As I pondered the struggles in my life, I realized I’ve had a pretty easy life compared to many, by God’s grace and a bit of work.
But ‘perseverance’ is a word that strikes a chord with me.
I taught art for 21 years and loved my students. But I had a yearning to accomplish what I preached. To make a living doing my art. I had always created art and gone to art shows, but it seemed like I never had enough time to do all the art I needed or wanted.
I created some little sculptures of people that seemed to sell very well. In fact, I couldn’t keep up. I told my husband that if he’d help me, I could quit teaching and go to shows in the Chicago area and I thought we could make lots of money.
I finally took the plunge and quit teaching and started going to art shows throughout the Midwest in 1995. My husband and I attended about 26 art shows a year. We would often leave at 2 am to travel to the Chicago shows from our little town of Argenta. This cut down on one night of hotels. I wanted to apply to a specific show I had heard of... The Broad Ripple Art Fair in Indianapolis on Mother’s Day weekend. We have two sons. So I passed on it for a few years.
When they were both in college, I told them I was going to apply. They said that would be fine with them. I applied and got in on a ‘stand-by’ notice- only If someone didn’t show.
I assumed that was it, but kept working.
About 2 weeks prior to the show I received notice I was in! I immediately started making items that would be desirable in Indiana.
We were ready to head out when it hit me! Intestinal flu! We stopped constantly on the road. When we arrived, we got assigned to an area away from all the other artists! After getting all my breakable art set up I asked and received permission to move to the ‘artists area,’ but I only had 20 minutes to accomplish this very important move. I continued to be sick but we got it moved.
When a sales manager for a major gift manufacturer in California came to my booth- I paid no attention, or at least not as much as he liked. He asked if I would like to have them mass produced —-and through bleary eyes, I said ‘Yes, sure!’ He gave me his business card and I tossed it into my cash-box...my most valuable spot. He didn’t think I gave it the proper attention so he took my card.
Monday the call came. It was the manufacture and he wanted me to send him several of my best pieces. I told him ‘No way!’ I had another Art show in downtown Chicago in two weeks and I
needed them! He said, “Can you send photos?” I said ok.
It rained all weekend and I didn’t want to get my $750 35mm Minolta out of the car. Foolish ideas.
When we were finally dry, they were gone. I explained this to him and he faxed me a contract the next day!
My Family of Friends Shelf Sitter Sculptures were produced and marketed successfully across the United States and select countries starting in 2000. They were a great hit from 2000 until 9/11 and the subsequent recession that hit the gift industry. They lasted on the bestseller lists for several years. We heard from all kinds of friends who saw them in various states and loved to tell the proprietor that they knew the artist.
We were thrilled! Our youngest son went to the East Coast and was taking a gondola up Mt Washington. When he arrived, it was snowing. He had no coat on because of the warmer temperatures down the mountain, and so he ran into the first storefront he saw. There in front of him was an entire display of the very little people he had watched his mom make for twenty years. He was so excited, we got a great phone call.
We attended all the gift and trade shows to promote them and I was a featured artist who sat and signed my name to the ones bought. I was humbled! I went to ‘signings’ for them at various gift shops around the area. They were declared the best selling gift for several quarters in the gift industry. We had new designs released every 3-6 months and increased the inventory to several hundred, including contracts with 60+ college teams. The royalty checks came every 3 months for more than I had made in an entire year. We didn’t realize what was happening.
The gift industry and people’s habits and decorating tastes changed after 9/11. Many previous best selling brands went out of business.
But that was then and this is now.
Minimalism is in. Not many ‘collectibles’ survived.
I learned to persevere. With God’s grace again, I’ve moved on to new art styles and media.
And I keep waiting for the ‘next time’.