Posted by: Betsy Devany | November 12, 2009

From Baa Creations to Writing For Children

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For twenty-three years I designed appliques for infant and children’s clothing. Ducks. Baby giraffes. Cows.  Bears sleeping on the moon. Bunnies. Lobsters. Crabs. Penguins, and whatever unique design a customer asked me to do.  Special requests always stirred my imagination and led me to work with different fabrics and designs beyond what I would have ordinarily done.

I specialized in making matching baby gifts as well as coordinated clothing for siblings, from newborn babies to pre-teens. Many weekends, I traveled to sell my work at craft fairs–as far away as Virginia. I personally cut and sewed 12,000 to 15,000 appliques per year. And as exhausting it was, I loved the work. Plain and simple. Financial aspirations, aside from supporting my children and having the ability to stay home with them, never drove my business.

My greatest joy came from meeting and getting to know my customers. Watching their babies grow out of my bibs and holiday sweatshirts, until my creations no longer met their needs. Yet, customers would still come by my booth to say hello, and I will always remember those small gestures.

I miss the personal connection. The frantic calls from a parent to make a beloved dress in a larger size because their daughter can barely squeeze into the one I made her two years ago, and she refuses to hand-it-down to her younger sister.  I miss entertaining the young children while their parents searched my racks. I am not one to sit around and do nothing, so I always brought cutting work with me, wherever I went. If their parents needed more time, I let the kids count or sort my piles of duck pieces, lobsters and a variety of other shapes, or help me put more bibs on display.

And yes, some of my experiences from the business have found their way into my writing.

I still make my creations, on a limited basis, for a handful of gift shops. And for customers who call me for handmade baby gifts. But now, my solitary creative time  is no longer spent at a commercial sewing machine. Rather, I sit in my writing room with a notebook on my lap or follow my thoughts on the computer. Instead of ironing pellon to fabric, cutting shapes out for two hours each night, and sewing for six hours per day, I read. I write. I listen to my characters, and pply the skills I developed while running a business out of my house.  My work process, including my passion, remains the same. Only the outlet has changed.

Children’s publishing is a business. While it could not exist without the multitude of creative talent, it also would not survive without the business aspect.  Baa Creations taught me that creativity alone is not enough. Designing for children was the trajectory to writing for children of all ages, yet the skills needed to sell and promote my creations were just as important. Truly loving what I did made my business flourish naturally.

My clothing business prepared me for writing in more ways than one, and taught me important lessons: Be resilient. Foster patience and persistance. Recognize your inability to please everyone at all times. Be gracious to those you can’t please, and grateful for those you can. Recognize the importance of self-promotion, maintaining mailing lists, and staying in touch with customers about upcoming events. Deal with rejections in a non-personal way. Appreciate your mentors. Listen with an open mind, and apply any advice to your  work with a positive attitude. Always be willing to try something new, even if you don’t agree. With time, you may. Be thankful for your gift. Remain humble. Keep learning. Work hard at your craft on a daily basis. Don’t be hard on yourself when you fall off task. Find your personal style and voice, and be true to that.

Never give up.

To all my past Baa Creation customers. Thank you your kindness, your support, and mostly for understanding when my heart and passion sent me in a new direction.  I look forward to seeing you in the future as a writer.


Responses

  1. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

    Lucy

    http://toddlergirls.net

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Lucy!
      Betsy


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