Over the last few years Dick and I have visited Tiverton and Little Compton during the summer open studio events. There is something about going directly to the spot where an artist does their creating that gives you great insight into their thought processes. What do they see outside their window? How do they set up their tools? What is the light like in the room? On these forays into creativity, I have often dreamt of renting a studio in the summer in one of these towns just to be able to be part of the open studio tours. My new studio in the new house is quite lovely, but definitely not in the right area.
A few months ago, one of my very talented students, Suzanne Munroe, asked whether I would like to be the Featured Artist at he East Bay Chamber of Commerce for the first Bristol/Warren Art Night of the season. As I very often do, I answered with my heart, not my head, and said I would love to, knowing very little of what would be involved. In the ensuing weeks, I began to realize that my hasty answer was one of those fork in the road moments and that I had embarked on a new trail.
I joined the Bristol Warren Art Night group and was listed in their Directory of Artists, an achievement which would have made my mother proud. I had to write about myself in many ways – a very brief (elevator talk) write up for the brochure, a longer piece for the online directory of artists, and a long bio for display at the event. Writing about yourself and selecting photos of your work is a painful but vital process. It helps you define yourself and your work and clarifies your “voice” as an artist.
As a member of the Art Night Group and the Chamber of Commerce, I now have access to a number of great seminars on issues like marketing your art, tax issues for artists, and to a fabulous lunch group for business women, “WEBOND.” Turning a hobby into a business is not an easy road. This June will mark my fourth year as a business owner and I must say, I wish I had accessed these types of resources earlier. There is a steep learning curve and the Chamber of Commerce has so many resources to help small businesses.
After almost a year focused on house issues, I was forced to get down to brass tacks about my business – order new business cards, create a postcard brochure, do some updates to my website, make a spread sheet of my quilts. As always, Dick has been at my side, supporting me in the business side of things, with social media, making hanging rods, exploring connections and resources and making dinner on those nights when I am too exhausted. He has also joined the Board of Art Night, using his communications expertise to help get the word out about all their great activities.
My most difficult task has been to price my quilts. To date I have not sold any of my quilts. They have been made for family, in workshops, or for my lectures and Quilt for Change exhibits. I had heard so many people say, “No one will pay you what they are worth!” that I had begun to believe it. The act of pricing my quilts is a revelation, a first step to letting go of my creations. In the next few weeks, I will enter many more quilts on my website and create an Etsy page to sell them. After all, if I sell a quilt, it opens me up to creating a new one!
Art Night was totally fun. Morgan played the bagpipes out front and drew people in. A few of my students and art quilt friends had pieces on display as well, including Suzanne’s vibrant quilts in her office. Old friends stopped by, and I also made new ones. It was glorious to see so many of my quilts hanging in one venue (rather than a closet!). I loved the comments and questions. Hopefully I opened many eyes to the changing world of quilting and to the idea that quilts are art. I can’t wait for next month when I will be taking the trolley around the two towns (it is free – sign up now and join me!!!). Because my mother was a painter, I grew up going to art festivals and opening receptions. It is as if a part of me that was long dormant is awakening and it feels great.
Who knew that saying yes to that one question would lead to all this? And that I would be able to find a lively and growing arts community on my own doorstep? So next time a friend asks, “Would you like to…” Don’t listen too carefully, don’t overthink it, don’t check your calendar, just say “YES.” It might lead you to just the place you dreamt of going.