A few years ago, I did an exercise in a business training that helped me to identify why I really love to do what I do, and my notes and progress from that exercise still are helping me to hone in on what really matters to me. I started with a basic question, then turned my answer into another question, then turned that answer into another question, and so on. Over time, I wrote it up as an interview, and I’ve revisited it, edited it, and ultimately felt it reveal my purpose.
Q: Why did you start your junk art shop?
I had all sorts of rusty junk on the farm, and I wanted to use it, so I welded up flowers out of it and started selling it. I like to take junk and castoffs and turn it into something useful and beautiful. It was a welcome creative outlet after weeks of sitting in a tractor seat during those times of year. Before I knew it, I was hoarding flea market magazines and when I was working ground or planting crops, I’d set the auto steer on the tractor and thumb through all sorts of pages, and cultivating more than dirt, I was cultivating my mind’s ability to see uses for stuff that was just junk.
Q: Why do you like to make junk useful and beautiful?
When I lived in Memphis, TN, I recycled a lot and minimized a lot of the trash we were sending to the landfill. It really annoyed my roommate that we had all these plastic bins in the kitchen, until she realized about a month in, we were only throwing away about 3/4 of a bag of trash each week, compared to 5-6 before. The rest was all going to the recycling center. When I moved back here to MO, I really wanted to start a recycling biz, but the attitude toward recycling here is not enthusiastic. No one wants to pay for that service. Recycling, repurposing and teaching others how to do it is a way to scratch that itch and save local items from the landfill.
Q: Why does recycling light you up?
My grandparents grew up in the Great Depression. My Grandpa Floyd (Moore, “Ol Zeke”) would make me toys from things like a little tractor made from old thread spools and a rubber band, a yoyo from a piece of thread and a button, and things like that. They had to make do with what they had, and that quality of being able to turn one thing into something else was passed down to me.
My dad was always fabricating his own little pieces of machinery on the farm too when I was growing up. He always had a scrap pile that was off-limits from sending to the scrapyard: stuff that he thought would be good for patching this if it broke or making into that. I remember building my own little “barnyards,” as I called them…taking little pieces of junk I had unearthed from the machine shed scrap pile, or to mom’s chagrin, dug up out of the dirt floor of the garage, and I would construct little farmsteads out of them. I always got in trouble for leaving that stuff lying around. It makes me laugh now, how well I was foretelling my own future.
So, I feel like up-cycling, fabricating and creating are part of my family heritage. It’s like farming. It’s in my blood.
Q: Why do you feel it is important to continue this part of your family heritage?
I want my kids to pick up on this. To find usefulness and delight in working with their hands. To find their own niche in the industry. Because it IS an industry. People love unique things that are not native to the purpose that we establish for them. I think it’s important to inspire kids and teach them to do what we’re doing and pass down traditions of reusing and recycling instead of buying things new.
A scripture in Proverbs I like is “She works with her hands in delight.” For me, it means I serve others. My family. My friends. My customers. It makes me happy to share my food (beef and veggies), my art, and making things for others. I make people well when they are sick. I share health. I make gifts rather than buy them. It means more to me, even if it does not mean the same to them, to make it with my hands and weave my own thought, love and prayer into the item. I want my kids to live this life and feel the satisfaction of it.
Q: Why do handmade items generate passion in you?
1. It gives someone a piece of my heart. A meaningful, heartfelt thing with careful thought and prayer woven into the fabric, so to speak.
2. It gives me an avenue to help bring out the creativity in “uncrafty” people. The ones who come into my DIY workshops saying apologetically “I’m really not crafty. I am not creative. You’re going to have to help me a lot.” Those people always leave with THE COOLEST projects. I don’t tell them what to do. I merely help them figure out what they want to do and delve into the side of their brain that they’re just not used to tapping into. I get them started, present them some options, then I give them space to let their mind run wild. I let them know that rules don’t apply to what they’re doing. My studio is the place to do that, to be wild and create something special.
3. I give people memories. When someone brings their granny’s quilt into the shop and we put it behind a window with a “Life is like a quilt” poem on the glass, that brings that quilt out of the hope chest and puts it on their wall, which allows them to access those memories of granny’s cookies, or her unique scent, much more freely than before. They don’t have to open the hope chest to feel it. It’s right there on their wall.
Q: Why do you love to sell salvaged materials?
Again, I give people memories. When someone finds an item in my booth at a show that takes them back to a happy place in their life, it’s so rewarding. While I have seen this so many times, I always think of the man who found a drawer pull in my rummage bin at Vintage Market Days…I saw his life flash before his eyes…he had designed that drawer pull in his uncle’s cabinet shop in 1978. He went to work there straight out of engineering school and It was the very first piece of furniture hardware he ever designed and created a mold for. I watched that guy walk away with the drawer pull in his hand. He looked at it, tossed it in the air, caught it, and stuck it down in his pocket, still clutching it in his hand. He stopped by on his way out and said it was the best dollar he had spent all day, and it was worth every penny of the show admission to have found it.
I love reading this exercise.
If you’re interested in a little self-growth, this is a great exercise to dig down, find what really makes you tick and why you love to do your thing, which can be instrumental in planning your business’ growth in the future, and can even help with simple things like designing a logo for your business or drafting a mission statement. In these times where so many are deciding their job isn’t really what they want to do, this can be very helpful in figuring out your calling.
If you decide to do this exercise, don’t feel like you need to figure it out in one sitting. I worked on my first draft for a couple weeks! Keep your answers short at first. Go back and expound later. Don’t be afraid to make what sound like confessions at first. After all, you don’t have to share it with a soul…I kept mine to myself for over two years. I wondered “what if I’m wrong?” Now, two years later, the words are more true than ever!