Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Closing Down a Lifetime of Work

How do you know when it is time to move on or declare you are ready to retire?

For most of us, what we do has been a big part of who we are for most of our adult life.  

I think I'm at a big transition point in my life.

For years, I considered life and its demands secondary to my art work.  Although making money was nice, it was not the driving force behind the many hours I spent creating animal head sculptures. One of my favorite remarks was "I only sell them so the house doesn't fill up!"  Every sale made room for a new creation.  Yes, I'm also a wife and mother, but in my heart I'm an artist, and making the animal heads is my identity.

I'm sure many people struggle with similar feelings when they retire from their professions. Happy because they will now have time and energy for other things, like RVing.  But also a little sad and uncertain about leaving behind a world with which they were quite comfortable.

I've let my business die a slow death over the last several years. I have not done any shows, nor promoted my web site in any way, nor pursued retail opportunities, nor restocked as my inventory of available work has slowly sold.  

Instead of life being an interruption of the flow of my art work production, lately new orders have become an interruption to my life.  Instead of being excited about a new creative opportunity, I feel like I've "been there, done that" when asked to make one of the animals on my web site.

After forty-some years, I'm ready to close the door for good.

In the last few weeks I've gotten rid of all of the fabrics I have used to make dragons.  Many were scraps or remnants. I have made several hundred dragons, large and small over the years, and so the fabrics were paid for many times over.  I have culled my fur fabrics and will hang onto them until the house sells.  But I won't be buying any more.

Today I cleared out a large cabinet in the studio where I had many bags and boxes of "pretty shiny things": decorative gold and silver buttons, acrylic gem stones, glass marbles and beads, plus bags of old or broken jewelry that had either been given to me or that I had bought at Goodwill. I used such jewelry to make bases for my "Hoard Dragons" to roost on.  

I am waiting for a return call from the local elementary school to see if I can drop them off for art projects. I figure this close to Christmas, some teacher might be able to use them. Our school no longer has an art teacher :-(  I would like to see the stuff be used rather than tossed.

As I sat here today on a rainy Wednesday afternoon, wrestling with my feelings about slowly closing down my studio, the telephone rang.  It was a New York decorator who wants to know more about me.  Seems he had just found my web site and "loved" my work.  He said he is doing a Manhattan hotel and my work would be perfect for one of the areas.  He asked what I had that could go out immediately because the project was almost done and he had a deadline. I told him what I tell anyone who inquires.  I am still making animal heads, but on a custom order basis only.  No inventory, and  that it takes several weeks from order to ship. This was too long for him, but he did say he would keep me in mind in the future. I told him I could do some things for him if he gave me advance notice and we left it there.

Why today?

If he had called several weeks ago I would have been able to do the job.  Except for a couple of international orders, I have not had any business for weeks. In  years when I did shows, this would have been a very busy time with Christmas sales. Not this year.

The truth is I will be somewhat glad to have it end. I was not at all unhappy about not being able to take his order. I got more satisfaction out of making that blanket for the Alfa than I would have gotten from making yet another $500 moose.

I may be able to take some aspect of my work forward, or perhaps I will come up with another wonderful line that will be compatible with full time RVing.  

To quote an old expression: "When one door closes, another opens."  

I just have to have the creative courage to pass thru.

I think I'm ready.


  1. It is difficult to make such a major change, but I am sure you will come up with a more portable art to do while traveling. In 2008, when I sold my business I was very happy to find a buyer, but I still cried the day I walked out of the office for the last time. It was time for a change and was the right decision.

  2. I was just talking to our daughter Hannah the other day about this time of life is a two fold. Happy about the excitement that is coming and sooo sad about what is being left behind. I had many things I felt crushed about leaving when we go in April, but miraculously when we were at Hardin Ridge photography bit me and I fell in love. Now the Cradle of Forestry has asked my permission to link my blog to their national website because of the pictures I took at Hardin Ridge. BOY I did NOT see that coming. I am hoping it expands into more opportunities for us. I hope when you close the door on your art work another one opens with great excitement like it happened for me. With your talent I'm sure it will. From the comments on your comforter you might be able to make them and sell them. Sorry.... I didn't intend to write a blog on your blog.

  3. A realistic and well conceived self assessment, Merikay. You will do fine because you know yourself. I hope I will be as prescient as I approach retirement in a few months.

  4. Good for you in rolling with the changes in an organized pre-planned way. Best thing to do in the long run.

  5. you can always leave the door cracked..

  6. You are lucky that you loved your "work." I'm sure you'll find another creative outlet if you find you miss the animal heads.

  7. Your post made me think of the many transitions I passed through in my lifetime. They're not always easy, but something new and exciting always seems to appear on the horizon. A good thought provoking post. Thanks.

  8. While I enjoyed your story, it got me thinking. No, when I retired, I wasn't at all sad to give up so many years of sitting behind a desk writing policies and job descriptions and trying to solve people's problems. I was glad to get away from that desk. Now, of course, I'm back behind a desk with my computer, writing policies and minutes of meetings and trying to solve people's problems in our RV park. As Board Secretary, I'm up to my ears in writing! But good for you! It's the right step for you, and you are taking it.

  9. What a great post. I'm one of the lucky ones - I was so excited to retire. Somehow working for the IRS didn't lend itself to a whole lot of enjoyment. Even though I liked what I did, I don't miss it at all. And I have no doubt your talent is going to explode in a new direction in the near future.

  10. What an exciting time! You've captured it so well in this post. What a gift that the universe provided you in that phone call -- a timely opportunity to check your feelings. Love it!

    Follow your heart!

  11. I cried as I dismantled my studio. Taking my huge work surface to one of the barns to be used as just "plain ole" cabinets (after John had used the circular saw to divide the work surface into four sections was the hardest thing about selling the house and moving out of the studio. I feel for you.

  12. See, I'm coming into this late--my family just had a great time looking at your animal heads. I absolutely understand turning a new way, even when it's bittersweet. I think you're going to make this an epic adventure, and I'll bet you'll discover new outlets for your talent!


  13. Transitions...they never end. It seems all of life is a transition of one sort or another. But with your artistic soul you will find many new ways to be creative, some you might even enjoy more than the animal heads. It's no doubt a tough decision, and bittersweet, but you will always have your art in some form.

  14. A great thought provoking blog for sure. You have shown us many of your talents, one being writing. You will find your way but at least you know you are ready. Good Luck.

  15. It sounds like you have picked the right time and that you are ready to make the change. That doesn't mean that you will never have moments of regret or sadness though, but just try to remember that they are part of the cycle of life.

    I feel certain that you will find something else to nurture your creativity. In fact I just looked at a blog where the woman was making tiny crochet "heads" mounted on cards. They are cute! And very portable. You are bound to find something similar that stirs your heart - when it is time.


  16. Perversity of the world: after getting to this point, Merikay got two orders today!

  17. Good reminder to keep in touch with the feelings. Things on paper aren't what they are all plumped up and 3D. Thanks.


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