Feedback from one reader

The author of this ran out of characters in the comment option, so she has given me permission to post her words here. All I can say is ‘wow.’
Lisa- I applaud your choice to put voice to your considerations. Before I chime in, can you bear with my story? It will illustrate WHY I am going to give you the opinion that I do….I was, until Sept of 2006 a police officer, mother of 8 and 9 year old boys, and a quilter – oh yeah, wife too. :0)
Thanks to a 19 year old I tried to arrest for his 4th (? can’t remember) OWI, we ended up on the ground, and I ended up with 5 back surgeries: spinal fusions and now, a morphine pump. In one year, I went from being 145 lbs at 5’9”, running 5 mi a day, weight lifting etc, to a complete, bedridden invalid, unable to quilt for over a year, or care for myself. That was Dec 2006. Now, with a morphine (internal) pump, I can quilt for 60 to 90 min at a time, if I am lucky.
A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to be able to buy $750.00 worth of dye/supplies for $145.00. My DH was upset, as we are middle class and I cannot work, no $ coming in etc. I thought dyeing would force me through the pain and give me a reason to get out of bed in the morning (which it does). I also hoped, in time, it would make me stronger (which, apparently, it will not). I also wanted to learn to dye so that I could make the colors for my art quilts, now that I cannot afford to buy the fabric.
My DH applied immense pressure for me to make money through dyeing. In the beginning, I was dyeing for the masses. I was physically straining myself because of his desire that I make more money, since I can never work again. I felt guilty, so I was doing as he wished, and eventually, in more pain and hating it. Because I can only be “active” (including standing) at total of 3 hours a day, I had to make a choice: dye for myself, for the love of playing with color, discharging, shibori, etc . . . or dye items to sell at shows. I had people to sell it for me, but my time would mostly be making for others.
I chose to dye for me. The odd thing is, I will make 20 yards, really enjoy the process, and it must show in my work. I go to the 2 quilt guilds I belong to, hold up a piece at show and tell, and people ask to buy it out of my hands. True, dyeing and selling this way will never make me enough money to get to Carol’s class – and I have accepted that. I only HOPE she writes a book someday.
Our circumstances seem similar to me in that, if you do dyeing for profit, the schedule and activities of it will take you away from the creative process and maybe your family. For me, dyeing for profit was wearing me out so much that I could not physically dye for me OR quilt. I had some money coming in (a very small amount of cash compared to being a cop), but I was creatively dead, unmotivated, uninspired and uninterested in my art quilting.
My house is 1100 square feet, my kids, now teenagers, have a lot of second-hand things, but they know the value of a dollar. We drive older cars that we own, we have no credit cards, no big family trips on a plane, but even though I spend every day in pain (I am laying down to write this right now), I LOVE to plan my next project and dye the fabric for it. I even felt “unchained” enough that I am starting a local dyeing group here in Sept. Not everyone can make this choice: art full time. I happened to be living frugally, so when forced into the choice by the limits of my injury, I was able to convince DH that the bit of extra money wasn’t worth it, for me to starve creatively.
Not sure if this helps you, but I think “making art” is most successful – if not the most enjoyed – when done for oneself, not “arranged” to fit a financial plan or roadmap. If you feel free to create, you may make better art, which in turn, may have its own better financial reward, later. I still get requests for my fabric, I just couldn’t imagine missing the weekends with my boys, while vending at a show. The oldest is nearly 16. If h*ll freezes over someday and I can do it, great. But until then, DH and I are happy to live with much less, with my quilting and dyeing making up the difference. How could I spend $40 on eating out…all I could think about is “You know how much dye/silk/fabric I could buy with that?” :0)

3 thoughts on “Feedback from one reader”

  1. What an amazing story. I'm so glad she allowed you to share it! As you know, I do dye for my full time business but I didn't start it until I knew that I was financially secure. We planned and saved for years so that we could retire early and we would each be able to pursue whatever we wanted. I love dyeing as a business but, due to my health, I would never be able to do shows like you do. I also did not want it to take over all of my time from other creative pursuits….after all, I wanted to have some time to create! That's why my business is 100% internet. I could never make a full time living from it. The financial strain would be too much. But it does support my "habit" and I think I've achieved a good balance.
    You, however, have to do what is best for you and follow your heart….as long as there is a good budget and business plan behind it. Good luck with your decision. I really admire your work and I know you will make the best decision for yourself.

  2. Your story is very inspirational and very similar to my own in that I am a former police officer, hurt on the job. I would not let them operate on my because they could not pinpoint the origin of extreme pain. Pain that was increasing daily. Finally I found a doctor who discovered that I had damage to the C2 -C4, C7 area, a brachial plexus (right bicep), RSD and unless there are rapid advancement in growing nerves – I will most like die with this condition. I have been sewing since childhood and was faced … well no that is not an option…not sewing!!! Sewing over the years has included making wedding gowns and parties, christening gowns (heirloom sewing) and everything else under the sun…I still sew, but also spend much time in bed in pain. I have a nerve stimulator implant in my spine to help…that doesn't really help. Lol. I was on morphine for the first 4 years and have weaned myself off of all the so called pain killing drugs. They just don't work! I am still fighting the pain using my mind… Some days I win, some not! But through it all…I find a way to sew a little, knit, dye bits of fabric and create dolls, quilts and so on. Not very quickly, but hey I am doing it!!! God bless you and I will be looking for you at the Pennsylvania Quilt Convention if you are there. I am thinking that you are the owner of Dippy Dyeing!!! look forward to it!

  3. Since you moderate comments, please accept my apologies for thinking that you were the author of that comment on disabled police officer. I mistook that to be you…still, I am going to visit you at the quilt convention…Sorry…misread!!!


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