29 August

Rachel Barlow’s Journey To Etsy

by Jon Katz
Rachel Barlow’s Journey To Etsy

I’ve been teaching writing, and lately, blogging –  in one form or another for more than 20 years.

Rachel Barlow has been my student for six of those years, and I can say without any hesitation she has been and is the most gifted and productive and authentic  student I have ever had, or probably ever will have.

Rachel and I have been through many permutations with one another. She is an artist, a writer, a blogger, an author. There is absolutely nothing she can not do and do brilliantly, despite dealing with bipolar disorder and sometimes severe and debilitating depression.

She is both impulsive and obsessive, two traits that inspire her prodigious talent.

Through dark and awful days and winters,  Rachel always shows up, she is always working on another book, another sketch, another painting, another blog post, another watercolor (a couple of weeks ago she took up oils, and they are lovely, see above.)

Rachel is a rock star, a hero. She is a triumph of will, talent, and the power of creativity to heal and ground. She openly writes about those moments when she nearly gave up on it all, her sickness was so severe, but I never saw her stop creating, turn mean or hurt another soul.

I’ve never seen  her whine or pity herself. She overcomes pain every day, and if that is not heroism, I don’t know what it.

This week, a big step forward: She’s on Etsy.

She has dealt with many difficult challenges in her life, apart from her depression.

Her husband Chris was gravely ill E, her oldest son Mac is struggling with a severe colitis. Although her moods sometimes swing wildly, Rachel is a rock, she never gives up or surrenders to life or her mental illness, lets is slow her great gifts.

Rachel can sometimes be her own worst enemy.

She thinks she knows nothing, and is almost addicted to gurus and creative workshops and other people’s ideas. She even pays people who know much less than she knows for their advice. Fortunately, she rarely takes it.

She has a genius for multi-tasking. Sometimes, when Rachel comes to my class, she is working in her other job as a tech support counselor, (she needs the health plan) and once I remember she was offering feedback on a piece of writing while giving instructions to a panicked customer about how to unfreeze a computer. She handles both at once.

Once in a while she listens to me, and I believe our creative work together has helped ground her and keep her focused, although Rachel needs no one’s help to do brilliant work almost every day of her life.

She has absolutely no idea how talented she is, of course, and is forever seeking guidance and direction, I always tell her she  should be the student, not the pupil.

Rachel and I know one another quite well by now, we have seen each other at our best and worst and stayed connected.

I have a deep admiration and respect for her, her work and her life, even though I have wanted to strangle her one or two times, as she leaps from one project to another, almost without interruption.

Over these years, the range and quality of her work is nothing less than astonishing. Although she is constantly looking for work that is more secure for her and her family, I believe it is her destiny to create, and I believe this creativity will sustain and guide her.

First the blog, then the sketches, then the watercolors and the books, then the cartoons, and now the oils. All of them beautiful clever, powerful, funny and haunting. (A couple of her oils will be for sale  in our October Open House on Columbus Day Weekend.)

She is always trying something new, doing something new. It is always wonderful. Rachel cannot ultimately be taught, only guided like a wondrous balloon in the wind.

This week, she has opened up a Rachel Barlow store on Etsy. I had no idea it was coming.

She is migrating some of her  remarkable works there, the rest can be seen on her very beautiful blog. Since she has no idea how good she is, she is almost incapable of charging much for her work, a reflection of self-esteem issues, not  talent.

That is good news for the growing number Rachel Barlow fans.

Rachel has a lot of personal meaning for me. I can’t really imagine or remember a time when she was not in my life and I hope the day never comes when she isn’t.

Congratulations star pupil, on your new Etsy page.

No one deserves success more than you do.

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