Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Stock goes up, stock goes down

"Hey, it's a hard town, I wouldn't want to live in it
But I wouldn't want to give up in it, all things being the same."

Every now and then I wonder if I am going to overdose on making beads and lose my desire to melt glass.

Truthfully, I've stuck with lampworking longer than every passion in my life, Neil and my kids excluded.

If anything I'm more eager that ever to fire the torch in the mornings, more impatient for the kiln to cool off enough for me to look at my day's labors in the evenings.

Which proves essentially nothing, given my history of impulsiveness at times when faced with big decisions.

For example, I never wanted a tattoo until one day I wanted one. I didn't go out and get one that day, but the die was cast and getting a tattoo instantly became a certainty.

I used to get into relationships too quickly and get out of them even more quickly. I was in like Flint and then I'd pull a runner.

Hard to believe I worked for the same company for 30 years. Or that I stayed with my first husband for 15 years. In the long run, in both cases, it had nothing to do with passion though, and everything to do with weariness and loss of self-confidence and maybe a bit of stubborness.

I'm not a quitter. Except that sometimes I am.

Sometimes I'm a bridge burner.

Neil noticed that I haven't had my typical number of deliveries of glass or beads. I've stopped wanting more glass and beads. Not entirely. There are a couple of new colors I'd like to buy, but not so badly that I can't wait for a really good sale or until I am out of something I must have, like my go-to clear, and have to place an order anyway.

For a number of reasons, I limit the amount of time I make beads in a day. I have to baby my hand, arm, shoulder, neck and back, so I try to stick to 2 hours or 18 mandrels. At this time of year, it starts getting way too hot to be creative by 11 am or so anyway. But it's also a tactic I'm hoping will help me prevent burnout.

Whether or not it will help remains to be seen.

There's an old saw in the business world that all it takes is one "oh shit" to wipe out 10 "attaboys." That's just as true in my own head. I really do get a lot of validation as a beadmaker. Here are some recent messages people sent when my beads arrived.
Bead arrived safe and sound in my mailbox. It is just beautiful, better than in the photo.

Thank you so much. I got my beads and love them! They are so beautiful.

I just got my package from you before I left the house, I love them!

Received the beads and they are exactly what I needed!

Received these beautiful beads in today's mail. Thank you so much, Liz!

Hi Liz - The beads arrived today- very pretty!!

I got the bead! Thank you! That bead is just gorgeous!!

Got my beads today....must've been on a purple kick! Beautiful as always.

I received another group of your beads! I love them all. Thanks so much !

Hi Elizabeth! The 3 sets of beads arrived today! They are all gorgeous. Thank you again!!

Hi Elizabeth - I opened your bead package just now. They match to what I saw so wonderfully well. I adore them.

I just received my beads!! They are even prettier in person. Thanks!!

Elizabeth - I received the beads today. Just had to tell you that I am absolutely thrilled with them! Each and every one is beautiful. Thank you so much!
These are not cherry-picked comments. I'm not omitting any negative or even neutral remarks. Not every customer messages me after they receive my beads. As a buyer, I rarely do that myself, although I probably should do it more often.

No matter how many favorable comments I get, I am always braced for a negative one. Beads arriving broken, although that happened only once, a raised dot that chipped off, and I replaced the bead. In the seven years that I've been selling beads I have had a few returns, most during my Etsy heyday, and no more than three or four.

I've only had one return in the 18 months I've been selling on Facebook. The buyer asked if I minded if she de-stashed (re-sold) a bead she bought. She said she couldn't use it. I think it was bigger than she had visualized. I offered to take it back and she returned it. She has never bought from me again, and you know, it still sort of hurts my feelings, even though the bead ultimately sold to someone else for a higher price.

Still, I take pride in my track record. I can't say I personally loved every single bead I've ever sold. But I've learned to list my non-favorites anayway, and to put them out at bead shows, because there's no accounting for tastes. As long as a bead is sound, no bad ends, no scum, obviously no cracks or chips, there is probably someone out there who could love it even though I don't.

On the flip side, just because I think one of my beads is drop-dead gorgeous does not mean it will sell on the first go-round, or for a price that I think is worthy. I just set my start price at something I can live with. If the bead doesn't sell, I may wait and try again. I may lower the price or I may raise it. It's surprising how many times raising the price has drawn a sale. There may or may not be a lesson there. It's certainly not a fail-safe strategy. I just go with my gut. Run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes.

We've been reading Harry Potter, that is, Neil is reading me the Harry Potter series. We're slogging through The Order of the Phoenix right now, having recently completed our slog through The Goblet of Fire, which I maintain should have been called The Tri-Wizard Tournament, since the actual goblet of fire was more peripheral than pivotal to the story.

Neil is fond of pointing out that Harry's "stock goes up, stock goes down," meaning some of the time he's popular, a hero, while the rest of the time everyone's pissed off at him.

It's my opinion that Harry so far hasn't shown much pluck, ingenuity or heroism. He's more a reluctant victim of circumstance who is usually rescued rather than saved by his own wits. The latest example was his encounter with the newly restored Lord Voldemort, when the ghosts of Cedric, Frank, Bertha and Harry's parents run interference so Harry can escape back to the portkey and return to Hogwarts.

Like Harry, my bead "stock goes up, stock goes down." A day with no sales can turn into a day with a windfall of sales. Someone wins a set of dot beads, asks if I have any more, of course I do, I send photos, customer says yes, those, those, those and those, and an $18 sales turns into a $90 sale. I haven't quite learned to trust a benign fate, but I keep plugging, I keep perspiring, I keep showing up.

Yesterday I thought I had a bad day on the torch. I even told Neil, as we were driving to meet my daughter and her boyfriend for dinner, that some days, when things are not going well, I should probably just shut it down. But I rarely do, I keep trying, hoping to end on a high note. And then last night when the kiln had cooled down, I was amazed how pretty some of the beads turned out.

I didn't torch today. The kids slept in a bit and by the time they were up and ready to go, it would have been too hot to get started. Initially I was happy to have an excuse for a day off. I realize I could give myself a day off anytime, but that's not how I roll. And you know, I felt the itch to melt glass. It's possible I was displacing my feelings, because I was a little sad about my daughter leaving. Sometimes it's just hard to realize that she will never be little again, never live with me again. Time ticks on inexorably. It's easier to think about beads than to think about growing old.

In the meantime, I have a long stretch of days ahead with no conflicts, design ideas in my head, and new glass to boot.

I know the allure of lampwork for me might turn off one day, like a tap. I'm pretty sure it won't be this week though.

"She is searching for some form of salvation
In the corner of a bar down the street
But the gin controls whole conversations
And plays magic tricks with her feet

She gets up, falls down, breaks even
Gets caught by the wrong Mister Right
Hey, it's a hard town
I wouldn't want to live in it
But I wouldn't want to give up in it
All things being the same

Back home she's got these pictures on her mirror
They frame her when she looks back at her face
They tell her where she's been
I'll tell you where she's going
She's got her name on a stool down at Eddie Owen's place

She drinks when romance brings her down
Like the sight of blood is a wedding gown
Bright lights and smoke fill up this space
It's a crowded room, but still a lonely old place

All her friends are nothing more than strangers
Whose names are just words on a face
If they bumped into her out on a sidewalk on some Sunday
They wouldn't recognize her outside of the place."

(Ellis Paul)

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