in 2007 i had my heart broken. it was bad. the kind of heartache that makes sleeping almost impossible because your brain races through every moment of the failed relationship trying to figure out what went wrong. it was the kind of heartache that causes you to excuse yourself from the dinner table every 20 minutes to go to the bathroom and write it all down in your journal because you can’t bring yourself to repeat every sad feeling and thought again to the friends and family who were sweet enough to pull you out of bed and force you to sit down and eat something. it was the kind of heartache that found refuge not just in feelings and thoughts but in things. I recall a particularly humiliating episode of uncontrollable sobbing at my corner market when the beef jerky display next to the register launched me into a lengthy tear-filled monologue to the clerk about how once on a road trip to Big Sur my ex and i had eaten beef jerky. it wasn’t just beef jerky though. pretty much every item and room in my house held a memory that signaled weeping.
the first step to unbreaking my heart was getting out of that house and out of la, therefore eliminating the very real possibility of running into the ex. delilah (my aunt, friend and now business partner) offered me refuge from memory filled things and places by renting me a room in her house in orange county.
for the first time since i’d left orange county…leaving la and settling back into the conservative town i’d run from for college when i was 17, didn’t seem so bad. i packed a u-haul, rented a storage unit and moved only what was essential to a room in delilah’s house in irvine. truth be told, irvine is not the solution to a broken heart. i don’t suggest it to anyone. the architecture is beyond boring and the wide streets with perfectly placed shrubs are hardly inspiring. but, it worked for me.
i spent my mornings learning how to be alone again. i’d get up and take a walk, hoping but never succeeding to find something the least bit interesting to photograph with my polaroid camera which had become a jacked up version of a security blanket. these walks became a mission to find at least one thing to photograph each day…cracks in the sidewalks, fallen leaves and chain link fences. i began to give in to the routine sameness of living in a planned community. at night after delilah and her boyfriend gustavo went to bed i’d head out to the makeshift studio/office i’d made in our garage, which we named the garoffice and i’d paint and collage until the wee hours.
evenings were spent in our backyard with crickets, warm air, the sounds of sprinklers and a bottle of cheap pinot noir. delilah coaxed me back into the world of the living and eventually we began to talk about something besides my ex. unlike me, delilah had never left orange county. after high school i went to san francisco to live in a ‘cool’ place. after high school delilah stayed and did everything she could to make oc cool.
finally we were both living in the same place and wanting the same thing…community and coolness where we lived. i was frustrated with the lack of craft fairs in the oc but overjoyed with the abundance of oc crafters. we both realized these makers needed a venue and shouldn’t have to drag their goods to la or sf for craft fairs. they didn’t just need a venue. they needed a venue that was run by people who understood what vendors needed not just how to sell booths. we began to brainstorm and a few weeks later, set a date for the first patchwork show. i begged the la crafters i knew to trek out to santa ana. delilah worked her magic with local businesses to help with promotion. we had no money and drew on every resource we had to make that first show with 25 vendors wedged into the parking lot behind her store happen. and…it happened. the night before, i couldn’t sleep. i lay awake all night with that fourth grade paranoid feeling that maybe no one would come to my birthday party.
but…people did show up. the vendors pulled their ez-ups out and created stunning booths. before i had the chance to wonder if anyone would show up…people showed up.
now, seven years later we’ve not only expanded to other cities, more than quadrupled our vendor booths and pulled in great crowds but have also formed lasting relationships with our vendors, sponsors and attendees. patchwork shows have become more like reunions than events.
last sunday during our santa ana spring patchwork show as i walked the streets lined with booths and crowded with attendees i stopped and took a moment to be grateful. i was thankful for the creativity of our vendors, the support of our sponsors and attendees, the help of our volunteers and the partnership delilah and i have grown into.
after the show, i swept the streets accompanied by delilah, gustavo, our volunteers and friends and recalled those first few post break-up weeks and how people kept telling me that everything happens for a reason. i hated hearing that. at the time, i couldn’t imagine anything good coming out of my sadness. but, something did. that break-up led me back to orange county and if i’d never gone back i doubt patchwork would have happened. as i emptied the dustpan and put the broom away i added one more thing to my grateful list…heartbreak.