Test 40, by SB Quilts, is a finalist at the New England Quilt Festival in Manchester, N.H.
It wasn’t that long ago that Jim Smith and Andy Brunhammer were sitting in separate financial organizations, mostly miserable and looking for something a little bit different.What they found wasn’t just a little different; it was a lot different and became the start of a whole new life. No more suits and ties, no more stuffy office situations. They started out on their own and decided their calling in life was to make quilts. Very good quits. Quilts that could match up against any in the country.Smith started the ball rolling when he was assigned to invent a “cottage industry” while going after his master’s degree. He just pulled an idea out of his hat.“I had no idea what I was doing,” Smith said. “Neither Andy nor I knew how to sew. But I had some math ability and a sense of design, and Andy knew how to apply the technical parts to it, so we made it work.”They work out of their house in Carrollwood that is filled with rooms covered with patterns, sewing machines, designs and several dogs. They formed Quilts SB and are so advanced that they enter national contests and are having some of their work displayed at a show in Ireland.Smith concedes that he and Brunhammer are still novices in the business, but it’s proven to be a blast.“It started out as a hobby and grew pretty fast,” Smith said. “We are a cross between traditional quilting and modern quilting. … I like playing around with colors and Andy makes it all work.”The ideas for the quilts can come from anywhere – from something on television, to a flower or almost anything else. One client sent some dresses that belonged to the grandmother of her husband. Smith and Brunhammer were tasked with using the cloth to make a quilt. It is now a family keepsake.The pair is working on a quilt with an abstract version of a bald eagle that they hope to donate to the Tampa International Airport, but they aren’t satisfied with it yet.“We can do better,” Brunhammer said. “I had to learn to try to sew in college, but it’s really come together now.”They are working on 17 quilts. Men are not exactly prominent in the quilting circle, but Smith said he doesn’t mind.“We like doing this,” he said. “We never thought this would happen, but it’s a lot better than working in a bank.”