Some creations are inspired by the colors of a sunset or the shape of an egg nestled in the palm of a hand, others by a piece of music or the sound of the wind high in the trees. And while these are pretty and look nice on a side table or around a wrist, it’s art that comes from a deeper place and tells a story that is the most widely appreciated. Although the Etsy Cottage Style group is home to many with their own home-based or brick & mortar businesses, it is more a place where amazing artists and crafters can meet up, share ideas, and support one another. And what better way to come together as a group that looks beyond the “bottom line” than to band together to create something that will give back to the greater community?
Just a couple of weeks ago, the call went out: “How about we do a pass-around altered book?” Jewel from Shabby Boutique asked. And since then, the idea has grown from a basic craft to an international project that will be auctioned to raise money for a cause close to this woman’s heart: children with cancer.
The “swap” is still gearing up and getting organized, but we asked Jewel some questions to find out more about how it will work and the inspiration behind it.
What inspired the idea of a pass-around altered book?
Jewel: I was looking at the vintage books at the thrift store; I always try to find books that I had a kid so that I can get them for my children. I picked one up and thought, “What if I could get some others to do a pass-around altered book with me?” I’ve wanted to do one ever since I saw it on The Carol Duvall Show. But then I wondered Who gets to keep it? It would be selfish of me to say that I would keep it since I started it. So, then it hit me—why not do it and then auction it off for the NCCS (National Children’s Cancer Society)? I thought that auctioning on eBay would be an issue since we are mainly an Etsy group, but when I posted the thought in our group, no one seemed to mind. I figured we just might be on to something here! LOL!
Tell us your story and how you came to be connected to the NCCS.
Jewel: Well, my story is a long one. But what it boils down to is this: I was in an awful marriage with a man who turned to drugs. Things went from bad to worse financially, and then got very ugly when he started becoming increasingly violent and verbally abusive. One day he just snapped and hit me. That is when I said, enough is enough. That was the Saturday before Mothers Day, and on Monday I got a restraining order to get him out.
Two weeks later, on June 1st, 1999, I took my three-year-old son Cody to the doctor. He’d been vomiting on and off for a few days in between playing—you know how little kids can be. But that morning he was just very lethargic and could barely speak. It looked like he was gasping for air, he had no color to his lips, and his eyes were sunken. After calling the doctor’s office and trying to get in immediately, I was given an appointment for 30 minutes later. Even thought the office was 20 minutes away, I said, “Whatever it takes, I’ll have him there.”
At first the doctor said that he could see nothing wrong with Cody. But he took a blood sample and soon returned to say that I needed to sit down. He told me it was acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), and I remember sort of laughing but with an edge of panic, saying “Is that serious?” I just dropped to my knees and thought to myself, Now what? I thought that things were going to get better with my ex-husband gone. I was, for once, enjoying life and truly happy.
The doctor immediately sent us to St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Cody was put in PICU right away to have his blood filtered. I found out that he very likely would’ve suffocated in his sleep that night if I hadn’t taken him to the doctor. He had virtually no red blood cells left. I found out several months later that the doctor had already scheduled Cody for a bone-marrow transplant but did not think that he would make it past his first night. Miraculously he pulled through, and we spent almost a year in the hospital.
During that hospitalization I couldn’t work because there was no way that I was leaving him at the hospital alone. I saw way too many kids just dropped off for days, weeks, and months at a time with no visitors or phone calls. So I had the children come to our room, and we watched movies, played games, and did whatever fun stuff we could to pass the time. I missed my other son miserably, but the hospital was nice enough to let Dillon come and stay with us sometimes. I still feel guilty that he lost his father, his mother, and his brother all within a few short weeks and was sent to stay with great-grandma and grandpa. But I had to do what I had to do. I just hope that he forgives me for the choice I made.
Everyone kept saying to me that I was amazing and asked how I did it. I’m not amazing. I just did what I had to do and didn’t think twice about it. You just go with the flow, but the real key is laughter. It has always gotten me through the rough times in my life. Even the psychologist said in the hospital, “I don’t understand how you do it. I keep expecting you to crack, but you don’t. You just keep on smiling and laughing and going on.” I just learned a long time ago that if you can’t change it, then don’t worry about it. Just laugh and go on.
It was a long battle. I couldn’t work and had no child support, so the NCCS (National Children’s Cancer Society) helped me with my house payments, utilities, gas money, food, you name it. But they helped emotionally and spiritually, too. I owe the NCCS—and other organizations like it—more than I could ever repay. So I take every opportunity to help them or give back. I don’t think people ever realize how much these charities need our support to help others in time of need until they've been in that situation. I know that I used to sort of frown on the people standing outside of the stores wanting you to donate. I was more worried about how we were going to get food on our table or clothes on our back. But since this happened, I will now be the first one in line to donate. I do as much as I can to help others in my community as well as other communities.
What is the theme for the pass-around altered book?
Jewel: The theme is “Love & Hope for Our Little Angels.”
How will the swap work? That is, who will start it, how will it travel, how many people will be involved, where will it end up, and how will it be auctioned? Also, what about page size and photographs of the work in progress?
Jewel: Well, I’ll start it since I’ve already bought a vintage hardback children’s book, but, depending on how many people sign up, I can get a bigger book if need be! Anyway, I will do the cover, divide the pages up with paperclips, and put the names on the pages in order of where the book will travel. Each person will mail the book to the next person on the list. Once everyone is signed up, we can figure out the route to save time and money. Some Canadians have already signed up, and I feel that if people from other countries want to join in, that’s great! At the end, it'll be shipped back to me so that I can take care of the auctioning.
Each person will get basically two pages to decorate however she likes, using whatever medium she likes, as long as it goes with the theme. Each person will have a week with the book. I know that life throws you curve balls, so I don’t want anyone to feel rushed. I want everyone to put her heart and soul into it so that love just oozes from the pages.
The page size depends, once again, on how many get involved. And after each person finishes her pages, we need a place to post pictures of the progress. So we will start a place for those pics to be published as well, either on Flick’r, Ning, or here on the Blog.
I'd love to have as many people as possible involved with this, but if everyone has the book for a week we should limit it to no more than 20 people. I would like to be able to auction the book off around Christmas time. I think it would be a great time to make the donation as every kid and family needs a little extra then, and it would make a great Christmas or Hanukkah gift for someone.
I've been involved with many charity auctions via a group on eBay called P.E.P. (Painting eBay Pretty). I was a group moderator until last year, when opening my own shop meant that I had little extra time. But I've helped with and been in charge of several charity auctions. As a matter of fact, we do one for the Susan G. Komen Foundation every year.
Tell us more about the theme. How do you envision the swap members using that idea? Do you want them to make multi-media art pages? Write stories? Both?
Jewel: I told my story to a couple of ladies, which, without my knowing so, helped them make some tough decisions. Later when they told me how I gave them a spark of hope and courage, it made me feel good that they were inspired by my story. But, really, they found the courage within themselves to do what was right. I love helping others though, that's where I've always gotten my true joy from life. So, if by sharing my stories I can help others, then I will talk, chat, or email away. LOL!
I envision pages just oozing with Love & Hope for our little ones. Everyone has her own idea of what Love & Hope is, and that's what I envision for this book.—everyone’s ideas and hearts coming together. They can write poems, paint on the pages, write stories, or share their own family photos—just whatever comes to mind when they think of Love & Hope. I want the members to use their hearts and creativity.
If you'd like to get in on the action, see the original Etsy Cottage Style Ning post. Also, once you sign up for the project, stay tuned for a special "button" to post on your blogs.
For more information: