artmarket-butterfly babe hortense

“Hortense” by Stephanie Rubiano, seen and enjoyed at Art-Xscape’s first Art Market. She uses real (humanely harvested) butterfly wings in her work.

I haven’t done much since I left the fabric business at the end of January. Wait, that’s not true, I’ve done A WHOLE LOT, just hardly anything related to fabric or fashion. Well, actually, right after my business folded, I attended the glorious Essential Oliver brand launch fashion show, put on by my friend Tash Mahal. It was a smashing collection that blurred the lines of gender-based fashion and incorporated themes such as urban vs rural, white collar vs blue collar– really it was one of the freshest and most wearable collections I’ve seen on an Austin runway. Practicality won over pure concept. Well done.

And then there was South by Southwest. Ah yes, I should mention, I’ve began working for Neil Diaz PResents sometime in February, going back to my post-college experience doing public and media relations and event promotions. As you can imagine, SXSW is ripe for that kind of work, and boy were we busy. Yet, at times, we found ourselves pleasantly surrounded in networking contacts, the best people to know in the industry nationwide and internationally, and not feeling the urgency one usually feels to drop business cards and pitch ideas. It was the most productive, yet refreshing, SXSW I’ve ever experienced.

In March, I also began my efforts as public relations chair for Austin Travis County Integral Care (or ATCIC, formerly known as our local MHMR)’s fundraising arm, New Milestones Foundation. More on that later.

Oh yeah, and I’ve started a vegetable and herb garden… and also have become a full-time stay-at-home mom. WOW. Yeah. That’s kind of a big deal.

Underlining these last few months, however, has been an unrelenting depression. This bout, unlike my usual up-and-down cycle of depression, has been a steady low, dipping way down from time to time only to come back to long lasting dregs of sadness, self-pity, and low energy. Losing my own store has been hard, y’all– much harder than I anticipated. There’s a giant mountain of retail quantities of fabric jammed into my husband’s office, making it almost impossible to access his computer and completely impossible to use as the guest room it was intended to be. I’m at a loss for what to do with all of it, and I seem to be resisting every urge to dig in and clear it out. I keep telling myself that I have a trunk show in late April/early May, and I can do something about it then, but here we are in April and I’ve done nothing to sort out what stays in my personal stash vs. what goes on the sales table at Cloth Pocket (my awesome buddy Nicole’s new craft fabric shop.) It will certainly be an emotional journey when I do start in on that task, and I’m emotional enough as it is.

I’ve been fighting bitterness, anger, resentment, rejection, etc., and even though things are going beyond expectations working with Neil, all this amounts to being creatively dormant. Every time I even hear the word “fabric” I cringe and feel ugliness in my heart. What could cure me of this?, I wondered.

About two weeks ago, I received a phone call from Amy Nelson of AnLina Designs, leader/curator of Art-Xscape, who needed to utilize our services to promote their first ever Art Market, to go on along side their long weekend retreat, being held for 4 days at a hotel in south central Austin. We took it on and got them some great presence in the print and online media’s calendar listings. It was well-attended, and all of the booths there made money selling art, which is great for a first ever show of that kind.

Amy Nelson of AnLina Design's dolls. Art-Xscape's dollmaking workshop is in July 2014.

Amy Nelson of AnLina Design’s dolls. Art-Xscape’s dollmaking workshop is in July 2014.

What struck me being present at that event is that the participants, most of whom were there to teach or attend the retreat as well as sell at the market, were having a great time. Making their art, creating, collaborating, and learning were bringing them such joy and energy. The Art Market itself fell on the final night before the last day of the retreat, yet all of these artists were eager to make conversation and meet new people. At times each of the booths were juggling multiple conversations, inquiries, and transactions, and there were smiles all around. These artists were truly at home and at peace.

I envied their creative bliss so much. Looking at these wonderful people bustling and hustling, I felt a seed sprout in my heart. I need to get back to what truly moves me– fabric, craft, fashion, all things handmade. I have no excuses anymore. Depression is not even a good excuse. In fact, using my hands to make things again could even be the cure for what’s been holding me down.

Artist Cathy Taylor from North Carolina exposed me to the unique effects of alcohol-based paints at Art-Xscape's Art Market. These were class examples at their concurrent retreat.

Artist Cathy Taylor from North Carolina exposed me to the unique effects of alcohol-based paints at Art-Xscape’s Art Market. These were class examples at their concurrent retreat.

Post-event, I had a great conversation with Neil Diaz himself. He could tell I’ve been feeling low, while doing a great job hiding it with tremendous productivity these last few months. As we both have been becoming more involved with New Milestones’ event planning and promotion for their Bridging the Gap gala in November, I’ve learned a great deal about removing the stigma from mental illness, and that has to start from within. Depression has a strange way of convincing oneself that they are unworthy of help and at the same time pathetic for needing it. As we all know, depression is a liar– a really believable liar, but a liar nonetheless.

Yesterday, I called a close, safe, lifelong friend who has no attachments to fabric or fashion, but won’t mind the aesthetics of the job, to come help me tomorrow. We’re going to scale fabric mountain and reclaim it in my name again. (This may result in some new listings on my Etsy page again, too. Stay tuned on my Facebook page.)

The big pay-to-play scam that is Austin Fashion Week marches onward with little-to-no resistance beyond myself and the rest of the outraged fashion maker community, and while I refuse to pay a dime toward its exploitation of the fashion designers in our city, I do plan to support a few rogue events by attending where I can and (gasp) maybe even modeling in one of them. Let it all be more fuel for my creative fire, as well as for the Austin fashion scene at large.