Have you ever been someplace where you felt instantly at home? Where you looked around and said to yourself, these are my people? I experienced that recently at the National Art Educator's Conference at McCormick Place in Chicago, and let me tell you... it was awesome!
We've been working with art educators since we first met a local high school teacher at a local show seven or eight years ago. She was intrigued by the needle felting, and wondered if she could do it in her classroom. She decided she would do pictorial needle felting, first having the kids pick out their photo for inspiration and then felting it on a "canvas" made of an old t-shirt! It took off, and before long, that teacher was not only felting in one class, but now in multiple schools. She and her colleagues invited me to my first Illinois Art Educator's Conference as a guest presenter in their class on needle felting. We had a booth with all our wool roving. It was a huge hit, and I began to meet some fabulously inspiring teachers from all across the state.
As each year grew, we kept infusing more schools with the creativity of fiber and our booth became a favorite mainstay at the Illinois conference. We developed some wonderful relationships with these teachers, and I even have done some artist-in-residency programs in their schools.
Their creative vision for fiber arts has energized me, and I knew this was a place I belonged. There was such enthusiasm, it was just contagious! So when a little bird told me nearly two years ago that the national conference was going to be in Chicago, I knew we had to be there. It was big; bigger than anything we'd done before. But as they say, "go big or go home"!
So we sent in the application, wrote the check, crossed our fingers and sent up prayers. Yet deep in my heart, I felt we were taking a big step in the right direction. Big changes are not easy, and not without some trepidation about the unknown. Though sometimes you get a gut feeling and you just have to go with it. It's a little thing called blind faith. A lot of amazing people did amazing things this way. A lot of things in this world were changed this way. A lot of the future was forever transformed by this belief.
So for three surreal days, I watched my dreams come to life as we met teachers from across the country! I heard stories of how fiber was transforming their art programs in places from coast to coast, and shared my skills and ideas with hundreds and hundreds of educators eager to learn. We felted acorns as a make and take and were one of the most popular booths in the vending hall! (Which is really something considering we were among the likes of Blick, Crayola and Sharpie!)
It was energizing, invigorating, fulfilling and encouraging, and I'll be sharing more in upcoming posts. So..... am I glad to have taken the plunge? I can truly, wholeheartedly, say YES! So what ever is in your dreams but beyond your bravery, be encouraged to jump into that place of change, growth and uncertainty. You never know what awaits you!