“You’ll have to use your imagination,” she said.
“I can do that,” I replied. “I’m an artist.”
The coordinator, Jackie Boos, unfolded the vision of what this place called Artisan Forge Studios, would become. I thought the vision was compelling. And so after some thought and prayer, I signed on as a renter at the beginning of 2016.
It’s amazing that just a little over two years ago, I moved my art business from my home into this diesel truck service center-turned high scale art gallery.
It didn’t take long for the building to transform into one of Eau Claire’s best places to go to see local fine art. With it, I met a lot of fantastic artists, built some great relationships, sold artwork, and even started teaching classes.
I had no idea that I would be able to teach until I came to Artisan Forge Studios. Other artists–sculptors and welders–were teaching, and someone asked if I would teach a class.
“I’ll give it a try,” I said.
I had such a good time, I decided to do more.
Artisan Forge changed a lot in two years–starting with just a handful of artists and growing to include more than 40 of the area’s best talent. My art business grew as well. I gained more clients, built relationships with local artists and collectors, and art students. I had the chance to share my art–and my faith as a Christian–with hundreds since I’ve been there, in person, and in some public speaking engagements.
And even though I’ve enjoyed being at “the Forge,” I decided to bid farewell.
It started with this…
Toward the end of last year, my wife and I were discussing our goal of moving out of the city and buying a home in the country (in the Eau Claire area.) She has always been a country girl. I’m more of a city slicker. But after many years of being in town, I long for the open vistas of nature, and I especially want my children to enjoy that as well.
And it would be a perfect place to set up a studio.
We were pre-approved for a home purchase, but we still have some debts to pay off. So, to trim some expenses, the idea of cutting out studio rent seemed like a plausible idea. I still have a spare room in my home that’s not being used. So, it would be possible to move back in.
But to leave the Forge was nearly unthinkable. How could I leave the place when things were going so well?
“Why don’t you just pray about it?” my wife suggested.
Seemed like a good idea. It never hurts to pray.
I had just as many reasons to stay than I did to go. Maybe even more reasons to stay, depending on how you spin the “pros and cons” plate. But I figured, “Let’s see what God has to say about it.”
When I pray for God’s direction, I almost always have a Bible in front of me. He speaks to me out of that book. It’s amazing. The Bible itself says…
“Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.” (Psalm 119:133)
At the middle of November, after going to church, I asked God, “Do you want me to leave Artisan Forge?”
I opened up my Bible and started reading. Immediately, this passage jumped out at me. In fact, I think it was the first page I opened to.
“Leave, leave, go out from there!…” (Isaiah 52:11)
Hmm. Interesting. Could it be, Lord, that you want me to actually leave?
I thought about it, but I wasn’t sure. I prayed again a few more times, and I saw glimpses of verses that seemed to say the same thing: “Go.” But I still wanted more assurance. This was a big decision.
“I believe God will make it clear to you if you seek Him diligently,” my mother-in-law (the one who encouraged me to do art full time) advised me.
Made my choice. Stamped it.
Finally, it was the end of November. I needed to find out for sure if it was God’s will for me to leave Artisan Forge Studios, so I could give them adequate notice, and maybe be out by the end of the year.
I had to make a decision. I dropped to my knees in the studio, and opened up my Bible. And quickly, my eyes landed on Romans 15:23…
“But now I have finished my work in these regions, and after all these long years of waiting, I am eager to visit you.”
It wasn’t just the verse itself that spoke to me, but the feeling I got when I read it. I felt peace. It was like God was saying to me, “You’ve served here faithfully. Now your time here is done.”
OK, Lord. I don’t want you to have to hit me over the head with this. I’m making my decision. I’m leaving. I’ll give them notice today.
That was two months ago. Christmas brought in a lot of commissions, so I figured I’d wait until the hoopla was over to really begin taking down my studio and setting up again in my home. During the packing up process, I have to say I second-guessed my decision more than just a few times.
Man, this is crazy. I’m going backwards. I left my house to come here as an artist. And now I’m going back?
But then I thought: Going back to the place you came from can also be forward progress too.
Didn’t the Israelites go back to the Promised Land after being in Egypt for 400 years? Didn’t the Jews go back to their homeland after being in Babylon for 70 years? And didn’t Jesus return back home after being on earth for 33 years?
I made my decision. I’m not looking back. I’m walking by faith and not by sight. To me, it’s more important to follow God’s leading than to have it all figured out.
And so, I am saying “farewell to Artisan Forge.” I’m leaving on good terms and plan on keeping in touch with the wonderful people there, but right now the future is wide open to many possibilities.
Wherever God leads me.
I’ll walk by faith.
I can’t see what lies ahead of me.
That’s okay. I can use my imagination.
Be blessed and I’ll be in touch,
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"I have inscribed you on the palm of my hands."
"Inscribed," Pencil on Paper, by Matt Philleo
One day, when I was discouraged I read a verse in the Bible, in Isaiah, 49:15-16, where it says, "Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palm of my hands." This verse brought such encouragement, that I created this original work of art to share the incredible love of God with others, including you!
Get a free 8 x 10 copy of this drawing that you can use to print, share, or as wallpaper!