Saturday, March 04, 2017

I Just Closed My Business....

With very mixed feelings, sadness and joy all jumbled together, I closed my business with the state of Washington today, retroactive to December 31, 2016.

It's super great to think about never having to keep track of business miles, save receipts for every little business expense, do the tedious bookkeeping, take end-of-the-year inventory, or prepare everything for taxes.... Not ever again will I have to do any of those odious tasks!

Robin Atkins, bead artist, teacher, author
Me, celebrating 41 years in business as Artist - Teacher - Author
On the other hand, my business has pretty much been my "identity" since 1975. That's 41 years - more than half of my life. What am I now? How will I respond when somebody asks, "What do you do?" Will I say, "Oh, I'm retired now?" Will I say, "I'm an artist?" It feels a little like I'm walking around 3/4 naked, the clothes of the past 41 years gone, the remaining artist clothes not enough to cover my nakedness.

But, we will not have any crying over spilled milk; the deed is done; the authorities officially notified. And, with respect, I thought it might be fun to share a few photos here, photos of the business me, and the story in more-or-less chronological order.

It all started when I met Liz Chenoweth, who is still my closest friend, and who at the time was studying metalsmithing at the University of Washington and I think working for a commercial jewelry manufacturing business in Seattle. I got the bug from her. After taking a short class in soldering sterling silver to make jewelry, I bought a workbench and all the tools, getting into it full-tilt-boogie! Liz helped me, teaching me all that she knew, and helping me to realize the design ideas I had.

Robin Atkins and Liz Chenoweth, metalsmithing studio
Liz (on the right) and me in our metalsmithing shop, The Fort
I don't recall the exact date that I drove to the Department of Licensing to get my business license, but on that day, I named my business Atkins Creations, because I intended to make and sell sterling silver (and a little later, gold) jewelry. I bought a handsome, red, ledger book, and began the 41 year process of keeping track of all expenses and all income, mostly for tax purposes.

Robin Atkins, sterling silver, man's ring
Sterling silver ring, commissioned by a male customer
New-beginnings.... in the spring of 1975, Liz and I decided to set up a metalsmithing shop in the spare bedroom in my little home in Ballard. Removing all other furniture, we put in side-by-side workbenches, and installed a polishing table/motor. We called our shop the Fort, because we were just like kids in the summer, when we couldn't wait to be in our "fort," our hideaway, our own special place. We both had day jobs, but we lived for spending time in the Fort. My job was 5 days on, followed by 5 days off, which was great because I could work with metal for 5 consecutive days at a time.

Robin Atkins - sterling silver necklace with jasper stone and leather
Jasper stone set in sterling silver, sterling clasp, leather cord - this is a man's necklace
We sold our work at some of the craft fairs of the time, but mostly we held "open studio" days at my home, slowly building a fairly decent client list. Eventually we made most of our money doing commissions. It was a marvelous, fun time in my life. That's for sure!

Robin Atkins, metalsmithing, selling at open studio
This is the display of my silver and gold creations at our second "open studio," 1977
Three years later, in 1978, I started a new "day job," one which quickly turned into something much more demanding of both my time and creative energies than had been my previous job. Soon, I could no longer continue making and selling jewelry at the previous pace. And, by the early 1980s my jewelry tools and supplies were lonely and dust covered. But, I didn't close the business officially.

Robin Atkins, beaded multiple strand necklace
Multiple strand necklace in style taught by Carol Berry
The hook was still set, because in 1987, I took a 2-day class from Carol Berry on making multiple-strand beaded necklaces. BEADS! In those two short days, I fell absolutely bonkers in love with beads, and within a few months, I was back in business again.

Robin Atkins, beaded multiple strand necklace
Multiple strand necklace I made as a "project" for Margie Deeb's book, The Beader's Color Palette
This time, I added the name Beads Indeed! to the official license, making it Atkins Creations - Beads Indeed!  Nice, huh?! Plus I quit my day job, deciding to support myself somehow with beads. Not easy. Especially for the first few years. Hard work and lots of rice for dinner. Since the selling part of making gold/silver jewelry was never fun for me, I decided to make my living this time by selling beads (just the "raw" beads, not made into jewelry) and teaching classes. If I sold a few pieces of beaded jewelry, that would be fine, but there would be no pressure to pay the bills by promoting my own creations. On the other hand, selling beads WAS fun; and buying beads to sell was even more fun!

 By 1988, I sold my metalsmithing equipment, and turned my garage into a studio/store for both selling beads and teaching beading workshops. For 10 years, that was my life, my identity... Beads Indeed!, open every Wednesday of the year, classes most weekends, open for your beading needs at any time by appointment.

It worked! I could have my cake (beading/beadwork) and eat it (selling beads and teaching classes) at the same time. You have to know that back then I did not in any way consider myself an artist. I knew I was a pretty good craftsman, making jewelry that would last and that looked great technically. But I did not think of myself as a creative person.

Robin Atkins, improvational bead embroidery
Generations, a small pouch, my first improvisational bead embroidery piece
The discovery (made mostly by Carol Berry, with some input by me) of "improvisational bead embroidery" in 1991 caused a shift, both in my sense of identity and my business. Gradually, stitching beads on fabric without a plan, letting a piece develop bit by bit without trying to control it, and thankfully with no intention of ever selling it, altered my perceptions about myself as a craftsman, turning me into an artist.

This was such a huge alteration of identity. It made me feel more sure of myself as a teacher, and gave me the confidence to promote my workshops far beyond the walls of my studio/shop. I traveled to many states, teaching at conferences, for bead shops and guilds, branching out to teach beading to quilters and fiber artists, eventually even teaching at art schools. All in all, Beads Indeed!, in Seattle turned into a pretty decent business. I could afford to eat out now and then, plus travel to far away places, like China, Germany, and Eastern Europe, on bead-buying trips.

Those 10 years, immersed in beads, with a growing sense of myself as an artist, gave me the confidence to begin writing books about beading, which in turn, provided another source of income, income I would need after moving from Seattle to San Juan Island, where I could no longer depend on selling beads to support myself because the population base was so small.

Robin Atkins, improvisational bead embroidery
Marriage Bag, a small purse I made while deciding if I should marry Robert
That move, in 1998, was because I met a man, who a few years later became my husband. He already lived on San Juan Island, which was a plus for me, because I love it here, much more than living in a big city, even though Seattle is quite nice as cities go. I still traveled widely and fairly frequently to teach beading workshops, but I needed to fill the time when I was home and also needed to earn more money. The answer came easily... write books about beading! My first book, One Bead at a Time, was published in 2000, and was re-printed 3 times. Including two small booklets, there are now nine books with my name as the author.

book by Robin Atkins
My first book, published in 2000

book by Robin Atkins
My most recent book, published in 2013
I guess my business identity, for the past 41 years, can be summarized as: "teacher-artist-author." But, in the last two years, it's been mostly "artist," with much less teaching and no further book writing. Business income has dwindled to a pittance, I'm 74 years old, and I don't enjoy the record-keeping. Even my accountant agreed. So today I pulled the plug on Atkins Creations - Beads Indeed! Already there are new questions facing me, questions such as:
  1. What shall I do with the remaining inventory of my book, Heart to Hands Bead Embroidery?
  2. Shall I keep paying for my website (my domain name and web service), which includes my primary email address, and which badly needs to be updated?
  3. Shall I continue teaching now and then, maintaining the necessary supplies to do so?
  4. Can I immerse myself in creating things (quilts, art, bookmaking, beading, etc.), with no intention of doing anything with the things I create, not using them as examples when I teach, and not selling them?
  5. And, of course, there's the question at the top of this post.... who am I now?
Robin Atkins, improvisational bead embroidery
Home, one in a series of bead embroidery pieces about gratitude

31 comments:

  1. You are and always will be the Bead Lady to me.

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    1. I like being the Bead Lady, Jody! Thanks!

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  2. Robin,
    One of the first books I ever bought was yours. You have had a huge influence on me and I always thought I'd get to take one of your classes. I use to live in Seattle, but have lived in Hawaii for 40 years. Every time I heard of a class is try to make plans and then something would halogen. You have been a wonderful teacher and mentor for me and you don't even know it. Is like to take a moment to thank you for all of your wonderful books, that have brought me to my own beaded path. Mahalo Robin and Happy trails. Niki Rogerson

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    1. Sounds like I have to come teach in Hawaii one more time... It's vaguely possible... I know someone who might want to organize it... Let me give it some thought. Thanks for your comment! Mahalo, Niki!

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  3. I have been intrigued by your beautiful bead creations since I first saw them online a few years ago. I bead on a small scale and it is very therapeutic for me.

    Enjoy your retirement!

    Thank you for sharing your love and knowledge ~ FlowerLady

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    1. Thanks, Lorraine! Wish I could see your beading in person. :)

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  4. Another big life change. I know you will make the most of it and continue opening your heart to new adventures. Love and luck to you.

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    1. Thanks Bobbi... one of my fondest memories along the way was meeting you and all the folks in your guild, both taking and teaching workshops with you!

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  5. Best wishes in your artful adventures!

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    1. Thanks, Rebecca! My current travel compass is pointing north to Alaska... so I hope we'll have some time to bead together in the not so distant future.

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  6. Lots of questions. If you have them, I guess you need answers that only you can find. Your identity will never change. To many of us you will always be the First Lady of Bead Embroidery. When I found your first book you instilled in my a love of beads. I always had it, but somehow I needed to justify my love of the littles. Before you, I was a bead snob. Now I embrace them.

    Freedom is what you have now. Freedom to do what you want with no obligations to anyone. You probably have plenty of stash around to enjoy for as long as you want. You are and always will be an artist. Embrace your freedom.
    xx, Carol

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    1. I do embrace my freedom, Carol! Thanks for putting it so beautifully! And we both embrace beads! Super wow!

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  7. I am a miniaturist. Yet your beading was something I enjoyed looking at for creative energy and just the pleasure of seeing your work. Pure creative talent!

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    1. Thanks so much! I've made miniature books (less than 1/2 inch)... does that count?

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  8. Yours is a beautiful journey. This current part of your life holds many possibilities. You are allowed to define yourself as you wish.

    Thank you for all the inspiration you have provided. You planted many seeds, for people just like me. You have improved our lives immeasurably by encouraging creativity. That is a true gift!

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    1. And the journey continues... even if on a slightly altered path. Thanks, Liz!

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  9. While we've never met, you have always been an inspiration to me. Thank you for being willing to share your art and yourself. I'm excited to see what you'll do next! Peace.

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    1. Thanks, Lisa... I'm glad you're excited about the "next" part... It helps in the motivation department :)

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  10. Ruth Hoover9:31 AM

    I believe your creative spirit will continue to speak, business license or not! You and what I've learned on your classes continue to be an inspiration to me. Soldier on! -Ruth

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    1. YEAH! Soldier on... business license or not! What is a license, but a piece of paper, a lot of extra work, and an excuse to buy beads without paying sales tax. Ha! Who needs that?!

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  11. You will still be Robin who does beads, quilting and a lot of other wonderful things without all the chores of work. Not many people can retire from work and still do the things they love to do. As I watch my husband slave away on his PC at home, doing more work after he spend 12 hrs already working at work, I wonder what his life will be like in 7.5yrs time when he finally retires. I suspect we will have a few bumps on the way as he finds his new self. :) Enjoy your retirement being what you always have been, an artist.

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    1. Yes, Jacqui, I am very grateful that I don't have to re-invent the wheel, as your husband will have to do. I remember how bumpy that road is from when my dad retired. Thanks, I will enjoy my continuing journey as an artist :)

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  12. You are still you..the artist....author...and every other good thing that makes you you! When I retired in 2013 I have to admit that felt "off". We are so entwined with the work that defined us for so long that change can be a bit confusing. For me it was reclaiming my artistic self from the hum-drum "pay the bills" day job. For you it is the opportunity to simply become more you...without the hindrance of book keeping and tax deadlines. Revel in the good. Delight in the freedom and continue to enjoy the arts that truly define you! ❤

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    1. "Felt off" is a good way to put it, Marie... almost like doing art and art related stuff as a business justified my time and efforts. Now I have to shift into a place where that is not necessary... to a place where I do art because I can and because I love it and because it's me. Thanks for your always-support!

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  13. Loved your words and the insights, and I'm so excited for you! xoxo

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    1. Thanks, Meryl Ann, your excitement enhances my own! How nice!

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  14. Robin, I was fortunate enough to take a couple of your classes in Long Beach many years ago and have been following beadlust ever since. (Watching for the beading cruise to Alaska!) You are such an inspiration and an amazing artist, and a really good teacher. I can't wait to see what you do next. I know it will be great!

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    1. Oh Janet, wouldn't that be a glorious happening! Thanks for putting the idea into the pond.... ripples, you know!

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  15. Eek! Beading cruise to Alaska!! I want in :) Congratulations on your new "retirement." You will soon find what is most fulfilling to you in your new life. I imagine it will involve beads and beading :) Can't wait to see what is next!

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    1. Thanks, Debby... yes, always beads and beading... but also quilting, knitting, crochet, button making, book making, and whatever else strikes my fancy. Guess I'm just a "making fool" :)

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  16. Oh Robin, you still have so much to offer and share in the multi-verse creative world! You are certainly my bead rebel hero/guru, having set me free to bead in any order I please, which really is revolutionary! I think once on the creative path it becomes infectious -- I'm also a making fool-- knitting, crocheting, embroidering, sewing, etc.; but beading was my foot in, and will always hold that unique place of being the first, and you my dear, one of the greatest, most inspiring teachers! Much love and Homage to you in sharing so much to your beady crafty community. We are indebted... ♥ And please stay.. stay!!

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Thanks you for joining the discussion on this post today!