Rachel King's love of arts and crafts began when she was just a little girl. "In grade school I began making little things - gift tags, bead necklaces - and trying to sell them to my teachers," she said. "As a child, I thought selling things that I could make was a great way to make money.
"As children, my brother, cousins and I would play Town (instead of House). I would be the Town Artist, drawing pictures and trying to sell them. My cousin would be the town vet; she's now in vet school. I believe that you can have an idea of what you want to happen in your life from a very young age."
While many teachers liked and praised her effort, it was not until she was in high school that one truly inspired her.
(Photo — Yvona Fast)
"Mrs. Eldridge was a fun and exciting art teacher," explains Rachel. "It's such a special feeling when your work becomes an example. It was through her teaching that art started to make more sense and became the light in my life. I'm a better artist today because of the time I was able to have with her. Being taught by her also showed me that teaching art can be rewarding."
Rachel will be attending Potsdam this winter, pursuing art education.
"I found myself through art; I'd like to help other students do that," she said. "I want to get children excited about art, to teach them the concepts in a fun way. Just as Mrs. Eldridge was for me, I want to be a model for them."
Rachel also loves journaling. She has kept a journal since she was 10, when her 5th grade teacher asked the class to keep a journal over summer vacation.
"It is a great release of thoughts and ideas it's a good and inexpensive therapy," she explained. "It's also a way to preserve your thoughts so you can reflect on them years later, a way to jot down life's experiences and accomplishments. I believe in life, growth, happiness and peace. Each one of these things can be encouraged by keeping and using a journal. Journals have the ability to help people see themselves grow and develop into a better person - a person who is capable of peace and happiness in their heart. I want to encourage others to keep a journal."
That desire led to her craft: making hand-bound journals using a Japanese stitch. They have pretty, decorated covers and are made with recycled paper.
"I try to use as many recycled items as possible," Rachel said. "I respect nature, and believe it's important to give back to the environment, not just take. I also enjoy using supplies produced by other artists. For example, the fabric covers of some journals are hand-dyed by another artist. It's a community."
The journals can also be used as a sketch book or to hold a personalized collection of recipes. They take about 45 minutes each to make, but Rachel has developed a system where she makes a dozen at one time, which takes a large part of the day.
"People have sent them to friends in Germany and China. It makes me happy that my books are all over the world," she said.
Rachel also makes jewelry. She started making necklaces for friends and teachers as a little girl.
"Jewelry making is very special to me," Rachel said. "I love trees and woods, and I like the Celtic tree of life idea. The earthy theme goes well with the eco-friendly journals. The original Celtic meaning represents the connection between heaven and earth: the branches symbolize the heavens, the roots symbolize the earth. The tree combines the two: that connection is what makes life possible.
"Adding the tree is like adding a little bit of me to the necklace. There's greatness in trees that we cannot deny. They're one of the reasons the Adirondacks are so wonderful. They're the heart of this region, vital to the ecology movement, central to recycling, and supply fuel and energy. I could not bear a life without the friendship I have with trees. Often you'll find me reading or writing in my journal, propped up against a tree in the sunshine."
Rachel enjoys craft shows. "Growing up in Tupper Lake, I wasn't exposed to art but I got to know many local artists by going to the fairs," she said. "When I was younger, I thought it was such an adult thing to do. I wanted one day to have my own table with the things I had made."
And now, she does. Rachel King of Earth Girl Designs, found online at www.EarthGirlDesigns.etsy.com, sells hand-bound journals and original, hand crafted jewelry at craft fairs around the region.
"I like people using something I've created," she explains. "For example, I take pleasure in seeing a necklace I made on a lady. The other day, two little girls bought journals, they were so excited they were going to take them home and fill them up."
"I also enjoy getting to know other artists; they're a very friendly group of people," she adds. "We all love our various crafts, and enjoy going to fairs and selling them. It has become my community, my little niche. It's nice to find that sense of belonging."
This story was based on an interview with Rachel King. Yvona Fast can be reached at www.wordsaremyworld.com.