We all met at the hotel in the afternoon before our first scheduled dinner. It was fun getting to know what each did. Brenda Groelz, director of marketing and Mark Hyland, CEO, joined us for dinner. Mark is quite a charismatic character, sharing his almost outrageous story of how he was brought to HQ nearly 5 years ago. Brenda has been there a few years, but is the former editor of Quiltmaker magazine. She has a tremendous eye for what she does, and is so well regarded.
The following morning (after getting nearly no sleep for a 2nd night), we all got up and went by shuttle to the Handi Quilter office. It's unassuming from the outside (above), but inside is a mecca of cloth, inspiration and greatness. Here is a picture of all of us as we entered the company for the first time. Can't you just feel the excitement?!! As we went in the doors, everyone in the company (most of their 50 employees) lined the staircase, and showered down cans of silly string (not directly on us mind you!). Balloons were everywhere for a truly festive feeling. A different HQ employee presented each of us with a bag, containing the first of many fantastic gifties. This bag had a sample quilting of each of our names (part of what they do to test-run each machine before it ships), goodies from Moda including a layer cake, jelly roll and charp square pack, and a few other odds & ends. It would have been great if we only got that much stuff. As you'll see as I post about this trip this week, we were showered with wonderful goodies. They truly see us as part of their family.
In their 2-story entryway was a large banner with all of our pictures. It brought tears to my eyes to see my daughter Sophie up there larger than life. I was really starting to miss her by then. Above the banner are many great quilter's sayings. These sayings are stenciled over every window and door in the facility. It's just so fantastic and warm. My favorite was in the studio, "Blessed are the children of quilters for they shall inherit the quilts". Just awesome.
First off, we got a tour of the space where the machines are assembled. Individual parts are manufactured wherever the highest quality per cost can be obtained. It's really cool to see a flank of Avante machines all sitting there with half their guts assembled. Gotta love the engineering side of it all. We learned about how they burn in and test each machine. Below is the CEO Mark showing us the type stitching that is done to fully test the machines.