On the Threshold of Fear

threshold fear

I never thought that I would be accepted as a vendor for Renegade Craft Fair in Seattle this winter. Renegade is huge. Their Instagram account alone has 139,000 followers. I had to put up my entire booth fee with my application, and all autumn I was making plans for what I would do with the money when they rejected me and I got my refund.

When I got my acceptance email, I was so confused I had to read it again before I realized what was happening. I screamed, and then I danced around the house. I texted my husband Matt and McKenzie (who had pushed me to apply) in all caps: OMG OMG OMG I GOT INTO RENEGADE.

And then reality set in.

I got into Renegade. Shit. I was so unprepared. What now?

My shoulders felt tight. All the time. Every night while falling asleep, I would feel myself falling and scare myself awake. There was a pit in my gut that was a mixture of excitement and anxiety. For the next couple months, I obsessively googled booth displays but I felt like I could not learn enough. How many art prints should I order? What if I bought too many and was stuck with unsold inventory? What if I sold out? What should I put on my signs? How should I hang my framed work?

I worried so much I got sick a week before the fair. The only way I could force myself to rest was to watch TV while signing and bagging art prints, but–even then–I had to remind myself to breathe, to drink water, to eat.

nursing clementine

And on top of all that, I was alone. A friend who was to help me set up (while Matt stayed home with the girls) canceled and I was not able to replace her. So I woke up at 5 am the day of the event, slipped into my cold car, and drove through dark streets up to Seattle, to Magnuson Park, obsessively checking GPS on my phone, until I arrived at Hangar 30. I was the only vendor on site, the first to arrive, and I slipped in to scope the layout while the staff huddled around cups of coffee and prepared for the day.

One by one vendors arrived. As most people worked in teams, I emptied my car alone. I lugged my boxes into the hanger, sweating and losing my grip. Then I sat on my folding chair, catching my breath and gulping water, while all around me the veterans were halfway done with their elaborate and beautiful booths.  My booth was a scattered bunch of boxes I had yet to unpack. 

I did it.

I set everything up by myself, just in the nick of time.

Even after setting up, my inner critic was kicking and screaming the whole time, plaguing me with fears and doubts–you’re wasting time, you’re wasting money, you should just stay home and take care of the kids–but I didn’t waste time fighting myself. I just accepted that I was scared shitless to try and break out into the world as a professional artist, but that I was going to show up anyway.

ekwetzel renegade craft fair seattle

After the fair I realized my shoulders felt less tight. The bottoms of my feet felt more solid. My gut felt flutters. My skin bothered me less. Only after pushing through did I realize how afraid I’d been the whole time.

Ever since Renegade, I’ve been thinking about how hard it was for me to leave the house this time last year. Clementine was still a newborn, and I was plagued with agoraphobia. I don’t know why I was afraid of leaving the house, but I felt terror every time my feet passed the threshold of the front door. Instead of pausing to try and figure out why, I just kept going out the front door.

At Renegade, the question I kept getting again and again was, “Where do you come up with your ideas?” I’m still not sure. I feel like I’m mostly trying to step out of the way and let the art flow through me. I have too much work to do to dwell on my fear. I just fold the fear inside of me, try not to think about myself too much, and focus on my work.

So while I was busy painting–somewhere along the way–I transformed into something new, someone I barely recognize. I became the person I dreamt of being when I was five years old: someone who bakes with her kids by day and makes storybooks by night.

what's to come

My fear is like a friend. It is a part of me. And making room for it in my life pushes me to be more active as an artist, more attached as a parent, and more earnest with you.

I haven’t made a storybook. Yet. But I’m working toward it. Wait and see!

8 Responses to On the Threshold of Fear

  1. Joy Healy January 2, 2017 at 4:18 pm #

    As creative as you are, I have no doubt but whatever your first storybook is, it will be insightful, creative and YOU!! Write it…mom wants to read it 🙂

  2. Amy Doty Burton January 2, 2017 at 4:44 pm #

    I love this so much. How fear has the power to turn you into something better and stronger than you were, and how candid you are about your own battles with it. Thank you for sharing. My dream is to write a children’s book someday. I have words but most definitely not the artistic talents. If ever I get up the courage to write one, I’d be honored to have you illustrate it for me.

  3. Yuko January 2, 2017 at 5:51 pm #

    OMG I totally hear you. I have very similar doubts about doing craft fairs and all the logistics feel overwhelming to me. Congratulations on your show at Renegade!! Your booth looks lovely <3

  4. Mehtap Ozer Isovic January 2, 2017 at 7:50 pm #

    This is so inspiring for me as a working mom with dreams to follow! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Brittany January 2, 2017 at 7:53 pm #

    You are awesome!! I can totally relate. I have so much gear of failing that honestly I have a huge list of why I can’t try :/. You are so inspiring and just seriously incredible. You and your work!!! Way to go!

  6. Ashley Pond January 2, 2017 at 9:37 pm #

    This is wonderful. Thank you for sharing!

  7. Tricia January 3, 2017 at 12:20 am #

    Oh, thank you for writing this. I’m dealing with fear right now and I needed to read your words and wisdom. I need to befriend my fear, not fight it.

  8. Alina Adamut January 3, 2017 at 1:07 am #

    Thank you for your honesty! Thank you for keeping it real! You are brave and soooo talented! I love your work! I am dreaming to put one of your paintings (the cats kissing) in my bedroom!