Crystal Manning can’t imagine a day without color, and she’s got a purple bathroom and turquoise studio to prove it. “I have to negotiate wall color with my husband,” she says. “If I lived by myself I’d probably go pretty crazy.”
Crystal, who hails from Kansas City, will be sharing that love of color when her first fabric line, Wild Nectar, debuts at Quilt Market next month. As you might imagine, its nature-inspired prints feature vibrant hues. “I can’t imagine ever doing neutral tones,” she says.
Crystal’s journey to fabric design dates back to about the fourth grade, when she was living in a small northern Missouri town. Her mom recognized Crystal’s talent for art and arranged for lessons with a local artist. “I enjoyed it, but didn’t know what I could do with it as a career,” she says. In college she opted for a business degree and in her advertising classes that she found herself drawn to advertising imagery and the idea of graphic design. After college she worked for more than fifteen years as in-house designer ad agencies and for the Precious Moments giftware company, located in southern Missouri. Four years ago she and her husband, a high school teacher, moved to the Kansas City area and Crystal continued to work remotely for Precious Moments. Then, about a year ago she made the big decision to go out on her own.
“I’d learned a lot about giftware and decided to work toward licensing some of my own surface patterns,” she says. One of Crystal’s efforts involved having her designs digitally printed on fabric, even though she didn’t know how to sew. “I wanted to be able to create something with it, so I bought a sewing machine in 2015.”
Since then, Crystal’s stitching skills have improved greatly. She especially enjoys creating simple garments. “I don’t labor over them too much,” she says. “I’m pretty happy with my abilities. I can put in an invisible zipper, so I’m good.” Her interest in quilting came when she partnered with Lindsey Rae of Sew to Grow at Quilt Market last year. “As I was exposed to the different forms of quilting at Market I found I was really drawn to modern quilting,” she says. She’s designing three patterns to go with her line, and will be sewing them herself to display at Quilt Market. She also stitches small projects for her Etsy shop.
When she’s not sewing you’ll find Crystal hard at work on her surface pattern designs, which also appear on swimwear and on Precious Moments giftware, too. A self-described night person, she takes care of email during the morning hours, while she sews and paints during the evening hours. (She started as a “plein air” painter and still makes time to create original oil paintings.)
When she’s not got her nose to the grindstone, Crystal and her husband, a high school business teacher who is working on his doctorate, enjoy cheering on the Kansas City Royals, taking evening walks in historic Liberty, Missouri area, and giving in to their appreciation of coffee at local shops. But, she admits, they’re mostly pretty low-key and often work into the evenings.
I asked Crystal if her accomplishments could be attributed to being super-organized, and she demurred. “I don’t know if it’s that so much, but I don’t give up,” she says. “I keep trying, and try to get better at what I do.” The color-lovers among us can be grateful for Crystal’s persistence, and we’ll soon have her fabric to inspire our own creativity.