It has now been four months since we arrived in Maine.
Last week, I silently celebrated what would have been the beginning of 7 years out West….except I’m no longer out West. The date came and went and I honored it remembering the naive freedom I felt leaving Maine for Los Angeles in 2014. That part of me and who I was then lives on in the October anniversary, but she’s long gone. …That sounds more depressing than it is, really. I often think that if my self from then could see my self now, returning home, she’d be proud.
Things have grown, both personally and professionally since then. Expanded and contracted and expanded again numerous times, as if I’ve lived several lifetimes in just the past few years. It honestly feels as though it was many lifetimes ago that I left Maine. I recently listened to a playlist I made for my first drive into Los Angeles, one I had banned myself from listening to for years because the sound of it triggered too many bad memories. But hearing a few of those songs now really sparked some happy memories that I had forgotten. Songs that I’m ready to listen to again. I’m tired of letting my trauma rule my life down to something as simple as a song.
If I don’t think about most of the stuff that I went through out West and just fast forward to when I met my current partner, it feels like we have been together forever. That we’ve always been side by side. This is how I prefer to think about it, even if it isn’t truth. Climbing through and over a partner dying, a narcissistic partner, an alcoholic verbally abusive partner, and a handful of minuscule failed tries, before getting to him is nothing to gloss over. But I recognize how little all of it sincerely means in my day to day life now.
Its true that I was never as inspired in my work than when I was in the trenches. Its true that I often used it as therapy, as a band aid, as an escape. Everything has its season. Knowing that now I am really free to create whatever I want - not tied to grief or helplessness, and no longer hiding behind the quilting status quo - feels good. It feels a little scary, almost, to create from yet again a different emotional place in my life.
I am forever inspired by my surroundings. The desert was an infinite well of inspiration for me - so many trips and landscapes and moments and the only time I’ve ever even remotely felt close to what I guess I would call God. And yet, I was strangely happy to leave it behind. To return to the place I grew up, the place where I was so eager to leave 7 years prior. Where so far, in these past four months, we have enjoyed the ocean and beach, the gorgeous end of summer weather, the incredible colors of the fall foliage, and the cooling temperatures.. A completely different color pallette. An infinite new source of inspiration to tap into.
And new emotions to grapple with, in a new way.. What it means to be home. What it means to be near family again. To be in the middle of a pandemic. To be working a completely new dayjob with a big learning curve. To feel like I’m starting over, but also partially picking up where I left off, but also it feeling familiar and totally new at the same time. It feels like time traveling.
Now that my holiday shop update is behind us and most of the “hard” work is over for the year, I get to focus a bit more on quilting for the winter. When I think back to the quilting I was doing when I last lived in Maine, I recognize how fully my style has evolved. Prior to 2014, I lacked inspiration. I made quilts that I thought were pretty, but they had no life. They were aesthetically pleasing, but they had no heart. I hadn’t experienced anything that meant anything, and I had no well to feed from. I think there is something wonderful about creating from pre-made patterns with designer fabrics - it is beautifully predictable, and there is 100% a time and place for that. For me, it was nice to not have to put too much thought into my projects, and not too much of myself either. I could very easily hide behind what was popular and didn’t have to share too much about who I was, or who I wanted to be. But I knoew now that would feel empty. Once I traveled West, and saw/felt just how much there was beyond my little world, my work changed. I was inspired to create more, and better. I learned to dye my own fabrics. And I built a business.
This pandemic has been strange, to say the least. I know we are all dealing with it and figuring out how to handle it. Its been a different experience for so many. I am incredibly lucky to not be sick. To be able to work two jobs everyday, and live in a state where the numbers have been relatively low - this was not the case just before we left Arizona. It has still been disheartening to not be able to go to some of the places that we had wanted to right out of the gate here, but its understandable and manageable. And as a small business owner, its been weird trying to figure out what feels right and appropriate when so many are struggling.
I have been carrying on with business as usual. I have to for my sanity, and for my bank account. Even though this year marks the first year that I technically made as much income from my business as I did from a 40 hour day job, we weren’t able to hold on to all of that money. Our move across the country, working just part time when Covid hit, being unemployed for a couple of months once we got here, the cost of settling in and all the formalities, and the cost of supplies for my business drained us. As life tends to do. I am grateful for the income from my business, so that we don’t have to feel like we are drowning while now also trying to save for a house.
So many folks ask me how I do all the things. How do I run a business, have a dayjob, and live a life… The quick answer is that I work until bedtime. Every day. And on weekends. (Part of me is almost relieved that visiting with friends isn’t a good idea right now because of the pandemic, because I really haven’t had the time to.) The long answer is more complicated, and I am very tired but fulfilled. I’m not sure I’d recommend my hours and my business model to anyone else. I basically just figure out what I need to do in extreme detail, how much time I want to give myself to do it, and then I just do it until its done. For me, the summer after we got here to Maine, it looked like dyeing fabrics and wearables every day and alternating every other day with washing them. I was literally dyeing/washing every day, every week from early July to the end of September. It looked like spending weeks building this website. It looked like photographing products on weekends and finding time to spend time with family, and working my dayjob until 4-5pm during the week. I honestly can’t tell you if I can ever make my time back in money. If you ever think artists are charging too much for their work, consider that they aren’t really charging enough. And I can say that when I do have “free time” to spare, its usually used to figure out what else I should be doing for work.
In 2021 I want to figure out how to give myself more time for other things I love, while still managing everything else. There has to be a way!
There are days I envy the way I used to create. Before life changed and before I ran a business like this and before I had to file business taxes. I love love love what I do and I love my business and I’m excited to continue to morph and grow it, and I think its possible to feel that and also feel sad that its gotten to the point where it feels like work.
For now, I really can only see as far ahead as Spring. Spring will be a shop update with a handful of quilts and pillow covers for sale, and dyeing season coming out of hibernation hopefully in March. We’re hopeful that by Summer maybe we can start house shopping.. I daydream about a dyeing studio and a sewing room and a library and gardens and composting and painting all of the things every single day. But for now, I’m just focusing on getting to Spring.
So far, we’re happy here even though our living situation isn’t ideal for now and I literally haven’t stopped working since we arrived. I feel like just now I can start to exhale a bit. For a minute. Before sewing season (winter) starts.
Moving to Maine was a huge undertaking. It was expensive and required so much planning, even though we were lucky to have my parents’ house to land on. So lucky. We wouldn’t have been able to do all this without them. And I can’t believe its been four months already. I can’t believe winter will be here soon and we’ll have seen another season go by. The time, even in a pandemic, for me, is moving so quickly. Which leaves me hopeful that before we know it, we’ll be in our future house and I’ll be able to reassess my business and dayjobs and what life will look like. None of it has been necessarily easy, but we’ve been working so hard and staying determined and keeping our eyes on the prize. It feels much easier at the end of the day knowing I did literally as much as humanly possible to help propel us forward.
My younger self - the self that packed up and moved to LA and then to Arizona - never thought she’d have to work so hard. I never thought I’d be busting my ass every day like this. I thought maybe I’d have more time to hike and sightsee and gallivant around like I did in my first few years or so out West before I really buckled down. But I wasn’t raised to be lazy or let anyone do my work for me. And now, I can’t imagine life any other way than this. I know that if I truly didn’t want to be running my own business with little time for anything else, I would stop. I would just read every book on my shelf and watch tv and probably get a lot more sleep. But that isn’t how I want to live my life. At least not right now. I want to work hard and be successful at what I do, and with every shop update I see that more and more.
I started quilting when I was 10. That was 30 years ago. Did my 10 year old self ever dream of this?! Absolutely not. Not even my 25 year old self did. Or my 30 year old self. I never thought I’d be posting to Instagram every day with a successful web shop selling dyed and quilted items that I make with my own two hands. Social media has been mostly a blessing for me for my business, but it takes a lot of work. I prep posts a week ahead of time most of the time. The little community that I’ve built has been incredible. Some folks have been around with me since before I moved West, and have seen my entire journey through the excitement, losses, landscapes, and everything in between. I see so many familiar names in my shop orders and lots of new names every time too. I very rarely get any negative feedback or trolls, and usually feel nothing but support. As someone that grew up quiet and shy and didn’t have a ton of friends, it feels like the world is at my fingertips. As someone who’s now moved around across the country and back, it feels like I am never far from my friends. And during this pandemic, its been nice to be a bright spot in some folks’ days, as well as having some”where” to go when I needed my own pick me up.
Life comes in waves. I’ve learned this if nothing else. There were years out West that I thought I’d never outlive my grief and trauma, that I’d never have other stories to tell. There were days that I thought about giving up. My business gave me something to cling to, something to help my confidence. My relationship with my partner has been the biggest support that I never asked for. Jonathan is my biggest supporter every damn day, even when I don’t have time to return the favor. Even if it turns out that this business is just another wave, I am happy to work on riding it for as long as I can. 7 years from now, we’ll be in another wave of life - and I can’t wait to see where/what that will be.
For now, I’m just excited to get into my corner of my mom’s sewing room with my new Juki 2010 machine and the three quilts I already have cut out, and get to work. My fingers have missed working on quilts. My blood has missed it. And I can’t think of a better way to spend a cold and snowy winter back home.