Friday, January 31, 2014

Thank You...

For the last few days I have been thinking about how I got here.  To this point in my life.  This is mostly because of the amazing opportunities that have presented themselves lately, but also because of the class I am taking with Melody Ross right now (link below).  Today, while running around town, I specifically was thinking about how I got here in my crafty life.  Where did it start?

Well, I always did like redecorating my bedroom as a kid, and I made Barbie house from scratch and had more fun doing that then actually playing with Barbie!  In Girl Scouts we did crafts here and there and I always enjoyed them, but by the time I got to middle and high school I had convinced myself that because I could draw, I could never be considered an artist.  In college I think I saw some TV show that showed how to decoupage, so I went out and bought some papier mache boxes, acrylic paint, and Mod Podge and went to work.  That was the first time I remember thinking to myself, "I can do that!"

Many years later, a friend and work colleague asked me to go to a scrapbooking class with her.  I was dubious.  I mean, what was I supposed to scrapbook?  Pictures of my cats?  I went anyway, and we loved it.  They soon opened and Archiver's near us, and we started attending their Friday night Scrapfest.  We both, very quickly, amassed a huge quantity of "stuff."  Pattern paper, brads, eyelets, ribbon (oh the ribbon!), rubber stamps, inks, markers, chalks, and a die cut machine -- first an old school Sizzix, then a Big Shot, then a Cricut, then a Pazzles.  My basement looked like a scrapbook store with all that stuff (mostly because I am Type A and must have organization).  

More recently I rediscovered a love for jewelry.  Well, I have always LOVED jewelry, but I decided to go back to making my own.  At the time I was a sales consultant (read: direct sales flunky) for a jewelry company who sold (and sells) lovely soldered shadow-box style pendants.  They are beautiful and can be worn on a variety of chains that the company also sells.  I didn't love the prices, however, and then I started seeing handmade versions here and there at craft fairs.  Finally, again, "I can do that!"  So I sought out classes to learn how.  Luckily for me I found an amazing teacher who does online classes (see link below) and after much practice (and swearing and burning myself), I not only make my own jewelry, I sell it too!

So this entry is a giant thank you.

Thank you to my mom and grandparents who just let me be, allowing me to build whatever came to my little head.

Thank you to Amy S., my college roomie, who got to deal with my Mod Podge messes in our dorm room during my senior year.

Thank you to Amy B., my dear friend and former colleague who not only re-sparked my creative spirit by taking me to that first scrapbook class, but also dug in with me, spending way more on supplies that we probably both still haven't used yet.  We spent many Saturdays in my basement, working away together!  She was also very good at humoring me when I did happy chair dances over things I made that I liked.  ;-)

Thank you to my husband of eternal patience, Jason.  Not only does he allow me to spend most of his paychecks on craft supplies (ha!), but he also dutifully tells me how cute everything is and tells me that I am talented, even though he knows I don't believe him.

It's pretty amazing to have so many people to encourage and support me as I walk this path! 

Melody Ross and Brave Girls Club -- The Walk

Terri Brush Designs -- Online classes and live classes

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Five Words

This is a really exciting blog post to write.  Today I spoke a phrase that I, so far, have only been brave enough to write.  Speaking these words made them very real, and made me think and rethink everything that I have gone through, that both Jason and I have gone through, in the last two years.  I’ll get to those words in a minute.

Two years ago, I was an elementary school teacher.  That was my identity.  I spent 50+ hours a week focused on my classroom and my kids.  Even when I wasn’t working, I dreamt about my kids/school, I shopped for books and supplies to make their learning more fun and fruitful, and planned units and lessons to spark their brains and creativity.  I loved my kids, each and every one, and thought about them all the time, especially the ones who came from “at-risk” home situations.  This is what teachers do – whether you realize it or not, we live our jobs so much that they become who we are.

When I decided to leave teaching (thanks to the powers that be, not the kids), I didn’t even think about a new identity at first.  It wasn’t until I started the next part of my journey that I felt somewhat hollow.  My new identity, as a shop owner, brought with it a bucketful of new challenges. – many that I couldn’t have ever anticipated, and when it got right down to it, I didn’t enjoy this new identity.  It didn’t fit, didn’t fill that hollow that needed filling up.  At least not entirely.

When the shop closed, I had no identity.  I shouldered a great deal of shame and regret and blame, and all of those horrible things became who I was.  I had a great deal of support from Jason and friends and family, but it wasn’t enough. 

As most of you know, we decided to move back to my hometown in Wisconsin last spring.  As I reflect upon that, I believe that part of my motivation was to reclaim an identity that felt comfortable.  Back in Milwaukee I can be a better daughter, and I can be a friend to people I have known for a very long time.  When we moved home, I started to feel better almost immediately.  I felt like I fit, and even on my worst day, at least I am home.

During that time I also decided to build a new identity for myself, and make no mistake, you do have to build it yourself.  I started to work on my crafty endeavors more than ever before.  Local crafty friends helped point me to shops and galleries to contact, and very quickly I was able to find a great shop to sell my jewelry and accessories.  It wasn’t long before I was spending 8 hours at a stretch in my craft room.  Hours would fly and I wouldn’t even notice.  Jason would have to come in and remind me to eat and to go to bed at some point (like 2 AM).  I realized that this was now my job.  I was creating, people were buying what I made, and I was making a bit of money.  Who knew?!  And this has become my new identity, the words that I spoke today:

“I am a professional artist.”

And truly, to have gotten here, after everything we have been through, I no longer regret a thing because I know every decision got me here.  Every hurdle I had to jump, every lesson that I learned, every tear, every moment when I thought I had hit rock bottom… they all got me here.  And yup, it’s all been worth it.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Well, here we are -- finally done with 2013.  It was a year of many ups and downs for us.  But I have hopes and plans to make 2014 much better!  To begin, one of my plans is to write every day, either here or in my journal.  I want to make this blog a resource people use, instead of just taking up space.

I've been a busy little worker bee, trying to make our rented house as much as a home as possible, so there is a lot of that coming.  I've also started working with Annie Sloan's Chalk Paint, on furniture and home decor, and am excited to share what I have done with it.  It is remarkably easy and forgiving, so if you have been wanting to paint a piece of furniture, I highly recommend it!  I am also evolving in my jewelry line, looking to expand my use of my soldering iron and torch, as well as working more with resin.

I am seeking out shows, locally and in other places, to get my work out to more people.  This is probably the hardest part of being a "professional crafter."  You have to have an awful lot of confidence to be able to put your work out there for others to judge, so this is and always has been my greatest stumbling block.

Lots coming... :)

Someone posted on Facebook that January 1, 2014 is the first page of a new book.  Here we go...