Hi! I'm Melissa Averinos. 

Please click here for Longarm Quilting info!

I'm a longarm quilter and fabric designer for Andover Fabrics. I wrote Small Stash Sewing. I illustrated The Family Doodle Book. I wrote and illustrated DIY Mason Jars and DIY Wine Corks. I am a lifelong painter. I am a Cape Codder, good listener and lover of pie. I love yoga and gardening. Let's be friends!





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« 459: a silly little comic for you | Main | 457: painting birds and stones »

458: success?


Forsythia is blooming, daffodils are up. I'm so glad  it's spring!

I think I said this before, but I am REALLY digging having weekends off again. I have been painting and gardening and going for rides with my honey.

I did list a few of those paintings from my last post on etsy---using scans, but I haven't photographed them yet and I really need to. It freaks me out. I guess it's like... painting is my true love and if I really give it all I have and it doesn't work...

Well, I guess that means I need to rethink what I want out of it and what 'success' means. Huh, success. That is such a loaded word. I need talk about  the reality of designing, or at least my reality, my experience of it.

People might look at me and think I'm 'successful' or have 'made it' because I have a book, design fabric, have been in magazines and on tv... all of that does kind of blow my mind and I do absolutely give myself credit for it, but it doesn't necessarily make a living, you know? Actually, you might not know.

I guess that's where it gets tricky. Of course I don't think 'success' has to be monetary, but it is caught up with it for sure. I think I need to redefine what I think of as 'success' for myself.

See, it's weird for me because I didn't grow up thinking that success was even an option for me. I struggled so much just to make it through the day in high school. I really can't believe I even graduated( and I STILL have stress dreams that I didn't) --- and I only did because of having the art department as a safe haven.  There was never any talk of college in my house. I was terrified of life. I didn't want to live because I knew, I knew how hard life was going to be for me for a long time--- and I was right. It was really effing hard--- depression, anxiety, just living in my head was torture, paralyzing and devoid of hope. When I look back on it, I am really surprised that I stuck it out. Glad I did.

When I was in high school, all I really thought I would do in life, if I made it after high school, was have some soul-sucking minimum wage job and do my artwork on the side to make myself happy. That's all I ever thought I COULD do. I had confidence in my work, I've always loved to paint and create, and I wasn't shy about sharing it, it's just that I never felt ambition....confidence....hope.

And from 19-26 years old, I did just have random jobs with low pay. Over time, I learned to breathe my way through my anxiety--- not to get rid of it, but to be present with each excruciating moment, to just breathe in and out and rinse and repeat until I could finally just go to sleep and have some relief from the constant fight-or-flight adrenaline and the underlying despair and sadness that I always had.

When Stuart and I got together, so many of my wounds began to heal and I started to grow in confidence. He is a smart guy and he believed in me. So I just tried to trust him and slowly started to believe more in myself. Have you seen the dedication to him in my book? It says something like " For Stuart, for believing in me until I believed im myself." That's what that is about. He changed my life.

I finally started to feel more confident and believe I could do more than just exist and make it through the day. I taught myself Adobe Illustrator for a new position at the embroidery shop where I was a machine operator. I had a skill for the first time! I made a little bit better wage! I was A DESIGNER!

After about a year of designing logos and screenprints, I realized... hey! I can do MY OWN WORK with this new skill! I started researching licensing and for the first time in my life I felt AMBITION. I felt like, "I can totally do that!" And I set out to do it. I felt like my day job was the enemy keeping me from my dream. I somehow managed to convince Stuart that I should quit my job and pursue licensing. This was 2004, I think.

Bad idea.

I always thought that I didn't like structure. I never had any growing up and thought I never wanted any. Wrongo. I was not built for freelance. I was lonely, didn't know how to keep myself on task, not to mention that cold calling manufacturers and being rejected constantly is really hard! I floundered. I had some interest from some companies and a couple of minor successes, but nothing that could even pay half of a bill. Literally. Our household was suffering without me making any money and eventually I (grudgingly!) started working part time again at this random job, then full time at that random job.

I did keep working on designs, and would get motivated from time to time and pursue some companies. I would get rejected, get depressed and give up for a few more months.

In 2007, I got the fabric gig and in 2008 we opened Yummy Goods. (And that is its own whole story! ) As you know, we closed Yummy Goods this winter and now I am back to my old position as the artist at the embroidery shop.

At this point I no longer look at the day job as the enemy. Instead of thinking of it as the thing that KEEPS me from doing the things I love, I think of it as the thing that ALLOWS me to do the things I love.

Here is some truth, for me at least: Sometimes when you try to turn your passion into your work? Sometimes it stops being your passion. So much pressure gets put on it to make money that what used to bring joy becomes a stressful thing. Read that again. Yes, there are exceptions. But I don't think enough of us talk about our own reality to temper the addictive and magical dream of 'making a living doing what we love'.

The internet and all the crafty blogs have perpetuated a really sparkly inspiring narrative about following your bliss. Which is lovely. I needed that pure naive faith to start all of this. In reality, in my experience, it mostly does not pay. For some, of course, it does. The superstars, the celebrities, the ones who were there first, the odd standout. Of course. And that may be you someday and that may be me someday. Of course, have hope. But maybe also see if you can squint a little and see behind the curtain and see that it's not all it's cracked up to be. It's not all sparkly and pretty and success and shoes from "Anthro."

I'm not here to be a dreamcrusher! Do the work that you love, absolutely! But  If I could go back to my 2004 self, I would say, "Sweetie, you have a pretty good gig here. You are good at what you do. You are actually making a respectable living doing design work. Go for your dreams, of course, but FOR THE LOVE OF GOD KEEP YOUR DAY JOB!"

Of course, I wouldn't have taken my own advice. I was stubborn, I was determined, I was sure I could make it work somehow. What I didn't realize is that EVEN IF I HAD, licensing is a very slow way to make a dime. Also, it is not a dime, it is a nickel at best.Again, yes, people do it and some people do make a decent (or better) living at it and I am still trying to and hoping to (I think??) but it is not like you get a fabric line and a book deal and you know make a yearly income that allows you to quit your day job. Nope, not even close.

Why am I compelled to write about this? What do I have to gain from it? Nothing, really. I guess I just want to unburden myself. I wish people were more open about this stuff. I know. it's hard.  I mean, we all want to look good, we all want to come across as successful and maybe if that magazine that we hope features us, or that potential licesing partner reads what we've written, maybe we won't look so hot....

well.... i mean, eff that.  I'm probably in a better position to write so openly about it because from the beginning I have always been forthcoming about my hard times. I kind of think of my honesty as part of my 'brand' , rather than conflicting with it. But even for me, it's still hard to write a post like this because ...I don't know, I guess I don't want to come across as bitter or discouraging or self pitying--- because it's not like that (though i certainly do have my moments!) 

It's more like I want to let you know we are all in this together. Do you ever get jealous reading about that person's new licensing gig, or that person won that award, or this person is featured on that prestigious whatever ??? ME TOO!  Even if we look like we have all that stuff going on ourselves, and even if, like me, we do give ourselves credit and appreciate how far we've come, we still suffer from jealousy, envy, rejection, struggling to pay the bills, wondering what the EFF we are doing with our lives.

At least, I hope it's not just me.

xo, nervously,



i still have so much more i want to say about this! i will probably touch more on this soon.

***edited the next day to add this little poster. feel free to print it out as a reminder!

I hope my hard-won perspective helps a few folks take some of the pressure off!



Reader Comments (64)

What a beautifully honest post. Thank you for sharing your story, your insight and your hindsight. It is a perspective that isn't talked about much.
April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKristin
Well, *I* think you are a total rock star. XOXO
April 6, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterheide
I stumbled onto your blog from the link Sew Mama Sew shared on FB and just... YES! This. Thank you. All of that, because so many people DO NOT TALK OPENLY about this shit. The real nitty gritty of how to make it work and accepting that sometimes it doesn't and nobody talks about their financial privilege or how their blog doesn't match up with real life and it's so special to see someone tackling all angles of it in a post like this. So... thank you. <3
April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJasie VanGesen
oh girl! it is so not just you.
i'm so glad i stumbled across this post today (via SMS)
thanks for your honesty -- you are not in this boat alone!
April 6, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterliz
Bravo! Thank you so much for putting things into some perspective - I love how you view your day job...I am way too chicken to follow my passion as a full time job (plus I make a really good living and it would be crazy to give that up!) but I have tried lately to adopt a similar mantra of using my day job as a means to allow me to enjoy my creative passions in my free time. I never respond to posts, but yours really resonated with me.
April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLori
I came over from SewMamaSew. The day job allows me to have my other life - totally agree. It is a balancing act of molding the day job, the health problems, the family, and my other interests together and creating something positive for oneself.
The blog world does exist in a sparkly vacumn. I don't want my own blog to reflect the crap at work, or the days when I am not functional. I want my blog to be positive. No one wants to read doom & gloom all the time (excepting my ex-boss). Blogworld is an escape for most. I need it to focus on the positive.
Do the best that you can.
So you can be as creative as you want to be.
April 6, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkathyh
Raw, honest, vulnerable. What a beautiful and heartfelt post. Thank you for giving a voice to so many artists who are afraid to expose their selvadges. It's easy for us to look at the pretty creations but nobody takes real note of the details that define the parameters of the creator. Love this peek inside your heart.
April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHeather
Melissa, This post rings so true and is so well written! And no, you are not alone--far from it! Happy Spring :) xo, Jen
April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJen B
Such wise words and exactly what I needed to hear (read?) today. Love you! xoxo
April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMary
This is a game changer of a blog post, Melissa. Thank you three times over for sharing so openly. I have often struggled with "keep my day job?" "Shoot for more?" "Make money out of crafts?" dilemma. All the number crunching I've done just doesn't add up, but I still feel sad sometimes about this day job rat-race thing I've got going on and look at the successful-designer-book-writer-patterns-in-magazines blogland with such envy. I'm thankful for your honesty and willingness to put these thoughts out there. P.S., I think you're a superstar and love your fabric! Keep on day job or not, I hope you keep putting great things out there.
Your honesty just may help some fellow depressed and/or anxious soul.

My mental health history reads a bit like yours. Minus the whole book, fabric, and store thing. :) I too had accepted that my life would always be rife with sadness and anxiety. I too met the love of my life who happened to see through my pain. Two children later, I thought I had a handle on it. Ha! I was hospitilized in February for some seriously wicked depression. I was given the diagnosis of BiPolar II and put on totally different meds. Gads but do I feel better! Mental illness need not define you. But holy crud can it mess with you when you least expect it to. My point? Please remember that your anxiety need not control you.

Wishing you nothing but continued success and joy.
April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAllie
Wow, thanks so much for sharing this! I've been struggling a bit myself, finding balance between my passion and my day job, i've changed my tune a bit from hoping I can quit my day job to just looking at the extras my fabric art world can add for my family! I'm so glad you and Stuart found each other - sounds like a match made for the ages!
A VERY refreshing read. As tax day approaches, I've been thinking about doing an "unburdening" post of my own - especially since doing taxes was always such a blow to the business bank account. I haven't put out a new pattern in a year - mostly because I've lost some of the passion. And how do I share my loss of passion on my blog when that's what my blog is supposed to be about?? You did it well! Thank you!
April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLinda
Great post Melissa!! I struggled for so long with the why-can't-my-hobby-be-my-day-job argument, but in the last year I've come to peace with everything. Day job is what I need for my family & (money-maker or not) my hobby is what I need for me... And I honestly don't know if I would be happier any other way!
April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTammy
Wow! Thank you! This is actually the first time I have been to your blog. I find I am similar to you in that I need the structure of a day job. I get depressed trying to do my thing. For some reason by get-up-and-go goes away. Honesty is also my "brand." Some can't handle it. They think I am harsh or negative. I just have to be real. I can't fake things. It takes too much energy! I believe being real can expose the beauty happening in my life, or even allows others to see the transformation occurring in my life. Its like "from ashes to beauty." Thank you for sharing your real self. And I plan to frequent your blog to get to know this incredible "real" person you are!
April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCindy Martin
Thanks Melissa for writing this! We always see the pretty blogs and the pretty side of the business, not what really goes on behind the scenes!

April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLatifah
Not Just you!! Me too!
Have spent Lent trying to get less of the "wanties" and be at peace and grateful for the things I have!
Quedos to you for opening up your honesty and allowing others to read! Have followed your blog for ages and find it a constant source of inspiration not only for craftyness but also for piece of mind.
Thank you. xxx
April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTia
It's not just you Melissa. Besides being an artist, you are an excellent writer.
April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMary on Lake Pulaski
I love this post. It accurately reflects so much of what I have been through and then the stuff I have not been brave enough to do. I have Borderline Personality Disorder and with the late diagnosis, it means that I have been failing at everything for years. It also means people either love or loathe me - there is no middle ground! I take heart from your honesty and hope that I can post the really brutal post I have in my mind

Hugs and thanks

April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRosanne Derrett
Thank you Melissa,
I guess a lot of us creative people feel this way deep down, even if we can't recognise or admit it. Thank you for speaking your heart and mind.
Paying the bills frees up our energy and time, but it can also kill our creativity. The best we can do is find a balance. Your post is a reminder of that.
Hang in there babe!
April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBelinda

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