Monday, January 9, 2012

A Story for You

Solid copper caps.
Several years ago an older gentleman walked into my shop to sell me glass feathers he had made. He was dressed in a carhart overalls and was quiet spoken. I said I did not need the feathers and that they were not something that I felt I could sell. He said what would you like and I replied, what can you make? After a few more moments we agreed that he would make deer antler buttons for my yarn shop. He returned a couple of weeks later with lots of carefully crafted buttons and explained that he had never made them before. I bought a nice sack full. Soon he returned with more buttons and again, I bought his buttons. The next few times he returned, I did not need buttons as my little drawers were full so he brought in deer antlers for me to display with. The following weekend he came, looked around my shop and said he would return with more things he would make that he thought I could use and would like.  Each time he stopped in, I was told a bit more of his story.
Turns out that he lives about 40 minutes from here, is retired and has cancer. He has been making and selling things to help pay for his chemotherapy and his trips to Seattle for treatment. He says he could not do any of this without the love of his wife. I like to think that being in my shop opened a window of creativity for him as all through his illness, the loss of his hair, the tiredness etched in his face, he kept making things for me and I kept buying them.
Just before Christmas he asked what I would like to have made and I said shapes in copper. He had made a few things last year -  I made jewelry from them and took several loose pieces to sell in Tucson. Customers loved his work. I asked him to make a bunch more and I would buy them to sell again at the gem shows. He confided in me that his cancer had returned and he had elected not to undergo anymore torturous treatments. I am saddened by this but he kept his word and made a bunch of things for me. Copper and brass buttons, copper caps, earring shapes, drilled wheat pennies and pendants. I bought nearly everything when we sat in the yarn shop to look at his work. It was the most I had ever seen him make. At the end of our business deal, as I realized his hearing was not working and his energy seemed depleted, he reached out to hug me and wish me a Merry Christmas. I like to think that he will be around for a long time in his little work space, crafting things in copper and brass, bone and other found materials and that he will still stop in to sell me his work from time to time but I know that soon this will all stop. I like to think I have helped him and I know that I have learned lessons from him about finding a passion and keeping busy in the face of illness. Odd how at times like this, with found friendships like ours, that I remember how much we can mean to one another.