Thursday, May 28, 2009

the story continues (a long post!)

Well, as I wrote in a previous post, I had secured my right to have my studio in what had been my garage, and I was set to go. I got a call one day from the director on the Lincoln Center in New York. They run a series of craft shows, and wanted me to participate, in fact, wanted to use an image of my work on their poster. Well. Inexperienced, naive little me was so flattered and thrilled--NEW YAWK CITY! LINCOLN CENTER!--that I did not realize that: a show is just a show is just a show is just a show is..

But still, that was not the problem. I was having a blast. I got a hotel for my brother and I for a month in the lower east side (pretty darn cheap for NYC!) and planned to do all 4 weekends. Shipped enough work for all that. All good. We spent the time in between walking around the great city (first time for me) and loving it. We went to the financial district on September 10th, and finished up with drinks on top of the World Trade Center. Magnificent thunder storm with torrential rain. Got happily drenched walking back to our hotel. And I'm sure you know the rest of that story. Yep, September 11. I could go into all of the details of our experience but you have all heard and read hundreds of such stories. Suffice it to say: all shows were cancelled and I lost all the money (15K) from shipping, show fees, etc. NOTHING compared to the losses others experienced, but still significant for me.

When I got home a week or two later, I was deeply depressed (as were many) and spent some serious couch time. A month or so later I scraped myself off the couch to go to a show in Portland, Oregon. I had never unpacked from New York, so just loaded all my boxes into a rental van and went. When I got there I unpacked just what was necessary, left the rest (most of my inventory) in the van parked in a secure parking garage at the Holiday Inn by the convention center. My purse was stolen, with the keycard inside, and the rental van keys with the license plate number. You know where this is going. Yep. The van was stolen, with 30K worth of inventory. The van was found months later, but empty of all my work. Homeowners and auto insurance both declined coverage because it was used for business purposes.

THEN (no, we're not through yet) after all that I was pretty dejected. But I kept trying. My credit was maxed out but when I found out I had gotten into the big Baltimore ACC show at the last minute (off the wait list) I borrowed money from friends to go. I thought it was my last viable chance to make a go of this new endeavor. I quickly made a catalog, cards, sample inventory, shipping, hotel and flight arrangements, and all out of breath got on the plane one winter day. Whew! I did it. When the pilot came on over the intercom as we reached cruising altitude and announced that we would be landing in Chicago and were not going further due to all airports on the east coast being closed due to record blizzards... well, I, with $300 cash left in my pocket had to adjust again. I got a hotel at $100 a night, no money left, and curled up on the hotel bed, wondering if I should keep going east when I could, or return home on the next available flights. In the end I realized I had already spent the money, I might as well see it through. When I did make it to Baltimore in the middle of the night I had missed all but the last day of the show. I stayed up all night, building my display, and the next day got just enough orders to encourage me. As I was traveling on frequent flyer miles, I could change my ticket without cost, so when an artist friend invited me to stay an extra couple days in her hotel to rest and recover I took the opportunity. She was doing the retail component after the wholesale that I did, and between naps, I'd walk the show, visiting with other artists. I felt so at home amongst them. They were so sympathetic and understanding of my state, so encouraging, and let me write again:

I felt at home. At a previous show I remember my brother and I (he came with me to shows the first year and a half I did this, to help. It was a WONDERFUL way to spend time together, and we got very close). At the end of the day, we would go to the hotel bar for drinks, and as other artists would trickle in we would have a lovely group sharing experiences and just talking in a tired and comfortable way. I remember looking around one evening, getting a bit teary at how, after all the years of other (VERY satisfying jobs) I had always felt a bit of a misfit. I had a sense that I had finally found my tribe. There are few words to describe that feeling. Being at home, camaraderie, community, peace. Home.

I flew home exhausted. I prayed every day for guidance, I just needed to know whether to fight and move forward, or retreat back to my former professions. Every night I had horrible nightmares of rape and pillage, waking up in a drenching sweat. Finally one night a young person walked up to me in the midst of one of these nightmares and asked me if they should become an artist. In my dream I pondered, I saw a kind of slideshow of all the terror and fear I was feeling, and interwoven with the fear were images of the joy of following the thread of creativity, the peace of having found my tribe, the pleasure of smiling as I awoke in the mornings. I answered the young person by saying "only if you must," and told them that the price is high, it isn't easy, it's not "fun" in the classic sense of the word. When I woke up from this dream I was pissed off at God for not giving me a proper answer. As I sat with the dream for a few days I had no idea "if I must." I could do many things! And they were satisfying things. What is this "must" thing? Little by little, I decided that if, in spite of all the trials I had been enduring, I continued to choose this life, then apparently I must. And if I must, well then, I must do whatever it takes, and not look back.

Now. I'm tired of writing, and I'm sure you are tired of reading. So I'll write soon about what "doing what it takes" has meant for me. I'm off to do some of that now!


  1. The indomitable human spirit in action!

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