Pokey Bolton

Pokey Bolton in her Napa art barn. Bolton is a quilting expert and business owner.

Indigo Perez photo

“I come from a long line of people who love textiles,” said quilting artist and business owner Pokey Bolton.

Bolton is founder of Quilting Arts and Cloth Paper Scissors magazines and founding host of “Quilting Arts” on PBS. More recently, she was the chief creative officer at Quilts, Inc.

With her experience in publishing, media, events and “craft adventures” she created Crafting a Life, LLC, a media and events company based in Napa.

Crafting a Life focuses on high-end quilting, sewing and mixed-media retreats.

That includes Craft Napa, an arts retreat offering a range of textile classes such as quilting, sewing, fiber art and design.

The next Craft Napa is scheduled for Jan. 11-14.

1. First of all, where does the name Pokey come from?

It’s a family name. We hail from Virginia (and) family theory has it we are descendants (of Pocahontas). Pocahontas is my middle name — Pokey for short.

The last living Pocahontas in my family was my great-grandmother. (Bolton’s first name is really Patricia) but I’ve never gone by Patricia.

2. Which three people would you most like to have dinner with?

  • Pocahontas.
  • Julia Child.
  • Mary, Queen of Scots.

3. What was your first job?

Once I graduated from college, I stayed in Boston and was an assistant teacher in a private school for children on the autism spectrum.

4. What’s the worst job you ever had?

Selling advertising for a print trade publication in the investment banking industry. I was trying to sell ads in an industry I was not passionate at all about.

However, I learned some very key skills and information about how to launch a magazine from this job.

5. How did you get into the quilting industry?

Back around 1999, I was getting my Ph.D. at Boston University, and was also a full-time special needs teacher outside of Boston, when my mom gave me a $200 gift certificate to Joann (fabric and craft stores).

I bought a quilting how-to book, some fabrics, threads, a low-end sewing machine, and made my first quilt.

I thought about it that following spring semester to drastically switch careers. I had some magazine experience immediately out of college, and thought it would be fun to try and start my own quilting magazine, focusing on art quilts and fiber arts.

So, I took some seed money, printed my first issue, made it subscription-only, and got lucky: by the third issue Barnes and Noble, Walmart, quilt stores and major nationwide grocery stores carried it.

After that, I started a second magazine, (Cloth Paper Scissors), and eventually sold my business to Interweave in 2007, which opened more doors for me.

I stayed at the helm of my flagship publications while at Interweave, but also was able to then host “Quilting Arts” nationally on TV on PBS.

6. Do you have a favorite quilt?

I had a great-grandmother who quilted and my most prized possession is this quilt. I just love hand work. It’s fascinating to see fabrics from other eras.

When I was evacuated (during) the Partrick Fire, I was loading my dogs and cat and the one possession I took with me in that five minutes was my great-grandmother’s quilt.

7. What’s a common misconception about quilting?

That (quilters) are all older women. There are a lot of men who quilt. And couples do it together. There is also a resurgence called the modern quilt movement. A lot of (those quilters) are generally younger. That’s been fun to see. Quilting is a robust, $3 billion industry.

8. What is the biggest challenge your industry has faced?

The biggest challenge is how people get information and learn new techniques.

There is so much free content online via YouTube videos and online instruction that you can find at places like Craftsy.com vs. going to an in-person event.

Having said that, I think, if you provide quality content (in print or online or at an event), people will come.

And I also feel that people may see an online video, read an article, or take an online tutorial with a quality teacher and they eventually dream of taking a class with that instructor in person. I have seen this a lot.

I try and make Craft Napa, my retreat in Napa every January, an immersive, dream experience where teachers and artists really have the 1:1 quality time with students.

9. What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?

I am actually pretty introverted. I am good with people, but I truly am a homebody. I built my dream studio on my property here in Napa — my art barn — and if all I did was quilt and sew all day long in here, I would be very happy!

10. What was your childhood ambition?

I wanted to be an author. In some ways, I stayed on course, I have authored three books, and for the most part I have owned my own businesses.

I have written my own story.

For more about Bolton visit pokeybolton.com

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.