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Archive for May, 2011

CTRF Wrap-up

So, the Connecticut Renaissance Faire has been over for a week now. It was a hard show, for a lot of people, and I ended it with a lot of thoughts in my head about how to improve my business, my shop, and my life as it relates to them.

Kate, Veronica, and Beatrix in the Storied Threads tent. Photo by Jason Taylor.

Kate and I spent the last part of the show looking at our empty hangers, and brainstorming what sorts of things needed to be made in as great of quantities as we could manage before our next big show. Before the fall, for instance, we need fur lined medieval hoods and Barbarossa hats, which sell well in colder weather.  And before Winslowshire this summer, we need to make head scarves, pick-up skirts, and Queenie skirts.

I picked up a copy of Marrus‘s book, “Lightsurfing: Living Life in the Front of My Mouth“.  Marrus is somebody who I’ve looked up to for a while, as an example of where I’d like my life and my career to go. We are very different people, with different drives, motivations, and art forms — but she has found a way to make her art and her love support her life, and that’s something I’m still working on.  I’d been wanting to read her book for a while, and after having a lengthy chat with her about life goals and such, decided to finally pick it up.  While it is not (and is not meant to be) a “how-to” book for living your dream, I definitely found it to be spiritually good food, so to speak.

Once home, I also sat down with my husband, who is fabulous at brainstorming with me and coming up with ideas, to talk about what worked and what didn’t, what sells and what doesn’t, and ways to get me more time in my studio. One of my goals, when I started Storied Threads, was to sell truly unique things — not chemises and shirts and pants that one can find in just any ren faire shop. But it seems that may not be the perfect plan — I often have people coming into my tent at shows looking for just a basic pair of pants, or a basic pirate shirt, and I always have to turn them away.  So I’m going to start making some more basic pieces, garments that can be the foundation of an outfit, not just the completer pieces.

And finally, Mike had an epiphany.  My Doctor Who Awareness Ribbon design has been a big hit — I sold over 20 of them just at this last faire.  But not everybody has a use for a patch, which (aside from embroidering it directly onto something) is the only way I’m able to offer it.  Mike’s idea? Set up a Cafe Press store! So, I did, in order to offer this particular design in more ways — on mugs, t-shirts, iPhone cases, stickers, etcetera.

There is a long road for me to travel, and it won’t be easy, if I want to make my living doing what I love. But with the friends and resources and determination that I have, it will happen.

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Veronica and Beatrix in the Storied Threads tent

Beatrix and I hanging out in the Storied Threads tent.

This past weekend was the third (of five) at the Connecticut Renaissance Faire. It was a gorgeous weekend, weather-wise — both days started out warm and sunny, cooling off in the afternoon. (Okay, Saturday might have had a brief thunder storm around 5:00 or so, but even that was kind of cool. At least it was from inside my tent.)  You would think that this would be a perfect prescription for people coming out to an event like this, seeing shows, being outside, and spending some money.

Somehow, it didn’t work out that way, though. It reminded me of how unpredictable these shows can be — every time I go to one, it’s a little bit of a gamble. Travelling several hours away, getting a hotel room (because I am SO not a camper), eating out for two days, and then hoping I make more money than I spent.

Don’t get me wrong — it’s the job I love, even when it’s stressful. And in the end, this actually wound up being a very good weekend for me — though it was another roll of the dice. One customer who loved my stuff enough to spend a rather significant amount of money made all the difference. And sometimes that’s just how it goes. Sometimes you have a truly bad weekend, and go home wondering what you did wrong, when really the answer is probably nothing. Sometimes people are in and out all day buying a lot of little things that add up, and sometimes people just want to try on hats and giggle at each other and take pictures while they make funny faces.

The trick is to take the good days with the bad. To not let the bad days get you down, to not let the good days set unrealistic expectations, and know that somewhere in the middle is the real answer to whether or not a show went well. And hopefully, it does, so you can do it all again next time.

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When I was a kid, I had never even heard of Doctor Who. It wasn’t something my parents watched, and therefore, it wasn’t something I watched. So when they revived the series a few years ago, and my husband got all giddy with excitement, I kind of shrugged and agreed to give it a try.

Fast forward to now, and here I am — a total Doctor Who fangirl. I still haven’t seen much of the classic stuff, but I have seen a couple of the Tom Baker story arcs, as well as keeping up with all of the new stuff as it airs. And I wanted to do something in embroidery that was Doctor inspired. I tried doing a TARDIS, but there were two problems with that — one, the TARDIS is very complicated, with many lines and angles and details and shading, and it was just beyond my skill level. And two, the TARDIS itself is a property I don’t own the rights to. So, while I could embroider it for fun, I couldn’t really advertise it or sell it.

And then my husband had a brilliant idea. And I pondered it, and played around, and in the end, I created the Doctor Who Awareness Ribbon Patch.  It is based on the scarf worn by the 4th Doctor, Tom Baker, containing all of the colors (if not the precise pattern) in that scarf.  I ran a special on it this past weekend at the Connecticut Renaissance Faire, offering them at a discount for anybody who pre-ordered them, and was amazed by how well they sold! I’m going to do my best to get them all done by this weekend, but I have a feeling some folks will have to wait two weeks to get their patches.

(They’re also listed at full price in my etsy shop, in case anybody isn’t in the CTRF area and absolutely must have one, by the way.)

I am also now contemplating other Doctor Who-derived designs….I googled images of fezzes earlier today, so be prepared, Whovians!

In other embroidery news, my assistant, Kate, had a brilliant idea in the car on the way home from the Faire yesterday as well, involving eye patches of freestanding lace, which I’m really excited about. The one trick is that I have no idea how to create freestanding lace designs, and I have a feeling it’s not going to be something I’ll learn by reading an online article. (If I could even find such an article. Which I can’t.)  For the moment, I’m going to modify the idea by creating eye patches with lace-like designs but actually making them like the regular sew-on patches that I make. I think I’ll make one with an actual eye design in it. What do you guys think?

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