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Mark Strom

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Now for a different kind of thought process.


Every year at this time I take a moment to look back over the past year to see where I have been and what I have accomplished. This coming year will mark my 31st year as a full time wood carver and my 39th year making a living from my creativity.


I think it is important to remind ourselves of how lucky we are to practice such a liberating profession. At the beginning of this "economic downturn" I was asked what I was going to do as business had just died. My response was that carving was the only marketable skill I had and that any job I was qualified for would not pay the bills even if I could get that job. I also related that being a carver was who I was, a way of life that I could not be separated from. Once a church I was doing commissions for wanted me to sign a contract and after many arguments and legal fees concerning the contract I met with the committee. My only response to them was...that the process of making a living from carving was an act of faith, that they wanted me to carve an article of faith but that their contract showed their lack of faith. My faith in my work, the people who appreciate it and the faith that the universe will provide what is needed has gotten me through my third "economic downturn"


Looking back I feel truly lucky to have survived from a profession that produces a product so few purchase or appreciate. I have enjoyed the patronage of many truly caring and interesting people. Many have became true mentors and have supported me beyond my profession by sharing more than their monetary wealth but their wealth of experience as well. Deep friendships have developed that have crossed both cultural and social barriers. Very few professions have this kind of experiences to offer.


As for "economic downturns"....every day is spent trying to avoid one and will remain so as long as I carve for a living. As I go into 2010 I want to thank all those who appreciate, purchase and contribute to such as wonderful profession. People work all their lives and retire to do what I do for a living.


It is with this in mind that I ask everyone here to toast to my 39th year of retirement and to a truly rewarding profession!



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Hi again Mark,


For years I have joked about being semi-retired because I fill my day as each day's tasks need to be filled, but in reality, I am at work early before breakfast with TCP check in and other internet related tasks, and stop work just before bed time. Granted, TCP work does not pay my bills, and so too many other activities that are work related, but all are connected to making sure that the carving hours accomplish the goals of the self-employed. It just does not appear that I am at work when not at the bench.


For instance, I succeeded in leaving the house yesterday by 9:30 a.m., but the plumber arrived at the studio to complete work there and at the house. In three hours, I was able to clock 28 minutes of carving time, in three minute increments between plumber needs and fielding phone calls. Yikes! By 2:00 p.m. I returned to the studio but took time for TCP and other internet related work, then returned to carving by 3:30, and came in around 12:10 a.m. to log in on TCP and do some admin work. There are so many non-carving jobs to do, that carving is the pleasure goal of every day.


The past two years have felt the influence of economic downturn, weighing heavily on all aspects of our lives. Entertaining the thought of getting a "real job" occasionally is always a futile effort. I have many skills, but none that might result in gainful employment. I know what I know, but not up to speed for the employment marketplace. Considering whether or not to change the work I do has only caused angst. Moving forward in any way has been the goal and practice, with the belief that things will have a way of working out if I keep striving to learn and grow with what I do.


Mark, I do appreciate how thoughtfully you wrote in your post when introducing this topic. Your words express many things that can find parallels in our own experiences. Thank you.



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