Monday, August 30, 2010

Life lessons, part 387

I don't know if it is due to running my own business or if it just comes with age.  Learning to speak up for myself is getting easier.  Yeah, I still fret and fume and simmer for a while, but now instead of staying in that angry, frustrated, put-upon space, I can actually move forward.  I can sort out the true grievance and (gasp) talk to the person to whom I need to talk.  It has happened more often and it gets easier each time.  Quite recently, I was able to tell someone about my displeasure with an aspect of an event that disproportionately affected me.  My comments were intended as "how to do things differently so no one else has to experience what I went through", not as just griping.  The best part?  It was received the way it was intended.
Trying to be more like water and flow with, through, and around.  Too many years spent burning erratically, occasionally hurting those around me, but always doing more damage to myself than anyone else.  Slowly carving a path forward with a little more ease, increasing steadiness, and newfound malleability.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Michigan Fiber Festival, my almost-teenager, and me

Monday, monday ... and my voice is in the cellar.  Talking all weekend with customers, other artists, vendors has taken its usual toll.  I was planning on going to Allegan to the Fiber Festival on my own this year.  Last minute, my almost-13-year old volunteered to come.  "It'll be long, often boring, and if it gets hot, the big industrial building will be miserable."  He still came.  Eli packed up my van before we left.  He helped unload and set up my booth.  And 20 minutes into our first of three days, he said, "Mom, we've got a problem. I'm already bored."  Once he resigned himself to the truth of what I'd told him, he became a great partner.  He was showing scarves to people while I explained the process to others.  He wrapped scarves up and bagged them, while I wrote up invoices.  He handed out my cards.  He also befriended the other vendors and helped them out as well.  (I was surrounded by familiar faces from last year, all of whom I was looking forward to seeing again.)  Don, from Shelridge Farms, was without his wife Buffy this year (she was in Chicago at another fiber event).  He frequently took to asking Eli to watch his booth when he needed a break. He paid Eli in yarn and a fingerless glove pattern (that I am to knit this Fall) that Eli was admiring.  Sometimes Eli settled into a corner and played games; sometimes he meandered around looking at booths or visiting the animal barns.  Always he was great company.  At one point, on the stickiest muggy afternoon, he came up behind me and draped himself around my shoulders.  A part of me wanted him off; it was just too hot.  But another part of me realized that he may not be affectionate with me in public like that for much longer.  I let him hang there, soaking up his weight and sweetness .... and sweat.  I'll bet that is the last time he'll volunteer for such an outing again.

Talking to people is the fun of the event for me.  Sales were good; I even sold a very expensive deep purple wrap that I usually display up front because it grabs everyone's eye.  Had to change things up when it sold on the first morning.   But it is the enthusiasm of customers and other artists (not to mention enjoying the praise) that really makes it fun for me.  Talking techniques, looking at fibers I've never played with before, comparing experiences ... I always learn so much.  Some of it was just business learning.  Some of it was encouragement about where I should try and get my scarves seen.  Apparently, Lexington, MI and Charlevoix, MI are now top on my list of future shows in addition to trying to get my stuff into some shops in Chicago.

One of my favorite encounters was with this woman.  Eli and I had discussed how one particular wrap was going to go to someone tall, leggy and blonde.  Sure enough, that very description appeared in the form of this lovely woman:  warm, friendly, and easily 6 feet tall.  While she didn't end up purchasing it, she admired it over a few days.  Her friend purchased a burgundy wrap, and may still be trying to talk the blonde into buying this.  It was so gorgeous on her, I just had to get a picture of her wearing it.

It was hard to decide not to return to Allegan next year.  I so enjoy the people and I get to do a little shopping for interesting supplies as well.  But the distance requires lodging, meals and time away from my yoga teaching schedule that all eats into my profits.  I decided to focus on more local art fair-type events, especially after the sixth or seventh person said I needed to do juried shows.  Saying goodbye to my vendor neighbors was surprisingly moving.  They have been welcoming and helpful and kind for two years now.  All of them understood my decision and agreed with my plans, even as they remarked how nice it had been to share space and company. They also couldn't stop praising my son.  I wish I could take credit for Eli, but he has been conscientious and helpful since he was a very little person.  I loved hearing his praises sung all weekend.  I had good sales, good help, and good company.  What else could I ask for?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Art Fairs in August

It is mid-August.   I've been working hard this summer creating inventory.  So hard I have had to slow down due to sore muscles and joints.  That said, I feel ready for this next weekend at the Michigan Fiber Festival in Allegan, MI.  This is my second time as a vendor there, and I am looking forward to seeing the wool, yarn, looms, spinners, and more wool-related items than I ever knew existed.

One week later, August 28 - 29th, I'll be making my first appearance at Dragon On The Lake in Lake Orion, MI.  It looks to be an amazing event with dragons from various artists in various media, races on the lake in gorgeous dragon boats, a sidewalk chalk competition.  (On a side note, my good friend's son designed a logo for an art class in his high school and it was chosen for the event.)  I got to explore the world of art fair people and their advice as I purchased a tent for this, my first big outdoor event.

If you find yourself in Western Michigan on the 21st or 22nd, or in Southeastern Michigan the following weekend, please stop by and say hi.