i had wanted to write a new blog post about all of the work i’ve been doing in the second half of this year… but that didn’t feel quite right. not because i hadn’t been doing a lot of work (i have), but because of what has gone on in my life alongside of the work. so much has happened this year!
i am still getting acclimated to my new city as i enter into my second year here in tucson. finding my place within this community has been tough. i’ve met a few really cool people but i have yet to hit my stride.. i recently moved into a new apartment; a one-bedroom that is twice the size of the tiny guest house i was renting in my first year. i decided to move practically on a whim, as i really hadn’t wanted to move again. it cost more money than i imagined it would (since the only furniture i owned was a bed and two chairs), and took more time and effort to physically move out/in than i anticipated. having more space sounds (and is) incredible, but this is the first place i have had to myself with my own separate bedroom, living/work space, and bathroom (with a tub!) since i moved across the country three years ago. i can make myself at home anywhere, and i have had to over and over.
after the excitement of finding the new place and moving in and setting up cleared, i found myself totally overwhelmed with the amount of space i had to spread out. i was used to living in a guest room, or a basement, or a one-room studio, with all of my things crammed in the best i could. i found after moving that i was still eating dinner while sitting on my bed, like i was used to in the tiny house. infact, i felt like the bigger place was just a place to keep my stuff, instead of a place to really make a home that i enjoyed. i knew it would take a little time. it took a few weeks to finally surrender into the concept that having more space is completely beneficial in all ways, and that having the proper designated areas for eating, sleeping, and working would only help me in the long run. i no longer have to sleep in my kitchen, i no longer have to work in my sleeping area. after a couple of months in the new place, i finally feel at home and at ease with my decision to move in. it was my ninth move since leaving my apartment back on the east coast. and i really do have a spot for everything, except the camping gear that is still kept in the backseat of my car. i am thankful every day that i wake up in this apartment, that i finally have a place to call my own, have a very sweet neighbor who i sometimes hang out with out on the balcony and swap stories with about our day, and most importantly i have lots of floor space to spread out on while working. but it has been an adjustment. a larger apartment feels emptier and darker and more hollow at night.
….did i mention that while in the middle of moving i also flew from AZ back to Maine to help my brother and new sister-in-law get married, and see my family for the first time in two years??? oh yeah, i did that too, with all of the mixed feelings that came with it.
being a small business owner and creative entrepreneur, i am my own boss. i also work a full-time day job that i enjoy with great people, which pays me just enough to mostly pay the bills. but any money i may want to do “luxury” things like travel, eat out at a restaurant, buy clothes, and buy supplies for my art comes from sales from my shop.
and i can’t make money if i’m not diligent about doing the work. this falls on me and me alone. there’s no alarm clock to wake me up at 4:30am like with my dayjob, and if i don’t show up to sew there’s no boss to answer to. there is no one relying on me to be there. this means i have to schedule in my time, take accountability for showing up, and pump out the projects. this means that sewing is no longer something i do for fun, it is WORK.
i released four pillow cover collections over the course of this year, in between my dayjob and exploring my city and trying to maintain friendships + relationships and traveling back and forth to california; the sunset collection in the spring, the desert collection shortly thereafter, lovers + landscapes over the summer, and the hand dyed collection most recently… that adds up to somewhere over 80 pillow covers in seven months… all of the collections except the hand dyed collection sold out almost instantly. i also made and sold a few coordinating quilts, with a couple yet to be finished.
i finally learned how to dye fabrics, after years of wanting to. and i’ve been so pleased with the results. some of the fabrics i have sold as is in my shop, and some i have used in my hand made items. this has added a whole other level to my art, where i can really control start to finish the way that an item looks. from fabric design right down to the last stitch the items have been made by me. i found this to be very important to me and how i express the stories i am trying to tell, but it is also scary to break out of the mold you’ve creatively put yourself into for quite a few years and embark on something new. there is always doubt that people will not like the new aesthetic and that all of the time and energy you’ve put into it could potentially be wasted. i have not been using popular designer fabrics for a couple of years already, and to break away even further from that “norm” feels like i’ve pushed myself even further away from the quilting community, while also trying to push myself closer to where i actually want to be. its an unsteady and unsure feeling.
in the spring i participated in the Cultivate Tucson spring pop-up market, my first time doing a market of this magnitude. thousands of patrons and fifty amazing makers and vendors. i will be participating in their holiday market coming up at the beginning of december, and i couldn’t be more excited about and honored to be part of it. Cultivate Tucson’s founders really do an amazing job of choosing the best makers in the community to create a unique shopping atmosphere, for one day only. since this is a holiday market coming up, i have much more product to offer than i did in the spring, and some things i learned under my belt. i did well at the spring market, for a first timer, and putting my name and products out into the community in which i live is really important to me, it also means much more work goes into preparation for a holiday market, as people are really looking to shop for gifts, and i have had to really focus on making the best items i can in this amount of time, and items that i know people will want to buy. my art is my art, but it is also my job, after all. researching what folks might be into purchasing lead to me deciding to make smaller gift items alongside my usual pillow covers and quilts – i settled on hand dyed bandanas and clutches/bags made from my dyed fabrics and other novelty prints. working with novelty prints (cacti, etc) is not where my heart is, but sometimes you have to make what will surely sell.
so. all in all, lots of positive things: a new living/working space, markets, shop success…
but, what happens when you have all of this work to do, and life gets in the way? (or, when you have all of this life to do and work gets in the way?) what happens when you are coming up on the end of the year with all of these great accomplishments behind you and a new year ahead to plan and a business model to map out while hoping you can still pay rent, but some days you can barely get out of bed?
…the only way out is through. (as my best friend reminded me. and through looks different for everyone.)
i’m going to preface the rest of the post by saying: i consider myself a pretty strong person. i don’t like to complain, and i often allow things to bring me down instead of fighting my way through, letting myself take the brunt instead of hurting someone else. but i do like to be real. i have not been one to really shy away from Real Life on my social media. i’ve been through some really hard things in my life, we all have. i have struggled with depression since moving cross country in many ways and for many reasons. i’ve been mostly alone, i’ve consistently run out of money, i’ve had to move around a ton, the romantic relationships i have formed over and over weren’t good for me, i left toxic friendships, i went through the unexpected and life-changing death of a man whom i loved very much, plus the loss of family loved ones who i wasn’t able to see around the times of their deaths to say goodbye, i’ve been far away from my family, etc etc etc. these are all “normal” life things that happen to a lot of us, and most of the time i have been able to plow through it and heal where i needed to in order to keep going. at 37, this is not where i thought my life would be if you’d asked me five, ten, or twenty years ago.
but, this is where i am now.
sometimes it all comes to a head and hiding under your blankets in bed seems like the best option. people will leave your life or you will leave them and you can’t fix it with an “i’m sorry” or a text. i’ve been in emotionally and verbally abusive relationships – where i have been told i was acting like a victim, that no one would understand my art, that i need to be “better”, and that i’m lazy. certainly those things aren’t true, but if you hear them enough in your head over and over, coming from people you care about, you start to believe them. when you travel over and over to see people and it results in a lot of drama, you start to believe the drama is caused by you, when in actuality the only thing that is truly your fault and can’t be talked/worked through is the fact that you keep getting in the car to go there. i’ve been flat out abandoned by men i’ve cared about because they couldn’t accept the whole package of me and only wanted the easy and fun parts. …and its not that there aren’t easy and fun parts of me – but a few years of battling these intense scars have also left me incredibly sensitive and emotional.
when E died, a lot of ways that i viewed the world around me changed. i started to understand my own “spirituality” and found a home in tarot and mild witchery. i experienced too many coincidences to believe in coincidences anymore. and i felt a soul hurt that i had never felt before, down inside of my bones and further down into the very makeup of my body. having healed some of those wounds, i still find myself living around them, as they never really heal completely or leave you. the same goes for any emotional abuse. and let me be clear, perhaps these men were not “abusive” or malicious (though i do believe one of them to have been), but their actions and words certainly were.
within the last couple of months i felt like i was constantly getting kicked while i was down. one thing after another happened, like someone was checking things off of a to-do list, and i felt like i was getting closer to the bottom. rock bottom was when E died, because everyone’s still alive and if everyone is still alive its gotta be better than that, right??? but. you can’t compare traumas. no one trauma is any worse than another. they’re all shitty. and they all take work to move through.
so, within the last two months i found myself struggling to get my sewing work done. i did show up to my day job every day, but to say i was really there is stretching it. i didn’t spend a lot of time crying, but i spent a lot of time in bed. depressed. not eating. not sleeping. or sleeping too much. insomnia that steals your sleep at night but makes you so exhausted during the day that you have to give in. some evenings i was so tired down to my soul that i couldn’t stand up to take a shower because i was too exhausted, so i only took baths. laying down felt easier and i could still get clean. but what wasn’t happening was i wasn’t sewing. and i needed to sew. you can’t blossom your business if you aren’t doing the work. and when i wasn’t doing the work, i was feeling guilty. guilt ontop of depression is not a good combo.
in the middle of this, i spent a week with valley fever. a common virus out here in the desert which presents itself with a horrible rash/hives and respiratory issues. thanks to a fairy godmother nurse by my side, i got some meds and got better, but that felt like the longest week as i was going through it and really was more like two weeks until i started to feel more like myself. being sick, feeling guilty, being depressed, and not doing the work – the worst combo.
i knew i had about six weeks until the holiday market so i could cushion my time a little. i planned out what exactly needed to get done and about how long it would take to do it. and i knew i had to get to work, whether i felt like it or not. i released the hand dyed pillow cover collection and some bandanas to my online shop, which took just about every ounce of energy i had. the day i did the photoshoot for the pillow covers, i was covered in hives.
i talked around a lot of it on social media, because exposing these parts of my life felt unprofessional or i didn’t want to be a bummer. but i was recovering from inviting someone i thought i knew into my new home, who had only sabotaged it by not being able to control their words or their actions and i had had to make some tough choices about how to continue to relate to them. it broke my heart to feel disrespected, to have to push away someone i had only ever been excited to be around. it broke my heart that it couldn’t have just been fun and easy. it broke my heart that now we no longer talk and not only did i lose someone i cared about, but i also lost their support in my art. i’ve wished them the best and i hope for good things for them, but apparently it was time for us to part ways. they say that not every loss is a loss, but i felt a loss. and perhaps my expectations had been too high.
E had told me once that i always saw the way with the most love. perhaps thats a blessing and a curse.
so, as i’m now getting ready for the holidays and crossing my fingers and toes that getting back into my work full force will pay off, i’m doing the work. i cut most of my hair off, i’ve given myself a fresh start. i have an amazing space in my apartment to create in. and i still have four weeks and if i stay diligent, i know i can get it all done. sales from my shop have hit a lull and i’m hoping that is less of a testament to my work and more because folks are holding out for the holidays.
i’m looking ahead to 2018 to see how i can better my business, get back to making quilts since that is where my heart really is, what stories i want to tell, how i can be more active in the arts community here, and what resources i might have. social media has continued to get the word out about what i do to a point, but there needs to be more. it can only get me so far, unless it hits the right people.
its not just about sewing zippers into purses for market. its not just about posting pretty pictures to instagram. its about pulling myself up by the boot straps and deciding whether or not its all worth it. what i can leave behind, and what i want to see happen moving forward. and it is not easy. it means i have to brush all that other stuff under the rug or deal with it in my own time. i still have afternoons when i get home from my dayjob that i need to lay around and do nothing. and that means that the next day i have to work twice as hard when i get home. i love what i do too much and am connected to it in such a way that i know its what i have to do. i have to make and i have to share it with as many people as i can (and i have to benefit monetarily so i don’t end up with a second job at somewhere like walmart). and the struggle is very real to keep myself motivated enough to keep going. i have the support in places where it feels good, but sometimes support is not quite enough. i’m looking for that push. maybe i will find it, maybe i won’t. maybe i’ll have to somehow create it on my own.
i am confident in my work. i am confident in its quality and its uniqueness. i’m confident in the stories i tell with it, the fabrics i make, and the designs i choose. and it is one of the only things some days that propels me forward. but it is also work. and sometimes life gets in the way.
and the only way out is through.