Friday, January 2, 2009

It's a New Year! Will Your Creative Dreams Come True?

I've received several emails the past couple of days from readers who've expressed a desire to sell their artwork, do craft shows, write books, design...all sorts of creative things. All I know is, "If you can dream it, you can do it!" You just have to want it bad enough! Or maybe you have to get hungry enough :o). WARNING: YOu might want to get a cup of coffee to read this, I'm going to be a little chatty!

I've had several people encourage me along the way to get where I am and I'd like to share that story with you.

You are probably aware that Mariah, my now 17 year old, was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 10 weeks old. As a result, she spent the next 7 years in and out of hospitals. I was always crafty and at the time she was born, Rag Jackets were all the rage and I was sewing my little heart out making one after another. I actually wore two of them into complete rags, I wore them so much! Anyways, I worked on crafts in the hospital and one nurse encouraged me to sell at craft shows. When I say you have to be hungry enough.... I mean hungry.... funds were very low and I took the last $500 we had and invested it in baby clothes to embellish and pay for the booth space for a craft show that was at a local mall. We were either going to "make or break it". That $500 turned into $1500 at the craft show and so my business "Mariah's Collection" was born.

So, for the next 10 years, I traveled regionally doing every craft show I could find. But you know after 10 years, it gets kind of old! Dragging tons of stuff all over creation was wearing on my creativity. That's when I decided to try to break in to the design side of the business.

Let me tell you....that was HARD! There are so many talented and creative people in the design business. I attended my first ACCI trade show in 1997 in Chicago. I had met a girl on the internet named Ginny who had been to this show the previous year. We roomed together and she introduced me to Donna Kato and Barbara McGuire - two of the most famous designers in polymer clay! The show totally overwhelmed me and I went home excited, scared, and a little um......downhearted thinking I could never be like them.

A year passed and I happened to see Barbara online. We chatted and she asked me if I would work a couple hours at the trade show at their booth. (Seriously!??!?!?!? ME??? - was running through my head...) She said she would pay $50 and give me $50 in clay - DONE! And so I was able to demonstrate what little I knew to store buyers and well, whoever wanted to stop and listen.

That was the year that I really got to know Barbara and Donna. During Donna's demo's she stood there and answered my every question, showing me a ton of techniques, was so kind and giving of her knowledge. She told me that if I wanted to succeed - I had to give! A lesson that has proved so true many times.....

Six months later, I received a call from Barbara McGuire again, this time inviting me to HIA in California to demonstrate. So here I am, the newbie demonstrating characters in between Barbara on one side and Donna on the other.....think I felt intimidated???? you betcha! Not because THEY made me feel that way...but because I felt that way. This was also a momentus year for me because at this show my character book "Little Folks and Friends" was released with success. It was a milestone....well.. or at least a tiny pebble on the path. I was thrilled to be published at last!

It didn't end there. Barbara and I went to the lobby of one of the nearby hotels. She needed to talk to her book editor about some details of her latest book. While we were there talking to him, she introduced me. Before I knew it she said "Linda has a great concept for a book - can you meet us on Sunday?" (this was Thursday) - I think the look on my face was priceless! It had to be somewhere between a suprize - I do??? to Yes I DO! Yep, before I knew it, Barbara had set a meeting up with him. When he left, she turned to me and said " Don't worry we'll come up with something!" And we did. They loved the concept of polymer clay for home decor.
She also introduced me to all her Carol Duvall producers and tried her hardest to get me on the show.

So....returning home I wrote the book proposal only to have it snatched from under me and the concept given to a more "famous" author. Oh learn! I learned! And Im still a little ticked about it...but you know...oh well........

From that point on I went to every ACCI and HIA. Donna and Barbara continued to mentor me. About 5 years had passed. Donna was developing her own clay and was stepping away from AMACO and the Fimo line. About this time, I was getting really discouraged. I was somewhat successful...but not really making any money at it. I had a few magazine projects in print - but I was turned down time and again for Carol's show.... and to top it all off, I had a husband at the time who was less than supportive, thought I was living a "Pipe dream" as he called it. And forbid me to go to the show.....well thank goodness I didn't listen to HIM!

I went to the ACCI show the summer of 2001 and broke down in tears when I saw Donna. Everything that could go wrong had. The booth I was working at didnt show up, my class supplies were missing, my clothes had gotten ruined (long story) I stubbed my toe on a wood pallette and got a splinter......and I said Donna, can you please help me???? Oh my goodness!

She introduced me to so many people that show. And by the end of the show, I had gotten approved to be on the Carol Duvall show, landed a demonstrating/designing position with AMACO and even signed a book contract! So....I wasn't living a "pipe dream" after all.

And that's when my career took took 5 long years of constant No's and "your not good enufs" to get there.

In September of 2001, I left my abuse marriage and things started looking up in both my ersonal life and creatively ever since. There were definately some hard times to deal with and still some NO's....but they were fewer and far between. Now 7 years later, I'm re-married to DANA, the man of my dreams who is fully supportive of my art work. He's been a fantastic partner and business manager. I think the thing we argue the most is that he doesnt feel I get paid what Im worth!! How bout that to go from someone who doesnt think you're worth a dime to someone who thinks you aren't getting paid enough!! He's been my cheerleader and supporter. ( I love you babe! and THANKS from the bottom of my heart!) I now have 8 books, several TV shows, I've toured the country and world teaching, I consult and write projects, I have a wonderful POM club - 4 great kids! And still the best mentors in the world!

I think about all that this time of year, where I've been, where Im at now, especially since at the end of the month we'll have the CHA show and I'll be working the AMACO booth again for the 8th year in a row.

Now, I know I was long winded at that story...but maybe you've experienced or are experiencing something similar. My advice? YOUR WORTH IT! Follow your dreams! You can do it! Just put yourself and your work out there and dont take the "no's" personal. We all get them more than we care too!

So make 2009 your best creative year and look back on where you were and where you are now and think ahead to where you want to be creatively?

I don't know if there's any way I can ever thank Barbara or Donna enough for the support and help they gave me along the way. The best I can do is to give as they give!

Will your creative dreams come true in 2009??? I sure hope so.


JF said...

You are an inspiration! Thank you for your story.

Mylene said...

I have tears rolling down my cheeks as I write this.... they're sad tears for the trials and tribulations you suffered along the way and they're happy tears for your successes. Thanks for sharing your story with another designer who is just starting out on that road. Absolutely inspiring!
Hope to see you at CHA.

Darlene said...

Very inspiring post - Thanks so much for sharing.

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