Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Jay Shapiro

I have a good friend who is very sick, currently battling two brain tumors. He is a wonderful man, who I was destined (to be sure) to have crossed paths with, because his philosophy was so drastically different from mine and MAN, did I need to change direction.

His name is Jay Shapiro and is one of the owners at Binders Art Supply, where I teach Calligraphy and Bookbinding classes.

Shortly after I began teaching at Binders, Jay and I were casually talking right before a class and I drew a little sketch on the table of a wooden inkwell I wished were available for my calligraphy students. Most inkwells you see are just plain and round or unimaginative OR totally beautiful yet breakable because they're vintage.

Hrrrrm. So Jay took that sketch and said he'd give it to his wood guy, who took my schematics and returned the next day with the first existing Petal Pod. He e-mailed me this note: "Our little venture is off and running." And just like that ssszzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzing! I was in business.

My previous understanding of any kind of entrepreneurial venture was that is was too much of a hassle to commit to and to keep going - and that it would suck the life right out of me. I'd be wealthier but unhappier. I was just plain scared. And the truth is, is that if you love what you're doing and making and you're open to the path(s) it takes you, then you're in for the ride of your life, which really IS your life. One thing leads to another, your life begins to unfold and you realize that everything is working for your good. REALLY.

Back to Jay.
When you walk into Binders, and if Jay is there, he stops what he's doing and greets you with a hug. His partner, Howard, does the exact same thing. And everyone there really loves and respects one another. It's amazing to be a part of that community. I just love it there.

Jay had been having a lot of sinus headaches suddenly and poof, he's diagnosed with brain cancer - two invasions inside his lovely, light-infused head. Everyone aches for him. He is one of the most loved men I know. His approach to running an art store is SO drastically different from anything I've ever seen. And trust me, I've been a fan of art stores for a lonnnnng time.

Jay creates community. He makes a place for everyone to meet. Jay makes good things happen. He's a dear, dear man.

He's still up at Duke in NC getting treatment. He is being strong and is surrounded by family and love.

If you'd like to hear the story of how Jay and Howard began their business careers, go here to a delightful retelling at the Binders art Blog article: From Beer To Paint.


If you know Jay and would like to send him a message, click here.


minus five said...

oh man, he sounds really awesome. that freakin' sucks. i hate cancer.

Anne Elser said...

I know it. Nothing's scarier or more frustrating than facing mortality. One big lesson for me here: love in the now. All the time.

Juanami Spencer said...

Anne, that was a beautiful tribute to Jay and the way he has impacted all of our lives. Thank You for sharing that, and for being a part of the Binders family.
-Mimi @ Binders.

Tami said...

Anne, this is so beautiful and I can speak from my own experience on Jay's long history of helping people follow their dreams.

I walked into Binders 6 1/2 years ago as a recent college graduate and we struck up a conversation while he was helping me find a frame. Not only did that conversation lead to a wonderful job, it was the beginning of an incredibly meaningful friendship. I consider him not only a friend but family. Jay absolutely exudes warmth, love and support. This is all so heartbreaking.

Stacey Smith said...

Anne: your way with words is even stronger than your way with the pen. You expressed exactly what we are all thinking! thanks for sharing this. xo stacey

Anne Elser said...

Well said everyone. I was thinking that Jay's physical absence on the floor, though jarring, unexpected and unpleasant, certainly doesn't mean his total absence. Binders, of which we are all a part, has an identity and Jay had a lot to do with its installation and growth. Jay planted lots of seeds within us and he's still planting them! So, we just keep them watered and growing which means sometimes crying and sometimes pruning and sometimes replanting or introducing something new to the garden. This growth never has to stop.