How does one decide to become an artist?

Someone recently asked me this question. In the moment I responded, “I have always liked to make things.” But becoming an artist means more than just making things. The quote from Steven King is true: “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”

My first step in becoming an artist was beginning to take myself seriously. I applied myself to the study of art. I learned the language of design. I read art books. I studied art history. I took classes with professional artists. As I heard or read professional artists or art critics discuss art work, I tried to see what they saw. This is one of the ways I worked on developing my eye. I learned how to critique my own work. I also made visiting art exhibits a higher priority. For example, I traveled to London just to see the retrospective on Paul Klee at the Tate Modern. It was transformative for me.

I also began tracking how many hours I was actually working as an artist. This was inspired by another artist, Lisa Call. (Check out her awesome website She was achieving things I dreamed of doing, and I have to admit that I was a bit jealous. But then I asked myself a hard question. Am I really working as hard as she is? She shared that she tracked how many hours she worked. So I began to do likewise. I later heard a comment from my father when he was discussing one of his businesses. He said, “What gets measured gets improved.”

The country western singer Tim McGraw has a song titled “How bad do you want it?” It always boil down to this. How much are you willing to invest in developing your abilities? How seriously are you pursuing being an artist? How hard are you willing to work at developing your talent to its fullest potential? At then end of the day no one else in the world knows or cares how many hours I work in my studio. Only I do. So I measure my hours striving to improve efficiency, quality and production. Hopefully my hard work shows.

My studio hours from 2011 to today.

My studio hours from 2011 to today.

On Making a Shark Baby Quilt

I have one daughter. Her name is Winona, named after my beloved grandmother who taught me how to sew. My daughter has her own table in my studio. Through the years we have done a few small sewing projects, but she prefers her pastels and paints. So when she announced that she just HAD to make a shark baby quilt for her roommate’s sister’s first baby born during shark week, I was shocked but excited. This was also only two weeks before my daughter was leaving to spend her fall semester in Beijing, China. We had so much to do to get her ready for her trip! And we were also going to get this quilt done before she left?

Lots of thoughts ran through my head. Had she ever even met this sister? Would the baby girl be traumatized by a shark quilt? Does my daughter really have any idea how long it takes to make something like this? But the beauty of working together like I had always dreamed brought a crazy grin to my face. We would make this happen!

Winona wanted to sew. She wanted to make a quilt as a gift. That is how I started out. I could justify spending the time and money to make a quilt if it was a gift for someone else. I have met other artists who have shared the same story. When they first started creating, it was to make gifts or out of necessity.

Why is it we struggle to justify what we love doing — creating beautiful things? Doesn’t the world need more beauty? Do we have to have a purpose for making a piece of artwork? Or can we give ourselves the freedom to just make for the sake of making?

What would happen if we allowed ourselves to just create for the sake of creating? If we didn’t need an excuse?

Winona and I started the Shark quilt on a Sunday afternoon. She thought it would be all finished by the following day at 4 pm when she was driving back to Grand Rapids. Isn’t that sweet? Instead we mailed the quilt the following Saturday to her roommate who gave it to her sister. Turns out the father of the baby loves sharks like Winona does and thinks it’s awesome. Hopefully baby Junia will grow to love sharks too.

Winona and her Shark baby quilt for Junia.

Winona and her Shark baby quilt for Junia.

Saying Yes to opportunity!

Late last year when I began dreaming of a bigger space to work, I would have never thought of the opportunity that presented itself. And now I have a commercial building under contract!

I am excited about the many opportunities this building offers. It is centrally located in the state of Michigan only a few miles off of Interstate 96. Williamston is an hour to Detroit, an hour to Grand Rapids, 45 minutes to Ann Arbor, and only 20 minutes to Michigan State University.

Next step is planning the renovations. From the photo you can see the starting point. The building, approximately 100 years old, is currently a dance school with lovely 20 foot ceilings on both floors. I want to create a clean, modern space with great lighting. I also hope to use this space to create community through classes, critiques and perhaps a gallery space. Dreaming big.

What are your dreams? If you allowed yourself to dream with no limits, where could it take you? If you could do anything, what would it be?

Sometimes opportunity is disguised.

Sometimes opportunity is disguised.