Occupation: Embroidery Goddess
Website: Sublime Stiching
Biography: Jenny Hart is an embroidery artist and craft designer living in Austin, Texas. She began working in embroidery as a means to deal with stress and anxiety. Wanting to introduce others to the therapeutic effects of needlework, she realized a perfect opportunity to introduce updated embroidery patterns. Meant to encourage anyone not turned on by ‘country-cutesy’ craft themes, Sublime Stitching was born.
What do you do and how did you start?
I run a craft design company offering needlework patterns of my original designs, and project kits. I also end up fielding constant “how-to” advice from beginners, so I’ve started doing some instructive (and I hope, fun and motivating) writing as well.
How old were you when you realized you wanted to do what you’re currently doing and how old were you when you actually began?
I’ve always been drawing. I was really fortunate to have parents that encouraged me and my brothers to explore art, music, theatre, which wasn’t easy in a small town. But, they’re actually surprised we all became artists! I think my mother really had her hopes on my becoming a dental hygienist.
I always knew visual art was what I would do for the rest of my life. So, being an artist began with my first summer art class (at a museum in Iowa) when I was five.
I had no idea I would ever own, operate and make my living from running a small business. That it would be a craft design company, and that I’d find I was actually a business-minded person and capable designer was news to me. I always thought I’d be a French teacher, or continue doing museum preparatory work while continuing to work as an artist in whatever capacity.
Maybe because my mother stayed at home as I was growing up, home is where I like to be. I’m happiest when I can be at home, and be creative there.
What jobs did you have before you went out on your own?
Photo re-toucher, Retail Sales, Banquet Waitress, Museum Security Guard, Nanny in Paris, Kindergarten Substitute Teacher, Assistant to Museum Exhibition Coordinator, Museum Preparator.
How steps did you take to create your own business?
Being in working/learning environments where I couldn’t work at my full steam and potential was too frustrating. So, instead of spinning my wheels, I put that energy into becoming financially and professionally independent as an artist.
I read a lot of ‘how-to’ books, asked the advice of others who worked for themselves, examined businesses that I liked, introduced myself to some local business women (who are now good friends of mine and successful colleagues)?Most importantly, I worked on something every day and took my business education upon myself.
What kind of formal education, training or experience do you have that applies to what you do?
I have a BA in French. I’ve studied drawing the most closely my entire life both in and out of classrooms and studios. My biggest artistic motivation and awakening came from my eighth grade art teacher: Sarajane Boyd. I’ve read lots and lots of comic books since I was a little girl, sneaking my brother’s Heavy Metals, Weirdo’s and art books.
My father worked in the industrial and marketing film industry, so there was a running commentary in my life on marketing strategies coupled with an artful aesthetic. Everything I learned about marketing and graphic design came second-hand from my father and from reading comics.
My mother had been an art teacher before I was born and always encouraged my interest in art. She tried to introduce me to sewing and embroidery when I was little, which I did for a while, but I was too impatient then. I?m not the best student. But, as an adult, I realized I wanted to learn some of these things from he. After she h showed me some basic stitches to begin in embroidery, and I went from there with it. But I’m a terrible seamstress.
I’m a self-taught business woman, which goes to show: anyone can run a business.
How did you first begin to sell/market your work?
My website began as a showcase for my own embroidery work, and then I began getting requests for doing portraits by commission. That was the first thing that I offered, and then I moved on to selling patterns. My initial investment into startup cost included $200. for one print ad in a magazine. I started telling people what I was doing, had free business cards made up, asked other online e-tailers to link to my site. As the business had any money, it went straight back into inventory and advertising.
What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do?
Being thanked for doing what I do, because someone else enjoys it.
The most frustrating?
Not being able to produce everything as quickly as I can think of it.
Do you have any fears about what you do?
I worry about the pressures of maintaining my own success, making enough money to sustain not just the business, but my own needs. I worry about making the right choices for me, my business, and my customers. But, I usually keep a perspective on things that keeps the ?I?m ruined!? feelings at bay. Taking a nap helps.
What kind of work environment do you have?
I work from a home office and sewing room. My husband saw that my business was expanding from my desk to the kitchen table, the computer room….so he let me take over our computer room and consolidate it into my office. But it’s good and bad. Good because it’s right there and I can work anytime. Bad because it’s right there and I can work anytime.
Have you encountered any financial obstacles?
Not really. My business was started on a private loan of $1,000 (with a promise to pay back half once I earned a profit), and I’ve funneled all my earnings back into advertising and inventory. At this point, my business has been expanding entirely on its own, with no out-of-pocket expense to me. Sure, I’d love to have more money to expand in certain ways, but this is a self-regulating way of letting a business grow on its own rather than risk a large investment and have it falter. I think that’s very important advice I followed: start small and let it grow on its own.
What is your definition of success?
Being happy with what you’ve accomplished, and feeling you can still offer more.
Who or what are your inspirations?
Any artist who can draw a fine line inspires me. I love comic art, illustration as well as painting, music, design. When someone else has made something out of seemingly nothing, and its beautiful, I’m inspired. That always excites me into making something of my own.
Words of advice for those pursuing their creative goals:
Get to it and do it. Learn who to listen to, and who to ignore. Go with your guts, ask for help and you’ll be steered the right way. Don’t take perceived failures too hard, learn to live with multiple rejections, and learn from them. You’ll apply what you know from the experience in the future to make the right decisions. Be persistent, tenacious and you’ll get what you’re going for.