It’s been an eventful past four months, and since you started this journey with me, I thought you might appreciate some updates. To begin, the 9th Annual Indiana Artisan Marketplace was a great success and quite the learning experience for me. I know what I’ll do differently next year, like having a larger booth regardless of the amount of inventory I have, and I met quite a few inquisitive and supportive new customers. I also learned that while most independent makers earn a living by traveling around to different shows, that isn’t the maker life I want to lead.
Immediately after the show, I was back to a level of work intensity I had not anticipated. My website was depleted of most of my best work, great problem to have after a show, and I had a slew of pillows that did not sell well at the Marketplace that had never been posted to the website, not so great a problem to have after a show. The photography, editing and writing copy was intense for several days, but I did finally manage to accomplish it all. In addition, I sent a few of the best pieces I had left to the newly opening Indiana Artisan Gifts and Gallery in Carmel and to the store in the French Lick Resort. Thankful for that too as it has already been profitable for me to be selling pieces in both stores!
Three weeks after the show I was agreeing to a three-month installation of 10 of my best pieces at Gordy Fine Art and Framing here in downtown Muncie. I didn’t have the inventory when I agreed to the June-August show, so no rest for the weary! I had half of a long wall for hanging my work, and obsessed over a low cost creative solution for displaying my scarves. In the end, I decided to spend some time making these weird paper mache busts. With my trusty dress form as a base covered in cling film and a trash bag, I used a mix of drywall plaster, Elmer's glue and water as a slurry and three layers of strips of brown contractor paper. I topped the whole thing off with watered down glue which gave a nice finished sheen, and I hot glued a strip of floral wire to the backs so they could hang on a nail or picture hook. All of the supplies were laying around the house, so the displays cost me nothing but time.
Around the same time, I was approached by a fellow artisan asking if I might be interested in being the fiber artist at a posh co-op gallery in Zionsville, a good 90 minute drive away one way on a low traffic day. I was overwhelmed with work already, depleted of good inventory, and not feeling peace about adding one more thing to my long to-do list. I turned down that opportunity, but the artist did go on to ask if I might be interested in purchasing several yards of silk fabric and a two year old sewing serger. I’ve turned down three or four used sergers in the past and have always regretted it. This was an offer I could not refuse!
You’re seeing the silk yardage I purchased in the wearables I’ve been making, and I've finally had time and scraps to create some very fun cosmetic travel bags which I will debut for sale at next April's Marketplace. Had that bulk fabric not come into my life, I honestly don’t think I’d have pulled the trigger on making the clothing items I’d had vision to create for the past several months. The Lord not only provided the affordable yardage I needed along with the perfect tool for creating these things, but also gave me the final bit of encouragement to go exploring down this path. All of the doubts I had about whether this was a good direction have evaporated, and boy am I ever having a ball!
I got some great press both at the Marketplace and after. Jill Ditmire interviewed me at the Marketplace for a feature that aired on our local PBS station, WFYI. I had the media photo of my Moonlit Crane scarf featured in our local paper, The Muncie Star Press. And on July 3, I had the pleasure of being one of two artists featured on the “Where’s Sherman?” FOX59 morning segment shot at the Indiana Artisan Gifts and Gallery in Carmel. That morning, I took the first two kimono robes I’d ever created thinking they would sell better at the store than on my website. What a tremendous endorsement to have Sherman ask me to put the robe on him during our segment, then to have him post a photo of himself in it on his Instagram! WOWEE
Unfortunately, several days later, my one of a kind handmade, hand-painted silk robe was shoplifted along with a glass kaleidoscope made by the very artist who had sold me the fabric! Theft has never been an issue for the store, and it's left us all feeling sick. I think it takes a certain type of jerk to steal from a local artist. I’ve been praying they’d find no rest, be revealed, and also that the glass artist, the store and me would all receive a double blessing.
Last weekend, August 10, I was the demonstrating artist at the store for Carmel’s Second Saturday Gallery Walk monthly event. I decided to begin painting the fabric for a replacement to the stolen item, which I have aptly named Phoenix. Danny helped me make a simple garment rack that is completely collapsible into its various pieces parts, a necessary design element in our space-challenged old house. It was his brilliant idea to put my website down the bottom of its front legs on both sides, and mine to do so by cutting adhesive vinyl with my handy Silhouette cutting tool. I had some fun conversations and enjoyed seeing everyone excitedly look through my growing inventory of garments. Also, Jill Ditmire stopped by the store on her rounds of the event and was kind to post a photo of me with my stuff on her Instagram. As a fledging business, I cannot begin to adequately express my gratitude for the support I’ve received lately from our local celebrities!
My vision for growing the business is two-fold. First, I do hope to find outlets for wholesaling. I have all of my ducks in a row ready for that opportunity, but have yet to make good buyer contacts to get the ball rolling. Second, I want to create quarterly releases of collections of items to give a subscribed audience first dibs on exclusive purchasing. I’ve seen this done by other makers and think it is a good business model for the amount of one of a kind inventory I am able to keep up with producing. As always, custom projects are a welcomed addition to my days, but I’m not anticipating ever having a full schedule of them.
In closing, I can’t help but wonder if any one of you is actually interested in reading all of this. I write it all down because I have a secret hope that maybe someone, somewhere, finds it encouraging to read about someone trying to make a go of it as a one woman band. I’m chasing my dream of creating beauty, of being an encouraging person to encounter, of being salt and light in an increasingly selfish and hostile world. I think there’s real value in being able to create a beautiful pause for someone in a day, of putting a smile of delight in someone’s mind because of the joy they feel when they encounter a thing I’ve painted, and I think it's right for me to make a living doing so. I am earnestly trying to follow after what is in my heart to do with my mind, hands and time here on earth. I pray reading about the process is somehow as enjoyable for you as it is for me to be doing it!
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