Wow, the weeks just fly by! This week has been warp seed, with so much work to do (not a bad thing), running around, and not a lot of time for blogging. But today I’m making time to blog, because I really want to write about last week.
Last week was pillow week: starting on Sunday with a Holiday Bazaar to benefit the kids’ school, and ending on Friday night with a holiday sale I hosted at my office space, in conjunction with the Phinney neighborhood art walk. At the first sale I sold four pillows and was disappointed, but then I got over it. At the second sale I sold four pillows, and was disappointed, but then I got over it. Hmm, a pattern was forming. But ‘getting over it’ is probably an understatement. ‘Invigorated’ might be a better word. So much got triggered by these sales. I learned so much. I got so many new ideas. I met so many people. Now I have the confidence to make some bigger next steps, and I’m really excited about it. Now I totally get why it’s so important to just start something!
The Holiday Art Sale was the third time I’d ever sold my pillows. But this sale wasn’t just me showing up at an event, it was my event; I was the host. It was held in the common area of the building where I share my office, and eight other artists/makers participated. We had a great mix: woodworking, fine art, photography, jewelry, gourd art, bags and accessories, bronze necklaces, and of course pillows. And I had so much fun.
I spent all day Friday getting the place set up, and I have to say, it looked pretty darn good. Here’s a before and after:
It was a festive night, and lots of friends stopped by. Even Santa!
I had a nice space up front next to Todd, who made ten beautiful bronze necklaces. Todd really didn’t have time to make necklaces, but he pulled it off by working late nights at his shop, and they were gorgeous. I loved having Todd there, and it was when he sold a necklace to Kate the gourd artist that I realized: it’s all about the story.
Here’s that story…
Kate had complimented me earlier on the necklace I was wearing. Todd had made it for me in October, and similar ones for my sisters. That was back when I was planning to visit my sister Maureen at her home in Texas, to help out while she was having chemo. My younger sister Nicki was going to be there for part of my stay and I was so excited for the three of us to be together for a couple of days. A rare treat. So I asked Todd if he would make three necklaces for us, all in the shape of a triangle, to represent three sisters and the strength in threes. He made them in bronze, and they were perfect – heavy, luminescent and beautiful. But I never got to give one to Maureen. Instead I gave one to Nicki and one to my mom on the day of Maureen’s funeral. They looked beautiful on each of us.
Todd assumed I’d told Kate this story when she was looking at the necklaces, but I hadn’t. I’d just told her that the triangle represented my sisters and me. So when she was buying one she told Todd that the triangle represented herself, her sister who had passed, and her daughter. And Todd told her the story about when he was making them originally, how he was hammering on one of them to make it flat, the hammer landed on it funny, and it flung away, disappearing into oblivion. He heard it cha-chinging onto the ground somewhere, but could never find it; so he made a new one. Then when we got back from Texas there the triangle was in his shop, plain as day, and so he finished it. And that was the one that Kate had chosen. So Kate loved it even more. We shared a teary moment when she showed me her necklace and said, “I’m pretty sure Marueen had something to do with this.”
And that’s when I realized the power of a story. You can have an amazing product, but without a story people won’t have as much of an emotional connection. Buying something typically is not a logical decision, it’s an emotional one. You can buy jewelry from Target, and you can buy jewelry from a craftsman. But when you buy from a craftsman, you are also buying that connection. That story. You can also buy pillows from Target, or you can buy them from me. What’s my story? How am I connecting with customers? I need to tell my story somehow.
The morning after the sale I got a text from my friend Chris who apologized for missing the sale, asked how it went, and said he thinks I should also make meditation pillows. That’s when it struck me: My pillows are kind of like meditations. One pillow is just words, with verbs like “notice, see, care, commit, embrace, risk, trust, love” that I believe are the ways to live a good life. The Tin Man pillow probably doesn’t need words, but on the back it says “Follow your heart” – another message for a good life. The TV pillow with the color bars is called “Stay Tuned” and the idea is that we need to tune into the world around us, and not so much into our screens. Hmmm, a theme is developing…
But my story is bigger than making pillows with inspirational messages. These pillows are a big part of my journey and my quest for the good life. I love making them. They represent everything that is important to me: creativity, comfort, design, aesthetics, craftsmanship, learning new things, making things by hand, being adventurous, facing my fears, and owning who I am. I love words and quotes. I love fabric. I love to make my pillows at home with my kids where they can see how something is made. They get to see the process from end to end and they are always coming up with new pillow ideas for me. My pillows are enriching my life in ways I never imagined.
So even though I didn’t sell a lot of pillows this holiday season, I still got so much. I got to meet so many people, and be around other artists who’ve done this sort of thing for a while. I learned a lot from them, and realized that they are a huge resource for me. So another big lesson I learned was that I need mentorship. I need to learn from the people who’ve done this successfully and in a way that I think would work for me.
And while I loved hosting the sale, and having the party atmosphere, I also realized that while it’s okay to sell to my friends, that market is going to be saturated pretty quickly. It’s time to define my customers and figure out the best ways of reaching them.
Before these sales I sewed like crazy. My little corner in my house was a pillow factory, creating lots of lots of pillows in all sorts of color combinations. Todd at one point said, “I think you have enough pillows, don’t you think you can stop now?” Oh no, I don’t have enough! I thought as I kept on sewing. Clearly I did, but I’m glad I had the deadline of the sales to push me. I’m much better at sewing and now I have some inventory. Now I have an etsy site. And yesterday I made my first sale on etsy! Woo hoo!! It was for the “Stay Tuned” pillow, which will now be living somewhere in Poughkeepise, New York. How cool is that? It made my day.
But alas it is now time for a little break from the pillows. Today is the last day of school before the holiday break, my parents arrive in a few days, and I am so excited for Christmas. Mostly I’m excited for family time, sleeping in, relaxing, socializing, and reflecting on all that has transpired recently, and over the past year. It’s been a big year. A very big year. But I am pretty excited to jump into some new adventures in 2015!
So, to summarize, here are the things I learned from my pillow sales:
- Just start something!
- It’s all about the story.
- I need mentorship.
- It’s time to define my customers and figure out the best ways of reaching them.
Hmmm. Pretty good! Happy holidays!!