Turning art into a career

Amy Chandler has been selling embroidered patches and hoop art since 2015, a much more successful business venture than one she tried in 2013. “[I] was selling these like really weird shorts and all the strange things I was trying to knit,” she recalls. “[It did] not go well.”

Now embroidering is Chandler’s main source of income. The 25-year-old sells her pieces on Etsy and at markets around the city. She does administrative work on the side but says that only amounts to 10% of her income. Moving from a full-time retail job and steady paycheque to being self-employed was a big leap. “I really needed to be frugal,” she says. “It was definitely scary at the time.”

When Chandler creates patches she embroiders onto durable fabric like cotton or canvas and attaches felt to the back. Before embroidering, she tried things like knitting and crochet but found it hard to finish projects. With embroidering she was finally able to finish pieces. That is when she knew she had to stick with it.

She chose embroidery because the materials are inexpensive and it doesn’t require a lot of talent to get started. Embroidering also fits her love of textile art. “My mother made quilts and my sister makes her own clothes so I guess [textile] was always around me,” says Chandler.

Embroidered clothing is currently in style, with stores like Forever 21, Stitches, and American Eagle selling embroidered jackets and pants. Chandler believes this is because trends always come back around, saying embroidered patches were a big thing in the 1970s and ’80s. She also believes it is because people are embracing crafting and making their own unique garments.

Each piece Chandler creates takes a different amount of time. Her three-inch hoops usually take around four hours and some bigger ones take eight. Her biggest piece, on a 10-inch hoop, took close to 45 hours. Her style incorporates lots of hearts, flowers, and other natural themes, depicted in a mixture of threads and beads.

Mariam Phillips, who bought one of Chandler’s pieces, finds her work impressive. “When she put up the hoops [on Etsy] with the different hearts I was so excited,” she says. “I was expecting a baby in February and I needed one more thing for his room. It fits in perfectly. You can just tell it took time and thought to make.” 

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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