Adjusting My Fabric Arts Business Plan

For some time now I have thought I would monetize my little business by selling downloadable embroidery designs and printable appliques and just toss out a book or a quilt or two for sale every now and then.

I have been working very hard in recent weeks on rebuilding my website, setting up an online shop, and trying to figure out how to place an Amazon associates button on the sidebar in this blog…all designed to bring me a little money so I can keep on making show quilts and  writing blogs.

I have a new plan, which I have just put into action.  I have discovered if I do the downloadable items they will absorb all my time and I don’t enjoy making them like I enjoy making show quilts or writing how-to books and this blog.  Besides, I don’t think ultimately they will bring in enough to pay me for those hours of work I don’t much enjoy.

So if you click to my main website link at the top of this post, you will find several things there:  my gallery of all my main quilts (it runs a little slowly at the moment…I’m working on that), my bio, my current projects list, a list of national/international shows, and a link to my shop.  Take the tour.  I have four quilts currently for sale on my new little shop.  There will be more in the future, along with my books and I may have some other things from time to time.

My new plan is this..1) Make show quilts designed to sell, 2) Show quilts in a couple of shows and get them appraised in their third show 3) By the third show I can generally tell whether it is going to win ribbons or not, so at this point I will start offering it for sale at another couple of shows and on my new little store.   If I somehow miraculously make a big winning quilt, I will probably not sell that one…just keep entering it as long as possible in other shows and use it for trunk shows.

In addition to the quilts, I will continue to write and test the projects in my books and the first of those will be out by the end of October…in time for Christmas…if I possibly can do this.  My son David is going to publish them through his small press “Fennec Fox Press” (the other link at the top of the blog).  In other words…I’m more or less self publishing them, and they will be available on Amazon.

I’m getting help on putting the Amazon associates button on this blog, since I haven’t been able to get that to work yet.  That is where I will recommend the products I have found work best for my techniques and if you click through the button to buy the products I will get a small percentage of the profit.  It may not be much, but every little bit helps and it is a way I can help you to find the products too.

Hopefully, this plan will enable me to bring in a little supplemental income so I can go to shows, buy machines when needed, keep my supplies well stocked, and pay for unexpected items like dentists or home repairs.

It’s a plan.  We’ll see how it works.  Wish me well in this endeavor.

Sew happy everyone!  Cheers.

 

On Finding My Artist Voices

quilters block
I quite frequently see discussions about artists “finding their voice” in their work. I heard it referred to recently in the context of one quilter’s work that was all very similar in that “she found her artist’s voice.” I think the idea is that once you find a type of work you really like to work in, you perfect it and use it to establish an area in which you are recognized and rewarded. It’s a great idea.

Perhaps I am much more of a fabric art adventurer, however, than one who will ever find such a voice. I am particularly inspired by historic works of art, great natural wonders, magnificent architecture, works of artistic fantasy, and historic folk art. Sew I have opted to work in sets of series focusing around these items…which I admit is a very broad brush. I have my architectural series, my deep space series, my ancient illuminated manuscript series, my women throughout history keeping their home fires burning while waiting for their men to return home from the sea (and you don’t know it yet but also from dangerous missions of all sorts). I love to take my machines through their paces and make them perform to the nth showing what they can do to closely replicate hand work, embroider most anything, disappear their stitches that are there to hold things together, or work like a pen and ink. I like to take threads of all sorts, fabrics, and a little bit of paint and some beads and pull them together into something resembling a work of art.

It is indeed my goal to one day cross into the realm of “fine works of art” in this fabric art adventure of mine.

I somehow need to make money with this work to pay for things like expensive dental work and house maintenance and repairs. I have some ideas for that, but I am certainly going to stick to making my wall art quilts. Whether they end up being “show quilts” or not, I am making them all to the show quilt level. I do occasionally make a utility quilt for home or giving away, but they are often when I need to just try something new or somebody needs such.

Sew there you have it. I don’t think I have an “artist voice” exactly, and I may never have one, but I have artistic goals of all sorts. It is a passion of mine. It is full of fun, frustration, tedious times, exploding ideas, irritating quilter’s blocks, disappointments, real surprises, and absolutely delightful times.

Sew happy everyone! Go out and make a creation you love just because you want to and don’t worry about fitting in or not fitting in boxes.

Back at Square One?

Background stippling the central theme

Several things have happened since my last blog that have made me begin to rethink my plans for the future of Betty Jo’s Fabric Arts. First of all, my little online store I had set up proved to not have the ability for me to put downloadable products on it safely for my customers. So I have canceled the store before the free trial month was over. I am, however, somewhat relieved. After I set it up, I realized I had been a little precipitous about starting it up anyway, and need to have more downloadable products ready to sell before I relaunch it.

There have been several other things…some involving oral surgery and so forth…that I won’t go into here, but they do make it more necessary that I succeed in this little micro business that started out just to support my quilting/art habit. It’s a very expensive habit, as you may know, and especially if you are a little geeky and like the really cool new technologies that can be brought into the process.

Sew I am busily working on books and downloadables. As soon as I am ready, and have done a bit more research, I will relaunch. I don’t know how long this will take. I’ll keep you informed. At that time I will have embroidery designs, printable appliques, and quilts for sale. I anticipate the first book following shortly after that.

It’s only a little bit of a shift and reset in my plans, as you see, although you can be sure that I am going to continue on this great fabric arts adventure, even as the road forks and winds. I will continue to make fabric art in the form of wall quilts, and I will continue to experiment with new techniques, try to improve my existing ones, and share the road with you. I hope I can provide some inspiration to others along the way.

Sew happy everyone! Life is an adventure and quilting and fabric arts of all kinds can be a great part of it.

Scheduling for Maximum Creativity

OK, after publishing my last blog post I decided I needed to readjust how I work to keep the fabric artist in me happier.  It’s just plain silly to go around feeling sorry for myself when I am in control of my own work schedule.  So I have decided to carve out time for making show quilts, playing with my camera,  and limiting my work on my little microbusiness downloadables and books to something less than all the time.  I also need some time to just chill.  All of these things are important, and all are needed for maximum creativity.

So I am going to be a tough boss and tell myself I have to:

  • Take breaks
  • Take vacations (probably will be quilt shows)
  • Adjust work on sale items to a more comfortable level…it is, after all, a micro business just to supplement my retirement income.
  • Find time for other creative outlets (photography, painting, exercise)
  • Do my very best at everything…reach to make the most beautiful fabric art I can and not be concerned if my quilts do not place (or even get in a show like Paducah).

Sew I am working on the design for my next two show quilts.  I’ve told you before that I like having two quilt projects going at once.  I am an oddball in that I don’t have UFOs hanging around  I think it came from my whole work background where finishing was not an option..I had to finish projects on time.  So I like to run two quilts at once for when I get stuck on one and need to leave it alone until I suddenly know how to solve it.

The first quilt will be a three dimensional deep forest quilt with woodland creatures and oversized three dimensional insects.  It’s something I’ve had in my mind for some time, but I am finally working on the full design and digitizing the embroidery for this quilt (I plan on having a lot of embroidery for this quilt).  I find it hard to describe, but think about it like a pop up book with multiple layers of paper providing some dimension.

The second quilt is finally going to be my Sashiko/Ikebana quilt I have had in mind for several years.  This will have a background of irregular rectangular blocks with Sashiko and the foreground will be as Japanese Ikebana “flower arrangement” probably using broiderie perse and possibly some embroidery for the flowers and a digitally painted vase.  I will be making this with Peppered Cottons, which I have been collecting for a while now.  They seem perfect to me for this quilt.  I’m thinking I might even do the Sashiko by hand…that remains to be seen.  I’ll try a block and see what I think.

Oh, and yes, I will continue to work on my book and downloadable for my little online store, probably three days a week, and not expect so much of my sole employee (me).  😀

My next blog will star a new quilt journal for one of the two quilts, or maybe both. Looking forward to sharing the journeys with you.

Sew happy everyone!  Adjust your schedule  to help reach maximum creativity.

Painting and Writing and Missing Quilting

004Over the past couple of weeks I have been working hard to complete my book “Ten Skill-Building Projects for Bernina V7 Effectiveness”.   I have all but two of the eleven chapters and accompanying project designs complete and have only the two hardest ones left.  I also have several informative appendixes partly written. I will have to test everything, working through the book and making any corrections.

I also have been “painting” horse appliques and preparing a package for each horse that will include instructions for printing and appliqueing and patterns for stitching the tails and manes.  I have two horse designs ready to test and am making progress on learning the things I need to consider for building each applique package.  I will have to test everything for these too.

I have not, however, been working on a quilt.  I miss it.  But this is a temporary situation.  My plan is that after I finish the first book manuscript I will set up a weekly schedule that will divide my time equally between writing, embroidery and applique designs, and quilting so I can still make several new show quilts every year.  Eventually I will finish the writing too.

It’s all wonderfully creative work though, sew I’m still having fun.

Sew happy everyone!

Design, Screen Capture, Write…Repeat

The haul from Houston
I’ve been making slow, but steady, progress on “Ten Projects to Bernina V7 Software Effectiveness”, a book that starts with the setup and carries through with ten skill-building projects.  It ends with appendixes full of additional helpful information. I have had this idea for a couple of years, and had actually started it with v6 just before Bernina came out with their V7 version. I gave myself the upgrade for Christmas, and set about to learn the differences and the new things introduced in V7.

I really like v7 and learning it has opened up some new possibilities for use with my Bernina 830 LE, but the software also works for many other brands of embroidery machines, complete with hooping and formatting options.

I am writing this by having three programs open..a screen capturing software, my word processing software, and V7. First I carry out a bit of design work on a project, screen capture the various stages, and write the step-by-step project with lots of illustrations.

When I finish the manuscript, I will then work through the entire book and stitch out all the projects as if I were a newby on the program, and then ask someone else to do the same.

I hope to complete this for publication by the end of May through my son David’s Fennec Fox Press.

If this works well, I have other books in mind that I actually have already blocked out.

Please let me know if you have some skill you particularly want to have included.

Sew happy everyone! Teach someone to sew or quilt. You’ll learn a lot in the process.

Announcing “Betty Jo’s Fabric Arts” and What I Plan to Do With It

S009EEEK!  I’ve actually done it.  I’ve gone and set up a micro-business!!!

This week I received the finished paperwork on establishing my micro-business “Betty Jo’s Fabric Arts”.    I have a few more more steps before I can start offering downloadable items, and those are getting a shopping cart arranged and filling the shop part of my business with items you might want.

As some of you know, I retired from my intense US Government job on 31 December 2012, and have been slowly pursuing my plans to open this micro-business ever since.   My expectations are to make enough money to pay for my fabric arts pursuits, provide money for attending some of those marvelous quilt shows, have a little spending money for fun and to travel to see my family in California.  Sew it is very much a “Micro” business.  This will also provide me a way to share more of what I have learned in my sixty plus years of sewing and art pursuits and eight or so years of taking art quilting seriously.

The first three years of my retirement I spent largely in setting up my workspace and learning, learning, learning…filling in all those gaps that exist between expert sewing and expert art quilting. I hope that I will continue to learn.  There is so MUCH to learn.  That’s part of what makes fabric arts so great…lots to learn, lots to experiment with, lots to share.

The process I used to set this up, as requested by my friend Maggie:  As you may be aware, over the past few years I built my website and blog, and shared where I felt I could.  Last week, I also registered the website name www.bettyjosfabricarts.com with GoDaddy and connected it to my existing website www.bjfabricartist.com This past month I went through Legalzoom.com and set up my “Doing Business As” or DBA.  The cool thing about them is by using their questionnaire and putting in what you want, what state you are in, and so on, they take it from there.  They work out the paper work, they send it to you.  You take it and get it notarized, and send it back to them.  They deal with the government entities and send you your license.  They have lawyers available to talk to if you need to.  I think it is just right for a micro business like mine.  If you are setting up a more involved business, you might want to talk with a lawyer and get them to take this on.  But this only cost me right around $150, plus the cost of my GoDaddy and Blog accounts.  Not so bad, considering.  I’m sort of a do-everything-myself kind of person, so I built my own website through GoDaddy.  There are some really good tax and record keeping programs out there to help you with keeping the books too.  I use Intuit who make TurboTax, but there are several good ones.  This is a vast improvement over the way I had to work more than 30 years ago when I set up my own fashion design business in Ithaca, NY. and did everything on paper.  The bookwork was dreadful, and took a large chunk of time.  Of course, then I had two employees, the hiring of whom cost me all of my profits for a while, but I will not have employees for this little business.

You may be wondering what I am planning on offering for downloads.  My intent is to provide you with the tools you need to make the fabric art visions in your head or improve the projects you purchase from someone else.  Here is my initial list and it is truly subject to change:

1.  Embroidery items for your embroidery machines like trees, flowers, flags, other small items to spice up your landscape quilts, or small in-the-hoop projects.  I am currently working on a set of trees.  Trees seem to be something I have needed a lot over the past few years and I have been unhappy with downloads I have purchased in the past, so I am digitizing them myself.

2.  Patterns and/or step-by-step instructions for building your own incredible pieces of wall art.

3.  I am writing two books (or is it a series of worksheets?).  One is on all the different techniques I use for machine applique, and when to use each type.  The second is on surface design…painting, thread work, beading.  It’s entirely possible these will boil down to a series of worksheets complete with some projects and step-by-step instructions that will help you practice, rather than actual books.

4.  Digitally painted items you may wish to download and print on fabric using your own inkjet printer, such as faces and hands, horses ready to applique and add threadwork for their tales and manes, small characters for appliqueing on your landscape quilt.  These will come with instructions.

5.  And finally, worksheets with learning projects on using technology in your sewing and quilting studio.  This would include, for instance, how to use Corel Draw with Bernina v7 software to produce a provided wall art project.  Or using a digital painting program, such as Corel Painter 2015 and a Wacom tablet to paint and draw your own faces and hands, or horses and dogs for printing on fabric.  Or even a project with worksheet in taking your advanced sewing machines through their paces to help you to create that incredible piece of fabric art of your own.

6.  Videos may accompany some of the items above.

In truth, I don’t expect many downloads to be available much before summer, and after that, they will be added from time to time.  I plan on putting just a few up in the spring to help test the download, and shoppng cart system.  I will be looking for guinea pigs, ur, testers and reviewers for some of my things as they come out, sew keep that in mind if you are interested.  Sew this will probably take me a few months to get really rolling even though I now have the structure set up…kind of like building a house.  I have the foundation made and the walls up, but I have to put all the inside finishes in.

Sew happy everyone!  Learn a new technique every now and then and practice, practice, practice.