Monday, September 3, 2012

The Ever-Changing Definition of Success - UPDATED

The one piece of running Found Beauty Studio that I can never put my finger on is what I consider "success" to be.  Is it an arbitrary financial goal?  Is it a particular lifestyle achieved?  Is it some level of recognition from outside sources?  I honestly don't know. 

I've lived with bouts of severe anxiety and depression for most of my life.  It's not something I usually share publicly and many people who know me professionally would be surprised by it.  My inner circle of amazing and supportive friends and family know (kind of a hard thing to hide, long term), but other than that I've kept it to myself, mostly just disappearing for a few weeks at a time from society until I can muster the energy to leave my house again.  I've hidden it out of shame and stigma.  It's only been in the last few months that I've finally come to understand that I have nothing to be ashamed of.  My brain operates with a different level of chemicals than other people's do.  It's not my fault and the stigma can go to hell.  I have it well controlled thanks to medication and behavioral therapy so that it doesn't keep me from living a full and rich life, and I consider that successful.  I'd like to thank people like The Bloggess and John Moe for showing me that honesty can be extremely freeing. Hiding it keeps me sicker and makes others who also struggle feel more alone.  Screw that.

It does mean, though, that the traditional definition of American success - status achieved by money and power - is often at odds with the reality of my life.  I'll admit that part of me really wants that status.  Part of me wants to be seen by society as successful, with a job that demands respect and creates lots of expendable income.  Part of me wants to be traditionally normal.  But when I have anxiety attacks that keep me from walking into an unstructured social situation without wanting to vomit and burst into tears, and a need to be able to set my own schedule because working 9-5 behind a desk sets off my depression like nothing else, the traditional office job is just not for me.  I keep trying, and keep realizing it over and over again that I do not fit into that mold.  And then I feel like a failure and a loser for not being able to do what others seem to excel at, and I go down that rabbit hole of depression and shame and self-loathing.  And the guilt.  Holy moses the guilt about not having to wake up to an alarm is excruciating.  Sounds great, right?  Bet you're a little jealous right now.

So here I am, thinking about success.  Found Beauty Studio is not a cash cow.  I think anyone who runs a small art business will tell you the same.  The average salary for an independent craftsperson in America is a whopping $13,000 a year.  That's $4,000 less than you'd make working full-time at minimum wage.  I'm fiercely independent when it comes to being able to take care of myself, so the economic reality of falling short on income kills me.  I am married to an absolutely amazing and caring partner who supports whatever I do, and yet I've just begun to be comfortable after 5 years together with the idea that the income we bring in is "our" money, not my money and his money separately, and that he doesn't give one hoot how much I make.  I've been pretty proud of the fact that our salaries were comparable for most of our years together, even when I was completely miserable in my job, and now I have to wonder why.  We're not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, but we own our house (well, the bank owns most of it), we have no debt outside of our mortgage, we have savings, we own our cars, and we have health insurance and retirement funds.  I think it's time for me to stop obsessing about the amount of income I contribute.  Perhaps the amount of money I earn should not be so deeply tied to my self-worth.  If I keep that as a measure, Found Beauty Studio will never make me "successful".

I think what I'm going to aim for as a measure of success for the next few months is to wake up without dreading the day.  I want to wake up and feel like the next 24 hours are full of promise and not torment.  I want to stop feeling guilty about setting my own schedule and apologizing for the times I feel fulfilled.  I want to stop hating myself for enjoying creating full time.  I want to embrace the positives of running an art business and not continually obsess over the pitfalls.  In short, I want to be happy. 

UPDATE: I'd like to thank the flood of people who have reached out to me with their own stories in the last few days.  I'm awed that so many of us have the same struggles, and saddened that so many of us feel we have to hide them.  To all of you who suffer in silence, please NEVER hesitate to contact me.  I know what it's like to feel completely alone even when you're in a room full of people.  

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Taking Matters into My Own Hands

I'm a bit of a stubborn, head-strong, take charge, be-the-change-you'd-like-to-see kind of person.  It has served me both very well and incredibly poorly at different points in my life, but I am who I am and I'm at peace with it.  I do not do well sitting on the side lines waiting for other people to do what needs to be done.  So when I realized that Burlington - my home for the last 12 years - was in desperate need of an affordable and stable venue for artists to sell their work, I decided to step in.  After months of planning, I'm pleased to announce that I've found the Old North End Art Market

The thing is, all of us artists, artisans, and crafters who have sold our work at shows have been there.  You spend a fortune and entire days where you may or may not make a dime all day.  And not only did you have to pay the vendor fee for the show (and sometimes an application fee...yikes), you had to buy a table and often a huge tent.  Plus you have to schlep all of your stuff to the show.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm not anti-show.  I'm starting a monthly one for pete's sake.  But I don't like the investment and risk that it takes to be involved in shows.  It takes a lot of time, a lot of money, and there's a huge learning curve.  There are so many incredibly talented people who have a bad experience the first time out and then give up on them.  And then they lose out on the benefits that shows can offer - exposure, sales, and meeting other artists.

Mostly I now know what it's like to try to slog it out making a living off of your creations.  It's tough.  Really tough.  Here in northern Vermont, there's no place you can try out a new design or have a location where customers can expect to buy from you unless you have a studio, which I can't afford to rent, or going the wholesale or consignment route, and I can't afford to take the 40%-60% cut in price that requires.  And since a lot of my work is really difficult to ship, I can't easily sell it online.  It's been discouraging.  I look at cities that have weekly or monthly markets and I drool with envy.  Ok, that's a bit of a graphic image.  Mostly I shake my fist angrily at the heavens that I don't have that opportunity.

So here's where the head-strong, take-charge part comes in.  Instead of sitting around and bemoaning my lack of options (which I did for a few years, don't get me wrong), I'm starting that market.  I'm creating what I need, and what I imagine a lot of other artists around here need.  The farmer's market is great, but you have to be able to be outside vending weekly all summer long, and have liability insurance, and afford the price, and have your own table, tent, and set up.  It works really well for some artists, but not for me.  I have a delightfully awful heat intolerance and I can't be outside in 85 degree or over temps without passing out and making a scene, so the outdoor market doesn't work for me.  I also can't commit to selling weekly.  I don't have the kind of time or inventory to make that work.  So my market is going to be monthly, from 10am- 3pm, and at a beautiful indoor location that provides tables and chairs so that all you have to do is bring a table covering and your work and you can sell away.  I think of it as an incubator space.  I want to provide a place where all those fabulous artists and makers who have been too intimidated by the world of shows to try them out can come down on a Saturday, pay $30 for a table (that's the affordable part!  I'd rather make significantly less for my efforts as the market organizer and make it accessible to artists), and give it a go.  Also, I really want to bring opportunities to my part of town - the Old North End - which is incredibly vibrant and diverse, but not a usual tourist destination like Church St. in downtown Burlington.    

Mostly, I'm really excited about all of it.  I want to support the arts in my community.  I want to create an opportunity for people to make money off of their creations.  I want to connect buyers who are looking for unique and hand-made items with those amazing people making them.  I also want to save other people from going through the isolation I went through trying to figure it all out on my own.  I'm planning a series of workshop to go along with the market on how to start your own home-based food business, marketing tips, setting up a booth, etc. so that no one has to go it alone.

It's exciting!  I'm excited.  I hope you are too.  So follow the art market on facebook or on twitter if you feel like it and if you're nearby, you should be a vendor if you're a maker, or be a shopper if you want to support the makers.  You won't be sorry.

And to those of you who read through the end of my rambling post, thanks :)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Anthropomorphism: or why robots are awesome.

I've discovered a new art form that is 100% where-have-you-been-all-my-life awesome.  It's building robot sculptures out of scrap metal.  It's ok - I'll wait a second for the sheer weight of its awesome to sink in.

Seriously awesome, right?

The thing is, I've basically spent my whole life waiting to discover this robot making talent.   I'm an anthropomorphizer extraordinaire.  Also, forget you,, for not recognizing anthropomorphizer as a word.  It's totally a word.  And if it wasn't before, it is now.  But as I was saying - I've been giving  inanimate objects personalities for years.  I used to take all of my silverware at dinner and secretly give them names and act out tragedies of Shakespearean order determined by who had to touch what food.  It always ended with the knife dying a bloody and horrific death.  I've also been known to carry around bags of googly eyes and stick them everywhere.  All the fruit in the fruit bowl?  Googly eyed.  Cans of beans at the grocery store?  Googly eyed.  Shriveled potato that I convinced my friend to crochet a small hat for?  Googly eyed.  Similarly, when my husband and I were dating, if I was bored and in his apartment I'd go to his workbench where he kept all of his soldering equipment and rearrange the tools into robot-like shapes.  Then I'd place them all in a circle and pretend they were having a conference on ending world-wide nuclear proliferation.  True story. 

 Aren't you secretly a little glad I found a photo of the potato?

So for some reason it took me all this time to realize that my true calling in life is to turn scrap metal and discarded household items into robot sculptures.  And now that I've found this calling, I've already made 9 robots in 11 days, and you can see them all on my facebook album aptly named "Robots!".  Essentially I gather all sorts of metal bits from thrift shops and the second hand building supply store, lay them all out in front of me, and start playing.  Then I get out the tools and start poking, prodding, drilling, cutting, and bolting until I have a finished robot friend.  Plus, when the store clerks see the bizarre haul of unrelated metal pieces I bring to the counter, they inevitably ask me what I'm doing with all of it, and I get to answer "make robots" which I think we can all agree is the best answer ever.   

This is what I start with:

And these are some of my creations:

This, friends, is just the beginning of my robot making adventure.  I'm teaching myself how to wire multiple bulb lamps so you can expect some robot lighting fixtures soon.  And did I mention that some of these will end up as planters?  It's true, and will be just as awesome as you think.  

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Dear Friend is Gone

My dear friend and constant champion, Ed Beckwith, died suddenly on Sunday.  He was one of the kindest, sweetest, jolliest, and most compassionate people this earth has ever seen.  Ed had confidence in me when I had none in myself.  He was a kindred spirit.

Knowing my love of all things geeky and plant related, he surprised me one day years ago with a book on composting.  I loved the book (still use it, actually), but more importantly I loved the note card he included.  I still keep it in the book, which has a very prominent place on my bookshelf.

Ed, wherever you are, I hope you that you know just how much of a difference you made in this world.  I'll make that bumper sticker and display it proudly. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Balancing Act

Back in early January I got an email from my friend and former co-worker letting me know that a job in community organizing was opening up in my old division of city government.   I missed that division.  My job had ended due to federal funding cuts and it always felt like I left my work there unfinished.  A week later I got a call from my wonderful and amazing former supervisor asking me if I was interested in filling the position on an interim basis.  At first I laughed.  Out loud.  For far longer than was polite.  It's a tough gig and I remember how miserable the previous occupant of the job had been toward the end of her tenure.  And I was now running Found Beauty Studio full-time.  It seemed like failure to abandon my business owner life.  Was I giving up?  Was I quitting?  Was I retreating to the familiar world of meetings and offices out of fear?  Or was I following my intuition that said another few months of house-bound isolation were going to do me in?  My former supervisor gave me the weekend to think it over, and by Monday I was in.  I longed for a regular paycheck and for the opportunity to interact with other humans besides my husband.  The conversations I had with my cats were getting very extensive and I was a tiny bit worried for my sanity.  Luckily, I haven't gotten to the point where they talk back...yet.

So back I went.

Back I went to pretty pretty city hall with the lovely marble floors and the grand views of Church St.  Back I went to a feeling of importance and value that I never quite mustered working by myself for myself.  Back I went to engaging brainstorming sessions with colleagues and community members.  It seemed magical.  I had a reason to get dressed up again.  I felt like I had value and purpose again.  I also, as I was soon to find out, had a 50-60 hour work week that regularly included night and weekend meetings.

I do not mind hard work. I happily jump in to the projects that involve long hours and difficult meetings.  The more challenging the better.  But this one was tough.  Being "the human pincushion", as my supervisor put it, sucks.  My job involved constant backlash about development projects and leadership that I had no involvement with, angry emails about the distribution of funding and resources that I again had no involvement with, being stopped any time I left my house by people with beefs against the city, and - my favorite - quite a few verbal and written personal attacks.  It took over everything.  It seeped into every conversation.  It seeped into every thought.  Slowly I noticed the toll the stress was taking on me.  First it was the constant stomach aches.  Then it was the overwhelming desire to sleep every second I wasn't working.  Then it was the relentless recurring nightmares.  Then it was the moment when my husband told me how bad he felt that I was always sad and angry.  Then it was when I realized I no longer had the time to talk to my friends and family or make time for them while they visited.  But much like any dysfunctional relationship, I kept at it thinking that things would get better.  If only I stopped doing whatever it was that was making everyone so angry, it would all change!

And because that's crazy talk, it didn't.  So out I went.

Everyone was shocked that I was leaving.  I was so good at the job, they said.  I was made for that work.  I apologized profusely.  Worst fear realized - I was letting everyone down.  As I reconsidered my decision to leave over and over and over again, I had a revelation.  I have the right to say no.  I don't need to please all of the people all of the time.  I love building community and networks.  I love helping people find the resources they need.  I love coordinating projects that bring a ton of people and partners on board and creatively problem solve.  Love. It.  But I also love free time, and Found Beauty Studio, and all of the  volunteer projects I devote myself to.  I don't think I'm alone in having a continuing battle with creating balance in my life.  We all joke about first world problems (can we retire that hashtag, btw?  Please?), but this is a biggie.  We deserve to not work ourselves into the ground in order to make a living.  We deserve to be treated with respect and dignity by those we work for and with.

I don't know where my path will take me.  Who does?  But I do know whatever I chose to do, I will do it knowing that it must involve carved out space for all of the wonderful people and rich experiences that make me happiest of all.  No job is worth that kind of sacrifice. 

Oh, and it has to involve making things out of other things.  Because that is what makes me happy. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Queen City Craft Bazaar: Be There.

This time last year I was entering my very first craft show: the Queen City Craft Bazaar.  Well, a year later I've quadrupled my online business, have had my work for sale in three galleries, and raised my studio income from 2010 to 2011 by 2600%.  It's been one heck of a ride.  And now it's time for another Queen City Craft Bazaar.  I'm so excited, I can't stand it.  I love this show.  It's fun, it's affordable, it's low key, and there are a ton of amazing vendors spread over two floors of a beautiful old train station.  This year Kacey, the organizer, has lined up a band to play.  So flippin' awesome. 

This year, after reviewing my successes and challenges from all of the shows I participated in last year, I've come to a happy conclusion: my planters are the hit of my craft shows.  So, instead of lugging bags, pet beds, earrings, luggage, and the bazillion other things I make, all the way to the craft show, I'm bringing all planters.  I'm really, really excited about this.  Not only will it allow me to make a fun, planter focused display, but it means that I have to schlep 1/3 of the staging materials.  Plus, the upcycled planters are the star of the show anyway.  After having so very many people say "oh, do you make this stuff too?" after stopping to see the dino planters and then looking around at the rest of my displays, I realized that everything else is an afterthought.  So I'll sell everything else online where it sells really well, and sell the planters (which I hate shipping anyway) in person at shows.  Win win, people.  Win win. 

So come down to this year's Spring Queen City Craft Bazaar and see my expanded collection of fun and funky upcycled planters! You won't be sorry.  I promise.  Here's the facebook event page:  You'll thank yourself for going. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Painting a Sofa

I love Design Sponge.  It's one of my favorite go-to blog reads.  And as someone who spent the majority of undergrad in a costume and scene shop (that's right - theater majors of the world unite!!!), I'm thrilled that they covered painting a sofa in this post.  The truth is that almost anything can be painted with the right kind of prep and paint, and fabric is no exception.  I really just HAD to share this post!  Oh, and if anyone tries this at home, I will require before and after pictures :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My Funny Valentine

Happiest of Valentine's Days to you, friends!  May your life be full of light, laughter, and love, no matter who you're spending the day with :)

Monday, January 16, 2012

When Mold and Mildew Strike

Do you hear that?  You're probably an hour or two late, but I thought you might be able to hear the echo of me screaming at the top of my lungs.  Why?  Because my post-college fine artwork that I've meticulously cared for through 9 moves in 12 years is covered in mold and mildew.  When my partner and I bought our top half of a house from the 1800's, it didn't occur to me just how much of our place would be unheated, and thus a breeding ground for mold and mildew when the cold air outside mixes with the warm air inside. 

I stored my artwork in the closet off our living room because it's large and accessible.  Seems like a good place, right?  Turns out that three of its walls, plus the floor are backed by our staircase entrance, which is unheated.  Mold and mildew city.  Here's what it looks like AFTER I spent a few hours scrubbing with bleach:

Did I mention I'm allergic to mold and wake up sniffly much of time here?  Mystery solved.  And my artwork.  My beloved art work. 

My heart literally hurts over this.  Thankfully a friend pointed me to this link:

Here are the instructions for salvaging paintings:

"Paintings - make sure there is no water inside the framing - turn it upside down and all around to drain any sitting water behind the stretcher bars,etc. No need to remove the canvases from their frames. The paintings may become white and heavily discolored looking hopeless, but do NOT discard or give up on them. They're surprisingly resiliant and that white is like the ring on a coffee table - it's moisture trapped between the painting and the varnish and can be removed. Again, they're fragile so treat them gently until they can be stabilized.
To deal with the MOLD growing the on the paintings, lightly spray (do not saturate) the canvas, front and back, with Lysol spray (not the liquid). This will help arrest the mold growth, and you may need to repeat this a few times. When the mold is dry and powdery it is now dormant. You can then take the canvas outside it and the residue can be brush with a clean dry paint brush. Remember to wear a mask so as not to inhale the airborne spores, and be sure to remove all the debris from the back and not to allow it to accumulate under the stretcher bars!
Do not wipe the mold off, do not use anything stronger than Lysol, and above all do not use BLEACH or TILEX or anything with bleach in it, as this will cause more damage than the mold will cause and is not reversible.The paintings may still need professional cleaning and conservation, but this will help stop the mold from getting any worse until that time.Frames - remember that alot of them CAN be restored. Do not discard them until they have been examined by a conservator and let us make the determination. Water is the enemy of gold leaf and the plaster covering the wood, so it's important to allow them to dry as well and remember that it's in a particularly fragile state so don't be rough with it or it can completely fall apart before it's stabilized."

My next move today is to go buy out all the lysol in my local grocery store and then start the anti-mold procedures.  I'll let you know how it turns out.  

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Super Simple Fleece Mitten Tutorial

I live in northern Vermont and I don't know about where you are, but here it is C-O-L-D cold.  In fact, according to the Burlington Free Press right now, it's this cold:

That's right, 1 degree outside and feels like -13.  So it seemed like the perfect time to use up fleece scraps and put together a quick pair of mittens.  You see, I lose things.  A lot.  And my major triumph of the last several years has been my ability to hang on to my super warm purple fleece mittens.  But alas, this year they mysteriously vanished between May and October, and so I've been mittenless this winter.  But today, it was time to fix that.  1 flippin' degree, people!

I googled the heck out of mitten patterns and finally settled on this:  I'm afraid I don't know who Barlow Scientific is, but it does clearly state that this pattern was adapted from a free pattern for oven mitts this person found at a Hancock Fabric store.  I like the mystery of it all. I also liked that these suckers would be big enough to double as oven mitts.  Did I mention it's 1 degree outside? 

I had approximately 1/3 yard of anti-pill fleece kicking around and it was enough fabric for two pairs, so my guess is that you could make this with 1/4 yard for a single pair. Here are the three pattern pieces.  They make mittens sized for a women's large/men's medium or
  • Hand girth:  9"
  • Hand length:  8-3/4"
  • Thumb length:  3-1/4"
When I saved them from the Barlow Scientific site they were small jpegs, so I scaled them up to the recommended 1" x 1" per square dimensions.  If you click on the images here, they should open in the correct size.

My hands are the size of a 10 year old's hands.  No, seriously, they are.  At the Museum of Science in Boston they have an exhibit that shows the size of human hands at different developmental ages and mine match up perfectly with the 10 year old's - stubby fingers and all.  So I chopped an inch off the top of the mitt and the top of the thumb pattern pieces for mine and it worked out really well.   You'll need to cut two of each pattern.  Because my fleece didn't have a right and a wrong size, I folded the fabric over and laid out the pattern pieces so that I'd have two of each automatically.

For convenience's sake, I've numbered them and I'll use the numbers from here on out instead of piece-with-the-thumb-sticking-up or something to that effect.  You're welcome.

Step 1:  Match pieces 1 and 2 together and sew around the top using a straight stitch, stopping at the black diamond.  I've highlighted the seam in yellow.

Step 2:  Flatten out the sewn together pieces so that the silhouette matches up with piece 3. 

Step 3: Pin together with piece 3 and sew around the outside using a straight stitch. Again, the seam is highlighted.

Step 4: Fold up the unfinished bottom cuff 1/2 inch and sew with a zig zag stitch so that it will stretch.

Step 5:  Repeat with the second set of fabric cut outs to make the mitten for the other hand.

Congrats!  You've made a pair of mittens!  Turn those beauties right side out and enjoy warm hands all season long.  Want to make them extra warm?  You can make a second pair 1/4" smaller, keep it wrong side out with the seams visible, and then place it inside the slightly larger pair and sew them together along the cuff with a zig zag stitch..  The slight decrease in size will keep it from being too bulky - just make sure to trim the seam allowance down as much as possible.  The second layer of fabric will also make them more wind-proof, which - trust me - is incredibly helpful!

Enjoy them!  As my partner always says to get me to wear winter gear when I don't want too, frostbite is significantly less cute than wearing appropriate clothing.  Words to live by, people.  Words to live by.

Friday, January 6, 2012

My State of the Studio New Years Post

I know that everyone and their cousin has a blog post about New Years resolutions and year-end recaps, and yes friends, I'm jumping on the band wagon.  But I'm doing it because 2011 was a heck of a year.  I mean, in the record books of years, 2011 was a big 'un.  It started with me directing a large national service program for the federal government out of an office in a marble laden city hall, and, thanks to federal funding cuts, it ended with me working out of my living room painting and gluing and shipping like crazy.  I'm one of the lucky ones.  Instead of having to go on unemployment, I had a business I'd been building for years to fall back on.  Plus the holiday season was coming and that's go-time for sales, so it seemed like great timing.  But it was a much more challenging adjustment than I was prepared for.  I used to get dressed up for meetings.  Now I can work in my pjs all day if I don't have errands to run...not that I do that...seriously.  I used to have a steady pay check.  Now my sales are my livelihood.  It's been a liberating experience, and yet has been a very rough transition for me.  I've been thinking a lot lately about this transition, and here's my year end cap:

The cons:

  • All of my income goes right back into my business.  This isn't something that's widely advertised when you think about running your own small business, but the majority of your money will get funneled right back into your business.  Pretty much every cent I make goes right back into buying materials to make more.  This is totally fine if you have another means of income, but when you see those sales figures and they're looking really good and you still can't find the money to pay the electric bill, it's a bit disheartening.
  • It's isolating.  Going from working in a large office with plenty of in-person human contact and daily meetings with people I supervised to working alone in my house was rough.  I'm not going to sugar coat this one - I was really lonely and depressed for the first few months I ran Found Beauty Studio full time.  I missed interacting with other people.  I missed having purpose. I missed being able to bounce ideas off of people who knew what I was doing and collaborate at the drop of a hat.  Now socialization outside of superficial interactions with the good folks who work at my local post office takes effort.  I mean, my cats are cute and my husband is awesome, but sometimes a girl just needs to talk to someone else. 
  • The mission is money.  I know this sounds obvious since it's a business and my purpose is to make money, but for most of my adult working life I've worked for nonprofits with really amazing social missions.  It's what kept me going.  When work was tough, I just focused on the mission and it got me through.  Now I am my mission.  Keeping my electric bill paid is the mission.  It takes a major mind-shift to get through this one.
  • I don't have control.  You'd think that as the sole owner and staff person of a business I'd have complete control, right?  But I don't.  My measures of success are all at the mercy of customers and shop owners.  I can't just make something, put it up for sale, and be able to count when it will sell.  That lack of control was staggeringly difficult for me. 
The pros:
  • I work for myself!  I've had some great supervisors in the past, and I've had some really crappy supervisors.  Now I make all my own decisions without having to massage them in a way that makes them palatable to a higher-up.  I may not have control over sales, but I have control over everything else.  And that's incredibly liberating.
  • I make stuff and search for neat vintage items for a living.  Seriously.  It's kind of awesome.  When I'm sick of making one kind of thing I can go make another.  Or I can go thrift store and antique store hunting.  And it's my job.  Instead of feeling guilty that I'm wasting my time when I could be doing work for my job, now this IS my job.  I mean, how many people get to say that?
  • No one can fire me.  I'm no longer at the mercy of grant funding.  No one is going to tell me that my program funding hasn't been renewed and my job will be to close down a program and lay people off.  I don't have to justify my worthiness or my program outcomes to anyone to keep my job.  After years of worrying about that stuff, it's amazing to have that taken off of my shoulders. 
  • My customers are fan-flippin-tastic.  I mean it.  The people who are attracted to my work tend to be hilarious, quirky, fabulous people and I love when I get to meet them in person at shows or exchange emails with them when they buy online.  It's like I've found this secret club of interesting individuals who all like the same aesthetic that I do.  And that's amazing.
  • I can do this.  For years I wondered if I had what it takes to run my own business successfully and, you know what?  I do.  Turns out that I love the business end of things. I love the financials, I love the spreadsheets, and I love the intellectual challenge of constantly looking for ways to innovate and streamline.  I'm running an artisan business in one of the worst recessions in decades and I'm actually making a profit.  I had record breaking sales on etsy in November and December, for crying out loud!  I can totally do this. 

So that's my year-end recap everyone.  It's been a big year with heaps of ups and downs.  It hasn't been even close to smooth sailing but I imagine that anyone who, for whatever reason, leaves full time employment to run a small business encounters much the same thing.  I'm looking forward to 2012 and hope you are too.  Thanks for following my blog, and may your year be full of happiness and good health, friends.