I looked forward to the Bead & Button Show in Milwaukee, Wisconsin more this year than the past few years. Mostly, I think, this is due to the fact that I was only slated to teach one two-day workshop, instead of my usual four to seven, which usually results in me nearing a nervous breakdown by the end of the week.
It's not that I don't love my students or my classes. I love teaching, and get a lot out of meeting new people and showing them how to make cool things out of beads. I think mostly it's the excessive stimulation, the set-up and break-down of an elaborate display before and after every workshop, and hauling all of my workshop and display materials around in any combination of wheeled suitcases, shipping boxes, and dollies rented from the local Uhaul. Depending on where workshops are located, that walk can be as short as an elevator ride or as long as several city blocks. All of these aspects of the show combine into one mind-bending experience that can easily be described as bitter-sweet.
So I decided last summer to minimize the stress usually brought on by the exhausting experience of Bead & Button by only submitting two workshop proposals. Happily, the powers that be picked one of the workshops and I happily made my plans to travel to the show for a week with very little work to do, compared to previous years.
It turns out the week away from my biological family, to be with my beading family, was exactly what I needed.
I tend to have many moments of self-doubt, when it comes to the things I'm creating and this business I have made for myself. Fear is a large part of my life and at times it can be overwhelming. Just before the show this year I had found myself in a creative rut, doubting that I have anything to contribute to the beading community, thinking that I should just find a real career finally, and that nothing I do compares to what other people are doing in the beading community. But by half way through the show, when I was sitting at a table with my German friends, beading away, greeting other friends who came by, I realized I was getting my confidence back.
I think part of it was my German friends complimenting the pieces I was working on, part being at the show with so many people who love the same art form, and part just looking at the variety of beaded jewelry on display both in the display cases and on people's necks and wrists. I began feeling once again like part of the community, and like I have a role to play, just as everyone else does. There is room for all of us in this strange little niche of the art world, and seeing all of the lovely beadwork reminded me that there is no limit to the possible combinations of beads and finishes and colors that we can put together.
I left the show feeling refreshed, valued, and grateful for the time I spent just relaxing and focusing on my craft. I doubt I would have had the same experience had I crammed in a bunch of classes that week, and am very happy I made the decision last year to give myself a break. I needed it. And guess what--when I came back from the show, I had a flurry of new ideas that I've had time to start stitching, and it feels so good!
So when you're feeling like I did, that your work might not be up to par or that your work is just lost in a sea of beautiful creations, take time to give yourself a break and do something nice for yourself. Stop working for just a little while. It turned out for me that a half a week was all I needed to relax enough to remember that I play a valuable role in the beading community, and for new ideas to come. Perhaps when you're in a creative rut, you can do the same!