People really liked my first fabric, Collage, for Windham Fabrics–in a surprising way–as in: it performed better than anyone expected including Windham. I had never designed fabric before so I just flew by the seat of my pants and enjoyed myself immensely as I created that first line.
Then it was time to design the second line and all of a sudden I was mildly nervous–the pressure was on. The sophomore effort is always loaded with expectation. You know I am a total fan of Beginner’s Mind (read my writing about that here). I like being a beginner because then I can just play and be free with no expectation.
I didn’t want to disappoint everybody or myself. I still enjoyed the work as I designed the line last September, but it was harder. I needed to burn more sage, eat more chocolate and turn my music up louder to get out of my head. It took longer. I knew more and had more ideas.
When I was finished, I shipped the collection to Windham…and their response was…well, umm…lukewarm. Crap! Now what? Many artists would have thought, “Well, they don’t know what they are talking about. They just don’t get it.” There was even a tiny part of me that thought that. But not really. Because here is the great secret about being an artist: your audience will feel and see what you put into your work. If you are afraid as you work, they will feel your fear. If you are timid or trepidatious, they will feel that. If you are ecstatic and powerful, they will feel that. They will feel your joy, your love, your shame. Art is a mirror of the soul, whether you are painting a masterpiece or designing textiles, it is all the same. It is a self-portrait. It is a reflection of all that you are in that moment. And not only that, but the deeper you dive into yourself, the more deeply you connect to all of humanity. And people are astonishing–if you think you can slide your fear by someone–you can’t. If you think people aren’t sensitive and in-touch, you’re wrong. You don’t need to be a PhD to know the human heart. We can all see each other pretty well, if we have removed the webs that separate us from each other: ego, shame, pride, fear, inadequacy, etc.
So, Windham asked me, “What is this collection about?” And I said, “It’s about counting your blessings…knowing the gifts you possess…being grateful for the treasures and the gifts all around you in your life.”………….Crickets………… Seriously, they had nothing to say. And not in a mean way–more in a contemplative, dumbfounded way, as in: how the hell are we going to market that?
They said they’d like for me to keep working. That was the greatest gift. I just accepted their gift (after a week or two of agonizing and being mildly tormented) and got back to work. Because there were a few prints I had left behind…even though they were always on my list, I had run out of time. Now I had a second chance to include them.
So I made the Paintbrush print. You can’t sell something if it doesn’t have a good story. When I presented the collection the first time, the story was ephemeral and spiritual and kind of vague. But after their gift of time, I had a much more clear vision–the same as my tagline: Celebrate Your Inner Artist!™. So I did. THANK YOU, WINDHAM, for your patience. I am absolutely in love with the PAINT Collection.
In the end we only removed two original prints from the line and we only added two additional prints to the line. But just that subtle shift changed it completely. I will share here a tiny bit of the Soul Treasures print we didn’t use…I still like it…maybe we will see it again one day. And the truth is, my values, my spirituality and all that stuff shows up in my fabric and in everything I do whether I name it directly or not. It is who I am. Art is a mirror.
I love your honesty about the process! And I’m excited to see Paint in all its glory. I’ve loved the sneak peeks!
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas and I’m totally wanting all the Paint collection. I missed collage as just started discovering fabric goodness.
hands, stars, ladders, rain, earth, vessels, marks, hearts, eyes, love
Great story… and great fabric. I can’t wait to get my hands on some yardage!
*Thank you* for this essay. The further I get into this industry, the more I realize that one of the hardest and best things that can happen to us as artists is to be pushed (in the good way). I’m glad that Windham gave you that push and the time to leap into it, because I know that your Paint collection is incredibly eagerly anticipated (my shop-owner friends love it even more than Collage)! I’ve enjoyed my experiences working with Windham and am also grateful to them for pushing me to do my best, most confident work. We are lucky to be able to collaborate with such a great company!
I don’t do fabric. I make jewellery. But this article still speaks to me. I know that if I just make something for the sake of “making something” and my heart isn’t in it, it won’t work. It may look fine but it isn’t “me” and I end up not wanting to push it forwards for approval and possible purchase. I have several things like that languishing on the last page of my Etsy shop! Perhaps they should be put out of their misery. Thank you!
Hi, I just found your blog. I am working on a dress with a collage yoke and wondered I’d you had a blog and here it is! Amen to being true to and celebrating your artistry. I think we are all gifted with different kinds of creative talents and its important to make those gifts thrive. That sample paint chip print is so great! Cannot wait to get my hands on some.