It feels like the work I have been doing for a very long time is the groundwork for where I find myself today, launching off into a beautiful unknown full of magical surprises.
The year was 1987 and the assignment in my 3d Fine Art Studio was to make a piece of felt and then use that material to create art. I loved the texture and material but was not so into the process - my first Ragamuffin was conjured up using that first felt 'hide'. My dad gave me the idea to use shrunk wool sweaters for material rather than the cold, wet felting process for making more. They sold! All of them! So, I kept making them and graduated from Mass Art debt free thanks to the sales of Ragamuffins!
Post graduation I traveled around the west coast of Canada and came back to Massachusetts planning to move west. While back home saving money for my move to British Columbia, I participated in my first ever craft fair. $24,000 worth of business was written at that show which was more money than I had ever made in a year. And the orders kept rolling in. My move date was pushed back and help was hired to fulfill orders. Within 24 months after graduation, 40 employees made up my tribe. We were supplying stores all over the country and internationally with handmade stuffed toys, mittens, and blankets made from recycled wool sweaters. The company continued to grow with sales doubling every year for the first 5 years. Product categories expanded to include clothing, accessories, and soft home furnishings, all made from recycled clothing. During that time my plans to move west evaporated. I was in a relationship and had my son in November 1992. A year into parenthood I was a single mom having left the physically abusive relationship with my son's father.
In May 1995 my then two and a half-year-old son was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and given 18 months to live. My focus changed to being the best mother I could be and taking the best care of my son I could muster. I made a conscious decision at this time to keep my shit together and raise my son in a calm, loving, home, celebrating each day as a gift.
The company continued without much growth for the next few years. In 2003 I sold my business to a local benefactor who became my employer. She grew the business to be less seasonal, larger and less profitable.
Fast forward to 2004 – Wedding Bells! My son's health continued to be surprisingly stable. Within two years my longtime dear friend and I got married, had two babies, bought a church and rectory, and moved home and business.
In 2008, after 5 years of working for the new owner of the company I founded, sales were slumping and the economy was changing. She decided to close production and, after a few months of limbo, gifted the company back to me. I was in no position or headspace to run the company she had closed without her help and financial backing. So, I took a never before experienced, break. I wrote a teaching book and launched my workshop career. Time was spent brainstorming about what we could do with the 125-year-old church that my husband and I had purchased to house the business, that was now closed.
We bought the building as an investment property and the mortgage was covered by the rent we were collecting. All of a sudden the building was a huge expense with very little revenue generation.
For the next 12 years, my focus was divided between trying to make the building pay for itself and my creative work. After the production company closed and my book published, I found myself content teaching and making one of a kind work, which was (and still is) an extension of the work that had been produced in volume with the production company I had founded.
Fast Forward to December 2017. I am 52 years old. My youngest daughter has had trouble in school and began attending a private school where she is flourishing. A switch went off in my head one day and it became clear, that this is my time. I have never focused on money and have made a mark in the world by the seat of my pants. I cannot let the cost of tuition be a stress to our family. Sending Violet to the school she attends is what I have to do for her to give her what she needs. That enrollment day, back in December it became clear that it is my duty to make the money we need. My duty to spread good living by example, and it is my duty to be the best mother I can be. I have given myself a new, well-paid, super engaged and exciting job. My focus on growing my brand has already shown upticks in sales as my tribe builds.
So here I am, developing scrap projects with textile waste generating manufacturers, selling and making with recycled textiles, partnering with my sister on our second generation screen printing business, teaching, designing, and getting jazzed about the discovery of a whole new business model. My son, Ben, is 25. While his health is fragile, my family is well; we are blessed to have firsthand knowledge that every day we spend together is a beautiful gift. As 2018 rolls along, keep an eye out for my brand: Crispinaffrench. Screen printed posters, greeting cards, our primary product The Dolphin Studio Calendar, and textile recycling kits, patterns, lots of free content and teaching is in the works. Visit my site at www.crispinaffrench.com. Read my blog to stay in touch on the cyber waves where creativity, confidence, gratitude, fun, and empowerment are yours for the making. Feeling blessed to live An Embraceable Life.