I’ve been holding on to big news. A few of you here and there know. But I’ve been holding it tightly, barely believing it’s real, until this envelope arrived today bearing tangible proof. Because the past year has been so surreal, so whirlwind-ish, so rollercoaster-y, so busy, so overwhelming, I couldn’t shout it from the rooftops until I went to the mailbox today!!! But now I can…
WOOOOHOOOOOOO!! I got a licensing deal! I got a LICENSING deal! I got a LICENSING DEAL!!!
What does this mean? Just indulge me for a little flashback…
I guess if we go back to the beginning, it started with a leap of faith that may actually have been more of a leap of desperation. I quit my job. A job that I felt was a ministry to children with learning issues. I loved my kids. I loved helping them and their families. I especially loved making a difference. But when I went from working with kids to managing adults, it literally sucked the life out of me. I quit my hobbies including an antique booth. I quit other ministries I was passionate about. I quit church for a while. I knew it was time to go when I began to describe my job, a good and meaningful job, as a dementor, the soul-sucking-happiness-draining creatures from Harry Potter. But it was a good and meaningful job, with benefits and a salary, and I had reached the top position in my department. Who quits that kind of thing? This was pre-economic fall-out in 2008. I left for another job in education that would afford me time and healing but also fulfillment. Then the economy tanked. The business I was working for started to struggle.
I had no idea what to do next. It seemed like I had taken a wrong turn. But in all honesty, I was so much happier than I had been in years. I had felt the nudging from God for years that I needed to leave that job. But I kept plugging away because it was a job and it was a ministry. I am telling you this because even good and meaningful things can take a toll. I could not fix the situations for the kids, parents, teachers and coworkers that I encountered on a daily basis no matter how hard I tried. Because I considered it a ministry, I thought surely this was my calling, but I kept ignoring the prompts, urges, nudges, whispers that there was something else God had in store for me. I thought I was smarter and that I knew best. But the minute I finally just gave in, let go and quit, years of burden just fell off my back. I literally felt lighter.
That same year, I took the fabled weekend art class that changed my world. I did not go into it looking for a business or even a hobby. I just thought it would be fun and it seemed like time to have fun again. I’ve talked about the class in other posts so I won’t dwell on it except to say, it opened me up to possibility and released me from some inhibitions. For the next year, I painted. I had the time for once in my life. I was just messing around. Then friends wanted to buy a piece. Then friends of friends. Then friends of friends of friends. I started to believe that maybe I had something I could do on the side once I found a real job at some point. I am so funny. I still thought I was in charge.
Then I got pregnant. After 15 years of wonderful marriage, my wonderful husband and I decided it was high time we had a little Little. It was now or never. Painting got put on a bit of a hold during my pregnancy and that first year, but the demand was still there and once again the nudging began. It was time to step out on faith and see what happened.
So in spring of 2011, I decided to talk to people that were in the know. I was so blessed that artists like Margaret Eliot, Deann Hebert, Marilyn Wendling, Erin Rickleton and Ron York were willing to meet with me and give me advice about shows and galleries and pricing and the art business. I knew nothing. I mean nothing. No one discouraged me. They all encouraged and directed me and shared their stories. In fact, Deann has become a friend who continues to inspire. Margaret continues to encourage. Erin and Marilyn have been my neighbors at several shows and Ron now represents me in his gallery. I am forever grateful.
And then, I made another wrong turn. Last May, a year ago, I decided to make cold calls. I don’t do cold calls. I am ever so funny and clever online, but I am quirky and awkward in person. I say the darndest things. There are legends at my church about the things I have said in the name of small talk. But I packed a bag with my paintings, put on my shiny shoes and headed to Brentwood where a friend of a friend had a store.
I literally made a wrong turn. I am as directionally challenged as I am socially awkward. I ended up at C’est Moi, an adorable boutique in Brentwood. I thought I’d grab a bite at the deli next store and peek in C’est Moi and get back on track. But the minute I walked in the store, I felt at home. They carried Dash and Albert rugs! My favorite! They had amazing jewelry, refurbished furniture, gifts and artwork…I could have bought one of everything. I decided to bring my art in and show it to the owner. By the end of my visit that day, Tawnya, the amazing and beautiful owner, decided to carry my artwork in her store! I was simply floored. My first stop. A wrong turn. Validation. Opportunity. New friendship. Inspiration. Amazing.
With my confidence boosted, I decided to apply to shows. I got in all of them. Starting in September and ending the beginning of this past May, I have done six shows, including the biggest one in town, the Harding Art Show. Honestly, I thought this was the pinnacle. Each show has been a gift, but Harding was a surprise. If I had bothered to make a five-year plan, Harding would have been the culmination of that plan.
But I had made that wrong turn. In the middle of all the hullabaloo with the fall shows, I went to C’est Moi to drop off paintings and visit for a minute. Little did I know that the day before I stopped in, the owner and the representative for an international home decor company called Creative Co-op had been in C’est Moi. Tawnya had an impressive display of my work behind the register and it had caught the owner’s eye. When I showed up the next morning, the rep was back in the store. Timing. God’s timing. Tawnya introduced us and she began to talk to me about licensing my work. I had no idea what that meant. I thought it was another show and I was already having trouble keeping up with a store, a gallery and all the shows. I was hesitant, but she explained it to me and my heart began to flip-flop. I said yes, yes, yes. She said the company would be in touch. So in early December, I got a call from the product developer for Creative Co-op. She walked me through the process, explained what they had in mind, shared their vision, sent me catalogs…and asked me to get images to them by mid-February so that they could launch a line of home decor products bearing my images.
What does this mean? It means I am a songwriter who just got my song picked up by a major recording artist. It means that an international company who sells to retail stores, catalog companies, boutiques, big box stores, etc., is mass producing furniture, wall decor, frames, knick knacks, coasters, and other home decor products bearing images that I painted. Little ‘ol little e me.
There is no such thing as a wrong turn. I am so glad I let Someone else steer for a while. There is no other explanation for this new direction I am headed. If I had planned it, none of it would have happened. All I can do is be grateful. I am not saying I deserve this. I am not saying I am exceptionally talented. I am not saying it has all been easy. I am not saying that this last year has been all rainbows and candy corn. I am not saying I have been faithful in all things. Something wonderful has happened to me in spite of me. That is all I am saying.
Thank you for taking this wrong turn with me. I can’t wait to see where God steers me next!
PS. I’ll post pictures of the line once I get the a-ok!