So for many of us, felting is a special experience, right? The colors and the textures and the results? Imagine for a second, though, that felting was one of the only things keeping you going, allowed you to fight depression and get up in the morning.
That was the case for Becky Devivo, a vivacious customer who came into the store last month to buy supplies for her business Felted Couture. Becky walked through the doors with a mission and a vast reserve of knowledge about the materials she needed for the perfect finished product.
What I didn’t know when first saying hello was that after six months in a wheelchair and two years with a walker, Becky is only now walking without assistance. She was diagnosed with cancer in 2013 at age 25, and the ramifications of her illness are still rippling through her life. Learning to felt is one of those ramifications that Becky cherishes even in the face of physical and emotional pain.
Becky’s creative outlet was initially singing, and she competed in the American Idol experience competition at Disneyland. Even though she felt sick and didn’t know why, she won and eventually made it far enough to head out to Hollywood to sing in front of the celebrity judges. She made it into the top 40, but before she could audition the executive producer told her that they could not accommodate her sickness and that she would have to go home to recover. Within hours of returning home, she was in the hospital.
Becky says, “Felting has been a blessing in that it helps me release my emotions like singing… It honestly helps me to stop thinking because what gets me into trouble, depressed and overwhelmed is my continuous thoughts. Felting helps block those thoughts and [helps me] get lost in my work… [Felting is] truly one of the only forms of arts [in which] the possibilities are endless.”
Becky was a respite care worker for autistic and special needs children before becoming too sick to work. Now her felting business Felted Couture is her source of income. She likes to make wearable art, and she draws inspiration in part from- surprise!- NASA’s Hubble space telescope! She is moved by the depth, texture and color that seems to “come to life when felted.” She is also starting a collection of felted geode rock art, a project that comes from her love of the natural world.
Becky says, “Felting takes me a long time. I have to take many breaks. Where it might take someone a day to complete their project, it would take me over a week, sometimes two. But that is what makes it even more special to me. When the piece is complete it is even more of a dramatic moment, because I have worked so hard on it through the pain and I’m sure at times the feeling of frustration that I have to stop, when my desire is to continue but my body won’t let me. So when it is done I can say, ‘Yes, you are FINALLY finished!'”
It is not always easy to do what we love, and that might be what makes the fruits of our labor so gratifying. No one would choose to suffer an illness like Becky has, and it is nearly impossible to be grateful for something that brings you that much pain. It is possible, though, to be grateful for the gifts dark times have given us, and for Becky that gift was felting. I for one am inspired to tackle the challenges I face with Becky’s tenacity and commitment to her art. Maybe you can do the same.