There are hobbies and then there are careers. It is the fortunate few that can successfully turn the former into the latter.
Temple Adult and Organizational Development graduate Hollie Axel is one of those happy, fortunate few.
“I am doing what I love to do and teaching it to others in a way that I never thought I would. I truly love it,” said Axel, 54, of Wyndmoor. “I like to think of Adult and Organizational Development (AOD) as educating individuals outside the box without them realizing it. Everyone has a different road to take — how you get there isn’t as important as actually getting there. AOD is about making every individual feel capable; sometimes with adults you have to take a different route to get there.”
For Axel, all roads led to Rittenhouse Needlepoint. Needlepoint, Axel said, had been a personal passion for years.
“In December around the time I was putting out applications for employment, my (needlepoint) mentor passed away. She had a large line of designs and I helped to facilitate the sale of those designs — from that Rittenhouse Needlepoint was born,” she said. “In a very short period of time, we’ve taken over the second floor of the AIA building at the corner of 18th and Chestnut streets in Philadelphia. We wanted to create a one stop shop for everything related to needlepoint — shopping, finishing, stitch guides, stitching services, custom canvas painting, instructional courses.”
Axel is in charge of Rittenhouse Needlepoint’s national wholesale line and will be overseeing another line that, according to Axel, will be receiving a “national media blitz.”
“We’re developing a line that would allow you to print out any image and make it into needlepoint — we’re getting Tyler School of Art students involved in the process,” she said. “Where AOD comes into all of this is being able to personalize the whole experience. If someone comes in with an idea but doesn’t have the skill yet, we can show them how to make it happen.”
Rittenhouse Needlepoint, Axel said, offers personalized stitch guides, e-training, beginner classes and a three-class set that will take someone through the whole process from beginning to end.
“This is a realization of a dream I didn’t even know I had until a few months ago,” she said. “I have a career guiding people through a hobby that I love. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
A transfer student, Axel came to Temple after completing all of her prerequisite courses at Montgomery County Community College.
“As a non-traditional student working the entire time I was attending classes, it may have taken a little longer, but it was worth it and having the Ambler Campus made it very convenient,” she said. “Before returning to school, I was waiting on tables at Cracker Barrel — I’d open up at 4:30 a.m. and often work until 2 a.m. Doing all of that was fine, but there were no promotions, no degrees; no matter how many years you put it, there weren’t opportunities for advancement.”
Axel said that while returning to the classroom was necessary to achieve her personal goals, it wasn’t exactly the easiest of transitions.
“I wanted to curl up into a ball. What was I doing? I felt like I didn’t know how to do any of it,” she said. “I got past that through sheer determination. I was willing to admit where I was vulnerable, but I was able to absorb that things weren’t the way they once were — the computer systems changed three and a half times while I was going to school — and adapt to the changes.”
Rather than go to class and go home, Axel became part of the campus community, representing the AOD major at Student Government Association meetings and getting involved in a variety of social, community service and charitable events on and off campus.
“I chose AOD because it focused on flexibility and creativity and I thought I could use my previous ‘lives,’ my experiences, to take me somewhere — I wanted to see where it all would lead,” she said. “I felt that people really didn’t understand what we were doing in AOD so I wanted to get that out there and introduce others to the major. We hosted seminars and networking events and held a cupcake challenge on campus where students really needed to draw from their team building, leadership and communication skills.”
While at Temple, Axel said, “I’ve learned to keep an open mind.”
“I’m now able to critically solve any adversities that may come my way in a creative way,” she said. “The professors at Temple are invested in your success — they want to see where you might end up — and they let you live outside your comfort zone. I’ve never felt out of place here, I’ve always felt like a respected part of a community of teachers and learners.”