When I first moved to Floyd, 21 years ago, it didn’t take me long to look around and say to myself, “I have to learn to make something.” Here in Floyd, what one can make with their hands becomes a currency, whether it be wooden bowls, clothes, flutes, pots, or stained glass. Back then, it was especially true, as many of us were raising children full-time and living on very low incomes. We had a yearly Barter Faire for showcasing our wares and selling or trading them. For a time, some of us used the Lets System (Local Economic Transfer System), a way to exchange goods and services using local Lets credits.
As a newcomer, I admired the translucent and iridescent hanging beaded earrings that several alter-native women in Floyd were making and wanted to learn to make some of my own. Those women became my first teachers. I was amazed at how freely they shared what they knew. There were no classes to take or book instructions to struggle with. We met informally around someone’s kitchen table or by a neighborhood pond in summer and beaded together.
My friend Juniper took me under wing. She actually paid me to string necklaces for her craft business, first in a little studio shed on her property and later in one of her two bead shops. While working part time for her, my beaded jewelry evolved into gemstone and sterling wire-wrapped pieces. I developed my own line of jewelry, and for a while I lived the life of a craftsperson. In between raising my sons, I stocked stores, went to craft shows, and sometimes traded my jewelry for other things I needed.
When I began doing full time foster care for adults with developmental disabilities in the mid 90s, my income improved, and I no longer had the time or inclination to make jewelry. But the lifestyle of working at home, making my own hours, and having something concrete to use as currency stuck with me.
After retiring from nine years of providing full-time foster care in my home, I now work no more than one week a month at it. The rest of the time, I write. Writing is my new cottage industry. It’s a natural extension of who I am and how I live. There are even some in-house published books involved. I stock them in stores, have sold some at shows, and have been hosted to do a few book-signings or talk to local book club groups. I even have a storefront, where I put in a few hours of work each day. It’s called Loose Leaf Notes, and you are there.
Originally posted on loose leaf notes on June 6, 2006.