Charlotte Angotti: Has Quilts, Will Travel!

By Connie Barnard

Charlotte Angotti: Has Quilts, Will Travel!

Several years ago internationally renowned quilting expert, and Conway resident, Charlotte Angotti was taking a cab from Logan Airport into Boston. As five lanes of traffic approached a tunnel clearly wide enough for just three lanes, she nervously asked her driver why there were five cars and only three lanes. The Boston cabbie replied dryly, “Lines are just suggestions.” On reflection, Angotti says the same could be true of the paths her own life has taken. Combining a background in fine arts and traditional quilting with her trademark use of bold color and sense of fun, Angotti has gained fame as an innovative quilt designer who colors outside the lines. One part artist, one part teacher, and one part stand-up comedian, she has created a successful life doing what she loves most and sharing it with others.

The daughter of an Air Force pilot, the late Norm Barikmo, and his vivacious wife Polly, Charlotte was born in her mother’s hometown, Montgomery, Alabama. Like most military families, the Barikmos and their four daughters moved often, but Charlotte always considered Alabama home. In 1978 after graduating from her mother’s alma mater, Huntingdon College, Charlotte was visiting her parents at Quantico, Virginia, sorting out what to do with a degree in fine arts, speech and drama. One afternoon while browsing in the nearby little marina village of Occoquan, she stumbled upon a quilt shop, and her life changed forever. She fell in love with the colors and amazing patterns of the craft and immediately began quilting lessons, steeping herself in all elements of the revered early American tradition. Charlotte’s free spirit and artist’s soul could not be contained by these boundaries, however, and she soon developed her own visionary design concepts. Like the Boston cabbie, Angotti says, “I had to start out by learning the rules then over time began to use them more as suggestions.”

Charlotte sold her first quilt creation immediately after completing it, and she has been making and selling quilts ever since. This is the mainstay around which she has built a creative, multi-faceted career. Soon someone approached her asking how to make a quilt, so Angotti became a teacher as well, ultimately sharing her talent, skill and sense of fun with thousands all over the world. In 1981 she opened a quilt store in Virginia Beach where she sold quilting supplies and taught classes for 18 years. During this time, she also began working with Alexander Henry Fabrics, a small California manufacturing company for whom she still creates display quilts for its market show booths.

Along the way, Charlotte developed yet another dimension to her repertoire: pre-cut kits containing everything needed to create one of her original designs. These soon became so popular that she had difficulty keeping up with orders. Fortunately, about this time she crossed paths with John Flynn, a Montana quilting expert who uses a laser to cut and sear fabric pieces. She says, “John’s work is so precise – it is within 1/500th of an inch in accuracy. That is about the size of a hair!” Together the two worked out an efficient and effective system for assembling the quilt kits. John warehouses thousands of yards of fabric for Charlotte who keeps half yard samples for new designs. After she tests a kit for quality control purposes, Flynn cuts, packages and ships them. Janice Broussard of Katy, Texas, says of Angotti’s design kits: “When you work on a quilt designed by Charlotte, you are assured your finished product will be beautiful, unique and virtually perfect.”

Charlotte Angotti - Photo 2

As with her kits, Charlotte’s quilting classes had long waiting lists as well. Boston quilting expert Anne Boyce visited Virginia Beach for one of her workshops. She recognized Angotti’s extraordinary talent and offered to help spearhead her move into large national and international arenas. Ten years after starting her quilting adventures, Charlotte found herself presenting workshops at the country’s largest quilt shows such as in Houston with up to 60,000 participants, Long Beach, California, and more recently, the quilting capital of Peducah, Kentucky. Angotti jokingly calls these one-day classes “Sweat Shops” – an apt image of the huge room filled with intent quilters bent over their machines. Her classes have become so popular that participants are given passwords to keep out unregistered interlopers.

In addition to her widely acknowledged expertise, Janice Broussard attributes Angotti’s popularity to her relaxed teaching style and riotous sense of humor: “Taking a class with Charlotte is a new and different experience. Other teachers often have their classroom doors opened, with dutiful students at their machines or taking notes while the teacher stands at the head of the room. Not so in a Charlotte class. Her classroom door is closed, windows covered with paper, as loud, rambunctious laughter emanates from the classroom, echoing down the hall. All the secrecy, coupled with the roar of hilarity, makes the outsider long to be on the other side of the door.”

This sense of fun pervades everything Angotti does. Broussard says, “She looks at the world out of the corner of her eye, telling stories about normal people moving about the world in farcical situations…poking fun at herself as much as others.” This sense of fun carries over to the titles she chooses for her workshops and quilt designs, along with sometimes raucous tales regarding their provenance. Her most popular class is entitled “Let Me Surprise You.” Until they arrive at the workshop and receive their kits of pre-cut fabric, participants have no idea about the design or colors of the quilt they’ll make. As Charlotte describes it: “Finally, a class where you know you’ve brought the right things!” Other whimsical titles include workshops, “Cure for the Common Quilt” and “Chain, Chain, Chain,” and quilt designs “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and “Why Walk When You Can Fly.”

Angotti also leads small workshop sessions, including several in 2011 sponsored by local quilt guilds in Charleston and Columbia, and conducts privately hosted sessions in such beautiful spots as Hawaii, Isle of Palms and a large oceanfront home in Garden City. At these, invited guests arrive from around the country to enjoy three days of gourmet meals, fine wine and Charlotte’s entertaining lectures.

As word of her popularity spread, another exciting adventure presented itself to Charlotte, one that combines her two most favorite pastimes: travel and quilting. Sew Many Places, a specialized travel company which sponsors quilting trips to destinations all over the world, approached Angotti about leading travel workshops. The company provides all aspects of the trip, even sewing machines. Instructors bring quilt designs, fabric and supplies, so the participants can just sew, travel and have fun. In 2007 Charlotte led an eight day quilting tour of Italy with a memorable group that included her mother, Polly. This year she has just returned from an unforgettable ten day August cruise through Alaska appropriately titled “Quilting under the Midnight Sun.” For 2012 she is working details for a quilt shop train tour.

In 2008 Charlotte moved to the Grand Strand realizing, as she put it: “I can live anywhere as long as it has an airport.” She enjoys the opportunity to be near her mother and sisters as she works in relative anonymity from her Conway home, constantly moving in new directions and adding new dimensions. In addition to designing, traveling and teaching, Angotti is also working on two quilt design books to be featured on line next spring on “The Quilt Show.” Her designs are also featured in the current (September) issue of the magazine, McCall’s Quilting.

A wise person once advised: “Do what you love; the money will come.” This has certainly proven true of Charlotte Angotti over the past 30 years as she has carved out a unique and fulfilling life. Described by her friend Janice Broussard as a human vortex, Angotti naturally draws others toward herself and her projects. At the same time, her success has clearly involved large amounts of risk-taking and hard work. Her publisher and friend Debbie Caffrey says, “Charlotte leaves it all on the stage or in the classroom, just like an athlete on the field…There are many, many creative people in the world. What impresses me about Charlotte is how much she accomplishes with her creativity.”

[To learn more about Charlotte Angotti, visit these sites: www.charlotteangotti.com; www.QuiltMakerStudio.com; www.sewmanyplaces.com.]

About this writer

  • Connie BarnardConnie Barnard traveled the world as a military wife and taught high school and college composition for over 30 years. She has been a regular contributor to Sasee since its first issue in 2002.

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One Response to “Charlotte Angotti: Has Quilts, Will Travel!”

  1. I am a long time friend of Charlotte’s mother–Polly.
    I have been following Charlotte for as long as
    Polly has sent articles from her continuing amazing
    Quilting. My friend had a Quilt shop and I learned
    the art of Quilts. Makes me really admire this young lady.

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