Falling backwards November 02 2013, 0 Comments

As much as I try to catch up with my list of things to get done, the more I seem to fall behind. It's now November and I'm still wondering where the summer went? This summer found me exploring my childhood towns of Marblehead and Rockport Massachusetts with my daughter Olivia. We began our trip by visiting my older daughter Johanna who was interning in Washington DC, as part of her UC Davis International Relations major. We explored the Newseum with my brother Steve and his wife Gerri who are both teachers in the area and have raised a family of teachers and counselors. Rewatching the news footage of the assassination of JFK was quite moving for all of us, as was finding the newspapers from the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco and the victory of the North in the Civil War.

  
Taking the train from DC to Boston was both relaxing and beautiful and Marbelhead was just a quick rental car drive away. We stayed with my middle school friend Nancy Clasby in her sweet New England cottage and rode bikes and swam in the freezing cold ocean. But it was Rockport that held my memories of young adolescence, having left the New Jersey suburbs after my parents divorce for a more bohemian lifestyle in this oceanside tourist town. It was a time of immense change and growth; of free love, drugs and Woodstock for my older sisters, while I spent time forming close friendships outside my family.

  

Touring the old sites with Olivia to see where I grew up proved to be short-lived. Pretty boring stuff for a 16 year old. I knew I'd have to return again to spend more time, and instead took the opportunity to try new adventures together. We had the obligatory boiled  lobster and fried clams dinner and then stopped in to have our portrait taken in civil war uniforms and antebellum costumes. Next morning we went kayaking on the ocean with a tour group for a view of my home town I'd never seen before. It was a sparkling, glorious day for contemplation while happily paddling alongside Olivia, who was entertained by the handsome young instructors.

  
Sending Olivia off to fly home solo to San Francisco was bittersweet. I boarded a flight to New York for the International Gift Show for my work as a sales rep for Keena and 12 Small Things. My short few days there were filled with visiting vendors, seeing their new products and helping with customers. My evenings were filled with a series of events for Aid to Artisans and By Hand Consulting. The former president of ATA, Claire Brett Smith, was being given a special lifetime achievement award and I was honored to be introduced to her right before her speech. After growing up and raising her family in New England she asked me, "What was I supposed to do, play tennis?" Instead she put her heart and soul into Aid to Artisans, a non-profit organization created to assist artisans in underdeveloped communities around the world in the promotion of their crafts. Karen Gibbs from By Hand Consulting introduced the honors with colleagues giving great testimonials about their work with this remarkable woman.

  

The next morning I was on a panel for Aid to Artisans training program, along with Stacy Spivack from Ten Thousand Villages, John Robshaw, founder of John Robshaw Textiles, Laurel Brandstetter of Mar Y Sol Accessories and Todd Hall, the supply chain director at 3form. We were asked questions by Docey Lewis and the attendees about our experience purchasing handmade goods for our business. One attendee, Nivedita Chandrappa, asked if any of us would consider buying from her organization Wishwas, helping women from Bangladesh find employment in New York by sewing products for designers. With the recent garment factory disaster in their homeland, I thought many Americans would be interested in supporting such an organization. When I returned home I emailed John Robshaw about a possible collaboration with ATA and Wishwas to come up with tabletop products for Mother's Day 2014. Add it to my list of things to do!

On top of everything else this summer, I was determined to switch my website over to an easier platform to manage. I got my website team back together with Meredith Peck designing and Trevor Sterns customizing a new 12 Small Things website on Shopify. I hired an intern from the College of Arts and Crafts, Shushan Tesfuzigta, to help me with the content transition and help contribute to social media support. Shushan is studying textile and sustainable design and is interested in the ethnic contributions from weavers from her family's roots in Eritrea. Shushan was a good sport and helped model new shawls and accessories for our fall collection, photographed by Mark Johann.

  

We had a sunny fall day up on Bernal Hill but with strong wind gusts advisory warnings. By this time of year the hill is brown from the summer sun and our first shots were looking like the Sahara desert. Seaking higher ground, Shushan suggested we try using the clay slate as background against the blue sky. I loved the effect but Mark needed me to shade the direct sun off her face. I volunteered to stand on top of the rock formation with the scrim acting as a sail I thought would blow me to an untimely death. With each gust I tried my best to keep my grip and not sail off with the ravens. Laughing through it all, we got our shot and returned to the safely of the neighborhood sidewalks for the remaining photos.

I am so happy to finally launch my new site thanks to everyone's help. I am particularly enamored with the website's ability to showcase video of the artisan groups I feature. My first video is beautifully produced by Indigo Handloom, showing the amazing amount of handwork and care that go into the beautiful shawls currently available for sale on 12 Small Things. A big thank you to Smita Paul for letting me share her company and artisan's stories with you. As I prepare for the holiday season right around the corner I realize I have chipped away at my to do list, a little bit at a time, even though the days are so fleeting. Glad I didn't drown kayaking in the Atlantic or fly off the cliff into the Pacific, as we fall back to shorter days, longer nights and a whole lot more to do tomorrow!