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Magazine Article: How Not to Run a Creative Business

I had the recent opportunity to contribute to a great little magazine in the UK called "Be Creative with Workbox" and I'm super excited to share the full article with you here!  And for my people only, the magazine is offering a great special: 

£12.49 for 3 months and get the current issue for FREE! Here is the link…

http://bit.ly/2syLUha

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I’m Emily Taylor, creative entrepreneur, designer and collage quilt artist.  It’s been quite a journey to get here! While I displayed artistic talent as a child, my intention was to be a lawyer, partly because I was convinced that artists don’t make any money.  While in college, studying political science and preparing to go to law school, I discovered that by using my natural artistic talent (and a hearty dose of tenacity) I could make money working for myself as a mural artist.  Oh, the irony~making money as an artist to support myself in school! I began by knocking door-to-door in upscale neighborhoods with a couple photos of my work asking if anyone was interested in hiring me to paint a mural. The success I had and the flexibility of being my own boss was an ideal situation for a college student.  I graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Utah, but was enjoying my gig as a mural artist and so I delayed going to law school. I reflect often on that scrappy girl and remember the lessons I learned about taking risks, creating a business and mostly, about how to paint. Everything I learned about painting, I taught myself through doing: through making mistakes and figuring out how to do it better.  

 

The foundation I developed in drawing and painting as a mural artist prepared me for a career in the quilt industry. My job as a fabric designer for Riley Blake Designs began when, as a young mother, I was anxious to get back to work.  However, I wanted to do something from home so I could still focus on my primary role as a mom. I landed upon the idea that I would like to design quilt fabric! The only catch was that I now had to develop the skills to create digital artwork, something I never even knew was possible.  I bought a computer and design software, and set about teaching myself how to use them. During that period, I would put my kids to bed each night and head to my room for hours of late-night learning. When I had developed just the basic skill set needed to submit a portfolio of design work, I was rewarded with a contract to design fabric.  

 

After having created a dozen fabric collections for Riley Blake Designs, I decided to concurrently launch a company called PatternJam.  PatternJam was an amazing online tool that allowed users to create a quilt pattern, to upload their own fabric and to see what the quilt would look like.  It also provided fabric requirements and cutting instructions for the user-created pattern. Finally, PatternJam gave users the tools to create customized quilt tops, which were printed and shipped to the user.  It was a great little company, but it was a threat to my relationship with Riley Blake Designs. Unfortunately, I was not so gently “relieved” of my status as one of their designers.

 

Additionally during this time I had partnered with an investor who had a vision for PatternJam that did not square with my own.  The relationship soured (I was pushed out of the business entirely) and the company I had created was decimated. Everything I’d built up to that point was in ruins.  The loss of PatternJam was extremely painful. However, from this difficult experience, I learned how to run a business (and how not to). It also challenged my resiliency and re-awakened my creativity.  Sometimes, from the ashes of our most devastating failure comes the greatest success and clarity of purpose.  

 

Today, I feel incredibly blessed that I was able to learn from the unfortunate end of PatternJam.  Shortly following that episode I began to explore and experiment with collage quilts. I completed my first collage quilt in late 2017.  My method for creating collage quilts is to apply traditional principles of art such as color theory, balance, and composition. I love to create a simple stylized design, like “Sublime”, and then allow fabric do its magic as I apply it to the design using my understanding of color theory.  Likewise, I enjoy taking a complex image like “The Horse” and reducing it to a minimum number of values to which I can assign any fabric combination, so long as the values are consistent. The result, in both cases, is a strikingly rich piece that employs the use of dozens of unique fabrics.  And, being a quilter, I love fabric as much as I love the creative process.

 

The subjects of my collage quilts reflect things I am passionate about.  “Adoration” is a tribute to the work of Gustav Klimt, as well as a representation of my fierce devotion to my children.  “Art in Bloom” is a piece that captures my appreciation for still life impressionist painting. My favorite piece “Grizzly”, commands the space of the composition, as well as the attention of the viewer.  Seeing a grizzly bear in the wild does the same for me-- it is a gripping experience, one that commands my full attention because I’m enthralled by them and terrified of them.

 

I consider myself to be in the nascent stage of my development as a collage quilt artist.  In other words, I’m still learning and developing my craft. I am fortunate that I can support myself through pattern sales and teaching.  Because I’m still learning, I really enjoy sharing my journey with my customers, and it’s important to me that they have success with my patterns.  To this end, each pattern contains a pre-printed foundation panel that has the design printed on it in shades of gray. This guides the process of fabric selection and fabric placement, making it surprisingly easy to create a beautiful collage quilt.  Making one of my patterns is a little bit like painting-by-number with fabric! My patterns are available to purchase on my website, CollageQuilter.com, where I also provide tutorials for common questions about making a collage quilt. To further aid in the education of my customers, I oversee two Facebook Groups: Collage Quilter and Collage Quilt Along with Emily.  Additionally, I have a YouTube channel (Collage Quilter), and have just written my first book: Collage Quilter~Essentials for Success with Collage Quilts.

 

I look forward to creating each day in my new studio above the garage of my home in Sandy, Utah.  The windows of my studio look out to the beautiful and rugged Wasatch mountains, whose granite cliffs and thick pine forests inspire me on a daily basis.  When I’m not in my studio, you might find me hiking or biking or skiing in those mountains with my husband and three children. I am truly blessed.

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Comments (3 Responses)

21 July, 2020

LynnAnn

Very interesting – so you are (were) Patternjam – I remember the day I stumbled upon Patternjam – it was a like a secret treasure so much fun to play with. I also remember wondering what was going on when the future of Patternjam seemed threatened in some way. Brilliant idea by the way. Sometimes I look back on my own life recalling difficult situations that I somehow managed to get through and then – much later in some cases – realizing those difficulties were all a part of what needed to happen – although it never seems that way while it’s happening. Oddly, I find that if you think about those personal loses long enough you realize that many of them, if not all, are truly – dare I say – gifts for our own future personal gain – yours is a such a great example of that. Positive attitude wins every time. Resentment is the lesson we need to get beyond to claim that gain. Your art is so inspiring. Every piece you produce is that lesson in color theory I wish I could grasp. Thank you for your story – my 20 year old daughter is a business major in college and will love to read it. The lesson is that the climb to success in business is anything but straight up. Many best wishes and successes to you

23 March, 2020

Deborah Kean

What an inspiring story, I love your work. I’m so anxious to start Clementine, but promised my best friends’ widower husband (she died 4/13/19) I would do a 30”x30” quilt for her birth sign, Pisces. I have the fabric & a sketch of the two fish & have collected lots of ideas on Pinterest, just hoping I can do a good job. Any suggestions would be appreciated…

23 March, 2020

Patti

Wonderful article. I’m honored to call Emily a friend. She is not only an excellent teacher and talented artist, she is a brave advocate for choosing integrity over all else.

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