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Presentation

One of the tricky things about vending is coming up with a lovely presentation.  This is a skill I am more or less comfortable with at indoor events.

Presentation
Layout at Cairo Shimmy Quake
Miss Fisher Con

Indoors change a lot, but with a defined space, it’s fairly easy to come up with an appealing layout.  More fun, though, is your space.  Outdoor events which utilize your own pavilion allows for some personalization in the presentation.

Vending 2017, to vend
Vending my first outdoor event.

Now, that first little out door set up was a 10×20 easy up with some canvas walls that were tied together with grommets.  The next outdoor event had TWO 10×20 easy ups placed side by side.  Couple more walls and we were good to go.  Except that the second easy up came out of the bag broken.  No joke…it was duck taped together.  So over the next couple of months I thought long and hard and decided I needed a Professional Pavilion.

So I start looking at all the standard places for standard pavilions.  And The Boyfriend says, and this is a direct quote, “Why do you want a pavilion that looks like all the rest?”

Enter Traders of Tamerlane.  After some initial sticker shock when Googling yurts, I found Traders of Tamerlane.  To be fair, the two linked sites are intended for semi to fully permanent residences or guest houses.  But Traders of Tamerlane provided my kind of yurt.  Fully mobile, easy to transport, and within the standard price range of pavilions.  The best part?  No internal poles taking up valuable floor space. BONUS!

So I placed my order and my yurt was received in July.  Due to various work schedules of mine and The Boyfriends, actually putting the yurt up wasn’t accomplished until today.

Voila! A Yurt!

Now, we read through the instructions many times.  Gabriel and Traders of Tamerlane was very nice, asking several times if we had been able to get the yurt set up and offering telephone assistance if needed.  Any difficulties we had were essentially the end result of overthinking the process.  Because seriously, once we did what the directions specified, it went right up.  And honestly, if I had had the foresight to ASK for the help, it probably would have gone even faster.

So now that my professional pavilion is here and I know I can assemble it, I get to figure out the internal layout.  But that’s next weekends project.

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Be a Student

Yep...how all students feel

It’s hard to give yourself permission to learn new things.  Especially once you’ve obtained that almighty degree, and have obtained the status of Graduate.  It’s slightly easier to be a student when it’s entirely for fun.  When I’m in dance class, I can be fully focused and in the moment.  I can concentrate on the lesson and what the take away is.  Not so easy when the only teacher is me, and I also happen to be the only student in the class.

Forcing focus when I know I need to be concentrating on learning all the things is probably the hardest adult thing I’ve had to do.  I get why so few people chose to trod the path of self-employment.  When you have to learn something new to move in to the next phase of your business, but all you want to do is watch re-runs of The Last Airbender and not adult today…it’s damn hard.

So I’ve been kind of slacking these last two weeks.  Oh, I can say I’ve been working.  I’ve been diligently making things to sell as “end cap” items at events I vend.  Not really the main attraction, but cute little items people will look at, smile, and buy, hopefully along with a couple of yards of silk or some silk thread.  And I had a brilliant break through for an idea my boyfriend had.  But as far as being a student and learning the things I need to learn for Damask Raven?  Yeah, I’m a total slacker.

But that’s ok, sometimes.  The slacking is coming to an end.  It sort of has to.  Not because I’ve never failed.  You can’t live life without experiencing some failure.  It has to end because I know what I’m capable of.  But I can’t do the things I know I can, when I slack for too long.  So it’s time to hit the books again.  Time to learn all the things.  Time to educate myself…to be a student.

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The downside

Downside

Want to know the dark, downside of being a business owner?  Especially in the early days, when it’s just you and a dedicated band of loyal friends who have more faith than common sense (love you guys…you know who you are).  It all falls on you.  As advertised, I am vending at Cairo Shimmy Quake this weekend.  And boy do I not want to go.  Scratch that.  I want to go.  The spirit is more than willing.  The flesh, however, says that in this year of the plague, my cold logged, snot drenched, behind, should seriously spend the weekend in bed, resting.

But I can’t.  I have committed to vending this event.  I have committed to the 8 hour drive through Death Valley in a car with no air conditioning.  I have committed to at least one 14 hour day (Saturday).  And I do want to go.  I enjoy vending.  I enjoy meeting new people, and talking about silk.  I like the surprise when I tell people all the things I do to silk.  I like hearing about people’s projects and what they are making.  I like guiding them to a good silk for their project.

But there is that downside.  The side that says “I’m sick, I should be sleeping.”  And that is the downside of company ownership.  Yes, I’m sick.  But I can’t take the weekend off to sleep it off.  Because as the owner, good company representation ultimately falls on me.  So I am packed.  The hobo-mobile is ready to go.  My helper bee knows what time to expect me tomorrow.  Now to sleep as well as possible, and hope tomorrow brings better energy levels.

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Subscribe Now!

Subscribe Now

When I post a blog, I always go to my blog page and see how it looks.  And when I posted on Thursday, I noticed something I had not previously seen.  Namely, that I did not have a subscribe button on my blog.  I sat in stunned disbelief, blinking at my screen, trying to figure out how long I’d been missing the subscribe button.  And when I went back through my site statistics, I found that I had had 11,000 visitors to my blog…yet only five subscribers.  And only four of those actually count, since one of them was me, checking to make sure my blogs posted!

Based on those numbers, I can draw two possible conclusions.  First, it’s entirely possible that I am a lousy writer.  While I fully admit to this possibility, since I know at least one of my posts has been linked to another blog, even if my writing is boring, it is generally useful information.  Which leads me to conclusion two:  sometime during construction of my site, I forgot to put a subscribe button in an easily visible location!

And since I made my site myself, I have no one to blame but myself.  But that also means I can fix it myself.  Which I did.  So now, prominently displayed on the right sidebar, is a subscribe button.  If you have been educated, entertained, or even frustrated over something I’ve gotten wrong, please subscribe!  And TELL me what I got right or wrong.  Information flows both ways, and I don’t know everything.  Clearly I don’t know everything…or I wouldn’t have forgotten the subscribe button at the very beginning!

Now that I am done admitting my error and correcting it as best I could (two years later, but hey!  Who’s counting?) Next week we’ll return to our regular silk weave and history posts.

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After the event…

After the Event

After the event comes project planning.  After the tear down and the load out, you review what worked and what didn’t about the event so you know what to do better next time.  Not just next time for this particular event, but at your next vending event.  And project planning. Where do you go next with your business to keep moving you forward on your path to success?

For me, it is pattern design.  While it’s a long shot that I will have a working  pattern by the time I pack for Cairo Shimmy Quake, it’s not impossible.  I know what I want to make and I have the sewing skill.  And since my self imposed blog challenge is over, I have more time to devote to my next project–pattern making.

Which will be interspersed with costuming for costume college.  And prepping my classes for costume college.  Oh crap, I forgot about costume college!  Which leads us back to choices.  I MUST go to costume college.  I signed up to teach three classes, it’s an agreement I made, so this is a must do.  Costuming for costume college can be fudged slightly.  I don’t HAVE to go all out and create new gowns for each event.  Many do, and I have in the past, but it is not a requirement.

So with that knowledge, I will make patterns.  I will create my class content for Costume College.  And if I have to limit my new costumes, then I will do that too.  Choices move us forward in life.  If A than B, but not X.  It’s ok to give yourself a break to save your sanity.  Pick your battles and fight those battles well, and in the end, you will win at life.

That bit of pithy philosophy was brought to you by post-event exhaustion.  Talk at you all next week 🙂

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What it’s like to vend

Vending 2017, to vend

I started my life in customer service.  First in a pizza parlor, next in a buffet, then a car parts store, finally at a hotel.  I am actually really good at customer service.  I genuinely like people, in small, one on one doses; the introverts dilemma.  So vending events was not a leap for me.

I started vending for Janie Midgley, running her booth at her Wiggles of the West Competition (a fantastic event, sorely missed).  And I quite enjoyed it, not just because she paid me with sick amounts of merchandise.  It let me play to my strengths, talking one on one with customers about what they were looking for.  So when I started Damask Raven, and before I even had stock it was suggested to me that a solid way to get my name out there was to vend, I immediately started planning what a vending space would look like.

So what is it like to vend?  I pick the events I am likely to attend early and start contacting vending coordinators.  If my application to vend is accepted, I locate a hotel that’s nearby, or ensure there is camping space if it’s a camp event (SCA, Ren Faire…).  I try and locate helping hands.  I have really good friends who have stepped up to help on weekend events (you know who you are) and wrangle the boyfriend in  to helping on the week long camping events (thanks baby).  Ideally, I have the hobomobile packed the night before.  On a really good day, I have also gassed the hobomobile the night before.  I leave as early as possible so that I can get checked in at either my hotel or my vending location early.

Once the vending space is open for set up, it becomes a mad dash to unload the hobomobile and move it before setting up the finished vending space.  This and tear down are the primary reason I need helping hands.  Truly, once set up is done one person can more or less run the space alone.  But that set up and tear down are a bitch when done solo.

Once set up done, it becomes a waiting game.  You wait for someone to approach you and engage them in conversation.  But there is an art to doing this, a way to impart knowledge without going for a hard sell.  Most people hate the hard sell, and if they feel you are pushing them to buy, they will leave.  So really, just talk to people.  The ability to engage complete strangers in random conversation is the most important part of vending.  You don’t even have to talk about what you are selling.  Just connect with someone.  You may sell something.  You may not.  But if you make a good connection, that person will remember you.  And maybe recommend you next time they know someone who is looking to buy.

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End in Sight

What I learned

So….very….close!  One post a day from March 16 to April 21.  It is April 19.  Three more posts.  It has been a LONG five weeks.  So, what have I learned.  I learned that inspiration can come from unexpected places <ahem, Facebook>.  I learned that my best time to write is between 7:30pm and 9pm.  I learned that somedays, you just have to plug along <almost every weave post I did.  I get that it’s highly relevant to my blog, but man I hate writing them.>

I learned that when I really decide to do something <write a blog post a day> then I am damn well capable of pulling it off.  This bodes well for my pattern making and digitizing desires.  I also learned that I work best when I focus on one project at a time.  So I can blog….or I can pattern….or I can digitize.  But trying to do all three at the same time is crazy making.

I learned, in my small chunks of downtime, that I sort of enjoy Anime.  And exercise.  That last one shocked the hell out of me, but I kind of like weight lifting.  It feels like I’ve accomplished something when I actually complete a trip to the gym, a little promise to myself kept.  And I’ve learned.  I may not have enjoyed writing every single post, but I learned something from each one written.  Whether it was my new speculations on Cartridge Pleating, or what exactly made Organza different from Chiffon.

And while I may not enjoy writing (I hate writing…I’m pretty damn good at it, but I hate it), I do love learning.  And I learned that I have mad respect for people who make their living writing.  How the hell is anyone able to write, day after day after day, and keep the energy and quality high?  And as a life long bibliophile, I am eternally grateful to those who do make their living from the written word.  Not sure I’m ready to be one of them, but maybe someday.  In the mean time, I am going to ponder my last two posts of this sojourn, and a new writing schedule.  While I don’t intend to write every day, I do want a regular posting schedule.  After all, I’m not done learning yet!

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Ask me for Anything but Time

Ask me for anything but Time

Yesterday, I wrote about UFOs and picking your project.  Today, I write about time.  As in, it is fleeting, and madness is taking it’s toll.

Madness…it is upon me…

My next vending event is next weekend.  Fortunately, I have no costumes I need to make for this event.  Unfortunately, two weeks after that, I DO have costumes I need to make.  Which I don’t have time to make.  Because I committed to this blog.  One post a day from 3/16 until 4/21.  And in yesterday’s post, I mentioned the importance of practicing willpower.  But all things come at a cost.

Magic isn’t the only thing with a price

Time is a finite resource.  We all have the same twenty four hours.  But the time I spend writing this blog is time I am not spending sewing costuming.  There is only so much one can do in a day.  Generally need to sleep for 8 hours.  I work for 8 hours at my day job.  And I spend at least 1.5 hours eating.  Another hour at the gym…the gym is not my natural habitat, but I am trying to take better care of myself so that I am able to make the most of the other 23 hours in my day.  Spend one to two hours maintaining my various animals (three birds, three cats, two dogs), and cleaning my house.

Which leaves me 3 hours to work on my business.  Three hours to blog, to check inventory, to make signs, to plot videos, to plan outfits, and to sew…which I can’t do until I finish this quest of one blog a day.

Because by choosing to write one blog a day, I have to give something else up.  Giving up sleep and eating are impractical for health reasons.  For the same reason, I can’t give up going to the gym.  My health is the only thing allowing me to keep up with everything else.  Until Damask Raven is a self-sustaining business, I need my day job, so I have to give that my all during the 8 hours I’ve committed to it.  So three hours to blog, sew, and run a business in general.

But wait!  What about weekends?  No, I do not work the day job on the weekends.  Usually.  Except when I do work the weekends so that I can take a long weekend to vend for Damask Raven.  While this is not a common occurrence, and I have had several weekends between March 16 and now, I usually take several hours on the weekend to NOT work.  On anything.  Because hitting the go button without pause leads to high stress burnout.  And collapse.  Which is what happened last October through December.  Three months to re-collect myself and get back on track.  So yes, downtime is a requirement.

So, rather than beat myself up over NOT getting costuming done for Miss Fisher Con, I dug in to my existing costuming closet, found some appropriate alternatives to wear, and have moved on.  Once I get through the next week of blogging, I can start prepping my costumes for Costume College.  And I won’t be blogging every day, and making towels for sale, and prepping dances for performance pieces.  And I will be motivated and focused on completing the very best costuming I can for Costume College.  Having chosen my outfits, I am excited to start working on them.  Only my willpower keeps me chugging along on this pre-existing project.

But April 24th, the new madness begins.

 

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Learning new things

You think you have the idea for your next post.  Just a quick blurb about the thing.  Then you start to do some light research on the thing.  And realize, like Jon Snow, you know nothing.  Now, this is not inherently a bad thing.  It can be a VERY bad thing if you proceed to write on what you know nothing about.  If you’re smart, you’ll slow your roll, figure out how to pivot the idea.  I’m trying to be smart.

I’m already certain I will be re-visiting several of the blog posts I’ve written during this trek.  Updating them with more current or accurate information. Among the things I actually DID know, is that fashion in Asia changed as dramatically and rapidly as fashion in Europe did.  Why wouldn’t it?  Now to prove it.  And there in lies the bulk of what I don’t know.

While I want very much to learn about the various dynasties, a simple Google search revealed just how challenging this could be.  Being all about silk is fantastic, if you’re of European descent and you want to know all about Italian Silk, or French Silk, or Spitalfields Silk.  But when you are truly obsessive, when you want to track it back to the source, and the source is something you know nothing about…like, say fore example, China…out comes the old college research ability.  Skills I thought I didn’t need anymore.  Like the humbling time I confessed to my dad that yes, I did in fact need algebra.  And he laughed at me.  Because he’s my dad.

I know Nothing
Yep….that’s me!

So I return again to the Google cave, having randomly selected the Song Dynasty to start with.  And immediately hit upon a Fantastic Blog.  Which happily is a jumping off point.  Oh, and so is this $99 book.  Which I found through bookfinder.com for the bargain basement price of $78.  But, when one quests for knowledge, one hits the books.

I learned!
All that college learning…

And hopefully comes out the other side having learned something useful.

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Costume College

Costume College

This is an annual event held in Southern California at the end of July.  I’ve been twice, once just to go, then last year I taught.  And the class was so wonderful and open, I decided to teach again.  So, here is what I am teaching at Costume College 2017.  All three classes are on Sunday, July 30.

9am to 10am What’s in a Weave.  This class is designed to talk about different weaving techniques, specifically silk weaves; however many techniques are universal (plain weave, satin weave, twill). And this class will teach you which weave is which.

11:30am to 1pm From Street to Stage: A History of Oriental Dance Costuming in Egypt.  Called by many the oldest dance, Raqs Sharqi has a long performance history. But what did they wear? While the standard costume is well known today, they didn’t always wear Bedlah when performing. Learn the differences between street wear and stage wear used in this lovely art form.

4pm to 5pm Care and Feeding of Silk.  This is the class I taught last year and in it, I answer all your questions about working with silk.  How delicate is silk? Can it be washed? Can you iron silk, and if so, how? Do you use starch? Bring your questions to Care and Feeding of Silk and I will answer them (if you can’t make it to Costume College, you can always contact me and I am happy to help by email).

So that’s it for what I am teaching.  However, on the flip side of teaching is studying.  And class schedules are set to mail out this week!  And then there are the parties!  Each night holds a different event.  So traditionally, Thursday night is the pool party.  This years theme is Happiest Place on Earth. Now, since the overarching theme is the ‘6o’s, this one is specifically meant for vintage Disney.  But wait!  There’s more!  You don’t have to dress on theme.  And this year, I’m going half theme.  I am going Disney…just not vintage.

Friday morning is Freshman Orientation, for those new to Costume College.  Now, I didn’t go to Freshman Orientation, even when I WAS in college, so I have yet to attend this event.  But it looks to be full of excellent information.

Friday night, is the ice cream social.  The theme this year is Casino Royale, and all spies are welcome.  I am again, interestingly enough, going with a Disney themed character.  Not from the Spy angle, more from the Casino angle.  Hey, I worked twelve years in a casino…I know a little bit about what customer service is like in that dark den of iniquity.

Saturday before entering the Gala party, you get to walk the red carpet in your finest dress.  This years Gala is Dinner at Tiffany’s, a nod to the fabulous Audrey Hepburn’s Little Black Dress.  And here is the crux of my problem. Not quite four months out, and I have no idea what Cinderella (me) is wearing to the ball.  I have ideas…but nothing set in stone.  I know sort of what I’d like to do, but not sure I have time to do it, with my other vending events between now and then.  And the day job.  So I’m working on it.  It may end up being vintage and vaguely couture.  Or it could be fully designed, draped and drafted to me.  It all depends on how well outside forces work with my schedule to make it all happen.  So fingers crossed, I get it all done.