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Retail Madness

January 11, 2011

So if you’ve read a few of my blog posts from last year, you’ll probably recall that I tend to relish my mistakes and missteps, if only to share them here in my intimate little corner of the blogosphere. Let this blog post be no exception.

I’m not even sure if this qualifies as a true mistake since I’ve decided not to list the item you see pictured on the left in my Etsy store, but I do think the story behind that photo shows how difficult it can be for a fledgling Etsian like me to learn how to spread her wings and soar. Oy — already I’m using the goofy metaphors — OK. I’ll cut to it.

Valentine’s Day, as you know, arrives approximately 6 weeks into the new year. According to the gurus of Etsy, wise merchants will start quietly listing romantic-themed items before the close of the Christmas season. Soon after Thanksgiving, in fact. Staying ahead of the shopping curve, it seems, is important to success, and it clearly makes sense. That is, if you normally have products that seem appropriate to Valentine’s Day.

And that’s where I think I started to miss the mark. I’ve received a lot of compliments about how well all my items coordinate with one another, and I think that’s largely because I try to make things I’d wear myself (though I do have a strict policy with myself NOT to wear anything that I’ve listed). For those of you who know me personally, I’m just not a hearts and flowers sort of gal. The main color in my wardrobe is black, usually solid black. When I’m mixing it up a bit, I might wear some putty-colored shade of grey. Or brown. Winter white when I’m feeling truly daring.

And I’ve been that way for a long time. To illustrate, when my husband and I announced our engagement some 20+ years ago, it was around the holiday season. My future mother-in-law, a truly kind-hearted woman, decided she had not purchased enough gifts befitting a future daughter-in-law and promptly went on a small buying spree that included a bright pink sweatshirt with a pair of Scottish Terriers embroidered onto the chest. With matching socks, no less. I was speechless. Just the memory of unwrapping that outfit and being put on the on the spot  for a happy reaction leaves me with heart palpitations.

OK. So back to my upcoming Valentine’s Day retail dilemma. I’m in love with fusing silver and so I decided to try my hand at making a few sets of Cupid-inspired VD toggle clasps. I started making some hearts, and before you know it I had changed plans, linked seven of them together and fused them all into one solid piece. My arrow-like toggle bars could become links. Some small garnet beads could look like a little drop of red linking them together. It was perfect Valentine’s Day material in my mind, and I was feeling particularly brilliant.

My family came home and I decided to show off my work. My husband was first up to bat. “Wow. That’s really cool, and so different from the stuff you usually make,” he said.

“Yeah, I thought I should get some Valentine’s Day sort of items into my store. Staying ahead of the curve, so they say.”

“Oh good. So you’re going to sell it, right?”

There was just a twinge of something in the way he said it. I couldn’t put my finger on it right away, but then I start to get that weird palpitation feeling. Nothing like 20+ years of marriage, after all, to practice those ever-important listening skills. “What do you mean that it’s good I’m going to sell it?”

“Nothing. It’s just that it doesn’t really look … well … you know … like something you would wear.”

“Hrmpff … ” I tuck my head down and keep hammering on it. Soon my 15-year-old son walks in the door and I try again.

“Hey, check out this necklace I’ve been working on this afternoon. Whaddaya think?”

“Wow. That’s really …. ” and here he takes a long awkward pause before finding just the word that strikes pain into my heart like a dagger … “cute”

“CUTE?!” My mind races to that place where Scottish terriers are sewn onto pink sweatshirts and my future mother-in-law’s face beams at me for a reaction.

Immediately he realizes what he has said, and then bravely says “OK, do you want my honest opinion?”

“Of course I do.” And I really do mean it.

“It’s cool, but it doesn’t really look like the rest of your stuff — it looks more like something a teenage girl would wear, Mom.”

And I immediately know he is right. I have created something lovely and interesting and real, but it is for the girl I never was. And it’s certainly not for the woman I am now. In getting so focused on making something that would fit into a retail opportunity, I got distracted from the one formula I know works — making something I’d wear myself.

But don’t worry too much about me. I’m not really beating myself up (too much). In the end, I think it’s a pretty easy mistake to make, and one that probably happens more often than we care to think it does. After all, how many situations do we get into where we stop listening to the main question that should motivate much of our day, “What do I really want?” Instead, it’s easier to think in terms of “what I should do,”  and that’s definitely what led me down the wrong path in this particular case.

So what about this silly little cupid necklace fiasco? Well for now I’m setting this one aside and going back to the drawing board. And who knows? Maybe I’ll meet a young woman someday who would wear this necklace well and I’ll finish it as a gift for her. It would, in many ways, really be a gift to us both.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 11, 2011 3:36 pm

    What a funny story! I think the necklace is awesome! Have you thought about adding a few small black beads to it?

  2. January 12, 2011 9:11 am

    Now that’s a brilliant idea, Amanda 😉

  3. January 16, 2011 1:18 pm

    Retail pressure is so strong! I’m glad you can set a great project aside since it doesn’t feel just right! I feeling a little lost trying to balance what I “should” make with what I want to make. Great post…thanks for sharing!

  4. January 17, 2011 9:10 am

    I still haven’t caught up from Christmas so you are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay ahead of me if that makes you feel better. LOL!

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