For my entire adult life, the industry has been my life, my persona. Since I was sixteen I have identified myself with these words: “I am a quilter.”
But that has changed. This is the first year in decades that I won’t be at International Quilt Market.
I recall being at a consumer show, Lancaster I think, with my friend Kathy Semone. A reporter from a local station was interviewing, asking about this phenomenon of quilting with the proverbial question, “Isn’t quilting a bunch of old ladies gossiping?” Kathy said, “Ask her, Jodie Davis, she has a dozen quilting books out.” The person looked at me dismissively and said, “You’re not old enough.”
It took a long time to be taken seriously.
My first International Quilt Market was thanks to Martingale. I knew no one. Then, after a Market or two I knew a few people and spent way too long in their booths. Over time I have made countless friends in the industry, many long-time dear friends who make my heart hurt with love.
After writing a bunch of books and teaching, rubber duckies led me to the on-camera path where, instead of creating the Duckumentary I was after, I was waylaid by quilting. QNNtv.com to be exact.
QNNtv.com pioneered video for quilters. The debut of the network predated You Tube’s rise. Imagine what it was to be able to turn quilting on anytime! Sue Ann Taylor started the network with Multicast Media in Smyrna Georgia as an example of their capabilities. She and I had been working on a series, “Friends in the Bee”, where I cut my teeth at hosting a show. When she was let go from Multicast they called me at the suggestion of a salesperson and asked me to oversee the network. For eight months I drove into the city every day and tried to make it work. The model was based upon advertisers paying the freight. As other early online video startups discovered, the model wasn’t working.
I’d been working for no pay when I was told the lights were about to go off. I drove home balling. Along the way I had a big bad talk with myself in my truck. “Why are you beating your head against a wall? Your husband makes a couple hundred thousand dollars year. You don’t need to work, never mind for nothing!” I let it go. “But quilters love it. They can’t get quilting video anywhere else.” In that thirty-six miles I talked myself into and out of it and ultimately let QNNtv.com go. I stopped crying. I drove home numb. Was over it. Relieved.
And then I remembered meeting…
I sent an email. My phone rang. Within no time QNNtv.com had a new home.
A Great Ride
QNNtv.com was a wonderful ride for over six years. I produced and hosted series including “Quilt Out Loud!” with (the dearest of souls) Mark Lipinski and “Quilt It! The Long arm Quilting Show” (Thank you Handi Quilter and Brenda Groelz, whom I met online before there was an internet.) which is on-going. It gave me incredible opportunities to work with great TV crews and producers, sponsors, and, most importantly, to give back to quilting. I am extremely grateful.
This time the lights are off for me for QNNtv.com. The landscape has changed and thus my value in quilting has changed. It’s time to let go.
The reality of this hit home about a year ago. New Track Media sent me to Market as usual. But “Quilt Out Loud” was cancelled and there weren’t going to be any new series on QNNtv.com. I had no business at Market. Yes, I could get a deal with any publisher, and perhaps a fabric company. But, would this be enough to pay the household bills, me a solo act?
Checking in with a friend who is very successful in the quilting work, I was bolstered. For a few minutes. Yes, I could write book after book, become proficient at fabric design and create multiple lines a year, travel several times a month to teach, and crank out free, free, free content to promote it all… and feed myself, working non-stop. Maybe. In reality, as yet another designer I could make more working at an entry level job in corporate America.
Or, another option I considered, would be to go into marketing within the industry. Move. Work in an office. No thanks.
I went to Market to say goodbye.. Other than the fact that I had history with a zillion fabulous people there I didn’t belong there anymore. And so I made the rounds, visiting.
My horses have taught me that they are my mirror. When something doesn’t work, it isn’t them, it’s me. And so it went with my rounds. I felt like a blank slate. I had no agenda. Which with horses is the only time you can hear their message. I wasn’t angry; I wasn’t even sad. The message I got time after time was about what I had done for others, what I meant to people. I received unsolicited compliments about my character and integrity. I will stop there, but you can see that my purpose in writing this is as a lesson to the next generation: Be genuine. The hard road is the only road. Be yourself. And don’t expect a damn thing.
The Road Ahead
My conclusion a year ago was that it’s time to invest myself in something that is not only unique to me, but also rewards me well. I have been after all, an itchy independent entrepreneurial type from as early as I can remember. But what to do?
Quilting gave me a great jumping off point that, thanks to the prodding of Susanne Miller, gave me one of the revenue streams I knew I needed. I ran a Kickstarter last year for my Quilt Shop Cuckoo Clocks. It was a total success. I ran another and am now about to introduce my second design. See what I mean about being unique?
And the skills I learned thanks to QNNtv.com and my appearances with Accuquilt on HSN appear to be translating into the “real” word. (I have argued for years that quilting is the real world, so now I have to prove that I can function within the real-real world.) I‘ve been picked up by a high profile agent who is peddling my on-camera talents. So see, it’s a stretching thing. Fear is your friend.
As a third business I am pursuing my mission of spreading smiles. At QNNtv.com my title was “Chief Quilting Enabler”, which you all know means chief smile spreader.
What I have found, including at my last Market, is that it’s a simple act to remember someone. But often that small gesture tips the scale for the recipient. At that last Market I was on the receiving end. Boy did I need it; and boy did it make a difference.
I’m not a proponent of this happiness meme crap that’s going around. Happiness isn’t a planet, it isn’t even a state in which one permanently resides. A smile isn’t something you can plant on another person’s face. Life is freaking tough. (And I practice mental toughness.) Happiness springs from compost. It has a dark side and from that peas and zinnias sprout. In our darkest times a smile or a ridiculously simple remembrance such as a card, can be the catalyst that knocks those gerbils off their well-worn wheels into moist, fertile soil and onto a new, positive track. Smiles are contagious. They change something inside the recipient, if only for a minute. That’s all it takes.
So while I sow seeds of smiles with cuckoo clocks and Dixie Duckies, dear quilting industry friends please keep carrying the torch, keep spreading the sparks of the love of quilting. Quilting is, as you know, magic. Who knows who you will touch along the way, who knows where the road goes? That’s the beauty of it.
Best wishes for your journey, and as always, holler if I can be of any assistance,