A guest post by Candy Glendening of Candied Fabrics.
There is a DVD case with my work on the cover sitting on my desk. In it is the new season of Quilting Arts TV – a program devoted to art quilting that airs on PBS nationally.
Among many talented artists are 2 segments of me, showing my process and inspiration behind my work. Taping these videos was an incredibly exciting event for me, a validation of who I am as an artist on all sorts of levels. When sharing my upcoming TV debut with an acquaintance, she asked me “how did this happen?” I realized that the answer was deeper than “the editor of a Quilting Arts Magazine was browsing my website looking for segment ideas because I had recently written 2 articles for them.” I thought that my story could be of interest to makers of all sorts, and wanted to share it here on Scoutie Girl, in the hopes that it encourages or inspires someone!
I have always been a maker, but it was quilting that became my passion early in my adult life. The pattern and color found in antique quilts, in particular Amish quilts, completely captivated me, and I began to learn how to quilt in order to make something that someday could be as beautiful as one of those inspired works.
I spent 13 years happily engaged in developing my skills, learning the different techniques involved, and figuring out which I liked and which were not my cup of tea. In those pre-internet days (shocking…I know!) I scoured monthly magazines devoted to (mostly) traditional quilting and through them I discovered that there were certain quilters who had a personal style that was unique to them.
They were modern day artists, using cloth as their medium.
It was also through those magazines that I first read about and then tried my hand at dyeing fabric. Our move to a house with a big basement laundry room allowed me to start pursuing another hobby in earnest.
At some point about 10 years ago, my ability to create fabrics just the color I wanted to led me to needing to make quilts that were all my own design, not a copy or reinterpretation of a pattern, be it either traditional or contemporary. This I struggled with this for several years; reading blogs by artists combined with lots of work led me ultimately to hitting my artistic stride about 4 years ago.
With the encouragement of friends, I set up a booth to sell my art quilts at a local art fair in the Spring of 2007. I received lots of compliments, and had a few sales of the smaller pieces I had made.
When the original excitement of those initial sales had worn off, I realized that I needed to bring in more sales in order to make it worth the time and effort it takes to set up and sell at a fair. So I developed my line of “Everyday Art” (bags, journals & scarves) in the hope that people would find it easier to buy a beautiful thing that also had a practical use. When I introduced these at my next show in the Fall of 2007 and sold just about all of them, I realized that I had found a way to start financially supporting my “hobby”.
My next struggle was a huge one: how much time do I spend making things that I know will sell, and how much time do I spend making art just because I have to?
Actually, it’s kinda cool, having that struggle that I’ve read about from artist after artist…was I actually an artist? How did that happen?
I began blogging in the summer of 2008, initially to keep track of my process and as a marketing tool. But over time, I developed some awesome relationships with other bloggers, and I developed a writing voice that (I hope) is a truly authentic picture of who I am. Committing to an online monthly goals meetup got me in the habit of keeping track of things I needed to get done for my little business each month, and I found it amazingly helpful. The support I got from my meetup peeps gave me the courage to write up some more lofty “inclinations” on New Year’s day, and that included actually writing my “Pie in the Sky” goal of getting published in print.
And so, because I had written it, I had to make it happen. I sent 2 proposals to Quilting Arts (my favorite magazine…why not start with where you’d like to end up?) in late January, and I had an e-mail from the Editor Pokey Bolton in early April telling me she’d like to publish both of them. I sent my articles, art and “step out’s” in on time, and made sure it was my very best writing and followed all their guidelines, so it would need minimal editing.
This led to Pokey emailing me in mid-July, asking me if I’d like to be on Quilting Arts TV!
I’ve spent quite a lot of time reading blogs on how to succeed in your own handmade business. I also hang out a lot on twitter following lots of indie business folk.
What I thought I could add to the discussion of how to succeed in your handmade business is to stress that it takes time…and work. I spent 13 years developing my quilting & dyeing skills, another 8 years refining those skills and developing my own artistic voice. I now have 3 ½ years of art show experience and just over 2 years of blogging on top of those 21 years I spent pursuing my passion. Everything I’ve done has led me to the next step, leave a clear trail of footprints behind me.
Does this mean that you need to spend 20 years learning how to do something before you can pursue it professionally? No! Is it gonna take more than a year to be a success? I think in most cases…yes.
Now, sometimes the steps that lead to your business may not look like what you would define as a clear path. (Here’s a great interview with alamodeSTUFF Linda that traces her meandering path…and of course, we can’t forget about Tara’s path either, definitely unconventional and amazingly meteoric!)
I know that I certainly did not think I would be this passionate about art quilting when I made my 1st purple sampler quilt at 17. But I now found myself in LOVE with what I can make with my hands, and find myself inspired and supported by an incredible group of folks that I met on these internets…I’m literally making a home for myself, one little house at a time!
p.s. I haven’t watched myself on TV yet, even though I’ve had the DVD for two weeks…I’m such a chicken! We’re having a party this Sunday specifically for this purpose, I wish my internet peeps from near and far could come watch with me! If you’d like to see me (or any of the other talented folk who are part of Quilting Arts TV), this station finder will help you find the date and airing time on your local PBS station. My episodes (gulp) are 703 and 709.