I knew when I booked tickets for the Paralympics that I would find the experience emotional: just the thought of seeing athletes perform right in front of us sent shivers down my spine but I wasn't prepared for the tears flowing when a runner from Africa came last in his heat.
You've probably read about the Djibouti runner who took 11 minutes 23.5 seconds to run 1500m. The press coverage variously described him as 'struggling', 'disabled', 'adrift' but that's not what I saw. We were unaware he had injured his foot because from the outset he appeared to run the race in his own way: steadily, one stride at a time, focussed until he reached the finish line. Other athletes passed him but he did not even glance at them, 80,000 people roared at him in a rolling Mexican wave of cheering but he ignored them. He had a goal and he reached it but he reached it in his own way. The results board showed it was his season's best performance. Without a doubt he achieved a personal best.
Since then I've cheered on lots of other performers: the Weirwolf, Ellie Simmmonds, Jonnie Peacock - willing them on, yelling at the TV but as brilliant and exciting as our Paralympians were it was this guy's run which made me the most emotional. It was not because I felt sorry for him but rather, I think, because I admired his ability to be able to keep striving towards his goal despite being so far behind; at not being fazed by having to take the race at a different pace to everyone else and doing this in front of the world. Despite coming last, he got there. It was fantastic, too, to see Andy Murray achieve a personal best by winning the US Open to add to his Olympic Gold. He has also had to strive, to give his all under intense pressure and in front of the world.
These performances affected me because I think they tapped into my own emotional engagement in my work. I share their desire to reach a goal (successful business), I like to work in my own way (just me, making what I like, selling to people I like, in environments which support me, alongside 'colleagues' from other disciplines who are equally passionate about what they do); I don't mind if the success takes a while to achieve (as long as I've not compromised my principles and done my best) and in doing all this I've represented myself in the best way for me. And in a (very) small way, I'm making a contribution to my country.
The last four years have been increasingly difficult for many of us in the crafting community. Many local craft-based events have not been sustainable due to low visitor numbers; personal spending has been down; profit has been hard to come by. But difficult times are good for entrepreneurs! Personally I've had to take the risk of going to major shows where visitor numbers are high; I have learned to network which has led to new friendships and connections; I've created new outlets online and I've had to pluck up the courage to approach retailers to stock my products. Now I feel as though I'm slowly approaching that final bend in the race and going into the home straight within sight of my goals.
In my continued aim to support and connect with the best in my field I've recently found the following sites which I think perfectly illustrate the notion of 'personal best' in the craft community. Have a look and you'll see what I mean.
Planet Penny http://www.facebook.com/PlanetPenny
Penny has a fabulous collection of cotton yarn in an amazing set of colours - I've been trying to hold off buying some because I already have an enormous stash but I'm going to give in and buy a pack for my birthday in November. Her patterns and designs are just so cute and she has a blog which is well worth reading too.
What drew me to Lucy's work was the fineness of the stitching, the attention to detail in each piece and the delicacy of the colours. If my 'little one' was approaching her 6th rather than her16th birthday I would have loved to buy her a birthday badge!
I found this lovely page courtesy of Colour-full-felt who invite their customers to share pictures of their makes. It was these little chaps which did it for me. The simplicity of the design and the complementary colours make it a true winner. I keep thinking I've spent all year sewing to sell - maybe I should buy a kit to make as a present to myself.
This site attracted me because of the brilliant fabrics and the fabulous effect created by the layering of the embellishments, the mixing of different textures and the incredible colours in Andrea's products. She's just set up a notonthehighstreet.com shop, another great window for handmade.
It's easy to know why I like this site - because I love hearts too! Lots of crafters use hearts but I think these wallhangings are just gorgeous and make the loveliest presents. It would really show someone you love them if you give one as a gift but wouldn't it make you smile every time you saw it if you had one in your own home?
What unites these five fantastic pages and the businesses they represent is that in each case you have a sense of the person behind it; the detail and care which goes into each product is of the highest order and that what they make is the absolutely best product they could possibly give you. You just know you wouldn't be disappointed in anything you buy from them.
I am looking forward to showcasing some of my personal best products at the following events this coming autumn. I have some special offer/discount tickets for the Craft in Focus events and will have some available for the Sparkle event in due course. Just drop me an email - firstname.lastname@example.org - with your address if you would like one.
2nd-4th November - Craft in Focus Contemporary Craft Fair at Sevenoaks School, Kent.
16th-18th November - Sparkle Contemporary Craft & Gourmet Food Fair at the Landmark Arts Centre, Teddington, Surrey.
21st-25th November - Craft in Focus Christmas Contemporary Craft Fair at RHS Garden Wisley, Surrey.
7th-8th December Hi-Life at Tingle Creek, Sandown Park Racecourse, Surrey.
More details of these are on the Where to Find Me page of www.lavender-heart.co.uk.
Lots of love as always