THE ART OF THE WORD– Writer + Quilter = Opportunity

It may seem like I dropped off of the face of the planet. I did not. I just went to Portland, Oregon for a week. Here I am on the plane. For those of you who might want to know–I did not spill any red wine on my neighbor’s white jeans. I know. WHO wears white jeans on a plane? But that is a story for another day.

The Art of the Word--Writer + Quilter = OpportunityI was in Portland to attend Fiberlandia the Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) annual conference. How many famous art quilters can you spot in this lobby photo?

Maria Shell The Art of the WORDIt was a great week.

Portland really is keeping weird, and I LOVE that.

Maria Shell Art of the Word Part IOn Saturday morning, I gave a talk on the super sexy subject of writing grant proposals.

Maria Shell The Art of the WordI know, most of you are thinking, “What a horrible way to spend your Saturday morning.”

I titled the speech THE ART OF THE WORD– Getting Grants and Other Art Opportunities by Crafting a Well-Written Proposal. I had several conference attendees tell me that they were DREADING attending my lecture, and that they almost didn’t. And then they did, and they were happy. I love it when it goes like that. SAQA members who were not at the conference have asked me to share the key points of the speech.

To avoid the dreaded uber long–too many words and not enough pictures– blog post, I am going to break this down into several parts.

Part I– Writer + Quilter = Opportunity
Part II–Start Where Are, Do the Work, Show Us What You’ve Got
Part III– Get Your Systems Going
Part IV– Networking AKA Meeting New People
Part V–Apply, Apply, Apply
Part VI–Follow Up and Follow Through

Here we go.

I started out my adult life as a writer. I have two degrees in writing–a Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Kansas and a MFA in creative writing from the University of Alaska, Anchorage. I used those skills to teach journalism, creative writing, and Intro to Women Studies at Prince William Sound Community College in Valdez, Alaska.

Then one day, I became a quilter, and I never, ever wanted to write again. All I wanted to do was CUT, STITCH, and PRESS over and over again. Do you see the gnome on the shelf and the vintage Norwegian sweater? THAT was my life.

Maria Shell The Art of the WordIt was about snow, and boys, and quilting–and not necessarily in that order.

February 2007 101But eventually, the youngest went to school, and I decided that was my chance to go out into the wider world of quilting and learn about my place in it. I wrote a grant and received funding to study with Nancy Crow for THREE weeks. I had not left my family since I had our oldest son. No matter what they looked like in this picture (it was taken at the airport moments before I boarded the plan)–They did survive.

IMG_0287The experience was transformative.

Maria Shell The Art of the WordThat was 2009.

Since then, I have received a Sustainable Arts Foundation Award to build a small solar powered studio in the garage of our off-the-grid cabin in McCarthy, Alaska.

I have received several awards from the Rasmuson Foundation including  an eighteen thousand dollar fellowship,

and a two month paid artist residency at the McColl Center for Art and Innovation in Charlotte, North Carolina. There is the best upholstery store in Charlotte called Modern Fabrics. (I know I look like a dumpster diver, but I really am working.)

Maria Shell Image Journal #31 I have received two travel grants from the Alaska State Council on the Arts (ASCA). Here is the opening to Art Quilt Elements 2012 which ASCA helped me attend.

The Art of the Word by Maria ShellI have written proposals that were accepted by the Bellevue Arts Museums for their 2012 Biennial High Fiber Diet

IMG_1296and by the Surface Design Association to be one the featured artists for their conference in San Antonio, Texas. (Filling empty walls is scary and amazing all at the same time.)

In 2014, I had two solo shows CUT-STITCH-PRESS at the Bunnell Street Arts Center Homer, Alaska, and The Art of the Grid at the Wiseman Gallery in Grants Pass, Oregon.

And finally, I was one of four artists featured in the group show fiber at the Fitton Center for Creative Arts in Hamilton, Ohio.

Maria Shell fiber @ The FittonEvery single one of these experiences was because I wrote a proposal, and it was accepted.

So how did I do that? THAT is what the ART OF THE WORD is about. You can do this too. It just takes a wee bit of tenacity AKA as rejection.

Over the next few blog posts, I am going to break down my systems for you.

I hope this will be a conversation, a dialogue.

Questions for today–How do you feel about writing? What trips you up? What gets you going? Why does everyone think grant writing is so boring? I think we need to change the name–it is no longer grant writing. It is CHA-CHING writing.

Let’s do it.

This entry was published on May 8, 2015 at 7:54 PM. It’s filed under News And Events and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

38 thoughts on “THE ART OF THE WORD– Writer + Quilter = Opportunity

  1. I am impressed! Important topic and great presentation.
    love u

  2. Very impressive! I’d like to hear more, and learn from it, find out how I can apply it in my country – UK.

  3. What trips me up is finding the best words and not repeating tne same words when describing something. I think my writing is boring.

    • Pat, that is a great point. I do several things to help me with that. I do a rough draft, and then I let it sit–ideally for 24 hours. I go back and look for the repetition, and I try to mix it up. And then finally, I really do read everything out loud. I want my tone to be honest, conversational, and understandable. If I can get that, I am usually successful. I hope that helps.

  4. Maria – Now it all makes sense to me!! You have a gift for writing; but then, you also have the wonderful education & training. You write your blog almost as though you were writing a letter to a dear friend. I wonder why you started with the blog in the beginning? I started mine mostly as a journal of my projects after I retired. Congratulations on keeping the fiber arts alive and at the front! Thinking about the travel you have done to training and exhibits and the fun you must have along the way; all while doing the networking that is so essential. The grant writing sounds like it has been worth the efforts. Kind of like those scholarship applications my daughters filled out. One daughter applied for over 50, got 5; the other applied for about 30, got 1. I didn’t pay for college for either one and they were both very successful. Their lesson was you had to work hard for the reward. I see how hard you work to get these shows ready., When it is time to sip champagne and speak with your viewers; that is in itself must feel like a reward.. Now, do tell about the red wine and white pants! 🙂 I do feel like your friend after reading of your adventures in the last 3 years. Mary

    • Mary! I am going to write a blog post about the white jeans/red wine incident soon.It is such a classic example of me being a dumdum. You are so right about your daughters and their scholarship applications. One of the biggest hurdles to get over is just putting ourselves out there and accepting that rejection is part of that. You can’t get accepted if you don’t apply, and each rejection just means you are closer to an acceptance! Thank you Mary for being such a fun reader. I really do enjoy your comments.

  5. The budget portions are always brutal for me.

    • I know! I tend to dedicate a day to just pricing things out. I have found that the grants reviewers aren’t interested in EVERY dime, but they do want it to make sense. A second pair of eyes is very helpful for this part of the proposal. This is a good point–I will try and write more about it. Thank you!

  6. Interesting! Truthfully, it never occurred to me to apply for grants to fund my quilting. Congratulations on finding that path and using it successfully.

    For me, writing is as much a part of my creative expression as quilting is. They fulfill somewhat different needs, as the writing is generally public and the quilting is more solitary and personal. Both entail creating gifts for others.

    If anything trips me up, it is managing the time I spend on the two pursuits. I can either write and quilt in breaks, or I can quilt and write in breaks. I can’t do both wholeheartedly at the same time.

    Thanks for the post. I’ll look forward to the rest of the series.

    • Thank you Melanie for commenting. I tend to do my writing in the morning and then quilt when I have finished my writing tasks. These different processes do activate different parts of the brain. I can also think about my writing while I stitch which can be very helpful.

  7. Wonderful post,Maria.I look forward to the rest of the series!The NIADA conference is in Portland this year.(Nat’l Doll Conf.) I really would have loved to go.Some of my favorite doll people are in it, and Portland is one of my favorite cities.Alas it will not be in the cards.😞I am looking forward to our trip to AK.It will be great to see you all!

  8. Carole on said:

    Wow, I am more than impressed, you busy bee!

  9. First I have to make better quilts. I have a degree in English Lit so I suppose I can write at some level. But not sure I,m deserving of grants yet..?! I once had a plane disaster with a neighbour with new (blue, at least) jeans and my dark inky pen which I now know doesn’t like altitude…
    Are all those rosettes in the corner of your studio for quilts?!!

    • Camilla- You can do it. And yes, producing work is the very first step. Ouch to the ink. Like red wine it is a stubborn stain to remove. I looked twice but I am not sure what rosettes you are talking about? If it is in my studio it is most likely for some sort of making…

  10. Kristin Shields on said:

    Your talk was wonderful! I can’t imagine why someone would dread going to it. I learned so much. It was totally worth the price of the conference. Now to just get things in order here so that I can have the time to pursue grants. Life is extra busy with the new job, so I feel much less productive now. Also, Chloe got the job! The big task now is to get her some housing. She starts on June 8 so the next few weeks will be extra busy with that.

    • Kristin, Thank you for your good words. I know what you mean about productivity after change. You will get settled and get back at it shortly. The key is not to beat yourself up about it in the meantime. Of course, Chloe got the job! I’m sure she interviewed well–knowledgable but not a show off. How exciting for her. Please tell her congrats!

  11. I have written successful grants proposals for many arts organizations and have never applied for one for MY education, travel or studio rebuild… and I guess it is about time. After 30+ years working to make sure funding was in place for others, I could learn a lot from your tenacity, actually get to it and do some research … then start the journey to making my career as a wordsmith, with luck and dedication, do some payback. You never cease to inspire me in so many ways.

    • Bethany- You can do it! If you have gotten funding for art organizations it is just a small leap to funding yourself. My first grant was actually a Federal one requesting funds for afterschool programming. It was hard and complicated, but after that, writing a little travel grant was nothing. I look forward to hearing of your successes!

  12. Jo Vandermey on said:

    It would be wonderful to be able to apply to help with education costs. It seems that most of the great learning resourses are in the US or in the UK or Australia. I would love to do a city and guilds course or travel to a week long retreat to immerse my self in art and find my artist voice.
    Thanks for being so gracious and giving of your knowledge!

    • Jo- Some states/nations do fund more than others. Kansas, my home state, almost did away with their arts council! Alaska, on the other hand, is a huge supporter of the arts.You really just have to do the research. I frequently look at other artists resumes and see who funded them and then go there. Good luck!

  13. Pam Rocco on said:

    Glad to see you’re back in the saddle. I missed you while you were gone. Very informative post!

  14. This is a very encouraging post. I missed this year’s conference and I’m looking forward to reading more. I always thought grants were for other people – now, im planning on looking for grant opportunities. Thank you!

    • Jeanne- Grants are for you! I know this to be true. It is funny how we as quilt artists some how think of ourselves as other. We are artists too, and we qualify for all kinds of opportunties. Thank you for stopping by and sharing.

  15. Marla on said:

    Great post. It has been interesting watching your various ventures, knowing the hard work behind the scenes to make these proposals a reality. By the way, I LOVE the photo with your gnome on the shelf. Also, I received your lovely quilting notes and I am busy practicing my fmq.

    • Thank you Marla! I hope the notes are useful. I have a much better shelving in the studio now, but back in the day the boys really used those gorilla racks as a climbing gym.

  16. Penny on said:

    I am very interesting in this grant writing series, not only for me but for our small struggling community gallery in this “designated frontier” area where I live. Our little gallery, run by volunteers, is the heartbeat of this area and we include all forms of art, ie. music, theatre, fiber, open mic, dance, children’s summer programs. Our tourism grant from the State of NM is not enough.

    • Penny- there is a LOT of funding out there right now for community art programing. I would start with the National Endowment for the Arts and their Art Works program. Check out your state and city arts councils too. Good luck. It takes some tenacity but you can do it.

  17. New to your blog (found you through your post to the SAQA digest this weekend) and am really looking forward to the follow on posts about pursuing grant funding. I’m fairly new as an artist, but I do love writing.

    I’ve got a rather high powered day job which I…hate…but it funds my share of family expenses and eventual retirement (I hope) so I don’t feel I can quit. I’m constantly seeking motivation to work on my art when I’m not at the day job (because the day job sucks the life out of me, leaving me depressed, which is like a tape worm, a never ending loop of blah). If there is a way to meet my financial needs AND make my art, I’m all for learning and pursuing! Discovering your blog (and this particular post) came at just the right time.

    • Hilary- I am glad to hear from you! Finding the work-art-life-balance is a tough one. I think we always are tweaking it. I hope for us all to talk ALOT about how we can work towards our art dreams by using grants and other art opportunities as starting points for great things.

  18. Lets do THIS!

  19. I don’t mind writing, but I’ve never tried writing for grants! In fact, I’ve never even THOUGHT about trying to get grants. I think I’m going to find this really interesting. I came over from the SAQA yahoo group.

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