Thursday, October 22, 2015

The highs of Texas

"The eyes of Texas, the hearts and the hands
Say, welcome stranger, you know Texas means friend."

I've been buying a lot of beads again and selling very few beads again.

That really needs to turn around and fast.

I can stop buying beads but how to sell more beads remains a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. Furthermore that enigma resides within a paradox, shrouded in a conundrum, surrounded by a quandary. And therein lies the rub.

Some of the time I think my beads are phenomenal and I can't understand why they are being passed over. The rest of the time, I think that after 7 going on 8 years of practice, I'm as good as I'm going to get and that isn't good enough.

I try new things, I return to the tried and true, but I haven't had a creative breakthrough in ages and I'm doubtful that I will again.

My skills are what they are. I'm good at some things. But I'm not patient and my hand is not reliably steady. So my beads lack masterful precision. And I tell myself, that is OK. They are handmade. Machine-like precision while admirable isn't necessary. Little quirks are evidence that a bead is one-of-a-kind. I'm not talking about fatal flaws, just that one annoying dot in 12 that is slightly off-center.

Yet I'm relentlessly self-critical. I know that I see imperfections in my beads that no one else sees. The camera also magnifies every blemish, including those not visible with the naked eye. Yesterday I sold a set that I didn't think I'd sell. I probably shouldn't have listed it, but it had surface metals and so was unsuitable for Beads of Courage. I just wanted it gone.

What is the message though? Am I such a bad judge of my own work that the ugliest set I listed was one of my few recent sales?

I troll through the listings by other beadmakers. As usual it makes me angry. While I'm not alone by far in having bidless listings, buyers are buying beads. It's not the economy. It's not the time of year. But the anger comes from seeing beads with much higher prices than mine that are getting bids and buy-it-nows. Some are beautiful, yes, but some ... I have no words. It's not that they aren't pretty, it's just that I don't understand how a nice but unremarkable bead will sell for $60. Just like that.

Other facts I ponder. I've been selling steadily on Facebook for almost two years. Am I overexposed? Are people just tired of my beads, or complacent that if they pass on them today I'll be listing more tomorrow? There's some truth to that as far as my regular customers go, but new members join all the time and I don't recognize the names of many of the buyers.

Or is it the first rule of bead selling: there are no rules. What sells really well at one bead show tanks completely at the next bead show. So there is no explanation. I'm not hot today, doesn't mean I won't be hot again tomorrow.

Last weekend I took a few days off. Monday was the first time in three days that I had any beads listed for sale. And guess what. No bids. Some likes and one comment. And on Monday I also bought another bead set. I'm failing at both ends of the rope.

The beads I had listed were all relistings. I have new beads ready to photograph. Although nothing is radically different, just more variations on my repertoire of themes. I have more beads in the kiln right now but nothing extraordinary or unique for me. Going forward I'm going to try to stretch a bit more. How I will do that I don't know yet.

If I can stop putting dots on practically everything, that would be a start.

The main reason that I took off a couple of days is that Neil and I took a short trip to the hill country to look at houses. We're going back to North Carolina in a couple of weeks. I'm still very conflicted about moving so far away.

The Austin area would be a compromise. It's just as hot or hotter there, but dryer, further from the coast, about 450 feet higher in altitude. Neil is adamant about getting away from the threat of hurricanes. If we stay in Texas, Austin makes sense. I'd be 200 miles from my grandson and his mama instead of 300.

Neil's brother and sister-in-law live in Austin. So does my younger daughter, but she and her boyfriend plan to move to California within the year. I'm not sure if they'll strike it rich and stay there. I do know that if I'm in the Austin area and California doesn't work out, they'd be more likely to come back there.

So we looked at five different communities in two days. The first two were near Georgetown, which is a quaint, appealing little hamlet with a good bakery and local coffee joints. The first community was large and master-planned, but it was hard to get a good sense of it. It was typically devoid of trees and the green spaces were not yet cultivated in the areas where new construction was underway.

The second development was more built out but small and without amenities, by which I mean walking trails and a community center, for example. There was a pool so small that I thought, why bother. The subdivision backed against a fence and wooded land but there was no information about what the future plans were for that tract.

In both cases, the person manning the model home was a "greeter" and not the actual salesperson, who would perhaps been able to answer some of our many questions.

After that we were off to meet our family members for dinner. Neil wanted to stop at the hotel to check in and wash up. I was worried it would make us late. We argued about it a little. I said, one of us is going to be unhappy, it might as well be you. I also said, this whole house-hunting junket is stressful and we might as well face it up front that at some point we are going to come to blows.

I'm funny like that.

We visited three more subdivisions the following day. Two were in Lakeway and the first was mostly complete, while the second had barely broken ground. The second had promising wooded lots, but again no amenities and also the highest priced homes for the square footage by far.

The last location was in Driftwood and offered the best value, larger lots and houses in a more comfortable price range. It was more remote but that concerns me less than it once would have. As long as we have a good internet connection and Amazon Prime, I'm fine. I think the infrastructure will materialize as the community matures.

But of course, it was still Texas and the grasses and foliages are what you'd expect in a desert-like climb. No getting away from that. Unless you move to someplace like North Carolina.

So what do we gain by moving to North Carolina? Milder summers, colder winters. Real seasons. Here in Sugar Land we go from way-too-hot to way-too-cold with about one nice week in between. True we have a long leisurely spring, with nice days starting in January and continuing through April.

What do we lose? Simpler access to kids and grandkid and grandkids to come. Friends such as we have. I think Neil underestimates how isolated we will be in a place where we know no one but each other. A network of providers - doctors, dentists, hairdressers, our biweekly housekeeper. Familiarity.

Security versus freedom?

North Carolina has the trees and grasses that Neil loves. He relishes the idea of crisp days and the smell of snow in the air. For him, North Carolina is an adventure, a promise to himself kept that he'd leave Texas one day. The excitement of embracing a new place, but also a place more akin to the place he grew up. The houses we are looking at have screened-in porches and the climate to enjoy them. Screened porches evoke happy childhood memories for Neil.

I don't have the heart to stand in his way. It's not irrevocable. If we don't like it we can move again, but it's hard to imagine moving back to Texas. And if we don't do it, we'll always wonder if we should have. In life, for the most part, you regret the things you didn't do more than the things you did.

Last week I saw a beautiful set of beads for sale at a very good price. While I was mulling it over, someone else bought them. That made me feel really angry. I was talking about my feelings and a friend commented, non-buyers' remorse is so much worse than buyers' remorse. If you buy it and change your mind, you can always sell it or donate it or gift it. But if you don't buy it and change your mind, you are shit out of luck.

Unless you contact the beadmaker as I did, and she offers to make you a similar set.

"Travelin' Texas
Been ridin' for days
Travelin' Texas
Is an old cowboy’s dream

Headin' south to the valley
In that old Spanish rain
Travelin' Texas
There’s an old cowboy saying

In the heart of a mustang
That can never be tamed
Or an old blue Norther
Cross the panhandle plain

Travelin' Texas
'Neath the moon and the sun
Travelin' Texas
These highways roll on

The tale of a maverick
In an old hurricane
Southbound by Houston
Moving out into space

The eyes of Texas
The hearts and the hands
Say, welcome stranger
You know Texas means friend

Where cotton is king
Cattle is king
Oil is king
Land of blue water
Lakes of gold

Travelin' Texas."

(Shake Russell)

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