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Off the Beaten Path: Cookies, Cruises, and Cousins

This past weekend was the “Off the Beaten Path Florida Arts Tour” and I was honored to be one of the artists whose studio was opened for visitors. It was fantastic! There was much preparation, much planning, but it was all worth it. I’ll give you a few details:

This is my new studio, a former two-car garage turned artist space behind my 1922 house. I love it because my commute is about 15 steps from the back door. Because of the way I work, up close and personal with metals and stones, I need light, lots and lots of light! Now, with loads of LED lighting, a pale seaglass color on the walls, and a new white tiled floor, the space suits me to a “t”.

With displays set up, signs outside, cookies and other treats baked, I was ready to open the doors to my studio for the first time. Since I am quite new to this community, I don’t know many people, so I decided beforehand that if I had 50 visitors between the two days, I would declare it a success. I was waaaaay off!

People started arriving as soon as we opened the gate at 10:00 Saturday morning and they continued to come steadily until we closed up at 5:00. I met so many interesting people, did loads of demonstrations of various techniques, and answered lots of questions about all of my tools that are visible all over the studio. Many people were curious about the array of unusual looking tools that I have. I was happy to demonstrate how I use them to form metal with a nearly limitless variety of end results.

All told, I had nearly 200 people come to my studio for this tour and I know that most went to the other studios as well. I sold many pieces of jewelry and have orders for many more. That is nice but the best part of this tour weekend was the people!

I had a friend who came all the way from Virginia to be here to help me. Now, that is what I call true friendship! And I had two other friends who were here to help me as well. I could not have done all that I did this weekend without their assistance. Thanks, guys, you know who you are!

I met some neighbors I had not yet had an opportunity to meet. I met folks who drove several hours just to come on the tour. People in the community that I interact with in my various volunteer or other activities came by to visit my studio. But there were three people who really stand out who made this a very special time.

For those who don’t know me well, I have to give you a brief background. I sell my jewelry on cruise ships primarily, and have been doing that since 2007. A couple who live two hours or more from me purchased jewelry from me on a ship about 10 years ago. The wife has been following me online ever since. I don’t know how she has kept track of me! Perhaps it is because I have a rather uncommon last name?! Anyway, Sunday afternoon this young couple walked into the studio and we hadn’t seen each other since we were on a cruise ship. The first thing I noticed was her earrings, which looked strangely familiar! They are the ones she bought from me so long ago! We ended up having a mini reunion there in the studio and I am quite sure I will be seeing them again in far less than 10 years. Thanks for coming, you two! Seeing you again was a delight!

But the real stand out from the weekend was a young woman who traveled all the way from Jupiter (Florida, not the planet!) to meet me. We have never met before, but when I saw her, I felt I already knew her as she looked just like my favorite aunt! It turns out that this is a first cousin whom I have never had the opportunity to meet before! What a joyous reunion that was!! Another visitor was observing this whole exchange as she told me, “I’m your cousin!” and we hugged and cried and laughed. This visitor was curious about what kind of family we have when first cousins never even meet? My cousin let her know that while she grew up in Florida, I had grown up in California and besides, she’s 43. Not 43 years old, but grandchild number 43! I come from a really large family! Meeting her topped off what was already an incredible weekend and knowing I have family just a few hours away made all of the time and preparations for this tour so worth it!

People sometimes ask me what I like best about what I do. Is it the creative process, the discovery of new techniques, working with beautiful stones? All that is fun but what do I like the best? That’s easy. It’s the people!

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