When You Are Ready
When I spoke at the Alpha Arts Guild Tuesday night, someone asked me — at what point did I know I was ready to enter an international show? When did I know I was a professional artist?
In retrospect, I don’t think I answered it very well — but now that I’ve had time to think about it, I wanted to share my thoughts.
There was no flash of light. No-one stepped forward and declared — you may now begin. I was very lucky in that I won a Best of Show ribbon in the first show I ever entered. It was a state level show and I had only entered my piece Childhood because I was going to take a class and thought it would be nice to have a piece in the show. I walked in — and you could have knocked me over with a feather.
And so I thought — I’ll enter Paducah. I was on the QuiltArt listserv — they were talking about it — so I thought — why not. They accepted both Childhood and Dalmatian Downs. I was lucky enough to go to the show and I was blown away by the work others were producing. There was a stunning quilt everywhere I turned — and it seemed unending. I was truly humbled to have been included.
I also had some luck entering Mancuso shows — but I wanted to get in the International Quilt Festival in Houston. That was the golden prize. I spent many years with rejection letters from Houston — but I just kept trying. After 5 years — I got discouraged and decided not to enter — but then a friend reminded me that that would guarantee I wouldn’t get in — so with my heart in hand — I sent in an entry with my latest endeavor — the beginning of a portrait series. The Lord must be kind to those who wait because that year they accepted Faces in Cloth I.
And then I put my mind to winning a prize at Houston. A girl can dream — right? And I waited and I hoped and I waited some more. There were times I was discouraged — but I think you always have to reach for the brass ring. The next rung on the ladder. Eventually, The Lord blessed me again and in the seventh year, last year, I won first place in my category for Lincoln.
Why did I do these things? Maybe early luck motivated me. I like to think it was also because I saw my mom break barriers in the art world. At one time, she traveled to Paris and was asked to move to New York to work with a famous painter. She stayed with her family but she pushed the boundaries of what was possible for a mom taking care of her kids in Alabama.