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Celebrating Diversity in Fiber Arts

Updated: Jul 27, 2023

If you're looking for an art quilt to hang on your wall instead of your bed, Barbara's Fiber Art has you covered. Barbara Huff makes story quilts and teaches classes in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Since she retired, Huff has had more time to devote to quilting. In 2020, she treated herself to a quilting conference, excited to take in-depth classes and see quilters and vendors from all over the country. But throughout the conference, she noticed something missing. "The lack of racial diversity among instructors really struck me. African-Americans have always quilted phenomenally, but aren't represented in that world of quilting experts." Huff said. Huff was born in Cleveland and has sewn since childhood, but spent much of her life overseas. "I brought a lot of fabric home from Africa. Every culture has its fabric and dying or printing techniques. I was always interested in where these things come from and why. That's what I was missing from those quilting classes." she said. Huff, a lifelong teacher and trainer, decided to combine her passion for teaching and quilting into a business. While she has an Etsy site and sells at craft fairs, she never quite felt like she had a real business. When she saw the ECDI's Women's Business Centers advertise their Encore program, a digital marketing cohort for women business owners over fifty, she decided to apply. She didn’t think she’d get in since she didn’t have a full-fledged business, but to her surprise, she got accepted.

Barbara Huff, in her studio

The skills she learned transformed her Etsy shop into something more professional and gave her the confidence of being a real business owner. "I sold more in the last year than I did in my first three years combined, and I'm sure it's from pushing my business through Instagram,” Huff says. “I got a beautiful, professional website. Getting a logo, business cards, and a headshot made me feel more confident. Looking more professional and consistent makes me feel more serious about what I'm doing. I feel like I actually have a business now."

In the future, Huff hopes to fill the void in racial and cultural diversity in the quilting instruction space. Huff said "My big goal is a week-long quilting retreat, like what I was looking for. I want a class that touches on something deeper than just quilting."

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