Not last weekend, but the weekend before, I had my last bazaar in Germany for the season. Had I not been on vacation last week, here’s what I would have written long ago:
I’m driving through the snowy, icy landscape to the city to sell my wares. Alpha Blondy is on the radio. Reggae music in winter is like a chocolate covered pretzel. It is a treat made satisfying by it’s opposing characteristics. I am a person who is often delighted by a convergence of opposing characteristics. I think nowhere is it more evident than in my artwork. Today I hope that the harmonies of color and texture in my work will delight my German audience…
I arrived to the Kultur Forum in Fürth with plenty of time to unload, park, drop off my cookies, turn in my raffle item, and set up. I didn’t have to lug my pop-up shop too far, because I was assigned a spot right by the front door. At first I thought, “Wow. Great. Primo seating!”
Then I remembered what I was wearing and what the weather outside was like. To best communicate the scenario I made the following equation: Winter + Front Door + (girl wearing)Tube Top = Cold Girl
Luckily I sell scarves; so I remained bundled up all day, with hand-warmers in my pockets, a hood on my head, and business was good. My very first customer was a woman from the previous weekend. She had bought a scarf from me at the bazaar at the VHS in Fürth and was delighted by the opportunity to purchase again. At first, I completely misunderstood what she was telling me. She was describing a scarf that she had bought. I knew what scarf she was talking about, but I thought she wanted to buy the scarf. (not had bought the scarf) Politely, but in awful German, I began offering her a special order. Then I realized what she had said. Despite the fact that she may have thought I was slightly idiotic for not understanding her, she bought a scarf again anyway. This encounter was only 15 minutes into my day. I took it as a sign of good fortune to come and was excited for the rest of the day.
The second lady to buy a scarf came almost immediately after. She bought my new rabbit scarf, made from the gray fur I had bought at the Weihnachtsmarkt in Gut Wolfgangshof. This customer worked with fur herself; designing hats, gloves, and purses. I took her enthusiasm for my work as a huge compliment (like when actors get excited to work with other famous actors in new movies) It didn’t take long, however, and I let this lady make me mad too. Here’s the story. She checked out my stuff. We talked about fur. She tried on the gray rabbit scarf. Showed it off to her friend who agreed that it was cool. She put the scarf down without buying it and walked away. She came back fifteen minutes later. She won a Florida Scarf in the raffle. She wasn’t thrilled with the raffle scarf and asked if she could swap it for the fur scarf and pay the difference. The raffle scarf was €25,00 and the fur scarf was €55,00. I was super-annoyed. I thought to myself, “Really? No, you can’t switch. Fur scarves are in a completely different category than fabric scarves. If I wanted to give away a fur scarf I would have put it in the raffle you dork.”
Luckily my good soul spoke for me, and not my ego. With a big smile I said, “Sure.” (but really my jaw was clenched in annoyance) I calculated the difference and let her take the fur scarf she wanted rather than the scarf I put up for raffle. Afterwards I had a second or two to think about the situation; and again my good soul began to lecture my ego. There is no reason why I couldn’t meet her demands. If the roles were reversed I’d want her to do it for me. I just wouldn’t have had the courage to ask her to do it for me. Did I get annoyed because her ability to ask a stranger to do her a favor is better than mine? Either that, or I was being greedy. Maybe I had a burning desire for her to win the raffle and pay full price for another scarf if she loves it so much. The impure thoughts of salesmanship made me feel like a jerk. In actuality I would rather her have one scarf that she loves than one that she doesn’t.
Oscar Selbstgemacht was packed the entire day. A steady line of people paraded in front of my table for six hours. The only time that was slow was the last hour; and I think that is to be expected. This was the first time I have ever worked a craft show in a venue completely loaded with people. The most surprising observation I can make is that I don’t think the amount of people influenced my bottom line very much. I didn’t make any more sales there than I have anywhere else. Maybe it was because people didn’t stop to look so much; they just continued walking with the flow of traffic. Maybe people ate my donated cookies and didn’t like them so they avoided my table. The list of hypotheses on why I didn’t make more sales, despite an increase in customers, is endless. The only solid observation I can make is that craft shows continue to be unpredictable.
In all of the time that this massive amount of shoppers was walking past my table I had time to study “shopping faces.” I was able to note many varieties. There is the smiling customer, the greeting (and small talk) customer, the confused customer, the pensive customer, the frowning customer, and (my personal favorite) the head-down-no-eye-contact customer. I think it’s very weird to come up to a table (or into a store) and check out the product, but never look at the salesperson. There’s nothing of which to be afraid. Eye contact does not commit you to anything. I’m not a hypnotist. My eyes can not control your thoughts. As much as I could wish it; I can not will you to make a purchase with my gaze.
My table was next to a lovely lady who cuts paper. She had very incredibly, intricate work. She was incredibly nice too; which made her work even sweeter. She was at the bazaar because her son was friends with the organizer. I found this to be a charming detail to the older woman’s story. I don’t know when, or how, she got started with her craft but she said she will have a website next year. I think that’s exciting. I can’t even remember not having a website. I think I had a website, or at least an Etsy Shop, before I even had a substantial amount of scarves to sell. But I guess that’s the difference between the young and the old crafters. If my neighbor is lucky she will get a website…or at least a blog…maybe move to a new country… and begin blogging about selling cut paper there.
The neighbor on my other side was www.dark-candy.de. In my opinion, she had great paintings (and a bottomless coffee thermos that made me jealous) but everyone seemed to prefer her postcards and notepads. I began to wonder if that’s how it is for 2-D artists. When the average person likes your work; they want miniature, dollar versions of it. Joe and Jane seem to have no interest in the real thing. How is a painter to survive?
When the bazaar finally came to a close I was feeling good. I had crossed my finish-line; not in record time with phat pockets, but confidently, unfreakishly, and with a half-full container of scarves. I had a fun season, learned some new words, and sales pitches in German, and made some more room for some new scarves in my bin for next season.
I also have a new biography. It’s my original biography (finally) translated into German. I printed it out to share with interested customers here, and at future German bazaars. I am also excited to post it in my Etsy Shop. It’s a relief to have something legible about myself; that doesn’t have any wacky translations from Google. Please look for it (in the coming days) in my Etsy Shop, along with some new scarf postings.
After that Saturday I unpacked the car from the bazaar, peeled myself out of the tube top I never needed to wear, and began packing for the other world. The other world is where Americans live in America. My family is there. We spent the following week (which is actually last week) in New Jersey and Pennsylvania; a bit of a pre-holiday visit with loved ones. I was so deeply enveloped in quality time that I didn’t give one thought to this blog, or the fact that I wanted to document my latest experiences in Germany…good thing I took notes before I left and got enough sleep last night to turn the notes into full sentences.
Thanks for reading. I’ll write again soon.