Meet Quest Maker Judith Shangold
Quest Makers are women in their 40s and beyond who've declared
"now it's my time," and then set off on their own journeys to realize their dreams. Every month a Quest Maker is featured in the FREE e-newsletter, Your Next Quest Chronicles. Click here to enjoy archived issues.
Quest Maker Judith Shangold
From the professional to the personal
“Earning an income and having a career aren’t my driving goals now.” After a life time of successful professional questing, Judith wanted to experience her next chapter, and three years ago, she set off on a personal quest.
After owning a retail store in Brooklyn, NY, for 10 years, Judith developed a reputation in the yarn world with her own knitwear designs for human beings, American Girl dolls and Boyds Bears. As a way to give back to charity, she developed the concept of A Bear in Sheep's Clothing, inviting knitters to donate garments to dress the bears, which were then sold at craft shows with all of the proceeds donated to charity. In 1999, she quested again and purchased the distributorship for Manos del Uruguay Manos del Uruguay yarns developing a relationship with the Uruguayan women's cooperative that produces this yarn. After taking the business to a new level of success, she sold it in 2007. Her newest quest, though, is not professional; it’s a personal one that is still unfolding.
At what point in your life did you decide to embark on your personal quest?
In 2005 when I turned 60, I started to feel that I wanted to experience my next chapter. I wanted more time for myself and to get away from New England winters. I didn’t know how much longer I wanted to continue to make such an investment of time and energy in growing my business. Then someone approached me about buying the business and it felt like the right time to do it.
By 2006, I was finalizing the sale of my business when I had a serious accident. As a pedestrian, I was struck by a car and sustained multiple fractures to an arm, collar bone and leg. I was in intensive care for 10 days and then in rehab for three weeks before I could go home. It was 5 months before I could drive, go back to the office or even knit! Thankfully, my husband and employee stepped in and ran my business, and my knitting friends helped me finish up some design projects.
All during my recuperation, though, I felt a great relief because soon the business was going to be taken care of by the new owner and I could concentrate on getting better. When the deal fell through the week just before closing, I felt as if I had been hit by a truck.
How would you describe this ongoing adventure?
I’m 63 and I’m figuring out how I want to spend this time of my life. Retirement poses different questions. Earning an income and having a career aren’t my driving goals now. I’m trying to figure out what is going to feel meaningful. I’m enjoying pursuing creative endeavors but I need them to give me a sense of purpose.
What is the one essential quality that you'd tell women to pack for their own journey?
That you have to be flexible and be willing to adjust your expectations. You need to be willing to go with the flow. And if you are going to pursue something, you have to have a passion for it, because with all of the possible twists and turns that can happen along the way, you won’t see it through unless you have that passion.
Can you describe how you dealt with the obstacles in your path?
In my case, I had to take it one day at a time. I was feeling depressed and frustrated, but I had to keep the business going. However, I was convinced, even more than before, that I wanted to sell the business. Life really is short – anything can happen. Carpe diem and all that!
My challenge was to find a new buyer, avoiding the pitfalls I ran in to the first time. This time I wanted all of the answers up front. I wrote up a proposal, outlining the requirements I thought were necessary for owning the business along with a series of questions I wanted answered. I presented this to several people who I thought might be interested. Their answers made it very clear who was the most interested and qualified person.
Looking back, what's one thing you wish you had known as you set off on your journey?
When I actually did sell the business to someone else a year later, I thought that I’d be involved for a longer period of time than it turned out to be. I should have known that I was going to need to separate and the new owner was going to want to be on her own faster. I was disappointed because the business had grounded me and had given me a sense of purpose. It provided a structure that I feel I’m missing right now. Yet, at the same time, it was also a big weight off my shoulders, and now I really had the opportunity to do something different.
What was the secret to reaching your previous goals?
You have to be willing to take risks, but you have to know how much risk you can handle emotionally and financially so that you take wise risks.
If the risk involves your livelihood, a wise risk means knowing that you have something to fall back on so you’re not putting in the whole kitchen sink. If it’s an emotional risk, it means knowing yourself and how much you can handle because people are going to be nervous for you. You have to be strong enough to pursue your goal despite this because others’ fears can throw you off course.
How do you make time for your dream?
For me, my quest is finding a purpose and a way to still feel relevant. I have all the time in the world. My quest is to decide what to do with the time. I’m starting small, testing out different things to see how they feel. I’m weaving again, playing with my beads, making jewelry, and I’ve taken a drawing class.
How has your journey continued to evolve?
I always come back to my love of making things. For instance, when I was feeling discouraged about selling the business, I kept coming back to that passion for creating. I’ve developed a website and I’m selling my wares.
I’ve taught some friends to weave, and I’ll be teaching a couple of classes in knitting and weaving this winter in Tucson, Arizona, where my husband and I bought a condo. This is the second winter we’re spending there.
Starting in the spring of 2009, I’ll offer classes at my studio in Stoneham, Mass., for people who are interested in exploring the creative possibilities of knitting and weaving, so we can learn and create together. I also have an idea for a book.
Is there anything or anyone that has sustained you?
What sustains me in my creative life are other creative people. When I attend a concert or a dance performance or see a wonderful art show, I witness others who have given themselves over to their creative quests because it’s something I never really allowed myself to pursue. I was always pursuing half business and half creative. I like to think of myself as part of that group now.
What's the best advice for your quest that you've received?
Over breakfast with a friend, I was fretting that though I have lots of ideas, I have no clear direction, don’t know where any of this is leading, and don’t know what I really want to do. She assured me that my quest will evolve. If I am patient and let it unfold in the fullness of time, it will become clear. Life itself is sort of all one big quest, isn’t it?
Is there anything else that you’d like to share?
It’s the strong feeling that I have about wanting to become part of a creative community again. Part of my quest is to find a creative community for myself and try to do something useful within it.
I have this idea to develop a market for crafts as a means of fundraising for charities. This December, some friends and I organized a small fair and donated a percentage of sales to Heifer International. I’d like to explore this idea further and develop a group who would do craft shows in conjunction with corporations and organizations as fundraising events.
Right now, all of these ideas are evolving. We’ll see what happens!
To get in touch with Judith, you can visit her website or call her at 800.401.1577.
Your Next Quest continued the conversation with Judith in October 2010.
Click here for an update.