I have never been nearly as successful as either of them, but I have made the same discovery that the "business" of art/quilting is not the same as, and often conflicts with, the making of art. I've owned a quilt shop, I've designed patterns, I've taught, I've been a sales rep for a fabric company. I'm happy not to be doing any of those things at this point in my life.
During that period of desperately trying to make a little money to justify my total devotion to fabric and sewing and art, I designed a baby quilt to submit to Quiltmaker magazine. I'm sure you've all seen the ads for their ongoing quilt design "contests". I approached it in a very calculated way. I looked at a bunch of past issues of the magazine and I asked myself what the readers were looking for. My answers all added up to a quilt, the likes of which I had never made, but I was game for giving it a shot. My criteria were:
- It had to be easy and fast to make
- It had to be "cute" and have a cute name
- It should include both piecing, but not too much piecing, and applique, but nice big easy-to-stitch applique shapes.
- Bears or bunnies--everyone loves bears and bunnies
This may sound cynical. It was not, but it was business, not art. The nice thing about the Quiltmaker contest is that you didn't have to actually make the quilt, you just had to come up with the design. My design for "Peek-a-b00 Bears" was accepted and appeared in the May/June 1996 issue. I was paid $100.
To this day I have never made this quilt, but for years I saw a version at nearly every quilt show I attended. People sent me photos of their quilts made from the pattern. People told me how much they looooooved that pattern. A Google search this morning turned up several being sold on a web site (yikes--questionable color choices!) and one that won third prize in a Twin Falls, Idaho quilt show. (Of course none give me design credit--oh well) Several years ago Quiltmaker sent out an advertising mailer to probably every quilter in the US. The center spread of the mailer was Peek-a-boo Bears along with a miniscule picture of me with very big hair. It was on their web site for years. It has been a very popular pattern. Go figure.
I'm not complaining. Really. I'm happy that people like it. But it does nag at me that this pattern may be my quilting legacy. To date it is, by far, the most famous quilt I never made.
Postscript: Apparently some people thought I was saying I was embarrassed by or ashamed of having designed this baby quilt. Not so! I still get a little thrill seeing it in print and seeing that people just keep making this quilt. Caity's comment about having made the quilt blew me away! But I still think it is a little ironic that it may always be the quilt that I am best known for, when it doesn't really reflect the work that means the most to me.