Sept. 25, 2014
Vol. 12, Issue 17
Wow, my email inbox is heating up with last minute planning, flyers, and web links for all of the October breast cancer awareness and women’s health events coming up. I can hardly keep up. It’s like June is for wedding planners!
Nonetheless, it’s October that’s right around the corner, which brings breast cancer awareness to the forefront.
I’ve written about breast cancer survivor Heidi Marble’s Donate & Create program before, but today I want to share a new development, because I think it’s such a great example of moving forward, following a dream, and having the courage to pick up the phone. Some of you know that I started this business that way – by cold calling hospitals — so I have great respect for that hutzpah that it takes to pick up the phone!
It’s a story about being broken, picking up the pieces, and re-creating something beautiful — more than once.
Broken to Beautiful
The stage is set:
In April 2000, Heidi was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer and given one year to live.
“After the most grueling portion of my treatment, I was left with a shattered body and uncertain future. At 34 years old, I had no breasts, no fertility, no hair, and no energy; I had lost over 30 pounds. There was no escape from the fear, anxiety and trauma.
“One day I received this sweet button bracelet and it fascinated me. The buttons were re-purposed and I was awed by the creativity. At that point, the metaphor for my life shifted. I realized I had to re-purpose myself in ways I had never thought of. I set out to create button bracelets, a project which did not go very well, (sewing is not one of my super powers).
“However, I loved going into vintage shops and collecting bobbles. Soon, I gave up the needle and thread for a glue gun and started to make picture frames. During this creative time, I noticed something profound: I would enter what I call the “ ZONE” — a feeling of being completely in the moment. In that space, healing started to take place…the hunting, the placing, the giving of these gifts, gave me purpose.
“A turning point came when we moved from Boston to California. I was ‘hunting’ (by the way, hunting and gathering is an instinct!) in a thrift shop, and I found a discarded mannequin on the floor — she was naked, marred, and looked abused.
“I starting to cry and asked the clerk if I could buy this pathetic being. Twenty dollars later with tears streaming down my face, I found myself in the parking lot with a beat-up mannequin that would not fit in the trunk — so I belted her in the passenger seat and away we went down the freeway. Back home, I cleaned the marks off her damaged body, and realized that I saw myself in this broken form.
“If I could save her, maybe I could save myself? It was apparent to me that she could not remain naked. So, I started to glue on my broken jewelry, buttons, buckles, watches and other assorted bobbles. My friends also started coming by and bringing items for me to add. That was how “Jewels” — the name I gave her — was born. Over three years, as I learned to accept the love of others, I built her from broken into beautiful.
“One day when Jewels was fully adorned, a friend suggested that I start a campaign and create art to help those dealing with cancer. A flood of warmth came over me and I understood that this was my purpose. And, so the idea of ‘Donate & Create’ was born.”
Today, the Donate & Create project is a non-profit that focuses on the healing power of creativity. This unique form of art utilizes thousands of donated/re-purposed buttons, jewelry and bobbles from those touched by cancer. Those donations have been used to embellish anything from bracelets to mirrors to mannequins. For over a decade, completed artworks have been auctioned off and donated to cancer centers and at events all over the country.
And, now, for the newest development . . .
The beauty of the patterns created by the collages of discarded jewels inspired Heidi to dream of a line of clothing or wearable art. Using photography, she translated one of the collages into a fabric design, and ultimately had it made into a women’s fitted tee, a scarf, and a men’s tie. It was a start. Yet she dreamed of something bigger.
Recently, fashion industry leader TRIBAL INC. redesigned Heidi’s fashion tee as a charitable initiative. Tribal sells merchandise through over 2,000 boutiques in the US and Canada.
“I heard about Tribal through a local boutique, Si Jolie in Vancouver, Washington,” Heidi said. “On one fateful afternoon, the owners took a look at the fashion tee I had designed and thought that Tribal would be a wonderful fit. To me, Tribal represents class and thoughtfully designed clothing. Sadly, the shirt I produced felt like a sausage casing — I needed help redesigning a more fashionable and user-friendly shirt that would still honor the patterns.
“I called Tribal in Texas and by some generous act of the Universe they gave me Danielle Galletly’s (VP of Design for Tribal) phone number in Montreal. After two cups of strong coffee, I worked up the courage to place the call and it went to voice mail. A few days passed, and I was in Portland preparing to board a plane for the East coast.
“Then another great turning point…my phone rang and it was Danielle. She had heard my desire for help in getting my message out there, and agreed to check out my website and get back to me. My heart wanted to get excited, but I was prepared to never hear back. Little did Danielle know that at that very moment I was heading back East for the memorial service for my birth mom, who had just died from hereditary breast cancer after her fourth battle with the disease.
“When the call came, I was absolutely thrilled to hear from her. She completely understood the symbology of the fabric design created by the broken pieces. She understood that each piece represented a story of hope, of pain, of life, of death, of transformation. With her design expertise, I could release the patterns to her hands and just trust.
“And I was right. The print she came up with is sublime, showing each unique piece from our Politely Pink pattern.
“And now, the fashion tee is here in all of its glory! The design is so soft and wearable! When I saw the shirt for the first time at Tribal’s show in Las Vegas in August, I cried — It is just BEAUTIFUL!
“The pattern was taken from a mannequin named Politely Pink. The art is composed of 60 different shades of pink bobbles collected from hundreds of people and sources.
“I hope my partnership with Tribal will grow into a yearly pattern created by new donations. It would be fun to experiment with different colors. I have imagined so many things being created from the patterns; bed sheets, leggings, coat linings, hospital scrubs, dresses…I could go on forever. With the proceeds, I will take the artwork to more retreats and hospitals and expand our reach. Those dealing with cancer need a creative outlet. It is so powerful to watch the transformative power of creativity. This form of art is easy and very inclusive, everyone can bring a zip lock bag full of unused bobbles and create.”
P.S. In January, the shirts will be available. Go to the Tribal website to find a retailer near you.
P.P.S. Heidi incorporates Donate & Create into her speaking engagements. Clients collect the jewelry, and she creates a mirror for them. Contact me for details at 503-699-5031 or email@example.com
So, I’ve done my share of unloading, re-purposing, and reorganizing, during my several moves this summer. And a new take on it — for me, at least — is blending books. We’re talking about bookshelves here. My husband is a book hound — he really, really likes his books. Plus – I like books too. Books like me. Speakers send me their books. I order books. Certainly, I want to read the latest and greatest about subjects I’m interested, and passionate about . . .
These days, however, I’m very much a library patron — I would rather read it first, and then decide if I want to buy it. Meantime, we both have a backlog of books, and just two tall bookcases in the main hallway to devote to our collected works (we still have our own collections in our offices).
This is a big deal. I have never combined books before. We’re talking his/hers here — literature, poetry, fiction, non-fiction, yearbooks, hiking/kayaking books, esoteric literature (that would be his), fantastical novels (those would be mine), spiritual (that would be both of ours), large Chinese and Italian cookbooks, some photo albums, local histories, and other miscellaneous stuff to break things up.
So the shelves are full and he unpacks another box and brings out another 12 or so books. I say, “Okay, take away that many to fit that many more in.” Groan. He pulls a book from the shelf to discard – it’s mine. And, so it goes . . . Remind me to tell you about Linda Carroll’s new book, Love Cycles, next time. It is helping us get through times like these. Oh yes, we bought it and it is an “ours” book.
Until next time, take care of yourself, for your well being those you love.
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