My Little Business

I live in a city of ~70,000 in Southern California – Redlands. One of the neat things about it 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! A year and a half 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:

  1. People have to place a monetary value on worthwhile things here in this country.
  2. People appreciate my work.
  3. 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. 2 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! But, 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 start spending too much of our family budget. Thus, having a booth at a local art fair called “Red Dirt” was born.

Getting ready for Red Dirt gave me 1st hand knowledge of the tenet I’ve heard and seen in the the art world: “You’ve got to DO the work”. Instead of plotting and planning and sketching, I just started doing. I began be assembling a simple color pallette: many shades of brown, with a light blue & green and accents of a red/orange. Then I started by repeating my successful pieces from the “Blue Moon” construction, and then I got stuck! But I could stay stuck for long – I had a show to get ready for! I had a photograph of a curtain of little circles that looked like they were made from shells, but it was the lines of little circles that got me, so I made this piece:

"Baubles #7" 8" x 8"

Then a couple more:

Baubles #4, 18" x 18"
Baubles # 11, 12" x 12"
Baubles #3, 12" x 12"
Baubles # 20, 15" x 30"
Baubles # 20, 15" x 30"

So, I was out of my slump, and had a new motif I called “Baubles”.

“Just do the work!”

What to call my little business? That was easy! Several years ago, back in Ohio, I sold hand dyed fabric  to quilters. I had come up with “Candied Fabrics” for this business and loved it, so go with that! Some cheap business cards from Vista Print, some very heavy displays made by DH and I was in business!

Red Dirt Spring 2007
Red Dirt Spring 2007

So, my first show went well, but not that well. Many people loved my art, but didn’t buy it… SO, I decided to come with with some more ideas of things I could make and sell. I had dyed some pretty silk & velvet scarves for Christmas presents before, so why not those?

Silk/Rayon Velvet Scarf
Silk/Rayon Velvet Scarf

(click here to see more)

I also had tested a pattern for the awesome Kathy Mack of Pink Chalk Studio. I loved it so much that I asked if I could make some of those to sell, she graciously agreed. As an illustration of 2 great minds at work 😉 I developed a smaller version of it just as she was adding the small version  to her pattern. I came up with a small pen loop that she liked better than her original idea, so she incorporated that into the “Notelet” pattern.

Notetakers and Notelets
Notetakers and Notelets

Click here to see more.

Then, less than a month before the big Fall Show, “Art for Heaven’s Sake” I made a bag to carry all my stuff I would use for the show. When I brought it to work with me, everyone loved it and said I should make some for the show…so I did!

Small, Medium & Large
Totes: Small, Medium & Large

Click here to see more.

So, I was set for the 2nd show! “Art for Heaven’s Sake” is held in mid October each year, so last October I set up my booth and had an extremely successful show…all the scarves were sold by the middle of Saturday, and I also sold most of the totes and lots of Notetakers! Yay!

Art For Heaven's Sake, Fall 007
Art For Heaven's Sake, Fall 007

I then did 2 more shows that Fall, then one in the Spring. Click here to see photos of all of those shows.

Now we’re up to the present day-ish! I contemplated branching out further afield and doing shows NOT in my hometown. But, setting up for a show is a lot of work, and hard to juggle with the myriad of other things we have to do, so I decided not to go this direction. However, I have had several contacts from people who have seen my things (either at a show, or because someone else has something I made), and thus I’ve decided to open my Etsy shop and see if those people would be interested in purchasing from there!

And, that, as we say is that!

0 Responses

  1. This is a VERY inspirational story. I make Honu turtles out of wood as gifts and people tell me I should sell them too. You may see me at Red Dirt sometime.

    I like the Baubles.


  2. Your work is very beautiful and inspiring. I’ve had the same comment about knitted and sewn clothes and quilts I have made as gifts -‘you should make those to sell!’ What they don’t say out loud is ‘as long as you continue to make them for me for free and you don’t attempt to charge more than Primark!’ I would love to make my living making stuff but I can’t afford the outlay for the raw materials, buying sufficient amounts to have a good stock (all sorts of hoops to jump through for wholesale). Maybe one day. Until then I’ll have to stick to gifts 🙂