Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Winding Down....

Princess Ariel (aka my eldest grandbug) meets a real mermaid

As always the season has been an emotional rollercoaster. It began at "I'm not sure I can do this", quickly roared along to "What do I think I'm DOING??", and now the final stretch is saying, "I'm glad this ride's coming to an end! (But I think I'd like to do it again. Just give me a year so my heart goes back to normal, 'k?)"

Seriously, halfway through the run this year I wasn't sure how I'd feel at the end of the ride. 

Even though I've willingly gotten on the thing annually for nearly 30 years, it still scares the poop out of me. But it also thrills me, makes my heart beat faster, opens my eyes wide, and gives me that feeling that 'if I can do THIS, I can do anything.' 

Granted, in the Grand Scheme of Fest, what I do personally is the equivalent of the Tiny Tots Coaster at Father Hennepin Days. But I look around at all the other crazy-ass X2 riders and feel like I'm part of this group of daredevils, some of whom willingly do this all year long.

And Ivy the Faun, too
This year I really thought long and hard about my role at Fest. About whether or not selling my art was what I'm supposed to be doing, because I don't do it very well. Time hasn't given me a handle on it like it should. I look at my time spent at Fest proper and even in my own head I don't see myself as an artist selling art. I see myself as a human connecting with humans (which is something I don't do very often just because that's the way I am). I see familiar faces, folks who return year after year, customers who've become friends, Fest friends who've become customers, the offspring of each who now visit me, too, only now everyone brings their friends. And I look at that filmstrip in my head and I think, "What's wrong with this picture?...." and I say, "Absolutely nothing. But there is something missing, and it's the selling of art."

And just as I typed those words, all of a sudden the picture in my head stood on its head. Everything I thought about Fest did a flip-flop. And I thought, "What if this isn't about the big You and what I can sell to You. What if it's about me and what You bring to me? What if -- in my little world -- this isn't about selling art so much as it's about me learning something from You?"

And with her brother (far right) making music with Alan-a-Dale
Hmmmm..... Head went all 'splodey there for a second and I had to step away from the keyboard and refill my coffee.... But now I'm back.

So, let's just say that if Fest (for me) isn't about the art, then it must be about the connections, right? And if that's the case, then guess what? Fortunately for me the Universe has seen to it that while I'm busy stepping out of my comfort zone talking to people each season, I'm also selling enough of my work to allow me to ride the ride again next year. How cool is that? (So dang grateful, Universe; big thankyous!)

And that works for me.

Each year I'm sure I come to this conclusion in some way, shape, or form, so forgive me if I've just repeated myself yet again; it takes multiple times of the Universe hitting me upside the head for things to sink it....

And I also think it took a walkabout with my Minnesota grandbugs for me this year to see the situation from another POV. There's not enough magick and wonder in the world is how I see it. And being a part of this wonder-full Village allows me to introduce all my 'buglets to creative and magickal folks who still see diamonds when they look at the stars.

And that's a Very Good Thing.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Annual A-Hah

I sell my work at one public venue a year. That's it. That's all I can handle at the moment. And that one venue is a Renaissance Faire. And Renaissance Faires have their own unique quirks that other shows do not. And in all the color and action and fun I tend to forget that....

Until every season when I reach that Point, that mid-season Crisis Point, where I'm awake all night stretched out in my sleeping bag on the hardwood floor of my shop staring up at the stars twinkling through the skylight in the roof and wondering what the frippin' hell was I thinking trying to talk up my art all dang day to drunk people who just want to see boobs and go home. And then I want to throw in the towel. I want to sell my shop and use my inventory as fire starter. I want to punch people for a quarter and make some real money.

I reached that Point last weekend. And I should've expected it. It was a 3-day weekend that started out hot and humid, and that first day drained my energy well completely. Then the rest of the weekend was cool and autumnal. Crowds appeared for the first time in the season. And Depleted Me had nothing to give them. That should've been my heads-up. I should've expected The Feeling. The one that's like wanting to jump off a cliff because hitting bottom would hurt less.

I caught myself in mid-jump this past week and I 'talked' about it. Actually, I posted my feelings to Facebook. But not in a BIG way. Just simple. I said, "I've reached that Point in the Fest season. The one where I doubt everything and suspect that what I'm doing is not what I'm supposed to be doing...." And I got some responses. Comments from friends ranging from, "Breathe. Relax! You're doing fine. You're right where you should be." To, "Enough! Time to stop all this introspective psychobabble double talk." I found myself feeling like the quiet kid at the table muttering, "Nobody likes me," and hearing, "Nonsense; snap out of it!"

Some were sympathetic. A few friends really validated my feelings. One said, "Thanks for standing up & saying what I think several other people are afraid of saying at this point of fest. It's honest." And another, who is probably as intimidated (I suspect) by my tell-it-like-it-is friends and their comments as I am sometimes, emailed me privately to say,
"My thought is that we all should change and grow. Maybe, just maybe, it is time to grow beyond the booth at Ren and see where the growth/change takes you. It does not stop your creativity, only channels it differently. I would miss your shop, but I have been one of those who mostly lusts after and rarely affords your awesomeness. But, I am a very tiny, tiny corner of all of this.
"In my maturing years I am learning that change, while scary, usually brings me to a better perspective and usually a more content life. And most importantly the decision should be made after Ren. After the mind and soul drain have recovered. If it feels right after all that, then take a deep breath and do it.

"Not being an artist myself, at least not one that will ever sell anything, I cannot advise you in any way on how to share your creativity, but you are part of an awesome group of creative people and I just have to believe that one of them "knows the song in your heart" and can help you find the way.

"Anyway, that is what is in my mind and heart after reading your post. Muddled and jumbled as it is, listen to your heart and be open to what it is telling you."
THIS is the dialogue I'd hoped to start. THIS was how the conversation was supposed to begin. I wasn't fishing for compliments or pats on the back or hang-in-there-you're-doing-fine's. I didn't intend to set myself up for the snap-out-of-its and it's-all-in-your-imaginations.

I told my FB friends that I'm not so much questioning being part of Fest as much as I'm questioning HOW I'm a part of Fest. That I wish sometimes there was something else I was good at -- juggling, tin-whistling, anything! -- as owning a shop and investing time and money in creating a product is an expensive way to get together with my friends and be a part of the world I love.

I couldn't be more confident that making art is what I'm supposed to be doing. And I'm pretty sure that being at Fest is where I'm supposed to be. (If I wasn't there every weekend of the season, when would I see my pseudo-Tribe?) However, selling my art at Fest is where I'm all confused.

I should've phrased my status update differently. I should've said something like,
"Fellow Fest Creatives: Do YOU ever reach that Point? The one where you doubt yourself and your work? The one where you find yourself desperately trying to close a sale to keep yourself from feeling like a total failure? The one where you can't imagine what made you think that creating what you create and trying to make a living from it -- and at a Faire, no less! -- was a good idea? And what things do you do when that Point is reached? Or do you see it coming and head it off at the pass? What buoys you? What keeps you going? What makes you continue to put yourself out there and risk more rejection?"
You'd think after doing this for nearly 30 years I'd have a clue. And it embarrasses me to say that I don't, that I still hit that Point and wonder what the hell just happened, that I still struggle.... 

I get that beer and turkey legs and bawdy stage shows that never change appeal to all but art is subjective. Not everyone I meet is going to respond favorably to what I do. And of the few who do respond well to it, few will purchase. And of the few who purchase, even fewer will buy more than one piece. (I love other artists' work, too, but buying, framing, and displaying more than one print is something I've yet to do, so I totally understand this.) And of the few who wish to purchase and can't afford to, few will take advantage of the less-expensive alternatives I offer. So in the end, my bills are pretty much paid (barely) every year with $1 bookmark sales, most of which are only made after I mark them down to 50-cents and offer to include the sales tax. That's how it goes. That's how it goes for ME, anyway. And it's been that way every year no matter how I try to spin what I do, no matter how I try to change up my product line to appeal to (hopefully) more customers....

And then the occasional fantasy of walking away from Mayfaire and just hawking for James overcomes me and I get an adventurous tickle in my gut. Especially when I remind myself that there are other alternatives now, online shopping alternatives, for example, which would allow me to sell my work without having to vie with boobs and turkey legs for my customers' attention. And then I go on to imagine that I'd still be able to throw on a costume, see my Fest friends, and feel like a part of the Clan but it'd no longer cost me a fortune to do so and I wouldn't spend any more angst-filled seasons wondering what it is I'm doing wrong....

...How cool would that be, really?.... 


It'll always be this way....

(*blink blink*)

...And I should accept that....


...And if I can't accept that, I should keep trying on that walking-away-from-Mayfaire fantasy and see how it feels.... How comfortable it feels....


Well, huh....

See what happens when I write to you?

I learn stuff.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Woke up yesterday already a day short....

To 547 new emails, some crazy-ass Bed Head, zero new 'likes', a handful of fresh bills and a bruise I can't account for, 20 missed calls, a houseful of needy pets, a big load of laundry, less receipts than I'd hoped after a decent Fest weekend, and a head full of doubts, questions, wonders, uncomfortable thoughts, and the fading memories of nightmares.

Don't forget, delayne; it's that time of year....

Time spent on my side of the Fest fence never fails to shake me up and deplete me. And a 3-day Fest weekend is almost more shake-up than I can handle. Much of it is spent in my head, wondering: Why did what I hear just piss me off? Why did what I see just make me envious? What is it about that person that makes me want to get away from them, get to know them better, BE them? I know that it is all meant to teach me something about myself as well as teach me tolerance and empathy and fill-in-the-blank. And I pay attention to the point of giving my own self a bleeding headache.

Take this year, for instance. What is it THIS year that makes Mayfaire visitors ignore my new stuff and all-of-a-sudden see my old stuff? What makes strangers want to shower me with advice -- "you should do this and this and this; you could be really good!" -- when I just told them that I've been doing this and this and this for nearly 30 years? (And seriously, 'you could be really good!' just makes me want to poke myself in the eye with a pencil.... It would hurt less than how those words really make me feel.)

Why is it that in a single day there I've been asked to repair flip-plops, bandage blisters, provide tampons or a place to breastfeed a child, redirect folks to the nearest ATM, and yet I've not sold a single piece of art?

What is it saying that my customer base is filled with folks who will pay $1,500 for a pair of boots they'll only wear one day a year, or drop a twenty into the hat of someone who can neither sing nor tune their instrument correctly, but will haggle with me over the price of a less-than-a-buck bookmark when I know they've been dropping ones in the cleavage of beer wenches all day??

Why do I seem to be seen but my work isn't? Is it what I've occasionally suspected -- that I have the kind of face that looks approachable and not likely to bite? Do I look like I might have the answer, stock the tampons, carry the Gatorade?

Why, after all this time, are there still acquaintances who ask me, "What is it exactly that you DO?" Does my shop not display what I do? Is there something I'm doing incorrectly? Something I'm not getting?

And why -- when I suddenly find myself neck deep in a crowd of what I like to think of as My Tribe -- do I feel so alone?............

Yep -- fave time of year. Still.

But it takes its toll.