Aimee Davis at work in her studio.
I started out on Etsy back in 2008 shortly after the birth of my second child. I had stopped working full time with her birth and found myself at home for the first time with no goals except keeping these two little humans alive. Etsy and blogging became my one escape into the outer world.
And Etsy really was an escape during those years. I had started sewing again and teaching myself hand embroidery and when I realized I could make a little extra money on the side by doing something I loved I jumped at the chance. But as I began to sell a little more and saw that I could actually make money selling things my whole mindset of creating started to change. It was no longer just a hobby or just an escape it started to morph into a job.
Aimee’s felt superhero capes.
In the beginning my shop was a huge amalgamation of so many different things. I embroidered on onesies, I made burp cloths, I sewed superhero capes and more. But about three years in, after talking through a cape order with a client, I realized I had a winner with the idea of felt superhero capes. And even though making superhero capes wasn’t my passion, I jumped at the chance to have a consistent money maker. So I spent nearly 3 years cutting out at least a thousand yards of felt and shipping out superhero cape kits all over the world. Then one day it hit me – at what point did my passion for money override my passion for actually creating? So I just stopped. I deleted my listings and regrouped and started focusing on my first love: hand embroidery.
I’ve struggled greatly over the years with trying to run a successful business that can bring some support to our family financially and yet maintain my craft as an outlet and an expression. But there is that struggle with feeling like I’m not a real artist if I’m not selling what I’m making. I’m trying to figure out how to continue to learn and grow as a maker, hone my craft, continue my embroidered art and through it all I’m realizing my intentions are changing.
Making a living from craft is definitely not ideal and at times can be so detrimental to the creative process. In this world of constant social media updates, it’s a serious battle between wanting to just say “look what I made and how much I enjoyed making it” without the stress of trying to sell it too – or write a tutorial – or post it on Pinterest and on and on. There are so many amazing people out there who want to help you become successful sellers, but I think I’m realizing that I just want to be a successful maker. I want to go back to that place where creating something bubbled up such joy in my heart. It wasn’t about forming this photo that would look good on Pinterest or Instagram. It wasn’t about taking step-by-step photos so you could email out an amazing tutorial to all your subscribers. It was simply about the process of making.
I think it all comes down to this question: are you curating your craft for yourself or for others? My vision has become so clouded at times with wanting to please a clientele and make money, I’ve really lost sight of what I love to begin with. So I’m stepping back from striving to make a living by the work of my hands and instead striving to curate a presence of joy through the love of handmade.
Aimee Davis comes from a long line of women makers. She sleep under quilts that her grandmother made, her head rests on pillowcases that her aunt embroidered, and her memories are full of time spent watching her mom and grandmother create. The majority of her sewing and embroidery skills are self-taught, and she’d like to think there is a little bit of genetic love seeping through.