Today is a beautiful day to be alive.
I’ve been keeping some *secrets* from you. I dropped SO MANY hints on my Instagram, but they’re so subtle you might not have known a storm was brewing. If you’ve been keeping up with me, you know I’ve been traveling even more frequently than usual. Portland, Portland again, Los Angeles, Vegas. I went to Portland and didn’t eat Voodoo DoughNut. I went to Los Angeles and didn’t go to the beach. Vegas, and no hookers or casinos. I’ll try to find a place to start that makes sense.
When I moved back to California, I had sold off my longarms and most of my worldly possessions and had no idea what I was going to do for work. I started taking some of QuiltMom’s runoff just to get by. Aunt Nancy and I have been working together a lot with the Villa Rosa brand redux, and we’ve been talking about her designing fabric for a really long time. I thought, how cool would it be to be an agent and hook my friends up with my awesome contacts and actually get paid for it too? I started researching licensing and agents and blah blah blah.
I’ve been following this surface designer, musician, and all around nice guy named Kelly Orr for a couple years now with his band and design brand Teen Hearts.
Kelly’s fun, happy illustrations have become a huge part of my personal style- the same way Amy or Melody reflect my taste, Kelly does too. When his back-to-school products became available, I drove to every Walgreens from Watt Ave in Sacramento to Diamond Springs and back to Grass Valley. Basically, I drove through the equivalent of New Jersey to get these. In December, I made an appointment to get a tattoo with him at his studio in Santa Ana. When we met, I ambushed him with my dreams of him designing a fabric collection and to my surprise, he didn’t think I was totally bonkers and was game. WHAT!!!! I couldn’t believe it.
I worked with both Nancy and Kelly on their respective collections and then started making phone calls and making appointments.
The first appointment I went to…….. sucked bobbins. I left the meeting wondering if I really was the world’s biggest piece of garbage, or possibly maybe the art director was just not a nice lady. Either way, it was horrible and I decided I wanted to quit before I even started. That lasted until a pep talk from Kelly got me back on the horse. “DUDE I’ve been to a million meetings like that. Eff ’em. They don’t get it. Moving on.”
The second and third companies loved the fabric, but wanted us to restructure each collection so that they were more formulaic. I promised myself that I wouldn’t work for a company that wanted to put us in a box. Design a main theme, then a secondary theme, lather rinse repeat. Our team is comprised of such unique people, there’s just no way that this could possibly work. So I just kinda….moved on.
All the while this was going on, a former Austin fabric rep of mine was secretly emailing and calling different companies and telling them to snap me up. I had NO idea this was going on. One day I got an email from a company named EBI. I had never heard of them before, and thought maaaaaybe this was spam trying to get my credit card? Their art director had just started her new position and was looking for fresh designers. I wasn’t sure about it, they seemed like maybe not our style, but hey, you never know. Down to Vegas I went. When I met Karen, the art director, I knew pretty much right away that we would make the best team.
I told her all about Kel and Nance and what we’ve been doing, and the crazy journey from conception to business meeting, and the control that we three collectively desired. Karen didn’t want us to be like other designers. It was like that moment when you meet the one you’ve been waiting for your whole life and you’re just like, OMG I LOVE OWLS AND MICHAEL JACKSON TOO REALLY OMG THIS IS SO PERFECT. Because when I find what I’m looking for, I turn into Teen Girl Squad and start chirping and weird things.
Then she asked me about MY collection. Where is it?
WHAT. You want ME to design?
If you know me well, or at all, really, you know that designing fabric has been my dream since I was 15 years old, but I lacked the skill set to design digitally. I told myself once I was good enough, I’d do it.
I worked really hard to get where I am. This may not be my only chance, but this momentum is too perfect for me to not capitalize on the opportunity. If everyone waited until conditions were perfect, most of us wouldn’t have been born. When I met with EBI, they were the first company that made me feel like family. I felt valuable, and my quirkiness was celebrated and encouraged. They laughed at ALL my stupid jokes and made me feel like it was a privilege to have me on board. And it is. Because with a party like this I should be selling tickets!
The best part about working for myself is that I can make my own rules. A few years ago, a prominent, award-winning quilter called me up and chopped it up with me about life and work. I told her about my shop closing and how I was just about to start rebuilding my career. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do yet; I knew I was still going to design for Villa Rosa, but outside of that, I had nothing. She told me to stop worrying about mass appeal and to make quilts for myself that I like. Quilts that reflect my own personal style and artistic process.
She also told me not to talk about music or my personal life on my blog or my professional pages. “People want to know you because they want to see your quilts. They don’t care about your current boyfriend or hip hop or your friends or whatever. Just focus on your quilts.”
The funny thing is, the thing about me that my fabric reps and my former guests and acquaintances remember is my undying love for Hall and Oates and how I went on a date with the hot UPS guy. They stick around because my quilts wow them, but they are drawn to my open, authentic heart. They can hear me laughing before they can see my quilts. When I polled my quilty friends for interview questions for my Schoolhouse with EBI at Spring Quilt Market, the majority of the questions consist of “Who is your secret quilty crush?” and “What hot guy are you thinking about when you’re sewing?” I believe my partnership with EBI is so perfect because since the day we met, they have encouraged me to be myself. That’s all I’ve ever wanted, and that’s all I want for everyone, really.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about authenticity, and in the spirit of that, I’m going to share some personal growth with y’all.
A long time ago I got in a falling out with another famous quilter. It manifested into a very ugly situation, and the majority of it was on my end. The problem was, we had mutual friends in and out of the industry. Everywhere I turned, there he was. People would see his quilts and email me- have you seen this? Thought of you, they would say.
At QuiltCon, our paths crossed at an intimate dinner/drink get together with other friends. It is NO secret that this thing between us happened, and my friends were all looking around nervously and cracking generic jokes. I’m not an avid drinker nor do I endorse drinking, but a few cocktails later I just didn’t give a f*ck. I was having a great time and this had been on long enough. Blame it on the truth serum, if you will, but as we were walking, I slowed to the back of the pack and settled next to him, mirroring his gait. “So. You and I? I guess we have a hatchet to bury, huh?”
He looked at me directly, eyes peering into my soul. I hadn’t noticed before, but I could see all of his insides when I looked into his eyes. I could see the little child inside of him. I could see love inside of him. I saw myself in his eyes, both my reflections.
And we just talked.
We talked about how we both felt. Why we were hurt. What went wrong and why it shouldn’t have gone that far. I looked him in the eyes and I apologized for being a bully for the first time in my life. For poisoning the well and for being so ugly. For not being a strong leader to my people and for even having Quilt Beef in the first place. The fact of the matter is, around the time of our falling out, my divorce was just being finalized and there was a lot of pain in my heart that I wasn’t even aware of at the time. It wasn’t even about him or me. It was greater than that.
This is all connected, follow me.
When I started focusing on myself and processing the past few painful years, it made me realize how much I had lashed out at the world when I was going thru all of that. Also, “all of that”= mom died, divorce, closed store all in 4 months, for those just tuning in. I deleted my blog from that time- too painful. I was angry in general, not just with specific instances. Even if I was justified to be angry, it was a deeper manifestation than the issue itself, every single time.
Then I had a “mean girl” moment and someone else treated me the way I treated homeboy (name protected but we all know who it is, right? anyway.) A business deal had gone bad between me and a friend. I told her that I wanted to stay friends, and who cares about business, sorry it didn’t work out. But when I texted her at QuiltCon, she didn’t respond and when I was on the floor, she walked right past me a few times and didn’t say anything. When I was in my fabric meeting, however, she somehow found her way to my table and was circling it like a shark. That’s when I realized that she was me, two years ago, and I had risen to a different place. So I did the thing that doesn’t make me the popular girl, but the real girl. I unfollowed her.
The unfollow is a whole other vortex. Some people take social media very seriously, and an unfollow can be the middle finger equivalent. For me, I don’t keep anyone in my life that’s not riding for me or with whom I’m not interested in having a close personal relationship. Even in business. I have that choice.
For me, it wasn’t an Eff You, it was more of a “I wish you well, but I am past this kind of dynamic.”
Two days ago, I received a Facebook friend request from Little Bear, an old coworker when I managed skateboard shops. We had had a really bad falling out five years ago and I actually quit my job because I didn’t want to work with him anymore. It was the most hostile environment. Since I’m newly liberated and empowered and all that jazz, I sent him a message. “I don’t even know what to say.” He responded with an eloquent apology, a well wish, and an extension of peace.
By making peace with Homeboy and letting go of Mean Girl, it cleared the space, the energy flow, for Little Bear to come back into my life and offer me a chance to forgive him. When I apologized to Homeboy, it was like it never happened in a way. We’re not nearly as close as we were before, and maybe we won’t ever be, but it’s better than it was. Before our fight, Little Bear was one of my greatest supporters. I look forward to regrowing that amazing friendship, to having that family member back.
How is Homeboy, Little Bear, Mean Girl all related to fabric design?
When you mind your own biscuits, life will be gravy.
By making peace with that which you cannot control, whilst focusing on the matters that you can control, juxtaposed with a real passion and love for everything, your life’s connectivity becomes apparent. Your reach; your ripple effect- you see it more clearly. The best thing I ever did was stop worrying about what people felt about me or if I was cool enough or too loud or a talented enough designer. I didn’t have to go on a social media fast, or delete all of my friends. I just had to make my biggest priority me and making myself better. What others do does not define what I do. How others treat me is their perogative.
It goes even farther and connects even wider. Can you believe this?
I sent a message to a musician I have been loving for the past ten years. I told him about how I had gone to one of his shows many years ago and the impact of his personality and character. I told him that his authenticity was my first glimpse into the paradigm that small acts of kindnesses create bigger ripples. And he wrote me back.
“I was just chuckling about my FB crush on you haha.”
SO THE POINT OF THIS BLOG is that you never know who is watching you, loving you, crushing on you, for the simple fact that you are living unapologetically. Someone out there sees you living your truth, and sees your testimony. Many of you will find out that I now design fabric, and be inspired to do it, too. And that’s a badass feeling. All I’ve ever wanted in this world is true connection.
And for the record, I have a crush on you, too. ❤