What’s Luck Got To Do With It? The True Meaning of Luck

What’s Luck Got To Do With It? The True Meaning of Luck

Luck = Preparation plus persistence plus opportunity.

This is one of my favorite personal stories….

Years ago, I belonged to a discussion forum (remember them?!) of stamp carvers. We used soft vinyl materials used in erasers (sort of a really soft linoleum, not as slippery) to make our work. Our skills ranged from newbies to people who actually worked as book illustrators.

It was a lively, talented group, supportive of each other, full of suggestions, materials testing, and inspiration.

One day, an editor from a craft book publishing company* joined our group. They announced they were looking for “gallery images” of our work, to feature in their latest craft book. (Aka, “a call to artists”, defined by AmericansfortheArts.org as “A Call for Artists is an opportunity notice that gives artists the information they need to know in order to apply to be considered for the project. Issuing a Call for Artists is a standard practice of the public art field.”

At first, people were thrilled. But then reality set in: We would have our work published, with credits. But we would not be paid.

People ranted about this, even though I later found out it is a common practice in the art-and-craft book industry. In the end, only a handful of us submitted work.

There were guidelines and deadlines, which we all met. The results? Our work was published! It felt pretty good to own such a book, it was wonderful to be able to say, “Look, my work was featured in this book!” The validation was powerful.

A few months later, the editor submitted another call for entries. The same little group responded, and the rest of the group continued to gripe. “It’s not fair that we aren’t paid for our work!” I figured I’d never made a cent from my prints—they were always for myself or a gift for someone. So nothing + nothing didn’t seem too awful.

And now our work was featured in two books!

This continued for about a year. Even the little group dwindled a bit, but I loved the “exposure”. I know the saying, “Artists die from too much exposure!” In this case, I still owned my stamp and held copyrights to my images, so what the heck?

I developed a relationship with this editor, a talented artist in their own right. We became friends. It helped that they loved my work! But they also appreciated the fact that I made their job easier. I met deadlines, my work was different from other people’s work, and whenever they called, I dropped what I was doing to talk with them.

Eventually, they asked if I would like to submit project for other books. Creating an actual project, with a list of materials, instructions, and images of the work in progress, actually paid pretty well. And multi-media work gave me an edge! I could do stamps, fiber, collage, jewelry, etc.

Over the next few years, my work appeared in around a dozen books published by Lark Books.

At one point, I got a call to submit a painted glass project. I said, “Oh, gosh, no, that’s too far afield for me!” They said that was fine, they had other people in line, including one person who was shipping a lot of painted glass pieces.

About six weeks later, they called in a panic. That person’s shipment had arrived totally smashed, the final deadline was looming, and that artist couldn’t possibly create enough new pieces in time. Could I, would I pleeeeeeeeeeze pretty please make a piece?

Of course, I said yes.

I found some stacking clear glass plates, in three different sizes at a thrift shop, traced images of my Lascaux series stamp carvings on the bottoms, and painted them with acrylic paints. Soon I had a ring of red stags and running horses on them. It looked pretty cool, if I do say so myself! (Sadly, one broke years later, and I gave the rest to a friend before we moved to California.)

You can imagine how grateful my editor was!

Sure enough, in a few months, they reached out to me again. They wanted to publish the first mass-market craft book on rubberstamp carving.

And they wanted ME to write it!

Let’s make this big enough so you can see my name!  :^)

Now, there were other stamp carvers who were more skilled than I was. There was a well-known stamp carver who had already self-published a beautiful little booklet on the same. I actually recommended that person for the job, and reached out to them, too. I didn’t want to step on any toes or disrespect their efforts, or this opportunity.

But they were not interested! “I am just not up to that!” they replied. “I can’t commit to all the deadlines, the amount of work….  Thank you for reaching out, but you do it, with my blessings!”

And so I did.

It was an amazing experience. I was assigned another editor, and they were amazing, too. It was a long process, with me writing the intro, all the lessons, carving stamps illustrating all the “stages” of stamp carving production, and compiling the resources section.

Lark Books flew me to their headquarters in Asheville, North Caroline, so I could be photographed “carving” stamps. (That is, my hands were photographed! Yes, I am now a hand model!) (Er….not anymore, actually.) I got to meet both editors, I got to explore Asheville (the first time I’d ever seen outdoor seating at restaurants!), and….

I am now a published author.

Thanks to this opportunity, I was the first person to write a mass-market book on rubberstamp carving. There have been more (and some of my work appeared in one of them), and they are even better, more on-trend.

But here’s the lesson:

When it came time for the gallery section, I reached out again to that same discussion group, inviting them to submit their work for inclusion.

The response?

“You’re writing a book on stamp carving?? You’re SO LUCKY!!”

*Thanks and a hat tip to Katherine Aimone and Joanne O’Sullivan of Lark Books. I am forever grateful for the opportunities you provided to make this all happen!


P.S. I got a few grumpy comments on this article, from people complaining I was giving my work away. I wasn’t. I got free publicity by submitting work to the book galleries, I was paid very well for the projects, and I received a decent advance for the book I wrote.  Did I get rich? Nope. Not much of the work I do pays very well, and that’s even more true today. But it was enough, it was enjoyable, I met amazing people, and it broadened my horizons in uncountable ways. I’m grateful, and I’m glad I did it!

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

11 thoughts on “What’s Luck Got To Do With It? The True Meaning of Luck”

  1. I know this was a while ago but I just received your book in the mail today. I have wanted it for a while to help me make my own stamped designs for my polymer clay work. So far I’m thrilled with it, can’t wait to start practicing! I’m sorry you won’t make any money on this purchas. I had a hard time finding it and finally bought it secondhand through Amazon. I love your writing , especially in this blog. I’ve followed you for a couple of years and you are always discussing subjects which help me in my art adventure. Please keep writing


    1. First, Nan, thank you for your patience, I JUST NOW saw your comment. Second, no worries about your purchase, I’m honored you purchased “my” book, and last, I’m delighted you are loving it! And I’m grateful for your appreciation, it means so much to me, especially this week. Happy carving!


  2. Great article, Luann! I remember that the “package meeting” of everyone working on my first book occurred during spring break. By luck, my family was in Carmel CA for the holiday and my publisher was in Berkley. I got to go to that meeting and it was utterly thrilling. Later, I found out that you had a copy of my book, and sold it when you left NH. Ha, ha, not knowing that I sent you a new copy. I won a gold medal for health communication for that book and it was a Main Selection for a cooking and crafts book club. Rx for Quilters: Stitcher Friendly Advice for Every Body. And, sic transit gloria, you can get one for five cents on Amazon booksellers right now. I made very little money on it, considering the hours spent, but then this happened: It was the first election after the hanging chads. I went to the station to pick my ballot, they were spread out all over a table and I could pick any one that I liked. I reached for one and the little old lady behind the desk grabbed my hand. “Are you the quilter who wrote that book?” “Yes.” “You gave me back my hands.” Wow. THAT was a good day. My book is five cents now, but I gave crafters back their hands, which had become crippled because of how they were working. How cool is that? And how cool was Luann’s quiet climb to the place she now occupies. Brava to both of us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Susan, what a beautiful essay! Very timely, especially as you’ve made me realize I need your book more than ever–age has caught up to me. :^)
      I love that you, too, see that we can be a powerful force for good in the world when we “own” our talents and share them, whether we make money or not. A couple people on Fine Art Views really slammed me, essentially saying I was “privileged” (I get that) and “predatory” (I did not get that!) Stay tuned for next week’s article!
      And thank you for sharing your “famous person” moment. You helped that woman continue to make the work of HER heart. What a beautiful gift, for her, and for you. Your book may only cost 5 cents, but its value to the world is incalculable, now, and for years to come. You did it right!


  3. It’s not clear which projects, if any, you were actually paid for. As that’s many, many hours of work you put in there. Do you think these books help raise your profile & bring you “business”?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: