This will be a long post, but a worthwhile post and as part of #MegaMarch, this post has the potential, I hope to inspire you a little. To show you how strangers can help others towards a goal and contribute to making someones dream come true or even bring it that little bit closer to them.
You all know I hail from Ireland and for 13 years I lived in a city called Limerick in the Midwest. I moved there to attend my dream of going to Art School. When selecting a school, I never paid much attention to the city I would be living in. I just wanted to study art. I didn't think about the degree at the end of four years or the possible career path, I just wanted to draw and meet like minded people along the way. Over the years, I made great friends and shared accommodation with them. One such friend was a gem named Therese who studied Printmaking. I concentrated on Sculpture so we didn't share many classes together, but I would pop over to her studio every now and again and hang out. By doing this I met some of her fellow classmates and one such person was Ruth Crean.
After our degrees ended, I studied for another year, training as an Art Teacher and after that went into the big bad world of third level education. I occasionally would bump into Ruth in Limerick as we had both decided to base ourselves there after our degrees ended. She had her finger in many creative pies including running an arts and crafts stall every Sunday in the centre of Limerick city. To my shame, I didn't know she was doing this until she was two years into running this project. A year or so later, I was delighted to hear that Ruth has secured a place in Limericks famous Milk Market. A hot spot for foodies and creatives and a haven of footfall. This I was sure would help her business Nice Day Designs thrive all that bit more.
A few more years passed and I often swung by the market for chats with Ruth and I was always envious of her freelance life. I knew it was a difficult life, constantly making things and coming up with idea after idea in order for her business to thrive and importantly for the bills to be paid. But she did it, every day and every weekend without fail. While I was miserable in my corporate-ish, suit wearing job, Ruth was knee deep in creativity and expanding her business by engaging with every customer who passed by her stall and undertaking any aspect of social media she could. The woman is a pro at social media and marketing her product.
Ruth also introduced me to Etsy and soon I had my shop up and running and was selling my handmade items. I never had the time to make the volume of stock Ruth did, but I enjoyed the process of creating, photographing, listing, selling and posting my items to many corners of the world. 2011 arrived and so did the Cat Dig Festival in Limerick. Ruth, being the entrepreneur that she is always has been submitted a proposal for a pop up Etsy shop and invited all the local Etsy sellers she knew of. I received that invitation too and promptly signed up. Ruth turned a grotty space into a chic, vintage style shop and I and a number of sellers volunteered our time. I loved working there, I loved selling mine and others items and in no time, Ruth had negotiated with the landlord that we could stay for longer than a weekend. In fact, we got to stay for one month, rent free!
After a month, the shop closed it's doors but we were all buzzing on the fact that it was very well received by the public. Etsy even recognized Ruth's efforts. Fast forward to November 2012 and Ruth is in talks with the council to secure an empty shop space in the heart of the city. There was (and still are) so many shop spaces that a scheme was created were artists were turning these bare, slack spaces into working studios, galleries and now, a craft shop. Leading up to Christmas Limerick Craft and Design opened and when I tell you Ruth begged, borrowed and stole anything she could to get fittings for the shop, she did. As well as balancing her market stall, she pulled together a team of incredible volunteers and opened a shop. Again, I sold my items there and volunteered my time in any way I could. I took great pride working there, enjoyed interacting with every customer and felt volunteering at weekends was the very least I could do. Honestly, it didn't feel like work in comparison to the work Ruth had put in. I loved that place and together we made plans for the future. The shop was hugely successful, it brought new life to an otherwise dull and quiet area of the city and together a mini Christmas fair was created that year. It was simply amazing.
Less than 8 weeks into the shop being up and running, the council contacted Ruth. Someone was interested in purchasing the shop. For real. This was one of the stipulations, that in the event a buyer wanted to buy the shop and pay proper rates (less than we as a team were paying) then we'd have to move out. The shop that had previously been empty for five years was now in demand. Simply put, the new energy that Ruth had brought to the area hadn't gone unnoticed. A buyer wanted in and in January, the shop was packed up. It was a sad day.
In the Summer of 2013, Robert and I found out we were moving to Manchester and in September as you know, we moved. In December the opportunity arose again for Ruth to open Limerick Craft and Design from another location and like the trooper she is she organised the whole thing from start to finish. From contacting every single artist and creative, to setting the shop floor up to organising its finances, the woman and her incredible enthusiasm did it all and all during the busy festive period. A time when her business is at its peak! Of course this year I couldn't be a part of it, but I dropped her a line to say I would have volunteered at a drop of a hat. If anything, volunteering introduced me to a whole new world of creative people I would not have had the chance to meet otherwise. This alone made me happy. The shop closed again and Ruth and her army of volunteers packed everything up, for the second time.
About a month ago, I saw Ruth hinting at another project on Facebook. I had no idea what she was up to this time round and knowing Ruth it was something innovative and something exciting. She, of course, didn't disappoint. The short version goes something like this. While having a conversation with friend about great teas and there being no where to buy them in Limerick, the idea of opening a art cafe struck her and in true Ruth style she decided she would make this a reality. Known for working into the wee hours, she and her friend Martins began their research and left no stone un-turned. A short period later, she dazzled the Facebook community with her idea and let us all know that she had launched a crowd funding page in order to raise €6,000 in one month. Normally this task would put anyone off, but not Ruth. When she has an idea that she knows can work, she makes it happen. She puts every ounce of energy she has into that idea and makes.it.happen. The Stormy Teacup will not just be a place to drink lovely teas and eat cake but also a permanent place for local artists to sell their crafts. Determined not to give the crafting a community a permanent space, Ruth has gone the extra mile. Once again.
Having witnessed her in action, I know how determined she is and I also know she deserves every ounce of success this project would bring. I lived in Limerick for 13 years and understand deeply how well received The Stormy Teacup would be and believe it to be a hugely important opening not just for the city but for Ruth too. As a write this, they have 7 days left to raise just under €800. Remarkable that they have raised over €5,000 in 23 days - flipping amazing actually and based on the generous donations of hard earned cash from friends, family and strangers.
Reading this, you may know not or have ever heard of Ruth Crean or her lovely crafts from Nice Day Designs, but if you met her, you'd love her. She always has a warm smile for you, a great story to tell and a chunk of creative advice to go with it. She will share with you her love of books, crafts and a good pint, but most of all she's a lovely friend. If you believe in karma and helping a fellow creative out, you can donate here. (If anything, it's worth checking this page out for the painstakingly amazing animation she made!) Below are some links to everything you need to know about Ruth and her awesome business Nice Day Designs. She also writes a mean blog which is a wealth of information!
7 days and less than €800 to raise. This can be done!