13 December 2022


Sometimes I wonder why I keep making things that just keep making my limited storage space so congested. I guess sometimes I wonder why I get so much joy from creating when the creations sit in boxes in my basement for years...

One year I made socks for all my girl/women friends, and I thought it was the best Christmas present ever. For me and for them, because I loved the process, and I thought they would love receiving a piece of me, a piece of my heart. Most did, and I will always cherish that. But the experience was a bit soured because two friends complained, and another gave the socks to her dog. Who wasted no time in destroying what took me a full week to create. I try not to dwell on the sad experiences in my life, but sometimes memories get triggered, and sometimes, they just won't stay buried.

I managed a craft fair (featuring my crafty co-workers) at the office where I work for about 25 years. Some years were good. Some years were acceptable. Some years were horrible. One year was a nightmare. There are enough bad memories that I often catch myself wondering why I want to do craft fairs. Oh, yeah, because I make so many things that take up so much space...

I hadn't done a craft fair since Lizard was diagnosed with Parkinson's. The last two years (and this year as well), we didn't have an office craft fair because we couldn't. Things have improved this year, but there aren't enough people in the office any given day to conduct much of anything social. I miss the days of happy hours, pumpkin-decorating contests, chili cook-offs and ice cream socials. And yet, Lizard is overwhelmed by anything more than four people, and I can't leave him alone to participate in the feeble attempts that are made now. Lizard can do okay for two or three hours alone, but he used to always accompany me, and I don't really enjoy doing things without him. I still enjoy his company, even though things have changed so dramatically.

I signed up this year for a local two-hour craft fair (actually more of a holiday flea market, but I didn't know that until I got there) to try to clear out some of the crafty stuff I've been making this year, to spread snowflakes across the world, and to help pay for home repairs we've been forced to make this year. I've been a nervous wreck for about six weeks, wishing I hadn't signed up, because I didn't want to learn how to use a card reader, I'm a HORRIBLE salesperson, and because bone-chilling memories of craft fairs past began haunting me.

I did a practice purchase on my card reader the day of the craft fair, and it actually worked. I couldn't believe it! Maybe I could do this after all! I got off work on time. The car was already loaded. I drove to the venue, got a front-row parking spot, and immediately realized I'd left my phone at home on the charger. I couldn't run the card reader without the phone.

I did not want to give up my front-row spot. I didn't want to drive back home and lose a portion of the one-hour set-up time we crafters (and vendors) were allowed. I briefly considered doing just cash transactions. I knew from experience most of my sales would be small anyway. But I'd paid for a card reader. What if someone did want to buy one of my prized table toppers and could pay only via card? I reluctantly drove back home, retrieved the phone (and the charger, just in case), and returned to the parking lot expecting to be in the back row.

To my surprise, I was able to park just three spaces away from my initial spot. I took in my first of five boxes and asked if we had assigned spots. They said I could select any spot I wanted. Only five tables were taken, and there were tables (with table cloths!!!), so I wouldn't have to haul in my heavy table!!! I picked a table with an electrical outlet so I could plug in the little tree on which I planned to display my snowflakes. Five trips later, I was able to begin setting up. Most of the other tables had been taken by this point, too. I had high hopes we had enough variety to attract lots of shoppers.

I set up the tree and plugged it in. Nothing happened. I tried the second plug. Nothing happened. It had been about four years since I'd used my little lighted tree. I suppose that was enough time for the fuse to grow old and die. I looked at the bag of bulb and fuse replacements attached to the cord and decided I would go without tree lights because I had no tools to replace the fuse. At home the next day, I discovered all I needed to replace the fuse was a finger nail clipper, which I do have with me all the time. However, the two replacement fuses didn't work the next day, either. Good thing I didn't waste valuable time at the craft fair. The tree has seen many, many years, so it definitely was worth the $30 or so I paid for it back in the 2000s, but the tree has a significant lean now, so I think I'm due for a new tree when (and if) they go on sale in a couple of weeks. I'd really like to have another fiber optic tree!

I began hanging my snowflakes, then put my poinsettia fabric atop the plain white table cloth to dress it up just a tad. I set up my greeting cards, my table toppers, my puzzles, my cell phone socks, my mosaic recycled jars, my keychains and my jewelry, and I waited for my first customer.

One of my first customers was a friend who came specifically to see my stuff. I actually made my first sale, and the card reader worked like a charm! I wish I'd had this technology a quarter of a century ago. I cannot count how many times my crafty co-workers and I would have to run across the street to the bank to break a large bill so we could make change. Many times during blizzards! (Perfectly timed, because we often had treats, and the weather forced people to lunch at our craft fairs!) (Wow, I actually have GOOD craft fair memories, too!!!)

My next customer wanted to buy one snowflake to break a one-hundred dollar bill. I did not have enough change. My next customer wanted one crochet-embellished card from a set. She didn't want the rest of the set. The set included matching postage. She didn't need the postage because she would be presenting the card in person. She wanted me to deduct the price of the postage from the $5 card price. (I broke up the set for her but kindly invited her to keep the timeless postage and use it for a future card to be mailed, and she agreed.)

In addition to the above two sales, I sold five snowflakes (individually) and one keychain the rest of the night. Most potential customers looked briefly, if at all, and kept right on going. Some potential customers would tell me I wasn't charging enough for the snowflakes, but they had already decorated and didn't need anything more. Many potential customers told me of the doilies, table cloths or bedspreads their grandmothers made. Two young customers asked if they could take pictures of my stuff to find out what their friends wanted. Two customers asked me to hold items for them, but then left the building without purchasing. One husband complained to me about the money his wife was spending at the next table the entire time she shopped.

I thought items made from my hand-dyed thread would make heads turn. I'd thought my glowing snowflakes and glowing snowflake pendants would be a hit. I thought my greeting cards would keep shoppers interested for longer than the event lasted. I hoped my table toppers would sell like hotcakes.

I noticed festive add-ins for alcoholic beverages (at another table, of course) were about the biggest seller of the night. Live plants also were popular, as were artificial flower Christmas centerpieces, and stained glass lamps handmade from recycled materials. Pet treats also did very well. I noticed a few other vendors attracted very little interest, such as the leather vendor and the sweater (not handmade) vendor. I couldn't see from my perspective if the fingernail vendor got any sales, but man, what a gigantic display!!! Largest of the whole evening, I think. There were two or three tables I never got to see because they were around the corner, and I was running my table alone. All of the tables I could see had more than one person, so other crafters and vendors were able to walk around and look at other tables.

I'd hoped I would sell enough that I wouldn't have to pack up all my stuff again and haul it back up three flights of stairs outside the building to get it back to my car. After my first two trips, one of the temporary loading spots right in front of the building opened, and I was able to move the rest of my stuff without climbing or descending stairs in the dark. I remembered when I used to LOVE climbing the stairs at the building where I work, 54 flights at a time. I remembered when Lizard used to accompany me, and we trained until we could climb the stairs six times in a night. Excellent 14er training! More good memories. Very sweet memories of climbing the stairs with Lizard while we listened to Van Halen or Aerosmith on my cassette Walkman.

The couple running the table right next to mine brought along their approximately six-year-old daughter. I could tell she is accustomed to the routine... and bored by it. Yet well-behaved, obedient and helpful. When she wasn't walking around looking at other tables or helping with whatever her parents asked, she would cuddle up on the floor in her coat and gaze at the twirling snowflakes on my tree. I noticed her watching me intently when I began taking down my snowflakes at the end of the evening. I told her to go ahead and pick one. Her eyes lit up, but she froze and just looked at me, then the tree, then back at me.

"It's okay. You may have one. Pick whichever you'd like."

She turned to get her parents' approval, but they were busy taking down their own display. She interrupted and asked if she could have a snowflake.

"No," they told her. "Our tree is already decorated. We don't need a snowflake."

I told them she could have one for free for her bedroom. Their eyes lit up, but they weren't sure they'd heard correctly. I repeated that she could pick out whichever snowflake she liked. After their nods of approval, she wasted no time at all selecting a brightly hued Halloween snowflake. Later, her parents gifted me an unsold candle from their stash. We exchanged hugs (and yes, wow, we can do that again!!! How AWESOME!) and Christmas greetings (YES! We all said Christmas! Not the generic "holiday"!) and went about our individual area clean-up. I caught a glimpse of the little girl several times prancing about the facility with her snowflake dangling from her outstretched finger, the colorful snowflake twirling in the air as if the little girl was dancing with fairies. She made my entire week!

I think my craft fair days may be over. I may try to re-open my Etsy shop, (which I put on hold before Lizard's first surgery because I just couldn't handle anything more than meeting his needs at that time) and see if I can keep up with email notifications (I've become VERY neglectful of email in the last four years), now that life is a bit more routine than it has been since Lizard was diagnosed.

While carrying boxes back to my car, I decided to donate my unsold handmade scarves I didn't even have room to display at the craft fair to a homeless shelter or other charity. However, just like donating snowflakes to children in hospitals now, which I used to do every single December, regulations regarding handmade items have been implemented. I cannot believe how difficult it is to donate potentially needed items now. Among the (unreasonable???) rules with which I am not in compliance... The yarn cannot be more than five years old. Oh. My. Gosh. And everything needs to be gender neutral.

Lessons have been learned. Some had been learned many years ago, but many had been forgotten because it has been so long.

❄   For me, Christmas craft fairs need to be staged prior to Thanksgiving, as much as I hate the commercialism of the season.

❄   A wagon would most helpful when transporting stuff from car to venue and back.

❄   Business cards might be the most important thing on my table.

❄   For every sour note, there will be at least five more happy notes. Forget the sad notes and compose music with the joyful ones.

❄   It's okay to say, "I'm very happy to make custom orders, but I won't be able to schedule them until at least January because I have to focus on my family now."

❄   And it's totally okay not to finish everything I hoped to share because most of it isn't going to sell anyway.

On the breathtakingly gorgeous, spectacular bright side, I'm done for this year! No more deadlines (except work, Christmas cards, Snowflake Monday patterns, and quilt WIPs), and no more crowded venues to tolerate for at least a couple of months. I think I've become almost as sensitive to packed quarters in the last four years as Lizard. I'm so accustomed to being home alone with him now, being in a crowd is a wee bit unsettling!

And that's what our Christmas should be... Quiet. Tender. Relaxing. I'm thankful I've learned this lesson once again, and I hope this time it lasts longer.

1 comment :

  1. Wow!! you did learn alot - I always wondered about the card readers and just pray people pay cash....
    and all those beautiful items you had!!! your story of the little girl just makes my day!!!


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