Thursday, July 2, 2009


I've been keeping an online journal through my yahoo account, and it was mainly intended to keep non-local friends and family updated, since we live so far out of the way. Eventually, it became more of a place to share my efforts at creating a sustainable life in the country, and running a home-based art business. Yahoo recently made a change, and I don't care for it. So here I am.

My husband and I bought 5 acres in the country near Olympia, WA in 2002. We couldn't afford anything close to town and wanted enough space to grow our own food and own goats. This property had a 1970 mobile home and outbuildings, a mix of forest, pasture, and wetland with a 30-foot waterfall dropping down to a little creek, and the surroundings are beautiful. It's all farms and State forest.

That fall, I became pregnant. I thought I would keep my part-time job at The Evergreen State College and that my life wouldn't change all that much. We had my daughter in the mobile home, in a birthing tub with midwives and two great friends present. It soon became clear that a return to work would not be easy. We don't have any family or friends nearby, and I could not imagine dropping my baby off at a daycare. Besides, we couldn't afford it. My husband is a teacher, and we have been scraping by until recently. I tried to take her to work, nursing her in a sling during staff meetings, pacing with her when she cried, struggling to get her to sleep (which she never did.)

When a question came up about the college budget and my position, I left. I tried to find other work at first, and did work as a Visitation Supervisor, which is a flexible job. But it was incredibly hard to find places to leave my baby at different times and different days each week, and after expenses, I found I earned about $300 per month. It wasn't worth it.

Around the same time, I was asked to to my first mosaic installation for a restaurant in Olympia. And not long after that, I was chosen by a jury to be the featured artist for Olympia's Spring ArtsWalk. I had also signed up for a business workshop offered through Enterprise 4 Equity, which is a non-profit that helps low income people create an effective business plan. Things came together, and I began working full-time as an artist.

So we have a small "hobby farm" in the country where we are learning to grow our own food. We raise chickens for eggs and turkeys for meat. We have five Nigerian Dwarf Goats that we have tried to milk, but have given up. They are sweet and they eat our weeds. We also have 2 cats, 3 dogs and a ferret. The goal for this year is to learn to preserve the food we harvest. In the past, we have just frozen what we could.

I just completed my largest commission yet, for an elementary school in Seattle. It took me 9 months, and I really got sick of doing it, but I was very happy the other day to receive payment for the job. I'm making just enough for us to do extra things, and for my daughter to take gymnastics and swim classes.

My work has an environmental focus, so I sell mainly at recycled art fairs. I use mostly salvaged materials. My reputation and skill has been steadily growing, though I am always aware that I have far to go. I now teach workshops, which brings in additional extra money now and then.

I will continue to write about being a mosaic artist, the environment, and the experience of trying to live sustainably by using less energy, growing our food, and finding innovative ways to reduce and reuse.

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