Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.
Not that November didn’t try very hard to kill me. December had a whack at me, too, come to think of it.
Nevertheless, I have emerged on the other side. Tired, disorganized and cranky, the chatelaine of a disheveled palace, and the mother of wild, scruffy, utterly descheduled children who can recite every line of dialogue from Toy Story 3, word-for-word in its proper sequence.
Oh, and lately my husband has been calling me “Amy.”
I suppose I should have a cure for some terminal disease or, at the very least — and probably more true to my character — an exhaustive plan for world domination to show for my long absence.
Well, I don’t.
Let me ‘splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.
So, sometime back, I got inspired. Before very long, I made something I wanted on my own wall, my very own Tulsa destination blind.
With encouragement from a few friends, I experimented with selling a few of these creations. The result was encouraging but by no means overwhelming.
I’m not really a gambler by nature. I don’t know what came over me.
But I bought a ton of supplies. The UPS man delivered six enormous boxes and I started hyperventilating. Thirty-six canvases. I was obviously insane.
I hid them in an upstairs closet and spent a few weeks engaged in a mental kickboxing match, chastising myself for following an impulse — a whim, really — with such a price tag.
You. Stupid. Idiot.
To make matters worse, it occurred to me, in my full-blown dementia, that I couldn’t make a booth with just destination blinds. So I bought other stuff.
And then my computer crapped out. Cha-ching. I started to panic.
I did eventually start painting, realizing that maybe I could cover at least some of the supply costs (never mind the new computer, but whose counting?) by selling a painting or two.
Or a kidney. Either way.
By the time Holiday Market rolled around, I had used and abused my friend Neil, who shares my mania for all things cottage, for painting help, pricing advice, merchandising and even a little last-minute babysitting . Thanks to a cadre of Junior League volunteers, I managed to throw together my booth just before the market opened for Preview night.
As I watched shoppers flood through the doors, sick with anxiety, I remember muttering to Neil:
“I just hope I sell a painting.”
And then this mob of people rounded the corner.
Within six minutes of the market opening, I sold seven paintings. Three of them were bought by one lady. I could have spent the next two-hours-and-fifty-four-minutes shrugging my shoulders in disbelief.
But I didn’t have time.
I was too busy. Selling. Twenty paintings. In three hours.
Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday passed. When the smoke cleared, I had sold 48 paintings. Along with lots of other items, both handmade goodies I’d cranked out and the ready-made things I’d bought.
I took these photos on, I think, Sunday morning after every painting except one had already sold. (This was my first attempt with the iPhone camera, and in poor lighting to boot, so be kind.)
Supplies covered. Computer paid off. I even paid for the iPhone I “had to buy” when the venue’s WiFi went on the fritz.
I don’t know how to spell “relief.” But I know what it feels like.
Bar none, my favorite part of the weekend was hearing people speak well of the things I’d worked hard to make or chosen with care.
You see, Tulsa is “French Country” Country. Home of Charles Faudree. Home of toile. Lots and lots of toile. Some time before Holiday Market, I did a little market research to see what was selling, and “cottage” wasn’t it. Not even close. I started questioning my instincts. Do I stock things that seem to be popular even if they’re things I would never buy for myself, or do I stay true to my own style and possibly not sell anything?
In the end, I decided to stick with what I loved, knowing that if I didn’t sell anything, at least I wouldn’t be unhappy with the inventory. Can I say how glad I am that I did?
If half the battle of making a sale is getting people to stop at your booth — and it is — the other half seems to be offering merchandise shoppers haven’t seen anywhere else.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
One lady had seen one of the blinds on a morning show TV spot and told me the only reason she came to Holiday Market was to buy one.
While I was inhaling an infrequent meal in the cafe, my booth was visited by an interior designer who loved the blinds and said she had clients who would be very interested. Neil confided in her that we were a little afraid cottage taste was anathema in French Country Country, whereupon the designer told her we were just “ahead of the curve.”
I got lots of encouragement to open a store of my own — uh, thank you, but no — and the great compliment of having a couple of people try to knock off my designs and method.
I’m not the sort of person who needs constant reassurance to function, but I have to admit: having people say nice things about your work for four days straight was a heady experience.
As for where I’ve been lately, if this were a (very long) story math problem you might have noticed I didn’t have 48 blinds on hand. Which means I’ve spent the last two months finishing the other 12 paintings I sold at Holiday Market — along with another 14 I sold after the market ended. I finished the last batch on the Tuesday before Christmas and have been in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber trying to recover ever since.
Lessons from this little jaunt?
- I’m exhausted.
- Trust my gut. Even when all evidence suggests that I’m insane.
- Taking the occasional risk doesn’t, in actual fact, kill me.
- I need more sleep.
- No matter how busy I am, dropping everything to play with my kiddos is always a good idea.
- Being on your feet all day after only two hours of sleep really stinks.
- I have the best husband in the universe.
- I don’t hate working retail. But it’s still a stretch for a misanthrope like me.
- Having a friend who shares your enthusiasm for zinc place cards and burlap bags is one of life’s unexpected blessings.
I’ve managed to get all my destination blinds on my website and hope to add the rest of my merchandise soon. But the most pressing issue at the moment is unearthing my house from the debris. It’s ugly. I think I’ve already been reported to Hoarders.
In summary, for those of you who visited my booth to cheer me on — and buy things — thank you from the bottom of my heart! I would be remiss in my gratitude if I did not also acknowledge the help of my amazing friend Neil and the dynamo Junior Leaguers who put on such a fantastic Holiday Market. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Last but most importantly, my sweet husband did things like staying up four hours past his bedtime to help paint, watching the kids by himself for three days straight, and putting up with a spate of Crabby Abby-ness unparalleled in recent history.
Honey, thank you for your help. And your patience. And your support. And your patience. And your love. And your patience.
I love you. And your patience.
P.S. My name is Abby. Not Amy. Remember?