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Hello all, I owe you a success story, and I'm writing it now because, whatever happens, what has happened up to now is definitely a success. Five years ago, I moved from New York City to Norwich, UK with my husband. We have had a very wide assortment of problems here, on which I have posted from time to time. For myself, the biggest one has been having no opportunity to do what I truly love, to work in textiles. It was especially hard on me because I had taken so long to figure out a way to earn my living with it, finally going back to school at 50 fo a degree in textile design, and freelancing my way to a full time job after I graduated in May of 2002 (only months after 9/11 so the market for graduates was horrible). I chose Norwich as the place for us to live since it had something like 1000 years of textile history and local schools were still turning out textile graduates. I was sure there would be businesses with work for me, but no such luck. It had all evaporated. Circumstances forced me to take any kind of job, and I kept a job I hated for three years, finally quitting last November, not a good time to go job hunting. After 5 months of unsuccessful hunting (with a Ph.D in Biochemistry as well as experience in publishing and my textile degree I couldn't even get hired to sell curtains), I decided I might as well try to do what I really wanted to do. Results couldn't be worse. It took a good long while, with several false starts, but finally I came up with an idea I just may be able to make work. In two (very cheap) rooms on the second floor of an antique shop, I will be opening a textile incubator on Dec. 1. One room will be a workroom / studio containing all equipment needed to go from fibers to finished products. Initially, the starting point of that is a drop spindle, but I do have looms and knitting machines and sewing machines. 5 aspiring designer / makers will share that space and equipment, along with their ideas and advice and knowledge. The idea is to give them a way to start their businesses without big outlays for equipment and space. The other room will be a sales room / meeting room / class room / lecture room in which we will offer the work we make as well as work by other designer / makers on commission, along with locally grown /raised / processed / spun / dyed etc. materials for others to do creative work. There are local farmers with no market for their wool, for example, and a local dye company, local handspinners, etc. I'll give them a market. We'll also offer classes on starting textile businesses, the skills involved, lectures on Norwich's textile industry, etc. whatever we can think of. Al this has been accomplished on basically no money. Last Friday, I went to a grant event and they loved my idea and kept telling me to ask for more for this or that. They practically guaranteed me the grant. I have one of my aspiring designers already and am trying like crazy to get the word out so I can fill the place. Another organization has found me funishings that I can have on long-term loan. Offers of help are now coming out of the woodwork. I don't know what will happen after all this begins on this coming Tuesday, but I know that whatever happens, I got this faf because I started envisioning what I wanted in a daybook a year before I quit that job I hated and because I had the nerve to go back to school at 50 and try to make a living in a young person's field. If this fails, I'll have had the experience of starting a business to add to my CV. If it succeeds, they just may let me stay in the UK after all. Please send up all you wishes and prayers for this to work, and thank you all for the many discussions up until now. Donna
Good luck, Donna. What a wonderful idea! Well done.
'Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how.
We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.'
-- Agnes de Mille
We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark.'
-- Agnes de Mille
Hooray!!! I knew you could do it!!! I'm so excited for you I can't contain it. Wish I was there to help out...but my spirit is with you. Keep us posted on what's going on and how things are going. Don't be afraid to ask for ideas, help-, cheers....Does the business have a name yet?? What is it?? Does it have a WEB site yet??? (If not you really should have one..if only to just explain what the business is all about... sallypz (MoxieMe)
Thanks for your support. The name of the business is Pocktorian Textiles. That's from a poem in an exhibit of pattern books from Norwich's historic weavers that I saw at the local Archive Centre. The poem was written and published sometime in the 1700's and there were two lines that seemed written for me: Once more, ye Pocktorians, shall your looks and back slums Be made all alive by the clicks of your looms... Then success to the weaving and again my it flourish And bring trade and prosperity once more to old Norwich. I googled the term Pocktorian and came up with one reference to an incident in the 1500's in which Norwich's weavers from a region of Norwich near the Pockthorpe Gates rioted when a rich merchant tried to move in a group of French weavers from Ipswich as competition for the locals. And there is a website. Actually a blog, because blogs are free. I started a new one, taking some of the old posts from a blog I had before that had to do with the development of the idea, along with pages that show work I've done in the past, and I'll be adding to it. It's: www.pocktoriantextiles.wordpress.com Donna
Thank you for this posting, Donna. I was feeling quite depressed this evening until I read about your success, and it really lifted me. BTW, up here in Manchester (UK) you still see job ads for textile designers. But not many... Good luck (from an similarly ancient optimist) Starry
And now for Plan B....... My husband and I were told yesterday that we have essentially no chance of our Visas being extended for further stay in the UK after the end of March. I tried to post yesterday, but was feeling utterly heartbroken, gutted, as they say here. Pocktorian Textiles broke even the first month, December. This month, it is already considerably above that. On Saturday, an assortment of machine knitting equipment was brought in for me to resell. Yesterday morning samples of locally grown wool came in. I was going to order a fleece, or perhaps some of each color, to offer in the salesroom. In the afternoon, actually while I was at the meeting with the immigration advisor, a man who was interested in exchanging a working spinning wheel for some of my scarves, brought the spinning wheel in. In less than a week, I might hear that the grant I had applied for will be funded. (Actually I could hear of three different grants within the next few weeks, but this one is the soonest and most likely to be funded.) It would have paid for advertising and for additional equipment. I've had weaving and machine knitting students, and people were beginning to bring in alterations to be done. I even already had the sketches for my first small collection on my bulletin board and had already made one prototype knit skirt and was working on the master pattern for the woven pants. In other words, there was every indication that Pocktorian Textiles was going to be a success. But it's not enough for the UK's home office. So...help me brainstorm what to do next. Obviously I'll move Pocktorian Textiles as far along as possible and look very hard for a person or organization to hand it on to, and leave the UK knowing I contributed something positive. But what about me? Because of the costs involved in moving, we are likely to arrive in the US pretty deeply in debt and depending on my family for a while. We'll then move on to Charlottesville, where my tiny house is rented out. When the lease runs out, we'll move in, and start over. I do believe I'll try to start the same sort of business there. I've checked and there are no knitting machine dealers at all there. It will be very hard though. I'm 59 and my husband a bit younger, not good ages for starting over with no nest egg and no health insurance. (Just writing that makes me feel very anxious.) I'd appreciate any and all brainstorms you might have for me. Donna
That's a bummer when things were starting to go so well Are there any alternatives to going back to the States? Have you looked into the possibility of moving to Ireland which has a different visa system from UK?
Ouch!! Keep trying to work on extending the visa. My heart goes out to you. I know what it feels like to have the rug pulled out from under you. What about some kind of American outlet for the work being done there in England?? A place to sell their products, wool, handspun yarns here in the US? A good way to do that would be via a website. Is there some kind of textile community in Charlottsville that you can get involved with? Maybe a college or univeristy you can work with/through? What about writing some articles about the work you did---"Renewing the textile industry from the ground up" for a weaving, fiber arts magazine or other type of magazine? Write about the experience you had in the UK for publication. Yes, it is hard to start over when you're in your 50's. I'm 56, life took disasterous turns in the past few years when I lived in Florida---starting with being in the eye of a Hurricane in 2004--last year losing my job and house---my savings has been completely depleted by the extra expenses of the hurricane (my house never recovered) and living on it for the past year since I did not get unemployment....NOw I'm living with family and starting over. Just started a new job...teaching, could only find something part time though...(my "Plan B").....and going back to school for a further degree....because it will give me more job opportunities and it looks like a real retirement will be impossible for me....luckily I have health insurance for me (but not my 10 y/o daughter)..so that's one worry out of the way....Starting over at this age can be disheartening, it seems every few days there are setbacks, but I am keeping my eye on my final goal and that helps keep up my spirits... Research the area you will be living in...on line has lots of resources....come up with a plan...and alternates.....research job/employment opportunities before you get back to the US....even send out resumes if you plan on working at a job.... Keep us posted on how you're doing...will keep thinking too to come up with some ideas.....much good wishes...sending a hug.. sallypz(MoxieMe)