Once upon a time, I was a card maker. It began in 1999 but really started taking off about 5 years later. In November 2005 I sold my first card on eBay. I was amazed and pleased to sell 34 items in the first month (the holiday season helped) and went on to sell on eBay for about 2 years. After taking a 6-month hiatus (during which my father was arrested and all hell broke loose because of that) I started selling my work on Etsy, which is a fantastic venue for handmade items. I sold my last card there in May 2009, when I just didn’t feel up to cardwork any longer. I tried a handful of times to get back to it. I even abandoned work on a card (well, 6 cards, since I usually made half a dozen of the same card at once to streamline things) that was a precious tribute to a friend who had died the year before.
The troublesome issue with my cardwork was that my father felt far too connected to it all. Before his arrest, he loaned me money for supplies on a number of occasions. He also tied my worth to the cardwork. Because I was “taking from the system” since I’m on SSI, if I was doing cardwork–and more importantly, selling my cards–I was contributing to society. If I had a month, even a week, when I reported that I wasn’t doing any cardwork or listing any cards for sale, I suddenly became a lazy, shiftless burden to tax payers like himself. So in May 2009 I hung up my apron, so to speak, and hoped to feel more positive about it in a few months. By the time November rolled around I not only felt just as strongly about my father’s influence, I also realized it might be nice to have some extra money to make my big Thanksgiving celebration very special. Gotta love Craigslist for bringing sellers and buyers together.
By the time I decided to sell my supplies, I had at least $2000 invested in it all. Hundreds and hundreds of papers. An ever-growing assortment of embellishments. Several dozen colors and textures of ribbons. A nice start to a great stamp and ink collection. Tools of all sorts, including about a dozen punches. Glitter and beads and buttons. At least 600 fonts on my computer. An electronic die-cut machine with a couple design cartridges. Two 6-foot-tall revolving card display racks to show off my latest work. A custom stamp to put my mark on the back of each card I sold. Not to mention the storage for all of this. My setup consumed a 10×12-foot space in our living room. It was grand. But it all felt too tied to my father so I listed it on Craigslist with virtually no hesitation.
Want to know how much money I made from all of that? $200. I sold the die-cut machine to one woman and nearly every last bit of the lot to another woman. I could have made a lot more than that. I’d hoped to get around $500, to be honest. But the Universe had something else in mind. Because the woman I sold the supplies to not only did art therapy with abused teenage girls, she and her husband were fostering two young children whose father had recently been sentenced to about 50 years in prison for doing much of the same things to them as my father had done to me and my niece. It didn’t take much conversation for me to know that essentially donating my many hundreds of dollars of supplies to the non-profit that she worked for was meant to be. It was the right thing, for me and for her and those girls she worked with. I also got to meet those precious children she was fostering. It gave me hope to know that even though they went through utter hell in the few years they were alive before they were rescued, they were rescued and had (have!) a chance at a more normal life than I had in my teens, my 20s, my 30s and now my 40s.
It’s been more than a year and a half since I gave up my cardwork and my supplies. For much of that time I haven’t really looked back. But in the past 9 months or so I’ve had regret about getting rid of everything. Everything! Sometimes I wish I’d packed it all up and had a family member store it for me. But then I remember how my father felt so tied to those items, even ones I acquired after his arrest. I pondered starting over again but the thought of getting back to what I had was overwhelming. It was hard to imagine cardwork without all those supplies, all those options. Poring over papers and then embellishments and inks and fonts and whatever else was a huge part of the process for me. I knew I had to get past the idea that I couldn’t do cardwork without that huge stash.
Early this month, basically on a whim, I bought what–to me–are incredibly basic supplies. Three boxes of pre-cut cards, each box with about 10 printed designs (150 cards total). Three packs of basic, textured cardstock in multiple colors to accent the preprinted cards. Adhesive squares. Adhesive foam squares. That’s it. Then I spent the month waffling, the supplies just sitting there. On several occasions if I’d had access to a vehicle, I’d have dashed back to the craft store to return the stuff. But that’s not what I really wanted to do. I want to make cards, damn it! So I will. I actually opened every package to make it difficult, if not impossible, to return the supplies. Because I know I need that push. I want that push. I’ve cried over this several times in the past week. Tears that release so many feelings about all of this. Tears that release my father’s hold on this aspect of my life. I know there will be more tears. There will be moments of having to leave the cardwork at the table and walking away for a bit. But I want this new start. I need this new start. I deserve this new start.
I wrote myself a mantra right before I started this post. It’s a virtual sticky note on my laptop and it will soon be a printed reminder in my workspace. I will not let myself get overwhelmed by what was, what could now be, or what the future should be. I’m embarking on this card adventure again for the love of it and because I’m good at it and I will take it one day, one card, one supply addition at a time.