Cork Oak in Portugal. Photo from credit HPB
CREATIVE CHALLENGE: WHAT A CORKER
Last year, Quilt Market exhibitor Belagio Enterprises held a “Designer’s Challenge” to see what creative quilters and sewists could do with their cork fabric. A dozen contestants – whose finished products had to be at least 75% made of the cork fabric – vied for cash prizes and titles.
Debi Schmitz, Belagio’s Creative Director of Sales and Marketing, talked to eInsider about what exactly their fabric is, how it helped them gain new customers, and what surprised her most about the entries.
eINSIDER: What exactly is “cork fabric” and how was it developed?
SCHMITZ: Cork Fabric is a specialty fabric of thin cork bark shavings from a cork oak tree in Portugal, Spain, and France that is harvested, cut into tissue thin pieces, arranged and laminated to a cotton/poly background fabric. Much of the design work is completed by hand. Characteristics of true cork fabric will be what is usually called imperfections, but in reality, these are characteristics of the wood and/or the craftsmanship in the factory. This fabric is constructed from a natural material, nature is not perfect, nor should it be.
Cork oak trees must be 20-25 years old before the bark can be harvested. Once stripped, the tree is tagged and not touched for 9-10 years. Cork oak trees are the only tree in the world that can be stripped of its bark and not die. This makes cork 100% sustainable. They live for 200-300 years.
eINSIDER: What can you do with it that you can’t with regular fabric?
SCHMITZ: We designed our cork fabric to be thin enough to make all kinds of projects in many different industries such as quilting, sewing, scrapbooking, home décor, mixed media, and crafts. It can be folded, ironed, die-cut, stamped, wood-burned, colored with pencils and most permanent markers, embroidered, quilted, and even crocheted with. It works great with other lightweight fabrics like cottons and won’t distort finished projects.
It looks and feels like a paper product at first, but this pliable soft fabric is strong and durable. Our fabric does not have a coating on the surface, you feel the actual cork and its textural quality. It’s also easy to clean by just wiping with a damp cloth.
eINSIDER: How did the idea for the Designer’s Challenge come about, and how was it judged?
SCHMITZ: I had set up a Designer’s Challenge in the past with trims and thought it would be great to do one using our cork fabric. I recruited 12 designers from the craft and quilting industries, many I knew from my past as a designer, but probably 70% were new to me. It was judged by three industry professionals at last fall’s Quilt Market. The judges were asked to make their decisions based on creativity, total use of cork, interesting techniques, and overall appeal. We also had a “People’s Choice Award.” As customers visited the booth, we encouraged them to vote for their favorite completed projects focusing on creativity.
eINSIDER: What was the most surprising thing you found out from the entries?
SCHMITZ: I found out how many extremely talented people I chose blindly for this competition. I was blown away by the creativity! As part of the Challenge, we kept all entries, although the designers retained the pattern rights. We have taken these to other shows when possible and love hearing the ooohs and ahhhs!
eINSIDER: Any other comments?
SCHMITZ: We hope to have another Designer’s Challenge in the future…hopefully not virtual. We got many new customers from this event, designers, and customers. We all had a great time with this event and would encourage other companies to encourage the lifeblood of our industry– designers–to use and display projects with their products. I always say that you are only limited by your imagination. And we found out that this is absolutely true!
For more on Belagio and their products, visit belagioenterprises.com
Third Place ($200)
Jerriann Massey of Annie McHugs
First Place ($500)
and People’s Choice
Kimberly Rado of Starry Night Hollow
Second Place ($300)
Ana Araujo of Ana A. Araujo Designs
Virtual Quilt Market
International Quilt Market/Houston
Classes/events begin October 21
George R. Brown Convention Center
Houston, Texas USA
NOTE: Quilt Market is a credentialed
trade show only, and not open to
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