- Because it is fun.
- Because it is relaxing.
- Because I love to combine fabrics together to make something beautiful.
But for how many of you is the answer: to make money?
This is a tricky question and I hope you don't mind the direction I'm going in today because I really need to start talking about this more. Talking about money, profit, and wealth makes many people uncomfortable, and if you aren't really into this idea, please feel free to check out designs today instead.
First off, there is absolutely nothing wrong with making money with your love of quilting.
Recently I posted my very strong feelings about this on The Bitchy Stitcher's site when she asked what she should do with the profits from a calendar she's producing. I practically shouted at her that making money is not a sin - not feeding your children or paying your mortgage, however, could get you thrown in jail!
Many, many quilters are in this hobby to make money. Longarmers, designers, and pretty much any professional quilter you meet has crossed from that place of quilting only for fun.
How do you think quilting has become a multi-billion dollar industry? Numbers of that kind get generated by people that are equally passionate about quilting as they are about bringing home the bacon.
Is this not the dream of so many creative people? To be able to do what you love, AND get paid for it as well? How could it be a bad thing when so many people dream and wish of exactly this life?
So no, it's not bad or uncouth or ugly or mean or any negative thing to want to do what you love and make money with it.
But...there is always a "but"....can you love your creative hobby as much when money gets involved?
Here's my personal experience: when I went to college, I started sewing a lot. I'd sewed a bit before, but mostly it was hand work. Now all of a sudden, I couldn't get enough of my sewing machine.
I started sewing so much, I dropped out of college (kind of inevitable when you stop attending class to make a skirt instead). I figured if I loved sewing so much, I could absolutely support myself with it.
But here's the catch - as soon as I started making things to sell, my joy at sewing started to diminish. I would page through patterns no longer with the intent to find a fun project, but to find something that someone else, some imaginary person, would like to buy.
How many times have you been told to design something like x, y, z because that is what is selling right now? How many times have you fiddled with a complicated pattern to make it more appealing to the masses?
I know it's a problem, and I'm ranting about it today because I'm currently pulling myself, fist by fist out of a huge, deep, black pit of Quilters Block. I haven't quilted ALL SUMMER. I haven't been ABLE to quilt.
I'm not lying. The last thing was binding on Hot Cast back in June. Until last week, I hadn't quilted in 9 weeks.
For someone who is as passionate, over-the-moon in love with quilting as I am, this is a catastrophic problem. Every time I walked into my studio, I walked back out again. Every time I started a project, I threw it in the trash. I simply could not work on anything. I couldn't find my usual happiness with it.
I found a lot of things to blame it on: a messy studio, lots of UFOs, lack of inspiration, etc, etc, etc. The truth is, I was overwhelmed with inspiration. Every day I would wake up with a new awesome project or idea bouncing around in my head.
But then I would sit down at the kitchen table and write down that idea, and then a thought would pop into my head "How does this pertain to the free motion quilting project? Will this go in a book? Will I make a video of it? Will I share it on the blog? Will I make a DVD of it? WHAT IS THE POINT?!!! WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT??? DON'T YOU KNOW??? MAKE A PLAN!!!"
As you can probably tell, by the time I got downstairs I had a fully diagrammed, completely outlined plan for that project and all the possible ways we could make money with it or share it on this blog.
I also had utterly no desire to make that project now because I'd thoroughly ruined it.
I'm being this honest and sharing this experience because I really hope, if you are in a similar situation, you can avoid making this same mistake. This sucks.
I now believe that every time you dumb yourself down, every time you make something just to sell, every time you design something just for the sole intent of selling, not for the joy or creativity of it, you lose a bit of your magic.
I like to think of it like a magic meter from Zelda. We have a bar that stretches from our heart to our hands, and we need to be respectful of this bar.
No, I'm not saying to never mix your passion with your need to pay the bills. No, I'm certainly not saying to not try to make a living doing what you love. I'm also not saying that you can't regain your magic after messing it all up on commissioned pieces and the like.
What I am saying is this - finding a balance is tricky.
If you lean too far into the money pond, away from the living tree of crafting passion, you are very likely to fall straight out of that tree and splat face first into that pond. You'll have a lot of money, but you won't love, or find as much joy, in your craft.
Many people are perfectly fine with this trade off. I'm not.
I feel like I've just lost my best friend. I feel like I've been abandoned by the love of my life. I feel like I've divorced my hands from my heart and I have no magic meter. I can't stand this anymore, and something must be done.
Very luckily, I happen to have downloaded the right book to help me deal with this. I've been listening to Drive: the Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink.
Basically this book digs into different ways we are motivated. For simplicity's sake I'm just going to talk about Extrinsic and Intrinsic motivation. The book goes into much more detail and into FLOW, which I think is super, super important, but for now, let's just talk about these:
Extrinsic motivation is the drive to make money and achievements. A great example of an extrinsicly minded person would be to make quilts only to compete with and win the big prizes at quilt shows.
Intrinsic motivation is the drive to simply do what you love. Not for the money, not for the end result, not for the finished quilt, or the used up fabric. Not for ANY END RESULT. Intrinsic is internal. Quilting for the love and joy of stitching. Nothing more.
When I started this project back in 2009, the night I started it, I remember being filled with Intrinsic Motivation. That humming, thrumming energy of passion and excitement and edge-of-your-seat anticipation.
I was started this project without any knowledge of what would happen monetarily. I didn't know it would turn into a business. I didn't know I'd eventually be a self publisher. I didn't CARE about any of that stuff.
I just wanted to quilt every day for a year.
But the reality was, 2009 saw some pretty big shifts in our family and the stability of Josh's job. Even as early as a month after starting this intrinsically motivated project, it became apparent that we needed another source of income, and FAST!
And so the tide turned from intrinsic to extrinsic. The designs were still created and posted with the same intrinsic mindset, but other biproducts - the books, dvds, etc, began to dominate with an extrinsic motivation.
I'm trying to explain this clearly and I really hope it doesn't come off wrong. I had to build my business quickly to support my family. As my motivation shifted, so too did the focus and speed of this project.
Things change, sometimes extremely quickly, and motivations must shift, but I do regret losing that initial thrumming excitement I used to feel with every new design.
So what now? 2 years later, we have built a successful online quilt shop. Thanks to all of you, my wonderful readers, this project continues to grow and spread and reach new quilters.
I've had to be extrinsically motivated all this time because, well, we needed to be able to eat! If I couldn't pay my mortgage, I don't think this project would have lasted very long anyway...
But does this need to continue?
I almost feel like a little kid again asking "Can quilting be fun for me again, please?"
Can I just quilt? Can I just create and not worry if it looks good? Can I just experiment? Does everything have to look amazing and spectacular, or can I be real and show you my ugly stitches, my failed projects, my mistakes?
I want to return to intrinsic motivation and simply quilt for the joy of quilting. Not for any specific goal. Not even for the finished, bound, and beautiful quilt. Just to stitch for the joy of it.
Maybe this is high minded and silly and you're right now rolling your eyes at my naivety. Maybe there isn't a way to balance this kind of passion and business.
All I know is, I've got to try to get my groove back, otherwise it will be pretty silly to call myself a quilter who doesn't make quilts.
So the first step I'm taking is to make a quilt for a friend. This is a quilt that I have to finish in just 1 week, so I can't over think it. I can't obsess about it or turn it into a huge multifaceted project. I am taking photos as I work on it, and shooting videos where I can, but I'm not going out of my way to turn this into something it's not.
It is a gift. A gift I'm giving to myself to return my focus to what I love and a gift for this friend to show her how much I appreciate her. A gift, nothing less, and nothing more.
Here's to seeking and hopefully finding this balance between the need for money (gotta pay the bills) and the joy of quilting.