When America was attacked on 9/11, I can remember having all sorts of feelings. Sadness, anger, fear of the future, will it happen again, just a horrible time for so many people. I can remember thinking "how do we recover from this horrific day". My dear mother, Betsy Walker, the strongest woman I know, always taught me to carry on, keep going and mostly stay busy. So that's what I did.
In the Summer of 2001, I was working on a home project in my basement. When the project was finished, I had some leftover concrete. I poured it into a little plastic pan and placed some pieces of glass in the concrete. It dried overnight and looked really pathetic in the morning! It was obvious that my crafting and artistic talents were lacking and never going to blossom. The glass that I used was given to me by my dear friend Melaine. Years before, she gave me a big bucket of scrap glass and said "here, make something with this someday". I put the bucket in the basement and forgot about it...until I made that first stone. All the pieces of glass were so pretty and colorful, I wanted to make another stone. I never ever thought I would be making thousands of stones. I had a nice little job with an insurance company, I was newly married and I was definitely not artistic or crafty by any means.
So, 9/11 happened. As my mother taught me... stay busy! So I did. I started making these stepping stones using the bucket of scrap glass. I didn't know how to cut the glass or anything for that matter. I would break pieces with a hammer and make little bugs and flowers. A friend came over one day and saw my little collection of stepping stones in basement. He offered to take them to a local garden shop and put them on consignment. I said, ok, nobody will buy them, they are pathetic and elementary. Boy was I wrong...they sold the very next day and I made $36. Wow! Somebody bought something that I made with my very own hands. I had never experienced that feeling of pride before. It felt really good and I wanted more.
Over the next couple of years, I got better at cutting glass, I purchased the proper tools, I found a suitable concrete and I was selling my creations at the garden center and an occasional craft show. One of my very first shows was the Chestnut Hill Home and Garden Spring show . I was beyond excited when I got accepted. I still do that show!
In 2003, I was blessed with my twins. Many of you have met my son Sam who is quite the salesman and little hustler. My daughter Besty overcame her fears of selling last Fall at Sea Witch and ran the show without me being there. So proud of both my kids. When they were born, all I wanted was to stay home and raise them. It made no sense to go back to work, especially with the cost of daycare for twins. Luckily, my husband was able to support us but I still participated in several craft shows to make a little bit of money to help out. It was also a good hobby for me and would give me time to myself, which all parents need.
Sadly, in 2006, my marriage ended. Overnight, I became a single mom of 4 year old twins and I didn't have a job! I had a hobby with no steady income. Again... my mom...."stay busy, don't feel sorry for yourself, figure it out, work hard, you will get through this". She was right.
I moved my little accidental hobby out of my basement and into my garage. I built myself a little studio where I had more space to make bigger and better things. I started applying to all types of craft shows and I had NO idea of what I was doing. Totally winging it! No mentor, no training, no tutorial video on "How to become a crafter". I had a pickup truck, I would load it up with stones and go to some of the worst craft shows ever. I was lucky if I made my booth fee. Many times, many many times, I thought (my family thought so to) that I was crazy and this would never work and I will never make money selling this silly stepping stones.
And then it happened........
I believe it was in the Spring of 2006, I was invited to sell my stones at the Wilmington Flower Market. This was going to be huge I thought. I arrived with my truck load of concrete and was placed next to Artist and dear friend Sandra Webberking. This girl had it all figured out. She had a big trailer, she had a beautiful set up, she had great energy and mostly, she had big heavy stuff and she did it all by herself. Geeze, if this girl can do this...so can I. Sandy and I became friends over the next 3 days. She gave me all kinds of advice and suggestions. She convinced me to buy a trailer, she gave me show advice, and she even bought one of my stepping stones. I tease her today, that its all her fault that I lug around all this concrete from show to show and sit in the sweltering heat on weekends hoping to make a few dollars. Sandy is an incredibly talented Metal Sculpture Artist and I am proud to call her my friend.
Here we are, 17 years later and I'm still cranking out these stepping stones. I participate in about 38 shows a year. I travel to 6 states. I use around 10 pallets of sand mix a year (about 35,000 lbs) and I cut though hundreds of feet of glass every year. Sam still goes with me to some shows and has now started a business of his own (as some of you know). Lauren (my right hand) keeps me energized and laughing all weekend. My clients keep me challenged and I could not be more thankful for the support they have given me year after year. Although my craft is not the easiest thing to make, its not the easiest thing to haul and set up or break down, its not the easiest thing by any means.... I wouldn't trade it for any other art form. I love my job! I didn't find it.....it found me!
And...that first stone I made...I proudly display it in my shop today.