my (almost forgotten) journey to surtex

tammie bennett's blushing pattern

pretty much all i've talked about for the past month or two has been surtex.  "after surtex, i'll clean my studio."  "after surtex i'll do laundry."  "your birthday party will have to be after surtex."

along with this, i've had to explain to people what SURTEX is and why i'm doing it.  (it's a trade show where artists and designers sell and license their artwork to companies like target and land of nod.)  I've had to explain myself most of all to the people locally who know me as a running coach and a running camp director.  

i can't even count the number of times i've been asked, "have you always wanted to do art?"  i started by saying no.  but as i kept getting asked, i kept really thinking back to my past.  the correct answer is that i've wanted to be an artist of some sort for a really long time, and finally have the courage to go for it.

in grammar school, i helped a friend of my dad's who was a local graphic designer by doing some of his lettering using those rub-on transfer letters. (so fun!)  i enjoyed making the letters equally spaced and the words even.  i studied his business card (with a really cute hand-drawn self portrait of a frumpy man with a bushy mustache) and thought i might want to do his job when i grew up.

in middle school, some of my very favorite memories were spending what felt like hours in the local stationery shop.  i would walk leisurely through the aisles, softly touching the blank journals, trying out the pens, taking deep breaths of that paper and office supply smell.  hours.

in high school, i made things.  i handmade bows and hair clips to go with each of my outfits.  i made sweatshirts as gifts.  i lost track of time and found peace with my craft supplies.

tammie bennett's bow repeat pattern


i thought back to one of my first jobs in college where i was a marketing and advertising major. i worked for a phone book company designing ads for the yellow pages.  (remember those?)  i remember proudly showing a page full of tiny ads to my boyfriend his admiration didn't quite match mine.  i loved the challenge of trying to be creative and get all the information in a tiny 1-square-inch space.

i've never told anyone this, and only recently remembered it ::  i used to scribble 'bentam graphics' on my notebooks.  ben for my then-boyfriend, now-husband, chris bennett.  the tam for tammie.  i imagined having a design studio and that's what i wanted to call it.

somehow in the mix of life, i swept that desire away and went to law school.  law school sure does sound a lot safer than setting up an art and design studio.  at least to the "grownups" i was talking to.

halfway through law school, i knew it wasn't the career for me, but i super duper enjoyed law school and knew a law degree wouldn't hurt to have in my back pocket.  (it hurt my wallet, but that's a different story.)

i had a business selling my handmade creations when i was raising my first two children.  i would spend hours (and dollars) in quilting fabric stores.  i made modern quilted pillows, tote bags, wall art.  i loved the fabrics and the fun images on them.   i loved running that business, but after having a third child and a move to a new state, i let it go.  

i still hoarded quilting fabric though.  i remember the first time i ever thought about how those cute designs got on that fabric.  and i realized holy moly!  that's a job??  people do that for a living?? people make art that later appears on some of my favorite things in the world :: journals, pillows, tote bags, bedding???!!  that's totally what i'm going to do. where and how do i sign up?

i took several online classes (i'm so thankful for alma loveland, rachael taylor, beth kempton, and lilla rogers) and i read everything i could get my hands on (thank you artist tara reed).  i started this path a little over two years ago.

in two days i'll be showing my work to thousands of buyers at SURTEX and i can't wait.  i can't wait for the next part of this journey.  the journey that maybe i was on all along and just didn't know it.