Monday, September 9, 2013

Under The Light Of New Stars

Many people find it strange that I enjoy public speaking - LOVE it in fact. Possibly it's because I get such a thrill from finding and sharing information that I know will make a difference in someone's life that I manage to overlook the fact that I'm standing in front of a gazillion sets of eyes or possibly it's because it ties in with what I have said many times is my purpose - to support and encourage others to their best.

That purpose involves caring deeply, listening carefully, and sharing helpfully. It's why I love writing and teaching, blogging and talking. Even when I try to bite my tongue - or "typewriter" - I can't help myself, I blurt it out anyway because I'm so compelled to share information that I often forget to determine if that information is even wanted before I start spouting off. VBG - I can say with complete confidence that it is not always wanted. To this, my children can testify.

Last week, I started re-reading The Eleven Commandments of Wildly Successful Women by Pamela Boucher Gilberd, a book published in 1996 that is - on many levels - still completely relevant today. I really enjoyed it the first time I read it, I'm enjoying it now, and I wish I'd picked it back up again a few years ago but... when the time is right... the time is right.

Chapter One reads ...

One of the most important questions we can ask is "why do I want to do it?" -- whatever "it" is. Faced with a situation we don't like or a need to reevaluate what we're doing, we tend to worry about what to do and how to do it, rather than taking the time to figure out why. Why is an important question because we need to be focused on what we want and where we're going. If you answer the question 'Why am I doing this?' with Gee, I don't know,' you'd better find out. People who can answer the why tend to keep their priorities straight. They base their decisions on personal values as well as business necessities, which means they also tend to avoid conflicts between personal ethics and business decisions. It's not unusual for people who ask themselves "why" to find that their careers no longer satisfy them. How can you become wildly successful if you're in a job that you've outgrown or that for some reason no longer suits you" Or if you're doing something because that's what you think you should do rather than what you want to do?

Friday's posting was meant to illustrate why creating a high end, one-of-a-kind product to sell was - for most people - not a money making endeavor and how difficult it is to develop a career in the arts. For one, you have to be driven to create and market that product. And I'm not. I have near to zero energy on that topic and even if the thought of sewing product after product was not as completely draining as it feels emotionally and physically, that blog posting alone proves the point I was trying to make. Of the almost 1,000 readers, there were 21 comments, two private emails, six suggestions for possible class content, and no twirly coat purchases. That would be a normal return rate for what would be described as direct marketing.

What surprised me is how the comments diverged in the direction of finding Myrna a career in creativity and if I'm honest - which I usually am - at first I was really frustrated by the suggestions not because they weren't valid but because I felt like I was being incredibly negative no butting every suggestion that was offered with love and caring in an effort to support and encourage me. I didn't want to be negative. I wanted to be grateful. And then I noticed something interesting.

Time after time, I replied that the thing I really love to do is be creative and to write and teach about creativity and - in particular - to teach people how to create independent, one-of-a-kind pieces, using their voice, in their medium. I like to teach them how to fill their form, whatever that form may be.

When I discussed my thoughts with a friend, I said that for a writer, the form is paper and for a painter, it's the canvas and for a jewelry artist, it's the necklace and for a wood turner, it's the bowl and... and... and... For me, the form is whatever textile object I'm working on at the moment whether it's purses or twirly coats or t-shirts or the prototypes for a size 3 leather jacket for my grandson. I get highly energized by filling my own form and by helping others to fill theirs. That's my "why".

So the first thing I want to do - she says laughingly after writing half a posting - is give you all a GREAT BIG HUG and say THANK YOU because you opened my eyes to my why, to what I really want to do, and to the fact that I've been playing it safe, hiding in my studio, licking my wounds, and allowing myself to be weighed down by things beyond my control. There's still stuff swirling that needs to be dealt with but it's on another topic entirely and I feel a whole lot clearer on this one of what I'd like to do for "work". I want to help people play. Just because those stars didn't align in the past does not mean that other stars can't align now. Perhaps they can. Perhaps under the light of new stars I can share my skill set, my abilities, my love of creating, writing, and teaching, and my why.

Page 68 reads...

You have to believe in yourself. You have to keep a positive attitude. You can't be depressed by failure. Nobody succeeds without failure. Nobody should be set back because they got fired or whatever. A lot of people get fired in middle age, but that should not set them back, that should light a fire under them to show the world.
I'd stopped believing in myself. I'd lost that fire to show the world except for a tiny ember that is still glowing. Perhaps it can be coaxed into something greater.

Three of the questions at the end of first chapter are: With whom do you compare yourself? Who is your role model for success? What qualities does that person have? The first time I went to the Design Outside the Lines workshop and listened to how Marcy and Diane taught, looked at how they structured the workshop, and saw the impact on their students, I felt a sense of kinship. It was exactly how I love to teach, how I've structured my workshops in the past, and how I hope to impact my students.

I'm not a big name like they are but that's who I compare myself with because they are doing what I love to do in a way that I love to do it and having the kind of impact I'd love to have. And they're lovely ladies, generous, caring, supportive, doing their own work in their own way, and then sharing what they've learned to help others do their own work in their own way. It's the utopian of teaching in my opinion.

Reading the book, replying to the comments, repeating my desire enough times for it to actually sink into my head, answering those questions, and realizing that I was hiding made me think. What I love to teach is not just about textiles. It's about helping artists of all ages in many mediums find and express their authentic self and there just might be a way for me to do that if I'm willing to take a first step and to ask for help.

I thought about my comments on breaking even in terms of pricing artwork and how when I was younger I used to get so angry at artists who wouldn't price their work in a way that reflected the time, money, and energy invested. I felt that if all artists would just price their work appropriately, then the whole industry would improve especially for those of us who were - IMHO - doing things the right way. And now, I'm older. I understand breaking even. I understand doing whatever it takes to keep doing that thing that you love.

And I'm more realistic.

I've started to think about teaching in a similar "break even" kind of way. Yes, if I were to teach, and especially if I were to travel to teach, I would need to cover expenses -  which are broader and deeper than many people realize - and I'd need to make a profit to pay for my own creativity and life interests but - the bottom line is - I want to teach because it's fun and it meets a need in my life. Not that I don't want a decent paycheque - I do - but I don't need to get rich if you know what I mean. If I did - if I needed to make a supporting salary - I'd do something else.

With that perspective, I've started to research what price and for what duration a "filling the form" workshop could be marketed at and to whom including quilting and sewing groups, school districts, art councils, community art centers, galleries, art supply stores, parks & recreation programs, individual artists willing to form a group, and so on. I don't know if the idea will go anywhere but it feels positive and possible and I'm enjoying that brighter perspective - plus - LOL - I have a lot of twirly coats, t-shirts, necklaces, purses, wall art and other examples to use in class.

All the thinking I've done this past weekend made me realize that it's time to get out of the studio both for work and to mingle with other artists and to be inspired and inspiring. Before, my work was home based because I was a work-from-home Mom. Now that my children are all adults, that's not a requirement and I believe that in addition to the possibility of teaching on-line, it's time to explore possibilities beyond the studio doors.

SO... in-between prototypes, this is what I'm thinking about. THANK YOU again for prompting my thoughts in this direction. I appreciate the support and encouragement.

And now, to explain the pictures. When my grandson was born, I thought long and hard about what to give him as a welcome to the world present because I have no idea how many grandchildren I may eventually have and wanted to choose something that I could consistently give and afford to give. I decided that I would make each of my grandchildren something with their name on it. For my grandson, that's going to be a size three, black leather jacket with his name and date of birth on the inside back yoke.

I started by tracing an Ottobre pattern from the Autumn 2013 issue. These patterns do not have hem or seam allowances included so I used the sewing machine to add a "width of the presser foot" seam allowance all around and then highlighted it in green to make sure I remembered what all those dots were about.

Since I've never sewn an Ottobre pattern and didn't know if I'd traced and added the hems and seam allowances correctly, I decided to sew it out of denim first before cutting up the leather and that was a really good decision because I didn't like the results. I thought it looked too country and that there were too many little bits, bulky parts, intersecting seams, and curved lines for leather. The gobbed up thread is another matter to be resolved. I think it was because of the heavier top stitching thread and the regular bobbin thread but I'm not sure.

When the Ottobre version didn't work out, I researched leather jackets to find one with simple, clean lines and then opted to use Simplicity 2526 as a starting point dividing it with princess seams front and back like Simplicity 1724. I didn't use that pattern because it has raglan sleeves, a far more angled shoulder line, is shorter in length, and seems tighter across the midriff. There were less alterations going the other way.

I'll make a few prototypes until I get the style lines the way I want them and then, on the final version, I intend to put pockets into the front seams using those absolutely adorable zippers shown above as well as a zippered, center front opening. Instead of vertical seams in the sleeve - again too country looking - I cut a horizontal one at about elbow level like one of the jackets I saw online. I'll see what I think of that with the next prototype.

This week definitely won't be as exciting as last week's twirly coats. There will not be a completed coat a day, just parts of prototypes and then I'm going to visit my daughter and her family for the weekend leaving early Friday morning and returning Monday night. There won't be postings those two days, just so you know, so I don't forget to tell you.

Talk soon - Myrna

Grateful - positive possibilities


  1. Myrna,
    Thank you so much for posting the quote from the book at the beginning of your post - it drove home the point someone else has been trying to make to me for the past month. And I'm so very very pleased you've stumbled across your WHY - it sounds perfect! HUGS

    1. Isn't it fun how thougths can coincidentally collide to teach us lessons. Fabulous. The eleventh step in the book is about giving back and I'm thrilled that I can do that through the blog. Best of luck with your future decisions.

      My why does sound perfect... and familiar... and this is good. It's confirmation that I need to stop procrastinating and walk in that (my) direction. I appreciate the support.

  2. Such good thinking-- and so helpful to be sharing it. Elle

    1. Thanks. I'm curious as to why you view it as helpful to share ? ? ? I sometimes wonder if I overshare.

    2. I don't think you overshare, which to me means a sharing of what shouldn't be said in that time and place, a lack of personal boundaries. Not at all the same as talkative :) I think that sharing is helpful to the speaker, either in clarifying things in our mind before we speak or write so that we can communicate clearly--or for others, understanding ourselves in the process of speaking or writing.
      The sharing is helpful to the listener/reader of course because we learn so much from one another. Elle

    3. Thank you. I'm glad I'm not over the edge. I really believe in supporting each other and particularly in women supporting women and that's the perspective I'm most often writing from.

  3. You are an inspiration to me, in the way that you continually are thoughtful about your life and the how AND the why... I recently had a friend "accuse" me of being very introspective about my life as though that were something bad, when that is just how I am, not something I do on purpose. I have to change how I am living my life, in some very fundamental ways, as illness has changed my capacity for former livelihood, but I am still feeling very stuck. Reading how you don't give up encourages me to not give up. I need to move away from cleaning houses for income and figure out how to do more teaching instead, which is why I so found this post of yours to be so resonant.

    I recently have been having an ongoing occasional conversation with a faraway friend about what is our life purpose; friends are always trying to figure out what I can sell, of the things that I make... and while I love making things, I do not love selling them, and I do get so much pleasure in teaching and encouraging other folks to make things, though I have only done a modest amount of teaching. Right now I am trying to figure out what the next small steps are for me to move in that direction, and doing what I can to put my scattered life back together.

    1. LOL - I - of course - do not think that introspective is bad. IMHO far too many people under-think however... we can get stuck in ruminating when we really need to take action. Been there, done that.

      You are in a very difficult situation with your health concerns that I can relate on some levels. What I know for sure is that our friends just want to help us find a solution and they want to build up our confidence and energy because they can see the impact of the difficulties we're dealing with however... ultimately... we are the only one who can find our solution. We are the only one who can sense what energizes and what feels authentic. When you're dealing with other difficulties, that's the only direction you can move in because the other makes life heavier.

      Stuck isn't pretty and staying stuck is not a good option so somehow someway we have to move forward. In one section of the book there's the advice to "feel your way" by taking one step toward your vision and then asking is this step going toward or away from my vision? If not, correct. If so, take another step. Repeat.

      It sounds like you've clarified some things already. You don't want to create products to sell. You do want to teach. Those are the same decisions I keep coming to. Questions that come to mind then are what do we want to teach, where do we want to teach, how will we get that first teaching opportunity so we can do an amazing job and get another one? Each of those steps has next steps - class outlines, handouts, promotional materials - finding a shop to work for, booking classroom space, getting booked by an organization - networking, working with dot connecting friends and their friends and their friends friends.

      I also believe that when we are clear on what we want and what it looks like that it brings peace and calm for everyone. For us because we know what we want and we're not stuck anymore. For our friends because we're no longer looking for a solution, we have it, and they can stop brainstorming what we should do and start brainstorming how we can do what we want to do. That's very positive. Most people simply want to help and they get frustrated when they can't.

      What's your most favourite thing to make? Could it be your favourite thing to teach? What's your most popular product? Could it be a class?

      BEST of luck.


Thanks for commenting. I appreciate the feedback and the creative conversation.