Who the #*@! is Mark Lipinski? (and what is he doing to quilting?)
“Well then, Quilter’s Home is just not for you,” he emailed to the quilter who didn’t like his language. “There is no sense buying a magazine you don’t like. There are so many other quilting magazines out there. I’m sure the others are more to your taste.”
When one reader said she wouldn’t be reading QH anymore because she didn’t approve of Mark who sounded as if he was gay, (Mark is openly gay, and his long-time partner, Jeff Turner, works as the magazine’s art director), Mark sat open-mouthed that she even had to ponder that fact. “Well, do I have to hit you over the head with a two-by-four?” he says. “There are just some people who shouldn’t read and buy the magazine.”
Mark speaks his truth without hesitation. For that privilege, he knows there will be those who won’t appreciate what he’s trying to do with QH. It didn’t take him long, he says, to stand up for himself against his critics, and his responses have become a QH standard atypical from most other publications, where criticism is accepted politely and without defense.
“After a while I thought, ‘Why am I doing this? That’s not who I am.’ I started writing back just the way I felt. And it takes the bite out of the criticism,” he says.
As for the recent change that now has Mark’s image on the cover of each issue (airbrushed to make him look thinner, admits a grateful Mark, who says, “Of course I keep looking younger and slimmer. I’ve got the best diet in the whole world!”), which coincided with CK Media’s CEO, Dave O’Neil’s, idea to rename the magazine, Mark Lipinski’s Quilter’s Home, Mark received these thoughts:
“I had one lady write to me and say, “I love your magazine, but you’re not exactly cover material.’ I answered her and said, ‘Well, let’s make a deal. You send me a photo of yourself and I’ll print it and we will take a vote on whether you’re hot enough to write the letter.’ She wrote back and said, ‘Touché.’ I would have loved to have done that,” he says.
At 50, Mark says he’s accepted the fact there will be those who won’t like him or the magazine.
“Underneath it all I’m still a Catholic-educated good boy. I think I got stuck in my adolescent rebellion. I’m just always pushing the limits, gently pushing the limits. I’m just never satisfied with the status quo,” he says.
Those who know Mark more personally, like Alex, Luana, and Toby, say they know the criticisms sting the man, who deep down is a gentle, loving, and kind friend.
“He’s softened up,” Alex says. “As you get to know him, more layers are revealed.”
While QH is all about Mark, Mark is more than his magazine.
He started quilting 15 years ago after he brought home his son, Evan, from a South American orphanage. As a single parent, Mark quit his job and stayed home to help with his infant son’s health issues. It was during those early years that Mark, in his rare, quiet moments of parenting, began watching Eleanor Burns’ quilt show, Quilt in a Day. Always a crafter, Mark knew that if she could make a quilt, so could he. And a quilter was born.
Mark began selling his designs to quilt magazines. Teaching came next and Mark found himself with a new career in an industry with very few men. With his television background, Mark easily appealed to women who quilt.
“Part of this magazine is, to me, to really empower the quilter,” he says. “You have a lot of women, even the younger women, who need to be good girls.”
Women, Mark says, are still second-class citizens and quilters are third class because they have a stereotype.
“It was easier for me to come out of the closet as a gay man than as a quilter. Everybody has a reference of what gay is. But when you say you’re a quilter, you’re immediately an old, conservative, rightwing fundamentalist, quarter-inch seam hag. There is no quilt guild in the world where everybody is like that.”
What Mark most wants his readers to know is quilting is fun.
“People have all these expectations,” he says. “Quilting is supposed to be fun. That’s the reason I started this whole thing. I am not under the impression that I am some great designer. When push comes to shove I make blankets, and so does everyone else. It should be fun to make blankets. It uses your senses. It’s supposed to be an enjoyable process and that’s what we lose. What I want to bring back in is ‘Yeah, we do have beautiful quilts in my magazine, but it’s fun.’ It’s a magazine for quilters.”
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