Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Marketing art

"Why let your shoulders bend underneath this burden when my back is sturdy and strong? Trouble me."

I'm super excited this morning because a fellow lampworker, Lisa Anderson, has agreed to make demo beads with my frit blends. She makes beautiful frit beads and takes great photos, and I'm hoping we can cross-promote each other's work.

The proposal I sent Lisa a few days ago was that I'd send her a collection of all my blends, she would make the beads and send me the pictures, and the beads would be hers to sell. I didn't hear right back and I though that might mean she wasn't interested, and this morning I got a message saying the she was very interested.

Frit blend sales have been even slower than bead sales. I have 18 blends now and I'm committed to this venture because I really believe in my blends. Most went through numerous phases of trial and testing and retesting. With just a few I nailed the combination right away.

I'd been paying on a monthly basis to advertise them on Lampwork Etc. but it was a losing proposition, even though I ran a lot of promotions, such as a free jar with a purchase or a percent discount or free shipping. Considering the cost of the raw materials (single colors of frit), jars, labels, shipping materials, postage, fees, etc. I don't think I was even recovering my ad costs. Never mind the large order that never arrived at its destination (in Germany) and which I had to replace.

Yes, I know, it doesn't make sense that when business is slow, ad budgets are the first to be cut. I even rationalized that since I've gotten so much from the Lampwork Etc. forum since I joined on April 22, 2008 (4,401 posts ago as I write this), my ad payment was as much a way of supporting LE as a way to plug my frit blends.

I was a day late with my March payment though and the late fee pushed me over the decision to take a break at least. I wonder if my ad had just become part of the scenery and if coming back with a redesigned ad later would be a better strategy anyway. And I'll have Lisa's photos to use in my next ad. A win-win-win - for LE, Lisa and me - I hope.

In case you are curious, I used some of my frit blends on these bell flowers.

I'm almost finished with my bead soup project, but I won't be able to show what I did until April 13. I'm still surprised at myself for finishing (or even starting) any sooner than April 12. I made a suite of four necklaces that can be worn in combination or individually. The only thing left is to patina the shiny copper chain, and to make a pair of earrings. I should include some of my own beads in the earrings because I actually thought about it but didn't in the neck pieces.

Stringing beads hurts my right hand and arm about as much as making beads. Holding the beading wire steady to thread the beads uses the very muscle that my chiropractor described as feeling like a rope. It will be a long time, if ever, before I string most of the beads in my collection, but that is fine. I enjoy having them, maybe even more than making them into things. I have, oh, maybe 20 necklaces I've made where I've used my beads, plus half a dozen more made with my beads by other artists. The latter were mostly bartered for my beads, or more accurately, I used my beads to barter for the necklaces.

Most of the time I just wear one of my big focal beads on a chain.

A year ago I had a booth at a Ukrainian church bazaar, which came about because we have friends who are active in that church and who recruited me. I made a lot of jewelry, necklaces mostly, for that show. Most of the shows I do are beads shows and the customer base are bead buyers, but I assumed at a craft show people would not know what to do with loose beads and would be more likely to buy ready-to-wear jewelry. I was mistaken.

The event had a feeling of surrealism from the time I arrived. First, although I'd paid for an inside booth, there was no space allotted for me. The first place offered with under the stage, just below large speakers and I'm very grateful that I didn't wind up there. Instead I was sandwiched between two booths selling traditional Ukrainian knick knacks and inexpensive mass produced jewelry. The Ukrainian both owners would not make eye contact with me or look at my wares.

My booth was across the hall from the extensive and popular food area. Unfamiliar strong smells of cooking permeated the church hall atmosphere. The breads and desserts looked appealing from my distance, but that was as close as I got to tasting anything. Stranded in my booth, with aloof neighbors, I couldn't leave my post. A bathroom run was stressful enough.

But the alien ambiance wasn't the worst of it. The worst of it was the flood of people passing by who didn't so much as glance at my work. No, they were there for the food and the music and the dancing, and to socialize with their church brethren. It's possible that I was the only non-church affiliate with a booth. I sat there with the necklaces and bracelets I'd worked furiously on for a month. Hours went by.

Sometime after noon I made a sale, and it wasn't a piece of jewelry. It was a strand of loose beads from one of the trays I had placed toward the back of my display. A man bought it for his wife, who, he said, liked bead crafts. My next few sales were also loose beads. One woman purchased the pendant I was wearing. I sold a few beaded keys. At some point I rearranged my display so the loose beads were in front and the jewelry was toward the back.

The day was a moderate success overall, but half my sales came from the friend who had recruited me. She had a booth selling rubber stamps and cards she'd made with stamp crafts. We did a little trading and then she bought several necklaces on top of that.

Later I remembered one of the axioms of vending, that school and church festivals are the worst venues for craft artisans. People are there to watch the kids jump in the moonwalk and eat sausage on a stick. Live and learn, and when you forget, learn again. I was invited to return to the Ukrainian festival this April and I'm so not going to be there.

Live and learn. I learned something about myself back then in 1998. I learned that I was not a person who would have an affair while married, who would start one thing before finishing another. This was at the core of the panic waves that started after I asked to meet Nick, this and the enormity of the sea change that faced me.

There were other things I learned about myself then too. For one, I'd been a caretaker pretty much my whole life and certainly most of my marriage. I was the stable bread winner with insurance benefits, while my first husband moved from job to job to unemployment to self-employment. I was grateful for the steadiness of my own work but my passion was for other things and I knew my married life was never going to be easier.

I wanted to be the freelance artist and have my husband be the wage slave. That wish wasn't the contract I'd made when I married though, it was a yearning that emerged after I had children. I'd been inoculated with the dogma that women should have it all, work and kids. It was only after I had those kids that I discovered that I didn't want to bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan.

I longed for more balance in my life, more time and freedom and flexibility, more security that wasn't completely dependent on me keeping my nose grimly to the grindstone.

Fifteen years into my marriage I'd mined so much salt that I'd turned to stone.


And then I started talking to Nick and I started to feel like maybe my heart wasn't cryogenically frozen. But even as I opened my heart, I knew that I would be care-taking again. I knew it and I accepted it, I felt strong enough, I thought my feelings for him were strong enough.

It didn't play out exactly that way.

I really like you, Nick, you are smart, and funny, and creative, and fragile, and complex, and sexy. A lot like me, in fact.

Everything that you have said you felt - lost, exiled, stuck - I understand. My heart goes out to you. I wish I could heal you (it's the rescuer in me).

But are we kidding ourselves? Two depressives? What good would we be to each other? Who would cook?

You are so sweet to say all those loving things to me. I love you too. Or my fantasy of you. Not sure which
I'm a great cook and love doing it. We can switch off. Yes this is about fantasy - to a degree.
Maybe I will see you next week. Do you want to see me next week?
After I sent him that last note, asking him to meet me, he wrote me the most beautiful note I'd ever received from a man.

He didn't agree to meet me though.

I've condensed his letter. Substantially.

I received your letter. I'm experiencing arrhythmia - my heart is skipping beats. Your post, beautiful as it is, (and I printed it for hard copy filing) added to my coronary unrest.

Often I feel like our hearts are choreographed in beautiful synchronicity. It's as if I feel yours beating in my chest.

To physically hold you is something I cannot yet imagine without fear. Though I desire to. We correspond in such a way as lovers do. But in the safety and anonymity of this technology we use, the reality is somewhat nebulous.

I could not bear up under the blow of rejection from you. Especially you.

So much for a macho facade.This is the state, or the point, I find myself in at this time in the universe.

And then there is you. Liz, Lizbeth, Elizabeth, and I love your euphonic name. And I'm frightened. I'm frightened because of my own investment.

Can we just be friends? But, how could I think of you differently than I do. It's your soul I'm connecting with. I love your soul. You are your soul. I love you.

But, I don't know if anything needs to be done with that.

What else would you like to become for me? What would you like me to become for you?
And me.
You asked me what else would I like to become for you? What would I like you to become for me?

I'll tell you.

I don't know.

For you and me I think, maybe, it has to be everything or nothing. What do you think? I hope it's everything. But we both have far to go.
And of course, you are married. Would you just want me for a hot affair, for romance and high passion (Mmm that sounds good)? I don't want to be a fantasy buster but, I am so attracted to your style, I gotta be more honest with you than if I were just flirtin' around.
And just like that, I knew what I had to do.

Me again.
I am changing. I've made a decision that I needed to make. It is such a relief. I feel like I'm being reborn.

The decision? I told my husband to try to love me less because I am pretty sure I am never going to get well unless we separate.
And just like that, Nick invited his ex-girlfriend back into his home and his bed.

"Trouble me, disturb me with all your cares and your worries
Trouble me on the days when you feel spent
Why let your shoulders bend underneath this burden when my back is sturdy and strong?
Trouble me

Let me have a look inside these eyes while I'm learning
Please don't hide them just because of tears

Spare me? Don't spare me anything troubling

There's more, honestly, than my sweet friend, you can see
Trust is what I'm offering if you trouble me."

(Dennis Drew, Natalie Merchant)

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Thanks for your comment! I will post it as soon as I receive it. Liz