Sunday, April 1, 2012

Follow Your Bliss

I noticed as the months passed while I looked for work, trying to make ends meet in the meantime with whatever I could find, I was increasingly distracting myself from the frustration with hobbies.  But I always felt guilty that I was enjoying myself while doing something like knitting, when it wasn't getting me any closer to a job.
I had figured knitting was worthless since I wasn’t making money from it, it wouldn't lead to income, and the time could be better spent completing an online assignment.  Even if the pay was minimal at least it was something.
But I also found my hobbies made me feel calmer, happier, and that there was even a degree of joy that resulted from seeing something I’d finished that had turned out well.  “Isn’t that the whole point of having a hobby?” I thought.  “Taking a break from life’s stress and doing something we love?” 

So I knitted when I felt overwhelmed or needed a breather and let myself enjoy that time.  I noticed when I went back to doing something “productive”, my mind was clearer, the doubts that had been building had disappeared and I worked at a faster pace and the outcome was better quality than my previous unfinished attempt. 

Then, unexpectedly, my hobby turned into something more.  There was this local gallery I’d fallen in love with, always awed by the vast collection of incredible art on display, especially the stained glass.  One day I had stopped by and before leaving, asked the owner out of the blue, “Do you represent any fiber artists?”
 “No,” he replied.  “But we’re looking for one.  You wouldn’t happen to be a fiber artist would you?”

Unprepared for the question, and only recently trying out some new felting techniques just for fun, my instinct was to dismiss it, replying I was only an amateur, knitting a bit of this or that.

Yet when I opened my mouth, I was shocked to hear what came out.  “Yes, actually I am.  What are you looking for?”

Turning it back on me, he asked, “Well, what types of fiber art do you create?”

Art?  Create?  Think, think, think.  What would be unusual enough for a gallery, might sell and be something I could actually make?

“I am focusing primarily on felting at the moment,” I began, stalling for time.

“Great,” he replied.  “What kinds of things do you felt?”

Thinking of items I’d finished, now piled on the guest bed, and trying to figure out what they could possibly be used for, I heard myself say, “Uniquely shaped gift containers of different sizes,” specifics -- what could I make quickly and easily, “and I’ve had a degree of success with my felted wine bags which are embellished with special ornamental decorations.”  

What possessed me to say that?  My felted wine bags?  Degree of success?  Special ornamental decorations? Oh God, I’m channeling Martha Stewart!

“Okay, keep calm,” the devil on my left shoulder said.  “It’s called selling yourself.  Everyone who’s a success does it and if he likes them and actually sells some, then what’s the harm?”

“Well, other than the fact it implies something entirely untrue . . . ,” the angle perched on my right shoulder said. 

“Also felted purses,” I added.  I had a couple of those on the bed, didn't I? 

Before I knew it the owner had asked me to bring by some samples and I was suddenly a fiber artist represented by a high end gallery.  And what do you know?  To date, almost every piece has sold, the owner has become a valued friend and I’ve been asked to start bringing in pieces from my summer line.

“You don’t have a summer line,” the angel said.  “In fact, you don’t have a line at all.”

Mentally flicking her off my shoulder, I said I’d be sure to do that.

The lesson I'd learned?  Always follow your bliss.  It’s bound to improve your state of mind, distract you from a tough spot you may be in and replenish your energy to do whatever needs doing better and faster.  

And you never know – someone you meet just may need someone to fill a niche, and with a bit of twisting and redefining, your hobby turned niche filler, could become an income generator while that “someone” just might become a new friend.