Come April 1st 2019, it will be the 1st birthday of My Studio, The Studio aka The Fairy Shed in Exeter NSW. What a year it has been. If you join me from my Instagram family, Thank You My Loves. If you join me from my many careers and dabbles, Thank You for sticking by me in all of my outfits. If this is your first encounter with me, with all of my heart WELCOME. But buckle up. And a few words of warning, if you do not like swearing or tears or feelings or directness...ABORT MISSION NOW. EJECT. EJECT. EJECT.
So back to the first year or being a fairy shed proprietor. As we are quickly going to learn, I am no wordsmith but this year, in no uncertain terms has been transformative, enlightening, completely soul destroying, brilliant and soul crushing. Challenging does not even begin to sum it up. The hardest and the most beautiful year of my life. The most torturous yet most joyous year. I have been completely turned to dust and ash and every small, insignificant particle you can fathom. I have had to rise from this particle state numerous times. Tears streaming. Just when I thought that perhaps I was getting my shit together, another wave of deep despair and strip me bare emotion would come crashing in. I have had to endure the biggest challenges of my life whilst opening a new business. A new small business. In a small town. That I did not live in. On my own. Not knowing a single soul. With no funds or backing. With everyone telling me it was wrong and it would not work. I did this whilst my personal life crashed around me and completely went to shit. I did not understand at the time that the beginning of the studio would be the end and the beginning of my life as I knew it. All rolled into one, gigantic, ludicrous tidal wave of a year.
It all started with a spontaneous goggle search of commercial property to rent. Why? I cannot answer that. I was in the kitchen. Stirring a 30kg pot of jam. What jam? I do not remember. Something fruity and sticky and delicious and really fucking annoying. I hate cooking. I always have. It is my least favorite part of life. I was two years into self-employment. I had quit my well-paying, career progressing General Manager gig in spectacular fashion in inner Sydney to start a small, boutique hospitality company with my at the time husband and a long time friend and colleague. Now, we will not go too far into this because it is a book in itself! In hindsight, well, not even hindsight, even at the time, it was not really what I wanted to do. Not in my heart. I certainly wanted to quit my job. I wanted to be self-employed. I wanted to live a different life. I wanted to create a life that looked vastly different to the abyss I was currently starring into. I wanted my pain to go away. That deep, soul aching pain of unfulfillment. The pain that radiates through every piece of you because you have abandoned who you are. You don’t even know who you are. You are too terrified and embarrassed to express who you really are. You are too fearful to live your life in a way that looks different to everything you have ever known. You are not even sure what it even looks like. You just know that where you are at is not right. You have hurtled along and become a “successful” adult and by all accounts your life looks perfect. But you feel dead inside. Dead on so many levels I cannot even begin to count the ways. So we started a business. Fucking great idea you fucking idiots!
Even though inside I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to create. I wanted to talk to the trees. I wanted to create with flowers and foliage and nature. I wanted to create magical, whimsical, textural spaces. I wanted to make people feel with the things I created. I wanted to wake up in the morning and feel free and alive and create. Create beauty. Create feeling. Create a community through my art. But I was too frightened to say that out loud. Rightly or wrongly, I did not feel my loved ones would understand or support me. I did not even fully understand myself so how was I supposed to articulate it? I could not give it a name. I could not give it a clear label or title. It was a feeling. That made sense to me inside however, I could not string the words together to be able to pitch it clearly to the world so that it would be acceptable. So I went along with the acceptable plan and started a hospitality company.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I actually enjoyed the next few years immensely. It was a riot. I learnt things. We had many an adventure. I do not regret any of it. The Studio would not have been birthed if it was not for this perfectly placed misdirection.
But back to stirring jam on the stove. A million things had transpired, and I was alone, stirring jam for my now jam and chutney empire. I had recently moved away from Darlinghurst to Berry on the South Coast. I decided to look up commercial property in the Southern Highlands. Which was over an hour away from where I was currently living. I had always loved the Southern Highlands. I was day dreaming about nothing in particular but that feeling was back. I was now self employed but it did not feel right. Something was a miss. Something else was calling. I had recently taken a drive from my house in Berry to a small village called Exeter, to purchase a beautiful, vintage trestle table for one of my upcoming pop up dinner events. I arrived in Exeter, had breakfast at the Exeter General Store, picked up my table from the shop across the road which was in the CUTEST cottage ever and then I promptly returned to the South Coast and thought, well, wasn’t that a lovely outing.
Again, back to this fateful day, stirring the jam, (I will move on from stirring the fucking jam I promise!) I saw that the little shed which was attached to that sweet little cottage where I had purchased my wonderful table was for lease. I thought, I know that shed. I was there a month or so ago. I love that shed. I want that shed. But AIice, what are you going to do with that shed? Make jam? Oh shut up head, I don’t know. I am calling the real estate agent. I called the agent and arranged to meet her on Monday.
Monday came. I already knew in my bones I was taking the shed if I would be fortunate enough to secure her. I didn’t know what for. I just knew it had to be mine. That I would find a way. I had no savings left. I had blown it all on business #1. I was in debt. I had no income other than my business which was barely scraping by. I knew Husband was NOT going to be pleased. However, for whatever reason, that shed was where I belonged. It was calling to me. It was screaming at me. It was screaming so loudly I could not ignore her. I asked all the appropriate questions of the agent. I pretended like I cared. I did not. All I knew was I was home.
On the drive back to the South Coast, it came to me. Like a lightning bolt. Fill the shed with flowers and props. Fill the shed with flowers and props. It made no sense. But it made perfect sense. There was no turning back.
Logistical, boring, outrageous things followed however, within a month I was swinging the doors open. Husband was furious. Dad had been hit up for some cash for bond (again), jam and chutney empire had been put on hold. Life as I knew it was about to combust at an epic rate but The Studio was birthed and I had never loved anything more.
Over the next few months as I began to bloom and evolve and witness my world opening in front of me in ways I could not have dreamed of, my marriage abruptly and suddenly ended. I was not prepared. On any level. I was with my partner for 12years. Married for 8. We were peas in a polar opposite pod. We met when we were in our early 20’s. Many adventures unfolded. It was love filled and delightful and magical and wonderful and irreplaceable. However, we very suddenly were facing in opposite directions. We came screaming around a corner and the path split in two. I needed to go left. He needed to go right. There was nothing that could be done but to head on out. Alone.
So where did this leave me? All of a sudden I was living alone. Financially on my own. Single. Facing a future and reality which I naively thought would never, EVER happen to me. I thought I was safe. I had thought that at the very least my love life was sorted! That was my stable foundation. Incorrect! I was a self-employed fairy shed operator. With no savings. No assets. Debt. Financially living day to day. I needed to make a sale in order to put fuel in my van to make it home. I needed to make a sale in order to eat. It was the depth of winter. Customers were thin on the ground. I was creating something non mainstream which shrank the customer pool further. My fairy shed was open to the elements. I was cold, heartbroken and falling apart on all levels. Layer by painful layer I was coming undone. It was not pretty but it was magnificent. I would hit the bottom and beg for mercy. Some relief would follow. I would naively think, oh, I made it! But this transition was very far from being over. The next phase and wave would be harder and more ferocious than the last. I was being pulled apart piece by excruciating fucking piece. I wanted to give up multiple, multiple times. I prayed to everyone imaginable. I bargained with all of the deities with everything I had. But the information I kept hearing was “keep going child.”
So I did. I plodded on very ungracefully. Simultaneously having the most incredible, heartwarming moments in my fairy shed. My little 6m x 3m shed, the flowers and the people that came through my door saved my life everyday. They gave me purpose. They gave me strength. They gave me love. They gave me food and coffee and cuddles and giggles. Strangers that have now become friends. Strangers that I will never see again. But somehow, everyday, in some way, little by little, a little magic was weaved and I was being put back together. Or more accurately being completely stripped apart. Slowly allowing my hidden self to take form.
Even on the days when I cried my heart out on the fairy shed floor or even more embarrassingly all over an unsuspecting customer, somehow, it still felt like exactly where I belonged. Exactly where I was supposed to be. Somehow, I had never been more content, more at ease and more myself yet all the while being completed destroyed. I did not recognize the landscape. I was undoubtedly out of my depth, yet, I had never felt stronger and more in tune with myself.
This brings us up to recently. If I have learnt anything over the past 12 months it is that I am not to get comfortably. I am on a crash course of uncomfortability. So strap in bitch. Things were starting to settle emotionally. The Studio was starting to grow financially. The fuel light of the van was on less and less. I was now living week to week as opposed to day to day. Debt was slowly being repayed. Some stability and equilibrium has arrived. One morning, I am casually mediating. Yes. I mediate. Daily. Ok that is a lie. I try to daily and it mostly is. However, sometimes a day is missed. So I am casually all lotus pose on my lily pad mediating and I hear very clearly...Ok, sorry, let me catch you up. I hear things. I hear things all the time. I always have. Call it what you like. Intuition, Spirit, God, The Universe, whatever takes your fancy. I personally call Her The Great Goddess. The Great Cosmic Mother. She is my girl. I love her. She is smart as all get up and she knows best. I have learnt She is always right and I am now at a place where I am willing to follow her instructions and guidance. It was not always like this. I have ignored her for years at certain times. Yet she has always been present. Sometimes, She really pisses me off with her requests. Sometimes, well, a lot of the time I really do not like what She has to say. But these days, I am on-board and I am now willing to live my life in harmony with her to the best of my ability. So, home girl comes in loud and clear
“Sell everything and book a ticket to the UK”
AHHHHHHHHH EXCUSE ME SORRY WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?! NO WAY GIRL.
“Sell everything and book a ticket to the UK”
IM PRETTY SURE YOU DIDN’T HEAR ME...NO. WAY. YOU CANNOT ASK THIS OF ME. I am just starting to get my shit together. Besides, I cannot even afford a ticket! There is $2 in my bank account so what do you want me to do about that?!?!?!?
“Sell something and book the ticket”
UGH. Mediation ends in a huff. I go for a walk. I have a coffee. I decide to just casually look at flights. Well, when would I go? I have nothing booked in April yet so that sounds reasonable. Ok, just pick a date, April 24th 2019. One way ticket to London $870. I calmly say out loud “There you go Great Goddess. I looked. A ticket is $870. If you would like me to book that ticket, kindly, sell that big piece of artwork I have hanging on the back wall of The Studio. The framed vintage fabric. You know the one. If you sell that tomorrow, I will book the ticket”
As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I knew. She will not be defied. She had spoken. I had bargained. And I was going to come out second best.
The next day I carried on as per usual. It was a regular Saturday. Sunny. Warm. Wonderful. A beautiful young couple wander into The Studio. The young woman looks at me and says “I love that framed fabric on the wall. How much is it?”
I hear the words coming out of my mouth before I can stop them. “It is a beautiful piece. One of my favorites. It is $870”
We chat away. The couple takes my business card. They leave The Studio. Phew, I just dodged a bullet. A few hours later I receive a call. We would love to buy that piece we saw earlier today. Is it still available? May we come back tomorrow”
“Absolutely” I say. Shots fired. Bullet taken. Ticket must now be booked.
So this leads me to my very long point. On the 1st April 2019, the 1st Birthday of The Studio, My Studio, The Fairy Cave, I will be closing the doors. This year of magic will come to an end and a new adventure will begin. Unknowingly, 12 months ago, I innocently started something and it changed my life. In so many ways. Indescribably ways. On every level. I am not the same woman coming out as I am that went in. So many of you have been in this with me from the beginning. You have wholeheartedly supported me, accepted me, understood me, loved me, fed me, cried with me, laughed with me, created with me and inspired me. I humbly ask you with all of my heart to stay with me and continue with me into the next phase. I do not know where it will lead or what lays ahead. I do not know what is going to unfold. I do not know how it will evolve. I sincerely hope I do not well and truly fuck it up and I feel a few more layers and soul-destroying dust storms are to come to pass. But I believe it will be worth it. So will you join me my loves?