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…

7 Comments on “When failure becomes success

  1. Blessings on you and your endeavors in the coming year ! Your gift brings pleasure to our eyes.

  2. Your artistry adds joy into a sorry old world and is therefore a blessing to all who behold it. Sharing your artistic journey with us is truly inspirational, as is your charity work! Getting to see photos of all your hats is like owning just a taste of all of them! You are The Best!

    • Thank you Dayna! I am truly blessed to have such a devoted following. I’ll endeavor to keep your plate full of ‘tastes’ throughout this new year!

  3. Every time I enter my play in a contest, the process has forced me to polish the script again. And every time, I improve as a writer and I have a better play. To me, winning doesn’t matter as much as my developmental journey. I see your so-called failures in the same way. Your artistry continues to shine bright and still inspires me. And I am saving up to get one of those Firebird hats for myself. BTW, I wear one of your old Mongolian hats nearly every day in winter, and I get lots of compliments!

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