Valori Wells-Kennedy is now at the helm of a revamped Stitchin’ Post. They will celebrate a grand opening this Saturday. photo by Katy Yoder
By Katy Yoder
In 1975 Jean Wells opened Stitchin' Post with a little bit of money and big dreams. With help from a business mentoring program she got the tools she needed to methodically grow her business and her brand. A passionate teacher and advocate for the arts, Wells has taught internationally and single-handedly introduced Sisters to thousands of people.
Since she opened her shop, Wells founded the world-renowned Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show, has been inducted into the Quilter's Hall of Fame and has authored close to 30 books. Now it's time for Jean to hand Stitchin' Post to her daughter Valori Wells-Kennedy and see Valori fulfill her creative vision.
It's an exciting time for the mother/daughter duo as Jean gives Valori support and encouragement to take the shop in a direction that reflects her daughter's personal style and what she has achieved as a multi-talented artist in her own right.
Planning for the transition has been in the works for quite a while. To say Valori has had her hands full is an understatement. She's a married mother of three, a professional quilter, author, fabric and pattern designer and photographer.
"Last spring I got to the point that I was ready to dive deeper into the business," said Wells-Kennedy from the upstairs office she shares with Jean.
Taking the reins from her iconic mother and business partner carried its share of fear.
"This is Mom's baby," she said looking across the room at Jean. "There had to be the confidence on my part and Mom's to let it go and reflect my artistic voice."
Wells-Kennedy has been working with her life coach, Kelly Sheets, to work through her fears and discover her path forward. Sheets' background as a business consultant proved to be the perfect match for Wells-Kennedy.
"Kelly has changed my life completely," Wells-Kennedy reflected. "I just became a different person, with different paths as I figured out where I want to go. In September, we brought her to work with me to discover who I want to be as a leader and what we want the shop to become. She's been a huge influence and catalyst. I call her my angel!"
Valori and Jean decided to make a dramatic remodel of Stitchin' Post.
"It was my chance to take the lead and design it the way I want it to be," Valori said. "Mom kept saying, 'it's your shop, do what you want.' It truly is my shop now."
Wells-Kennedy loves the fact that she's excited about coming into the store each morning.
"My 40th collection comes out in April, and it's also my 20th year designing fabric. I'm going to go down to one collection per year. It will really give that collection a life and I'll have more time for my shop. At first it felt like a panic, but now I feel content. It all connects together now. It's really exciting."
Jean will still be an important part of Stitchin' Post.
"Our shop will always contain inspiration, education and creativity; that's the essence of the store," Valori said. "That's why my mom started the store, to have supplies for the classes she was teaching. That's why she still wants to be an integral part of the educational and event atmosphere within the shop. Mom loves finding the teachers and bringing them in."
One of Wells-Kennedy's main objectives is to start some middle school classes that go from 4 to 6 p.m. on Fridays. The classes will teach how to make a pillow case or to knit or do block printing. She's confident once they're in the store and see what is available students will find ways to create.
She's seen the children's reactions firsthand.
"Once they're here they want to touch the fabric, and play," she said. "It will help continue our crafts into the next generation. It's a way to give back to the kids and help them make something and learn something new. My first class had 20 students."
The store has all sorts of adult classes that tend to be fiber-oriented but also include block printing, dying and sewing, knitting and crotchet.
"We provide an opportunity for people to learn a new craft, while maintaining a curated boutique feel. We'll then translate that feeling to our website for people who can't physically get to Sisters. Then they can still buy our products online," said Wells-Kennedy.
Jean and Valori have seen how Stitchin' Post attracts new people to the area. "Both Mom and I are known internationally, we want to bring those people so they'll stay in the hotels in our sweet little town. We'd like to help make Sisters more of a destination."
Stitchin' Post will expand its role as a means for locals to experience world-renowned artists.
"We bring in internationally known quilt artists. Rosalie Dace lives in Durban, South Africa, and comes to teach in the U.S. six months out of the year. She teaches four weeks per year for us. She teaches one-week-long art quilt retreats. She is an amazing, knowledgeable artist. I want to create evenings where locals can hear her talk. We'd like to share these 'art talks' with the community."
The excitement both women are feeling is contagious. With their combined creativity, the town of Sisters will benefit from their dedication and passion. New classes are coming soon, and both women want to hear from community members about what is needed and what they can provide.
Jean and Valori will host the grand re-opening of Stitchin' Post on Saturday, January 27. Winter and spring class samples will be on display and there will be prize drawings, demos and refreshments. For more information visit www.stitchinpost.com.
Posted: Friday, February 2, 2018
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The Stitchin' Post is included in my top 5 quilt shops. I've been to the quilt show in July several times. I've also taken classes there. I do wish there were more choices of places to stay. I love the Five Pines Lodge, but I'm a retiree so it's really not affordable as often as I'd like to come and the Best Western leaves something to be desired. Mostly I stay in Bend.