GIFT IT FORWARD
We met as we were waiting to board the IndiGo flight from Mumbai to Udaipur.
“Is this your first time in India?” I asked and she replied in her approachable, cheerful voice that yes, this was a lifelong dream come true. And even though it was my second trip to Rajasthan any bystander would have been hard-pressed to decide which one of us was more excited.
As it turned out we were seated across the aisle from each other for the one hour flight and this gave us a chance to keep our conversation going. She seemed interested in my career as an international librarian and as a world traveller herself, we were happy to compare notes on the many mutual places we had visited so far.
“My nomad days may be about to come to an end,” I said a little apprehensively as I was retiring at the end of that school year but still not really convinced that I was ready to settle down. “But tell me about you, what do you do?” and with that she reached into her bag and pulled out her card. “I have a gift wrapping business and by the way my name is Amanda White.”
Fast forward 6 months. My house which I had formerly referred to fondly as ‘my cute little Welsh cottage’ now resembled Miss Havisham’s mansion in the movie version of Great Expectations; every piece of furniture seemed to be covered in an inch-thick layer of dust hidden behind spider webs that looked like trampolines for small children and in each of the three bedrooms suitcases spilled out their contents onto carpets that had not seen a vacuum cleaner in years. Not surprisingly I was unable to find the card Amanda had given me even after weeks of cleaning, unpacking and moving furniture. But I remembered the name Gift Frippery and after a quick search on the internet I had found an email address and lucky for me Amanda replied almost immediately with her phone number.
A couple of weeks later we met up at a mall midway between us for a coffee that then became lunch. Of course we talked about our Indian vacations. She too had been beguiled with the colors of India and had even ordered some handmade paper to be delivered to the UK for her gift wrapping business.
But the real reason for our meet up was that I wanted to pick her brain about how to convert my hobby into a business. “I make chunky necklaces with beads I reclaim from used jewelry I buy at charity shops and I want to sell my stuff and I want to give workshops to teach people how to make their own stuff” I explained in one sentence without taking time out to breathe. “That sounds like a great idea,” Amanda assured me, “up-cycling is huge right now”. To say she was amazingly generous and forthcoming with all the knowledge and experience she has acquired since starting Gift Frippery five years ago is still understating the value of our first meeting. And a year on the support, tips and kind words continue as Bead Nomad grows organically (Amanda’s word). And yes, it was Amanda’s idea that I submit a piece to Catching Life!!!
Not everyone will have the good fortune to connect with a ‘pro bono mentor’ as in touch with their needs as I have but there is help out there. Networking/support groups exist and of course there is the internet. I recently went to a free taster session offered by a professional life coach and even though I didn’t sign up, I did walk away with two learnings. One: small business owners are, as a general rule, more willing to offer you a helping hand when you are starting out. And to quote Bev Jones, the head of Awaken “consider doing volunteer work in your area of expertise.” She went on to share how many of the companies she had volunteered for in the past eventually became customers.
And so it came to be that I now find myself volunteering at the children’s charity Ty Hafon where I re-purpose donated jewelry which is then sold in their charity shops. The project is still in its beginning stage but eventually the idea is that workshops will become available and I will be offering beading classes to future volunteers. Store manager Althea Charles sees this as a win-win opportunity for community members to come together and use their crafting talents to recycle materials that are on hand. My win?
I think Elizabeth Gilbert expresses it best when she says that “to yell at your creativity, saying, “You must earn money for me!” is sort of like yelling at a cat; it has no idea what you’re talking about and all you’re doing is scaring it away…” Having access to endless amounts of beads, chains and charms while lifting all time restraints on your creativity is the best ever hands-on learning experience!
Below are some of the ready-to-wear pieces that evolved when I experimented with an up-cycled vintage look.
Every country I have visited in my nomad existence has provided me with inspiration. And ultimately I have felt compelled to express it in some way.
In Mexico I painted close-ups of village life. Using the beautiful textiles I salvaged from local women’s woven shirts (huipiles), I fabricated wall hangings, cushions and table runners while living in Guatemala. Gaudi’s mosaics in Barcelona inspired me to zoom in and make mini-paintings in acrylics. While living in Qatar I used the photos of my travels in the Middle East to create geometric collages based on Islamic patterns and mandalas.
Morocco is where I discovered a passion for assembling jewelry from pre-used beads and trinkets.
Now, as I settle down in Wales, I am excited about how I will use creativity to express my true origins – after all, my middle name is Llewellyn!
Fiona Marr is settling down in Wales after an exciting career as a librarian working at International schools around the world. Born and raised in South America, she has spent her life experiencing a multitude of cultures and connections. She is a life-long Crafter and believes that the best way to celebrate our differences is through creativity. Check out Bead Nomad where she shares her passion for self-expression. | Facebook