So, does anybody have a career doing this?
  • Or even a viable sideline? I've always wanted to make a living doing creative stuff and love playing with all these things; I rarely even cover my costs. (MUCH detail follows)

    I'm just starting with silk - have painted/dyed my 3rd silk scarf. Still not happy with the results. You must understand, I've wanted to paint or draw all my life; in 2 years of junior high art classes, I received an "A" on ONE project - a pencil still life of an old cowboy hat and boots. (This was shortly after we moved on from cave paintings! ;-> ) I don't have any drawing talent, so I've done lots of crafts instead; sewing, many years ago; crochet; knitting; needlepoint; cross stitch (now my eyes just can't hack it, and the texture is boring!). Seldom finished a project - the planning is so much more fun than the execution, and I work pretty slowly. Had an interior decorating franchise a while back. Loved playing with the color and texture, shopping for the perfect fabric, coming up with the design, and actually seeing the finished result; hated trying to sell, and having my brain picked by lookie-loos. Also am terrible at running a business - tho I keep trying!

    Went looking for seed beads to embellish a cross stitch Christmas stocking, and discovered Bead Stores - WAHOO! Started making jewelry a few years ago, and like doing it when there's a client or venue for it. Hate making it on spec, and having it sit there on EBay or in a box. I like what I make, and other people like it when they see it, and occasionally even buy it. But everybody else with a pair of pliers is out there making jewelry too, it seems, and a lot of them market better than I do. My sis - the one with people skills in the family - has found a shop out in Calif. where she lives, and I've sent her off some pieces to place there, but I want to do more.

    Also, my job is disappearing in the next 6 weeks or so - been in the offing for a while, but keeps getting delayed. I'd really like to find something I can do that's PROFITABLE! Sis asked me on the phone that classic job interview question: "If you could pick your perfect job, what would it be?" I couldn't answer her then, but it came to me later: I want to make beautiful things, and have other people love them and buy them.

    I've decided that something in the decorative arts is what I want. Even if I had the talent, a lot of fine art just doesn't interest me, and how many pictures can one house hold, anyway? And the culture of the fine art community - the rivalry, snobbery, pretension, etc. (at least from an outsider viewpoint) - who needs it ? But adding beauty and distinctiveness to everyday objects holds tremendous appeal for me. In the back of my mind, I always wanted to paint pretty flowers -or pretty anything. I spent a couple of months trying to do some One Stroke stuff, since I can probably learn a fairly standardized technique like that - I need a LOT more practice! Then I stumbled on Dharma's website, through my usual circuitous route (was looking for info on glass etching!), and fell in love with the idea of painting on silk.

    The great thing about textile design is, you don't have to make a picture; you can just do geometric or abstract designs. From that standpoint, it's very forgiving. However, the technique is a little trickier than I'd anticipated. I picked simple designs and techniques, so I thought; but the final result isn't what was in my head. There's a definite learning curve, and I only ordered about a dozen scarves! (I might snap a pic and post it, but don't expect anything great). And unlike my necklaces, I can't just pull it off the cord and restring when it doesn't work out.

    I find the painting very freeing, and intimidating at the same time. It's so immediate - the purest form of visual expression. But it's also very demanding, since the color is transparent, and you can't scrape it off or paint over it. I love that instead of sitting on top, the dye actually sinks in and becomes part of the fabric; but I feel a terrible pressure to "get it right" for that reason. Been spending time looking for suitable pictorial designs to paint, simple enough for me to do - stencil designs, stained glass designs, coloring books - Dover Press, where would I be without you? Still afraid to do a posy except on my practice fabric. Checked out a bunch of books on watercolor technique - YIKES, now I'm REALLY scared! But I'm thinking if I can stop the studying (fatal flaw!) and just WORK on it, I'll be able to meld all these bits into a usable style.

    My goal is to make and sell the scarves and possibly some simple garments, since I don't do well enough with my jewelry. Dyeing and textile design seems a good thing to get into from that standpoint, since it's a lot less crowded. Most of the stuff you need isn't readily available locally. It takes more planning and equipment, and the gratification isn't instant - setting, curing, etc. Also, if I hadn't found the various websites and had just gone by the info in books, the chemistry and detailed measurements and temperatures would have totally intimidated me - I'm thinking there won't be many "weekenders", like there are in other crafts. And the market for hand dyed fabrics and yarns means that I could also be contributing to other artisans' works - I love that idea!

    I've seen some fabulous works of real art - especially in the dharmatrading.com gallery, and thought "I could never do anything that gorgeous". But when I see the "art" that some people put on clothing and sell, I think - "I HAVE to be able to do better than that!" You know - the blobby flowers and cutesy animals on jeans and sweatshirts - in paint so thick and stiff you expect it to crack in half - YUCK! Or the garish "unique" tye-dye T-shirts that all look exactly the same (I'm NOT talking about the ones I've seen featured on the web!). I figure if I can get a little control over this medium, there would be a place for my pieces. And in the back of my mind is a desire to make some really attractive, wearable pieces for plus sizes - but that's a whole different rambling post for another night!

    So, here I am, the perennial Wannabe - how about the rest of you?

    Lunargent
  • Hey Sistah I hear ya! It's a challenge to make a living creatively. I've been there too! Tried a lot of different things to varying degrees of success. I've got a few thoughts to share. This may ramble and roam a bit so bear with me;) .

    I believe it's important for you to explore this new medium for its own sake. Learn about it. PLAY with it. EXPERIMENT! Find your voice, your style. This will evolve over time. Eventually you will look back and see a trail of creative accomplishments behind you and a pattern will emerge. Don't overthink it. Trust the process. Go for the joy. And keep working!
    The money will come. You will have to find the right balance of creating for yourself and creating for the market. I believe you can't be truly successful doing something "just for the money" or just because "that's what sells". You'll burn out--get resentful. How much more beautiful would the world be if we created beauty because we are passionate about it?!

    How do you define success?
    This is a critical question that bears careful and honest examination. How much money do you reqiure to meet your needs? What other factors are important to you? Look at how all the pieces of your life might fit in. You get to create it the way you want it--one important key is to be clear about the vision. My own experience is that I always get what I ask for (positive and negative!)
    Take a look at other successful creative people. Try to figure out what is working for them and then how you can apply some of those strategies to what you want to do.

    I've worked with several successful creative women and the common thread that I have noticed with them is this: They didn't give up!

    My friend Samiah Khatib has been in business for about seven years. She's had her ups and downs and a rocky start (I believe one of the first things she tried to sell was pillows at her local outdoor market--the cost to make versus the price she could sell for made it impossible to be profitable). Now she has found this niche and has created a beautiful life for herself. Don't be mislead here---she works harder than most people I know--and being in business for herself, she works almost all the time. During festival season she may be on the road for weeks at a time and certainly almost every weekend finds her at some venue in her big white van, but she is one of the most beautiful vibrant and optimistic people I have ever met.

    Years ago I attended a unique doll-making class in Berkeley CA where I met Marilyn Radzat who has become quite a star in the dollmaking world. At the time she was just starting out and I ended up working for her creating some of her productions pieces. I was well paid for my work and she was free to create more one of a kind pieces. Her work has evolved from more 'conventional' fantasy dolls to much more sculptural pieces. An extraordinarily creative woman and though I have lost touch with her on a personal level (she now lives in Hawaii), I do check in on her website to see what unique creation she has brought forth now and how she is continuing to market her talents and create income flow.

    While working here at Jacquard, I have had the opportunity to become aquainted with many other artists. Many of these artists have found their niche in the world. What I observed is that they have discovered they're passion and devloped their voice within their mediums. It doesn't happen overnight.

    The best guide is you! Your intuition. Your passion! Give yourself permission to create those beautiful things. Just get in there and MAKE STUFF! Turn the volume down on the inner critic or the voice that's saying 'that's nice, but can you sell it?' or 'am I doing it right?'. The way that other people are going to recognize that what you make is beautiful is the amount of your passion you put in it--how much YOU love it. Then others that are aligned with that will recognize it.

    You go girl!

    Noelle
  • Thanks, Noelle!

    As I said before, I'm losing my part time job shortly - hence more pressure than I usually feel. I've only laid out a few hundred $ for this newest venture; but in a month or so, that could be money I really wish I had back.

    I am having a little trouble, since I can't paint freehand to my satisfaction. I have to plan things out first - I'm even doing little pastel sketches! This is very different from the way I work on my jewelry. I get out my boxes of stones, and lay out a pattern for a necklace,or put a few on a headpin for an earring dangle. Then I go back and adjust until I have what I want - almost never what I started with.

    Just can't do that with the painting. Silk isn't cheap, and once the color's on, it's on. I am using some practice yardage to work on my color mixing and patterns, and figure it will make nice eyeglass cases or eye masks; but at some point I have to do the scarf.

    Who would have thought stone could be so flexible, and fabric so unyielding - there's a conundrum for you!

    Anyway, I will keep trying to stifle my Inner Critic - she's one tough broad, I'll tell ya!

    I'll also practice with the watercolors on paper, or acrylic washes, just to get the feel of the much thinner mediem. I think what I'll eventually be happiest with is thickened dyes, since they're easier to control. Serti is attractive, but I don't want to outline everything I paint - would rather have a little less stylized look - we'll see.


    Thanks so much for your encouragement! - L
  • Hi L

    I sure can empathize with that pressure to bring in the $$$s! And the odd truth that stones are more flexible in many ways than applying paint to fabric. There is something intimidating about that piece of pure white (or off white) cloth---I just don't want to 'mess it up'!

    What if you try just working with color--maybe focus less on pattern/imagery to begin with? My observation, from having been at a lot (and I mean A LOT!) of crafts markets, is that most women respond to color. It can be easier for a person to buy something for themselves or for a gift that is a beautiful combination of colors. Pattern and imagery add layers of complexity--not only from a design perspective, but also from the buyer's perspective. Finding that perfect marriage of pattern/imagery and color is challenging and subject to an individual's personal asthetic. So, from a sales perspective, you might experiment with simple color compositions to start selling right away while you keep working on the more complex look you have a desire to achieve. This may help you get some dollars flowing to you sooner.

    Just something to think about.

    Remeber to have fun with it all!

    Noelle
  • Hi again L,

    A magazine just came across my desk that you may find helpful. It's called Art Calendar. This month's issue has articles on niche marketing.
    It also has listings of upcoming shows, galleries reviewing portfolios, a section on Art Law--lots of good stuff.

    Cheers,
    Noelle