I don’t think I can write the words for you to fully understand what this trip to Houston has meant for me and my company. It was a huge affirmation that I am on my life’s path.

Following a passion and building a company is all about perseverance, and about knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, that what I’m doing is right. It’s about having the courage to believe in myself and to continue pushing forward with the faith and understanding that bigger opportunities are coming, despite each slammed door, each received rejection letter, and every “No.” It’s about having the inner strength to dig deep after each of those rejections and do an honest evaluation of whether I am knocking on the wrong door or down the wrong path altogether.

If it’s your true passion, your true life’s work, your heart and spirit will not let you give up. How do I know this? Because over the last two years, each time my head told me, “Just give up. This is fruitless. No one is ever going to want to do this,” my heart broke a little, and I could feel my spirit curling up into a little ball and begin to cry. My soul wasn’t sad over the rejections, it was sad over what I was telling myself.

I’ve learned that following your dream takes lots of hard work, and lots of baby steps. I get up every morning with a plan to take at least one step forward, and I mean EVERY morning. Following my passion is not a 9 to 5, five days a week job, it is a way of life. I live and breathe it, from sun up to sun down, EVERY SINGLE DAY. If you are not willing to do that, then you haven’t found your life’s passion.

Having faith and patience is the hardest part. We want to rush things. We get excited about what we are doing and want to share it, so we begin knocking on doors before we are ready or have found the right partners. In early 2016, I thought I was ready to write a book on quilting leather. I sent proposals to two different publishers. I didn’t want my book to be like 90% of all quilting books, where I taught a technique then shared eight patterns using that technique. I wanted to write a reference book containing every bit of information I knew about working with leather, with NO patterns. Both publishers rejected my proposal, because I didn’t fit their mold. Was I bummed? Sure I was, but I had to have faith that a book would happen, on MY terms, with the right partner, when it was time. In late 2016, during my solo exhibit in Houston, Schiffer Publishing approached me about writing a book. Schiffer wanted it to be the book I wanted to write, in any format I choose, because they see the value of letting authors define the parameters of their books. Just like the a piece of art, each book is unique to the author.

Since my book rejections, one of the publishing companies has gone out of business, and the senior editor of the second came into my booth during market this year, pleased with herself because she was there to offer me book deal. I hope you can imagine how satisfying it was for me to tell her, “I already have a book out, and have signed contracts for two follow-on books, and, oh by the way, I went to you guys first back in 2016, and you turned me down.”

When following our life’s passion we have to find partnerships with beliefs and goals that match ours. I realize that what I’m doing is new, different, and exciting. I need partners with these same characteristics, who are willing to do things differently and to take a chance on new ideas. Quilt shows have reacted differently to my leather quilting. IQA was thrilled to take a chance on a solo exhibit of my work in 2016 and my saddle exhibit in 2018, because the work was new and different. MQX is of the same mindset and is always looking to showcase the newest ideas and techniques. What is interesting is those show organizations not willing to embrace change are the same organizations that are struggling to stay alive. Could the same thing be said about quilt shops? Maybe.

It made my heart sing when two gentlemen in suits came into my booth. They were the CEO and the North American president of a machine manufacturer. The CEO said he sees creating with leather as a way of opening new market opportunities with both men and the younger generation into cos-play. They get it! They see something new in the industry, and instead of resisting it, they look to see how their company can benefit from it.

I had a completely different reaction from another machine company. Every educator working in this company’s booth came to my booth and loved the leather! Most purchased something because they wanted to have leather samples in their trunk show. However, when they finally dragged their boss over to see what leather was all about, she didn’t even step into the booth. She saw no need to make changes and had no interest in talking to me. That’s cool because I know her educators are the people going to the shops. They are the people that are in touch with what is actually happening in the industry. Those educators see the need for change, even if their boss didn’t.

I believe we are here on earth to find our passion, to find our life’s purpose and to share it with the world. I thought my life’s purpose was to share the love of creating with leather with the world. It’s not. It’s much deeper than that. My life’s purpose is to open up people’s imaginations to new possibilities. I just happen to be doing that by showing them they can create with leather. It’s about inspiring people to grow beyond what they thought was possible. It’s about expanding their imaginations and their view of the world, then giving them the permission to step outside their self-imposed boundaries. That is my life’s purpose. Who knows, maybe, at the root, we all have to same life’s purpose, just unique ways of delivery. Aren’t we all here to inspire each other to live our best lives? Something to think about….


It is so awesome to be able to share this journey with my daughter and have devoted friends that have been by my side every step of the way. They get to witness it all first hand. They keep me grounded, but at the same time, allow me to enjoy my accomplishments, talk about my wins, and take pride in what we have been able to accomplish together.

This industry is changing, and Gypsy Wood Leathers is part of that change.

- Cathy

Cathy Wiggins


I love this article so much and I, as an individual consumer, appreciate your perseverance! I wasn’t able to focus on my artistic endeavors much last year but as I look ahead into 2020, I’m committed to making time to do what I want on that front. One of those is exploring more with leather, learning more techniques and trying to put some of my own ideas into practice. Glad you are here, Cathy and glad Olivia is taking a more active role to share her talents and ideas as well!

— Becky Collins