When failure becomes success

As an artist/designer, when your work becomes boring and sales slow to a trickle, you can either give it up, or shake it up. 2019 was that year for me.

In February when my little garden was encased in ice, I began work on a Firebird Hat, hoping that perhaps it would warm things up : ) The hat took about 3 months to complete, and the tail that I had intended to wrap around the cuff, ended up on a separate hat.

I entered the pair into the Betty Bowen Awards through the Seattle Art Museum in July, but failed to make it as a finalist. Success came later after two custom orders for the Firebird arrived in November and December.

The thing that felt like my biggest failure was my entry into The Met 500 Design Contest through the Metropolitan Museum of Art. My Crow King Cap, based on a manuscript in their collection, placed in the top 40 by popular vote (out of nearly 200 entries) but didn’t make it to the final round.

I scaled this cap down to what is now my Three Crows Cap, for which I have shipped one custom order and have two more in progress. Failure at first can mean success later on! I also made one in a different color scheme for Tubac Center of the Arts, after finding that Blue Grackles are indigenous to Arizona:

Another failed entry in SAM’s Betty Bowen Awards was Raven Steals the Sun, based on a First People’s legend that I encountered frequent references to when I visited Alaska several years ago. Versions of this hat are currently available at Brookfield Craft Center, Peter’s Valley Gallery and Creative Minds Art Gallery.

The success to Raven Steals the Sun can be measured in its offspring of “Sun No Raven’ hats and caps. This custom order was made dazzling by a vintage button from a friend’s collection, and beads and semi-precious stones the customer supplied:

An even simpler version found its way onto a cap, which has already sold at Nature’s Kitchen, and for which I have a custom order pending. Success isn’t necessarily found on the first go-round of any given design:

Failure is not always the end game. Contests are a journey and not often the destination. Acclaim on social media doesn’t mean commercial success, except for when it does : )

As a new year and decade begins, so does my 20th year as a hatmaker and one-woman business. A lot of people have made that possible – the gallery owners and managers who represent my work; my patrons and collectors; my friends and colleagues who share my posts and hand out my business cards unsolicited. Every one of you has added to the measure of my success. Thank you all, for all that you do. Your support means more than you will ever know…

Warm for the Holidays

Gifting is guilt-free when you choose American-made recycled handcraft! Here’s a sampling of what’s in store for you at the galleries across the country:

Brookfield Craft Center
286 Whisconier Road (Rt. 25), Brookfield, CT 06804
Recognized as one of the finest schools for creative study in America, a percentage of your hat purchase supports their teaching of both traditional and contemporary craft.

Peters Valley School of Craft
19 Kuhn Road, Layton, NJ 07851

Peters Valley School of Craft is a 501(c)(3) founded in partnership with the National Park Service to promote and encourage education and excellence in craft. They are now recognized as an internationally renowned center of fine craft. A percentage of your hat purchase supports their mission. BREAKING NEWS: You can now purchase a few of my hats on their online gift shop!

Creative Minds Art Gallery
123 North Beach Road, Suite F1, Eastsound WA 98245

Creative Minds showcases art that with a skip, jump or twist redefines creativity and functionality … as a result something common becomes special, for that someone special (or for special you – it’s allowed!)

Social Fabric
1302 Commercial Street, Bellingham WA 98225

“’Social Fabric‘ describes the connections we make with one another, making us all a part of the common thread of society…” This gallery focuses on sustainable, upcycled fashions and accessories as well as teaching and community building.

Nature’s Kitchen
412 South Main Street, Yreka, CA
“Organic in Yreka for over 30 years”, Nature’s Kitchen is a whole-grain bakery/cafe and gift shop featuring both local artisans and Fair Trade artists from around the world.  Nature’s Kitchen serves as a center of the community and supports many causes and organizations there. These pieces arrive December 18.

Tubac Center of the Arts
9 Plaza Road, Tubac AZ 85646

Located at the main intersection of this village which hosts over 100 art galleries and eclectic shops, the Center offers a full range of arts programming, seasonal exhibits and opportunities for artists (like me) to exhibit their work.

As you can see, it’s been a rockin’ year in my little studio – so much so that I now have custom orders booked through mid-January 2020. Here’s a sampling of collaborative works with recent customers. A percentage of my website sales in 2019 benefits Roots of Peace – a group that removes land mines and helps to replant those fields with vineyards and orchards, assisting farmers towards peace through sustainable agriculture in war-torn lands around the globe.

May your holidays be warm and bright, and may your shopping support causes close to your heart …

Wright At Home

My trip to Chicago in 2018 yielded inspiration for a couple of hats.

I was quite taken with the ceiling light in the play room at Frank Lloyd Wright’s residence in Oak Park. I found its graphic nature appealing and transformed a piece of this architectural component into hats as soon as I arrived home.

The ceiling light in the playroom at the Wright Home & Studio in Oak Park, IL

You’ll find some of these hats at galleries this fall. You can also order one custom made, from my catalog.

This hat is featured in November in support of KNKX Public Radio and Peter’s Valley School of Craft in Layton, NJ, where a percentage of your purchase is reinvested into the teaching of American Craft. As always, my hats are handcrafted from rescued textiles and are eco-supportive.

As seen on KNKX Public Radio, November 2019

The other hat inspired by this trip is still in the design phase – a Gothic Peacock inspired by the Peacock Doors of the Palmer House Hotel, which I detailed earlier in my Chicago blogs. Look for the Peacock Hat to arrive here later this year. Perhaps the rest of my blogs from Chicago will find their way to Daveno Travels in that same time frame.

Time for the briefest of naps, and then back to work!

Resisting nap-time in a not-a-hotel lobby in Chicago.
Photo courtesy of my local guide, Patty Panek

The Making of Raven Steals The Sun

My trip to Alaska in 2008 was my first solo adventure. I went to see glaciers, totem poles and to get over my fear of flying so I could get to Europe the following year.

While I was there, one of the recurring images I saw on totem poles and jewelry was a bird with a disc in its mouth, a depiction of a First People’s tale called “Raven Steals The Sun.”

The story has several variants, but they all tell of a world of darkness, and of a chieftain who had three cedar treasure boxes containing the Sun, Moon and Stars. The trickster Raven, learning of the treasures and wanting to bring and end to the eternal darkness, shape-shifted into a child who begged to play with the boxes. Once they were in his hands, he turned himself back into a Raven, and taking the treasure boxes, flew up through the smoke hole of the chieftain’s longhouse and high up into the sky. The contents of the boxes spilled out, dividing the darkness into night and day, and bringing light into the human world.

My first full-bird hat – the Raven King – gave me enough confidence to try other dimensional pieces. The Firebird followed, and then the Crow King – my entry in The Met 500 Design Contest (in August 2019).

This new Raven came together pretty quickly, but the Sun proved problematic. Every time I tried to alter a Haida design (shown here) I ended up with a Sun that looked more like flower.

A friend handed me a rubber stamp that leaned towards Gothic, and after several hours of searching the internet for designs to meld with the rubber stamp, my hat took a turn in an entirely unexpected direction.

I liked the ‘tribal gothic’ sun so much that I decided to do all the applique in black leather (which I had stripped off a couch that was destined for the dump). Once I had the Sun in place, Raven decided it would emerge from the cuff, with its wings wrapping around the Sun, catching one of the Sun’s flares in its beak. I stylized the feather detail, to keep the focus on the Raven’s face. The cuff is a herringbone-patterned wool which mimics the chevrons of my embroidery on the wings.

And now I have a hat inspired by my first trip to Alaska, based on a First People’s legend, but with a distinctively Gothic twist. You can order one of your very own here!