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  • Kaaren Poole

Way Off Track

I suppose we all go through phases—I certainly do. And currently I’m in a Way-Off-Track phase. I didn’t get here on purpose. Instead, it was a series of small decisions, none of which were very well thought through. And at the heart of it all was a shiny object, one that’s tempted me before—creating repeat patterns.


It all started small with an offer I couldn’t resist. I’m on Anne LaFollette’s mailing list. She’s an excellent example of a successful entrepreneur in an art field (surface design) as well as an enthusiastic and effective teacher and inspiring artist. She was offering a seven-day challenge in which the students would obtain a 7-day free trial of Adobe Illustrator and, with her guidance, create a repeat pattern. The price was (I said it was irresistible) only $10! Of course, I enrolled. I persevered and actually created a repeat pattern with foxes. It was fun and opened my eyes to possibilities!

So far, so good. At least, not wandering too far afield. Seven days and $10 and, after finishing my book at last, didn’t I deserve a break?


But then… For some strange reason I can’t remember ,I was looking at my Adobe account and saw that I was being charged for an Adobe Illustrator subscription - $20.99 a month. How could that be? I distinctly remembered cancelling the free trial at the end of the seven days, so what was going on? I called Adobe. I’ll spare you the details, but there was nothing they would do. I was subscribed and that was that! I could cancel for half the remaining balance which would be about $105, equivalent to payments for five months.

After digesting that for a few days, I decided since I was effectively stuck with AI, I’d play around and see what I could do with it. I got the idea it would be fun to try to make a toile pattern—with rabbits!

I was mulling that over when—wouldn’t you know it—I got another email from Anne. This is where things started going wrong in a bigger way. She was offering a self-study course consisting of five mini-series, each teaching an exciting technique for creating surface design patterns with Adobe Illustrator. The price wasn’t irresistible, but it was OK (sort of). And I was stuck with AI, so why just fool around with it when I could get some expert help?

So, I spent the weekend drawing two rabbit vignettes for the toile design I wanted to make. Well, actually I spent part of the weekend drawing and the other part getting frustrated trying to puzzle out Illustrator. Do you find you’re often missing the simplest thing and it gets you absolutely stuck? That seems to happen to me quite often with computers, but for some reason, I’m always ready to go back for more mind-twisting!


Then last night the grinding noise of my mind trying to figure out some problem I’d been having with Illustrator woke me up around 2am. That’s when a lucid thought finally broke through: why am I doing this? What a great question! Of course, it’s fun. And I could just see that finished toile design in my mind’s eye. But so what? If I actually succeeded in creating the design, then what? Upload it to Spoonflower (or some such place) and order some fabric? What would I do with the fabric? Make a blouse? Pillowcases? I doubt it!

Or worse, would I be tempted to sell items printed with my design on Spoonflower? Why not add to the million+ designs already there? I’d earn a whopping 10% of any sale I’d make, in which case I’d have to sell $209.90 worth of product to just cover the cost of my Illustrator subscription for one month. And what’s the likelihood of that without sinking more time and more money into advertising, in which case I’d have to sell even more to cover my costs.


Does this sound negative, or realistic? The mantra of the times is follow your passion. But which one? And how far? And at what cost? Time to re-focus myself. But meanwhile, my Adobe Illustrator subscription is paid through the end of December… Did you catch that? Just rationalized keeping that wanderlust door open, at least a crack, at least for a while!

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