So, you think fate has dealt you a bad hand? Before you fall into a pity pot over how tough economic times are now, you should consider the struggles and ultimate successes of two people without sight who created thriving businesses anyway!
Vision-impaired with glaucoma all her life, Diane Rose, now known as “The Amazing Quilter,” became blind as a result of an accident in 1984—just four days before she was to undergo a cornea transplant. Not only has blindness not slowed her, Rose has used her own experiences to serve as a means to motivate others to achieve their true potential.
In addition to her current quilting activities, Rose has used her lack of sight as a springboard to give motivational talks both within and beyond the context of her ministry, Rose of Sharon Ministries. “The way I look at it, if I can do what I have done, without sight, how much can you do?” Rose asks.
Life before quilting and motivational speaking
Before she began making world-class quilts in 1998, Rose was heavily involved in the Nashville music scene as an independent journalist covering the various aspects of, and personalities in, country music. She was also a national reporter, and through that became a blind Nashville tour leader.
“People would hear me comment on national radio and call me about what they should see when they came to Nashville,” Rose says. “Then, when they would arrive, they’d want me to show them around.”
Rose, who makes a point of always knowing exactly where she is, laughs when she recounts the amazement in people’s voices that she could direct them to exactly what they wanted to see so easily.
Quilting toward a goal
Rose takes her quilting very seriously. She reached her goal of making 500 quilts by August 14th 2008, marking her 10th anniversary of making quilts. After achieving her anniversary goal, Rose worked her way to 700 quilts, and she is now hoping to make 1,000 quilts by her 15th anniversary.
Rose’s music connections have resulted in quilts being sold to such personalities as country music legend Loretta Lynn. “The quilt I made her used to hang in her gift shop,” Rose says. And President Bush has one of my quilts hanging up in the office of his ranch in Crawford, Texas.”
How to quilt when you’re blind
So, how does a blind person make a quilt at all, let alone make quilts that famous people would want? By feel, Rose explains. “The first quilt I did, I did with polyester instead of cotton,” she says. “I can feel the texture of the polyester,” she said, “but the cotton was too smooth to be able to feel.”
“I do a lot of appliqué,” she says, “and you can feel where the stitch is because it’s smooth against the main part of the quilt, while the part that’s not yet stitched is not smooth.”
Though Rose acknowledges she gets help with cutting out the appliqués for her quilts, she also points out that she assembles the most common type of quilt for which she receives requests all by herself.
“What I do is to lay out four pieces of fabric,” Rose said, “12 inches by three inches, side by side, and stitch them together to make a square.” Then she lays them out so they alternate between vertical and some horizontal, so they resemble like old split-rail fences. Rose says a sewing machine is invaluable for such assembly, and presents little problem for her to use. “The person who showed me how to quilt said that if you can use a sewing machine, you can quilt,” she says.
Rose make quilts to order, in every size from baby quilts to king sized bed quilts. She is quick to point out that she uses her quilts to illustrate what is possible to achieve in the face of great adversity. “They show what I can do, in the face of the obstacles life has put in my way that God has helped me overcome,” says Rose. “I couldn’t do it without God’s talent.
Bart Hickey’s story: Thriving despite disability
Bart Hickey, who was born prematurely, lost his vision due to too much oxygen in the hospital incubator. After his father’s death, which occurred when Hickey was only 11, his mother’s car began breaking down frequently. “She was taking it to all these mechanics, paying a lot of money,” Hickey remembers. “A friend of my dad’s showed me how to tune it up, so I decided to help her save money.” Hickey’s first repair job on his mom’s car was replacing the heater control valve. “It took, like, two minutes to replace it,” he says.
The business began to build, and Hickey soon found himself working on cars for family members and friends. Hickey bought a tow truck in 1989, when he was still working out of his mother’s garage, adding yet another dimension to his business. “It was a great deal,” Hickey remembers. “A friend of mine who was working for me part time drove it for me.”
Hickey married a year later, and began working full time as a darkroom technician at Rush Medical Center, continuing to work on cars at night. In 1992, Hickey’s wife finally convinced him to quit the medical center and open a car repair shop.
Blind as a bat?
When Hickey was trying to think of a name for his business, his brother suggested Bart’s Automotive and Towing, the acronym for which is BAT, “Blind as a bat,” Hickey laughs. Indeed, the logo on his coverall features a black bat on a white background.
Hickey says he owes a lot to his parents, because they supported him in doing most things a sighted kid would do. “They didn’t let me sit around and feel sorry for myself,” he says. And, given that his father and uncles owned a car lot, his interest in cars came easily.
One of Hickey’s customers anonymously posted on the Web, “I went to Bart’s and he did a great job on my car.”
“I don’t know who posted that, but it was great to hear,” Hickey says.
Written By: Julie Crawshaw