So that was it. I finished off the season's craft fairs that I had already booked and had a big "sell-off" of stock I didn't care about and materials I knew I would never use. And by Christmas of 2007 I was closed for business.
What next? Well, having a teenage daughter busy with her own life, being a 24-7 stay at home mum wasn't going to work for me. I knew I wouldn't be sewing as often when I wasn't under the gun to make stock for craft fairs and such. I wanted to ENJOY sewing, not feel obligated to do it. And besides, if I was going to do any sewing at all and not have my business to pay for supplies I had to find some money somewhere.
So I got my first job outside of the home in, oh, about 17 years. I have now been working as a part time library clerk for just over a year. I work 2 days a week putting away books. You'd think it was a boring job but I love it! For anyone who loves books to start with it's a dream. And being somewhat of an organizational freak it's kind of nice to work in a job that revolves around organization and structure. And to get PAID for it! What a novel idea!
Once I started working it was quite a change for me. Although running a small home based business kept me busy enough over the years it didn't prepare me for working OUTSIDE of the home. I kept sewing, for a while. And then I went to start my next mermaid project. Mermaids, my favourite. But it didn't work. Instead of enjoying it I felt that familiar obligated feeling. I didn't like it. I plodded along for a few weeks trying to pretend that I really wanted to be in my sewing room until one day I had a meltdown. I went to my husband and said, "What's wrong with me? I am a fabric artist! I am supposed to WANT to do this!" I felt that I was losing myself and my identity. Who was I anymore? I had been the sewing girl, the crafter, the fabric artist, the teeny tiny home based business owner for years and years. I felt like I had purpose.
How could I have purpose as a part time library clerk?
But I had to be honest with myself. I was enjoying my job. I was enjoying the feeling of being needed there. I was enjoying the appreciation from my co-workers and supervisor for a job well done. I was enjoying bringing home a paycheck.
And so I decided to take myself off the hook. Me and my sewing machine needed some time apart. I needed a sabbatical from my sewing room. And that's what I did. That spring I cleaned up all the fabric, covered the sewing machine and left the room. I felt guilty about it. But I decided that I'd rather deal with the guilt than pretend to enjoy sewing and therefore creating pieces with no pride or joy. I was scared too. Scared that once I left I would never go back.
But the guilt eventually faded. I enjoyed the summer. Going on vacation with my family. Sitting on the deck reading a book in the sun on my days off. Doing things I put aside for years that I didn't have time to do before. Some gardening. Shopping. Sometimes just doing nothing.
During this time my husband had found a hobby for himself. He had begun a shore posting which meant he wasn't away on trips with the navy that could get in the way. In fact I was the one who directed him to this hobby. We were at military family days event and I noticed a group doing a demonstration of what I would lovingly come to call "man bashing". It was, in fact, a group of guys dressed up in armour performing medieval re-creation fighting. If you've ever heard of the Society for Creative Anachronism you'll know what I'm talking about. In any case, I suggested that he might enjoy this passtime and get some exercise while doing it. So he joined.
And then I discovered that for him to be part of the group he needed proper fight attire. And one piece of attire he needed was something called a gambeson...a padded jacket of sorts. Quilted, actually. He could purchase an expensive one online or...he knew someone in the group who had a pattern for one. And who did he know who had a sewing machine and knew how to put together a pattern? Why ME of course!
So there I was, forced back into the sewing room, kicking and screaming to make this gambeson as a favour to my husband. My FAVOURITE kind of sewing...obligation, patterns. Ugh. And kick and scream I did. In fact, I was almost driven to tears at times with this thing because, quite frankly, the pattern was NOT that easy to follow! And although it was all done on the sewing machine there was the endless quilting of all the pieces. What a nightmare. Having to perform this feat of frustration was certainly NOT what was going to get me back into the spirit of creating pieces of fabric art!
But I have to admit it. Through all the gnarling of teeth and grunts and sighs...just simply running something through the sewing machine gave me a bit of a thrill at moments. That feeling of familiarity. An old friend.
And once I was finished with that little project it started to come back. I wanted to go to the fabric store. I had the itch. And there was a project waiting for me.
Before I had turned my back on my sewing room I had already paid my dues to the groups I belonged to. One of those groups was a local artists group. I had only just joined it before closing my business, joining it thinking it would be a resource for show opportunities. In one of the recent newsletters there was a "call for submissions" for its annual show of all the group's members. It would be a show held at a local Aviation museum to celebrate 100 years of manned flight in the British Commonwealth. The theme of the show would be "Flight"...whatever that would mean to us.
It was a challenge. I love challenge. And I loved the idea of having freedom to do whatever I wanted with the theme.
I decided that I wanted to capture the feeling of awe from seeing an airplane in the sky for the very first time without actually showing an airplane. And the result was what I consider to be one of my best, (if not my best) creations ever. 3 faces looking up into the sky. Captured somewhat with fabric but mostly with thread, using a free motion stitch for anyone who knows their way around a sewing machine.
A Photo of "Awe":
And making it was wonderful! I finally had that feeling of exhilaration back! That feeling of accomplishment. Of creativity.
So this piece would be on display at this local art show. My first real art show. Not a quilt show, but an art show. Next to other paintings and photographs. Advertised as an art show. With real invitations for the opening! SO exciting!
So I guess I'm back. And with this new beginning I made a promise to myself never to make anything I didn't feel like doing at the time. If this is the last piece I ever make, so be it. If I never get to have my mermaid show that's okay too. As long as I'm getting joy out of it.
But I found out that I would sew more. I would continue in my sewing room. And you'll never guess what I chose to make next.