Big Joe in action.

Why You Shouldn't Always Listen to Your Dad

Stained. Glass. Artist.

Like the random return of a Magic 8-Ball, that was my high school career test results.

Now, I know what you’re thinking (because I was thinking it too). Wow. That is REALLY SPECIFIC. I mean, aren’t those tests supposed to return more generic things like Sales! Teacher! Lawyer!

Nope. They get down to the very nitty gritty of your future, just shy of giving you a detailed map of how to get there. And although I don’t want to say it was my destiny, (to become a Stained Glass Artist), the direction of Artist was a path I struggled with and denied for years until I finally stood outside its window with my boombox held high. So why did it take me years to get HERE, to this very place?

Because my dad was afraid he would have to cover my (hypothetical) medical bills. Don’t worry, you read that right. I allowed my father to scare me into a more conventional career with the image that I would be hit by a car…

while riding my road bike…

down a winding road…

all alone.

I would end up in the hospital, suffering from severe, life-threatening injuries (beautiful, right?). Skip ahead to my miraculous recovery and I’m slapped with a bill that would make even Kanye cry. And because I’m a Stained Glass Artist, I obviously am a starving artist who needs a bail out from Dear Old Dad.

Horrified by this impending doom, I skipped the road less travelled and hopped on the freeway.

One degree, two degree, more. I was going to be a Special Education teacher. (Teacher!) Then one New Hampshire night (waaay back) in 1997, a friend and I were locked inside her house by a winter storm. With little else to occupy our time, my friend taught me how to make wire-wrapped jewelry.

Cue the heaven’s parting and angels singing.

It would be a great story if that was the very moment I knew what I should do with the rest of my life, but then I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t completely ignore the signs. No, I kept trucking along, working at one job, then the next; all of them the cookie-cutter careers that were “safe” and would cover that looming (nonexistent) medical bill. All of them feeling like a thing I had to do.

Fast-forward to 2004. I’m engaged to the Good Doctor and I think to myself, “I don’t want to spend money on expensive rings. I’ll just make them.” One silversmith class led to another and another and…well, you get the point. What started out as a small flirtation quickly grew into a salacious love affair.

By 2011 I was setting up shop in Bellingham, Washington's historic Fairhaven. My small artist studio, located in an old Victorian Italianate building circa 1892, has every tool, every creature comfort and homegrown inspiration, from the original hardwood floors to the vintage Douglas Fir frame mouldings (and the occasional visit from mysterious ghosts).

Hobby? Okay.

Passion? Definitely.

Never-ending Joy? Hell Yeah.

Here, in this moment, I am an artist. I craft pieces of wearable art that reflect my personal aesthetic, a classic style that is sublimely simple. What I design and produce is authentically me to the core. I have spent too many years ignoring what me meant, trapped in a prison of my own making, held hostage by someone else’s definition of success.

And like a newly-liberated woman, I’m making up for lost time.

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