My Creative Journey: Why I Quit Designing Fabric
Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Last Fall, I made the decision to quit designing fabric. My contract was up, and I decided not to pursue a renewal. It was one of the hardest things I've had to do.
I'm not much for quitting. Admitting that I was done, and didn't want to do it anymore, felt like failing. But the truth is, I didn't love it. Working with Pat Bravo, the owner of Art Gallery Fabrics, she has so much passion for what she does. She talked about it all the time when we were discussing a new collection, or working on prints. Over time, I realized that I just didn't share that same passion.
In the beginning of my short career as a fabric designer in the quilting industry, I was caught up in the excitement of it all. It was a thrill to see my name on a selvage. It was a thrill to exhibit at Quilt Market and make connections in the industry through my fabrics. It was (and still is) a thrill to see people sew things with my fabrics.
On the flip side, it was all kinds of stressful and confidence crushing. The weeks leading up to Quilt Market were spent in a flurry of sewing up as many samples as I could. There was constant pressure to produce beautiful, unique projects that would impress both shops and consumers alike. All with a limited amount of fabric in a short period of time. I was stuck in a constant loop of feeling creatively drained and exhausted.
From a business perspective, it was all-consuming. Collections roll out in such quick succession these days. At any one time I was designing a collection, sewing with another collection for Quilt Market, and promoting a different collection. It took up almost all of my time, leaving little time for me to work on other aspects of my business. There are many designers in the industry that work in this way and do it very well. I truly admire the work and energy that it takes to do it.
I am a pretty sensitive person, and it was hard not to take the success of a fabric collection personally. For me, I was putting myself out there in a way that wasn't like publishing patterns or writing my book. It was so much more personal, sharing my art in this format. I had a hard time dealing with it. I felt like it's success (or failure) was on public display, for everyone to see.
More importantly, I realized that I can't do it all. I realized that I was miserable trying to do it all. I felt like I wasn't doing anything well, because I was being stretched in too many different directions. I dreamed of simplifying my business, but it was hard to rationalize when everyone around me was constantly doing more, more, more. It never felt like I was doing enough, like I was enough. And that's a horrible feeling.
Fast forward to mid-2014. I took time off from designing fabric to write my book. Personally, I knew that I couldn't do both at the same time. After the final book edits were in, and I had launched and promoted Curiosities, I took time to really think about the future. I thought about what I like to work on most, what is profitable for my business, and how everything I do is connected. Turns out, my favorite part of my job is the problem solving of figuring out how to make a pattern work. I love laying out patterns for print, and designing the illustrations. I'm a nerd for charts and pattern math, and I love the challenge of writing good quality instructions.
When I stepped back and took some time to think about what really makes me happy and what I love about my work, I realized that designing fabric wasn’t something I should continue. I will always be grateful to Art Gallery Fabrics and Pat Bravo for giving me the opportunity to design fabrics and for teaching me so much about the fabric industry. I learned a lot from this experience.
I've now been removed from fabric design for a little over six months. I'll admit, it hasn't been a particularly easy transition. My identity over the last few years has been centered around being a fabric designer. I am now trying to redefine that identity and make peace with walking away. In the last few weeks, I've finally started to feel a sense of relief that it's over. I'm inspired to sew, and I just want to start all the new projects! I'm feeling very "carpe diem" about it, using precious fabrics that I've hoarded over the years, and making things I've always wanted to make. I'm taking this year to rediscover and grow my creative voice, and to simply play. To make for the sake of making, and no other reason. I would love to release a couple of patterns, but I'm not putting any pressure on myself to do so.
I decided to write this post for the sake of transparency. I hope that admitting in public that I made this decision will give me some closure. I felt a bit of this when I talked briefly about it in The Crafty Planner Podcast last month. I was nervous to talk about it, but in the end it felt good to open up.
Thank you for listening and following along on my journey.