Monday, May 30, 2016

Chasing Anna

"I believe in love and I live my life accordingly
But I choose to let the mystery be."

I had an uncharitable thought the other day as I looked at another artist's beads.

"I hate her," I thought.

Of course I don't hate her. I don't even know her. Her beads are pretty, elaborate florals, and they always sell, for respectable prices. I'm jelly.

Then I actually clicked on 4 of her listings, and none had bids at the halfway point. I make a lot of assumptions, based on past performance.

Which, as we've had drummed into us if we've ever made any sort of financial investment, is not indicative of future results.

Except that it often is. It may not be a guarantee of future results, but I'd say past performance is a pretty reliable indicator of future results.

There are exceptions to every rule. The rule of thumb for my bead sales is that they don't always sell. But sometimes they do.

Recently I did something that I've never done before. I went to a book signing. The author is Nevada Barr, who writes a mystery series set in the National Parks, featuring law enfocement ranger Anna Pigeon.

I didscoverd Barr a few years ago, flipping through a National Parks Magazine. There was an article about Winter Study, the 14th Anna Pigeon novel, published in 2008. I ordered the book and the rest is history, or her story if you will. After reading Winter Study, set on Isle Royale National Park in Michigan, I backed up to the first book in the series, Track of the Cat, set in Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas.

From there I followed Anna all over the country, back to Isle Royale in the summer, Mesa Verde, Lassen Volcanic, Cumberland Island, and Lechugilla cave at Carlsbad Caverns, one of my favorites. From there we went to my hometown, New York City, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, then the Natchez Trace in Mississippi, from there to Glacier, then back to the Natchez Trace (long enough for Anna to fall in love and get married).

After that it was off to the Dry Tortugas, Yosemite and Rocky Mountain, which brought me up to date and back to Isle Royale in the wintertime (I reread Winter Study before moving forward). Borderline (Big Bend) had come out in 2009 and Burn (set mostly in New Orleans) in 2010. After that I had to wait until 2012 for The Rope, a prequel (Glen Canyon), and 2014, Destroyer Angel (The Iron Range).

Boar Island, set in Acadia, was released on May 17 and Barr's book tour brought her to Murder by the Book in Houston on May 20. I had preordered the book on Amazon and it actually arrived on the release date. I considered plowing through it before the book signing but decided I'd rather wait and savor it. The books tend to be page turners anyway but feeling pressure to turn pages isn't the same thing.

We arrived a few minutes early, which meant about 50 people got there ahead of us. The seating area was packed but I went up front, thinking about sitting on the floor, and a little girl offered me her seat in the first row. There was one empty seat in the row behind me, so Neil wedged himself in there. I was clueless about how these things are done, so I didn't know that I was supposed to buy the book from the store and get a number for the signing queue.

Barr came out right on time and immediately made eye contact with me and returned my grin. Maybe she noticed my Yellowstone National Park t-shirt. In addition to the Anna Pigeon series, I've read her other books, Bittersweet (which she described as a "gothic lesbian western" - haha), Seeking Enlightenment, Hat by Hat, a memoir, and 13 1/2, a "stand-alone thriller set in New Orleans" which is where Barr hangs her hats these days.

Because I'd read her memoir, I might have known a little more about Nevada Barr than the average Anna Pigeon fan. I know that she had her struggles, with relationships, with depression, with faith. I know about what she calls her "decade-long winter of my discontent." I know about her depression, I know about her recovery, I know about her finding love later in life, and her happy second marriage. I know that in certain respects she is a kindred spirit.

Of course, Pigeon is based on Barr, who was a real-life National Park ranger at Guadalupe Mountain, Isle Royale, Mesa Verde and the Natchez Trace Parkway, before she retired from rangering to write full time. From Barr's website.
She is based on me -- except she is taller and stronger and smarter and braver. We've evolved in different ways over the years, so now she is less like me. While Anna Pigeon battled alcohol dependence and slowly became more of a work-oriented loner, I've grown more whimsical, more lackadaisical, lazier, happier. I've rejoined humanity, and Anna had no intention of getting near it, though that, too, is changing now that she's married Paul.
Barr started out talking about how she came to write the Pigeon series, which included a bit of her history as first an actress, then as a law enforcement park ranger. She said one thing that especially resonated with me. Writing facilities writing, thinking about writing facilitates anxiety. I've personally found it to be a truth that if you just start writing, even if you don't know where you are going with it, you eventually get somewhere.

After talking for a bit, Barr took questions, most along the lines of the ones answered in her website FAQs. One question I loved was about why Anna married Paul. I was in love, Barr said, and I wanted Anna to be in love too. She also asked if anyone in the audience was a writer. I admit that I raised my hand.

Time ran out and that is when I found out about the number system for the autographs. I would have been OK without having my book signed - it was Barr I'd come to see and hear. But the bookstore staff was nice and, since this was my first time at a book signing, gave me a number, 37. I was the last person in line, which was fine. I didn't know that I could have brought up to four books to be signed. I probably could have brought the series, since I own it, and I was the last one to have a book signed. My copies are secondhand, like-new or very-good copies, all hardbound, one without a dust jacket, one (accidental) large print. I was fine with having just the new book signed - the first one I'd ever bought new.

The people lined up behind me are making a second pass to have more books signed.

When it was my turn, Nevada asked me what I wrote. I said, a blog, and I'm working on a memoir. I thanked her for coming. I didn't give any advance thought to what I would say to her, but on the way to the event, Neil said, don't say, I've read every one of your books and I love your work. I asked, why not. He said, that's what everyone says, she will have heard it a million times.

If there'd been time, I think what I'd really like to have said was that, I like to reread the corresponding book each time I visit a park she's written about, that I visited Mesa Verde because I got interested in it after reading the story set there, and that some of the other parks she has written about are on my list. I'd love to visit Dry Tortugas and Acadia is way up on my list, with Isle Royale making the list as well. And I might have asked her if she'd consider a story set in Yellowstone, because that is my favorite park so far.

Photos by Neil.

Boar Island is the 19th Anna Pigeon novel and I hope there will at least be one more. Chaco Canyon came up as a possible location. Nevada seem intrigued about a possible ghost story angle. The funny thing is, our imminent travel plans were about to take us practically right past it, en route from Santa Fe to Canyon de Chelly. We would have to make a side trip.

Everybody's wondering what and where they they all came from
Everybody's worried about where they're gonna go when the whole thing's done
Nobody knows for certain so it's all the same to me
I think I'll just let the mystery be

Some say when you're gone you're gone forever
And some say you're gonna come back
Some say you rest in the arms of the Saviour
If in sinful ways you lack
Some say that they're coming back in a garden
Bunch of carrots or little sweet peas
I think I'll just let the mystery be

Some say they're going to a place called Glory
And I ain't saying it ain't a fact
But I've heard that I'm on the road to Purgatory
And I don't like the sound of that
I believe in love and I live my life accordingly
But I choose to let the mystery be

Everybody's wondering what and where they they all came from
Everybody's worried about where they're gonna go when the whole thing's done
Nobody knows for certain so it's all the same to me
I think I'll just let the mystery be

(Iris DeMent)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Weathering the whethers

"If we turn and face it, the wind will come around,
Don't have to chase it when it blows."

The weather has been weighty, damp and gray, a perfect match for my mood.

I'm trying to shake it off. My mood that is, not the weather. All I can do about the weather is to weather it.

Really, I should embrace this weather. It's cool for mid-May and that is a good thing, especially since the tools of my trade, torch and kiln, are in my garage studio, at the mercy of the elements.

If it were sunny and bright, I might well be berating the relentless heat and the prospect of the many months of summer ahead, day after day of coping with temperatures in the 90s and relative humidity in the 90th percentile.

I have as little reason to feel heavy or damp or gray about my life as I do about the weather. Several things that were stressors, things that were hovering in limbo-land, a place of discomfort for me, are shaking out.

Kandace and her boyfriend are moving forward with a plan to live together in a way that makes sense to me. He is going to move in to her house and they are going to make that work until they save enough to buy a house together. This is by far the best of the scenarios they kicked around, which included moving into an apartment together. If they aren't ready to make the leap to marriage and joint home ownership yet, I'm glad she isn't giving up her home until the future comes into better focus.

Chelsea and her boyfriend are not moving forward with a plan to move to California and that also makes sense to me, since the plan was never fully baked. Quitting jobs and packing up and heading for LA, without a soft place to land, like a home or a job, seemed nonsensical. At least for now, the move is tabled and they will stay in Austin, where they seem to be thriving, with jobs they like and friends and creative outlets and an affordable roof over their heads.

Laurie and her husband will be having their first child, our second grandchild, in December. She had a miscarriage earlier this year, but all the signs look good this time, and I'm looking forward to cuddling a wee one again. Chris will be moving in with them this summer and starting a master's degree program to become a registered dietician.

So all four kids are out of limbo for the moment. I'm not naive enough to think that this is a static state, the game is long and there will be decision points and changes and uncertainties and milestones ahead. But for now, everyone is on some track and each train is chugging along steadily.

The biggest things left in limbo are whether, when and how Neil will retire and if, when and where we will move after he does. I don't see any perfect options for the latter, except that it feels pretty inevitable. Given that, I'd like to know where we are going to wind up. Now that our kids are sinking their roots slightly deeper into Texas soil - technically Texas and Louisiana, but Laurie, Luke and Chris will almost surely be back with a couple of years - I wish more than ever that we could find a happy solution closer than North Carolina. Austin remains the front-runner backup plan, but Neil won't be happy there, not unless we try a different adventure first and find out it's not all that and a bag of chips.

He's convinced that the new grandchild won't change the way he feels about Texas versus North Carolina. I'm conflicted about whether I want it to. There's a part of me that feels like if we can't live close to all the grandchildren (so far, that's Ryland and the little blueberry in Laurie's belly) then it might be better to live equally far away from all of them. I've grown sincerely, truly fond of my stepchildren. But I ache for my children. Every day, always.

And I love my house. True, it's not adequately energy efficient and there is no place for a proper studio. Moving would force me to go through and winnow down all the stuff I've accumulated that oppresses me when I think about it. For Neil, there's the threat of hurricances for 6 months out of 12, but I don't factor that in with much weight. We won't save money as we are almost certain to build a bigger, pricier house. If you are going to live farther away, you need lots of guest space.

The idea of setting up my life again, everything from doctors, dentists and veterinarians to hairdressers, housekeepers and lawn maintenance crews, is unpalatable if not overwhelming. I wouldn't say we have a lot of friends or a very active social life here, but we have some friends and more than nothing of a social life. It's all doable, but it's definitely going to be a lot harder than just staying put.

Maybe it's what I need and I just don't know it. I'm not so old and set in my ways yet that being forced out of my comfort zone might not be a good thing.

Bottom line, I'm willing to get with the new program, whatever it is. I'd just like to know what it is, and when we can start. Because we can't arrive at a new normal until we set forth.

Obviously I have too much time to overthink this the way I'm doing.

Maybe I'm just having a Monday after the weekend before letdown.

We did have a fun weekend. We left on Thursday night to drive to Lake Charles to visit Laurie and Luke. We stopped at Goode Company Taqueria on the way, because by the time we left I was already getting hungry. We drove through rain until just past Baytown, where the roads became dry and the drive uneventful. We got past the excited dog greeting, talked for a while and went to bed.

On Friday we had lunch at Newk's and went to paint ceramics at Art's Desire, which has become a Lake Chuck tradition for us.

I got to paint a new shelf elf for Neil because I accidentally broke the one Laurie had made him. I finished first and spent time talking to Raejean, the owner, artist to artist you might say. We really clicked. There's just something about the chemistry that happens when two creatives start talking shop and collaborative ideas flow. I bought a couple of her small ceramic pieces, inspired to make jewelry with them, and I promised to bring a box of my beads the next time we're in town.

We went back to the house and played Quirkle and I came in second to Neil by one point. Then we tried to go to dinner at Walk-Ons but the wait was too long so we went to Rotolo's. I tried really hard to make sensible choices, soup, half sandwich, soup, salad, gelato. Food always becomes an issue for me when we visit kids.

On Saturday, before we headed home, we had lunch at the Blue Dog Cafe. A lunch portion of crawfish enchiladas with dirty rice and corn maque choux was still too much, but wouldn't have been so bad if construction detours and flooding rain hadn't turned a 3-hour trip into a 5-hour ordeal. We wound up stopping near the Galleria to let the rain abate a bit and you could not have interested me in coffee, a scone or a jamba juice smoothie, let alone dinner. We finally made it home and I had a couple of oreos and called it a night.

Sunday afternooon was my glass group meeting and Sunday night we were invited to dinner with a group of Neil's fellow team leads from work. It was raining hard again and I was longing to stay home but the party was still on and it turned out to be a little more fun than I expected. Sometimes at gatherings like this one, where not only almost everyone is a rocket scientist but their spouse is a neurosurgeon, I feel horribly under-accomplished, but this time I felt really comfortable in my English-major artistic skin.

Maybe I've gotten to a point of self-acceptance, even pride, about who I am and what I do. Maybe I just don't give a fig anymore about what people I barely know think.

Whichever it is, I'll take it.

Why yes, that's me, playing with the granddog, Riggs.
We call this game "Dog Mop."

The wind is blowing from a new direction
You're thinking 'bout going, I know
It's been a long season and hard on our affections
But that's no reason to let go

You change just like the weather
But the weather, you know, will always change
If you stay, it'll get better
Wherever you go, it's bound to rain

So put on your jacket and stand your ground
Love's gonna have its highs and lows
If we turn and face it, the wind will come around
Don't have to chase it when it blows

You change just like the weather
But the weather, you know, will always change
If you stay, it'll get better
Wherever you go, it's bound to rain.

(Suzy Bogguss, Doug Crider)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

What they say about misery

"Who can say if I've been changed for the better.
I do believe I have been changed for the better.
Because I knew you, I have been changed for good."
I was feeling smug recently. I know, how unlike me.

It didn't last long of course.

It started with a couple of discussions on Facebook. About bead sales. Because that is my life at this 10 seconds of the universe unfolding.

The first was about whether people noticed a monthly pattern for sales being better or worse. As usual, there were all sorts of theories. Weekends are slow. Weekends are good. The latter half of the month is better. The third week of the month is best. There are no patterns. There is absolute unpredictability.

My takeaway though was that sales were not steady for most of the conversants. There's always someone who claims to sell everything she lists. And I know that is true for some people. But not for most.

The second conversation was along similar lines. An artist who is established, well-known and in my estimation, successful commented that she was having trouble selling her focal beads, even at ridiculously low prices.

Lots of commenters said that sales were slow in general right now. One voiced my thoughts about the market being saturated, adding "buyers have so much stock of our prior sales - they aren't buying."

Another seller chimed in, "there are more sellers beads available but buyers have to sell their goods too or they won't buy more beads."

A buyer jumped in with, "I have so many beads from all of you fabulous artists that I have in fact stopped buying more until some beaded jewelry sells." Another buyer immediately seconded that, saying "those bead market Facebook groups caused a buying frenzy [in the] last year or two and a lot of jewelry makers (myself included) have spent out and overstocked." A third said, "I'm a bead buyer and jewelry designer ... sales are circling the drain."

The consensus was that the whole jewelry industry is slow right now, and the standard reasons given: tax season, Obamacare and the election year. Although I have no clue how Obamacare affects bead buying or jewelry sales or a lot of other things for which fingers are pointed at it.

A couple of other comments are worth noting. Another long-time and widely-esteeemed beadmaker said, "sales are slower for me than they ever have been - even slower than when the market crashed back in 2008." And another maker sadly said "thanks for bringing this subject up. I thought it was just me. I love the quick turnover in the Facebook groups, but I'm selling for half the price."

I started to type a response along the lines of, stand firm, don't lower your prices, that just hurts you and everyone else. But I have always defended the position that pricing is a personal decsion, that no artist owes anything to the bead community as a whole with regard to pricing, and that if you want to sell your beads cheaply or give them away, it's your call.

So I kept my typing fingers shut.

The reason I was feeling smug was that I'd just had a little flurry of sales. I was doing OK in a down market, for fifteen minutes anyway. In theory at least, I've set my prices, I've drawn the line, and either my beads sell or they don't.

And if they don't, well, I have lots of company, and you know what they say about misery.

Part of the latter discussion was about whether Etsy was worth considering again as an alternative to Facebook. I did weigh in there.
I let my Etsy bead shop expire, then recently started building it up again, and I've had quite a few sales including some from "old" customers. I think a lot of artists abandoned Etsy for Facebook after all the mass-produced brouhaha - so now might be a good time to try it. Especially since you already have taken the photos, written the descriptions and measured the beads.
And wouldn't you know, three days after her post, the original artist had this to say. "In case anyone else was considering it - listing on Etsy has worked out well."

Misery is a jealous bitch.

I took a peek at the artist's Etsy shop and she had sold six focal beads. Still, it doesn't take much to stick a pin in my smugness balloon.

One of the other interesting comments echoed some of my less charitable thoughts. "It's very discouraging sometimes to see some focals being [bought] at $165 a shot." But then the poster when on to say, "I don't begrudge these artists for what they are getting for their beads because they are truly AMAZING."

She was talking about artists like this one, who, by the way, I greatly admire and would love to own one of her beads but not enough to pay what she is asking.

I don't begrudge them either, begrudge is not the right word, but it does underscore that some buyers still are buying, some customers still have money to spend or high credit limits. Not all buyers are buying to make jewelry to resell. Some buyers are collectors.

Even collectors have their limits though. I know because I'm one. And while I still look at certain artists' beads with yearning, I've lost a lot of my "having" urge.

My customers for the most part aren't collectors. Sure, there are some, some who have bought many beads from me (and others) and as far as I can tell have not made any jewelry. If they do, they aren't selling it on Facebook, or modeling it on Facebook or showing-and-telling it on Facebook.

I do have a fair number of customers who sell on Facebook and tag me when they use my beads in their creations. I try to share their posts - because if they don't sell they don't buy more - and I try to buy from my good customers once in a while, not necessarily something made with my beads, although I have done that too.

Going back to the first discussion on Facebook that I mentioned, about monthly sales patterns, one person took the discussion in a different direction. She said this.
I find no pattern. I also tend not to even comment or read these posts normally, not to sound bitchy, BUT I do truly believe what you think about you bring about. Sometimes things dont sell as fast. We are making BUTTER items, luxuries. If I took [it] to heart every time I read one of these or similar posts in the last 15 years, I would be waiting tables. I have down days, I cry, I get frustrated and then I remember... surround yourself with those that inspire you. Believe in your work, work harder, learn something new.
She added another comment.
I wish I could remember who stated it, [because] it brightens my mood when I need it. "Dont ever underestimate your buyers' pockets. Do not devalue yourself." But no I don't find a pattern during the month that I have noticed, [it's] just usually harder when I NEED it.
I thought she had a point.
Point Laurie. There are some artists who sell everything no matter what the day of the month, mostly because their work is stellar. I work very hard at my art but all I can do is my best and you can't practice genius. I just keep trying, keep melting glass, keep listing beads.
She responded in a counterpoint to the over-saturation argument.
Another gem I got from someone way back when: "keep in their faces, keep putting it out there, they forget you really fast." And it's never a given, it's always work, learning, trying, every day.
I had to ask.
Laurie, is the flip side of "keeping in people's faces" overexposure? I worry about that. A lot of people already have a lot of my beads. Is the market limitless?
She thought so.
Is the market limitless??? YES! Overexposure? I don't think I have run into that with anyone, I can't personally say I'm sick of seeing so and so's work. And I truly believe there is a market for every price point and level. My intention with my first post was, if I say yes, I see a pattern, the beginning of month or end of month is slower, I am bringing that into my reality. And I'm trying really hard NOT to do that.
I got what she was saying, sort of. This is the last comment I made. [Riffing off N.D. Walsch, from Conversations with God.]
Life will show up for you no other way than the way you expect it to. So as of now, I am expecting a personal talent breakthrough and adoring customers with deep pockets!
Ah, if only it were that simple, to believe in yourself, to believe that all it takes is belief and it will be so.

At east I can be more intentional about it. I can try something new, and if it's not an immediate success I can try again, or try something else. I can shake off a bad torch day and a bad sales week. I can detach. Again. Because it's what I do, it's a process for me to let it go, not once and done. I can stop comparing myself, stop measuring myself, stop letting myself be affected when most of the comments I get are along these lines: "Love these colors! Wish I weren't out of bead money."

Unless or until I walk away, I can walk my own talk and keep trying, keep melting glass, keep listing beads.

I'm limited.
Just look at me.
I'm limited.
And just look at you.
You can do all I couldn't do.
So now it's up to you
For both of us.
Now it's up to you.

I've heard it said,
That people come into our lives
For a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led to those
Who help us most to grow if we let them
And we help them in return.
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you.

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun.
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood.
Who can say if I've been changed for the better
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good.

It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime.
So, let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart.
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have rewritten mine
By being my friend.

Like a ship blown from it's mooring
By a wind off the sea.
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood.
Who can say if I've been changed for the better
But because I knew you.

Because I knew you.

I have been changed for good.

And just to clear the air
I ask forgiveness
For the things I've done
You blame me for

But then I guess
We know there's blame to share

And none of it seems to matter anymore.

Like a comet pulled from orbit
(Like a ship blown from it's mooring)
As it passes a sun.
(By a wind off the sea)
Like a stream that meets a boulder
(Like a seed dropped by skybird)
Halfway through the wood.
(In a distant wood)
Who can say if I've been changed for the better.
I do believe I have been changed for the better.

And because I knew you.

Because I knew you.

Because I knew you
I have been changed
For good.

(Stephen Schwartz, Winnie Holzman)

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The biggest granfalloons

"It's a sacrifice working day to day, for little money just tips for pay
But it's worth it all to hear them say that they care."

A couple of days ago, Kat O'Sullivan, better known as Katwise, posted a video on her Facebook page. It was a follow-up to a video she had posted the day before.

If you are not familiar with Kat, she is the one-women phenom who took the art of upcycling sweaters into coats, arm warmers and yes, more sweaters, and turned it into an empire. And she did it honestly, personally hand-serging collections of 60 or so sweater garments for monthly sales on Etsy. Since 2009, she's done her magic in her sewing room at Calico, her home in Ulster County, NY, which she calls "the house that sweaters built."

Each sweater is a one-of-a-kind work of art, and Kat's legions of adoring fans have swelled the ranks of her Etsy admirers to more than 40,000. Every month leading up to a sale, she posts photos on Facebook, modeling the sweaters, giving descriptions, sizes, and pricing. This is so you can study the goods and make decisions in advance, because when the sale begins, hold on to your hats. For a long time I liked to tune in to her Etsy shop during a sale just to watch the merchandise fly out of there.

At a pre-specified time, Kat would start posting her creations in batches of 5 at a time and Kat-lovers everywhere would be frantically refresing their screens. With each click, sweaters would appear and disapper. Her sales number would creep up and in 20 minutes, everything would be gone.

Once or twice I put a sweater in my shopping cart, but the adrenaline rush only lasted as long as it took me to go through the checkout process, only to see the message, "sorry, this item is sold." Someone, somewhere in the world, with a faster computer or quicker keyboarding skills, always skunked me.

Since Kat started selling her sweater-wear on Etsy in 2006, her sales have topped 30,000. Some number of the sales are tutorials and arm warmers, but each year she sells in the neighborhood of one thousand coats, cardigans, pullovers, hoodies and dresses, priced from about $130 to $800. She works hard for that money, I have no doubt, and I respect that.

Arm warmers I have bought from Katwise.

For whatever reasons though, some of the feeding frenzy has tapered off. In the past months I've noticed "sponsored" ads for Kat's sweater sales. We all know that on Facebook we don't see all of our friends posts, nor do our friends see all of ours. As Facebook has grown, who sees exactly what has become a murky mystery, and Facebook is good at prompting us to target a broader audience by 'promoting" - i.e., paying to advertise - our posts.

Kat seems to be especially troubled by what she sees as resorting to insincere (and costly) ways to reach her fan base. In her video, she admits to feeling sad because, to paraphrase her words, the participation of her audience is dwindling, thanks to Facebook and Etsy changing their algorithms so she's not reaching the amount of people she once did. She's upset that the Internet is restricting her ability to interact with people in an honest, authentic way.

Kat said that she feels the sand of her business slipping away beneath her feet because of the competitiveness of the social media world, and that it scares her. In her May 2 video, she showed a new creation she made, a sort of cross between a cowl, shawl, infinity scarf and poncho. Wearing it felt like a hug, she said, and while she'd be happy to make more and sell them if we like them, she wanted to give the prototype away because of all the emotion it was imbued with. If you'd like it, she said, send me a note and tell me why you need a hug and I'll send it to you.

The May 2 video has 117,000 views, 628 shares and 1,780 comments. As of now, the May 3 video has 55,000 views, 234 shares and 1, 114 comments.

155,430 people like her Facebook page.

It's hard to believe Kat really thought she's get about 4 requests for the poncho instead of the hundreds upon hundreds she did get. And she does say, in her video, that many of the people connecting with their messages were going through some seriously tough times, and that she herself was "a fucking idiot" for being sad about the fact that for the first time ever, the arm warmers she had listed in her shop didn't sell out.

Of course, Kat is so adorable and charming and charismatic that you have to forgive her for her success and popularity and hubris. Even if you yourself were thrilled to hit 1,000 likes on your Facebook page. Even if you have never had a sell-out, anywhere, ever, and are thrilled with the occasional order of multiple items, like the five beads sets I sold to a new customer this week.

But here is the heart of the matter. While Kat is railing about algorithms impeding her global reach, I wonder if that is the only reason her sales are eroding. If eroding even is the right word, because everything still sells, it just takes a few hours instead of mere minutes.

With beads, I sometimes think there is a finite market of bead buyers, a limit to the appetite of buyers for beads. To date it seems to be insatiable, even if it's not for my beads. Every day someone is spending substantial sums on beads and every day new buyers appear on the scene. Still a lot of people already own a lot of my beads.

Maybe that is the case with sweater coats. After snagging my fourth pair of arm warmers, I finally landed my Katwise sweater last summer. It's called Night Train to Memphis - each collection has a theme - and is described as "a deep swirl of midnight blues and dreamy purples with cute silver flower buttons."

That's Kat herself modeling my coat.
My arms must be shorter than hers.

I paid $159 for it all in, a price I would probably not have paid for the cutest cardigan I'd ever seen from Amazon or Lands End or LL Bean. This wasn't the cutest cardigan I'd ever seen, or even my favorite Katwise creation, but I got it into my cart and through the checkout with PayPal process, half hoping and fully expecting to see the familiar "sorry, this item is sold" message.

But it was mine and I rationalized that I was supporting an artist and owning a one-of-a-kind apparel item and a little piece of history, a Katwise original.

I mentioned that Kat sells tutorials for her coats and there are dozens of upcycled sweater coats for sale on Etsy in the Katwise style. I even bought one a few years ago, crafted by Aunty Em on Etsy. It's nicely made, but huge and long and heavy and I've never worn it, and can't imagine wearing it except possibly as a winter robe - if we move to a much colder place.

I'm not sure I'll wear my Katwise sweater either. I promised myself to use it, enjoy it, not save it or stockpile it, but wear the hell out of it, even if it's just to go out to dinner with Neil. I intended to, I even packed it and took it to North Carolina last November. But somehow I let a whole winter slip by without finding the right occasion to don it. It's really not a good fit. It's snug in the bodice but the arms are too long, like ridiculously long.

So I have another theory about Kat and her seeming sales slowdown. After I got my sweater, I stopped looking at her collections. I still got her notifications in my news feed, I just lost interest in looking at the eye candy or watching the Etsy buying melees. I did occasionally peep at her Facebook page because she's an interesting person who makes cute videos and writes the occasional thought-provoking blog post. I just didn't need any more arm warmers or upcycled fashion statements.

I have a feeling that Kat is reaching as many people as ever or at least as many as most of us would be grateful to reach - in our wildest dreams. It's just that the market for her crazy cool designs isn't limitless. I could be wrong, but she's had a fantastic 10-year run. So what if her coats don't sell out in a seller's wet-dream frenzy. They still sell. Maybe she will have to adapt, to become more like the rest of us, whose sales are not events.

I have a lot of empathy for her. I know this is her livelihood. You get used to a certain level of income and security. I don't know what it would be like to get used to a certain level of celebrity but I imagine you get used to that too. And even as you do, you wonder how thick is the ice that you're standing on. You ponder whether all good things really must come to an end. And hopefully you make a backup plan against those eventualities.

But if not, something tells me that Miss Kat will land softly on her paws somehow. She describes herself this way.
I reckon I have vagabonded though close to 100 countries. I've spent years on the festival trail, following the Dead, mermaid parading, moshing, granfallooning, standing on my head in India, and just staring at the campfire. I have hitchhiked to Timbuktu, Kathmandu, Kalamazoo, and pretty close to Xanadu too.
I had to look up granfallooning. And anyone who understands granfallooning must also understand that the Etsy and Facebook cultures, not to mention social media itself, are the biggest granfalloons of all.

She works hard for the money
So hard for it, honey
She works hard for the money
So you better treat her right

I met her there in the corner stand
And she wonders where she is
And it's strange to her
Some people seem to have everything

9 am on the hour hand
And she's waiting for the bell
And she's looking real pretty
She's waiting for her clientele

She works hard for the money
So hard for it, honey
She works hard for the money
So you better treat her right

Twenty-eight years have come and gone
And she's seen a lot of tears
Of the ones who come in
They really seem to need her there

It's a sacrifice working day to day
For little money just tips for pay
But it's worth it all
To hear them say that they care

Already knows, she's seen her bad times
Already knows, these are the good times
She'll never sell out, she never will
Not for a dollar bill
She works hard

She works hard for the money
So hard for it, honey
She works hard for the money
So you better treat her right.

(Donna Summer, Michael Omartian)