Craft Industry Alliance is excited to launch a new series, How I Got That Gig, in which we ask craft industry professionals to tell us the story behind a great commission, job, freelance opportunity, or contract. If you have a good story to tell about a gig of your own, or would like us to reach out someone else who has a great gig, email us at hello@craftindustryalliance.org.

The first story in our series is from quilter, Libs Elliot, who recently designed a label for the Absolut Canada commemorative bottle.

Since the campaign launch for my ‘Absolut Canada’ bottle collaboration with Absolut Vodka, some people have asked me, “Libs, how did you get that gig?!” In a nutshell, my recipe for opportunities has been: 1 part Do The Work, 1 part Do Things Differently, 1 part Be Seen and Connect, 1 part Are You Scared? (If ‘Yes’, then you’re probably doing it right), and 1 part Pure Luck.

So, here’s some background on how it went down.

Some background

When I began quilting I was doing it very much in a silo. I wasn’t really part of the larger community of quilters out there in the world. I was just making quilts because I’d always been drawn to textiles as a form of art. I studied weaving and natural dyeing at the Ontario College of Art & Design years ago but I dropped it all to pursue a career in the interactive advertising industry. I stuck with that for about 15 years. It was a good experience but I really missed making things.

When I had the opportunity to collaborate with artist Joshua Davis to use code to randomly generate my quilt designs, I knew I’d found my calling and eventually took the scary step of leaving that career to ‘be an artist’.

Doing things differently

Shortly after making my first code-generated quilt in 2012, buzz began to spread about what I was doing, not in the quilting community, but in the tech industry. The ‘maker’ movement was starting to take off and people were intrigued by the idea of marrying technology with craft. It was because of that buzz that I set a goal to share my work with those who normally wouldn’t think about quilts at all, let alone as art.

I wanted to expose people to a traditional craft from a new perspective. I decided that one of the best ways to be seen by people who might be interested in my work was to exhibit at gallery and design shows. Because of this approach, I’ve been fortunate to have some exceptional opportunities arise.

Getting the word out

In 2015, one of the events I exhibited at was the IDS (Interior Design Show) here in Toronto. I had a tiny 4’x4’ booth, I showed two code-generated quilts, and I learned what it’s like for an introvert to have to stand up and sell herself for 4 days straight. During IDS, I met a man named Jordan Herald, who is the CEO of Gravity Partners and, coincidentally, worked with several people I’d worked with over the years during my time in advertising. Anyway, Jordan liked my work, we had people in common, and we stayed connected via Instagram.

The proposal

It was around this time last year that Jordan reached out to me with an exciting proposal. He asked if I would be interested in an opportunity to work with Absolut Vodka on a limited edition bottle design for Canada’s 150th Birthday.

Absolut has a long history of engaging artists to create designs and advertisements. In this case, they had been bouncing around ideas about the ‘fabric of Canada’, our history and our future-focused innovations as a country. Luckily, I’d made an impression that had stuck. When Jordan reviewed the brief, he immediately thought of my work with quilts and technology. It felt like a perfect fit.

So he asked and, of course, I said yes. Okay, more like “YES!”

I’ve spent the past year bringing the bottle design and three coordinating quilts to fruition. Absolut Canada has been a very rewarding campaign to work on. The client was a dream to work with. Most importantly, it took me out of my comfort zone and proved that my recipe is working. Overall, it’s been wonderful to have so much support from other quilters. And, when it comes down to it, this campaign has been another way for me to share my work with others and show them how magical quilts can be.

You can check out the whole Absolut Canada campaign at www.absolut.com/ca. You can see Libs’ work, and shop for her quilt patterns, fabric, and quilts on her site, Libs Elliott.

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