Snowflakes, Catch Them When You Can ( Myasthenia Gravis & art)

Myasthenia Gravis is nicknamed the “snowflake disease” because snowflakes are different from one another.  MG patients are  also different from one another.  All muscle groups can be effected by this neuromuscular disease.  The disease can vary, like snowflakes, within the same person from day to day.  Sometimes changes happen from minute to minute for a snowflake patient.

I am sitting in a room with some of my watercolor paintings, framed and hanging on my wall.  These were painted prior to five years ago.  This is when I began noticing my symptoms of Myasthenia Gravis.  My double vision began to distort what I saw.  I could not grip the paint brush.   I dropped it.  This was a profound loss.  I did not understand what was happening to me.   With diagnosis, treatment, and a support group, I have learned how to manage my illness.  It is frustrating to find that I could do something an hour ago, but cannot do it now.   I am learning that I might be able to do it later, after the muscles have rested.

When I lost my ability to create with watercolors,  I explored different mediums.  I found that I also loved colored pencils.  I began catching new snow flakes.  More recently,  I discovered needle felting.  Creating with wool is new to me and I love it.  Because it involves repetitive motion, I need to limit my time with needle felting or my hand muscles weaken.  Art experiences, even when brief, light up my life.  My past watercolors were detailed.  When I lost my ability to see clearly or to control my paintbrush, I experimented with abstracts.  I surprised myself by selling the original and a print of this abstract at JeriAielloartstore.etsy.com. IMG_3551 (2)I do not know if I would have dabbled in abstracts if I were not pushed in this direction.

After having spent several years,  not being able to hold a paintbrush to try detailed watercolors, I find that I am currently able to do it.  When I found that I could do this, a part of me became afraid. What if I can’t continue to do this?  What if I experience this joy and loose it again?  I do not know.  I imagine that I will grieve the loss again.  For now I am grabbing onto my watercolor snowflake.FullSizeRender (2)This is a current detailed watercolor.

I have been a  slow learner, but my illness has taught me to live for the day. I am more present and am able to be in the moment.  When I say, “I can do this” or “I cannot do this”,  it is not a concrete statement. I change frequently.   I would like things to be predictable, but I am not able to predict.  All that any of us have with certainty is right now. My illness keeps me aware of this.

I continue to hear from other MG patients. These fellow snowflakes tell me that they are helped and encouraged by my experiences.  I know that not everyone reading this is an art enthusiast. I also know that  other MG snowflakes have experienced losses.  Perhaps this will be an inspiration to look for alternatives for other particular losses.  For today, I am a snowflake who can paint with watercolors.

 

 

 






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Free Postage?

Can you imagine what would happen if  I went to the post office and said, “Will you please mail this for free”?  Yet those of us, who are artists on e-commerce websites are encouraged to do this to draw customers.  I can understand why  these sites encourage this. When makers offer free postage, it is assumed that they will increase the price of their item to make up the loss.  E-commerce sites get a tiny percentage for each sale.  Last year, one of the larger sites had over 1.7 million sellers.  That adds up.  The site will certainly make a profit from this.  The manipulation is wrong.  I feel like the  site is attempting to manipulate me.  I choose not to manipulate my customers.

This is a difficult situation.   My prices are already reasonable.  I hear this from my customers.  I charge for the cost of my supplies and I have a slight charge for my time.  I definitely make less than minimum wage.

My biggest selling items are jewelry.  I package with a gift box wrapped in  recyclable bubble wrap. This goes into a manila envelope.  For quite some, these packages cost $2.67 to mail.  I charged $3.00 postage for this size item.  This gave me thirty three cents for the box, envelope, bubble wrap, and my trip to the post office. I lost money on a regular basis.FullSizeRender (2)  Last year, The postal service increased to $3.00 for the same sized envelopes.  I raised my postage to $3.50. The fifty cents is a little more fair to me. The fifty cents goes toward the cost of my trip to the post office, and my packaging supplies.

2018 is here.  Again, postage went up to $3.50 for my packages.  I am increasing my shipping and handling charge to $4.00 to help cover my costs. Changing these prices on my site takes time. I will be gradually doing this as I add new things and as I renew seasonal items.FullSizeRender (2)

I am aware that people who are focused on profit and marketing will critique me negatively.  There are types who believe fooling others by saying, “free shipping” is a good business move.  I am proud to say I am not that type of person. I am not Amazon.  I am an old lady working from a tiny studio in my home. I love creating art.  I would be making things whether I sold my creations or not.  I will continue to respect my customers.  I will be honest.  I will continue to live by my life values.

 

 

February, Season of Love

IMG_7824 (2)February causes me to think of spring and relaxation. I know many do not feel the same. I am aware of complaints about a long winter. Some report having an after Christmas let down. Yes, it is true that February sometimes brings heavy snowfall to my Chicagoland area. Our weather is plummeting toward  zero as I write this.  In spite of it all, I like February. For most of us, the Christmas trees are down and decorations are put away. The people who find Christmas stressful can put it behind them until next year.

A big holiday arrives tomorrow. Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog, will step out to look for his shadow. If he does not see his shadow, we will have an early spring. What a lovely holiday.  I have never met anyone who feels pressured by Groundhog day shopping, office parties, or big holiday dinners.  We simply enjoy the antics of our friendly groundhog.  Of course, I did see an online post today that stated Groundhog day is not based on science.  Some yahoo believed he needed to point this out to the rest of us.

Another sign of spring/summer for me is the return of Dairy Queen. Our local Dairy Queen closes up for a few months every winter.  They always reopen in February. This is a promise of summer that makes me smile.                                                    FullSizeRender (2)

Valentine’s Day will be here in two weeks.  Again, we have a low pressure holiday that folks can participate in or not.  For me, Valentines become my featured items at JeriAielloartstore.etsy.com.  I created my new Valentines during December.  I began to feature them, the day after Christmas.  IMG_7874 (2) I have a lot of fun making seasonal art. Customers let me know that they like my Valentine earrings, necklaces and bracelets. A nice feature about heart shaped jewelry is that it looks great all year round. This is different than Halloween and Christmas styles that may be limited to that season only.

I also make heart shaped dream catchers. These make unique Valentines.    IMG_0029 (2)SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESLast year, A customer wrote me a letter about her  terminal illness.  She expressed gratitude and said the dream catcher was the perfect gift for her to give to her love on their last Valentine’s Day. I am touched and honored to have been a small part of their experience.  This was a profoundly meaningful interaction.  Working from a small at home studio leads to different kinds of customer relations. I have formed a nice friendship with a return customer from California.  As time passes, we find that we have much in common. When folks buy gifts, they sometimes write to let me know the recipient liked the present.

During this upcoming week, I will focus on Valentine products at JeriAielloartstore.etsy.com. I also offer a small selection at Artyah.com.  People with paypal can buy directly from me.  A small online business is perfect for me as I cope with Myasthenia Gravis. Sometimes I can work hard on my little shop.  Sometimes I cannot because of symptoms of this illness. Making art gives me a sense of purpose.  Being online keeps me connected when my illness isolates me.  I am moving on through February, the season of love.