I drive a Miata. I bought my first in 1996, and my second (and current) in 2001. I’m approaching 300K lifetime Miata miles, and I still look out the window, espy my car and think she’s pretty. I remember seeing the first print ad for these little roadsters in 1990 and having that gut level “oh-my-god-I-want-one” feeling. In my eyes the designers did something right, and passion ensued. The first US Miata club was born before the first Miata rolled off a boat – that’s the kind of passion it generated.
Over the years I’ve had many discussions about the merits and pitfalls of a two-seater with a small trunk. No, you can’t get a month’s worth of groceries and dog food in it. Yes, you have to pack small (but I’ve gone camping with it). No, its rear wheel drive was not optimal for three Virginia winters during grad school. Yes, the same rear wheel drive it is the bomb for twisty road play. I point out that the car fits me ninety-nine percent of the time and when it doesn’t, I borrow something bigger and return it with a full tank and deep gratitude. I like that it is nimble and small. I like that I get both decent performance and good mileage. I like having only one empty seat instead of three when I’m stuck in traffic solo (which, living in LA, is a daily occurrence) and pondering about all that wasted space in cars. I like dropping the top and getting my ration of sunshine. When I helped my teenage son buy a Miata, I was thrilled that there could be only one (not four) other kids in the car distracting him.
And so what does this have to do with quilting, pattern designing, art, running an entrepreneurial business, or even life, for that matter? Passion. And knowing in your gut what works for you.
Continuing the car stories, some years ago I read a great car article about the Dodge Viper vs. the Toyota Camry (and I have searched to find it again, to no avail, so what you are getting is perhaps not what was written, but what I took away from it). The article spoke to designing something that people could be passionate about. The Viper had a pretty small niche: it had two seats, serious horsepower, rudimentary creature comforts and a price tag of $70K at the time (they start at $95K now). It was a throaty, stiff ride. The first time one passed me on the freeway I thought I oughta take up smoking, it sounded that good. The Camry was then, and still is, one of the top selling all-around sedans. The article pointed out that the Viper had a small but positively rabid following. Clubs were forming. Speed shops were coming up with fun go-faster bits and pieces. And then they pointed to the Camry. And they pointed out all of its great features (and there are many). And they pointed out that while a lot of people bought this car that is obviously designed by committee to not engender any dislike, the flip side of that was that it didn’t engender much passion either. Since reading that article I ask anyone I meet that drives a Camry to tell me about it, and they pretty much all describe a bowl of vanilla ice cream. Nothing much to complain about at all, but not a lot to enthuse about either. The article concluded that rather than shrink the world of car design to the idea that there could be one car that meets most needs, we should celebrate that for some people the Camrys are the best fit, and we should still design the Vipers for the ardent few that want them, that *get* them.
And so back to the art business again. As I tooled up for the Long Beach show I was inundated with advice on how to do it like a lot of other people do it. And a lot of it was great advice that was duly noted and acted upon. But I was aware that there is this other part of the puzzle – the Viper criteria if you will. At the end of the day it needed to be my voice that was singing. Obviously from the business perspective I would love to have the sales of the Camry – lots and lots of patterns leaving the booth. But I find that what I really want is the passion of the Viper. I want to make something that I am entirely committed to, that I can stand behind, that I can own with deep, gut-truth passion. I want to make it in orange if I’m moved to do so, if orange is the right solution to the aesthetic problem for me, and not care that “most people don’t like orange and it might sell better in blue.” I want to find my Viper club: the people who are excited about what I design, the people who *get* me and my ideas. And of course, if that Viper club happens to be as populous as Camry owners, I might be able to buy a new Miata!
So let’s make all the different art that can be made. And let’s give up the idea that it should have to conform to the mass market to do so. Make it passionately, and it will find its following.
Typographic image courtesy of Inksurge.