It was October 15, 1989 when I started my job with Cal/OSHA. On my very first day in the office, I knew I was going to love my job. My co-workers were TERRIFIC!! I loved them all right from the start.
Since I was at the “Junior” level, I was not to go out and do solo inspections. I tagged with several “experienced” coworkers for a few months. The Division didn’t know quite what to do with us “Juniors” at the time. There were 9 of us state-wide (from an original 260 who took the exam). There was one other “Junior” in my office. During the first 6 months, the two of us spent a lot of time “studying” the P and P (policies and procedures) and regulations. I remember asking my coworker nearly every day at a few minutes before going home, “So, Ellie….what did we accomplish today?”
“Looking busy!” she would reply.
“Flipping pages and looking important” I would counter.
Finally, the Division got itself together and put all 9 of us Juniors through a very intensive and thorough training session that would last a year. Two weeks at a time, we would meet in Berkeley and sit through one topic or another, learning the finer points of Industrial Hygiene, sampling methods, toxicology, legal procedures….all the many facets of what I now do every day. Then we would return to our offices for a few weeks, tag along with other inspectors, and even do some of the easier inspections on our own. Then a few weeks later, we would meet again for our next training session.
Back in those days, training was a regular thing. Even for the more experienced people. The State budgeted some money for training and even some certifications. That is now a thing of the past. But that’s a whole other story…
Now that I was settling down in a job I enjoyed, and an area of the country I loved, I had time and the spirit to really devote to creating things. I was in a “playful” frame of mind. I pulled out my beads, and beaded up a storm. Earrings, necklaces, you name it. I experimented with stitches from the few books that were available (remember, back in those ancient days there were no beading magazines, very few beading books, and no internet! Oh...can you imagine such a thing?). I suffered through a very bad book on peyote stitch and finally learned peyote. I played more with loom work, and bead embroidery.
During my first year in San Jose, I saw an ad that got me excited. A new bead store was opening in San Jose. I just HAD to go! The store was Peninsula Bead and Supply (aka Beads and Things). From the moment I walked in the store, I loved it! I loved the owner, Nancy Donnelly who is a wonderful person. Over the years, I spent a lot of money there!
I worked up the courage to show Nancy my beadwork, and asked if she needed a teacher. She did, and I wound up teaching at her store for years. I taught all sorts of classes from beginning to more advanced. Nancy asked me if I would like to consign some of my beadwork in her shop. I was delighted! Of course, I said “YES!!!”
Consigning beadwork in Nancy’s shop brought me a few dollars on a fairly regular basis. Along with the teaching, the extra money I earned really helped. Keeping up with the beading required more and more of my time. Since I was still churning out earrings from Deon DeLange’s books and many of my own geometric earring patterns, I was getting very bored. I had tried all color combinations, and little extras on the fringe that I could find, but the geometrics get a little boring before too long even with the modifications I did.
One Sunday morning, as I was reading the newspaper, I noted an ad. (I wish I had a copy of this ad to show you, but I could not find it, or a photo of what was in the ad )that changed things dramatically. It was a lovely ad of a restaurant on North First St in San Jose. It advertised a Price Fixed menu for a fancy restaurant. A romantic looking couple was seated at a beautiful table with wine, all smiling and happy. That was not what caught my eye. It was the stained glass door in the background. It was of a glorious peacock. I LOVED it! I wondered if there was any way I could fashion it into an earring.
With colored pencils, and a hand drawn graph, I colored. I erased. I colored some more. Six hours later, I created my very first earring pattern that was not geometric. I was so proud.
Nancy had made a comment at some point that some of my earrings were just a tad on the big side. This Peacock earring was even a tad larger than the earrings she thought were a bit big. So I was reluctant to show her the Peacock earrings. I thought she wouldn’t like them. But I took a chance. “No” was all she could say. I would still like them, and wear them, no matter what.
When I showed Nancy the earrings, she went CRAZY!! “I MUST HAVE THEM!! They will sell like HOT CAKES!!” she exclaimed. I gave the earrings to her. And sell they did. Multiples of them. It seemed like I was ALWAYS making them.
Since the Peacock was such a success, I started playing with other designs. A beagle face, a bear, a fish, a parrot…I kept designing them, and making them. Nancy kept taking the earrings, and selling them. I was no longer bored making the same earrings. I had enough patterns to keep myself interested. I kept designing new ones because I loved the challenge.
I was having so much fun beading and designing, and selling my work through Nancy’s store, I couldn’t be happier. I loved my day job and the great friends I made through my coworkers, I hardly noticed how unhappy I was at home. I found my escape both at work and through my beading. Even Jasmine came with me to my classes. She always wanted to be with me when she could. Even at the age of 5, she too was beading, and had her own collection of beads. Would you believe she even helped me teach?
Despite how happy I was with everything over all, things would soon change again. And while this change did not cause a move, it would cause the biggest emotional difficulty I ever had.