Who the #*@! is Mark Lipinski? (and what is he doing to quilting?)

Jake Finch
Who the #*@! is Mark Lipinski? (and what is he doing to quilting?)

It’s been called irreverent, madcap, funny, and definitely not like other magazines dedicated to quilters. If there is ever an award given for “Most Unconventional Quilting Magazine,” Mark Lipinski’s Quilter’s Home will deliver the acceptance speech. Still, for all of its often-bawdy revelry (as identified by more staid stitchers) the 17-month-old magazine has developed a loyal and growing following, reflecting an untapped viewpoint in the quilt and craft industry and a shifting interpretation on how quilters define themselves.

With something so wildly different that successfully caters to quilt lovers everywhere, QH friends and foes rightfully beg the question of its creator: Who is Mark Lipinski and what is he doing to quilting?

As the most non-typical spokesman for quilting, Mark knew his idea for what he considers a lifestyle—not a quilting—magazine would be vastly different from every other quilt-related publication currently on the market.

“I started QH because I was really bored (with quilt magazines),” he says. “I had been a network daytime TV producer for 25 years. I knew
my audience-—women. And then, when I started teaching quilting, I knew those ladies were just wild and out-of-control. They were fun and
lovely and irreverent. They were successful in their own right. I thought they must be as bored as I am. And they were.”

Two years ago, the former Emmy-nominated daytime television producer for several shows, including The View, put together a proposal for a new magazine, one that would continually reflect a quilter’s love of the hobby, but that would also offer more than patterns. QH was to be a
lifestyle magazine, like the talk shows he produced.

Others were interested, but it was PRIMEDIA who jumped onto Mark’s wild ride. Last November, PRIMEDIA was sold to CK Media, which publishes 13 craft-related magazines—including Quilter’s Newsletter, Quiltmaker, and McCall’s Quilting—with a combined circulation of 1.2 million readers.

QH articles range from decorating (blending quilts with décor), to relationships (Is He Cheating While You’re Quilting? May/June 2007), recipes, fitness and fashion (Hide Your Quilter’s Spread, August 2006). There are the shock reads, like the premiere issue’s feature where a psychic channeled the long-dead spirit of Jane Stickle, maker of the famous 1863 quilt that triggered a flurry of books, patterns, and groups dedicated to recreating this beautiful antique quilt. And, just in case readers forget the magazine is for quilters, a couple of quilt projects can also be found in each issue.

“I think it’s a hoot,” says Toby Preston, owner of Kindred Quilts, a Clinton, NJ, shop that’s carried Quilter’s Home since its first issue. “I don’t look at it as a quilting magazine. I look at it as pure entertainment. You chuckle, you laugh out loud, you blush a little, you go ‘My God, you’ve pushed a little bit on that.’ ”

Mark is well known at Kindred. A one-time employee, he frequently visits the shop he considers his home store. Toby says she always knew the magazine would be a hit.

“He’s one smart cookie,” she says. “He has more creative energy in his pinky than I do in my whole body. You just knew he could pull it off. He’s such a unique individual.”

Toby’s shop carries the magazine’s back issues. She orders about 130 copies of each issue and generally needs to re-order as she sells out. Because the magazine has not been available by subscription (that’s about to change), loyal readers haunt quilt shops and major book and craft retailers, waiting to pounce on the latest issue. On Mark’s forum, www.PickleRoadStudio@yahoogroups.com, (named after Mark’s New Jersey address) Posse members provide regular QH sighting reports to help direct others to new issues. Posse members also serve as a sounding board for editorial issues, respond to survey questions, and test products for magazine features. Plus, they are some of Mark’s most ardent defenders.

“I don’t care if Mark is gay, straight, purple, green, or has five arms and four feet, he’s a damn talented man, writes a great magazine, and is someone I’d love to meet,” wrote forum member Steve Hart of Waupaca, WN, after a rather heated discussion (there’s rarely a cool discussion to be read on Pickle Road) when one reader’s displeasure with Mark was posted on the forum.

Luana Rubin, founder of www.equilter.com, which also carries QH’s current and back issues, says the magazine has been a favorite with her customers because it’s so off-the-wall and fun. With Mark’s sassy, playful voice carried throughout the magazine, most customers—and Luana’s staff-—are anxious to read what Quilter’s Home offers. Often, she finds her staff laughing at the names of the articles listed on an issue’s cover as new ones arrive in the office.

“He comes from the entertainment industry,” Luana says. “That’s how you have to take it. He says things that the traditional quilter would never say. He’s poking fun at things that some of us would never do and that can be a good thing.”

Alex Anderson, famed quilt designer/teacher/author and host of The Quilt Show, an internet quilt show she shares with quilter Ricky Tims, first met Mark when he approached her to talk to her about hiring an agent to help her during her work with her former venture as host for HGTV’s Simply Quilts. Alex was captivated by Mark’s personality and eventually asked him to come on the show. His contagious personality was an interesting mix with the traditional cable television show.

“For him to fit inside a box was a pretty large move,” she says. “I remember he would say ‘Oh that sucks,’ and there’s no way that will get on television. What was really neat were his energy and personality. You just knew that the quilters were going to eat it up.”

At first she wondered how QH, with its quirky, brazen delivery, would be received by quilters, who are usually known as seasoned older women who take their craft very seriously. Alex, however, was hooked after one issue.

“His goal that you pick it up and read it cover-to-cover has been accomplished,” says Alex, whose favorite feature so far has been Mark asking internationally-known quilt teachers to open their purses and allow him to inventory their contents for the way-too-funny article, What’s Inside Their Purses, (October 2006).

“We’ve got to be able to laugh at ourselves,” says Jodie Davis, president of QNNtv, an Internet television channel dedicated to quilting. “In quilting, people don’t really know anything about our celebrities.

This magazine is helping to humanize our celebrities.” Articles like Purses and Cheating have helped Mark succeed in QH’s main mission: to produce a quilt magazine that readers read.

Tina Battock, QH’s publisher, says Mark is doing more than providing a fun read. He’s helping to change how quilting is seen.

“I think he has the opportunity here to make the people who are more on the fringe of crafting, who view quilting as old and stodgy, see that it can be trendy, rewarding, social, and exciting—typically things that haven’t been associated with mainstream quilting. People in the industry know these things, but my next-door neighbor doesn’t know this. And I think it’s cool that he’s a man. He’s challenging every stereotype in quilting,” says Tina.

While Mark knew that he would attract fun-loving readers who enjoy being entertained by their passion, he knew he would also hear from the those who don’t like the magazine and who wouldn’t line their cats’ litter boxes with its shreds.

From the start, those detractors —roughly 16 out of 3,000 emails about the magazine—have been vocal about their dislikes.

(Author’s note: Many of those who had issues with QH were contacted for this article, including those mentioned briefly and anonymously below. No one would agree to be quoted, either from previous communications with Mark or through an interview at the time of this writing. We tried. We really, really tried.)

One reader likened Mark’s palm reading and channeling articles to Satanic worship.

Another professional quilter compared QH to The National Enquirer.

Still another reader politely, but sternly, objected to Mark’s use of words never printed before in any other quilt magazine, specifically crap, whore, and hell. (Mark hastens to explain that such word choices aren’t gratuitous. Consider the context: “Get rid of your quilting crap,” one article urges, and “I’m a fabric whore,” another feature proclaims. It’s all in the spirit of communicating freely and with liberal sass. A la Lipinski.) Mark answers his critics as Mark usually does: directly.

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