Thursday, June 28, 2012


Trying to figure things out, as usual.

Pretending that I have a career teaching yoga, acting like the professional and well-employed teacher I was in another place.  The effect of a piece of technological marketing is impressive as three attempts to make contact receive three responses.  Batting 1000 after 18 months of batting .02.

A brief, emotionally fulfilling visit from old friends.  Several of my pieces are heading with those same friends to Berlin, perhaps to start a new market for my wares.  This after resigning myself to giving up felting for the time being.

Nothing has changed in my day-to-day work life.  Very few classes to teach, albeit with a handful of wonderful students putting me to the test.  The rest of the time making coffee and sandwiches and doing dishes and taking money.  At home, there is laundry, summer chauffeuring, groceries, cooking.  Same bat channel...  (All right, I have gotten the children to do some of the cooking now that I work until dinnertime several nights a week.)

And yet, it all feels new.  Promising, even.  As though with this move to a new state, that I know inherently is right even as it has been a real struggle at times, reality is starting to catch up with wishing.  

Is it all a state of my mind?  Am I finding contentment?
And is it due to external factors?

Or is it simply pretending things are different and, by pretending, finding them so.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Mr. Gorbachev, ...

 Life in my 40s in Minnesota is not as expected.  Big surprise. Are any of us doing what we envisioned in our youth for our grown-up selves?
I face strange choices about family vs. work vs. pursuing my true talents.  I have the luxury of complaining about first-world problems and not whether the water is drinkable or whether my children will starve.  The death of a good friend's 11-year-old son has knocked some sense into me about the real problems I don't have.
Does this mean I've found contentment? Not exactly.
I had a hard time mourning and grieving after Special K died in May.  I was not near those in Michigan who could reel from this loss with me.  So I picked up The Last Lecture to allow some of my emotions to come up to the surface.  And in it, I did find comfort and release.
I also found inspiration. 
Since moving to MN, I have complained about not finding my way into the yoga community here. I have sent emails and resumes. I have knocked on studio doors.  I have been met with silence at best; offers to take that studio's teacher training program at worst.  I have come up with reasons why there might be resistance to a teacher of my experience.  I have shelved my enthusiasm for introducing Eischens Yoga to a new community.  And Randy Pausch's Last Lecture kicked me in the butt and reminded me that the brick walls you encounter are there to help you discover how much you really want to do something.  How hard you'll try to scale, dig under, or break through that wall.
Eischens Yoga is going to make inroads into the Twin Cities. 
Look out, brick wall.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Got laundry?

Back in my old version of life, back in Michigan, I taught yoga.  I taught several classes a week that were well attended and had such good word-of-mouth that, by the time I left Michigan, I didn't need to expend much out-of-class effort to promote my classes.  I showed up and taught.  I had several private clients over the years who came to me for such varied issues as how to prevent knee surgery, how to recover from hip replacement, how to run a marathon, how to work toward advanced yoga poses.  This was not a hobby for me.  It was and is a passion.  The income I derived was also a necessity for our family.  The success of my yoga teaching allowed me to create and pursue Woolynns.  I could felt, apply for the occasional art show, spend a weekend selling my handmade wares.  But I did it with the knowledge I'd be back teaching my classes, seeing my clients come Monday.

I am not in that life now.  I forgot about the considerable hours outside of teaching required to create a yoga teaching schedule.  I forgot about arriving to find only one student in class.  I forgot about no one coming to the workshops. It takes time to find the venues where Eishens Yoga can take root; to reach out to the various likely communities to attract students; to promote and promote and promote.  But I have also been trying to do this for Woolynns: figure out where the appropriate art shows are, apply, update my etsy store, promote, sell, ship.  And in between all the research and the venue/art show hunting and the promotion, there is still the daily work: teaching, practicing, planning workshops and events, felting, creating displays, photographing scarves, cooking, schlepping, grocery shopping, laundry, and lately, the barista work that is helping put groceries on the table.

It hits me finally that I am exhausting myself and with little to show for it.  I need more income. I need more time.  The most obvious choice is to put Woolynns aside for a while.  Once I have a yoga career that can sustain itself without hours of outside work on my part, once my job at the coffee shop is not so vital to our daily survival, I plan to felt again.  I have ideas for Woolynns creatively, but I also need to invest in displays, file LLC documentation here in MN, make inroads into the  local fiber art community.  It occurs to me what a luxury making art is when you are trying to raise a family.  It requires a level of security I do not currently have.  (Not that it requires wealth; we were hardly wealthy back in MI.)

Years ago, I was struck by an article by a senior yoga instructor who was ending a few classes because she needed time to do laundry.  It has stayed with me all these years that everything we do is important to our well-being and should be given its proper amount of time.  In an effort to find balance in my own life, Woolynns is officially on hiatus. The shop remains open, the inventory is there for the buying, and the sketches will continue for future creations.  But my limited resources are going into yoga.

And laundry.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Changing the Landscape

January 1st always seems like an arbitrary new year.  Flowers coming up in Spring feels like the start of a new year, as does September with each new school year beginning.  Maybe that's why Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year) has always felt right to me.  Regardless, January 1st is how our calendar places the new year.  Not even timed with Winter Solstice, this "beginning" is in a dark time of year.  Here in the Midwest, it means short days, long nights; frozen ground, if not a lot of snow; cold weather.  Not exactly inspiring material for creating, for starting fresh.  And yet, if all my yoga can guide me here, I am not the same person today that I was yesterday.  I am not the same person that I was an hour ago.  Every action, every breath changes me ever so subtly.  I am new in each moment.  I can tap into this newness at any time and find a way to start fresh.

I've been reading articles, journaling, having conversations about how to grow Woolynns.  What direction to take.  Some of it is simply getting to know Minnesota better and figuring out where my work fits in.  But some of it is in the art itself.  Am I really making what I want to make?  Or am I recreating past successes hoping for another sale?  Can I sell what I want to make?  Can I make what sells?  These questions right here are my New Year's Eve, my Spring, my first day of school.  They are the seeds for whatever is about to grow.  And some of them won't grow right away, or even at all.   I intend to water them all, but I am sure I will forget some of them, unintentionally losing a possibility. It is important that I plant them even still.  Time to create a new landscape.

I had an acting teacher (eons ago) who told me to throw lots of balls in the air;  that way there is a better of chance of catching at least one.  Watch me throw about 12.  
Right now.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

A year in the life ...

This time last year, I was gearing up for our move to Minnesota after 12 plus years in Michigan.  Mark would be househunting and starting his new MN job in January, and the kids and I would be packing up our house for a late February move.  Since then I have:

  • said good-bye to very dear friends and to an idea of myself based on external factors
  • repainted our new place's interior when our belongings were delayed
  • assisted my oldest during a very rough transition to his new school (never before has summer break come with such relief for him)
  • watched as my youngest settled in more easily than expected, and been in awe as she denied living here ("I like gray" in response to the blue skies of a Minnesota winter)
  • experienced travel baseball (never again)
  • seen a chance to perform with high schoolers ease my middle schooler's pain
  • found one studio willing to give me a shot teaching
  • created a studio space and made lots of beautiful scarves
  • camped in the Black Hills of South Dakota
  • attended four art shows, at which my sales were dismal
  • figured out what a gift it is to live near extended family
  • watched Mark return to a happier frame of mind
  • learned how to pull shots and pour latte art
  • hosted Michigan friends on assorted trips through the Twin Cities
  • adopted a dog (a beautiful Italian Greagle)
  • seen my daughter branch out in ways we had only hoped might happen with a move
  • cheered on my son as he discovered a new passion for swimming
  • realized how deep friendships can run and how tentative it is starting new ones
One of my scattered-throughout-the-globe friends wrote a piece that is so very beautiful about resolutions and taking leaps and falling and starting over.  This is what it has felt like.  Grand and abysmal; barely functioning and laying so much groundwork; knowing I am in the right place but not quite feeling at home.  Staying in touch with old friends helps and hinders.  I need to move forward; I get stuck looking back.  Love from my old friends inspires and sustains and saddens.  Finding new friends is harder each time I move.  But here I am, looking at 2012, ready to start tackling that list of Ways To Feel Like I Live Here.  One item at a time.

  • Follow up on people's offers: coffee, introductions, job ideas
  • Set aside a few days to finally nail down all our health care providers
  • Keep walking the dog in the big park, looking for the elusive albino squirrel
  • Practice yoga
  • Try felting a tallit
  • Create a more structured approach to Woolynns
  • Research local art fairs based upon recommendations received this fall
  • Explore our new home state in new ways each month (arboretum, Fringe festival, etc)
  • Be willing to drop a few balls
Here's to a new year filled with taking leaps, falling, and starting over.
Happy 2012!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Four-Shot Rob

Moving took a toll on my income.   It was clear that our family finances required me getting a part-time job of other sorts with actual money coming in.  I am very capable and intelligent, but my actual work experience is not going to get me serious money in the job market.  Having been an established yoga teacher for over a decade in MI, I am now unheard of with too few students and too few classes.  And who wants a 45-yr-old chorus gypsy if she can't really dance anymore?

Through my son's baseball team, I met Deb, the owner of a brand new local coffee shop.  As of two weeks ago, I became a barista at West Side Perk.  Back in June, when the shop was about to open, Deb informed me that the shop would be featuring local artists' work and if I had anything to display, I should let her know.  Which got me started working on small felt paintings this summer.

With my thoughts full of coffee, I made a brief sketch and then fleshed it out in detail in wool.

Then came the usual felting.  Wet, soap, roll, rub.  You know.  But what I ended up with was far from pleasing.  The wool wasn't evenly distributed so areas shrunk at different rates, the entire piece pulled awkwardly in different directions.  I had a completely different being on my hands.  Still vibrant and interesting, but not working as a single painting.  I cut apart the pieces.  I was thinking they could be a set of coasters, but the time and materials make them way too expensive even at wholesale pricing.  Now I'm working on figuring out how to mount them individually.  I'll keep them a set, but a set of four that can be rearranged however the lucky owner chooses.  I'm calling it Four-Shot Rob, in honor of one of the regulars at the coffee shop.  Guess why we call him that?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Shawl That Had Its Own Ideas

School has resumed for the year and I can devote more time to felting and less time to schlepping.  This is not to say I've done nothing all summer, wool-wise.  I just haven't blogged about any of it.  So let this first post-summer blog be about an experiment, one of many I undertook this summer.

Before I left MI last winter, I saw a woman in a gorgeous fisherman's knit shawl.  At least I thought it was a shawl.  I admired it and she let me really look at its construction. Not that I wanted to knit one like it;  I wondered if it could be a template for a nuno-felted shawl.  It was created like a fat T.  One long piece that draped around the shoulders and hung down in front on either side, with a square attached that covered the back.  I sketched it; I estimated the measurements.  And then we moved and it had to wait.  In July, I finally pulled out the initial sketch.  I cut two finished scarves and some patterned silk material I had.  I chose wool and yarns I thought might work with the colors.  And I started.

The colors felt like autumn and fire and molten lava and turning leaves.  I layed strips of chestnut wool to create seams and to add design elements on top of the silk.  I thought I would use red and burgundy yarns in the process, but as I continued, the work changed.  A variegated brown yarn with specks of green and gold and orange got added.  Wisps of merino wool in colors of fire joined the design.

I let the piece sit for several days before felting.  I usually do this to give myself time to feel done with the design.  When I was finally ready, it took several hours of wetting and rolling and rubbing and throwing.  And when I was done, it did not hang at all like the shawl upon which I had modeled it.  In fact, it became clear that it required a bit of hand sewing to become what it really was: a vest with a ruffled collar.