28 August 2012

Of Philadelphia

This post is overdue.
I had the honor of assisting Richard Salley with
some of his workshops being held at Philadelphia's
Bead Fest earlier this month.

I hadn't been to Philly since I was a kid.
Hadn't flown on a plane in years.
Hadn't taught more than two people at a time, ever.
And Richard Salley?
Hello, Nervousness.

I landed in a spell of atmospheric chaos,
and the looming storm somewhat mirrored my anxiety.

I'm such a country girl.
The rain and the traffic, the pavement,
the size of the airport-
I felt small on the ground.
Philly was a gray cacophony and I'm used to green calm.
Oh, and cowgirl boots look out of place there.
They're Stetsons on my feet, people, not stag beetles!

We have backed up roadways, too, don't get me wrong.
For example, I know that at certain times during tobacco season,
I'll need to leave early to get The Monkey to school-
otherwise, I'll get stuck behind a tractor and we'll be late.
That's just the way it is around here.

It's a different pace, Philly and The Quay.

The storm broke just after I landed.
I walked the terminal and felt a bit like I was drowning in doubt
and a myriad of other emotions.
Did I belong there?

I was surprised then, though I'm not sure why,
to see such a sweet display of humanity before
I even left the airport.
She was lost.
And limping.
So he called her a cab.
So simple.

...and then somehow I felt a little more brave.

* * * * *

Richard proved to be every bit the inspiring and kind man
remembered, having taken a class with him myself
well over a year ago.
Hailing from two different parts of the country,
his southwest ease nevertheless fit well with my
southeast edge-- and we spent the week shuffling boots
together through the urban Philly expo.

Our classroom for the week was the exposition center bar, which
had been emptied out of all the "fun" stuff and stocked instead
with work tables.  We sawed and soldered, taught and talked 
beneath the grinning girls on the Budweiser posters.

I thought it fit us pretty well.

While designing the layout of the classroom,
Richard's arm found a loose staple along one of the table's edges. And honestly, what cowboy carries a first aid kit?
So we dug up some painter's tape and made a makeshift bandage.
He's the only guy I know who can make blue tape look badass.

The classes themselves went well, I thought.
Aside from set up and break down, all I really did was follow behind his demos and samples with question answering and
technical skill support.

That's me.
The sidekick.

The students seemed pleased with what they gained from each class, and with what they made.
I gained something too.
I truthfully wasn't sure how I'd enjoy teaching-
I don't tend to be the most patient person all the time,
and I often find myself stumbling over my words,
unsure that I'm explaining things well.

Honestly the entire experience
was at once humbling and fulfilling.  I felt inspired by those around me- those whom were so excited to be learning something new, who felt new doors were opening to them.  They were sweet, attentive, funny, they were creative and kind.  They were quick, they were brave.  I heard stories of why they had come, the places they had left, what they hoped to do, who they hoped to be. And in that barroom turned classroom I learned a few things about myself as well. I'm going to be just fine. I'm starting a new chapter in my life and every voice, every fist clenched around a tool or a torch in that room that week added
some small measure of confidence in my own ability to thrive. To grow. As an artist. As a person.

As a woman venturing into something unknown but full of potential.

It is true that when a door closes, another opens.
The wedding band is off.
I met with a lawyer yesterday.
And I don't know what the future holds for me anymore.

What I do know, or what I'm beginning to know at least,
 is that I have other gifts to offer, even small gifts.
An ear.  A hand.  Maybe a skill or two that's worth sharing.
And gifts are amazingly being offered to me as well-
large and small.
Faith.  Confidence.  Validation.
The return of an ear or a hand,
the opportunity to try something new.
And, the greatest, the gentle shove into the next phase
of my life- an expectation of me to do and be more now that my world (namely, my son) will demand it.

Barring all fear, there is hope.
There is optimism.

I left under a calmer sky that Saturday.
It was the lighter feeling in my gut that told me I'd dropped
arms in Philadelphia. Instead I flew home with a certain peace.
Life is funny. How different my world is from what I imagined it would be just six short months ago.

I look forward to assisting more.
To teaching more.
To talking and interacting with others who are so passionate about creating and learning.
I look forward to joy.
To travel.
And meeting myself again along the way.


  1. You never cease to amaze me...keep on rocking Jess!! <3

  2. As I'm reading this, never have the words "Take Flight" seemed so appropriate.

  3. 1. You are a wonderful & patient teacher.
    2. You are a caring and loving mother.
    3. You are creative and a crazy talented artist.
    4. You are generous beyond words.

    These few things are more than most people can say about a dear friend, maybe ever. You are going to be better than fine.

    The Texas branch is proud of you and sends a Texas sized hug for our courageous mentor, sister and friend.

  4. I agree, Nancy.....Jess, you will be fine....you are strong, you are woman and you are a mother. You rock!

  5. Oh, Jess. I just love you. I hope you got the email I sent a few weeks ago. I know you have a lot on your plate right now. I do too. It's been two months for me (already) and I'm starting to get used to the band not being on my finger. It gets better, day by day.
    Massive Hugs and Sunshine, doll. You got this.

    * the tape bandage is hilarious to me because I have seen that done many many times in the garage.

  6. You are so much; never settle for little. You have been blessed with many gifts; you are a blessing in so many of our lives. Never forget that.

    Much love as you journey forth...

  7. Girl you have skills and gifts just spilling out of that life of yours. Dont EVER forget it. You know that the journey you are beginning is how I spent 2011-if you need anything, you know where to find me.
    Much love,

  8. OMG I can't believe you were there and I did not get to meet you. I was selling my wares for the first time at Bead Fest and I was trapped behind my table. I wanted to take Richard's class so badly, maybe next year.

  9. I cannot tell you how much joy these words bring me. You will be just fine. You are so resourceful and inspiring, there will be no lack of students or work for you to fulfill your desires and needs. And love! Love abounds. It comes from so many directions, often from where we least expect it. LOVE.

  10. Amen girl, good luck to you x

  11. Thank you everyone for such support and enthusiasm. I don't really have the words to describe what that means to me- please know it's a great deal.

  12. The record would not be complete regarding this posting if I did not add a few words from my vantage point. Jessica makes it sound as though all she did was follow up after my demos and answer a few questions. That would be understating her contribution to the success of each class. Many students made an extra effort before they left class to personally thank Jess for her help and guidance...it was evident to me that she made a definite impact on several lives.
    Although it was our first time working together, Jessica made it seem to me and the entire class that we were a finely oiled machine and had done this for years. With minimal instruction from me, Jess anticipated every need and filled in every hole that I had overlooked. She performed every task with thoroughness and exuded confidence and authority. She was a natural in brand new setting.
    It was a joy and privilege to work with you, Jessica, and I look forward to many more opportunities.

  13. Jess you are an inspiration to me ~ strong, yet sensitive and always there to have an encouraging word even when you are wading through mud yourself. ♥

  14. You have been a great inspiration to me as well...you will find yourself again..eventually..I m sure.

  15. Shoot. Well that right there? That makes the mud so worth wading through. I love you women.