How to Become a Fiber Artist
Today’s “I Want to Be” series features Andi Shannon, who is an artist who works in fiber. She creates a variety of items from scarves and handbags to large quilted wall pieces. Andi is mom to one son who is finishing his second year of college. Find out how to connect with Andi at the end of this article.
How long have you had your business?
I’ve been selling work in galleries and festivals and from my studio for about four years.
What led you to pursue it?
Fiber art is one of my passions. Selling is a way to share beauty, make some money, and NOT leave an inheritance of stacks of art for our son some day.
Are you full time or part time? If part-time, do you anticipate switching to full time?
I work at art full time, meaning if I don’t have to be doing something else, I’m in the studio. I have mostly worked as a sign language interpreter in schools. I found a different part-time job working at home for a large computer company so that I could have more time for art. After a couple of years of that, I’m full time in the studio, but still occasionally sub in schools.
How do you market your business?
I’m working on improving my marketing. I don’t have a storefront, though people are always welcome to make an appointment to visit my studio. Mostly, it’s word of mouth, email, FB and my website, as well as anything the stores and galleries do. Every festival I do, I take a guestbook and collect email addresses to let people who are interested know where my work can be found, when the next show is, or how my latest wall piece is coming. I post on my FB art page (www.facebook.com/andishannonart) at least once a week, but my goal is twice a week or more.
What is your favorite part of the business?
My favorite day is one where I do nothing but create. No email, no phone, no laundry/dishes/sweeping, when I can have music or an audiobook on all day and not watch the clock for something else I have to do. To pull out a bin of fabrics or yarns and make something that has never been made before is blissful. And the thought that someone else will have that thrill of something beautiful in their lives makes it even better.
What one question do you get most from people about your business?
The most common questions is “How long did it take you to make that?” I’m learning to take that as an invitation to continue in conversation. Every piece is one of a kind, and I work quickly, but it’s not as simple as pointing at a pile of fabric and commanding “create!” A wall piece takes so much time, I usually lose track anyway! This is not a “pay by the hour” kind of job. Half the work is in the tedious. Inventory control, contacting galleries, following up on emails, photographing items, pricing, labeling, etc.
What one myth or misconception do you want to dispel about the work you do?
I very often have people say, “I wish had the time to do that.” I don’t “have the time”, as if it was extra. This is what I do. Wishing doesn’t make it so. Doing makes it so.
Another common one is people saying that they are not creative. First of all, everyone is creative in one way or another. If you survive raising children, you are creative. Keeping little ones engaged, happy and learning is all about creativity. But, as far as art goes, a lot of creativity comes from mastering technique, not just having the vision, though that’s where it starts.
What advice do you have for others who want to get into a similar opportunity?
If you’d like to do something like this, first of all know yourself. Can you part with something you’ve created? Many people sell art, then feel that they’ve lost something.
Are you self-disciplined? Not every day is filled with Cinderella’s birds helping along the way; you have to work when you don’t feel like it and work through when it isn’t going well.
Do you know when to stop? There is always more you could do/should do. But, you can’t do everything at once. As my Dad says, start at the beginning, keep going until you get to the end, then stop.
What is the first step?
First step is to get your seat in the chair and do the work. Dreams are great, but doing makes it reality.
Next, find a group of people who do something like you do. Not necessarily professionals, but people who will understand the joys and frustrations of your niche. I’m in a group of a dozen or so artists, and we meet every month. It is a sanctuary.
What websites or books do you recommend for tips?
Seth Godin’s blog is always encouraging to me. Sometimes it is a kickstart, other times it is a reminder that I’m on the right track.
To learn more about Andi, stop by her website, Andi Shannon. You can also follow her on Facebook.
*Photo via Andi Shannon.