Thursday, June 24, 2010

Questions on Being a Working Artist

As a full time artist working from my home studio, I am sometimes an oddity at social gatherings. There are questions that I am asked nearly every single time I meet someone, and they find out what I do. I understand that I live differently than most of the population more than likely, so I understand their sometimes probing questions, and try to answer them the best that I can.

I have always been a very unscheduled free spirit artist, I created when I wanted to create. Or when I felt “inspired”.  Now I almost laugh at myself for that. I read a book recommended to me by Jane Davila called The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life by Twyla Tharp. Let's just say, I won't be waiting for my “muse” to force my hands into a creative frenzy any longer. I now write my morning pages every single day, which is a excellent writing/art tool that I learned from The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.

I am trying very hard, to create a manageable schedule for myself, that allows me the time to get the articles for here completed, as well as art pieces, exploration and learning. Fortunately, for the most part, all of these aspects can be related and be used to aid the others! I am still working hard to keep myself focused. Examples: 1. I am trying to put most/all housework to the end of the day or early evening, just as someone who went to a job all day outside the home needs to do. 2. I don't take as many phone calls, and when I do, I try and always used my hands free piece so I can keep going on about what I was doing. 3. I stopped bringing my laptop (with it's web pages, and Facebook and email) into the studio, unless I am down there writing on it! 4. I keep LOTS of lists right by my machine, and pin up the goals for the day each day. 5. I am FORCING myself to NOT give into my inner critic (i.e. I'm NOT giving into fear anymore!)

Then I started to wonder, do other work from home artists have the same answers to the questions? How different can they be? Do I work differently than everyone else? Do other artists have the same difficulty I have with staying focused at times? Up until recently, all of my focus was simply on creating, and experimenting with different techniques and trying new things in the studio.

So, keeping in mind that I am not going to let fear stop me, I approached several artists/designers that I admire and follow (on their blogs, I'm no stalker you know!) and posed the questions I receive often to them! First let me introduce you to them:

Jane Davila: A fiber and mixed-media artist, living in Connecticut. Her latest book is Jane Davila's Surface Design Essentials for C&T Publishing. You can see more about and from Jane at her website:, and on her blog at

Lyric Montgomery Kinard: A fiber artist, with award winning wall quilts and wearable art pieces. She currently lives in Cary, North Carolina with her husband and five children. Her blog Lyric Art is a constant stream of eye candy for me!

Teri Harris Lucas: Is an amazing domestic machine quilter (on her Bernina 1080), pattern designer and tester for Benartex, and had been seen on Quilting Arts TV (Episode 503) Her blog is Terrificreations and as you will see there, her quilting is stunning!

Melanie Testa: Textile designer and fiber artist, and graduate of The Fashion Institute of Technology in Textile/Surface Design.. She is the author of “Inspired to Quilt: Creative Experiments in Art Quilt Imagery”, Interweave Press, 2009 and Quilting Arts Workshop now offers “Print, Collage, Quilt” a DVD companion to the book. Her blog “Every-Single-Day” is a treasure trove of tips, tricks, tutorials and just plain prettiness!

Elin Waterston: Fiber artist, surface designer, graphic designer and writer. Her print publication range from “Art Quilts at Play”, C&T Publishing 2009, “Art Quilting Basics” (DVD), C&T Publishing, 2008, “Art Quilt Workbook”, C&T Publishing 2007, and more, as well as articles in Cloth Paper Scissors! Her website features samples of her fiber art, as well as her graphic design (which shows in the website itself!) There's also a link to her blog on there.

Now on to the questions!

Do you have a schedule each day? If so, can you give us the run down of how your day goes?

Jane: Office/businessy work for the first 10-12 hours or so, followed by a couple of hours in the studio (on a good day), ending with a few more hours of computer work (I don't sleep very much).

Lyric: No schedule. I have five children and fit my work into their schedule. Hand work at hockey practice, sewing while they swim, piecing while they play, and painting while they sleep.

Teri: Each day varies as I work part time, teach when I can, take my dmil for appointments and work from home.

Melanie: I wake around 6, I do computer stuff over coffee, update my facebook fanpage, my blog,and I read other blogs and post at that point too. I try to complete this by 8 or 9. I start my creative day at that point. If I need to write an article, or create class content I will make a list and do that first. I find that if I limit my 'have to' list and make a completion time, say 3. At which point I am allowed to free for all it. I am much better off. When I do not have creative deadlines, I will start right in on printing, quiting, journaling or whatever the creative obsession of the week is.

Elin: No, I work when I can and when the spirit moves me.

Do you ever find it difficult to stay on track and not be distracted by laundry, dishes and other household distractions?

Jane: Fortunately (or unfortunately, lol) I can easily tune out household stuff. I'm lucky that my husband does all the cooking and most of the grocery shopping. My house is clean and tidy, but that stuff is not a huge priority. It gets done when it gets done.

Lyric: Yes of course. I only have short bits of time.

Teri: As each of these needs to be accomplished and I'm the primary person, by choice, for these I do my best to incorporate both the necessary functions of the house and quilting. Sometimes the quilting wins out, sometimes the other tasks win, depends on what's going on and what the deadlines are.

Melanie: Never. I make time to make art. Period. The rest gets done in good time because when I make art I am happy. When I am happy, I also clean the house without hesitation. My husband is also very supportive and lends a hand.

Elin: Yes, I'm easily distracted and not a good multi-tasker.

Everyone always asks, “Don't you get bored?” you?

Jane: It hasn't happened yet, and I doubt it ever will. If anything, there's too much to do, think about, imagine, create, be, dream, wonder, plan, etc.

Lyric: No - I have such a variety of things going on all the time that if I am bored of one I can move to another.

Teri: Not really, I usually have several projects going on at the same time and easy access to these so I can switch as necessary.

Melanie: Nope. I think that when you actively engage in creative pursuits, more creative doors open and more experiments occur to you. We are talking about creating a creative practice. Literally. Practice being creative, set creative goals, ask what if. Allow your inner scientist to have time to come out and play.

Elin: Sadly, yes, I get bored very easily. But I work fast and bounce around from project to project.

What is the best part of working from home?

Jane: Not having a commute, having flexibility in my schedule.

Lyric: Being able to fulfill my primary responsibility as a mother and also fulfill my creative compulsions.

Teri: I can be flexible.

Melanie: Leaving home. I find that because I work out of my home I need to make dates to leave home. Meet friends, take myself out for coffee. Balance. I love having all my props and supplies right here, I love being able to pick up a creative pursuit at whim. I want to work from home, keep my studio in my home. But I also need to leave it all behind. Luckily I live in a city, Brooklyn. I can pick up and go to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Moma, the botanical gardens, all a short train ride away. Or I can brew coffee and sit on my neighbors stoop and shoot the breeze.

Elin: Having my dogs with me!

What is the worst?

Jane: Work is ALWAYS there. I always think of something else that needs doing, an ad that's due and needs to be designed and sent in, a website that needs updating, a sleeve that needs to be sewn on, a project that needs to be finished, etc, etc, etc -- it's impossible to turn off when it's right there in the next room waiting for me so I end up working too much. Finding balance is really, really difficult.

Lyric: Needing to fulfill my primary responsibility as a mother while the creative compulsions have to wait. But it's all good. They grow very quickly.

Teri: I can be flexible.

Melanie: I guess you can flip the last statement to say, I feel trapped by working from home. But I took care of that by purchasing a laptop effectively allowing me to write articles and class content from the tables of coffeeshops worldwide :)

Elin: There is no worst.

Random question: How old were you when you first started quilting/doing fiber art?

Jane: I was 22.

Lyric: Around 27?

Teri: 24

Melanie: 19, I signed up for a traditional quilting class in my local town and fell head over heels.

Elin:  I was raised with a heavy emphasis on the arts and I starting sewing as a child, so there's been some form of fiber and art since childhood. I usually say I started for real when I was 30 though.

As you can see, everyone is different when it comes to working from home. It shows that pretty much any personality can work from home, which is a good thing.

I want to give a huge thank you to Jane, Lyric, Teri, Melanie and Elin for taking the time to answer these questions! You guys rock!


  1. (laughing) You and me both my friend! Same books, same struggles! I loooove Twyla Tharpe's book and hope to put it into serious practice some day. Well - actually on August 25th, 2011 - the day my youngest starts school!

  2. Fabulous blog article. I love the direction your blog has been taking. Keep it up Steph.

  3. Thanks for the article Steph. So much of what they have said applies to my life too. And I like what you've said in your statements as well. Think I'll go re-read that now.

  4. Thanks for the post - I LOVED reading what everyone else wrote. The challenges I'm dealing with now are different than the challenges I had when my daughter was still young and I worked full-time somewhere else. It's interesting to read about where other people are and what challenges they face.

  5. Great post, I am going to facebook it!

  6. Great post, Stephanie! Your new blog is really taking off after you talked about it at the last MN SAQA meeting at your home.

    It was a real treat to see your new studio space and your entire home really is a gallery of your work.

    Continued Success!