Monday, April 20, 2015

Autism Awareness Day and the NYC Craft Entrepreneurship Program

April 2, almost three weeks ago, marked Autism Awareness Day. The official color for this day is blue so my sons and husband were all sporting azul on their way to school and work. I was still in my PJs (they were not blue) since I didn't have anywhere to be until later that evening. 

That evening, I would be attending the graduation ceremony for the first group of students I taught from the  NYC Craft Entrepreneurship Program. I didn't know what I was going to wear to the event, "should I wear blue?" I thought. I didn't have any blue clothes. It's not my favorite color and I don't really buy or make anything blue. This event was not autism related, I didn't have to dress the part but, with two on the spectrum, autism is a HUGE part of my life. I wanted to stand in unison with my community, even if quietly, to myself.  I decided to take a second look in my closet. As I was rummaging through my clothes, I spotted a blue and white dress my husband gave me (like I said, I would not have bought it myself.) It was perfect.

When I got to the graduation venue, I began to greet my students when one of them, Daysi, commented, "oh, you're wearing blue for Autism Awareness day right?" I am glad she acknowledged it. I had forgotten that I always mention this at the beginning of each of my classes. It is, in fact, the reason I decided to open my  Etsy shop. Now there were two people who knew why I was wearing blue. I blurted out a resounding YES! and we went on with our celebration. 

Dan would definitely be the one in orange, invading M's space
Some of the students gave me gifts, their own hand made creations that they sell. This, I was not expecting. It was so generous of them! One such gift were these beautiful handmade dolls from Mio Mucaro. I opened the package, on the train, on my way home. Two super hero dolls, both boys. I am sure they were to represent my two sons, both on the spectrum, both my heroes. Perhaps now three people knew why I was wearing blue. 

Right there on the D train, I cried silently. On this Autism Awareness day, while I thought I was quietly celebrating it by myself, there were people all around me who were kindly, sweetly,  acknowledging it. Erika Nazario, owner of Mio Mucaro, is a beautiful quiet soul herself but her gesture, and her dolls,  spoke volumes, loud and clear. 

As I share my story, my community continues to expand, way beyond those affected by autism and I am grateful.  

My beautiful and talented students who graduated from the NYC Craft Entrepreneurship Program. From left: Daysi Fernandez, Carla Giannina, Erika Nazario, me , and Lilian Fernandez

Want to know more about my students and view their work? 

The beautiful, whimsical dolls made by Erika from Mio Mucaro can be found by clicking on her Etsy shop,  here. 

Carla from Hatmade makes exquisite, non-traditional bridal accessories and fine headpieces. For her Etsy shop, click here

Daysi from Daysi Collection creates head-turning fashion, some inspired by African prints. Click here for her FB page. 

Lilian from GYLKEY Collection makes gorgeous crochet garments and accessories. I own one of her beautiful infinity scarves and will blog about it separately. Click here for her FB page.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) Screen Printed Infinity Scarves and Cuffs

SOLD OUT: IEP screen printed infinity scarf on jersey knit fabric. This is the only one I have in this color,

I'd like to introduce you to my new collection of IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) screen printed infinity scarves and cuffs, available in my shop, Nelesc Designs. These are ready to ship!

IEP hand screen printed repurposed leather cuffs,
If you are a special needs mom or teacher, you know what an IEP is! But if you don't, let me explain. An IEP is a written document that is developed for each public school child who is eligible for special education. It includes learning goals, methods of instruction, and criteria for determining whether the child has reached such goals. This document is  compiled by a team; teachers, members of the school district and, of course, the parent, and is legal and binding wielding much power! 

IEP screen printed top by Nelesc Designs
These items, all hand screen printed in my home, complete with "method", "criteria", etc., were birthed from a conceptual art project. On April of 2014, I was asked to submit works to the first annual Bronx Art for Autism fundraiser which was held at El Fogon Cultural Arts Center. I submitted three works, one of them being a screen printed IEP top, seen here. The premise for the piece was the idea of the special needs mom being buried and overwhelmed with paperwork, the almighty IEP, being the main one! I wanted to transform this difficult, anxiety ridden idea of the IEP and the IEP meeting and the only way I knew how to do this was through clothing. Clothing is transformational for me. I started printing a blurred version of my son's IEP on cuffs and scarves that I handmade myself. Consequently, this very serious document became more playful, whimsical, and I began to breathe a little easier when I entered my sons' IEP meetings with these on.

Not that there is anything fun or whimsical about an IEP or it's meeting companion. However, I do have to say, on one occasion it did lighten the mood during one of my son's IEP discussions. "Is that an IEP on your cuff? commented one of the school's representatives during said meeting. I was caught a little off guard as special needs moms are more of my target audience, but, miraculously, it gave me a platform to talk about my struggles raising two kids on the spectrum and the day to day issues I face as their advocate. They were responsive, really listened, and asked questions. I was grateful for that. In a, not so bad, way, the IEP meeting was transformed into an episode of The View! Perhaps it made me more human to them as they got a better understanding of my challenges. I don't know. What I do know is that it eased the tension of this IEP encounter and the outcome was a success. 

I can't promise you will have the same experience, but I do hope that this new collection will inspire conversation about the triumphs and difficulties that surround the special needs mom life. 

At the moment, these are one of a kind, the ones in the shop are ready to ship. When the kids go back to school next week,  I plan to create more with the fabric I have on hand.  

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on these new items. Please tell me what you think in the comments. I respond to every one! 

Have a great day! 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Creating under Difficult Circumstances: When Things Fall Apart

The other day, my Dan fully broke my dress form. It was already fragile from another one of his stunts but I had managed to put it back together. This time, a recent climbing expedition, completely broke her in two. 

This is what it's like to create in my context, the context of having a child with autism who, although lovable and happy, is also quite impulsive and curious about how things come apart. I have to admit, when I saw Frida (yes, that's what I call this dress form), I was pissed!

I sew and make things so I have a lot of enticing stuff to play with; zippers, tape measures, fabric, paint, brushes,  etc. All of this feeds my sensory needs, so how can it not be tempting to a sensory needy child like mine. And yes, I have, on more than one occasion, sacrificed the zipper or piece of fabric so that he could be happy and quiet in my space while I sewed away, but the buck stops at my mannequins! He cannot have my dress forms too! I am constantly teaching my kids, especially my oldest, how to enforce boundaries, this is one instance when I need to take my own advice.  

So, in an attempt to not have this break me or my creative spirit, I took a deep breath, composed myself, and went about trying to find a solution to this issue. We recently moved and I finally have my own creative, enclosed space  but alas, it has no door! It is now time for a door, or a gate, something, because creating is my lifeline, and when things seem to be falling apart, it's what makes sense and holds me  together. I love my Dan to pieces but he cannot have a piece of my Frida! I need to figure out a way to lovingly enforce my boundaries for him concerning my personal and creative space.  I have to admit, though, this part of self-care is tough for me. 

If you create under difficult circumstances; sickness, caring for a special needs child, unsupportive environment, etc., I'd love to hear from you, swap stories, and learn!