Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Twenty Years Later...

This week is the 20 year anniversary of my trek to the West. What an amazing ride it has been since making that leap! I have been so blessed with the people who have shown up on this journey- lifelong friends, great business colleagues, and even gratitude to the tough ones that have helped me grow too. After the end of a friendship/work relationship that felt more like a breakup, my good friend Linda told me, "People are in your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime". This quote has stuck with me and I feel blessed to have had the most amazing people show up at the right time, whether just for a conversation or a lifetime of friendship.

Kendra & I on our first trip to Reno
What brought me to Reno? Well, at the time of my college graduation, I was itching to get out of Oklahoma. I wanted to move away for "a couple of years". My brother had just moved his family to Reno from Baltimore, so my best friend Kendra and I made a visit out west and for me it was a done deal. It was Kendra's path to stay in Tulsa/Kansas City, where she went on to get her doctorate, got married and had two amazing girls. If my brother had remained in Baltimore, that is likely where I would have ended up too. But Northern Nevada was most definitely destiny on many levels....

Julie & I at my first Design job
In Reno, my first job was at an interior design firm. This pretty much miserable three month stint was actually the most serendipitous thing that could have happened to set up my journey for the next twenty years. I met my other best friend and soul mate, Julie, at this job and she has been my rock ever since. There was much that I learned at this job on a personal level as well as professional. I won't go into all of the reasons it was such a horrible experience, but will say it made a lasting impression and showed me all of the ways I did not want to do business or treat people in general. The last straw was the Scientology weekends we were expected to go to....I got the hell out, but not before meeting some amazing people in the industry and lifelong friends.

One of those friends was Suzanne, my first mother figure in Reno and one of the most dynamic people I've ever met. Unfortunately I only had her in my life for a year and a half before she passed away from cancer. She worked with the same design firm almost as briefly as I did, but it was the perfect timing for us to connect and change my life in many ways. First and foremost, she was responsible for me becoming a working artist. She was having a mural painted in her entry and I made the comment that I had always wanted to be a mural artist. She said, "Well, then do it".  Simple as that, but I guess sometimes you just need someone to say it! So she got me in contact with my first paid mural gig, a painting of Godzilla on a kid's wall and the rest is history. For the next 10+ years, I painted more than a hundred murals and did all kinds of decorative painting and faux finishes in people's homes and businesses. Another suggestion Suzanne had was for me to move in wither her daughter, as we were both trying to save money. That friendship was the most intense friendship I've ever experienced. With many fun, wild adventures, came some pretty dark times. A soul mate of a different sort, whose time in my life helped me with personal growth. Lessons in untangling myself from lies and manipulations that I never thought humans were capable of. Happy to say that two of Suzanne's other daughters remain a light in my life and her best friend Barbara has become one of my dearest friends as well.

After the design firm job, I continued doing murals here and there and made ends meet through waiting tables. Through a contact at the design firm, I got a job at Rapscallion, and being Reno, you can imagine the connections that that job alone spurred for future business endeavors. A typical  pattern in my work experience, my boss saw more potential in me than just a waitress and I was soon working in their office heading up much of the marketing. By then, Julie was working for a tile store and mentioned that she knew a designer who was looking for an Autocad person. I was wanting to keep my foot in the door in the design industry, so I applied for that job which lead to an amazing seven years as a designer. I began working with Kim when she just had a small office in her home. What started as an Autocad gig, turned into help with bookkeeping, then design work and then basically me being her right hand person in all aspects of the business. As Kim's business started to grow, we moved into a great little house in Sparks (then moved two more times while I was there). It was great to see the business take off and be a part of that ride! As with any job, there were ups and downs, but looking back, the memories I have are of hard work, but tons of fun. I will always be grateful for her generosity on many different levels, as well as the work and life experience I gained by working there. That was another serendipitous experience of meeting countless people that would be instrumental in the second decade of my life in Reno.

My last year or so there, I had become restless. I contemplated moving away again, considering a move to North Carolina to be near Kendra. They ended up moving back to Tulsa, so I thought about moving to the Northwest. When I figured out that it wasn't necessarily Reno I wanted a break from, but the design industry, I knew it was time to take the leap to become a full time artist. This was actually tougher than my move out to Reno! One of the great things about my job at the design firm was that it was flexible enough for me to take on mural work and to nurture that growing business. When I went out on my own November 1st 2007, I had plenty of work doing decorative painting, but what was really driving me was my hobby of the last couple of years, MOSAICS! I jumped right in doing large commissions, including the 1200sf mosaic mural at the bottom of the Peppermill Pools.

Because great things happen when you are on the right path, I met my husband in 2008 and we married in 2009. I am so glad I was already working as a full time artist when we met, so I knew I could do it, because soon after we were living together, the economy took a dive. With his support, I was able to get through a few lean years and remain a working artist and pursue my dream. On my end, I took on odd jobs in addition to my growing mosaic business. I helped a friend with her retail boutique, was a personal cook for a family of four and even cleaned a couple of houses on a regular basis. Always on a quest for personal growth, I ended up diversifying my talents by becoming a Reiki Master and certified Yoga instructor. Who knew that combining creativity, teaching, yoga and Reiki would create a unique business model as well as let me share all of my passions with the community? Although I am working my tail off, I am living my dream!

Check out previous blogs for the stories of my whirlwind journey of the past three years- Buying a mosaic tile business, how Reiki has influenced my life, my first retail store in Midtown, moving out of midtown, where Copper Cat Studio name came from, and finding our home for the Healing Arts Center in Sparks.

What a fun ride it's been and I'm curious to see what the next twenty years has in store for me!