I’ve just finished the Red Dirt Spring Art Festival, and with this show I enter my 4th year of business! I thought this would be a great milestone to mark with a giveaway (which of course is all the way down at the bottom of the post, feel free to scroll down if you can’t stand the navel gazing!), and also a great time to talk about the doors I’ve been kicking down to end up where I am today as an artist.Of course, it also took the fabulous Scoutie Girl Tara call to action to actually make me think about and acknowledge those doors, and for this I am so thankful!
Door #1: Developing my style
Almost 6 years ago now, we moved to a city of ~70,000 in Southern California – Redlands. I was a Mom, a teacher, and a quilter. Back then I had an overwhelming NEED to make quilts that were uniquely my own. I had been struggling with this need for several years: the art quilters I admired the most had their own unique style, and I wanted, NEEDED to have that as well. I was unsure of how to get this though, and it brought me frustration. Reading blogs of several artists over a couple of years led me towards solving this issue, (see here, here, and here for details) but that 1st door was not so much kicked down, but nudged open as I slowly did the work I needed to do to develop my own artistic aesthetic, and learn how to translate it into my own work.
Door #2: Figuring out my goals
One of the neat things about Redlands is that it feels like a small town, but it’s not! There are several “Art Fairs” each year where one can very inexpensively set up a table for a day or two, and hopefully sell some! 4 and 1/2 years ago I had just finished my “Once in a Blue Moon” piece and a friend of mine said: “Those are fabulous! Make some more and sell them at Red Dirt (a local art fair) and I’ll buy some!” Louise makes jewelry and is very successful at several of these shows in our town. What was neat about what she said was that she actually wanted to buy them! Usually folks who see my quilts say things like: “These are fabulous – you should sell them!” This type of comment says many things to me:
- People have to place a monetary value on worthwhile things here in this country.
- People appreciate my work.
- But, I would have to find that mythical “rich” person to buy that work.
And, indeed, most of the quilts I was making back then were very labor intensive and would have been very expensive. 5 years ago, my goal as a quilter was to develop a unique style and win one of the big quilt shows…and then what? I don’t know! With this new way of working, I was beginning to develop my style, and I wanted to keep going. But I was going to quickly run out of room and starting to spend too much of our family budget on more fabric, thread and dye. Thus, having a booth at a local art fair called “Red Dirt” was born. My 1st truly concrete goal was born: to financially support my artistic endeavors, and I kicked that door open by starting to sell my art. Here’s my booth from my very first show:
Door #3: Attaining a goal
That 1st show was exhilarating! So many people stopped by and looked, really looked, at my work. They got it, and told me they loved it. A couple of people (besides dear Louise) bought some work, and I was hooked. Although setting up the display was stressful (as was making the work on a deadline), it’s a total rush to have people come by and tell you your work rocks! As the high from that day left me, I started doing the math and realized that if I didn’t sell more work at shows, the time I spent at them would not be generating enough money to even pay for a babysitter while I was gone! Never mind actually paying myself anything. I never would have gone down this show path at ALL if I had to hire a babysitter. The beauty of these local shows is they’re on the weekend, so hubby is available for help setting up and kid watching.
So, as reality set in, I put my mind towards what else I could be selling at my booth and “Everyday Art” was born. Hand dyed silk scarves, notetakers & journals, and of course BAGS! I applied for, and was accepted into, the most prestigious local show, “Art for Heaven’s Sake”, and that Fall set up a booth with Art Quilts and the Everyday Art, which was hugely successful! I actually had a LINE of people waiting to buy something from me on the opening night! Door #3 was kicked open in October of 2007. Here’s my booth from that a$$ kickin’ show:
With the success of my “Everyday Art” I began the struggle that I see many artists face: do I make stuff that I know will sell, or the stuff I want/need to make? This is a struggle that continues to this day, and for now, I’m trying to find a balance between these two choices. It did lead me to re-evaluate and expand upon my goal as an artist, which today are:
- To continue to grow and mature as an artist
- To support my artistic ventures monetarily
- Supply my family with some cash we can spend on non-essentials
- Provide monetary support to local charities
I have found that for the most part, creating the “Everyday Art” is allowing me to continue to grow as an artist. My dyeing and sewing skills have increased because of that work, and I continue to work through and develop new artistic motifs and color palettes, so for now I’ll continue to make this. And this “Everyday Art” is allowing me to meet goals 2-4! But I’m nowhere near the point where I’d be quitting my day job, and this isn’t even a goal I have. Thought provoking posts like the “Growth Week” on Scoutie Girl and Megan Auman’s “Crafting an MBA” blog have shown me that this door I don’t even want to open!
Door # 4: Communicating my art
This door keeps getting bigger and bigger, as I find more ways to kick it down. Blogging has been an awesome way for me to connect with folks, receive much needed feedback, and clarify my thoughts. I opened that door gingerly in July of 2008, and really grew into that community. Last Fall I took it up a notch by taking control of the appearance and function of the blog by moving to the self -hosted WordPress format, and for the first time got some help (from the ever awesome Tara Gentile!) Having my own little space online has been an amazingly powerful experience, and I’m so glad I kicked that door down! Now that my online world looks awesome (well, at least I think so!), I’d like to show it to more folks, so I’ve been searching for ways to do that. This led me to send some queries to magazines that I love (Quilting Arts and Cloth, Paper, Scissors), and not one, not two, but all THREE of those queries have led to publications! The 1st is in final review, the 2nd in early editorial stages and the 3rd has yet to be written, but by next Fall I’ll have three opportunities for my work to be shown to lots of artists who may not know me, and I’m tickled to death at this chance (um, also, 2 of the 3 articles I’m actually earning money for as well!). This publication door was a scary one…in my mind, I wouldn’t be “worthy” of something like this until I’d won some ribbons at some of the bigger quilt shows, and I’m not on that pathway. In retrospect I see that with each door I get bolder, stronger, and more confident. This confidence comes from success at the things I’ve been doing (using MY definition of success) as well as the support I get from friends both in the real world and here in the blog-o-sphere. Yup, this means you, you awesome blog readers!
Door # 5: ?
What’s the next door? I’m not quite sure yet, but I know there’s another one just waiting for me to kick open. Perhaps it’ll be a bigger, stronger door and I’ll bet I’ll have the courage to kick it down! I do know that I’ll share it here, and whatever the result, it will help to talk it out on the blog and get some awesome support from the folks I connect with, here in the blog-o-sphere!
Did I get the pocketin boards done?
I left you regular readers in suspense on Friday…yes I did get them done! They were featured in my booth at the show on Saturday:
and although they got lots of attention, I didn’t sell a single one 🙁 Now, I have noticed as I do more and more shows that people need multiple exposures to something before they’ll actually buy it. At the show on Saturday I had lots of repeat customers, and people who had seen me at the show before and were glad that I was back, so I’ll just assume that they are fabulous and will sell soon enough! The weather on Saturday was fantastic – not too hot, and I had good traffic and sales through the morning, and decent sales in the afternoon. I also got an awesome special order: 30 going green tote bags! Woot!
Finally: the Giveaway!
I’d like to think about selling the pocketin boards online, but need to figure out the shipping, so I thought I’d give one away and use the winner as a shipping guinea pig! So, to win one of these pocketin boards:
leave me a comment telling me about a door you’ve kicked through…or a door that is waiting to be kicked by you. And if you don’t feel like talking about door kicking, that’ s just fine, you can just tell me something else! 🙂 We’ll keep it simple this time, and just have one comment/person. And please, make sure you’ve left your contact info in your comment. I’ll leave the comments open until Monday, May 10, which is just after the last show of this batch! Yay!