Our first Follow Your Dreams Friday post comes from Kristin Williams, the proprietor of Ephemera Paducah. I love the idea that a big birthday can be the impetus for big plans! Thanks for the reminder to keep dreaming, Kristin!
I remember exactly where I was on Interstate 24, and exactly how I felt. Making my way to Atlanta from Paducah for what seemed like my 100,233,978th
economic development conference, I was as uninspired as could be with what lay ahead. Feeling spent, and dreading, absolutely dreading, turning 50 (albeit 13 months away), it hit me that I had to make a change. My “aha” moment came about Exit 78 cruising down the highway near Murfreesboro, TN.
On long car trips I always have a big blank pad of paper and Sharpie in the passenger seat so I can jot down ideas as I drive. I reached over and wrote, “How can I get excited about turning 50?”and began fleshing it out.
My first career started in Knoxville, Tennessee as I pursued a Master’s Degree in Planning at the University of Tennessee where I specialized in economic development. Over the course of eight years, I worked at a high tech recruitment organization and chambers of commerce in Tennessee helping companies locate or expand in my community. I assisted companies like M&M Mars, Kimberly Clark, and countless others cutting deals, navigating tax breaks and developing industrial parks so they could create jobs.
The nature of chamber and ED jobs is to move to larger organizations as one’s career progresses (involving changing cities), which is what brought me to Paducah in 1996. Falling in love and getting married was a good life change in 1999, but limited my opportunities career-wise unless I wanted to move again. The alternative was going it alone, and In August of 2000 I started my second career, a consulting business called KRW Strategies. I enjoyed working with ED groups, non-profit organizations and private businesses for close to 12 years. Meeting facilitation, organizational development, employee assessments, and strategic planning were all in my wheelhouse.
As much as I loved the freedom of consulting, it became quite lonely. Working directly with clients was fulfilling, and the rush walking out of a successful meeting helping to solve an organization’s problems was great, but those events occurred in-between long stretches of staring at a computer screen in a home office writing reports. There were days when my first audible conversation of the day occurred when my husband walked in the door at 5:30 pm.
My stress reliever or “happy place” during downtimes was daydreaming about owning an arts and crafts workshop space and retail store. As I was falling asleep on ick days having navigated curmudgeonly boards of directors or watched my consulting work get shelved by clients, I imagined rows paints and brushes and my fingers covered in glitter or clay.
Starting about 2004, I began taking an annual trip to what I affectionately call “craft camp,” exploring Mixed Media techniques at art retreats. My chamber of commerce background kicked in when I critiqued the hospitality, afforded or not, to those like me who had traveled 1,000s of miles to take workshops. I kept thinking, “I could do this better.”
Being “crafty” has always been a part of my life. I’ve done everything and still love doing everything from card making to painting to embroidery to encaustic. My mother was the most talented woman I’ve ever known, and I grew up appreciating always having a creative outlet in my life.
During my “professional” days, however, I’d deny my need to create when I had a deadline in front of me. If I wasn’t working on my paying gig, some weird psychology kept me away from a crafting. Kind of a “I had to finish dinner to deserve dessert” mentality. In retrospect, having that absent from my life was a big part of feeling so unfulfilled.
So, back to the big blank piece of paper on the passenger seat barreling down I-24. At that precise moment, I decided my 50th Birthday present to myself was to quit economic development, quit talking about opening up a creative business, quit dreaming about it, and just do it. And I did. I spent age 49 plotting and scheming.
After finding the perfect location in Paducah’s LowerTown Arts District, my husband and I became property owners of a facility constructed in 2007 specifically for an artist studio and retail space. May 17, 2013 was opening day of Ephemera Paducah.
Ephemera Paducah hosts art and craft workshops on a regular basis ranging from those national mixed media instructors I sought out at “craft camp” to fun Girl’s Night Out Pinterest-type parties. Being a start-up, I’ve had many of those days staring at a computer screen, but the good news is it’s now MY JOB to be crafty.
The best news is, though, turning 50 was my best birthday ever.
The goal of Ephemera Paducah is to be the least intimidating, most fun, most creative, and most inviting place to learn new art & craft techniques, pick up interesting supplies, and share the joy with other everyday artists. Located at 333 N. 9th
Street in Paducah, Kentucky. Find out about workshops and events at www.EphemeraPaducah.com
Uh-fem-er-ah – Items of memorabilia, typically written or printed, originally expected to have short life, but salvaged and savored by astute everyday artists!