04 January 2012

Holidays in Review

I am not the most fond of the holidays; I have spent too many years in one form of retail or another, and the holidays boil down to two things for me: 1. I have to make a ton of stuff. 2. I have to sell the stuff. A long time ago when I was in college, I started making all of my Christmas gifts myself because I was too burnt out on selling to do much shopping. Nowadays, I still make quite a bit of my holiday gifts, but not all of them. This year was especially cumbersome even though I only did two shows. I spent November getting my ready for these shows with machine-like mindlessness, because that is how I do the holidays. But I also did a little business workshop with some of my fellow I Heart Art: Portland friends. I spent most of my year recovering from 2009 and 2010; regaining a bit of stability in an unstable climate, but I was really ready to focus on what it was that I really wanted to do with Piper Ewan.

For so long I have been fighting the battle with myself about what I really want to make v. what I think will sell since I have to contend with people constantly telling me that what I make is way too expensive, or I have to make a dumbed down version so they can be at an affordable price point. Not that hand crafted ribbon flowers and garters are dumb, but I cannot feed my soul on churning out the same thing over and over and over ad nauseum. I had to admit to myself that I hate doing shows. I agreed to do the shows, because my lovely sales rep, Iris agreed to do them with me. She could talk with enthusiasm about the things that I was so burnt out on. She could be my buffer to the ladies who want to tell me that I should make baby headbands.

Oh the shows. I hate them. I can admit this now. This makes me feel so conflicted. It is always so good to see everyone. This is the only time I get to see so many friends in this community. This is a community that I have been a part of for so long. It is a community that I helped create in a way. I have hosted my own shows. I get to see clients and customers who I truly love. I get to see what everyone is up to, and what they are making. I get to hear how much the lucky recipients of my goods loved their gifts last year, and how they wanted more. I get to hear about the compliments they get when they wear the things I have made. I love this, I do. I have a hard time going to shows that I am not selling in, because I feel like I am missing out. So what is it that I hate so much about shows? They are exhausting for one. Weeks of insanity leading up to them. Dragging in all the things, setting up, tearing down. But the thing that I like the least are some of the bad interactions I have with people. The people who won't make eye contact, the people who are dead set on telling you what is wrong with what I am making, that my prices are too high, and if I would only... I feel like I am on display like some sort of circus freak that has this ability to do something that is out of reach to society at large, and this creeping suspicion that everyone wants a piece of me. Some people get all excited, because they think they found the person that can magically produce the product that they thought of, but think they cannot do themselves. This may or may not be true, but I have ideas of my own; more than I can possibly produce. That is what drives me to do what I do, not to be a vehicle for someone elses' pipe dreams.

Every year I say that this year will be the last. Forever I have doubted as to whether my work fits in this model. I have been coming to terms with the fact that I make LUXURY GOODS. This has been hard for me to admit. But the part that kills me is that I feel like I have been holding myself back, and dumbing myself down in order to try to fit in/make a meagre living off making things. I get most excited when I am challenged by something. I love making detailed work, and it is a tedious time-consuming endeavour.

I have done a good lot of studying tradition business practices over the time I have been in business, and I am not sure that traditional applies. The system that sort of worked is now failing. That failing system has been telling me to compromise forever. I don't really feel that I want to compromise anymore. It doesn't seem to help a whole lot. So I am going for it. Does that mean I won't do another show? Well, I have one coming up in February, so probably not. Not sure what the holidays will bring in 2012; that's a ways away. Will I not be making garters and flowers anymore? Of course not! I will just be more focused on other things. I have to at least try to lead the life I want to live.

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