In the studio with Naomi Hynes
In the studio with Naomi Hynes by Erica Spinks
Within her purpose-built studio in a suburb of Melbourne, Naomi Hynes not only makes unique quilts but also designs and markets her original digital quilting patterns and provides professional quilting services to customers
Photography by Ned Meldrum
Naomi Hynes’s large studio faces north, so the natural light that floods through double French doors for much of the day makes it the perfect space for sewing and quilting. Overlooking the garden, the 8m x 6m dedicated studio was created in 2010 when Naomi and her husband renovated part of their home to accommodate a Gammill longarm quilting machine.
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“My quilting machine encompasses most of one long side of the room and, on the other side, is a Baltic pine table for my domestic machines and my Brother ScanNCut,” she says.
Efficient organisation is the main feature of Naomi’s studio. Customers’ quilt tops awaiting a professional finish are stored in labelled tubs on a steel shelving unit.
“I label each tub with details of whether the quilt is custom or edge-to-edge and the month it is due to be completed,” she explains.“I also have a small office space in my studio for my computer, printers and bookkeeping.” Fabrics are stored in clear plastic drawers purchased from the Reject Shop for their cost-effectiveness, and Naomi has no plans to replace them. “I like to see what fabrics and supplies are in each drawer at a glance.”
It is clear that Naomi’s skill with stitch brings into play her lifelong love of drawing. “My mum was an oil painter and also sometimes sewed. She would set up a still life and paint it, while I would sketch beside her.
As a child, I enjoyed pencil more than paint.” Naomi Hynes’s artistry was developed while she completed a Diploma in Illustration at TAFE. “I was looking to get back into the workforce as a children’s book illustrator after raising four children,” she says, “but I did little to pursue a career in that field.”
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She was deterred by the practicalities of earning income in the small Australian publishing industry, her lack of self-marketing confidence and inexperience with business.
Instead, Naomi Hynes began to work in a picture-framing business. “The job was meant to be mostly working with customers and helping them with design choices, but I soon found I enjoyed the framing process,” she recalls.
“During this time my interest in patchwork and quilting continued to grow and, when attending quilting shows, I would marvel at the longarm quilting machines. In short, I wanted one!”
After five years at the framing company, Naomi decided to move on to pursue something just for herself. “I was craving more time to make quilts and a more flexible balance between work and family,” she explains.
“My bosses at the framing company had inadvertently taught me business skills and I was now ready to start my own longarm quilting business.”
In 2010, Naomi Hynes ordered her machine. While waiting two months for it to arrive from overseas, she purchased Art and Stitch, a digitising software package for longarm quilters.
Jennifer Murray’s appliqué quilt pattern combines simplicity and symmetry
“I figured that, with my illustration skills combined with some experience with vector art programs from my illustration days, I would be able to make my own patterns for quilting and save myself a few dollars along the way.
The more patterns I create myself, the fewer I have to purchase,” she explains. “I love the idea that I can draw a pattern, digitise it, put it up for sale and a quilter on the other side of the globe can buy it and be quilting it out on their own machine in a matter of minutes.” Naomi now has more than 100 of her original quilting designs for sale.
While raising her children, Naomi Hynes drew on the practical crafting skills she had learned from both her grandmothers. She put these sewing, knitting, and crochet skills to good use to make clothing and simple bed quilts for her children. Initially, she made traditional pieced quilts but that changed once she started using her longarm machine.
Naomi started to include more hand appliqué in her quilts, the first of which was Sunny Side Up, a Dresden Plate design that hangs in her studio behind the longarm. “It is the first quilt I ever custom quilted and is still one of my favourites,” she says.
Soon after, Naomi Hynes followed Lisa Calle’s techniques to fill large areas of negative space on her next quilt, Materialization, which she heavily quilted to create a trapunto look.
Materialization won awards at the 2012 Waverley Patchworkers, Quilt Showcase and Australian Machine Quilters Association show. The quilt now decorates another of the walls in Naomi’s studio.
Recently, Naomi’s interest has turned to making art quilts, stemming from her need to create quilts more quickly. “Art quilts are generally smaller than traditional quilts and therefore spend less time on my longarm machine,” she explains.
Designing her art quilt projects also brings her illustrator’s skills to the table. “I love the idea that you can tell a story with a quilt. My quilt The True Blue Raider of my Stash does just that — it tells a story of a bower bird that is stealing my blue fabric and blocks to decorate his bower.
This quilt is my second art quilt of my own design.” There were anxious times for Naomi Hynes when The True Blue Raider of my Stash was lost in the post for 10 days, but it finally arrived at its destination in time to be selected as a finalist in the 2015 True Blue Challenge at the Australasian Quilt Convention.
Naomi Hynes is a member of Waverley Patchworkers and helps with the group’s activities, such as the retreat and the annual show. “I also help with quilting for charity quilts for my guild and for Quilts of Valour Australia.
I believe strongly that if your passion gives you the great joy it is important to pay it forward,” she adds. “At the moment I am working on the Waverley Patchworkers raffle quilt for our upcoming 2016 quilt show.
I felt very honoured when I was asked to design this quilt. It is a reflection of my guild’s trust and confidence in my abilities.”
Currently, Naomi Hynes is working on a miniature whole cloth quilt that is also painted. “I recently purchased some beautiful Gems fabric paints,” she explains. “I have been meaning to explore adding more paint to my quilting for some time.”
Naomi also enjoys dyeing fabric with Procion dyes or sun-dyeing techniques to create unique patterned cloth to create a base for her art quilts. These are then layered with appliqué and textural quilting and then embellished with fabric paints or Inktense pencils to bring out even more texture.
“I love to get lost in my work. All life’s little problems just disappear from my headspace, then I am creating and thinking of nothing but the creative process I am engaged in. Patchwork and quilting is a journey.
We all travel at our own pace and our destinations are all different. I am not in it for the destination, I don’t even know where that is, I am simply enjoying the trip.”
Now that Naomi Hynes does more machine appliqué, she is considering purchasing a new domestic sewing machine for her studio.
“I have my eye on the Brother DreamCreator VQ2400 for its wonderful pivot function and large workspace,” she says. “You could say I’m a bit of a gadget girl. I love my machines, big and small, ScanNCut, and great software like Electric Quilt and Art and Stitch.
“The thing I like the most about my space is that it is organised. Everything has its place and if I need to find anything, I know where to go. Being organised makes life so much easier. I tidy my space between almost every quilt that I quilt and every Friday afternoon. I also like to spring clean my space about twice a year.”