Now that’s a claim to fame! In high school, when the guidance counselor asked me what I wanted to study at college, Cuckoo Clock Designer certainly wasn’t on the list of choices. Nor Rubber Duckie Designer, nor Quilting TV Show Host for that matter. Had I stuck with electrical engineering people who know me wouldn’t, as is often the case, have to ask me to explain to others what it is I do. What would be the fun in that?
The first time I remember seeing a cuckoo clock I was well into the adult stage of life. A fancy Swiss clock complete with music and dancers and dogs –oh my! — cast the cuckoo clock spell upon me. Between rubber duckies and cuckoo clocks my eBay rating skyrocketed. As is always the case with me, soon I was struck with the make-my-own-bug: I wanted to design my own.
Realizing the Quilt Shop Cuckoo Clock Dream
Back in– gosh, 2006 was it? — the opportunity arose. I headed off to the Bernina Sewing machine company in Switzerland with a producer and cameraman to shoot several episodes of a TV series for quilters I was hosting at the time. “So, let’s see… That’s real close to Germany… How do I knit together quilting and cuckoo clocks and turn it into a show? Design a cuckoo clock for quilters of course!”
There was one itsy bitsy problem. My German distributor contact here in the States didn’t think the folks at the factory would get as excited as I over the idea. Regardless, off we went, an American TV show wanting to do a story on the making of cuckoo clocks seemed to be enough for the Schneider Cuckoo Clock factory to put out the welcome mat.
Upon our arrival in Schonach we toured the factory to plan our shoot. As we geared up for taping in the sales room, I pitched the idea of designing a quilt-inspired clock for viewers. And held my breathe. The response wasn’t cold, it was even better than tepid. Wow!
Brainstorming the possibilities, we found a clock there in the salesroom as a starting point. We wanted animation, which this one had. But it had a long way to go before being our clock! You see, our modern pretty lady was an old hag on the original clock. Rolling pin in hand no less. And where the kitty jumps on a pile of bolts of fabric on our clock, two men sat on benches at a table and quaffed beer when the cuckoo sounded. That’s when the old lady smacked one of them over the head with her rolling pin. Gotta love it! (In fact, a German born friend said, when I described the original clock to her, “I’ve seen that exact scene for real and more than once!”)
The clock in this catalog page is similar to that original clock, which has apparently been discontinued.
Designing the Quilt Shop Cuckoo Clock
Changing the old woman to a contemporary quilter was simple to do. And since the woman was already animated, adding a table for her to cut on was no problem. But what about that rotary cutter she needed in her hand? The German-speaking wood carver had no idea what a rotary cutter is, and I hadn’t a clue as to how to translate it, until one of us said, “pizza cutter!” He disappeared and reappeared a few moments later having carved a cutter that needed just a few tweaks to go from pizza- to fabric-ready. What language barrier?
With limited time, we finished taping the show with a cobbled together first rendition of the clock for our “ta da” moment of the episode. That night in the picture-perfect alpine cross country ski lodge, snuggled in a bed that looked like one from my dollhouse, I could hardly believe what had transpired that day.
Back at home the work began to produce the clock for real. I set about creating detailed drawings for what would be the real clock.
I sent photos of cutting mats, bolts of fabric, and a rotary cutter to help them get everything quilterly accurate.
What would a quilt shop be without quilts? The spaces to the left and right of the cuckoo door provided the perfect spots for two quilts. And an excuse to play around in Electric Quilt to design them.
It’s amazing to look back at this and see how much the clock really does look like the drawings I sent!
It’s a Quilt Shop, It’s a Cuckoo Clock, It’s a Quilt Shop Cuckoo Clock!
With all the details set I awaited the arrival of the sample clock. It knocked my socks off! With a few tiny changes we pushed the go button on production, ordering 125 of them. As they were manufactured and shipped, I wrote checks and held my breathe that other quilters would be nutty enough to think the combination of a quilt shop and a cuckoo clock was enchanting. Turns out they did and in time all 125 clocks found homes.
Fittingly enough, as I am signing off on this I hear my Quilt Shop Cuckoo Clock singing to me from the living room. Dreams do come true! Now that I am both a Cuckoo Clock Designer and a Rubber Duckie Designer perhaps one day I will meet Ernie, Rubber Duckie’s #1 fan, after all!
Please note: Any new clocks will not have that wooden plate on the front with my name. Communication error between me and the factory on the first batch. I wanted it signed by me on the side. No one said anything about it (quilters are so nice!) but I think they’d rather my name not be up front, and I certainly would prefer it not to be!