Kicking Down the Doors: Candied Fabrics Begins it’s 4th Year in Business!

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:

  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. 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:

  1. To continue to grow and mature as an artist
  2. To support my artistic ventures monetarily
  3. Supply my family with some cash we can spend on non-essentials
  4. 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 throughor 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!

40 Responses

  1. I don’t have a “door” story for myself, but I do have a 20 year old daughter who is developing a passion for the world of fabric and art.
    She is a neophyte and has many doors to knock down!
    I point her to articles like yours, which she devours, as she learns more about how she can turn her love for Art into a career.
    Thank you so much for telling your story today. There is much for my daughter to learn from your story.

    And, of course, I wouldn’t mind winning one of your Pocketin Boards – I even have your tutorial bookmarked as one of those “someday” projects I hope to undertake.

  2. Right now I am working on kicking open the door to my Indie Biz. I am currently designing a logo, blog header and etsy header. Working through all the fine details [I feel this will be the hardest step to pull through]. Thanks for the great post and giveaway! The pocketin boards look amazing and practical! I’d love one for my home.

  3. A few years ago, my health mysteriously deteriorated and I realized how much that can affect any goals one has. The door I kicked through was the medical industry, who seemed happy to pass me around like a hot potato, order all the tests my great health insurance would allow, stress me out by sharing all kinds of possible diagnoses and not caring for me (or making me feel a bit better) at all. I did everything i could to become as healthy as I could and never gave up. Ultimately, I figured out the source of my symptoms and took it back to the doctors and, after some time, I have taken back my health.

    Now … I can fully focus on my goals, knowing that I am healthy enough and strong enough to break down any more doors I encounter.

  4. The door that I have not kicked down yet is at the library branch in my neighborhood that wants me to hang my art quilts. I have been messing about with this opportunity for a couple of years. I don’t know why I always seem to find something else that needs done first. I have quite a few pieces done and all they need is the pinned on pockets for hanging sewned. Your pocketin boards are pretty cool!

  5. What a great article! It really made me think of the progress I have made in the last 2 years. Some o fit seems random but all of it actually contributed to my biggest door ever – retirement!

  6. thank you for sharing your story, candy! i really enjoyed seeing how your work has changed over the years. i love how you’re not afraid to live interactively with your art and your product assortments – tweaking here, experimenting there, playing around to see which combinations work best for your business. that’s a creative process in itself. and your boards are so cool!

  7. Thanks for this story. I like to read this blog, because you always get me thinking. And this last post about the door kicking…awesome, especially, because this is something I need to do for myself.
    The “web think” is something that was my first doors. And they still are, because my English is bad and jap, it is not easy, but I trying and trying to go under my boundaries. And every time I make something small in that direction it is a huge personal success. OK, I’m not successful like you are, but I don’t want to give up.
    So, jep, I started with my portfolio, then I went to DaWanda shop, and at last I started the Bludor magazine….this is really something that is addicted and my only negative thing is my English, otherwise I enjoy so much. And the best thing is that when I started on some new project it is so good feeling to finish the thing that more and more ideas come to your head. And, jep, I need that. I even started to make photo tutorials, because I didn’t believe I could do it, and now I need to admit that I enjoy doing it. The big problem for me now is just the time, because with 18 months kid I don’t have enough for all the thing I want to do them.

    Really, thanks for this post; it is like a jumping board for me.
    PS, jap, even my English is bad, I talk too much. Sorry.

  8. I’m working steadily (but slowly) on my door kicking down. It’s about not procrastinating so much and not getting overwhelmed which causes inactivity for me- so I can get things done. I tend to put things off and when they get too big, I shut down. It’s a BAD habit and I’m kicking it down!

  9. Thanks so much for sharing how you have progressed! The door I have kicked down is getting my stuff out there in the online marketplace, and gaining confidence that people will like it and buy it. I have yet to even nudge the door of the in person craft fair market. Like you, I am nowhere near a point where I could consider leaving my job, and while I’m in my job I just don’t have the time to create enough stock to fill a table. I don’t know how you do it, with a family and all!

  10. My door…I was so inspired by meeting you 6 years ago and all that you were doing Candy and have done – creating your space, developing your art, getting yourself out there in the shows and the internet that I decided I wanted to expand my interests, hence moving to button jewelry which I love, with your help creating my own blog/website and finally getting my own sewing/making space, not being squeezed in where it was convenient or possible and getting the family behind me to be an artist and not just the “house elf” (still having problems with that crack in the door!).

  11. My first door has just been kicked open – not quite down. I have finally given myself permission to focus on fabric – dyeing, painting, screening, whatever – and not feel compelled to use it in a quilt or other project. Am I am artist? No. Am I a businesswoman? No. But I am finding happiness and fulfillment in what I do.

  12. Candy, this is an awesome post. Sometimes, thinking about art as a business, I feel like I’m re-inventing the wheel – because I have nobody to talk to who’s been through it. And it’s bloggers and artists like you who show me I don’t need to re-invent the wheel.
    I’ve kicked down my very first door, and do you know what it was? ME! In the back of my head was the ‘you can’t do it’ door. That sucker is in splinters now, and I’m doin’ it.

    Thanks for the opportunity to win one of your fabulous pocketin boards – that’s so interesting about people needing to see something more than once before they buy. Your booth looks wonderful, btw! I love your colours!

  13. So interesting how you found your style. I still struggle with that and find myself emulating others. Maybe this will push me.

  14. My main door was starting blogging, an experience beyond my wildest expectations. Only recently I found your beautiful blog and it is lovely to read your journey with blogging and crafting.

    Have a fantastic day filled with your success.


  15. “there’s a wocket in my pocket”! the wocket is my bad habit of procrastination. i rarely finish anything because i can’t wait to cut into that new bright fabric i have bought. i have promised clients quilts and i have done the top because i love cutting and piecing but i hate the finishing part. perhaps if i had a pocket board i could organize myself and my projects. love your blog, love your use of color!

  16. Great post, Candy! I’m always interested to know how artists travel to their own style.

    One door that I hope to open with a bang this year is to wholesale my paper goods. I’m getting there, but it is a process. I need to be patient with the process and myself to be successful.

    Congratulations on the start of your 4th year! I’m so glad you’re on these interwebs 🙂

  17. I so enjoyed reading about all the doors you’ve kicked down! What great accomplishments. I’ve found that keeping the door open, once kicked down, for other opportunities has been quite fulfilling as well.

    When I was on the tradeshow circuit, it was clear that the brick and mortars needed to see newcomer products at the shows several times before they’d buy. In this economy, people aren’t as quick to spend their money. I’m sure many people walked away thinking about the pocketin boards, kicking themselves for not buying one this time.

    Congrats on your 4th year!

  18. My door to break through has been dyeing fabric and longarm quilting. I bought a longarm and 6 weeks later learned to dye fabric, the longarm sat for awhile then I would use it to quilt a few quilts and now I am quilting for others. It has taken 5 years before I felt I was good enough to quilt for others. I had others tell me over and over again you can do it and you do good but it took me forever to knock down that door of being afraid to do for others.

    I just recently found your blog and really enjoy reading it.

  19. Wow, four years! And your artwork is gorgeous.

    The idea that people need repeated exposure before buying something is really true, and man is it hard to deal with when you run a business. Even worse, it leads to the idea that you have to market all the time, even when you’re really busy. Your new boards are awesome, and I’m glad that you didn’t conclude that not selling any meant that you should just scrap the whole idea.

    Thanks for following me on Twitter and helping me find your stuff!

  20. I am getting ready to submit a couple project ideas to magazines. And I’m planning on entering my big watercolor quilt in a quilt show this summer. Maybe more than one. I just need to finish up a few WIPs this week and I think I can finish the projects I want to submit in the next couple of weeks after that.

  21. Hi, Candy! It was great reading about your journey, I love peeking into the path artist friends have taken to become who they are. Thanks for being so open and honest!

    The door in my career that needs to be kicked open (dynamite is an option, too) is the one that defines my fear of machine sewing- particularly large pieces. If I can annihilate that pesky blockage, I can finally start work on a piece I am dying to do but have so far only seen in my head.

    Congrats on four years! May you have forty more, each as successful and creative as you wish!

  22. The most recent door that I kicked open is that you don’t have to draw social security to “retire”. Actually, all that means is that I do not have an outside the home job that pays. I was a caregiver (along with my mother) to my father for almost 3 years. I promised my father when he was dying that I would take care of my mother. So I live with her (though she doesn’t need caregiver care) and assist her in doing whatever she wants to do! For example, today we will take care of the acre family garden:)) Congratulations on your four year journey and may the next four years be as meaningful to you. mlwright29 (at) hotmail (dot) com

  23. The big door I need to figure out how to kick in is saying no, and managing my energy levels. I run myself dry doing everything for other people, but never have any left for the people that matter most.

    Reading about your art door kicking was so inspiring. I only craft for myself (and friends and family) right now, but I am always so intrigued by the journey artists take.

  24. Working on busting that door down right now. Fabric art is so approachable and inspiring because there are fewer rights and wrongs. I have been quilting for one year and am learning to trust my instincts, go with the flow, try new things and just enjoy it. Like Star Wars, what a rush to feel the force is with me. Thank you for sharing your story with those of us just getting started.

  25. Well I have kick down a bunch of doors…….
    now I am happily being a grandma and making quilts for charity……
    life is full of so much to discover…….
    I’m an RN, a master gardener, I ride a motorcycle, make quilts for QOV, volunteer garden at a local historic estate, happily married,
    mother of two, and a grandma! Life is good :0)

    Happy Sewing……love these board…so darn creative…..!
    Thanks for a chance to win :0)

  26. Your journey is beyond inspirational!

    As far as where I’m at right now, I’ve recently realized my personal style, and I’m currently making a list of goals to checkmark off. We JUST got back from a road trip, and riding in the car gave me a ton of inspiration from seeing everything we saw in the states we visited/drove through, and after the whirlwind of ‘toss everything out of the car and leave it there because we’re too tired to move’ and the inevitable cleanup that is going to follow, I’m going to buckle down and start working on learning how to use my machine quilting frame I got off of the local classifeds for a super good deal. My first major goal is to learn quilting well enough to start selling and eventually showing quilts.

  27. Candy, I love this post. I identify with so many of your doors and envy a few, too. You have evolved so gracefully. I admire that. A door I’ve finally kicked down is wholesale. Realistically, the door hasn’t been kicked down, but there is a gapping hole in it. I’m made huge strides toward getting my work “in a store near you”.

  28. Good for you! I’m still working on my doors, but am teaching a class at a local sewing shop thios month, so that’s step one! I would love to help you figure out the shipping! Thanks for the chance to win!

  29. Happy start to your fourth year. The boards are very cute. Let’s see, I think I would like to kick down the door to a freshly stocked fabric store and choose everything I like (of course this is not reality kicking)!

  30. I think the door I have to kick thru is that of lack of self confidence!

    I can do lots, have great creativity and lots of materials to work with.

    I take heart in reading of the paths you have taken.

  31. The door I have to kick down is learning to live simply, peacefully with what life has given me. I have an autoimmune disease that scarred my lungs which was diagnosed when I was 38 that is now affecting my bones and muscles and chronic pain is not fun. While it is debilitating and at times very depressing, through this journey for the last eleven years I have learned to quilt – by hand, sew clothes for my daughter and grand daughters and make bags, purses, totes and give to women that inspire me. I’ve discovered the joy of beautiful fabric – how it looks, how it feels, how wonderful it is to finish a project. And, in spite of all the “chronic issues” I’ve been able to take care of my son who was diagnosed with testicular cancer 18 months ago who is doing great. And, I bought a small house – a cottage really and life is good. Maybe I’ve already kicked down that door and not even realized it until now. Thanks for the opportunity for this reflection. Yes, life is good.

  32. I guess I am knockin on the door of fabric art. I finally bought a worthy machine, I continue to study quilt art blogs and books, and I am sketching ideas for future works. I like this door analogy for progressing in my dream!

  33. Loved your post Candy!! I have a habit of collecting things to create with and I’m learning to clean out the clutter and live stress free. My sewing studio is very small so it gets cluttered easily. It’s easier to create in a clean and tidy space. Thanks for the chance. Happy stitching!!

  34. I am not sure I have a kicking down the door story, but I starting blogging this year. It’s nice to be inspired on a daily basis. Getting a new machine that works helped too!!

    I love your style. Keep it up and you will have doors open of their own accord! 🙂

  35. My door is returning to school…after finding myself single again after almost 17 years. I know it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
    On a lighter note, I’m also knocking down the learn-to-quilt door – finished my first quilt last month and I’m putting together the sandwich on my second tonight. Thank God for quilting…and fabric!

  36. I met you at the show today and couldn’t resist entering your giveaway! The boards are so cool 🙂 I am actually trying to learn to relax and stop setting so many goals for myself!

  37. Candy It was so wonderful meeting you and seeing all of your amazing wonders at Art in the Park!
    Unfortunately, i was so busy talking
    I forgot to take pictures
    I never forget to take pictures!!
    I did snap a few prior to approaching your booth which I shall send ya in a jiffy
    I’m looking forward to lunching very soon
    MB aka desertnana