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  • Rose Mary LeBlanc

Life's Next Chapter

To retire or semi retire? That is the question.

In the coming months I will be sharing my experiences about the next phase of my life. Some aspects of this process will resonate with you and some will not but I do hope that you will follow along with me on this journey.

At the first Custom Workroom Conference in 2016, I attended Jeanelle Dech's class, The End Game, and she really jump started my thinking on this subject.

I really thought that I would stay in business till I passed on to that big sewing room in the sky but this fall I realized that was not what I really wanted to do.

First, let me tell you a little about myself. I am from the small town of Slidell, Louisiana, across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. Sewing is in my DNA. My French grandmother (actually from France) sewed couture clothing for the Uptown ladies of New Orleans. Even though she died when I was just 3 years old, there was a deep connection between us. We were kindred spirits and she still inspires me to this day. She crossed the ocean without a GPS or a cell phone in the late 1880's not knowing a soul in a strange land. She succeeded in making a home and a living for herself and her children. My grandfather died when the children were very young.

I have had several businesses throughout my life: picture framing, needlework design in Louisiana, home furnishing fabrication and workroom organization systems for Seamless Workroom with business partner Amanda Deal Smith. At the end of 2018 I will have spent 27 years creating custom home furnishings for designers in both Louisiana and Charlotte, North Carolina. That's a long time to do anything.

I feel good about my long career and I am proud of my accomplishments. I have and still am contributing to an industry that I love and feel passionately about. Most people can't say that about their life's work.

A lot goes into the decision to retire or semi retire. For a business owner things happen that build on each other the other until it all adds up to a decision. For me there wasn't any angst about the decision and I thought that there would be. It's interesting how time changes the way we think. I thought that I would fight it all the way but the decision is a relief.

Three factors influenced me:

First, I noticed that my fabrication speed was slowing down over the past year or so. That's normal for aging but not good for profitability. I wasn't slow as a snail but I wasn't setting any land speed records anymore.

Second, my patience isn't what it used to be. Recently a designer asked me to quote and requote the same drapery job over and over (par for this designer). I lost count after the fourth or fifth go round. At that point I realized that my patience wasn't what it used to be and that I couldn't muster the same enthusiasm as before to help her over her indecision about this job.

Third, my love of drawing resurfaced. As a teenager I loved to draw and my favorite class was art. Illustration fascinated me and my first goal was to be an illustrator. Life got in the way as it often does with our dreams and I put it aside.

When I was in my teens and twenties pen and ink was my medium.

In my thirties I designed counted cross stitch needlework with an emphasis on Louisiana themes. As needlework phased out in popularity, I fell into making pillows and drapes for a local fabric store. And so I fell into my 27 year sewing business by happy accident.

Then a few years ago I discovered that I could draw on my computer. I learned the Inkscape program from You Tube videos and bought a Mac Book Pro (my Apple Baby). I was hooked big time on computer drawing. Designs were, and still are, constantly popping into my head and calling me to draw them. Computer drawing combined my love of illustration with my love of fabric. (Spoonflower is my guilty pleasure and makes it possible for me to feed my design habit.)

I have come full circle with my art and have dusted off my dream of illustration.

Seamless Workroom is also one of my passions and I will continue to nurture it with Amanda. We have so many goals and projects for the future to work on. I see the details that workrooms encounter on a daily basis similar herding cats through an airport. It's so easy for one to slip away and a chore to get them all back on track.

So there it is - slowing down, diminishing patience and a resurgence of drawing all added up to a new phase of my life. My decision is to semi retire. I can't imagine just quitting out right. as I still have things to do and accomplish in the workroom as well as my other passions.

For me two of the lessons are that each decade of our lives has a different focus and there are new opportunities and interests yet to come.


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