cut cord

I knew that I had decorated my last egg when Lindsey became engaged and I wanted to commemorate the occasion, as I had when Rob proposed to Anne, by making a Double Wedding Ring quilt-patterned egg with the couple’s names following the curves of the design.

I went to the sink in my studio to fill the kettle in which I boiled water for the dye baths. I had taken a fresh set of powders out of the drawer to dissolve into the colors I’d need: yellow, pink, aquamarine, red, violet and black. Two packages per jar, plus vinegar to help them set on the eggs.

But as I went to run the tap, I felt a wave of resistance in my stomach and chest. Not quite nausea, but a complex set of synapases firing up and down my throat, lungs and solar plexus. I paused. Took my hand off the faucet and stood in that small kitchen space of my studio for a minute or two.

“I can’t do this anymore.”

Those were the classic words I’d used when my longterm relationship with Sarah eneded. She’d called to invite me out for a walk after three weeks of silence. I’d been processing all along, but it felt fresh to her to hear my voice.

“Want me to come pick you you for a walk at the beach today?” she chirped.

“I can’t do this anymore,” I replied, and she knew exactly what I meant. I had the same sense of finality at that moment by the sink.

The end of my egg era wasn’t dramatic or emotional. I’d been working at the craft for over 30 years. I was done.

If I had to make a list of what contributed to its finale, it’d be short.

1. I used to hate when customers or fans would walk by my booth in November, say “Everything looks beautiful!” and that they’d see me at the show in May. I had worked so hard. Didn’t they know the unwritten obigation to patronize the artist? Could they really have so little commitment to keep me in business?

2. In the early days, especially when I had Lydia assisting me, I was undaunted when a technical issue arose. She was vital in my making a success of the epoxy-filled jewelry pieces I made using duck eggshells. Those last few months in business, the final coat of epoxy–the one I used to create a glowing coat over my handwork–started buckling. I didn’t have energy or desire to find the root cause. Lydia, or anyone else in my studio, might have taken on the challenge. But I was done. I didn’t care any more.

3. I had said everything in “eggs” I needed to say. After 30 years of painting the shells for 4-8 hours per day, I had conquered the medium and was no longer in its thrall.

So I had a blowout studio event to sell off all my inventory. I cleared over $10,000, then gave away my equipment, packed up a few items to save for posterity (or the Smithsonian), and actually cut the cord on my egg-cutting box because it was tucked behind the counter in such a way that I was unable to pull the plug. I loved the metaphor.

My friend Betsy helped me turn my artist’s studio into a coach’s office. She moved my art books from one side of the space to the other, creating plenty of room on the shelves closer to my computer and phone.

“We’re leaving room for more to come in,” she explained as she replaced the volumes on batik and ornamental design with my scant collection of business-building literature.

I could feel waves of fear churning in my gut. But I’d taken risks before and recognized this physical sensation as necesssary when planting seeds for continued growth.

“You can’t leap a chasm in two bounds,” I’d been told.

I fully embraced letting go. I have never regretted it.

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