Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Making the Leap

There’s a term, schadenfreude, pronounced sha-den-froi-da, I believe, which means “pleasure derived from the misfortune of others.” A common theme feeding the tabloid machines and fueling gossip as a lucrative currency.

I just finished reading The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver, which I loved by the way, but was saddened by this insightful sentence, “There are some who’d hardly lift a finger for kindness, but they would haul up a load of rock to dump on some soul they think’s been too lucky.”

As Kimmmm would say, “Le sigh…”

So what’s a term that means to share in someone’s joy? To root for them as they make a shift, to accompany them on their transformative journey of creative bliss?

If you’re not in the mood to read about someone breaking free from their own mental boundaries, by all means, make your escape. However, if you want to read about a favorite theme, Alignment, then welcome.

A friend recently confided to me that she thought every time we go out of town for a show, we do at least $10,000 worth of sales. Oh my heart is fluttering, what a thought! I have no idea where that came from, but I’m flattered.

This segues nicely to the phone calls I’ve been receiving. Somehow, and again, I have no idea, my name has been placed on a high-rollers list. I’m getting phone calls from movie producers, oil companies and other entities looking for large dollar investors. I mean, these guys are smooth, their voices like velvet champagne and honey, images of private jets and Rolls Royce’s sprinkled among “profitable returns yaddah yaddah,” until I am forced to interrupt them and tell them I am not their client.

They are puzzled at first, clarifying if I am indeed So & So? I tell them, yes, it’s me, but really, I am not their kind of investor. Oh, the disappointment and incredulity, as they stare at their list, wondering how they got it wrong? The honey and velvet dissipates quickly, iron and rust hardening into place. Their masks slip, revealing the rough beneath the smooth.

So while these calls threw me at first, I’ve started to look at them as forecasters of the future. While I do not yet have that kind of cash, it’s fun to imagine that someday I might and these tele-conversations are simply practice.

This again dovetails perfectly to what’s been unfolding. For the past two weeks, I’ve been inspired to design necklaces. I had a lot of fun until Friday night. That was when the pricing discussion with Groom occurred.

As this begins our 19th selling season, I must admit we have never priced a piece of jewelry over $90. We have had bookmarks for sale as low as $1 before, and our simple laminated pins start at just $5 and the rest of the jewelry has price tags in between, in other words, all within the two-digit range.

On Friday night, Groom became bold. As he priced and titled the necklaces, I gasped. “What are you doing?” I cried, (adding a little drama to the scene).

“Come now, Sweetie Blossom,” says he, “We’ve been under-pricing ourselves for years. With the new style of jewelry, incorporating metal work, antique components, pearls, sterling silver and fine gold finishing touches, we have to showcase them with higher prices.”

“But, but, the economy,” I sputtered. He smiled his sweet smile and continued pricing.

I went to bed feeling funny. I woke up feeling funny. I went to the Saturday Market feeling vulnerable. It’s one matter to create something and put it on display, but it’s another to design a piece and put it on display with a price attached.

Judgment about one’s creativity is akin to paper cuts compared with judgment about one’s value and worth. That’s a dagger to the gut. All day I was itchy and scratchy. Sure, Groom’s bravado was all well and good; he was safely tucked at home working. I was the one with my heart on my sleeve, for public display.

Sure enough, a man made a bee line straight for a necklace and mocked, “What is this?” He pointed and told me, “You start a design here and then stop. Start a new design and then stop. What’s your name, Collage?” He said the word collage like it smelled bad. “Oh well, just ignore me, I’m out on a day pass anyway,” he said and wandered off.

Gee, that was fun.

I understood in that moment, thanks to the guy with the “day pass,” that if I didn’t change my attitude and the signal I was broadcasting, I would continue attracting people into the booth that would validate my insecurity and vulnerability.

Time to Own It and step up my game or stay locked in to old, familiar patterns and prices.

And then the magic happened. A trio of women entered the booth, pulled in by the necklaces. One lady pointed to a necklace made with antique keys and tried it on. “How much is it?” she asked.

Gulp, the dreaded question. I pulled out the tag, hidden behind the counter, and said with as much conviction as I could muster, “This necklace comes with an introductory price of $185.”

“Do you take credit cards?” she said, and then told me to add in the pair of earrings I was wearing to match. She did not bat an eye, did not mock me, but praised the design with words and electronic cash.

With two bold moves, Groom’s for the pricing, and me for the adjustment in my psychology, we smashed the two-digit glass ceiling and made our first three-digit sale for a single item. Bonanza!

Chakra girl was in the booth at the time and noticed another person enter at the exact moment we broke our own barrier wearing a hat emblazoned with “Oregon Ki Society: Coordination of mind and body.”

This is sweet alignment. The necklace that sold was made from keys. The word Ki, which looks like it would be pronounced key, means energy flow or life force, and is pronounced chee. For me, it was a signpost that we’re on the right path.

After previewing the necklaces, a friend, Snow White, commented that I was “a conceptual artist.” I had to look that one up. Some of the other comments about the necklaces collected throughout the day included, Hardcore, I’ve never seen anything like it… It’s nice to see someone jumping out of the box… Steampunk… Sculptural, and oh yeah, “Collaaaaaage.”

When I told Groom about the man making fun, he said, “Sweetie Blossom, you’ve just moved into art. If everyone gets you, it’s a craft, if someone don’t get ya, it’s art!” Do you see why I love him? He always knows what to say.

Then on Sunday, when we went to the Flea Market to hunt for treasure, I had a very interesting response to a necklace I wore. A woman stopped me with a shriek, exclaiming, “That is the most freakin’ cool necklace I’ve ever seen in my life.” Verbatim.

Then, when she asked me where I got it and I told her I made it, she went on to say that if a celebrity were to be photographed in it, the necklace would sell for thousands of dollars. She said it would sell anywhere from $1,000 to $50,000. Okay, she might be prone to hyperbole, but the very idea that a design would be perceived, even by one person, to hit the four and five digit mark did something verrrry nice for my insides.

This encounter opened a portal to my psyche. I’m very comfortable selling 100 items for $15 each, but realized I squirm at the idea of selling one item for say, $1,500. I’m used to working hard to make lots of little things, but have not considered putting forth energy and creativity toward one really interesting piece.

The idea of placing myself out there to be judged on value and worth challenges me, but as I was talking to God’s Minion, a former metalsmith herself, she told me to blast out of my shell instead of peck peck pecking it to death.

“Be audacious, be bold,” she said, cheering me on. She’s very good at that. People have suggested she become a life coach and I think she’d do quite well.

Last Saturday, I took her advice and jumped into the audacious category, pricing some of the new necklaces even higher. Within the first hour of being open, we broke another record: the necklace “Day Pass” made fun of sold for $245!

Where in our lives do we set the bar and then complain things don’t turn out our way? If we are the ones setting the bar, then they do turn out exactly our way. Yipes!

It’s not like we priced things higher and never sold any, it’s that we never even thought of pricing anything higher. When we first started making jewelry, a pair of musical earrings, Do Re Mi, sold for $10. Nineteen years later, they sell for $10. See what I mean?

Perceived value. Whoa, a head trip. Talk about a journey…

Last Saturday, we sold a pair of Tree Frog earrings at the very end of the day (nice!). Moments later, my next door vendor-neighbor asked if I had my camera, because an itty bitty frog was poised at the edge of the fountain. In all my years there, I’ve never seen a frog appear. Curious.

So I looked up the symbolic meaning of frogs when I got home. Duh. Transformation. Metamorphosis is actually one of the four stages of their lifecycle!

They begin as eggs, then become tadpoles and eventually grow into froggies through “a dramatic transformation of morphology and physiology.”

I can make the leap. My thoughts start out as gelatinous blobs, then grow into polliwogs, and eventually, through a dramatic transformation (Hey, this is scientific lingo you know), becomes visible in the outer realm.

This suggests a four-stage development lifecycle of the psyche. The inner life of humans begins as spirit, becomes tangible thought, and through drama (emotions & feelings) births into physical manifestation.

Another signpost. Oh thank you little frog, Alignment makes me so happy!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Happy _______ Day!

Happy Administrative Professionals Day to you, formerly known as Secretary’s Day. If you do not have an administrative professional to appreciate or if you are a neglected AP, then perhaps you’d prefer to observe Patriot’s Day, the commemoration of the American Revolutionary War…

“Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.”

If the American War of Independence and cutting the apron strings to the Mother Country feels too much like ancient history, then there’s still Earth Day to celebrate, which is the same day as National Jelly Bean Day.

When I sat down to write this week, five pages came tumbling out. But it didn’t gel, so I’m facing an empty computer screen without time to start over as I spent waaaay too many hours on the other version.

What an odd place to be, so much to say and nothing at all.

Groom selected this week’s photos. Half are his and half are mine and they are displayed next to each other to show our different styles (or same).

Gack! I don’t even have an ending, nothing to wrap this nothing in. Oh well, I doubt it will rock anyone’s world. I’d like to think people are hanging on every word, waking up on Hump Day with gleeful thoughts of, “Oh boy, it’s Wednesday, I wonder what’s on the blog today, can’t wait to read it!”

Ha, we can all nurture delusions of grandeur with the greatest of ease.

So, without words to slow you down, you can glance at some of the new necklace designs and we’ll see if there’s anything to say next week. I’ll leave you wondering what in the heck inspired five pages of word frenzy and then declining to spill.

In the meantime, have a happy National Cherry Cheesecake Day (emphasis on the cherry, not cheesecakes in general), Pigs in a Blanket Day, Plumbers Day, National Zucchini Bread Day, Hubble Telescope Sent into Orbit Day, National Pretzel Day, Shuffleboard Day, Hug an Australian Day, National Prime Rib Day, and my favorite one of all, Write an Old Friend Today Day.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Travels at Home

I dream of travel, the pull of far away places as strong as the moon’s hypnotic power over the ocean. I crave to walk among the moors and mountains of Scotland, experience the magic of enchanted gardens in England, have a picnic near the Eiffel Tower, and roam Italy. I hanker for the electric thrum of Manhattan, a chance to take in a Broadway play, to hunt treasure in The Village and take advantage of every pixel on my camera.

When the time is right, this will happen, and I’ve discovered that one of the fastest ways to manifest a trip is to be delighted exactly where I am. This is a win/win situation. I get to explore my native surroundings, discover new places, old things and put the camera to work where ever I am, instead of living life in a holding pattern, just waiting for the occasional trip. I get to be a tourist in my own life, examining it with a fresh eye.

You’ve heard the joke, “Kiss me where it stinks,” right? Well, sometimes that’s in Albany, due to the heady aroma of the mills, but they’ve been working hard to eliminate their bad smell reputation. So it was kinda funny to see a train passing through the middle of town, the words “stinky stew” graffitied on the side of a Southern Pacific boxcar. Truth in advertising?

This town -- south of Portland, north of Eugene -- was originally named Takenah by the Penutian speaking people who lived there, which loosely translated meant “hole in the ground,” something to do with a confluence of water that cut a hole on the river bank.

The Monteith brothers (Wally and Tommy), settled Albany the white folk way in 1846 and renamed it after their hometown in New York.

In addition to Stinky Town, Albany is currently known as “the rare metals capital of the world.” We were also hoping it was the “rusty metal capital of the world,” as we took a day trip there, searching for rich and strange things to transform into delightfully odd pieces of jewelry.

Instead of heading up I-5, we ambled the old Highway, stopping in Halsey to take photos and investigate antique stores. Again, we have paired Groom’s photos with mine. You can see our minds resemble each other, but have still retained our own unique perspective.

 If you want to enlarge the photos for detail, simply click on the image and then hit the back arrow to return to the blog. If you do that, you can see that “red” must have been the theme of the day, as in Red’s Barbershop and Antique Store, and big red Boda furniture.

With mixed feelings, we discovered a fun store in Albany called Opulence Eye Candy Antiques. I say mixed feelings because the place was so cool, yet it’s going out of business. So while the prices were definitely right and we found some treasure (like this sparkly retro hat), I’m sad to see such a beautiful place fade away.

Ha! I’m not the only one who enjoys donning a chapeau. Lookee Groom trying on one of Lil Bo Peep’s top hats. But I digress…

Walking through downtown, we had fun noticing the historic touches, harkening to days of yore when ornate buildings, curvy windows (and top hats) were a la mode.

Many hours later, we drove home through tulip fields, well, not through them, like some dinkwad did through Monroe Park this weekend, but past tulip fields, stopping to document les fleurs.

Back in Eugene, we spent the majority of our week’s energy creating jewelry and preparing for the Saturday Market. You can see the crowd of non-reserve vendors huddled around the information booth, counting points, hoping to get a spot. Thankfully, with gratitude in our hearts, we do have a reserve space, the same 8’ X 8’ square of prime real estate we’ve paid rent on for upwards of 19 years.

Two young University students stopped by the booth and interviewed me for a school project. During the Q & A phase, they asked me if I’ve ever considered moving to a different town and trying a different Market, and I answered, “Yes, I’ve thought about it, but I’m feeling loyal, this is home.”

I am happy to report that our new style of jewelry has opened to good reviews by Grant & Franklin, the maestro’s of green. Here are a few examples of what we are doing with our recently acquired metalsmithing tools.

I’ve got butterflies and fairies in my stomach, I’m so excited. For years, customers have been requesting necklaces and I’ve wanted to design them, but I’ve held myself back by the idea of matchy-matchy.

Clarification, what does that mean? Confession: I didn’t want to sit at the beading table, counting a precise number of beads and stringing them on equal sides around a square, resin-coated stamp. There, I said it.

However, in the last week or so, the Muse has finally given me her blessing and understanding that I do not have to make necklaces in that style, but can design them asymmetrically and fabricate any number of creative components for the lace around the neck, not just beads. This simple tweak on my outlook has opened a new portal and I am levitating with inspiration as I walk through it.

I could spend all day here at the computer, clacking away on the keyboard, but my hands are itching to get back to the studio and create, so for now I’ll say Ciao.