January 23, 2019 | Alyson Stanfield

Leaving Behind What is Safe with Jan R. Carson

One artist’s journey is never the same as another’s.

Not only do you have to be creative in what you make, but also in how you get it out there, connect with the right people, and make a living. They all involve taking risks that are manageable when you have confidence in the quality of your art.

Artist Jan R. Carson's pieced silk textile with LED light
©2018 Jan R. Carson, See As Bees See. Pieced silk and LED light, 42 x 42 x 4 inches. Used with permission.

In this episode of the Art Biz Podcast, Jan R. Carson talks about her path starting in 1999 with her creation of Moon-Lily Silk Mobiles, where she has made over 7,000 stainless steel wire and silk mobiles.

In 2010, Jan decided to begin the journey away from what had been a safe income (production work) to go after the art and life she wants for herself.

She discusses the balance of both worlds and how she is successfully transitioning from one to the other while focusing on the quality of her art, all the while continuing to make a living from her art.


Listen to or subscribe on iTunes.

Show Notes

You’ll hear about the following from Jan.

  • The many hats she wears in handling the construction of the mobiles, along with marketing, accounting, etc.
  • Why she found it easier to retain and train people as employees rather than interns.
  • Her commitment to letting her body make the work, and keeping her mind out of it.
  • How she got the confidence in herself and her artwork to exhibit it, and what it felt like to put it out into the world.
  • The important question artists need to ask themselves: What do I need to make? Not: How do I sell my art?
  • The social component of being an artist, and how Jan navigates the world as a self-proclaimed shy homebody.
  • The value of listening, connection, and staying open and present as an artist.
Artist Jan R. Carson's pieced silk work in progress

An Additional Note from Jan

Jan asked that I share this with you, dear artist, as a follow-up to our conversation.

My art business has succeeded largely by coincidence and intuitive navigation.

Last year (2018) was one of incredible success for me, but there's still no stability to my livelihood. My business experience in production art bolstered my confidence and firmly established my reputation as a working artist. But production work also led to a cliff's edge where jumping was a necessary option in moving forward.

It's a fact I'm one who risks and plunges based on the faith I have in my art practice. As well, measuring my success in terms of income isn't my method; I'm motivated by my artistic (philosophical, spiritual) quest.

Choosing to return to fine art has born out a slow, challenging transition. If the work wasn't resonating with others, I'd likely reconsider my decision. But it's obvious the more I expose (in my art) and reveal (in my writing) the greater the reward.

It's reaffirming to me that the job of an artist is to do exactly that: to record one's experience in the world, to function as a witness to contemporary society, and in doing so—expose the emotions and intelligence of our time. I hope those who listen will find something useful in my story. Thank you, Alyson, for the opportunity to share. —Jan R. Carson

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About My Guest

Photo of Jan R. Carson Jan R. Carson earned her M.F.A. in fibers at Colorado State University. Since 2005, she has been designing and fabricating commissioned, site-specific artworks for corporations and public spaces. Her aerial sculptures and textile artworks are in the collections of notable clients including Kaiser Permanente, Centura Health, Park Nicollet, and Exempla Saint Joseph Hospital.

As the artist-owner of Moon-Lily Mobiles, Inc. since 1999, Jan built a reputation for her production line of silk leaf mobiles both nationally and globally. In 2013, her site-specific installations, Flowering Almond Tree Mobiles and Tree Mobiles in Four Seasons, were both finalists in the Collaboration of Design + Art (CoDA) Award worldwide competition.

In 2012, Jan began creating textile wall art. Her works have earned Creative Innovation and Best of Show awards in Fort Collins and Denver, Colorado juried exhibitions. Most recently, she won the 2018 Arrow Five Years Out Art Challenge for her innovative pairing of textile art and LED light.

Born in Oklahoma, Jan now lives in northern Colorado. Follow her on Instagram.


This episode is brought to you by the Art Career Success System. This year-long training program designed especially for artists is made up of four separate classes that rotate throughout the year. You can take one, two, three, or all four.

When you enroll in all four, you will have a complete system that you can use at any point in your art career. Whether your goal is to increase your income, expand your venues, become more articulate about your work, enhance your online reputation, or nurture your audience, the Art Career Success System puts the information you need into a reliable and repeatable system. Click here for the details.

8 comments add a comment
  • Gwen Meharg

    Jan and Alyson, Thank you so much for your generosity of spirit and sharing of your journey. I listened and cheered you on as your story unfolded. I ran to my computer and looked up your work. I am THRILLED that you are creating your own path. You have a perpetual cheerleader in Fort Worth, Texas. When you are in the area, let me know, we will visit museums together and share a cup of tea.
    Happy stitching, Gwen Meharg

  • Judy Schafers

    Thank you so much for sharing your hard won wisdom, Jan! I found it encouraging and inspirational :-)
    Thanks also to Alyson for putting this together for us. Your efforts are always helpful and appreciated.
    Take care– Judy Schafers

    • Jan R Carson

      Thank you, Judy! Everyone’s path is different, but we can gain wisdom from our varied experiences.

  • Jan and Alyson,
    Thanks for an enlightening podcast. You both listen and communicate so well.
    Jan,what a remarkable journey you have been on and continue.
    Be well you two.

    • Alyson Stanfield

      So glad you found this episode, Nicole. Sadly, Jan moved to Ohio last year. We’re going to miss her in Colorado.

  • Dan Heinzkill

    Super insightful interview! Valuable for me to hear real-world differences and challenges between production art and fine art Thanks for sharing, Jan and Alyson.

    • Alyson Stanfield

      So glad you found this episode, Dan. Jan’s journey continues. She just keeps getting bigger and better opportunities.

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