Growing up in the world of crafts led Georgianne Holland to become a fiber artist. She shares the story of starting Nestle And Soar and her thoughts on the industry.
ABI: Tell us about your family background and why you became a fiber artist.
GH: My parents, George and Bonnie Leman, sat at our humble Colorado kitchen table in 1969, and began Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine. We went on to become the world’s most successful quilting magazine and leading quilt industry publisher for more than 30 years!
Our business plan required classified advertising in rural newspapers to sell subscriptions. Can you believe that over 250,000 subscribers were obtained beginning with a single classified ad in Capper’s Weekly? This experience taught me that I love being an entrepreneur. Working with thousands of craftspeople who adored the art and craft of quilt making taught me that I love being a fiber artist! I have had many other roles in the fine craft industry over time, and my current career as an independent artist is a wonderful marriage between entrepreneurial zest and my own fiber art passion.
ABI: You say you have “rejected the starving artist mentality.” Why do you think artists feel this way?
GH: I believe that artists are sometimes more romantic than they are confident. An art career needs to be run as a successful business: artists need to understand costs, production expenses, and how to price for a profit. Unfortunately, I see artists of various mediums selling their lovely work for so little, it simply cannot be part of a sustainable business.
I came to a strong opinion about valuing one’s fine craft and art at a time when the needle arts were being completely shaken up in America. When I taught quilt making in the 1980s, the first influx of handmade quilts from China landed on the shelves at Sears and other mass retailers. I think this broke everyone’s heart who ever picked up a needle and thread and pursued the American fine craft tradition of quilt making, and we still see a residue of devaluation of the fiber arts.
I understand the larger love that the world is showing for expertly crafted, artistically sophisticated fiber art. I am a proud part of the art community that keeps elevating everyone’s creative efforts, as well as being someone who encourages fair and appropriate pricing of art.
ABI: What are you offering with your new business Nestle And Soar?
GH: I offer one-of-a-kind fiber art both framed for the wall and presented as a collectible pillow. My collection also contains multiples of my most popular designs and reproductions of my wall tapestries in a variety of sizes. I am pleased to say that my Customize It! feature on my retail website brings me the bulk of my sales, as folks like to take part in guiding my creation of something specific to their taste. They can claim their favorite colors, birds, trees, or landscapes, and I make an item specifically for them.
ABI: What was your experience at the recent Arts Business Institute Workshop?
GH: I traveled to Philadelphia to learn the behind-the-scenes reality of selling wholesale to galleries and museum shops. As I flew home from this fun weekend, I realized that the kind of art I make is not ready for the process of creating in large quantities. The limited-edition designs that I sell at retail are rarely over 24 units, and then that design is retired, and new art is created.
The costs involved in launching a wholesale business truly require the artist to be prepared to make hundreds of their best-selling items, and I am not there yet in my studio! I am happy to say that remaining in the retail business and operating an online boutique is perfect for me. My clients love the luxury of eco-chic home décor and I get a thrill out of working with them individually. I am grateful for the experience at the ABI workshop, as learning this lesson was important to my business success.