quilt-diary-201610-500 This post first appeared on my Patreon page. Join today to see everything first!

"Whatever happened to Spweet?* Are they still aggregating Kuhfwangles?" "No, they pivoted."

In the tech startup world, pivoting is "a structured course correction designed to test a new fundamental hypothesis about the product, strategy, and engine of growth." (source)

Or to paraphrase Steve Blank: Fire the plan, not the CEO.

I painted so hard in 2016. And 2015, and 2014, and on back. I love the paintings I painted. But I'm tired of painting.

They Grow Around Roads. Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24 inches, 2015 They Grow Around Roads. Acrylic on canvas, 24 x 24 inches, 2015 by Sarah Atlee. Available at Ro2 Art.

I've been a painter for 20 years. It's been my pastime, my course of study, my profession, and a big part of my identity. It's been easy to answer the question,

"So, what kind of art do you do?"

Well, that's a good question. Right now, I'm not interested in making paintings. So how can I tell people I'm a painter? You know what I'm doing now? I make quilts.


Why Make Quilts?

Quilts inhabit an interesting space between two and three dimensions, comprising both image and object.

Quilts are largely functional works of art, meant to be touched, used, and worn over time. I make quilts that should be used - no hands-off museum mentality here.

Across cultures worldwide, quilts are created to mark time and record history, both public and private. We make quilts to commemorate birth, marriage, transition, sickness, even death. A quilt can simultaneously signify the history of one person and an entire people.

Quilts are a way to make old materials new again. They embody the age-old practice of making do, ever more relevant in our consumer culture.

Are quilts art? The debate plods along. I have the opportunity to expand the conversation about “craft” or “functional art” in “fine art” spaces. As one educated in the traditional art school system, making quilts feels at once radical and yet completely appropriate. Of course quilts are art!

Melee. Detail view of back. Quilted cotton. 10 x 10 inches, 2016

Have I hung up my paintbrushes for good? Certainly not. I need some time to create in this other vein. I think I will return to painting through some side door that I can't see just now. It's going to take new practices and strategies to continue my art business with this new hat on. I'm definitely up for the challenge.

So now, when someone asks, "What kind of art do you do?" I tell them: I make quilts.

I'm a quilter, y'all.

* Okay, you would not believe how many nonsense words I auditioned for this sentence, but it turns out they are already in use, most of them as tech startups. Rejected words include: sploof, tweenge, treeve, alboo, florp, gloove, traeve, fween, spang, splot, ofen, crangle...

Boundaries, Bracelets, and Biz Coaches - In Gratitude, Part 2

It's November, home of my favorite holiday! This month I'm spending a few minutes each day writing about something for which I am thankful. Here is the second batch. Sushi White Plate, acrylic on canvas, 12 x 12 inches, 2012 by Sarah Atlee. Private collection.

Sushi White Plate, acrylic on canvas, 12 x 12 inches, 2012 by Sarah Atlee. Private collection.

Alyson Stanfield, Art Biz Coach

Do you have a person in your life who believes wholeheartedly in your career? Who cheers your successes? Who's not afraid to ask you to ask yourself the tough questions about what you want out of life? Who can teach you to wield the tools of success? I do: Alyson Stanfield, the Art Biz Coach. Read her book and begin your journey.

My Artist Network

Earlier this month I attended Alyson Stanfield's Art Biz Makeover event in Golden, Colorado. It's not often I get to spend time with such an energetic, motivated group of artists. You know what I love most about working with these folks? Realizing that we're all in this together. We share many of the same challenges, and we celebrate success together. In a business like this, it's so important to know that you are not alone.

The Egg Timer

This friendly little gadget is my near-constant companion in the studio, whether I'm writing, painting, or working on business tasks. It's a tiny piece of decision-making power that allows me to stop asking "What do I do now?"

Looking for more ways to improve your productivity? Check out the Pomodoro Technique, Timeboxing, and Willpower.

[Benny voice] BRACELETS

Learning New Things

In 2013 I taught myself how to make friendship bracelets. At the time I was working on a series in response to growing up female in the 80s and 90s. I remember friendship bracelets as these cool things made by cool girls and you had to hope that a cool girl would make one for you, so you could be cool too, but she didn't, so it's a quarter-century later, and now I have the power of the Internet. I AM THE COOL GIRL NOW.

You can be the cool girl, too: Friendship bracelet basics, endless bracelet patterns, how to do anything.


When I put a task down on paper, that's when it starts to feel real. That's when I make a promise to myself to honor my responsibilities. And while I'm at it, why not have some fun with stickers? My list should be a happy place.

Lists can be happy places


You see this beautiful website? See how easy it is to move around and find what you're looking for? Thank Jason Ormand, my rock star web designer.

A long, long time ago, on a server far away, there were iterations of SarahAtlee.com that I coded from the ground up. No more. Web design is not my area of expertise. My time is better spent doing what I do best - making pictures. So I delegate. Try it on, it's so roomy!

Boundaries Around my Creative Time

This is something all artists (really, all independent workers) must face. Making pictures is the most important thing I do. Why on Earth would I want to do dishes or go to the grocery store instead of painting? Because sometimes I let the minutiae of daily life distract me.

All it takes to correct this pattern is giving myself permission to let the small stuff go. After all, is anyone going to remember that I did the dishes today? Nuh-uh. If I use that time to create a beautiful object that a collector brings into their home, that's time well spent.

Orange, acrylic on canvas, 4 x 4 inches, 2014 by Sarah Atlee. Private commission.

Orange, acrylic on canvas, 4 x 4 inches, 2014 by Sarah Atlee. Private commission.

What are you thankful for? Express your gratitude in the comments below.

Read Coffee, Sleep, Paper - In Gratitude, Part 1 Read Monkeys, Quilts, and Toilet Art - In Gratitude, Part 3 Read It's the Little Things - In Gratitude, Part 4 Read Bonus Gratitude!


Marketing. BOOM.

These days I'm spending most of my workday painting, since my new solo exhibition is right around the corner. Yesterday was a little different. 20140306 postcards on desk

11:15 a.m. : Postcards arrive

I ordered my postcards from a new (to me) printer this time around. Their turnaround time was a little longer than I expected, but their rates are very competetive and the print quality came out looking great.


12:30 p.m. : Unpack postcards and affix address labels

Soundtrack: Valerie June, Pushin' Against a Stone

1:15 p.m. : Affix postage stamps

Between the day when I last ordered postage stamps and the day it was time to use them, I expanded my mailing list by about 50 names.* Was it a problem when I ran out of postcard stamps? NOPE. I had enough first-class stamps for the remaining postcards.


2:30 p.m. : Sort cards into ZIP code bundles

I heard once that this makes it easier for USPS to sort and deliver them. Correct me if you know otherwise.


Soundtrack for final push: Everything is Awesome

2:45 p.m. : SAFETY BREAK

3:45 p.m. :  Deliver postcards to outgoing mail drop


4:00 p.m. : Celebrate with hoagie from Southside Flying Pizza

Turnaround time: 3.5 hours.


Now back to our regularly scheduled painting.

I'd like to thank Alyson Stanfield and the members of the Art Biz Bootcamp and Art Biz Incubator Silver groups for their continued advice and encouragement. Y'all help me stay psyched about this business.

* Hey, would you like to get my postcards, too? You can sign up right here.

My Naughties

That's what happened.
Yeah, I'm a little late to the top-ten-list party. Here are my top ten artistic moments (in chronological order) from the Naughts, 2000-2009 :

2000 I have my first solo show, ____ day of my life, at the now-defunct ASA Gallery at UNM. 2001 My senior thesis show, Actual Size, sells out. I graduate from UNM with a BFA. 2002 Making art on my own in Indiana, I realize that I need more instruction to become a better painter. This becomes my goal in applying to graduate school. 2003 I begin graduate study at RIT. 2004 I learn a heck of a lot about the illustration business, and my personal style really begins to solidify. I start making paintings like this. 2005 I complete my graduate thesis show. One of these paintings is accepted to the Society of Illustrators Scholarship Competition. 2006 I move to Oklahoma, and am warmly welcomed into the artistic community here. 2007 I get a beautiful studio above Mainsite Gallery, and a slot in the Art 365 program. 2008 The Art 365 show debuts, including my series Normal, OK. 2009 I join the fabulous, inspiring, nerdcore community at the Oklahoma City Coworking Collaborative, or okcCoCo.

And from this past year, 2009:

January: I make two drawings for the Seeing Other People show curated by Jennifer Barron. February: I take my family to Society of Illustrators in NYC to see my piece in the annual Book Illustration exhibition. March: I quit my last day job to commit to art full-time. Haaaa-le-lu-jah April: I attend OVAC's Artists' Retreat at Quartz Mountain, where I learn all about residencies. May: I began the Occupied project, on my own, because a) I wanted to and b) I can. June: My drawing of romy is accepted to the 24 Works On Paper travelling exhibition. July: Back to Normal: Normal, OK Revisited opens at the Gaylord-Pickens Museum. August: I join the okcCoCo and move my studio there. November: I'm accepted into OVAC's first Oklahoma Art Writing and Curatorial Fellowship. December: Looking forward to 2010. There have been so many positive changes for me in recent years, I can't wait to see what comes next.

My Inventory Card System

Sample from my inventory card system.
Here's an example of my inventory card system. Click the image to see full-size, or click here to download a 1-page PDF version.

I keep my complete inventory in a stack of 3x5" index cards. When it comes time for a show, I make inventories for the gallery in spreadsheet form, and also in a document with thumbnail images.

Paper and pen are my preferred medium for most applications, but if you'd rather create a digital database of your work, try the GYST company.

Too many index cards cluttering up your desk drawer? Try putting them together into a Hipster.