Highs & Lows of Running a Business

Sometimes business isn’t as smooth as a satin stitch. I interviewed five textiles designers who have previously been featured on Embellished Talk about their highs and lows of running a business.

Danielle Clough – Fiance Knowles

I never expected to be in the textile industry and that my main medium would be fabric and thread, and as someone who almost stumbled into the wrong room, and decided to stay my opinions are probably a bit limited, but here a few of my squishy feelings. 

Lows
* Some of the perceptions of embroidery (my medium) is stuck in the “creepy granny” place, and people can’t see past that.
 * It’s so time consuming
 
* There is a lot of admin to create a successful sustainable business, that detracts from actually creating the work that makes the business unique.
Highs
* There is a massive kind support network in the textile industry.
* People who recognise the time it takes are willing to pay you for your time.
* Spending the day sewing while watching TV series.
 
* You get to use your hands and it is constantly evolving and stimulating.
* The creative potential for growth is unlimited.
* People physically engage with your work.
* There are so many resources to draw from. The 30 year old little haberdashery down the road, to new online courses all have something that can teach and inspire.
* People appreciate the time that it takes to create a piece.
* People feel connected to it because of its nostalgic value (my gran used to do that).
Danielle’s website and Instagram
Patricia Larocque – Famous Friends
I would say that a major low is the lack of respect you get and most people wouldn’t consider you an artist or what you do a “real” job.  A lot of people message me or comment  on how good I am at my “hobby” and it’s their hobby too. Or that I am very crafty. And I think since embroidery has kinda blown up in the last couple of years this is adding to that but also it’s good because people are starting to understand more that it is an art form. Another low would be that since it has blown up and everyone is embroidering I’ve noticed a lot of illustrators are changing their medium to embroidery which is super cool but it’s getting a lot harder to stand out I guess. And once you start to get a bit more attention you start to notice that some people copy too, that’s maybe the number one bummer! At this point you gotta be ready for that to happen, it’s gonna happen. Which sucks (it’s not a compliment) and it’s a downer and you begin to question and ask why bother?
It’s hard also with the business side of everything, most embroidery businesses are self run so it’s a lot of work, you are the maker, the photographer, graphic designer and everything. You need to find time to do that while embroidering projects that take 4-25hrs. So juggling all that is hard but you learn a lot and learn from mistakes too. I’m still trying to find the balance (and you usually have a day job on top of that). Oh and you are gonna get arthritis, no doubt! Or a hunchback after years of doing this.
As for highs….ughhh I would say that there is a little community that has come out of this and you get a lot of support that way and with that comes respect from fellow creators. That usually really boosts my confidence when another artist (no matter their medium) who I’ve admired starts to notice what I do and gives me some praise. It’s wild! Embroidery to me is super satisfying, when you’ve worked 10+ hrs on a piece and finish it, hurray!

I love what I do. You always feel like you’re the only one who feels a certain type of way and it’s always reassuring to see that other people can relate and also have the same problems, no matter how perfect they try to portray themselves on Instagram or wherever.
Patricia’s web and Instagram

Brooke and Francesca – London Loom
Highs
That people do love textiles and want to explore them and we are able to share with them and create more of a community in the field. Also when customers produce interesting things and colour-ways that we haven’t played with before.
Lows
Not being considered seriously – a lot of men came into our pop up asking if we could fix buttons and zips for them which was infuriating.
The London Loom’s web and Instagram
 
Megan Eckman – Studio MME
Highs
The best part about running a textile business is watching other people awaken their creativity with your work. I love seeing people take my fabric and turn it into a gift for a friend, a piece for a nursery, or perhaps an item they hope will become an heirloom. The more creativity and play there is in the world, the better, and I am happy to be doing my part.
Lows
The day-to-day administrative tasks can get to be tiring. I do about 75% administrative work, answering emails, pitching, filling orders, running the numbers, etc., and about 25% creating new designs. Eventually I hope to reach the tipping point and hire more help so that I can spend more time doing what I love the most: designing.
Megan’s web and Instagram
Sofia Salazar – Hiedra

Highs

You know the part of what I like about textiles is diversity. Take a look around and you’ll find yourself surrounded by products that need textiles or are textiles as a whole. I like to know that there’s such a wide range of items I could work on. To see afterwards if they are easy or not to sell, that’s a different story. But for me, working with textiles means a LOT of possibilities. Right now I see a carpet I’ve made, a tapestry on the wall, a big bag I’ve embroidered, a banner, a patch, a shirt and a dress. I often think about this because my friends are musicians and always tell me how much it sucks to not have an actual physical item to sell. If you work in textiles you can work in fashion, home decor or even art.

Another high I would say is you can pretty much start right away with your project, with not a lot of things needed. I’ve embroidered, woven, quilted and printed at home with just a few supplies from Amazon.

A personal high is that you end up with pieces that are going to be used and probably loved a lot. Your “thing” could be hanging from a wall for years, tattooed in the memories of all its visitors, or be worn in the photographs of their owners forever. It could be passed from one to another, it could be the piece that makes someone think of somebody else each time they find it inside an old drawer. I don’t know, I think this just happens more often with textiles, and I just love the idea of that.

Lows

Time is definitely an obstacle for me. I would love to work on much bigger pieces, cover a couch in stitches or make an enormous woven rug. Repeating your work is not always easy, so I can’t have stock and leave it with retailers to see whether they could sell it or not and this basically makes wholesale impossible for me. You could turn this into a high, emphasizing the uniqueness of your work, and valuing your pieces as one of a kind. But it implies a business model in particular, so I find it limiting nevertheless.

Another low would be the equipment needed to make industrial textiles, there are things I know how to do and would love to (like designing and programming a jacquard loom) that I’m probably never going to be able to do, because I’d need a mill at my disposition for that.

Sofia’s web and Instagram

If you’re running a textiles related business and would like to share your highs and lows with us please email info@embellishedtalk.com   

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