get out there and buy some American Honor fabric to whip up a quick contest submission before April 1. Speaking of April 1, 2017, that is when the voting will begin.  So, even if you did not submit a project, you will still have the opportunity to vote on your favorite project.  Please make sure to exercise your right to vote.

Wishing everyone the best of luck!  May the best projects win! Thank you for participating and supporting this effort.  We greatly appreciate your involvement.  We hope you had fun.

Until Next Week,

This is American Honor Scott

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: Love Thy Neighbor….Or Not?

As I ponder the idea of continuing to blog for years to come about the fabric industry, it seems that I am going to have to venture away from the quilting related blog path every so often.  It’s just that I need to mix things up a little for your sanity and mine. I don’t want my blah blah blogs to become too ba—ba—boring.  With all that being said, this week I am going to tell you a personal story that some might consider funny and others might consider to be sad.  In any case, there are lessons to be learned.

2 weeks ago I was at the Vacuum & Sewing Show in Vegas (more about that in another blog).  Monday morning I got a frustrated call from my wife.  Go figure, as always, whenever I am not home, that is when all the drama happens.  She called to tell me that at 745 am someone took our garbage bags from the curb and spread our garbage allover our driveway.

My wife posted this on local social media sites, but no one knew who it was.

My wife looked at our security cameras (see photo above) and unfortunately could not determine who it was.  She called the police and filed a report.  Of course, she and the kids were a little worried because who does such a thing in a so-called civilized society?  The police thought it was someone with a couple screws loose.  I thought it was just someone that didn’t like how our garbage smelled.  My wife wondered out loud if it might be our neighbor.  Turns out, we unfortunately didn’t start off on the right foot with them when they moved in to the neighborhood not too long ago.  Long story short, there was a property line issue and I had to take down and replace 25 bushes and put up a new fence.  Their moving in was definitely not an inexpensive venture for me and that didn’t even include the legal bills and unnecessary drama.

This is an action shot.

Fast forward 2 days when I returned home from Vegas.  I was driving home and saw my neighbor putting out his garbage. In spite of our differences, I thought I would ask if he knew anything about the garbage incident for the sake of everyone in the neighborhood. Immediately, he said that HE DID IT!  I was totally stunned and asked,”Why would you do something like that, psycho?” (Ok, I didn’t actually say the ‘psycho’ part).

He told me that over the last couple of weeks that he found my garbage allover his driveway.  So I said, “And you think that I did this?”  I went on to say, “Buddy, I am a nice 44 year old gentleman, you think I am getting up in the morning to get myself dirty and scatter my garbage on your driveway?”  “Are you insane?”  In any case, he said that this was like the third time it happened. That combined with a bad night of sleep with a sick child caused him to loose his cool.  I asked him, “Why didn’t you just come over and ask?”  He just presumed that it was me trying to mess with him because of the long past property line issue.  As if I don’t have better things to do with my life.

There was an easy explanation after all.  Our garbage collectors walk through the neighborhood emptying all the garbage cans and then the truck drives around and then they throw the trash in the back.  It turns out that my garbage collector was moving my garbage to my neighbor’s driveway and I guess it spilled out a couple times.  In other words, it was a big misunderstanding that went haywire.  In the end, I think there are a couple of lessons to be learned.  Never assume because that makes an ass out of u and me (ASSUME).  Also, it shows how important it is to communicate with people.

Enough of the story, but I did want to tie this in to our industry and my business experiences.  We often run in to situations where our customers assume certain things that are not true or not totally true.  Rather than calling us to discuss, they just take a position like we don’t want to do business with you ever again or any of your other companies and cancel all my orders. This really isn’t a great way for anyone to do business and a lot of times there is an easy solution. We value all of our customers very much and as I always say, our business and industry is not perfect.  We do the best we can all the time.

All the being said, please consider how you would feel if every time you made a little mistake or had a misunderstanding with a customer that they told you that they would not do business with you ever again.  It is a little extreme if you ask me. I would venture to say that the error would have to be egregious for me not to want to do business anymore. Please keep that in mind going forward and remember that a lot of lives are affected when you make grandiose threats about not doing business with our companies any more.  To be honest, it hurts when this happens and unfortunately it happens all too often.  We didn’t make it for 87 years in the business by treating customers poorly.

By the way, I thought it would have been nice for the neighbor to show up at my house the next day to apologize with some wine or a cake or even just an apology.  That is what I would have done, but then again I wouldn’t have tossed the trash allover.  Live and learn my friends and love thy neighbor or not as you choose.

What do you think about that?

Rational Neighbor Scott

 

 

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: Our Industry Is Under Siege…By Hasbro Toys

What’s up folks?  Happy Monday and Happy President’s Day!  As if things in the quilting and sewing industry have not been challenging enough lately, we now have a new enemy knocking down our door and picking on our favorite American past time…sewing.  It’s like we are under siege from all directions…all the time.  Next thing you know it, our dear president will start picking on us too.  In any case, the newest twist, in case you haven’t heard, the people of Hasbro are moving towards getting rid of the thimble. Ahhh!!  This is a real kick in the thimble if you know what I mean.

As if it wasn’t bad enough already that the people of Hasbro got rid of the iron in 2013 in exchange for no other than a……..cat?!?!  Someone really has it out for our industry and we need to defend ourselves before we are no longer represented.  I mean, what about the freaking wheelbarrow? Does anyone even use wheelbarrows anymore?  I haven’t seen one lately in New York City. Or what about that weird looking shoe?  This looks like a shoe from 1935 when Monopoly was invented.  It sure doesn’t look like any shoe that I have ever seen or worn…thank god.  I vote for the shoe and the wheelbarrow to go. I also vote for the iron to come back and I think a quilt should be added.  How about them apples? (Good Will Hunting reference.)

As you probably know, I am all for change, but I am not for this change. As far as I am concerned, if it isn’t broken it doesn’t need to be fixed and this isn’t a broken…it is a classic. What could possibly replace our dear thimble?  A poop emoji?  An iphone?  An electric car?  These things will come and go, but the thimble….never.

Unfortunately, I think it is too late to save our beloved thimble, but at the least, we should let the people of Hasbro know that we are up in arms about this.  I am sure that you can figure out how to protest this on your own.  If in doubt, google it.  Good luck!  Let me know what you do.

Until Next Week,

This is Sad Scott

 

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: Just One More Reason To Keep Quilting, Sewing & Crafting!

Happy Monday

I hope that your team won the Super Bowl.  If not, better luck next year. Assuming that all my readers are hung over from all the football, greasy food, chips & dips, betting pools, amazing commercials and perhaps alcohol (but I would guess that my readers aren’t drinkers, or are they?), I am going to delve in to a short and sweet blog that won’t mess too much with your hangover.

This past week I was reading the very reputable (note sarcasm) New York Post on the train ride in to New York City to work.  I came across a short article called Warding Off Dementia based on a report from the JAMA Neurology Journal.  The part that caught my attention was the conclusion that senior citizens benefit from simple activities to keep their brains sharp.  Lo and behold, one of those activities listed to keep the brain sharp was craft making.  This would include:  arts & crafts, quilting and sewing. Amen to that!  Just another of the many reasons why our great industry will not be going away any time soon!

Anyway, have a great week.  I am going to be taking a day off from blogging next week as I will be at the VDTA show in Vegas.  Please come visit me at booth 855 if you plan on attending.

Until Next Time,

This is Scott Fortunoff signing off

 

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: Quilt Market Credentials

Dear Quilt Shop Owners & International Fabric Customers,

Happy Monday!  As you may or may not know, ALL quilt market business credentials expired last year.  As such, it is time to resubmit your credentials which will be in effect until December 2019.  I am sure that it is a little bit of a pain to have to submit this, but fortunately this is only necessary to submit every 3 years.  Also, it probably won’t take you more than 5 minutes to collect all the paperwork and submit to the people of Quilts Inc.  If you didn’t receive the email about having to update your market credentials, you can contact the people at Quilts Inc. or you can email me (scott@jaftex.com) and I will forward a copy to you.

We vendors truly need your support by having as many quilt shop owners as possible attend the market.  Don’t forget that we are all in this together. This year the market is in St. Louis which should be a different and new experience as I don’t believe there has been a quilt market there before.  I imagine that most people are excited to be able to explore a new location so that they can enjoy what the city has to offer.  Check out this link to see 25 things to do in St. Louis.

Believe it or not, I am looking forward to the St. Louis market especially as compared to the Houston market.  The Houston market is getting kind of stale and I think most would agree especially being that the place was under construction for the last 2 years.  The problem is that Quilts Inc. has a long term contract with that location and that is also where the Quilts Inc. headquarters is located.  In any case, I am looking forward to the fresh new locale and all that it has to offer.  I am also looking forward to the increased number of school houses that our companies are putting on.  We realize that quilt shop owners put great value on the school houses. As such, we are bringing them.  So please come on down and enjoy!

All that being said, please get your credentials in asap and start putting plans together for what should be an amazing market.  Finally, if you are attending the St. Louis market and want to be eligible to join myself, our stylists, associated licensed designers, other quilt shop owners and sales reps for a dinner on Friday night, please email me at scott@jaftex.com. You must be an existing customer of one or all of the Jaftex Companies to be eligible.  Thank you for your time.  See you in St. Louis!

Have a great week!

St. Louis Scott

Tales Of A Fourth Generation Textile Executive: Sandra Magsamen Books On Steroids Are A Hit!

Happy Monday Friends,

For as long as I can remember, soft fabric books have been a hot selling item for children.  They continue to still be a very hot item today.  Very often when we have a book panel in a line, it is usually the best seller.  In any case, building on the success and popularity of book panels, we at Studioe, in conjunction with Sandra Magsamen, brought you what I look to call “books on steroids.” These are just like the old books, but they have the added bonus (the steroids) of a 3 dimensional appendage on the top i.e. a hat, antlers, ears, etc.

Studioe has had 3 rounds of introductions of these books.  In the first round, we released 5 books.  Here they are below:

 

In the next round, we offered another 5 books.

Finally, just this past October we introduced the first holiday grouping.  Unfortunately I can’t get an image of the cover from the website like the ones above, so I am just going to tell you about the others and you can click on the link if you want to see what it looks like.

  • I Love You Snow Much.  This is a cute story about snowmen and the appendage on the snowman is a knitted winter hat.
  • I Love To Gobble You Up.  This is a Thanksgiving story where the main animal is a turkey and the three dimensional appendages are the tail feathers.
  • Boo Boo I Love You.   Of course, this is the Halloween book.  The special appendage is a black hat on top of the white ghost’s head.
  • Boo To You! & Whoo Loves Halloween? Trick or treating bags.  This is the first foray into something other than a book with Sandra Magsamen.  Here you get 2 different Halloween bags on one 36″ panel.  So far we are very pleased with the sales of these too.  We do plan to delve into other sorts of non-book projects in the future.

If you go on social media, you can see loads of these book images all around.  People are excited about these books and they are having fun with them too.  What a fun and easy project to make with a child or grandchild.  That is why we just decided to continue to produce some more books to be offered for sale at the May market.  Don’t tell anyone, but the plan with some of the new books is to have appendages hanging off of the bottom as opposed to on the top. Think of feet hanging off or something like that.  Rest assured, it is going to be adorable.  Please note that we plan on keeping these books as basics until the sales tell us to drop them.

So in my infinite wisdom (which isn’t much), I have reached out to the real publisher of the hardcover Sandra Magsamen books about the possibility of having our sales reps sell the books to you.  In case you haven’t been in a kid’s book store recently, you probably didn’t realize that these types of books are sold in hard cover with the appendages and all.  With that, I wanted to reach out to shop owners and resellers of fabric to see if they would be interested in offering the books in their stores.  They sell for around $7.99 retail.  What do you think?  Is this something that you would consider? Please do let me know and I can continue to pursue the possibility of offering the hardcover books to shops across America.

In closing, I have 3 things to say:

  1. I can’t wait to see all our competition trying to copy this idea.  Just remember that ours are the real deal.  Stick with Studioe & Sandra Magsamen.
  2. If you made it this far in my blog and want to join me, my staff, some licensed designers, sales reps and other shop owners at a dinner at market in St. Louis, please email scott@jaftex.com to be eligible because space is limited.  You must be an existing customer in good standing to be considered.  I would love to have you join in on this intimate dinner with others in our great industry.  We always have a lovely time.
  3. The VDTA Vacuum & Sewing Show in Vegas is coming up quickly in early February.  I will be there at booth 855, so please stop by to say hello and see what’s going on.

That’s all she wrote folks.  Keep on buying and selling the awesome Studioe “books on steroids” by Sandra Magsamen.  Have a great week.

Regards,

Scott “definitely not on steroids” Fortunoff