The Great Unknown Called Future

Yesterday marked the official six month anniversary of Carrie Wright Silk, and tomorrow will mark the anniversary of its first sale. I’ve been reflecting on what it was like when I started out and how remarkably different I think about things now.

Six months ago I was choosing a name for my Etsy shop, well aware that this was a name that I would need to stick to for all social media platforms, thereby creating a cohesive presence across apps I’d never used before nor cared to learn. I felt stupid, goofy, awkward, shy. Every iteration of any name was clumsy sounding to me. My name and my work, my self, shoved out in front of an abyss of humans, all of who wore condemning or deriding faces in my insecure imagination. I don’t like too much attention. It makes me squirm. I did it anyway.

At the first of January, I began a photography process I should have commenced after making the first set of large church banners I painted years ago. I’m terrible about keeping a portfolio. I’ve never considered myself an artist nor found it in me to take lots of photographs. There are wedding gowns in other women’s closets for which I have no collection of photographic evidence of having made. Horrifying, I know. I don’t know why I’m like that. I suppose I simply thought at the time that they were for the person for whom they were designed and crafted, not me. I have memories of them, and the brides were always excited to share wedding photos with me after the fact; but it never occurred to me that anyone would care to look through my portfolio much less follow my process on Instagram. It all used to make me feel like a silly child shoving her arms up in interruption of the adults talking in the room, me begging for attention squealing, “Look what I made!”

My husband, Dan, is instrumental in helping to change that. He is my biggest fan and the toughest critic of my work, and I couldn’t be more grateful for it! He is legitimately stern in his critiques having earned that right given his own successful artistic career. I learned early on in our relationship to not ask questions I was not prepared for honest answers to. He helps me to step back, to not take the criticism as a personal assault, to be objective, discerning, careful and creative. It is all very freeing and inspiring, challenging and educational. I know that I would not be the creator I am today were it not for his daily influence in my life. What an amazing and bountiful gift! I really did hit the lottery with him. The Lord knows exactly what He is doing.

Six months ago over our morning smoothies, Dan and I were having the discussion about what I wanted to do after I had finally committed in my own heart to pursue it. He encouraged me to go for it - I knew he would - but was bothered that I told him I had decided I was going to devote one year to the effort and then reevaluate. “A year?! I think you need to give it at least three! Why would you go into this thinking that you’re going to give up after just a year?!”

We got into a bit of a “discussion.” I didn’t think I had it in me to be motivated to continue doing something nobody but me cared about. I figured I’d become disenchanted and disappointed and maybe never even want to paint again if nobody purchased anything after a year of effort, a very scary risk I was trying to muster myself to take. I ended up in unwelcomed confusing tears leaving him baffled by the complexity of my sudden emotional state. I was baffled too, I must admit, and decided I had no choice but to simply plow forward and see where the journey would take me. I was really tired of not trying, of making excuses to myself and everyone else.

I had never before seriously attempted to professionally sell my work because of a persistent fear that if I tried, and nobody wanted to buy what I wanted to make, it would kill off all my desire and joy of making in general. And the truth is, I wasn’t silk painting all the time like I thought I wanted to, so I wasn’t certain that I would want to keep going once I started pursuing it as a self-appointed full-time job. I was afraid of losing my source of escape, of losing those sacred bursts of creativity I experienced when throwing myself into a big project. What if the day-by-day of it killed off the joy of my special hobby? What if I tried to do this, ended up getting bored with it, and never wanted to paint again? I didn't want to lose my joy of painting altogether! It was far less pressure to simply hide. Less pressure, that is, until someone would hit my panic button by saying, “You’ve been given a gift of creativity. You really should consider sharing it. Your work is amazing!”

As I've mentioned several times, seven months ago Dan and I sailed across the Atlantic Ocean aboard the Queen Mary 2. It changed my life. The beauty of both sea and ship overwhelmed me. Daily blustery walks around the promenade were filled with wonder and awe. The power and beauty of the sea and the ingenuity that created the magnificent vessel cutting us through it was electrifying to my soul. I have never felt so alive and continue to carry that vigor with me! It gave me a courageous abandon of my fears, the propulsion I needed to shove me into being willing to seriously consider taking the plunge.

Still, as I officially announced to my Facebook friends that the Etsy shop was now open and invited them to like my carriewrightsilk page, I was trepidatious. I consider carefully how I choose to use up my time on earth. (You can read one of my other posts on that topic.) I don’t always make the best decisions, and I didn’t want this to be a public and embarrassing attempt to find my niche. I prayed for any encouragement the Lord might see fit to offer, any indication that the persistent desire I had to paint was a gift from Him, that what I was doing pleased Him. How kind of Him that a mere three days after launching the Etsy store with just three scarves from which to choose a very complimentary buyer purchased a scarf! I was stunned, deeply thankful, jittery and a babbling fool when gushing the news to Dan and my very supportive oldest step-daughter Danielle.

The next day, I was already struggling again with my fears. What if this was a fluke? What if I was just wishful thinking that this sale was of the Lord? How would I react to never making another sale the rest of the year?! Dan reassured me, “If this is the answer to your prayer for confirmation, look for a second witness. If you make another sale soon, then you should believe that the Lord is indeed directing you. Regardless, keep painting! Get back to work!”

The day after the first sale, the buyer contacted me to ask if I could make a scarf using the motif from one of my made to order banners she particularly loved. Only three people- Dan, me and Jesus- knew I was already in the middle of finishing that very scarf she wanted to wear! What an amazing second witness that was! The day it was listed, she purchased that one too.

There are many more fantastic stories I could tell you just like this one, yet I still do experience moments of doubt when those old fears creep in and the self-critical voice rises inside of me. However, it is all far more easily squashed than ever before in my life, and I see the difference in the quality and creativity of my work. I told a friend yesterday that if I stop and think too much about this journey that I feel like I am standing outside of my own body watching myself change. Insecurity and my feelings of vulnerability are no longer road blocks to my creativity. They are now a foe to spar against, a force of tension that builds my creative muscle and shoves me deeper into my dependence on the One True Creator.

I never dreamed six months ago that I would be selling through my own website, be stocked with shipping and marketing materials paid for out of a business account, be searching for the right vendor to print reproductions of my designs to sell in gift shops, and taking the time to work with a professional photographer to capture high resolution images of my work. And I certainly did not have anywhere as a thought in my brain that I would be contacted through my website by someone at Vanity Fair UK asking me to consider placing an advertorial in their upcoming fall collection issues. Six months ago I would have said, “Why are they asking me to place an ad?! They must be desperate.” Maybe they are, but today I am saying, “Yes, I can see that some of the designs I’ve created might be a good fit for their audience. I need to reconsider my initial thought that I would hold off on reaching out to local gift shops.”

A lot can happen in six months. I wonder what I’ll be reporting to you in six more! I'm so deeply grateful to every single one of you who are watching, praying, following, liking, buying, applauding, encouraging. What an adventure!


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