"We’re at an age where people are connecting to stories. Quilts have that."
That's Alexandra Gray Bennett, one of the founders behind Louise Gray, whose quilts (and pillows and prints) we're now carrying in our Shop—a striking combination of modern design and age-old tradition. I spoke with Alexandra to learn more about Louise Gray and how she and her business partner, Jocelin Johnson, saw an opportunity to revive an appreciation for quiltmaking for today's consumer.
Quilting was a part of Alexandra's family background: her mom was and still is a quilter. After meeting at another consumer goods company, Alexandra and Jocelin recognized that handmade quilts are increasingly hard to come by; the non-family heirlooms are usually made to order. The two began to envision what a modern representation of this traditional art form could look like. They wanted to create something that wouldn't just be put away in a trunk, but something that could enhance the room in which it lives.
From the outset, a huge part of Louise Gray's philosophy was an emphasis on handmade and domestic production. Nearly every part of their process is done locally. Minneapolis is the home base for their design studio; it's where the quilts are made and where almost all of their packaging is sourced and produced. Supporting their local community and economy has been extremely important to Alexandra and Jocelin—and, as Alexandra noted, it's much more fun to manage the company when you can see each piece of the puzzle come together in person.
The six artisans that make the quilts are all local seamstresses and quilters. The rest of Louise Gray's team is small but mighty. Jocelin is the Creative Director; Alexandra manages sales, press, and media; and Alexandra's mother is the Production Director—with her background in quilting, she bridges the gap between design and production to ensure that their designs can actually be realized.
The three of them currently work from a spare bedroom in Alexandra's apartment (sounds like the beginnings of another company we know...). They'll be moving into their first official office space in July. Alexandra says she is looking forward to having her sewing machine on her desk—that way designs can be quickly prototyped on the spot, to see how pattern and color are coming together.
Louise Gray launches collections twice a year and all of their design work is done in-house. For each collection, Jocelin comes up with a number of designs, which then go through multiple rounds of review in order to get the balance of colors and proportions just right. The design process can take up to two months and once the quilt patterns are decided upon, they go into production.
It could take a quilter days to make a quilt from start to finish. Each person on the Louise Gray "assembly line" is specialized in their specific task, so they're able to make multiple quilts at a time. That means the person piecing the front together, the person sandwiching the batting, the person doing the binding, and so on, has one job only. And that one job is done incredibly carefully and skillfully.
Those who know the kind of work that goes into making a handmade quilt will understand why, though no small dent in your pocketbook, Louise Gray's quilts are a worthy investment. Louise Gray employs local laborers at a fair wage and uses U.S.A.-sourced fabrics—their price points reflect their ability to support those decisions. They've received a lot of interest from young professionals and plan to make smaller quilts with a lower price point in the future, in hopes of allowing more people the opportunity to welcome Louise Gray's designs into their homes.
In addition to their handmade quilts, Louise Gray designs and sells Quilt Hangers in handsome hickory or walnut, so you can use their Throw Quilts a stunning wall hanging. They also sell their quilt patterns in print-form, if you've got a smaller budget or a smaller swath of wall to fill.
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Alexandra mentions "mindful consumerism," and what that means to their company: Instead of purchasing thoughtlessly, Louise Gray hopes to educate consumers on why buying handmade and local matters, especially when it's something that will last. A Louise Gray quilt is a piece of art to be passed down to your children, your children's children, and so forth—for generations of cozy.
Do you have a quilt that's been a part of your family for years? Weave us your tale below.
Eds note: This article's headline and text has been updated to reflect inaccuracies and feedback from our community.