“No formal design training, just years of doodling.”
That’s how Iowa-based textile maker Candice Luter describes her art’s journey from hobby, to side hustle, to full-time gig. Luter is a rare pandemic-era success story; she turned getting laid off from her interior design sales job into the opportunity to create on a larger scale. “I was so scared to go off on my own, and it wasn’t until I got laid off from COVID that I was forced to turn to my art business and really devote all of my energy into it,” Luter explains via email. “I wasn’t sure if it was something I would even like—would I end up hating the joy of art as now work?—and it was the best thing that could have happened to me.” It allowed her to focus her efforts on her passion, which led to increased vision, sales, and that highly sought-after feeling, especially these days: joy.
When she got laid off, Luter had a small Etsy shop where she sold her textile pieces; incorporating fringe and geometric mirrors, these works serve as functional, textural wall art. The “Aria-Solo” is a top seller with customers; Luter also recently launched collaborations with West Elm and Lulu and Georgia. “It’s hard for me to pick a favorite,” she admits of her work, “as the newest thing I create is always my next favorite.”
Luter credits her self-care routine as a big player in her path to success; a key part of her practice is silencing her phone. “This is the strangest thing, but I have had my phone on silent for almost a year and a half; I struggle with anxiety, especially when things start piling on top of each other,” she says. “I found that my phone was driving my actions every time it made a ‘ding,’ so to eliminate that, I just completely turned the noise off.” This way, the artist is able to batch work like responding to Instagram messages and texts, rather than being so reactionary to the constant disruptions.
Another key factor that drives a life of balance for her is knowing her boundaries—and then listening to them. “If I am having a day where I know I don’t have it in me to create or to work on a bid, I simply don’t—and instead do something else that I need—such downtime, a nap, lunch with a friend, or a walk. It has made me feel much more balanced,” she says. “My schedule is all over the place, and I don’t necessarily have a routine. I am a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants sort of girl, and I own that. It took me a long time for me to accept me, and when I did that, I immediately felt more balanced and better for myself.”
Home is Iowa’s Cedar Rapids, a place that she cherishes for its authentic emphasis on cultivating local talent. “I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to do a lot of traveling around the world, and that experience has shown me more and more that I love big cities and new adventures. But Iowa will always be home for me,” Luter admits. “I love the slow life and the true sense of supporters and community in my area. People here want to see any business succeed—and they get behind it, promote it, and are there to see you win and also there to pick you up when you fall. It definitely is a sense of promoting collaboration over competition, and it’s a beautiful thing that I don’t know that exists in too many places.”