As I sit in the cozy embrace of the Great Smoky Mountains, the silent whisper of nature constantly reminds me that everything is a process, and every process requires patience. I’m Bonnie Christine, an artist, fabric designer and a proud mother, enveloped in the serene beauty of my surroundings. But my journey to this point was not always so picturesque. It’s a tapestry of dreams, hopes and challenges, interwoven with moments of doubt, discovery and an unyielding dedication to creativity.
From my days in my mother’s fabric shop to now running my own business, I hope to light a path for every aspiring artist and entrepreneur reading this.
In the quiet hum of my mother’s shop, amid rolls of colorful textiles, I stumbled upon my true calling: fabric design. With no formal education in design, I embarked on a self-driven adventure of learning.
The early days were fraught with self-doubt. Questions haunted me: Am I good enough? Is there a place for me in this vast industry? But deep down, I felt a spark, a whisper telling me that I had something unique to offer. This faith, coupled with persistence, eventually led me to create my first fabric design portfolio. It was my introduction to the world, a compilation of my journey, passion and the skills I had garnered.
There’s a saying I hold close to my heart: Do one thing each day that nudges you closer to your dreams. Be it a simple sketch, a stroll amid nature seeking inspiration, or devouring a book, every step counts. This mantra guided me to the International Quilt Market in 2012, where Art Gallery Fabrics recognized my passion and offered me my first licensing contract. A dream was realized, yet it was only the beginning.
Beyond fabric, my canvas expanded. I stepped into the world of entrepreneurship, education and podcasting as I cultivated a community that thrives on mutual inspiration, and began leading a team, pushing the boundaries of my creativity.
The biggest thing I’ve focused on over the years is my email list. Every time I send an email, I imagine I’m sitting across from that person, having a cup of coffee. It’s a platform where I get to share, connect and offer value. My approach to email marketing is grounded in authenticity and vulnerability. I share my triumphs and struggles, my insights and lessons learned — not just about fabric design, but about life, business and chasing dreams. In return, my subscribers feel connected to my story, my mission and my art.
Over time, my email list became more than just a business tool. It became a community. When I had doubts or faced challenges, it was this community that cheered me on. When I celebrated successes, they celebrated with me. It was a reciprocal relationship based on mutual respect and trust.
My business evolved in ways I would have never expected. From a passion for fabric design, it grew into a platform for empowerment, especially for women. I became not just a fabric designer, but also a mentor, coach and source of inspiration.
But with growth came the need for order. And this brings me to the heart of my sanctuary, the place where dreams take form — my studio. With a view of the mountains, it’s more than just a workspace — it’s a reflection of my journey. Inside my studio, I have four rooms. The first is the operational core — emails, website management, strategy. I’ve designed it ergonomically, ensuring comfort during long hours, with walls adorned with reminders of my “why.”
Adjacent lies the art room, my personal retreat. With no technology in sight, this is where I create and compile inspiration. Down the hall is the shipping and packing room where organized shelves and dedicated zones ensure every product reaches its new home flawlessly.
The latest addition is my filming studio. Perfect lighting, soundproofed walls and state-of-the-art equipment ensure that I can walk in and hit record with a seamless setup.
Inside my sanctuary of a studio, I hold online workshops and live sessions, answering questions not just about design, but about entrepreneurship, mindset and overcoming obstacles. I share my experiences — the good, the bad and everything in between — reminding everyone that the journey to success is rarely a straight path.
Looking back at my journey, from that first big dream to now, I realize the importance of taking small, consistent steps toward my goal. I often emphasize: It’s not about the leaps, but about the daily commitment. It’s about showing up for yourself, for your dreams, every single day.
The truth in my journey is that every small step I’ve taken has been a building block to my success. Each design, each email, each connection, each setback — all were integral to my growth, both as a businesswoman and as an individual.
The most difficult part of my journey is also the best part — the years of having a young family. When my children were very young, my husband worked outside of the home and I was managing a big business during nap time — which was never predictable. I very much had to set my priorities straight: My children come first and being a present and intentional mother to them is the most important thing of all. Business will be waiting for me when I get to the other side. During this time, I became a serious student of time-management skills.
I realized for the first time in my life, the power of prioritizing and focusing. By learning how to hone these productivity skills, I was able to get the most important work done in small amounts of time and still kept my business and brand moving forward. Learning how to remove distractions and truly focus has been one of my favorite skills learned to date, and I have my beautiful children to thank for it.
In the early days, we did everything we could to make ends meet. During the first year, I needed time to learn how to grow my skill set and develop a body of work. That was the same year that I realized my husband and I, together, were making an amount each year that defined the “poverty line” in the state we were living in. So, we sold a car and pinched our pennies. I chauffeured my husband to work every day, took on a few part-time jobs and used every spare moment I had to learn my craft. In those early years, I worked as a personal assistant organizing someone’s home, drove the support and gear (SAG) car for my husband’s cycling company and taught exercise classes on the side.
I never saw myself as an educator. My only dream was to become a fabric designer. Soon after I met that goal, a well-known education company reached out to see if I would be willing to teach Adobe Illustrator for surface pattern design. While I had never considered it previously, I was excited (and nervous!) by the idea. I decided to say yes, and then spent the next several months developing the class content for them.
I taught in front of thousands of people live for three days. It was exhilarating and nerve-wracking, and when I returned home, I was happy to go back to my comfortable way of living. Until I started hearing from students. Slowly, but steadily, I began hearing from women who had taken the course and gotten permission to follow their dreams. One by one, they began doing what they loved, working for themselves and contributing to their families’ finances through their creativity.
Within a few years, I had decided that this was my true calling: empowering women to use their creativity to make an impact — in their lives, their families’ lives and in their communities.
In 2017, I knew I wanted to launch a new course for surface pattern design on my own for the first time. I knew this meant a lot of work — not only to build and host the course but also to market it and get the word out. My children were 2 and 5, and I felt like the whole world had passed me by while I was getting my young family started. I had no idea where to start but I knew I had heard enough about email lists to begin there. I had started my email list back in 2009 and it had slowly grown through a “join my newsletter” button on the sidebar of my website.
I checked my stats and found that my list was at 4,000 subscribers with a 6% open rate. OUCH. I knew that wouldn’t do, so I put my head down and began studying how to grow and connect with subscribers on an email list. Within six months, I had doubled the list to 8,000 people and increased my open rate to over 60%. WOW! I often share that my income has doubled year over year ever since I started, but the email list is behind that. In truth, I’ve doubled my email list each year, which has directly led to an increase in profits.
Today, I’m honored to serve and connect with over 150,000 people through my email list and, YES, the goal is to double that this year! Over the years I’ve found that my email list is the best place to connect with my audience, share insights and resources and show up vulnerably. It’s also the best place to announce exciting news like a new fabric collection, a new class or the launch of my podcast, The Professional Creative.
Now, as I fully embrace the role of an educator and leader, my mission is clear: to light the path for those poised at the start of their creative journeys. Every setback I’ve encountered, every leap of faith I’ve taken, stands as a testament to a singular belief: If I can do it, so can you.
In the end, it’s not just about the beautiful patterns I create but the lives I touch, the impact I have and the dreams I inspire. My story is a reminder that with belief, determination and a touch of courage, anything is possible.
As I look ahead, I envision a future filled with more designs, stories, and empowering many more artists. My mission is not just to light the path but also to walk alongside those at the start of their creative endeavors.
To the budding artist or entrepreneur reading this: Embrace your journey, for it’s the most beautiful artwork you’ll ever create. And always remember: Your canvas awaits, and the brushstrokes of your journey, no matter how small, contribute to your masterpiece.