"You're the only instructor I know who makes enough kits so the class attendees can choose any color and not worry about them being sold out, then you still have some to sell to non-class members."It made me realize not only do I choose to make this many kits, I do it because for me, it's good customer service. I do it because I would be so sad if someone came to a class with her heart set on making a certain colorway and it was already gone. I've been that person before! It's not just about good business practices (the more kits I have to sell, the more I'm likely to sell) but much more it's about making sure my students and customers have a good experience.
And while I know this, that doesn't mean I don't have those blue mood days where I struggle with having to sit for yet another 12+ hours and weigh out beads, or put labels on baggies, or print patterns. It's mind-numbing after a while when I'm doing this kind of volume (not to mention butt-numbing. I think the sofa is permanently attached to my backside now.) And so for the last few days I've been fighting the urge to run away and hide for a respite.
And then I watched clips from Oprah's farewell show online tonight. And cried. And was reminded of how lucky and special my life is. What an amazing journey this last 9 years has been since I first encountered beads. I don't say Thank You enough to YOU. Because you guys out there, reading my blog, becoming my friends on Facebook, buying our kits online and at shows, taking my classes, and anticipating my books - YOU are the people who allow me to do this. You share your excitement and enthusiasm with me and keep me going through tough deadlines and canceled flights, and bad hotel rooms.
I think I have shared this before, but when I first started down this path of becoming a jewelry designer and instructor, I felt kind of silly making it a career. It seemed superficial at the time. An entire job revolving around something as non-essential as jewelry and crafting? I am ashamed to admit that now. But I couldn't know...I didn't understand just how the experiences I would have along the way would show me how something as "inconsequential" as beadweaving can change lives.
I have watched deep friendships form between women in my classes. The locals in Austin who started gathering twice a week at the local bead store for the company. The women who discovered in one of my classes at Bead & Button that they lived just blocks away from each other in Washington State and have become close friends.
I have worried about the woman over there in the corner who always came to class, but never participated in the chatter and laughter. Was she enjoying herself? A private conversation between us eventually revealed that she was a recent widow with no children and very few friends. Her only interaction with people happened within these classes. She came because she loved hearing everyone talk and joke and she loved the beads. And she didn't have to put on a brave face or do anything but just be in the company of others. It was an escape from her sorrow and her loneliness. That was the moment I felt for the first time I truly understood the saying "Art saves lives."
I have watched students work out bad days at work in beading class. Who have found solace from personal and family tragedies and illnesses. I have seen beading quite literally keeping two dear friends alive. The excitement and pleasure of artistic creation, the meditative motions of the beading, and the treasured friendships developed from their beading connections have combined to keep them going. When one thought she was going to be unable to bead any longer I could see the life-light draining from her eyes. But a medical adjustment allowed her to continue to keep her beady company, and all of a sudden - like the flip of a switch - she was back again with sparkle and laughter and I knew it was going to be okay.
Working with adult learners has taught me many lessons too. How hard we can be on ourselves if we don't master a new technique or stitch right off the bat. (Y'all, I failed learning peyote stitch several times when I first started out! Don't tell me you can't learn something!) So my job is often simply to remind people to be willing to goof up. To keep going. To be a personal cheerleader. And to stand there like a proud mama when they get that "ah-ha!" moment - because that's exactly how I feel! When a woman in one class pulled me quietly aside to thank me for being so patient with her questions and need for extra help, she brought tears to my eyes (then, and now) as she explained she had suffered a stroke a year prior, and relearning to bead was difficult, but important to her self-esteem. She had taken a class from someone else who had made her feel stupid and slow, and wanted to thank me for not making her feel like a burden at all. I was floored! Not only because I couldn't imagine thinking of her being a burden - but also because I could imagine what it felt like to be treated badly in the past. Her accomplishment in that class made me so happy for her! How sad that the other teacher missed out on that joy.
So all of this is simply me saying THANK YOU. Thank you for sticking with me through growing pains and grumpy days and spotty blog updating. Thank you for being the reason I love what I do so much. You all hang out with me every single day, whether you know it or not. My gratitude is endless.
Aw, man. Now I'm all weepy again. And if that's not a sign for bedtime I don't know what is! But I had to stop right this very moment and tell you what I was thinking. Thank you too, for listening.