Saturday, August 11, 2012

What's up with the E-Commerce, Shams?

You may have noticed that I have added a few widgets to my blog designed to promote a few avenues I am experimenting with to earn some extra money.

"Why, Shams, why?!?! Why have you gone to the dark side of e-commerce, when you have always maintained an ad-free, commercial-free zone?", you may ask.

Well, it's just one of those fiscal realities. DD1 begins university in a few weeks. DD2 begins next fall. There are other reasons I am not willing to post publicly. ('Cause once posted, it's out there forever.)

I don't want to belabor the point, but I am selling some of my historical costuming books on Amazon (which has been the most lucrative avenue, so far), some clothing on Ebay, and I just opened an Etsy shop, Textile Exile. I plan to slowly populate it with a few handmade items. None of these endeavors will be all consuming, because I do have a full time job, as well as my own creative work (and if I shut that down, I might blow, and it wouldn't be pretty), but earning some extra money is pretty useful about now.

Design Outside the Lines

There is something else in the offing I am fairly psyched about. I've had a rather late-breaking opportunity to attend Design Outside the Lines in Taos, New Mexico, at the end of September. This is one of those bucket list things, so I am going to make it happen, obstacles be d*mned. :)

If you aren't familiar with DOL, it's a creative sewing retreat hosted by Marcy Tilton and Diane Ericson in three locations throughout the year. It runs for three full days, a partial day at the beginning, and another partial day at the end. The focus of the retreat seems, to me, to be about goosing one's creativity. This appeals to me very much.

Since embracing this opportunity, I have been thinking a lot about creativity. I have been (inconsistently) journaling, thinking about how to focus my energies. Or at least how I think I want to focus - the power of this event is to be a bit loose, flexible, and willing to "go with the flow".

For example, I do not plan to focus on making garments - to my mind completing a garment is an inefficient way to use the limited time available. I want to focus on techniques, new approaches, new ways of thinking. I do not plan to bring a sewing machine. I have to fly (not enough vacation days to drive), and schlepping a machine does not appeal. I hear there will be a machine or two available if needed, but I hope not to need one too much.

I am especially excited about visiting Taos. I have always wanted to visit New Mexico. While I won't be able to spend much time seeing the sites, it's a start! And, by the way, I hope to blog during the retreat - I've already inquired about wifi.

As mentioned, I have been thinking a lot about creativity. I've never felt like a legitimate "creative" person, believing that if you are an "artistic" person you have to be able to draw and paint, or write poetry or fiction, or play an instrument and compose music. I've always felt like a "craftsman", rather than an "artist". It's really only in recent years that I've started to understand some of the nuances of creativity and to see my place in that sphere, if only orbiting along its edge.

It occurred to me that I am not the only person who thinks about these things. I started imagining what kinds of questions I would like to pose to Marcy and Diane about this subject. I asked them if they would agree to an "interview." I would send them a list of questions that relate to creativity, they would email me their answers, and I would post the results on my blog.

Both Marcy and Diane graciously (and speedily) agreed. In fact, Marcy replied so quickly I thought my email had bounced. So, in the near future, I plan to post an interview with each of them. I'm curious - if you could ask a question of Marcy and Diane relating to creativity, what would it be? I have quite a list already, but am interested in hearing your thoughts. If I use one of your questions and it doesn't replicate one of my own, I'll give you credit.

And speaking of Marcy. Did you see that she has started a blog on I was one of those people who badgered her (a tad) about having a legitimate blog with RSS feeds and all that goodness, so I was very happy. She plans to slowly migrate the blog from her webstore over to blogger.

Stay tuned for more talk about DOL!


  1. Thats should like a good idea.. and why not.. having a well informed blog is hard work and nothing wrong helping to fund more fabric ;o))

  2. You are so lucky! That is one of the things I would like to someday do. I don't think of myself as being creative, but more as a copier. Have a blast in Taos!

  3. Good luck with your funding ideas I hope you achieve your goal. The trip to Taos sounds fabulous and I am sure you will contribute as much as you will learn.

  4. I wish you all the best success!

    Rose in SV

  5. That workshop is on my bucket list so I am very, very happy for you. It will be wonderful and you will add so much to the group as well as learn from those terrific teachers. I like your question concept. Having just gone through my own little style shake up while snoop shopping I'm sort of wondering about the intersection of designing "outside the line" (which I have always seen as too avant garde and artsy for me) and designing "inside the lines" which can be so predictable and plain. So not really a specific question but how do they think each of us should reconcile the extremes?

  6. I am looking forward to seeing what you create for Etsy, alas I will be unable to indulge myself, but everything you do is wonderful so I am certain you won't ever have a lot of stock in your shop.

    That is fantastic that you are going to DOL, what an amazing experience that will be, I am so looking forward to hearing anything at all about your experience in Taos.

    I am surprised by your comment about not being a creative person. I think you are one of the most(maybe the most) creative and talented sewists I know.

  7. I agree with ElleC, I also think you are one of the most creative people I know. Could it be that your definition of creativity needs to change? Closely linked to MY definition of creativity is "reinvention". I see this often in people who might not think of themselves as creatives, but they manage to reinvent themselves, their jobs, their relationships, their passions, etc. Hmmm....can't wait for further discussion!

  8. You will love Taos and DOL! You will be fine without a machine, there is so much to try and think about. You already know about construction and are a genius with fit. Marcy and Diane with fill your head with possibilities. I would also love to read your interviews.

  9. Oh, I'd love to go to DOL! I live close enough I could drive, and bring my sewing machine, and visit my cousin from Albuquerque, and just go crazy with all the ideas and sparks ricocheting off the walls! Please enjoy this for all of us who will join you in spirit if not in body, and thank you for your plans to share this with your readers.

    Best of luck with your selling endeavors. Your daughters will have more interesting lives because of their higher educations; the investment is one of the best they and you will ever make. That is what I told my own children, and it has proved true. One of my sons said, "There is NOTHING more interesting than what I do!" Words to warm a mother's heart.

  10. Hi Shams! Are you flying into/out of Albuquerque for DOL? I live here so if we can work out the scheduling, wanna do a quick meet up before or after your trip North?

  11. I am sooo excited for you to be going to DOL. I went last year to the one in Sisters, and it was so mind blowing, almost overwhelming with all the info that was given. I have studio space right next to Diane and I am always asking her questions. She is a great resource, and I'm sure will happily answer anything you ask her. I did take my machine to DOL, but didn't use it much. I had much more fun just "absorbing" everything that was going on around me I wish you the best, and look forward to your blogs about the experience....Anna

  12. First I'm jealous! Hugely green eyed monster jealous that you are going to DOL...cause it's on my list too! And I don't understand why you don't think you're creative? You have a unique perspective, see things that others don't and bring it to life in your garments - creative! I will anxiously await your interviews...I love Marcy's garments (even though I can't wear them in my day job) and her fabric offerings!

  13. Good luck with all your ventures shams. DOL sounds amazing.

  14. So jealous - that workshop is on my bucket list as well but have never been able to swing it. LOVE both Marcy & Diane, and the creative ways they put everything together in one big, artistic way - and you can definitely consider yourself an artist - artistic pursuits can include fabric as a medium. I have a BFA - and while I can draw & paint (though my poetry SUCKS), I still consider textile arts to be ART. It's just a lot more mobile than other works. (How many people can bring a painting to a football game or a band competition?)

  15. questions:
    Do you think business is creative, i.e. can entrepreneurship in and of itself be a creative undertaking?
    If not, how do you balance between the business efforts and non-business efforts?
    When do you need to take a break? Is it possible to push yourself so hard (in creative pursuits) that you burnout? [ I guess everyone is different in this regard, eh?]
    How you you manage when you have too many ideas?
    Do you have a way of prioritizing?
    How has the internet affected your work?
    What do you think of the blogosphere?

    oh shams, you are so creative!

  16. Perhaps DOL will free you of your self-imposed parameters of your creativity and artfulness and enable you to realize the league you already inhabit. Then - watch out! Kaboom!
    (Question for self: Is it greedy to expect some overflow of it all onto her blog? Hmmm. Yes. Is that okay with me? Ye-e-e-sss!)

  17. Sharon, I don't have any problems with links like yours on your blog. After all the amount of work you put into your blog alone is enormous and we all enjoy reading it. No one is forcing anyone to click another button. :) Speaking of which is the Etsy shop meant to be linked?

    Regarding questions for Marcy Tilton, mine is probably a little boring but I always want to know how someone can know what fabrics will work together without screaming with each other. (I imagine experience and colour wheel might help). Good luck with your enterprises.

  18. Lucky you to go to DOL. I agree with many others that you are very creative!

    I too have toyed with idea of adding eCommerce to my blog and as MareeA said no one forces anyone to click on a button on a person's blog. I hope that this all works out well for you.

  19. Shams, I too see you as most creative. Fabric choices, styles, tweaks, your garments are unique and out of the box, always fantastic. I read your blog because I enjoy seeing and reading about your creative pursuits.

    Good luck on the ecommerce dept. I hope it is a helpful avenue for you - college is expensive!

  20. Somewhere I read an interview with Marcy in which she noted that she started out as a "technical" sewer. So my guess is that she's had her own journey with perceiving herself as a creative person....

    Taos is an unusual place, and one that doesn't reveal itself right away. Being there on retreat is the way to go, in my mind.

  21. You will LOVE DOL Taos. I attended about 3 years ago and besides being a tremendous creativity boost, it changed how I thought about myself as a creative person and how I approached my sewing. I am still feeding on the great energy from the retreat. Enjoy.

  22. The ecommerce thing is easy to what you need to do in order to get through the financial challenges. I look forward to the interviews-what fun!- and the discussion we all are sure to have following it.

  23. Linking to your own sales spots is not, imho "going to the dark side"! May your sales reap abundance for you :)

    You, my dear, are an artist AND a craftsperson AND an inspirational delight. You create, and you do it in unique and extraoridnary ways - that, to me, is most definitely artistry! May your vision of your own artistic self become more solidified at DOL - I just wish I could be there with you!

  24. Hope you have a great time here in my "home" state. NM has some awesome places, scenery, and great people. This is a state where creatiity seem to bloom and such a wonderful opertunity you have to come for 3 days at DOL. I look forward to your comments and insights when you return home.

  25. So many exciting things ahead, Sharon! I'm happy for you. I also have the Amazon thingy on my blog, except they stopped giving credit to residents of California. I've been very blessed to have Diane Erickson and her Mom demo for us at PIQF. Diane even taught at my store. i do put your creativity in a class with her, Marcy and Kayla. Such fun and inspiring people to be around.

  26. i too want to go to dol. i am not courageous enough yet... i signed up this year for the sisters retreat but was afraid to go... and dropped out. but it seems you are in the perfect space to go... you already know everything about fit for your own body( i don't.. and my body keeps changing... up down up down) and you are already creative in wonderful ways. i have been following marcy forever...way before she sold fabric... and she will be just what you need to feel more confident... i eagerly await your report of the workshop. maybe it will give me courage to go next year.
    and as far as your doubts about your creative ability.... get over it...said in the kindest way!

  27. Another who is looking forward to your DOL posts and interviews, who also admires and is inspired by your creativity and who would love to be there in Taos with you! I don't see selective eCommerce as a problem at all, especially if it is related to sewing, and even more so if it includes your own handcrafted products :)

  28. There is no shame in making a living by sharing your work and by buying and selling.

    I noticed when a new establishment opens in town people say "We're *getting* a new ."

    They don't roll their eyes and say "Oh no! A new restaurant is opening to bug us!"

    Your work is really good and it sounds like you have great some books to sell. Rock on!!

  29. Good luck with your sales - good for you!

  30. Good luck with your sales - good for you!

  31. Hi Shams: Good for you for being brave enough to try and earn some $$ with your creative efforts. I say brave, because I too am exercising my creative muscles both as a sewing and as a metalsmith. Lots of folks who see my jewelry especially ask if I sell it. Well, not in any formal way, although I have sold and bartered pieces I've made as well as donated them to local charity silent auctions. However, I haven't really had the courage to make more formal arrangements to sell my wares. So good for you!

    I think and read a lot about the creative process. I don't really think of myself as an artist although there have been times when I have felt like an artist (and btw....I think the line between arts and crafts is kind of fuzzy and maybe even silly to distinguish). I think it all comes down to the more I make the more creative I feel, more ideas I have.

    So again, good for you. I'm looking forward to hearing more about this adventure you are undertaking to get commercial with your creativity. And, I'm thrilled for you that you're going to DOL and can't wait to hear about that as well.

    Hooray for you!

  32. DOL sounds fabulous. I highly suggest a bit of reading before you go. I am reading "Imagine" by John Lehrer. It is all about how creativity comes from specific actions that we all can partake in. You don't have to be Van Gogh or Marcy or Diane. It is really easy to read and well written, not easy for someone discussing the brain. It's been on the best seller list for a while.

    I'm looking forward to those wi fi posts.