Friday, March 27, 2015

YEAR 1: being a self-employed artist

An anniversary of sorts came and went this past Sunday. I thought about it a little bit and celebrated by taking a solitary drive around San Juan Island, Washington... watching the ocean and imagining all the adventures one can have in a life.

Then today I decided to tell you that it had passed.

One year ago Sunday was the last day I worked as an occupational therapist. After 17 years, I was out. (You're thinking that I'm WAY too young to have been a therapist for seventeen years, right? Thanks for that.) I'm still hedging my bets, doing my continuing education, and paying for my licenses. But I haven't treated a client in a year. I do sometimes miss working with those little squirts though--pediatrics was full of laughter and sticky fingers.

Since I started this tapestry business, I have learned more things than I ever imagined I would need to know. Sure I know how to weave tapestries, but to actually make a living weaving and teaching tapestry, I have to know a few other things. All those little details I have picked up on the fly. I take classes wherever I can, I ask questions, I use Dr. Google a lot. I look at what other people have done and every day I tell myself that I CAN do it. Even when it seems impossible. Even when it seems scary.

The parts about tapestry aren't scary. I love weaving it and I am a solid teacher. Begin a therapist taught me how to teach but also gave me the skills to interact with a wide variety of people in many situations. It can be challenging to figure out how to meet each individual student where they are. Learning styles vary greatly between individuals and that has to be taken into account when designing curriculum. I thrive on this challenge and I think I'm doing a great job with it.

Nope, the stuff that is the most difficult is all the other stuff. Moving an extensive curriculum online and then running a business...

New software programs with constant updates.
Taxes in so many different jurisdictions.
Video! Equipment. Lighting. Shooting. Editing. Sound.
Social media.
Writing. It is important.
Time management (oy vey).
My email inbox. It is the one thing that could bring me down.

Self employment means:
  • dress code is yoga pants*
  • I can tell the little voice in my head that says I can do my own year-end taxes to shove it and bring the whole mess to an accountant.
  • endless cups of tea (sometimes I worry I'll turn my teeth brown. Is that a thing?)
  • remembering to brush my teeth about 11 am (it is a lot about dental hygiene it seems)
  • winding a few balls of yarn when you just can't stand one more minute on the computer
  • a loom available at any moment 
  • the ability to attend events in the middle of a weekday, and the fortitude to mostly say no because I am working
  • the opportunity to work all the time
  • the lessons that opportunity forces about creating balance in life

 *Though I do actually go to yoga classes wearing these pants, Emily reminds me that this just means I get to work in pajamas.


  1. I am so incredibly proud of you and pleased with your success in being a fulltime artist. I met you just days after this occurred, in your beginning weaving class in Santa Fe, right before you launched your online classes, and was inspired by you. I follow your work to this day and want to cheer you on. We have to make room for artists and see that it is a profession and a worthwhile endeavor in its own right, not just a hobby. Your work is awesome and you are a great teacher as well. You rock!!
    Karen in chicago

    1. Thanks Karen! I appreciate your kind words and definitely hope we run into each other again one day.

  2. I wish I could give you a big hug right now, so just imagine that I am. To launch any kind of business these days is extremely challenging, but to be an artist and teacher extraordinaire and then go out and make a living off that is beyond challenging. You deserve all the best and I know I speak for others as well when I say you have changed our lives in so many wonderful ways. Thank you for your dedication and know that you are deeply loved. Now, get back to work :))

    1. Thanks Michele! That means the world to me. It is good to know that all the work is worth something beyond myself. :-)

  3. Congratulations-- it is a BIG accomplishment! We are rooting for you, sis. <3

  4. Trish at Tangled ThreadsMarch 29, 2015 at 8:57 AM

    You have also changed my life both through your online course and through the emails we have shared. As you know, I was ready to give up on tapestry as I was so discouraged with my work. And now I am having fun and am confident and enthused. AND, I had a friend stay overnight for a couple of days last week. She is a watercoulour artist who displays and sells her work. She asked if she could trade a watercolour for one of my tapestries - I HAVE A COMMISSION! You have so much to contribute to the tapestry world in general and to your students. I am thrilled you took the risk and that it is working out so well for you. Although, based on that, the occupational therapy world has lost a great clinician!

  5. April the Oneth, 2015.......I'm not sure you "really get it"........I'm not sure you really understand what a difference you make in other weavers' lives......being in your first on-line class enabled me to gain new confidence in my tapestry weaving and learn to be a much neater, crisper weaver....those of us on the East Coast cannot get to all those great South Western workshops on your side of the your courses helped us to learn better techniques and methods....all through the magic of computers and your constant encouragement.....thanks from Janet in NJ who is still warping her Fireside big guy

    1. Thanks Janet! With your constant reminders, I'll slowly get it. I appreciate your confidence in me! :-)

  6. I conversed with you before you retired and started your online classes about wanting to learn techniques of tapestry weaving. I was enrolled in your first online courses and can not thank you enough for giving me the instruction and personal support and guidance in beginning my tapestry weaving journey. I look forward to more of your classes and want to wish you the best in your summer adventures.

  7. Congratulations! Having been a self employed freelance performer for 30 years I know it is no small feet to jump into this pool!! Bravo and well done for your first year.... may you have many more!!!

  8. That's huge, seriously! I couldn't imagine every being able to be a tapestry artist full-time - well done!!!


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