Saturday, February 11, 2006

Chapter 19 - Our First Ever "Good" Show!

Since our T-mobile email account got shut off due to lack of payment this blog had to go on simmer...

In the Wal*Mart I put the hat on. As a whim at first, to make her laugh, hopefully, cheer her up, but then I looked in the little mirror and found it not only fit better than any hat I had ever had on my head, it actually looked good on me.

It was a straw cowboy hat, stained dark caramel. I wasn't fond of the Panama Jack logo on the front band but I knew I could with a little wire work handle that...So I walked, sauntered, actually more ambled through the Wal*Mart aisles, ripping the tags off the back as I went and immediately noticed an improvement in how I was viewed and recieved by the shoppers. People politely moved aside, said excuse me, even smiled. I was suddenly transformed into a trustable, congenial, respectable person. Goodness and frank hard-won wisdom in my head and heart. A cowboy heart that everybody can relate to. Very few people in fact have had a bad experience with cowboys. True, most of them are movie experiences but Hollywood is such a part of our emotional and psychic landscape now that it is experience nonetheless.

I didn't know for sure what it was but there was a difference and then I saw J at the end of an aisle looking for the Wal brand stew that the dogs love so I walked toward her, saw her look toward me and register something then go back to looking at products. When I got up close I looked over her shoulder and she moved away and I moved closer until she finally looked up at me and instead of laughing said I looked really good in the hat. Later she told me that she got a good feeling from the cowboy heading toward her up the aisle and was happy that it was her husband.

I bought the hat and it seemed to be a charm of good fortune. That night (Wednesday) we went to the Bell Tower shops on Tamiami trail in Fort Meyers and I waited with J to pay Rhonda and get our booth assignment. We arrived early but she was already beset with artists and crafters and she with clipboard in hand was handling them with the efficiency and aplomb that always made me like her last winter when our product was handmade soap, even when we had a bad show. In line with the rest was R, our old friend from Colorado who does amazing artistic sculptures with silverware. He got his assignment and we said hello and J and he went to catch up on things while I waited nervously. After all the people who had juried in months before were assigned their booth spots Rhonda dealt with the late stragglers who were paying cash and taking whatever space we could get. Turned out good for us though since she had an odd space where no EZ-UP 10X10 could fit, right in from of Chico's, a clothier favored by many upper middle class women. I took great care to set the bricks and boards in a less uniform, more artistic way, staggering and going up in unusual tiers. I took them down once when I wasn't sure did it all over again. All the other crafter tents were set up and I was one of the last out of the place.

The show fee was $275 and I had to pawn a guitar to do it but when noon the next day rolled around we had made it back. It turned out to be a wonderful show, for us, but not for many others. We couldn't attribute it to any one thing. I thought maybe the rusted wheelbarrow that I found two days prior, out in a swamp while walking the dogs, might have made the difference. It was so rusty it fell apart in my hands and I brought some big hunks of it to the car. J was in tears about our situation, my insanity and how little product she thought we had. I handed her a tiny piece of the rusty wheelbarrow, with little flecks of blue and ochre and yellow in it. Look how beautiful, I said. She turned it over in her sore hands.

"That's right honey, we're dying of hunger, we don't have nearly enough product to do a show and you find rusty pieces of metal." She began to cry again.

I put the piece of metal away and later, in the Wal*Mart parking lot I laquered it with her nail polish. She looked at it again. "Let me see that. Holy shit, it is beautiful." A half hour later she had set it in a complicated and wondrous copper wrap. We did a few more and the day of the show they were a huge hit. Along with my nut rings and nut and bolt bracelets and everything else in our booth. We made over 600 the first day and over 850 the second.

During the show R had come over from he and A's twisted silverware booth and I excitedly told him that I had found the answer. I showed him a piece of the mashed up rusty wheelbarrow.

"What...rust?" he said in his deadpan manner.

Yes, ahhh rust. Beautiful corrosion, sweet, wonderful rust.

But we agreed that it wasn't just the rust. It was part display, part that our jewelry is so different that people were buying it just because they had seen the other stuff so much.

And, we both agreed, it was part, a good part, the hat. It eased people up and they lingered at our booth. The congenial, simple honest cowboy, making art out of rust and bolts. How much more American can you get than that?

And while today we only made 25 bucks at the Flamingo Flea in Bonita Springs that we had heard such wonderful things about, we are paid up mostly in our bills, and we are amping up for another CE Rhonda event this Wednesday. Our dogs are eating again, getting lots of beach running and life is momentarily sweet. For the record this is our best show after over a year and a half doing them. One time in the West Village doing soap we made a grand during a one dayer and this was before noon and then it stormed so the show died. But now for the first time we know what crafters mean by a "good day". Not phenomenal or even great. In the heyday a few years ago a "good" day would have been 1000 or more per.

A cool breezy night outside Starbucks in Bonita Springs. Dogs at my feet. A coffee on the table. And I didn't even have to fish out an old cup to get the 50 cent refill.


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4:32 PM  
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Anonymous Susannah said...

Though Mark's gone, I'm comforted to know that was filled with creativity--so much depends upon a red, rusty wheelbarrow...

I imagine his talents are being put to great use elsewhere. That's only right.

12:07 AM  

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