Opening a business- and trying to keep it open- has been among one of the hardest things I have ever done. I have given birth to three children, been divorced with two young children living paycheck to paycheck, moved 4000 miles from home, lived away from my dear family for over 25 years, had 9 surgeries, lost a dear step-daughter and seven former students. Don’t get me wrong- I have led a perfectly charmed life. I’m not trying to complain, by any means. I just want to illustrate that (for ME) my difficulties in running a business is sort of- but not quite- up there with these life moments. It's HARD.
It is also one of the best things that has happened to me. I have made friendships that I know without a doubt will last for a long time. I have watched with delight as children beg their parents not to leave the studio; had people thank me for the great time they had at Artworks; or on a number of occasions, tell me what a ‘great energy’ the place has. After a teaching career of 27 years, I still thrill at the magic of sharing the healing, restorative, joyful, life-affirming qualities of art with people. These words give me a right-down-to my-tippy-toes kinds of thrills and universe affirming vibes! I think it is what I have been put on earth to do. I love coming up with ideas and feeling a tingle of excitement when people respond to them enthusiastically. I love a shared feeling of community that I have found in this little building at the end of New Bridge Street. My art tribe has a deep, life-affirming, passionate, REAL vibe!
Once we taught a visual journaling class that we offered to women at the Onslow Women’s Shelter. Only one woman came, with her three children. Kaylee worked with the children and I worked with a very broken woman. I didn’t ask what her story was. I just wanted to share a few journaling tools that might help her in her healing journey. As we worked with magazines, cutting up words and talking, she began to voluntarily share her story with me. Her story of abuse was horrific- so bad that she had been moved to the shelter her from another state hundreds of miles away. As we worked, she talked and one of her recurring themes was about finding the words she needed to be brave, move on, etc. At the end of the afternoon we had one new art journal with a cover that said “MY VOICE.” The other one proclaimed, in cut-out magazine letters “Only the brave RISE UP and experience new beginnings.” Powerful, heart-rending, art healing. So much so that I am three classes in to working towards a Registered Expressive Arts Therapist. #GOALS
Another time, Jen and I were at the studio every Saturday one spring, and two marines stationed at Camp Johnson would come in for 5, 6 even seven or more hours at a time. Joe would get on the pottery wheel and his friend would sit and watch, or glaze Joe’s creations that had been fired, or listen to music and talk about his love for music. They came in every week for about two months. When they graduated, Joe’s friend left us a lovely note saying that we had been the best part of their week for months and thanked us. Three months later, back home in Vegas, he committed suicide. We were heart-broken, but glad to have been a place of respite for a little while.
Those are just two of so many amazing, rich, soul-searing moments. There have also been times when I have made ghastly mistakes. Not on purpose, of course. But terrible mistakes, nonetheless. This past year has been particularly bad- dealing with the death of a loved one, depression rearing its ugly, ugly head, difficulty in dealing with anything that required a lot of concentration. Working as a full time art teacher by day, soccer Mum and art studio owner by day started to take its toll. Mistakes started piling up, as did angry customers. Several scathing reviews left me in tears, frozen, unable to respond, when all I wanted to do was throw myself crying at someones feet and apologize profusely. Or worse. Some customers will be so forgiving, and understanding- when I have felt that I had no right to accept such grace. I have beaten myself up more times than you can know. It really hurts, knowing that you messed up and there is nothing you can do. Although I have tried to make it right as best I can…. sometimes I just can’t. There have been many tears. I have been very close to just packing it all in and closing- many, many times! I’m so, so, sorry if you are one of the people that I have disappointed.
Each time, when closing was on my mind, the universe would delight in sending somebody to unwittingly say or do something that would cause me to hang on just that little bit more. Kristi used to share the Facebook posts a lot- from halfway across the country, for her friends that still live here. LS, the mother of a dear child with some very special needs who brought her other daughter for some much-needed art respite touched my heart with her gifts, encouragement and constant sharing of Facebook posts. It was the person who stood in the studio and told me quite vehemently: “we NEED you here, this community needs this place…” It was my dear friend Irene who I lived with in Paris years ago, who offered up such a great 1% more comment that has stuck with me. Or dear sweet KP who moved to Virginia and has suffered so much recent loss and heartbreak of her own yet still continues to share posts and write such heart-warming reviews and encouragement. (Great reviews are SOOOOOOO important to small businesses! That 4.8 FB rating? I hate it. I want it to be a 5.) Thank you to my husband and family who supports me and encourages me. Thank you to the child who wrote me a poem, a picture, gave me a hug, to friends who offer encouragement and help, Mrs. JS for putting up with me, someone who who cared enough to help that they wrote a review on Facebook AND Google or just shared a post- I’m so, so, SO grateful to any and ALL of you who have given words of praise or encouragement. You have no idea how much they are treasured, and how much I love and appreciate you.
***I appreciate and love Raquel and Kaylee TREMENDOUSLY.*** I love our little Artworks family! I thank Wendy for all of her help, and Cat for joining the fam again (yay!!) and Kathi, and Amanda, and Deena and all previous employees, teachers, volunteers as well as new instructors coming this fall. <3
When I retire from being a full-time high school art teacher in 3 years I have many more plans that I hope to bring to fruition since I will be at the studio full time. Meanwhile, I am redoing some things this fall, building a great team to keep the mission alive, and vowing to keep on doing the best I can with the limited time and resources at my disposal. I hope you will check out our classes, “Like” us, “Follow” us, share the posts, comment, and keep the studio visible in our community. Come by with your team for some team-building, or come by for some art-making, art trivia night, book-making, print-making, kids classes….. LET’S FILL THIS TOWN WITH ARTISTS! I’m looking for teens from every high school to participate in a public downtown art project…. Artists to teach classes…… and most of all, your patience with me as I continue to learn and figure this business thing out. Love you all.
There are great things on the horizon, and you’re invited to share the Artworks #ArtTribeVibe!
Thanks for your support, and thanks for listening. <3
.......AND I HOPE YOU COME TO OUR 5 YEAR ANNIVERSARY BASH!!