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Archive for the ‘The Professional Quilter’ Category

8 creative biz lessons I learned from basketball

Wednesday, April 10th, 2019

As I watched the Final Four Tournament on Saturday, I was thinking about what basketball and the professional creative arts have something in common. Is it any surprise my mind would go to art when I’m watching sports?


This is the obvious. These kids love basketball, and for them it is their art. What you pay attention to grows.

Just as the college athletes pay attention to basketball and their skills and love of the game increase, your skill level in your art increases with increased attention. Your knowledge and love of the art grows as you look at more art, go to more galleries, take more classes. And, your skill level at marketing, and your passion at marketing, also increases proportionately to the effort you put into it.

How much effort are you putting into growing your business?

Read more…

Overcoming obstacles to change

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

We are in a stage of change here at the International Association of Creative Arts Professionals. Our biggest change is that we are no longer hosting our annual Creative Arts Business Summit after next weekend.

It was hard for me to decide to stop doing a successful event. After seven years, I felt rewarded by all the growth I saw in the creatives who had come to CABS, as we call it.

People who were pattern designers opened brick and mortar stores. One person saw her dream of a B&B/Retreat Center come to fruition. Someone created a “million dollar” idea. Many others also realized that they were capable of doing bigger things, and as one attendee said, she was so “much more than a stay at home mom with a hobby.”

People felt their lives were changed both personally and professionally.

Read more…


Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

I have got David Bowie running through my head as I am sharing the changes here at the International Association of Creative Arts Professionals. We recently made a big change to our quarterly magazine, the one you’ve known as The Professional Quilter since 1983. Instead of reading The Professional Quilter, you will now open the pages of Create Inc. We have added a tag line: your art, your business, your life. Our goal is to help you take your art, your passion, and create the business that supports you in the lifestyle that you want.


Same magazine/New look

The name change reflects not only the growing interests of the professional quilter but also the expansion of ICAP to reach more mixed-media and other creative artists. You will find the same kind of valuable content with a new, fresher look.  What are your thoughts about our new name and look? 


Book Review: Longing for a Longarm?

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

Longing for a Longarm: Should You Purchase a Longarm Machine?
Sue Allen Clayton
Manorville Press; $4.99 (Kindle)

I work with professional quilters, including many longarmers, as well as a lot of people who would like to have a successful quilt business. In this book, Sue takes a light-hearted and realistic look at owning a longarm, whether that is to start your business or to quilt your own quilts. From her own personal experiences, Sue shares the pleasures and pitfalls of owning a longarm. You will learn about physical and space requirements, the tools of the trade, and money matters – what your longarm costs and how much you will make. A plus is the good introduction to the emotional challenges that go along with running a longarm quilting business. Sue also shares her personal resource list. This should be your first read if you are serious about buying a longarm.

Look for the book at your local quilt shop or book retailer. Here’s a link to Amazon if you would like to learn more about the book.

Have You Considered a Retrospective of Your Work?

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Have you thought about a retrospective of your, your student’s or your customer’s work? It’s a great way to showcase the work. In the Fall issue of The Professional Quilter, Gloria Hansen shared what it took to create the retrospective of her work. Here are some highlights in an excerpt from her article:

Over the years that I’ve been creating quilts, I’ve kept photos, notes, sketches and various records of nearly everything I’ve made and been involved with. This summer I took the time to compile a good deal of it into a retrospective book of my work that I titled Gloria Hansen: An Evolution in Stitches, Paint & Pixels. It’s the type of project I wholeheartedly recommend that you consider doing for yourself as a way to not only document your work (your business, etc.), but to get perspective and appreciation for your personal journey.

  1. First, determine what you want to include. I first created a loose outline and used a calendar to chart out what I hoped to finish by when.
  2. Next, gather your images and write your story.
  3. To create a professionally printed, high-quality book, I recommend using a print-on-demand (POD) service. I selected Blurb, which offers various tools for book creation. You’ll find links to a step-by-step video tutorial along with tips, tutorials and updates within a getting-started guide (all of which require you to be online), which I recommend looking at.
  4. Of paramount importance to the success any type of portfolio book is the quality of the images. Besides starting with good photographs, you can take extra steps to ensure it will print the way you intend. If you have any trouble getting a printed image to closely match what you see on your monitor, you will need to calibrate your monitor.
  5. Once your book is finished, and especially if you do the layout yourself, it’s extremely important to proof it. Don’t just rely on yourself. Have a couple of people read it for typos and look at the layout for anything that looks off.

To quote from the closing of my book, “…documenting my artwork gave me a deep appreciation for what I have experienced and accomplished, gratitude to those who helped me and motivation to carry on.” I invite you to my website ( to learn more about it, and I also again encourage you to consider writing and publishing your own story.

If you have experience creating a written retrospective, please leave your comments below.

Meet Christine Adams, Artist

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

In the Fall issue of The Professional Quilter, Eileen Doughty profiled Christine Adams, an artist who works in fabric from Rockville, Md. Here’s an excerpt:

How did you get started in making art?

Even though I was the oldest of nine, and my father was often away on active military duty, my mom did not burden me with responsibility. Each of us had our tasks. Mom encouraged us to be who we were and to follow our muse. There was time for play and imagination. My mother could create beauty and peace from very little. She was my first “muse.”

In 1972, I gave a baby quilt to a friend, who often brought her baby along to her booth at craft shows. The owner of a local craft shop spotted my quilt at the booth and said that she needed to have the contact information of the person who made “that” baby quilt. Until the shop closed its doors, I created wall hangings, bed quilts, Christmas décor and much more for the owner. I suppose that was the start of my being a professional textile artist.

Teaching and mentoring are also my passions. After college I taught art, math and English at the high-school level. I got married and had six children; following my mother’s example, I sewed for them all. Also, I shared space in an art studio during this time.

When Rockville Arts Place (RAP), in Rockville, Md., opened, I was one of its seven founding members. At one point, money for arts organizations was scarce and the executive director had left, so I began to volunteer and run the office. Many people were passionate about RAP – it was not a lonely job, and I had many offers of help. The Board voted me in as Executive Director for the next five years. During that time I learned about grant writing and working with the public. I also learned how to integrate our programs with the community, public schools and summer camps. I am proud that VisArts, as it is now called, will celebrate its 25th anniversary in October. I am still involved, though in a small way.

My experience directing RAP was put to use again last year, when I co-chaired the “Sacred Threads” quilt exhibition in its spectacular Washington, D.C., metro area premier.

How did you get your commissions? Do you have any advice for others looking for similar opportunities?

I have sold completed work as well as site-specific work. A designer for medical institutions visited my studio and placed my work in several buildings, including the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente, and the Ronald MacDonald House. She would give me a size, a price range, and sometimes a color palette, and we would work from there. Other professionals such as lawyers, dentists and nursing home administrators have purchased pieces. Having exposure in a studio outside my home was a great help.
My advice is to take advantage of opportunities that interest you, even if they come at inconvenient times. We are always busy, so just do it!

Share your ideas and interests with others. One step leads to another. Seek out other artists. Join a group, or form one of your own. Share your interests, successes and experiences, both good and bad.

I learned a long time ago to own up to the fact that I am an artist. It was hard at first, because when you say you are an artist, people expect you to be a good artist. However, if you are a clerk or secretary or some other professional, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are great at what you do, it just means that is how you spend your time. I spend my time as an artist. So, when I am asked what I do, I say I am an artist; sometimes someone is interested enough to then ask to see my work, and sales happen from there.

Themes? And Fabrics? Describe the style you like to use in your quilts.

Originally, I primarily used P & B fabrics – I call the ones in my stash my “Fun Fabrics.” For the most part, though, I buy what speaks to me. My photo imagery is self-created, and much of my dyed fabrics are also. There are wonderful dye artists out there, and I have collected pieces from many of them to incorporate into my work. Another passion is collecting vintage lace and buttons and other findings. These also find their way into my textile books, sculpture, and hangings.

My themes vary. At times I use simple geometrics and try to express a feeling, emotion or impression. Other times, the theme is what I am familiar with – the simple pleasures of the world around us. I also am taken with cultural diversity and sharing with one’s fellow man. Some of my pieces attack injustice. Many of my quilts are folk art. I frequently use quotes and vintage images.

I have a huge collection of silk ties. Sometimes a wall quilt or garment is made entirely of them. When my youngest son got married, I created the coat I wore for his wedding from his grandfather’s ties. His friends made my day by telling me I was “awesome.”

If you would like to read more of Eileen’s article on Christine Adams, it’s included in our Fall 2012 issue of The Professional Quilter and available to IAPQ members. The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business. Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership and join here.

Please share your thoughts on being an artist below.


What’s in a Name? Quilter? Artist? Professional?

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

I’ve been talking with some of my private coaching clients and IAPQ members lately about how they think of themselves professionally. When someone asks you, “What do you do?” do you call yourself a professional quilter, a quilt artist, a quilting professional, an artist who works in fiber, or something else? Do you even call yourself a professional?

This conversation began when I was talking with a potential client and she thought that professional quilter meant someone who quilted on a longarm. Back when The Professional Quilter first began publication in September 1983, the longarm industry wasn’t even a shadow of what it is today. Back in the day, our readers were teachers, shop owners, pattern designers, judges, crafters and contemporary quiltmakers who sold their work. By strict definition, a professional was someone who made money from her work, so everyone was a professional quilter. A concern for many of our readers at that time was taking that leap to really think of themselves as professional. Thank goodness we’ve made progress on that point.

As a result of this conversation, I started thinking about the name of our organization and whether when we call ourselves the International Association of Professional Quilters, newer professionals in our field don’t see themselves with that label. Do they feel excluded because they think professional quilters are people who quilt for money, specifically with a longarm? I also think other “titles” could make a different group of professionals feel excluded.

So, I’m asking you to join in a conversation on our blog. What do you call yourself: Professional quilter? Quilting professional? Artist? Quilt artist? Quiltmaker? Artmaker? Something else? And, do you feel excluded by any of the other names?

Please share your thoughts below.

Meet Celine Perkins

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

In the Summer 2012 issue of The Professional Quilter, Eileen Doughty profiled Celine Perkins, pattern designer and owner of Perkins Dry Goods. Here’s an excerpt of the article:

How else do you advertise your business?

I advertise regularly in American Quilt Retailer. At Market, I do Schoolhouse workshop sessions and contribute to the FabShop Dinner as a table sponsor. (The Fabric Shop Network is a trade association for independent quilt and fabric retailers; they publish FabShop News. They have a dinner for shop owner members right before Market opens.) I’ve been a sponsor for several years, usually donating prize bags for two tables.

I have also participated as an organizer for two Booth Hop events at the 2010 Minneapolis and Kansas City Markets. Last fall in Houston, I joined in the Aurifil Booth Hop.

What have you experienced as a vendor at International Quilt Market?

I have been to 13 Markets since spring of 2005. I try to go to every one, for several reasons. At Market, you have a unique opportunity to meet your customers, face-to-face. You have fantastic networking and educational opportunities. You see what’s new and trending. You get inspired.

After driving back from Kansas City this year, I’m not convinced that it’s easier to drive than to fly! I fly to the majority of markets with my “booth in a bag.” I get a half-booth space (affordable and manageable for one person). I share hotel and car expenses with two or three other designers that I’ve gotten to know. We make a trip to Sam’s Club and Target for booth accessories when we all arrive. I also request that my booth be placed near these designers so we can help each other during the show.

Once I vended at International Quilt Festival in Chicago just to see what it was like. I found that it takes a lot of single pattern sales to pay for a booth!  That convinced me that the independent quilt shop is my primary customer and that Market is the best place to sell my product, not at a retail venue.

How do you split your time between all the various tasks of running your business?

That’s a really good question. My husband has always been impressed with how many plates I can keep in the air. I think this is kind of funny since I don’t always feel very organized, and sometimes I think being “over organized” is a defense mechanism. I make lists, sometimes too many, but lists nonetheless. And I am constantly thinking about what comes next.

My routine is to be in the office by 6:30 a.m. At about 8:30 a.m. I take a break (errands or the gym), then come back and work from 11:00 or so until 4:00 p.m., when I go to the post office or UPS. I work seven days a week, but go from one thing to the next, in and out of the studio, especially on weekends.

I try to stay connected with others in the quilt world, whether they are designer friends or shop owners. It can be very socially isolating to work for yourself in a one-man shop.

I see “Studio and Family Time” on your website schedule, for June and July. Do you have “rules” for keeping your business and personal lives separate (and sane)?

At dinner time, the computer is turned off, and the sewing machine is off-limits.

To relax, I go to the gym at least three times a week and walk with my husband after dinner every day that the weather allows. I lost a significant amount of weight in 2010-11 and through that process have learned to make my health more of a priority. It’s pretty amazing what happens when you get a little selfish with that kind of thing.

I also started knitting more seriously when a close friend opened a yarn shop. It’s a great excuse to spend time away from work with a good friend!

The “Studio and Family Time” came from a need to clear the calendar of business commitments during summer months. The kids are home from school, and there is usually a family vacation planned. My dad passed away a few years ago, and my mother now summers in Minneapolis. We spend a lot of time together. It’s a priority for me to be able to spend time with the family, and blocking out those months seemed like a good way to make that “public.”

If you would like to read more of Eileen’s article on Celine Perkins, it’s included in our Summer 2012 issue of The Professional Quilter and available to IAPQ members. The International Association of Professional Quilters offers resources and networking opportunities for you to create a success from your quilting business. Learn about all the benefits of IAPQ membership and join here.

Please share your thoughts below.

How Do You Handle the Competition?

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Whether you are a longarm quilter or an art quilter, you face competition. It can be in the form of other entries in a show or other artists competing for the same client or job. How do you handle that competition? In the current issue of The Professional Quilter, Mindy Wylie took a look at competition from the longarmer’s point of view. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s not unusual at all for there to be more than one longarm quilter in one area. In fact, this is pretty normal. But why do we feel it necessary to compete with each other? I realize that in this tough economy every single potential customer is very important, but why can’t we all just get along? We all want world peace, right? Sounds like a beauty pageant, doesn’t it?

Well, it is in a weird kind of way! We all bring our own special talents to our business, just like beauty pageant contestants. So, customers choose which longarm quilter they will use based on those talents. Why can’t they use different quilters for different quilts depending on the quilt? In that case, we all win!

So the question now is how to eliminate the competition aspect between longer quilters. That’s a very good question with a very simple answer. Communicate! It would be very easy to pick up the phone and call the other longarm quilters or invite them all to lunch to discuss it. No need for hostility or anger or jealousy. You’re all in the same position, so why not work together?

I started a longarm group several years ago. Six of us sat around a kitchen table. Some of us had met before, some of us had not. So we chatted and became familiar with each other first. We had some snacks and drinks and relaxed. When it came time to start the meeting, the first thing I did was to tell them all to look at the other people in the room. I said that these are your new best friends, not your competition, but your friends. Who else has batting or that particular thread when you run out? Who else understands exactly what you’re going through? Your other friends don’t understand your job, but these people do. These friends have the tools and gadgets you want to try out before spending your money on them. They might tell you not to even bother or they may tell you that you absolutely must have it! What happens when that fabulous tool falls to the floor and smashes and you’re only halfway through the quilt? Your new wonderful friend who told you it was a must-have just might let you borrow hers. Or you can wait a week or so for a new one to come in the mail. Your choice, but I’d rather run across town, borrow the tool, get the quilt done and get paid.

In my group, we were able to borrow thread, batting, wide-backing fabric, and many other things from each other. We were able to combine orders to meet wholesale minimums and reduce shipping costs. We referred customers to others whose waiting lists were shorter or did a particular type of quilting well or carried a specific brand of batting the customer wanted. None of us ever lowered our prices to try to undercut the others, but occasionally when business was a little slow we might run a “sale” or a special deal. It’s a win/win situation for the group and the customer.

How do you work with your competition? Please share below.

Meet Pamela Allen, 2012 Quilt Teacher of the Year

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012
What standards of workmanship do you require of your students? What do you do if they don’t attain them?

This makes me smile, as I may be somewhat of an aberration when it comes to traditional workmanship as defined by the standards of a quilt show judge. The focus of my teaching is always the making of art that just happens to be stitched fabric. I believe that any construction method and any technique is appropriate so long as the piece has structural integrity. I help students to find a resourceful and personal way to solve technical problems and often demonstrate techniques and share helpful hints that may be useful to realize their idea.

How do you encourage creativity in your students?

I’m a believer in lots of discussion and lots of visual stimulation. When I set up the classroom, I try to make it look like a working studio with lots of artwork on the walls and, when possible, a U-shaped plan for the tables so students can see one another. I also like to have a common pool of fabrics, donated by the class and me, to encourage each artist to try materials they may not normally choose. My instructions to students are more about attitude than technique in that there are no patterns, very few rules and only general parameters for each exercise. I talk about the idea that a new work is like a stream of consciousness, where what has gone before will dictate what comes next, and I support any number of solutions to a given problem. Thus the student isn’t pursuing a narrow avenue towards a fixed goal, but rather an expanding highway with many exits and entrances. This allows the student to choose her own subject matter and personal content and encourages a meaningful attachment to the work. As a work progresses, I ask for the work to be put up on the wall, and the student and I have a brainstorming session about problems or where to go next. Other students benefit from this as well because they may be having the same issues and can learn by sharing.

How do you encourage students’ further growth in quilting, beyond the formal class?

Building confidence is an important element for further growth.  This is why, throughout the class, I try to focus on the students’ strengths and encourage them to build upon those. Often all it takes is to overcome a self-conscious reticence, and the artist can make the leap into the unknown with wonderful results. I encourage the students to conduct their designing by asking, “What if I do …?” With a growing confidence, the artist can answer by actually trying a solution without fear. Another reassuring phrase I repeat is, “What’s the worst that can happen?” I try to share my own experience of revising less than perfect work or cutting and reassembling it into a new idea. I suppose it is related to my idea of being flexible about the direction a work may take. Humor is a big part of this process as well, and there is often much giggling and hilarity when the solution turns out to be a very funky potholder!

Why do you teach?

I confess I really enjoy teaching! I like meeting new people and going to new places. I love it when I can see a student take some risks, try something new, and then have a eureka moment as the reward! I enjoy hearing from former students that they have been juried into some national show or won a prize at their local guild show. Some have sent me photos of the class quilt that they have gone on to finish, and I can “read” the pleasure they have taken in it. It is not a one-way street either. I have learned things from my students as well. I was not the greatest sewer in the world at first, and it was a student who sat me down and showed me that making bindings wasn’t that hard after all!

You can read more about Pamela in the Spring issue of The Professional Quilter, the journal of the International Association of Professional Quilters. The journal is available to members, and you can join here.

Please share your thoughts below.

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