Pink Ribbons and Corporate Malignancies

There has been a recent occurrence here in my small corner of the world.  A bit of change.  Also a big calendar landmark passed.  One that I do not particularly like.  One that makes me feel yucky feelings.

The occurrence?  I resigned from my job as an education coordinator at my local Joann Fabric and Crafts.  I managed a little classroom within the store for 3 and a half years.  It was the “perfect” job.  Part time, while the kids were in school, where I could be very creative, and teach a myriad of art and craft classes.

The landmark?  Yesterday marked 18 years since I lost my mother to breast cancer.  I stand with the minority on breast cancer: there is absolutely NOTHING pink about that disease.  The pink ribbon is a light, fluffy, cute and total misrepresentation of a disease that disfigures and ravages bodies from the inside out. It should be a blood-stained cadaver purple ribbon.  Pink means dainty, flowery, feminine. Lipstick. Love. Valentine’s Day. Candy. Frosting.  I say SCREW THAT.  You will never catch me wearing a pink ribbon.

Why resign? Well, I was told by my former employer that I had to make a choice.  Either I completely stop trying to get my humble teaching studio off the ground, or I could resign from selling Joann classes as a Joann employee.  It was a conflict of interest and I was in breach of my contract.  I understood the reasoning.  It was clear.  My interests were conflicting.  The choice was pretty instantly obvious.  I couldn’t give up on my little humble stu-stu-studio dream.

So I milked it and worked a couple more shifts, claiming I was uncertain of what to do, and then I quit.  My boss gave me some very kind words of encouragement as she took my keys, cut up my employee discount card, and escorted me out of the building.  For a week or so I was in limbo; feeling pretty weird about it.  I brooded over writing some scathing words about Joann here on my blog.  About how they treat their staff poorly by paying them peanuts, regularly cutting payroll hours, often running an entire shift with only two employees on the floor, and giving those employees 8 cent yearly raises, or no yearly raise at all because they’ve reached the maximum pay rate of $10.50 an hour…after years of dedicated service…  About the corporate mindset pushing profits at any human or environmental cost… About that mailbox coupon assault being so gimmicky and cheesy…  About the rotating seasonal influx of made-in-China crap, that might decorate a table top for a month, and then end up broken in a landfill…  There is so much bad mouthing that I could do, right?  I think we all kind of know about how these entities operate.  It’s not much different with any other corporate retail chain.  Right?

So, my devil’s advocate is screaming, whose fault is it anyway???  That these chains exist and treat their people with such disregard for basic human rights like a living wage or an annual cost-of-living increase?  Well, we live in a free-ish market society right?  So those wonderful employees that came to be my friends and that I miss dearly, they could seek better employment elsewhere right?  Maybe.  I guess.  But then more people would take their place and it would go on and on.  So who else can we blame?  I think I know.  I think I figured it out.  It’s me.  And it’s you.  And it’s all of us.  I bought googley eyes there today.  I did.  I used a gimmicky coupon too.  I’m feeding this beast with my $2.78 purchase.  I buy other things there too.  They carry some very good brand names.  Clover, Tsukineko, Olfa…I could go on and on.  I am so sorry.  I really am.

From a total different angle, a complete flip-side of this seemingly crappy coin, I am quite grateful for the experience Joann Fabrics and Crafts offered me.  I learned some very important, downright invaluable, classroom managerial skills and was able teach hundreds of classes.  I can confidently say, that there exists no home sewing machine anywhere on the face of this Earth that I cannot thread correctly.  And that, for me, is very empowering.  I am being 100% serious.

Now, about my mother.  She loved making Christmas tree ornaments.  It was her thing.  Just about every year around the holidays, she’d craft up some ornaments.  The last major act of my mother’s life was something so touching that I will remember it clearly for the rest of my days.  I feel compelled to share.

When she was sick and dying, around the end of November 1997, we got a Christmas tree.  Over the next two weeks, she proceeded to fill it with handmade felt ornaments.  Stockings, stars, and angels.  They were all hand-stitched with embroidery floss.  They had sequins and beads and other stitched on embellishments.  They were beautiful. One of a kind little works of hanging fabric art. She strung about 20 feet of popcorn garland too.

My mother knew, as we all did around that time, that she wouldn’t make it to see Christmas.  My mother’s last act of her life was ensuring that her only child had a Christmas tree made with love for the holidays.  When her very last hand made ornament was hung on this tree, my mother had finally lost her eyesight and couldn’t actually see her masterpiece.  She never regained her eyesight and died a few days later.  A painful, disfigured, non-pink, metastasized-breast-cancer death.  I’m quite sure too that she had purchased a lot of the supplies for the ornaments from Joann Fabric and Crafts.

 

 

 

 

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Grand Opening Announced for One Sweet Little Art Studio in Downtown Brunswick, Maine!

The Painted Dog: An Art & Stitch Studio of 13 Pleasant Street Brunswick, Maine, will have its’ official grand opening celebration in just two short weeks.  On Saturday, November 21st and Sunday, November 22nd we invite you to come and see what we are all about.  Becky, my partner in crime and craft, (mostly craft these days) will be selling her very awesome, one-of-a-kind, Duncan’s Family Jewels waxed canvas bags and clutches.  I will be there to answer questions about (and peddle) my myriad of art and craft classes.  I’m also offering a free blank journal workshop at noon on both days.  Stop by and stitch up a cute journal to take home, enjoy some yummy food, and enter drawings to win a class or a waxed canvas clutch.

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There’s one more very exciting detail about our event: we are donating 25% of all weekend sales to The Coastal Humane Society, our local animal shelter.  As long time AVID lovers of dogs, cats, birds, and just about any furry four legged creature, Becky and I are so happy to be able to give to this organization. Our community depends on CHS which takes in about 3,000 stray, abused, or abandoned cats, dogs, rabbits, ferrets, chinchillas, birds, hamsters and guinea pigs annually.  They are even trying to arrange for us to borrow an adoptable dog for our event.  It would be so special if we could help this lucky dog find its’ furever home during our Grand Opening!

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Opening our little one-room-schoolhouse-style art studio has been quite a journey.  I have vowed recently to no longer complain about life being too busy to handle here on my blog.  I will say though, that the time needed to nurture our new little baby has been more than tremendous.  (I’m not complaining, I’ve loved nearly every second of it).

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The group of kids that are coming weekly to my After School Art Club are simply fabulous.  Not only do I get to share my enthusiasm with little people who are already enthusiastic about art making, I also get to learn from these kiddos as I go.

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For instance, kids are loud and excited when they congregate. (I’ve known this fact for quite some time now).  Larger groups of 5 or 6 or more children require pretty consistent crowd control.  I feel like I spend a large part of the lesson time reminding them to listen and to use their indoor voices.  I also have to repeat directions often. I’m quite sure this is normal and rather unaviodable, but I still shamelessly tried to bribe them with candy.  Bribery to stay calm and focused with the promise of candy at the end only really works for the first time or two, and completely fails when attempted directly following Halloween.  (You know, since they already have 5lbs of trick or treating candy sitting at home, why would they care about my one measly Dum-Dum lollipop?)  Plus, candy probably isn’t the best type of reward anyways.

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So I had another brilliant idea recently.  I’ve learned that these kiddos absolutely LOVE to free draw.  They want nothing more than to sit with their friends and draw whatever they please on white printer paper using markers, crayons, colored pencils, etc at their disposal.  Throw in plastic stencils and scissors and you would think they’d won the lottery.  I could plan an awesome craft or art project and the idea of free drawing is equally as enticing to them.  So, I’m trying a new bribery method:  You see, every After School Art Club session has 15 minutes of free draw at the end.  It gives the kids time to wind down (theoretically) and me the time to help any stragglers.  However, with inside voices used, and somewhat consistent focus, the kids can earn EXTRA free draw minutes.  I even bought some new assorted fruit scented markers for the next time we meet.  I’ll wave those puppies around at the start of class and see where it gets me.  I’ll keep you posted!

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So, stop by and check out our little establishment on:

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And if you can’t make it then, maybe the following day will work?

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Buy local, support the arts, and help homeless animals in one swoop!

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Geli Plate Printing, Coptic Stitch Binding, Felted Spirit Stones, and Felted Soap Added at The Painted Dog in Downtown Brunswick!

Long title, I know.  I’m trying my hardest to market free, and as well as free can be!  I am happy to report some fantabulous new class offerings at The Painted Dog, my sweet little gem of a teaching studio in downtown Brunswick, Maine.  I’ve just added geli plate printing, an amazing coptic stitched blank journal, felted soaps, and one of my all time faves: Felted Spirit Stones.  For more info than I give below, visit my classes page and scroll, baby, scroll!  That nearly rhymes.  I like it when I rhyme accidentally!  The classes I list are not necessarily in order, but it’s all there!  Bear with me, I’m learning as I go…

Geli Plate printing is taking place on Friday, Nov. 13th from 12:30-2:30pm.  This is also called monoprinting and is fun, quick, and easy.  We will experiment with stencils, cling wrap, lace, stamps, and more.  The craziest thing that I’ve ever printed on my gelatin plate is a doily.  It’s insanely cool.  I’ll never look at crocheted lace the same again…

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Felted Spirit Stones is a 2-session class and will take place on Fridays in December, from 12:30-2:30pm. These are joyful to look at and to hold.  They’d make a great gift! They are about the size of a paper weight and very peaceful to stitch up.

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Felted soap is another one of my favorite things to make.  It’s easy too, but you will get a bit of a forearm workout.  These make great gifts too. This class takes place JUST in time for the holidays, on Friday, December 18th, from 6-8:30pm.

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I have also added a beautiful blank journal class, called Coptic Stitch Blank Journal with a Monoprinted Hardcover. I feel like this title is long winded.  But so am I!  This class will teach you how to use a gelatin plate AND how to bind using the coptic stitch method.  Sometimes this is called a chain stitch. Theres a cool bind-over-tape thing in the middle of the open spine which is really snazzy.  The binding will look like the one below, but your covers will be your own printing.

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WEEKEND WARRIORS: Saturday Zentangle and Knitting Added at The Painted Dog in Downtown Brunswick!

As we slowly wind our way into fall, I have begun to think about knitting and crocheting.  I love to knit during this time, especially fingerless mitts!  I also can appreciate the fact that many people have day jobs and only have evenings or weekends free.  So…..I have an amazing friend, artist, and knitting instructor on board to teach a knitting 101 class at The Painted Dog, my sweet little gem of a studio.  It’s Saturday October 17th at 10am.  Click on my classes page and scroll down for more info!

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I have also added a Zentangle 101 Basics class on Saturday, November 7th at 3:00pm.  I love to doodle and even more so, love to shade those doodles and make them appear to have real form.   Again, check out that classes page for more info. Below is a very gray mandala filled with Zentangle doodling… But not yet shaded in…

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As I fervently juggle my tasks as of late (and drop a few balls along the way),  I will say this:  I love this new journey in my life.  This little teaching studio space fills my soul.  I’ve had 4 adorable kids’ classes and 1 awesome adult class.  I really love doing this.  I have found my little niche.  I can be creative, make a bit of income, and have my own little special place to do so.  I can be my own boss, make my own schedule, make a huge mess, and make my art.  I feel busier than ever but in a very good way.

Happy fall to all!

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Softcover Clothesline Book: A New Class!

Make a sweet, multi-signature book with me this fall.  In two 3-hour long sessions, I will show you how to make this chunky beauty.  During the first session, we will explore different mark making methods and painty surface design techniques, including stenciling, screen printing and stamping.  I’ve added new several techniques to this repertoire (if you done this with me before) which include doodling with fountain pens and India ink.  Since we only decorate one side of each sheet of paper, about every other page ends up blank.

For the second session, we will chop our papers in half and bind them using my own stab binding pattern and waxed linen thread.  The binding is my very favorite part and is quicker than it looks.  At the end of the second session, I will demonstrate how to collage meaningful elements (the scraps we save in our lives) onto several pages to make this a real keepsake.  This baby measures 6 inches tall, 1.5 inches thick, and about 5 inches wide.

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Softcover Clothesline Book is offered once at my little gem of a studio: The Painted Dog!  Located at 13 Pleasant Street Brunswick, Maine, on the second floor of a building called The Title Company.  The cost for the class is $60 and includes all materials (about a 15 dollar value!).  Bring an apron and expect to get messy!

DATES & TIMES: Wednesdays September 23 & 30, 5:30-8:30pm

LOCATION:  The Painted Dog: An Art & Stitch Studio, 13 Pleasant Street, Brunswick, Maine

Space is limited, email Mandy at arusse71@maine.edu or call 207.504.2438 to resister.

 

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