Quilt-making, the all-American craft that’s definitely a bit old-school, is getting a new identity. When you think of quilts, you might think of nostalgic images of your childhood, old-timey decor, or your Grandma’s favorite past-time. Not any longer. Now, quilts are enjoying a bit of a renaissance.

Born out of a desire to create timeless quilts with a modern edge — all while still retaining homey comfort — the Louise Gray brand is leading the way in modern quilt-making. Founded by Alexandra Gray Bennett and Jocelin Johnson, Louise Gray joined the West Elm LOCAL program in 2016. Their quilts are made to last, handcrafted from 100% cotton using traditional, time-honored techniques.

Louise Gray quilts are heirlooms, much like traditional handmade quilts, passed down from one generation to the next. The timeless design and quality materials make it easy to imagine them as such. Each quilt is passionately handmade by artisans in Minneapolis, MN.

“Unique, versatile, and honest, we see our pieces as a choice and an investment,
objects that contemplate the future and inspire and refine the way we live.”
— Alexandra Gray

Louise Gray is proof that modern, clean aesthetic doesn’t have to feel cold. In fact, they believe that life can always be a bit cozier. Their quilts can be used as a work of art hung on a wall, or as a cozy bed blanket — they’re modern and versatile for any style home.


Shop Louise Gray on westelm.com!

We got a chance to visit them at their production studio in Minneapolis and chat with them about what’s it like to run a small, handcrafted, local business. Read on below!

Photography by Matt Lien

west elm LOCAL — Louise Gray

west elm LOCAL — Louise Gray

west elm LOCAL — Louise Gray

Hello there! My name is Alexandra Bennett.

I am the proud CEO & Co-Founder of Louise Gray. While many might assume Louise Gray to be an actual person, it instead represents a community of people who share an appreciation for refined design and mindful consumerism.

Louise Gray pays homage to the tradition of quilting by creating beautiful contemporary heirlooms. We strive to make pieces that withstand the passing of time in both design and ethos. Dedicated to fostering sustainable manufacturing practices, we are proud to have each design handcrafted by local artisans in Minneapolis.

As industry in the U.S.A. continues to evolve and many skilled laborers are being displaced, Louise Gray aspires to offset this trend by manufacturing domestically.

Louise Gray is determined to transform how we invest in and curate a well-considered home, being ever mindful that life can always be a little cozier.

west elm LOCAL — Louise Gray

west elm LOCAL — Louise Gray

west elm LOCAL — Louise Gray

west elm LOCAL — Louise Gray

Tell us about your personal family history in quilt making.

From a very young age my mother, Karen Gray, empowered me to make things with my own two hands. My first moments creating were spent on my grandmother’s original Singer sewing machine that my mother had inherited. It wasn’t until college that she first taught me to make quilts out of old t-shirt for my friends and classmates. At that time I was studying anthropology and quickly became fascinated with the concept of storytelling through objects (particularly quilts) and its significance throughout human history.

In 2014 I teamed up with my business partner, Jocelin Johnson. It was her graphic design background that allowed us to reimagine this rich tradition and make it relevant to a modern consumer. I am also honored to still be working alongside and learning from my mother, who now serves as the brand’s Production Director. Together, with the rest of our team, we strive to create beautiful and meaningful pieces.

Tell us about your studio space!

Our studio, which you see captured here, is located in the heart of the Uptown neighborhood in Minneapolis.

This is where Jocelin and our Art Director, Gina, dream up our creations. It is worth mentioning that most of the hard work is done off-site at our workroom (about 25 minutes outside of Minneapolis), where our artisan partners bring our quilt designs to life.

The meticulously handcrafted items are then brought back to our studio to be thoroughly inspected and cleaned before being shipped out to their new homes. It is paramount that as much love and care goes into the packing of each piece as went into creating it.

Five women and two dogs working out of (approximately) 1,000 square feet make for a fairly ‘cozy’ environment. There is a lot you learn about each other in such a small space. While it allows us to quickly communicate and accomplish tasks, we are very much looking forward to growing into a bigger space in 2020!

west elm LOCAL — Louise Gray

west elm LOCAL — Louise Gray

west elm LOCAL — Louise Gray

west elm LOCAL — Louise Gray

west elm LOCAL — Louise Gray

west elm LOCAL — Louise Gray

west elm LOCAL — Louise Gray

What do you love most about living + working in Minneapolis?

The sheer grit and work ethic. If you survive the winter here you’ve got to be tough. A lot of people say this jokingly about the Midwest but I believe there is absolute truth to it.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about growing and sustaining your own business?

The importance of maintaining work, life balance. The culture we sought out to create at Louise Gray is centered around self-care. As founders, it is necessary that we practice this…setting the tone so others feel comfortable advocating for themselves.

A startup is about stamina…it is without a doubt a marathon, not a sprint.

How has the West Elm LOCAL program helped you grow as a business?

The visibility has been tremendous for us. West Elm has such a loyal following and we have benefited from exposure to those consumers who may not have otherwise discovered Louise Gray. It is admirable to see an established, national brand like West Elm taking initiatives to support smaller businesses…a worthy reminder that it is not always about the bottom line.

What does a typical Saturday look like for you?

Both Jocelin and I are expecting our first child this year, so weekends of late are primarily spent relaxing and preparing for the arrival of our little ones. We equally love getting outside (rain, shine, or blizzard) and enjoying the amazing park system our city has to offer. We both have a deep appreciation for nature and its ability to restore and recharge…a reminder to slow down and live with intention.

A true testament to our love of the outdoors, we make it a priority to walk our doggos together after lunch every day. We’ve found that some of the best ideas and insights come when you aren’t sitting behind a desk.

west elm LOCAL — Louise Gray

west elm LOCAL — Louise Gray

west elm LOCAL — Louise Gray

west elm LOCAL — Louise Gray

west elm LOCAL — Louise Gray

west elm LOCAL — Louise Gray

What product and/or collaboration are you most excited about right now?

2019 has been a year of profound growth and transformation for our small but mighty team. We have been fortunate to welcome new talent who, with their fresh perspective, have opened our eyes to new opportunities.

Last month we launched an embroidery capability on louisegray.com, allowing customers to give their Louise Gray quilt a personal touch. In the coming weeks, we look forward to launching a collection of lightweight blankets in time for the warmer summer months. Be sure to follow us on Instagram (@louisegray_studio) to stay up to speed on what’s ahead!

What’s next for Louise Gray?

We are excited to give everyone a ‘behind the seams’ look at Louise Gray…telling you more about who we are and sharing the stories of our artisan partners and all the individuals that make Louise Gray possible. Stay tuned!

west elm LOCAL — Louise Gray

Photography by Matt Lien

Get the Look

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts