After 2020, my way forward

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Let me start by stating the obvious and saying that this past year, 2020, was the WEIRDEST year of my life, as I'm sure it's been for all of us.
And, again as I'm sure is the case for us all, I've never had such uncertainty to look ahead to as this coming year of 2021.
I have only the slightest idea of what might be coming for me and really the only certainty I have is that the crazy situation we all find ourselves in, will be ongoing for a while yet.
For me personally, I've made plans but I have no idea how they will pan out. To be fair, we never know exactly how plans will pan out, but there's so many more uncertainties this year than in any other year, that I feel almost calm with the concept of 'well, we'll see'. Otherwise I'd be too overwhelmed with stress.

2020 showed me once again how privileged I am to be with a partner who is very willing to be my financial safety net. If I didn't have him however, I don't know where I'd be now.
I've had to give up a lot in 2020 due to this pandemic. I had planned a great year exhibiting at all the art fairs I'd been to in 2019 and then some. I was hoping to introduce my children's picture book Bakkerina Bloem to the public there. I was planning to work on an inspiration card deck. I was determined to get to do many more workshops with visitors at my art studio.
But instead I've had to close my rented art studio in Heerlen, because I can't pay the rent anymore and travelling there by public transport every week was too dangerous and too expensive. All the art fairs had to be cancelled. My sales, whether in person or online, as good as completely vanished as soon as the pandemic hit in earnest in March.
And I understand why my goodies don't sell in a situation like this. No matter how much I love what I make and how profoundly I've experienced people connecting with it over the years, it comes down to this: Who has money to spend on goodies that are just pretty to look at or fun to wear when we can't go anywhere? When you're locked up in your house with your kids while trying to do your own work. When you're constantly in fear of losing your job or getting sick.

It was a few weeks into the first lockdown here in the Netherlands that I realised that not only would my plans for the year not go through, but that this situation was going to turn my whole business upside down.
I was lucky with the weather here in those first weeks. We took a lot of walks in our direct neighbourhood as we are fortunate to live among green meadows and some woods and just a lovely countryside here. We talked a lot about what was coming and I spent a lot of time in the garden with crafts that I don't usually spend a lot of time on because I mostly focus on the art forms my business relies on. I needed something to calm my mind and my sense of dread.
For my birthday in April I got a kit to make my own blending board which I had a lot of fun with. I used a big cutting board from Ikea that we never use because it's too big and heavy, but it was perfect for a blending board. I painted some fun underwater scenes on it and then my father-in-law tacked the carding cloth onto it. I practised making rolags and roving from the blending board.
And then I spent many hours in the garden spinning the rolags and rovings into yarn and then knitting the yarn I spun. Now, I'm not a great knitter, I only know how to cast on, cast off and knit and purl. These are all things my gran taught me in my youth. But I'm not the type to have ten different knitted scarves, but I love knitted sweaters.
So I decided even though I'm a novice knitter I wanted to knit a sweater, because, why not? I looked up some YouTube tutorials to learn adding and reducing stitches and then I found this tutorial which is called Gemakkelijke Trui Breien: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPL21Bl1nSs and decided to just give it a go. I'm quite happy with the results so far. The sweater isn't finished yet, but I do think it will look quite okay once it is.

                             

From blending board to sweater in the making

As it happens it turns out knitting helps me think. In the sense that thoughts that my subconscious wants to push to the surface, bubble up easily and they arrange themselves seemingly effortlessly into coherent ideas. Which is what got me to the next craft I picked back up.

Embroidery is something I was also taught by my gran, again also the basics, but then with embroidery, the basics get you quite far. During all those hours knitting in the garden the idea began to take shape that I might be able to convert some of my illustrations into embroidery patterns. Because the thing is, the polymer clay technique I work with to create my clay illustrations is already based on embroidery. It's actually called Clay Embroidery.
So I ordered an embroidery kit and some patterns and my mum gave me most of her share of my gran's embroidery floss collection and later my aunt gave me most of her share, too. And off I went. And you guys, embroidery has made me feel so content these past few months. I remembered loving embroidery with my gran as a child, but I never imagined any other craft could make me as happy as my clay and my wool spinning make me. But embroidery does that for me. For many months now, embroidery has been my happy place.

And so my new business dreams began to take shape in my mind. I realised I need and also want to step onto a new branch of my creative path. A branch where my creativity is shared in a much more profound way with other people. Where I don't just make pretty things and sell them, but where my creativity brings forth opportunities for others to tap into their own creativity and which helps them relax or have time to themselves or be more mindful or get out of their head by doing something with their hands. Because all these things and more is what crafting can do for people.

And then there are the changes in the world, in the economy, in global shipping, in social life this pandemic has ushered in. I know we're all pining to 'get back to normal'. But I don't think there's any going back to normal anymore, moreover, I don't know if we should. There was plenty wrong with our 'normal' before this pandemic, but this pandemic has thrown it into sharp relief. As just an example pertaining to my business: now, in a modern, hyper-connected world it's tricky and expensive to send physical goods to another country. Post was just a mess during this past year, stuff took forever to arrive, or just didn't arrive or arrived in shambles, and it costs an arm and a leg now.
If this is not the last pandemic we're going to have to go through, we might not have seen the last of a world where we don't get to socialise, where it's not safe to take the bus and then meet up with eight people in a 15 square meter room.

So I realised I'm going to need to make some profound changes in my business. It means for the time being moving away from a focus on products for my webshops that have to be physically sent to my customer, and instead a focus on digital products. It also means changing from a focus on products that as I said are just pretty to look at or to wear, to a focus on products that give people many hours of do-pleasure. Because, when I look at how I spend the little money I have to spend on myself, it's also always on materials to make something with, or on books that I can spend hours reading and re-reading.

It also means that we decided this past year that we'll be having to say goodbye to our little council house with our lovely garden that we've lived in for 14 years and look for a slightly larger house. A house with a garage or attic room where I can re-open my art studio and have guests over in a safe way to give workshops and hopefully host day-long art retreats. A house where my dude has room to paint without having to put everything away again after every painting session. I'm very much hoping this new house (with hopefully a lovely garden again) is in the cards for us this year in 2021. Again, I'm very aware of the fact that it's a privilege to be able to do this (especially in this housing market, omg).
A really fun thing that came with this search for a new home where we can spread our wings, is the decision to, after all these years, get married. We had a lovely day in August, the second anniversary of my dear gran's passing, where I got to wear a fun dress, made a bouquet of flowers and flowering herbs from our garden, say yes to my love of 22 years and we had a wonderful safely physically distanced barbecue garden party with just the eight of us (us, my mum and youngest sibling who was my best person, my love's little sister who was his best woman and her love, and my love's parents). We had lovely cake, Scottish flag bunting, fantastic weather and delicious bbq food.

           

In the past few months I've taken some time for myself, a sabbatical if you will, to think over all these things, to reconnect with my spiritual path, to rest, to clean out several rooms to make space to work and to make plans.
Now, after the Winter holidays I feel ready to start the first phase of my plans for this new branch on my life's path. Plans for the immediate future include working on more embroidery patterns (I've listed four of them over the Autumn months already, here).

        


I will also be working on creating colouring pages from my illustrations. As we're currently in a hard lockdown here (and as I understand many other countries/areas are, too) I think this will be the best way for me to help spread a little happiness that's also affordable.

Other than that I want to keep walking my spiritual path which will also still include creating an inspiration card deck, but I can't make any promises about when this will be, as the embroidery patterns and colouring pages will keep me busy for quite a few months to come.
I also want to focus more on integrating my activist heart with my spiritual and creative paths. With everything that's happened in the past week, in the past months, and especially the past years, I feel a change towards compassion, justice and equality is absolutely imperative. I don't know how I will be giving shape to this yet, but at least for the elections that are coming up here in The Netherlands in March, I will be trying to do what I can to support people who fight for compassion, justice and equality.

With this, my dears, I wish you all a new year as happy as it can be, with health, safety, full bellies and fulfillment for everyone.

Comments

wow --- lovely amazing

wow --- lovely amazing writing too ! blessings for all parts and pieces, ups and downs and sideways, and insides and outs of your journey.

thank you so much!

thank you so much!

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