The very first thing I did when I struck out on my own this fall was to apply for a grant to the MN State Arts Board.  Applying for a grant probably is one of the more nerve-wracking things you can do as an artist, and not only because you are putting yourself out there for pretty intense critical review, but instead of communicating about your art in the way you know best (by doing it), you are having to communicate through answering essay questions and budgets and photographs.  It’s like stepping back and looking at your work from the other side – describing it in ways that someone else can understand the significance and motivation for what you are trying to do.  It’s also about trying to remember to describe all of the things I know about what I do to someone who is not familiar with my field or practice.  Will they understand what I mean when I say I will be digitally printing on fabric or do I need to explain that more?  Will they trust me that I can get from Step A to Step B or do I need to tell them how I will get there?  If I only have 500 words to answer this question, what will I choose to emphasize because I can never go into as much detail as I want to.  Will they understand what I am trying to do?

I have a somewhat unique experience, I expect, because I have also sat on the other side of this process, having served on a number of panels reviewing grant applications very similar to this and having been on the administrative end of processing grant applications and working with applicants.  I have been the panelist who has read and re-read trying to find the answer to the question that I have.  I have scoured the resume looking for the experience and Googled definitions of dance terms to make sure I am understanding what I am reading about.  I know how hard it is to review them, just as well as I know how hard it is to write them.  I think this helps me be a better writer for sure.

My application was a fairly straightforward one for this grant.  Some money to help support making new work and showing it in an exhibition.  It had a community component of mini workshops, which would allow the public to make fabric designs along with me.  It included some equipment (dress forms) for a professional display of my work. I talked about an exhibition theme of ice, because the work would have been on display in January and February and how this would connect with the audience I was hoping to attract. I worked on it really hard for a couple of evenings and had several helpers who read things over for me and made suggestions.  The process is all online with a series of forms to fill out and files to upload.  It easily took me more than 15 hours to write it and upload everything.

I applied in August; we got the results in January.  We were invited to come and listen to the panel review our applications in person (Minnesota has an open meetings law which lets you do this.)  I debated about going to listen. I had something else scheduled that day, which I could have moved and I chose instead to go the “chicken” route and not go.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to listen to them tear apart my application.  This was the first time I had applied after all and really the first time I had put my work out there in front of strangers and said “Tell me what you think!”

I got the email in early January with the news that my application had not been funded.  I was disappointed and a little relieved.  A couple of friends who I much admire did have applications that were funded.  I am happy for them.  The email from the Arts Board said “Email us and we will send your scores and comments and the audio recording of your panel review.”  I thought about that for a while. I was an arts administrator for many years and I know how valuable the feedback can be from panels & jurors.  And I totally didn’t follow my own advice.  I had a moment of wavering confidence and decided I would just be done and I didn’t want to hear the recording or know the scores.  When I submitted the application, I was still employed at my former art center gig and I hadn’t even had a minute to think about what my next artistic step was going to be. Or if I was really even going to do it.  I knew that showed in my application and they would see I was all over the place.  I knew they wouldn’t be able to see how being at my former job wasn’t just one opportunity after another for me.  Chalk it up to experience and move on.

So today I got a note with the official “Sorry we didn’t fund you” letter.  And it totally changed my mind.  The program manager for the program I applied to took the time to write a personal note on my form letter.  And she said (in a nutshell), “Your application was really great especially since it was your first one.  Email me for your scores – you were so close.  Way to go!  Apply again next year and I would be happy to read it over for you and give you some feedback.”    Wow.  Really?  So I emailed her.

The takeaway…

Don’t be a wimp!  It ends up that I only missed getting funding for my project by about 1/2 a point.  That’s right.  I was super amazingly close.   And I would have had no idea.

I listened to the audio recording too because I was suddenly feeling a little more confident. They were super complimentary of my work.  They had thoughtful comments about my project plan.  I inspired them with my description of the community project hands-on. (Yes!) They had a difference of understanding about what is cutting edge in the field of digitally printed fabric – they weren’t wrong in any way, I just need to tell my story a little better. They liked the ice theme and how it seemed really relevant.  In fact, I wish they had talked a little more, because I don’t actually have many concrete suggestions for ways that I could improve that application.  It is great to hear the affirmatives, but I would have loved a “I wish she would have explained more about….” kind of comment too.

Every panel is different and the group next year might have totally different things that they love or hate, but knowing that I connected with this panel is a pretty great feeling.  One thing I miss about my old job is the opportunity to be a mentor.  I used to write those personal notes, because it seemed like the right thing to do.  I was right.  That also feels good.

Think of this as an “artist behind the scenes” post.  My brother in law and I talked this morning about how alike our jobs were in some ways.  He is a sales guy and his success entirely depends on what he is doing to make it happen.  Art is the same way.  Every day you have to get up and make it happen.

Thank you to two awesome classes at Dakota County Libraries!  I promised my Etsy class tonight that I would post a link to a tutorial for making your shop banner. Here it is.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 4.22.33 PMIt’s the month for classes for me.  Another fun class you can come to is a panel discussion called “Digitizing for Dollars” that I will be participating in on January 29 at 6:30 pm at NE Bank Community Room in Minneapolis.  It is presented by WARM (Women’s Art Resources of MN).  Several panelists will be talking about digitizing your original art and selling it online.  I will be talking about Spoonflower and using your original art to make fabric.  The other panelists will be talking about things like making patterns, digital prints and putting your artwork on objects (totes and coffee mugs).  I have worked with this group before and there is always great discussion and good questions, so I am looking forward to it.  (The event is free for WARM members, $5 if you come as a guest of a WARM member or $10 for the public.)

I am teaching two classes for the Dakota County Libraries this month.  They are a little outside of the Minneapolis area but they are free classes (funded by a State Arts Legacy Grant) so it might be worth the drive.

First up is “A Taste of Digital Fabric Design” on January 22 at 6 pm at Wescott Library.  You can register here.  (It’s free, but we like to know who’s coming.)

This class is like the “get your toes wet” experience for designing your own fabric and printing it through Spoonflower.  We will make a collaborative design in class and I will show you all of the steps to get it printed: scanning, resizing and setting resolution, uploading, repeats and so forth.  You don’t need to bring anything – it’s presented demonstration style so you can take lots of notes and follow along without your laptop.  I hope it will be just the right amount of information to get you started and give you confidence to try your first design and not so much technical stuff that you will fee lost and overwhelmed.  After class, I will order some of our collaboratively designed fabric and I will mail you a swatch of it so you can see it in person.  If you have ever wanted to try your hand at making a custom fabric, this is the class to get you started.

Here is a sample of a fabric we made in another class.

Valentine Grid repeat at Spoonflower. Collaborative class project.

Valentine Grid repeat at Spoonflower. Collaborative class project.

On January 26th, it is “Etsy Behind the Scenes” at the Farmington Library at 6:00.  You can register here.

This class is a tour behind the scenes of running an Etsy shop.  Not just tips and tricks, but I log in and take you on a live tour of what my shop looks like from the seller’s perspective.  I will show you how to use the built in tools and talk about options and ways you can run your shop.  I have had an etsy shop for more than 9 years, so I will give you a wealth of ideas from what I have learned:  what works, time savers and time wasters, Etsy vocabulary and more.  If you are on the fence about opening a shop or you have one and aren’t sure what to do next, I think you will find something in this class to help you.

I hope to see you there!


I bought myself a present of a pretty skein of handspun yarn at the Weavers Guild fiber fair…


I started knitting it at a band concert…


And I finished it last night. Pattern is Multnomah.  The yarn is by a local spinner (who seems to not have an online presence) and it’s merino.  It blocked out really nice and smooth and just barely fit on my dining room table.



retroFashion-18I have some exciting news to start the new year!

Fiber Artists on the Rise
Textile Center Designates 2015 – 2016
Jerome Fiber Artist Project Grant Recipients
January 7, 2015
MINNEAPOLIS, MN — Textile Center is pleased to announce the 2015 Jerome Fiber Artists Project Grant Recipients: Sarah Kusa, Becka Rahn, Jennifer Schultz, and Kate Vinson. Now in its seventh year, this program is designed to expand opportunities for emerging fiber artists in Minnesota, supporting them each with a $5,000 project grant, as well as additional professional development programming (in collaboration with Springboard for the Arts). The fellowships include exhibition planning and implementation culminating with a final show of the artists’ new work from September through October, 2015, at Textile Center’s Joan Mondale Gallery.

Sarah Kusa
Kusa attended the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and has continued with her artistic education with classes at Highpoint Center for Printmaking, Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Textile Center, and the University of Minnesota. Manipulating and transforming materials such as paper, thread or fabric is at the heart of Sara’s studio practice. The materials she uses play with the duality of delicate-and-strong that can be mimicked in the human condition, and her final works are sculptural forms that deal with human vulnerability, resilience, and interconnectedness.

Kusa’s goals with her project are to grow her body of sculptural three-dimensional work, and to learn first-hand about creating larger-scale installations for a gallery space. Drawing on recent works and structuring the project based on distinct types of spacial problem solving, Kusa will create a wall-based, floor-based and ceiling-suspended installation.

Becka Rahn
Rahn is a self-taught “engineer” of digital surface design and wearable art. She creates designs from digitally manipulated photographs which are then printed on a variety of fabrics. She uses her custom fabrics to make wearable art garments using original and vintage patterns. Rahn worked as the Education Manager at Textile Center for 11 years; she recently retired to pursue her artistic career.

Focusing on artistic development for the project grant, Rahn identified important goals that could be achieved by collaborating with other artists on digital designs, called “duets,” and making these designs into wearable art. The final digital designs and garments will reflect the conversations had throughout the creative process about texture, color, layers, and balance.

Jennifer Schultz
Schultz attended the University of Minnesota and Minneapolis College of Art & Design before moving to Athens, Georgia. While in Athens, she worked as a custom framer and as a curator and manager of a fine art gallery. She became interested in fiber and fabric art and the direction of her exhibition program began to shift. After returning to Minnesota, Schultz joined groups and organizations like Studio Art Quilt Associates, Surface Design Association, and Textile Center. Schultz experiments with encaustic and prints on paper, and finds her calling and commitment to the fiber arts.

Jennifer’s project during the grant period will be to get her work off the wall by creating sculptural books made with quilted and embellished silk, encaustic, and bookbinding materials and techniques. The books will contain printed images, stitching, and incised markings on encaustic. These unique “signatures” will be hand-bound and engage the physical space of the viewer.

Kate Vinson
Vinson discovered the variety and tactile nature of fiber arts while taking art classes while in school for a second career. For Vinson, fibers allow freedom in range of materials and techniques like knotless netting, foiling, and paper arts. She uses these techniques to create sculptures that reflect the natural world and lots of texture.

The project grant will focus on Vinson’s use of materials, processes, and techniques in fiber enhanced through two main professional development opportunities: participating in the Women’s Art Registry of Minnesota (WARM) Mentor/Protege program; and attending workshops at the National Basketry Organization’s 8th Biennial Conference.

For 20 years, Textile Center has put $360,200 of Jerome Foundation grant funds to effective use in selecting emerging fiber artists based in Minnesota for individually designed project grants that have informed and advanced their development as artists and their creation of new works. In partnership with the Jerome Foundation, Textile Center supports and celebrate the creative spirit of fiber artists.

I am delighted to be teaching some digital design classes to start off the new year!  In February, I am going to teach a photo collage pillow class. The class is February 2 & 9 in Minneapolis and all of the details are here.


You may not be in to pillows.  I get that.  Pillows aren’t really my thing either, but I love these two I made as samples.  You can use this photo collage for many other fun things once you know how to do it: photo placemats, tote bag, quilts.  There are lots of options.  So don’t let the “pillow” part of the project stop you from signing up.

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 6.16.16 PMOne collage is “Chester and Leo” themed.  It is all their puppy pictures with a border “kaleidoscope” design made from a photo of someone’s nose.  Their names are on the bottom corner.

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 6.16.29 PM

The other sample is photos from my trip to Italy last year.  The border on this one is a detail from a photo of a green door that is tiled so that it makes neat leaf shapes around the outside edge.  I know it sounds complicated, but it’s really easy to do and I will show you how to do both the collage and the border designs.

In class we will talk about collecting your photos, putting together a collage that is balanced and works together.  We will set it up to print exactly the size we need (it fits on a fat quarter), make a coordinating border print and get our collages uploaded and printed at Spoonflower.  I printed mine on super soft faux-suede.  I will also show you how to do the simple sewing steps to finish up the pillow and a few other project variations.  We will meet one more time to “show and tell” and troubleshoot for your next project.  You need a laptop for class but you don’t need to have Photoshop or any other special software. Really!  Just a collection of photos and a web browser.

Share with your friends.  Sign up.  Pass it on.  See more of my upcoming classes here.


mood board – noun –  an arrangement of images, materials, pieces of text, etc., intended to evoke or project a particular style or concept.
I have recently worked on a number of projects where it was helpful to use the idea of a mood board to communicate a style or collection of ideas.  We were trying to use it as a collaborative tool, which I don’t think was as effective as it could have been but I thought I would take a minute to design a mood board for my collection of new work.  Think of it as a sneak peek with photos of the finished products to come very soon.  (Click the image and you can see it bigger)
So I am curious… What does this collection say to you?  What’s a word or two that pops into your head?


I am getting all kinds of new things ready for the show I am doing at the American Craft Council Library on December 13.  So excited!  This is the first large collection of my digital prints that I will have for sale.  Last week I finished the cowl scarves.  I know that the “giant infinity scarf” is a major trend, but I just don’t think they are that flattering.

(stock photo)

(stock photo)

These are made with a more simple and elegant kind of silhouette.  More like a necklace.  These are all made from polyester crepe, which is soft and lightweight and drapey and the colors are vibrant and gorgeous.  I haven’t used this fabric before and I am in love.  Each design also has a story:

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