One of the amazing things about working at As You Wish is getting to meet and experience incredibly talented artists like Eric. A fan and customer for the last several years, this flight attendant by trade calls himself a student of life and says he is always learning.
Besides picking up multiple languages, such as Spanish, French and German, Eric found As You Wish Pottery and dove into the pottery painting process. “I can unwind here,” he explains. “If you do art at home you have to clear a space, get out your supplies and then clean up when you are done. But, at As You Wish, I love that you can whip out a project and then leave the mess and go home.”
He says his talent in art and painting was jump-started by the help of the dedicated As You Wish staff. “I had no skills at first, but I loved it so I wanted to keep trying,” he explains. “The staff taught me different techniques and I would complain at each step about how I was doing but the pieces kept coming out so I continued.”Over the last few years, Eric has become a unique part of the As You Wish team, even contributing works and ideas for various company and employee projects. Last October he worked with other As You Wish staffers to contribute artwork that would be auctioned off during the Girl Scouts’ Women of Distinction event that the company participates in each year. The event celebrates current and emerging female leaders and helps raise funds for the local Arizona Cactus Pine Council. “Two of my pieces were purchased and sold for $240 and $280 each,” he notes.
His latest project was closer to his own heart and emphasizes his connection to students and a love of learning. Eric was a foreign exchange student in Germany in the late 1980s and was in the country during the fall of the Berlin wall. As a result, he has a personal connection in a small town in Germany that recently experienced great tragedy — a plane crash. As a flight attendant and with his background in German, he was compelled to action by this close connection.
According to news reports, 16 German teenagers were flying home with their two Spanish language teachers from Barcelona to Dusseldorf when their Germanwings flight lost altitude suddenly, and fell from the sky.
“I was struck by the fact that they were from a small town [Haltern am See has a population of 37,763 people] and how the loss of these kids directly affects each person who lives there because they all knew each other,” he says. Adding to the anguish is the fact that many kids from the village wanted to make the trip, but the ones who went were chosen by lottery.
Inspired by Hex Signs used by the Pennsylvania Dutch, (who are technically not “Dutch” but Deutsch, which is of German descent, explains Eric) the colorful designs are used to brighten farm homes and barns to bring happiness and joy. Eric purchased a block of linoleum and etched his design into it. He then block printed it onto paper and then finally his design was transferred to the tiles – one for each lost student and teacher. Lastly, he painstakingly hand painted each design personally.
The labor of love took time and money as explained by the design intricacy. As You Wish customers admired the project while Eric worked in the studio and even donated funds, which he greatly appreciated. He finally packed up and shipped the project in mid September. “I wanted to do something that would help the town remember them in a lasting and different way. I hope that they will help the 18 to be remembered and yet bring dignified peace and healing to the living.”
In his letter to the German school where the kids attended, Eric fully explains his tile design: “Each tile consists of a star with a rose in the middle. Each Star is representative of the human form transcendent and now a part of the starry firmament above. The rose is for eternity and remembrance. Around the star are growing tulips with rose-shaped flowers, which represent the love of family, friends, and co-workers by which the stars are surrounded, and in essence, hugged by for eternity,” explains Eric. “All of this is surrounded by a circle of eternity and happy yellow petals that remind us of the happiness of the life that is gone, and the happiness in life that these stars wish for those on Earth to live.”
Eric is grateful to others who contributed to this unique project of the heart: “I would like to offer my thanks to two As You Wish patrons that heard what I was doing and one anonymously paid for the cost of one of my tiles, and another, Melissa Pilkington, made a generous donation to my project. As it turns out, Melissa’s sister-in-law is from Haltern-am-See, which just goes to show you, that our world is smaller than you think.”
Deb Smith of Outloud Marketing Studio is a frequent As You Wish customer and works with our marketing staff. She is also a writer and shares customer and As You Wish employee stories with us. You can find her on Twitter or Instagram at @wordsmithgirl.