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Archive for August, 2013

Taking Risks

It’s been nearly a year since I made the fateful decision to leave the relative security of my day job and pursue Storied Threads full-time, so maybe that’s why the topic of taking risks has been on my mind lately.

I knew then that making Storied Threads my career, and my sole source of income, would be a big risk, and I’ve learned that the risk factor has never really gone away. It seems everything I do has at least a small element of danger to it — specifically, the possibility that I am going to end up wasting time and money.

That was the case this past weekend, when I vended a show that was, all things considered, a flop (I won’t name the event out of consideration for the friend who approached me to do it, who bears absolutely no fault in what happened). It was a small gaming convention, and this year the organizers wanted to try adding vendors. I was asked to be one of those vendors.

I am pretty picky about what shows I do. I generally avoid first-year events because, to me, they are too risky; there is no track record of attendance, and I believe I am better off staying home to fill orders and build stock for my next big show than investing time and money in a show that might not draw customers.

This event I thought would be pretty safe. The projected attendance was decent; it was a group of gamers, which are part of my target clientele; and the overhead was low thanks to a very small vendor fee and the fact I could drive home at the end of the day instead of renting a hotel room.

What I didn’t count on is the fact that the gaming activities were virtually non-stop, so people rarely left to do any shopping.

Sure, I technically made a profit, but it was thin and not enough to justify losing an entire Saturday in the studio — although, as fallout from taking a risk goes, this was minor.

I am trusting the second of my big risks of the season will be more successful. I was asked to participate in ARTsylum, a sort of artists’ collective and consignment store featuring the work of small, independent creators (including my friend Marrus, who I’ve often cited as an inspiration in my own pursuits) opening up in Lowell. I shipped up a staggering $1,000 worth of patches and accessories to this new effort, which could contribute to my revenue and expose my work to potential new customers.

I explored this opportunity quite a bit, and decided that in a worst-case scenario, nothing sells, all my stock gets mailed back to me, and I sell it at a show or online. In this instance, it’s a matter of nothing gained and, literally, nothing lost. I like those kinds of risks, but they’re few and far between.

And then there is risk number three…

As I mentioned, I am coming up on my one-year anniversary as a fully self-employed person. I took the leap of faith when I looked at my business and realized that it had gotten too big for me to handle working at it part-time. I’d prepared as much as I reasonably could for this move, squirreling away money to give myself a financial safety net (which, I would like to point out, I have not once touched) and waiting until the last possible minute to make the transition, but it was still one of the scariest moments of my life.

I’m facing a similar situation right now. Storied Threads has continued to grow. I’ve added more shows to my schedule, more items to my line, and consequently, I’ve added to my workload, and it’s almost more than I can handle. I feel like I’m starting to lose ground, and the only way to fix it is to hire some regular help.

That’s right: I need to hire an employee. Contracting out to my friend/back-up brain Kate can only accomplish so much. I need someone here, in my studio, to take care of simple prep work, do post office and emergency fabric store runs, to handle my online marketing — all the stuff that keeps me away from the sewing machine, where I need to be.

I’ve done as much prep work as I can. I’ve crunched the numbers to see what it would cost me to bring someone on, and it’s precarious. In theory, my sales will follow my projections and I’ll have enough revenue to afford an employee, but there’s no guarantee of that…and yet, if I don’t bring someone on, ideally before the Christmas rush begins, it’s almost certain I won’t increase my sales over last year’s, because I won’t be able to keep up.

I may just have to take another leap of faith.

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A few months ago, when Lauren and I were first planning our Captain America photo shoot, I desperately wanted to have a shield for it.  I tried to find one I could borrow, but just couldn’t get one in time, and so we went without. And the shoot was amazing — but I was still a little saddened by the lack of a shield.

A few weeks later, I was hanging out with my friend Olivia, and she showed me the project she’d been working on with her boyfriend and his students for the 24 Hour Film Festival.  We watched the movie, and suddenly, there it was — a Captain America Shield. Which, it turned out, belongs to Olivia.

And suddenly I had an epiphany.  Not just to take pictures — but to choreograph a comic book style fight, photograph it, add some special effects, and lay it out to tell a story.

So, without further ado, I give you a series of awesomeness.

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Captain America: Veronica Bailey
Loki: Olivia Rizzo
Photography by Lauren Dubois
Choreography by Michael Bailey

 

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ConnectiCon in Review

This post is a little overdue, but it’s been a crazy few weeks thanks to the fact one of my embroidery machines has been out of commission awaiting repair (a very important part needs to be shipped from the manufacturer and it’s taking FOREVER) so I’ve been working short-handed, so to speak.

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The crowds, an hour after the con opened.

Last month I set up for ConnectiCon, my second convention-type show and, in terms of size, one of the larger shows I’ve ever done; the gate for the 2012 show was about 10,000 and I’ve heard that this year’s attendance was even greater.

That gave me some measure of comfort going into ConnectiCon, which I needed, because the vendor fee for the show was MUCH higher than what I’m used to. Renaissance faires charge a lot less than cons as a rule, so I was suffering from a bit of sticker-shock going in, and worried I wouldn’t make my costs back, much less turn a profit.

My fears were quickly dispelled, because I covered expenses pretty early on in the three-day run thanks to the thousands upon thousands of spendy-feeling attendees. Not surprisingly, a ton of patches sold, along with a lot of accessories.

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Storied Threads at ConnectiCon 2013

It’s worth noting that the reason I got in this year at all was because of my clothing. I’d contacted the organizers about getting on the waiting list for the 2014 show since 2013 was booked solid, but it turned out they had a half-dozen “secret spaces” in reserve to fill with selected last-minute vendors, and they offered me one of these spaces after seeing my clothing line on my website, and they asked me specifically to bring some of it.

That said, the clothing did okay. The knight’s surcoats got attention, but people were more interested in the men’s renaissance-style shirts and the vests. Next year I hope to have more Victorian/steampunk options available, and I think those might go over better than some of the more faire-appropriate stuff I had this year.

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Flo and Mayhem

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the cosplayers I saw over the weekend. There were a lot of great dead-on reproductions of outfits mostly from anime, American cartoons, and comic books, but a few unusual choices: The Dude from “The Big Lebowski,” two different Harry Dresdens from Jim Butcher’s “The Dresden Files” novel series, Chairface Chippendale from “The Tick” cartoon, a couple dressed as insurance icons Flo and Mayhem, and an “Arrested Development” group cosplay, just to name a few.

There were also, surprisingly, a LOT of women there dressed as Dean, Sam, and/or Castiel from “Supernatural.” In fact, I think I saw only one guy all weekend dressed as Castiel, all the others were women. I know gender-swap cosplays are popular, but I never expected “Supernatural” to be one of the favorite choices.

All in all, it was a hugely positive experience, and it’s made me excited for the Rhode Island ComicCon in November…excited and a little scared, because if I do the kind of business I did at ConnectiCon, I might run out of stock before the weekend is done!

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