I am an artist, and I don't just like to create mixed media and fiber arts and interactive art; I love to read and write about it, and this is what I have pretty much done. Life should never be a bunch of apologies for what we wish we could have, would have, should have done. I am feeling very happy that I have done so many things in my lifetime and my writing has been the base for most all of it.
When did you first start writing?
I believe I started writing around the age of 14. I was in high school, and my English teacher assigned us to write a short story. I remember writing one about people who went to rescue some horses scheduled to be put down (or as some would call it, "sent to the glue factory"). Most of the people just got a grade, or so I thought. But when the teacher hand delivered our papers back to us, she whispered to me that I was an excellent writer and editor, and would go far in that field. It made all the difference for my life. That lesson lasted my whole life. Some years later I ran into an old classmate and when I told her about my wonderful experience, she told me that the teacher told most of the class the same thing individually, and how that had changed the lives of those students. I will never forget that wonderful lesson; today I strive to do the same thing with any students of mine.
What's the story behind your latest book?
In 2005, I found myself laid off as a Regulatory Compliance specialist from a huge pharmaceutical manufacturer of plasma derivative products. At age 64 and with a title like that, it was like a death sentence for me as there were no other similar manufacturers in the area and I could not relocate. I am sure some of you can relate to this dilemna. I took my Social Security early so I could keep a roof over my head and eventually began to work as a substitute paraeducator for special needs children part-time. I realized that working with any physically/developmentally challenged children or adults was my heart work. My own brother was 100% disabled from Vietnam with a TBI (traumatic brain injury), a spinal injury, and permanent PTSD. He had been so young when he went there and to see him suffering so much made me want to try to do something to help others.
About the same time, I met a woman via the phone who happened to be severely physically challenged and wanting to get information about possibly starting a business with her quilting. She had talked to some business volunteers with the SBA previously and they had told her that it was just a hobby and that she would never be able to start a business with it. I felt a burning anger inside; anyone who had a dream of starting a business should be encouraged even if they did not have money. Anything is possible if you believe.
With that, a deep friendship developed and Barbara Williamson became the backbone for a nonprofit I had decided to start to help artists who had some form of physical challenge. I had been an art quilter for many years and had seen how many physically challenged artists were not able to enter events because of the costs, and because they did not understand which ones would help them and which ones were a waste of the entry fees for their needs. We named the nonprofit Fiberarts of Southern California, and immediately upon getting our nonprofit 501 (c)(3) status, we went to work. Without the assistance of Barbara, who became the Secretary, and Rob, her caregiver, who became our Treasurer, the nonprofit would not have come into existence. We were all volunteers with no treasury in reality, but we managed to accomplish things most nonprofits with a lot more money, board members and volunteers can do. We accomplished many things in the 10 years we existed, providing exposure for the physically challenged fiber artists, and teaching many of them professional development such as how to price their work, how to work with galleries and museums, and how to make sales for their work.
In 2015, Barbara and I made a decision to close the nonprofit due to some heavy additional physical challenges. And during that time, we also made the decision to write this book to honor some of those fiber artists and we added others so that various types of challenges would be represented to give readers a better understanding of what it is like to be a physically challenged artist who manages to succeed in the art world. This book will hopefully be the inspiration to encourage you with your own goals and dreams just as that wonderful teacher inspired me so many years ago.
This book is a collection of beautiful art photos, along with the personal stories of the 23 talented contributors. No strangers to the Internet, teaching, public speaking, writing, selling art, and winning major awards for their fiber arts in major exhibits, these women proactively articulate their beliefs related to their physical challenges, demonstrating the need to view them in a new light.