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Mary's Talk at the May Group Session in Brattleboro VT

Session 20170520
Saturday, May 20, 2017
Mary’s Talk

“Do What You Love to Do”

Saturday, May 20, 2017 (Group/Hinsdale, New Hampshire)

Participants: Mary (Michael), Aaron (Todd), Adam (Avril), Ann (Vivette), Ben (Albert), Brigitt (Camile), Dan (Zynn), Debbie (Tamarra), Eve (Shaurice), Inna (Beatrice), Jan (Meude), Jason (Spensar), John (Rrussell), Julie (Fontine), Kyla (Amie), Lisa, Listell, Lynda (Ruther), Natasha (Nicole), Naomi (Kallile), Phil (Patre), Roberto (Francine), Rodney (Zacharie), Sandra (Atafah), Togi (Gianni) and Val (Atticus).

MARY: So I’m going to get started with some good news that I want to share with everybody. Some people already know, but I’m going to share with everybody now.

The reason I want to share this is because I listen to a lot of people all the time talking about they’re stuck or they don’t know what to do or they want to do something, and they want to move forward but they don’t know what to do and they don’t know what direction to go in. And they don’t want to work in a regular job and they want to make money, but they don’t know how. And they say to me they’re frustrated, because Elias says, Well, you can make money doing anything, and so that frustrates people because then they’re like “Yeah, right, okay. Well, but he’s dead and we live here, and (group laughter) that doesn’t really work.” But actually, it kind of does.

And I now have an experience about that very thing. What I want to share with you guys is that what I hear so much from people is they can’t think outside the box. They’re thinking about what they should do for a job or how they should make a business or whatever. And I think that a really big key is just to do what you really enjoy doing, what you love to do, and not think about “I’m doing this so I can make money.” Because when you do that, it kind of falls into place without a whole lot of effort and without a whole lot of thinking.

So most of you know that this past year, since Polly has been sick, I got into quilting. (Group applause and laughter) Okay. (Group laughter) When I first started this when Polly first got sick, I had no clue what I was doing. And this is an important piece, because you don’t have to know how to do something to do it – or to try it. (Polly barks) You just need to try. (Group laughter at Polly’s validation) You just need to try something. I had no clue what I was doing, all right? And a couple of years before, I had bought a brand-new sewing machine, a Brother sewing machine, which most of you probably don’t know what that is, but—

PARTICIPANT: The Rolls Royce of sewing machines, thank you very much.

MARY: Thank you. Anyway, it’s probably the most popular, common sewing machine other than a Singer. I bought this Brother sewing machine, and I thought I’m going to get back into sewing. Because I used to sew when my kids were young, and I used to make their clothes and all kinds of stuff.

Now; understand. When I used to sew, years and years and years ago, I used to do it with a Singer sewing machine that my mother gave me. This Singer sewing machine was such an antique dinosaur, all it did was go straight and back, forward and backward. Those are the only two things it would do.

So I bought this Brother sewing machine a couple of years before I started this first quilt. I was so intimidated by it. I was very excited about it, because it did all kinds of stuff and it did a hundred and fifty different kinds of stitches. And I was like, “Oh my god! This is so great.” I took it out of the box and I was so intimidated I put it back in the box. I was like, “Oh my god! I don’t even know how to thread this thing. There’s no way that I’m going to use it.” So, it went back in the box and it stayed in the box for two years. And I did nothing with it.

Then last year when Polly got sick, I decided I needed a project, which you all know, and I decided to make a quilt, and make a quilt about her and about us and our travels together, which I did, which I had no idea what I was doing. Well, I broke out the Brother machine, looked on a YouTube video to see how to thread the stupid thing, because I didn’t know how to thread it. And I was like, “Okay. I’m going for it.” Of course, all I knew how to do was go forward and backwards, but I was learning how to use it.

Now, mind you that first quilt took me a good amount of time to put together, because I didn’t know what I was doing. And after I put that one together I thought, “This has been kind of cool and kind of interesting,” and so I started looking things up and looking at videos and different things and learning how to actually really quilt, how real quilters do it. And I gathered a lot of information. I learned a lot about it. And the more I learned, the more intrigued and excited I got about it, and the more I liked it.

I have a pretty good—I have a geometrical brain, and I like angles and lines and mathematical things. I don’t really like to do math, but I use it a lot in my art. And so this was like a great avenue for me to explore.

Well, the more I explored it and the more I found out about it, I got interested in manufacturers and designers and different kinds of material and found out “Wow! This is almost like painting.” And everybody knows that I used to paint a lot. And this was like, “Wow! This is like my new paint palette. There’s all kinds of colors, all kinds of textures, you can be really creative with it.” And I really started to get into it.

Okay. Since then, fast forward. Now I have done sixteen quilts in the last year. I recently did one for… Donnalie asked me to do one for Allison’s sister, my step-granddaughter. And the company that I bought the fabric from asked me to send in a picture and write a tiny little thing about what it was for, because they were having a contest. And so I thought, “Ah, what the heck!” Now mind you, I had no expectation about that at all, because I’m thinking I’m only been doing this for a year and a half. And not to toot my own horn, but kind of a little bit, I’ve gotten pretty good at it. (Group reaction and chatter)

So… But I still… It is not lost on me that there are lots of people out there that have been quilting for thirty, forty years, and so I’m not even going to compare myself with those people. So I’m thinking, “Whatever, I’ll just do it just for fun.” So I did. And lo and behold, they wrote me back a week later and I won! (Group cheering and applause) My quilt got featured for a week on their site, and they sent me a hundred dollars (group applause) for this quilt, and I was very excited about it and I thought that was just great.

Well, since then, which that was only two weeks ago, okay. Well, in the last week, Donnalie was at the co-op, which is her hangout, and she goes there every day because that’s where she shops, even though I don’t shop there. But she was at the co-op, and this woman that works for the co-op noticed her and noticed a bag that I had made for Donnalie that she uses as a purse. Anyway, the woman grabbed her and said, “Oh, that bag is so cute. I love it. Did you make it?” And she said, “No, my mom made it.” And she said, “Oh! Take my card. Would your mother be interested in selling these at the co-op?” And she said, “I think she probably would.” And she said, “Wait! Would your mom be interested in teaching a class how to do this?” And Donnalie said, “Yeah, I think she’d think that was fun.”

So she came home and she told me and gave me the lady’s card. And I was like, “Oh, that would be fun!” because now I’m a lot more confident because I have gotten pretty good at it, and so I feel confident enough that… And I have, thanks to Lynda, an awesome sewing machine which makes the Brother machine look like a child’s toy. And the Brother machine that I was so intimidated by I now call the putt-putt. (Group laughter) That machine is my backup whenever I have to take the Ferrari in to have it oiled or something, but… Yeah, this machine I have now is like the Bomb. And I learned how to use it. And I know how to use it pretty good. (Group laughter)

But anyway, so I have a meeting next week with this woman, and they will be selling my bags in the co-op, and another person in town will also be selling my bags at the farmer’s market, and I will be teaching some classes on quilting and how to make these bags and whatever, which is wicked exciting for me.

And then – wait, it gets better! (Group laughter) This is all from just doing something that you love to do, not looking for a way to make money on it. I wasn’t looking for a way to make money on it. Okay. Well, you know how that old saying goes: Necessity is the mother of invention. Well, now that I’ve gotten very into this whole craft and quilting, I discovered that one of the tools that quilters used is called a design wall. It’s just a big, giant piece of felt fabric that you put up on a wall that material will stick to. So you can put it up on the wall, and then when you want to put together different blocks for a quilt, you stick them on there and you rearrange them and move them around to see how you want your design to be. Then you take them off, sew them together and make the quilt.

The problem is that quilters are like the forgotten people of the planet, and the only people that pay attention to them or cater to them are fabric manufacturers and designers. But other than that, there aren’t a lot of people doing things or making things for quilters. But quilters use a lot of things. You use a lot of different things, a lot of tools and stuff. And most quilters makeshift things. They make things themselves because they can’t find them anywhere. They can’t buy them anywhere.

You can buy design walls. They run anywhere from $40 to $150. But the problem with them is that most people don’t have a whole entire blank wall in their house, and you need a blank wall for them. Or there are some that are free standing, but then you’ve got to have some place to store them, and they do fold up but you’ve got to set them up, take them down. It’s a pain in the butt. So what ends up happening is that most of them do what I do: they lay it all out on the floor, because that’s your biggest surface in your house. You just lay all these blocks out on the floor, and you arrange them and whatever. But it’s kind of… It’s uncomfortable because you’re crawling around on the floor, moving around this fabric on the floor. Plus, when you stand up, you’re at a weird angle looking at this thing on the floor and so you don’t get a really good view of what you’re trying to put together.

So about a week ago, a little longer than a week ago, I had this brainstorm brilliant idea just for me, that I was going to make my own design wall. I ordered a ginormous bamboo shade. It’s 72 inches wide and it’s 90 inches long. I decided to take this shade, put felt on one side of it and bolt it up to the wall, right where the wall meets the ceiling. That way I can pull the string, roll it down in front of whatever’s on the wall. I don’t have to move anything on the wall. I don’t have to have a blank wall. I can just roll it down in front of the pictures or whatever’s on the wall. I can use it. I have a huge surface, so that it’s big enough for me to block out a whole quilt, which is usually between… They’re usually about 65 inches wide and about 80 inches long. So, this would be big enough to accommodate a full quilt.

And then when I’m done with it, you take all the fabric pieces off of it and roll it back up and then it’s up there by the ceiling. It doesn’t matter. It’s out of the way. There’s nowhere—you don’t have to worry about storage. And who’s going to look at it? I mean, it doesn’t matter that it’s up there by the ceiling and you have pictures on the wall. Nobody’s going to pay much attention to it. So that was my brilliant idea, which I was just going to make for me because it’s convenient and because I need it, and so necessity is the mother of invention.

So I was talking to—everybody knows, I’ve talked about him a lot—Frank in Chicago. And Frank is a businessman. Now I did not expect—and everybody knows Frank is creative and built from the bottom up five different businesses, and he’s in the process of selling one of his businesses now for millions, lots of millions of dollars. So this is a big businessman. Now, because he’s a businessman and I don’t really understand what he does, I was just sharing this story with him as a friend. And I was just excited and saying I had this brilliant idea and I’m so proud of myself that I came up with it. And I told him all about it, and he was quiet for a minute. And then he said, “Oh my god, Mary, that’s a brilliant idea.” And I was like, “I know. Right?” (Group laughter) And he was like, “No. I mean that’s a brilliant idea.” He’s like, “We should make this and we should market this.” And I said, “What?” And he said, “I’ve been looking for a new project.” He’s like, “You know I’m retiring and I’m looking for a new project, something to get me interested in something.” And he’s like, “You need a partner.” And he’s like, “And I’ve got all the people that can manufacture this thing.” He’s like, “And we can put this in every Hobby Lobby and Joann Fabrics in the country.

I was like, “What?” (Group laughter) I was like, “You’re kidding, right?” And he was like, “Oh no, I’m dead serious.” I was like, “Yeah, okay. I don’t even know what to think about that.” And he was like, “Oh, you need to learn how to think bigger.” (Group laughter) I’m like, “Whoa! Okay.” And then I said, “Are you really serious about this?” And he was like, “Oh yeah, I’m really serious about it.”

Oh, he’s so serious about it that he has emailed me three to four times every day since then. And he’s been researching. And he—the other night, Friday night, he wrote me an email and said, “You probably know this already, but I was doing a little bit of research about the market of quilting.” And he’s like, “Did you know there are 22 million quilters in this country alone?” (Group laughter) I was like, “Actually, I didn’t know that.” He’s like, “That’s a huge untapped market.” He’s like, “We can go for it with this market.” I was like, “Oh. Okay.”

So the whole point of this whole thing is that it has really shown me that it’s just a matter of taking a step, one step in a direction that you don’t know anything about. You don’t even know if you’re interested in it or not. I didn’t know whether I was going to be interested in quilting or not. All I wanted to do was take up time so I wasn’t staring at a dying dog all day. I was like, “I need something to keep me busy, and something that’s going to take a long time.”

Of course, now I have discovered that it doesn’t take as long as I thought, and I can pump them out pretty fast. I mean, it only takes me maybe two weeks to do an entire quilt. So, it’s a lot faster than… Which is cool, because there’s a lot of instant gratification going on, which I need. When you have to wait six months before you can see a finished product, which I did with the first one because I didn’t know what I was doing, it kind of gets… You kind of get discouraged and you’re like, “Oh my god. Am I ever going to get finished with this thing?” But now I have discovered all kinds of tricks and tips and techniques and all kinds of stuff. And I can pump one out in a week or two weeks, and it’s pretty cool. And it’s become a really creative avenue.

In that, it’s been a real lesson and it really does work. You really can do anything and make money doing it, even when you’re not looking to make money doing it. I mean you can, if you know what you’re doing… I mean, I am like super passionate about this whole thing. I love doing it. I would do it even if I wasn’t getting any money for it. And believe me, it’s not a cheap hobby. But I would do it anyway, just because I love it.

But now, without looking for it, without going out there and trying to sell my quilts or whatever, it’s like coming to me. People are saying, “Oh, I like that. I want to buy it.” And actually, like encouraging me in my ideas in inventing something. And I mean, who knows? But it’s really, really cool. And what’s the coolest part is that it’s… You don’t have to think about it. You don’t have to wrack your brain and like, “What should I do? How can I make money? What can I do? I don’t want to be in my job anymore and I want my freedom” and whatever.

I was speaking with my daughter this morning about this situation with this woman with the co-op, and I told her. I said, “Well, I will be telling her that this is a limited supply, that I’m not going to be a factory with this, with these bags.” And Donnalie was like, “Well why? Why wouldn’t you…?” And I said, “No. Because I want to do the quilts. I want to be quilting, and I don’t want to take up all my time when I’m not working making bags for the co-op.” I said, “I want to make the quilts.” And I said, “And maybe eventually sell those. We’ll see where it goes.”

I don’t know where it’s going to go. I don’t have any plan for selling them. But after watching this last two weeks, that might just happen and it might just go in that direction, which would be great. But I’m not really looking for that or whatever. I just love to do it, and I would do it anyway.

So I think that that’s a really… I wanted to share this story because it is exciting and it’s really positive. And anybody can do it. It’s just a matter of trying something new that you never did before. Who knew that I would like to do woodwork? Or building things or whatever? I mean, I love it. Do I want to do it all the time? No. But I liked doing it when I was into it. Did I have any clue that I had any ability to do something like that when I first started it? No. I didn’t want to pay somebody $5,000 to build me a bed, so I built it myself. I didn’t have any idea what I was doing when I first started that. But then I kind of liked it. Actually, I liked the power tools the most. (Group laughter) And I liked the noise they make. They’re really loud. It’s like the louder they are, the bigger motor they have, that means it’s really cool. (Group laughter) I like those big motors. They’re fun.

But who would know that… I mean, you don’t know what you might like to do unless you try it, unless you just try something that you never thought about before. My thoughts about quilting for years have always been, “Oh god, that’s way too tedious, way too involved. I wouldn’t want to do that kind of thing.” Who knew? Yeah. And here I am. There it is. It’s totally right up my alley. And the more I learn, the more excited I get about it, and the more ideas I have, and the more I do it.

And so I think that it’s a really inspiring thing to share with other people that anybody can do this in whatever interests you, whatever you really enjoy doing. There’s likely a way that you probably can make money doing it, if that’s what you want to do. But when you’re doing something that you love to do, things fall into place and it becomes easy. Things just happen. And you don’t have to work at it. You don’t have to really like… It’s not a job. It’s not work. It’s fun. And you get up in the morning and you want to do it.

I get up in the morning, and I am so happy that I get up as early as I do, because I’m up two hours before anybody else is up in the house and that machine is on as soon as I get up. And I’m like zzzz! Zzzzz! (Group laughter) I love it! It’s like I have quiet and I have nothing else to distract me or bother me or whatever, and I can just zip through whatever I want to do.

And I can cut… Oh man, I’m like all about rotary cutters. The best invention ever, okay? Like puts scissors to shame. You can woo woo woo woo! So fast. Of course, anybody that you ever try anything like this, let me give you one little piece of advice about rotary cutters. They are so razor sharp, all you have to do is barely touch them and you will cut the shit out of your clothes. They are wicked sharp. And I’ve done it a few times, where I forgot to push the button and close it up, and just brushed it with my hand and the next thing I know I’m like, “Oh! Blood everywhere!” Literally. Yeah. Really sharp.

But it’s… I think that what I would like to just tell you all is if there’s anything that you even think about that you might be interested in—not something you’re crazy passionate about—but anything that you might be interested in or you might be curious about, try it. You might like it. And beyond that, you might be good at it. And if you’re good at it, the possibilities are endless. I mean, who knew at my age I would be doing this and inventing something? That’s pretty cool! (Group applause)

(Audio ends after 31 minutes)