Saturday, June 4, 2016

Weird tales from the craft fair: selling my handmade fused glass jewelry

Yesterday was my vendor sale at at Atria. It was also my first time selling my fused dichroic glass pieces in person. Happily, the day went well.

The fun actually began last weekend when I performed a Memorial Day concert at the Atria. I was joined by my friend and Atria staffer, Judith, who sings and plays guitar. We put on a Broadway program for the residents. Judy and I both wore necklace I'd designed, and I brought in a few other pins and pendants to display.

They loved it! There was singing and dancing, and a lot of laughter. What was also nice was the my husband, Jon, was able to join us. He's usually working when I do these gigs, but this one was on a Sunday.

I need to backtrack for a moment and explain how I got into playing music at senior homes. I've been playing flute since I was 9 -- and piano since I was 3, though flute is my main instrument. Music has always been a huge part of my life, but was put on the backburner as I tried to build up my jewelry business and writing career. Plus, the leader of the band I played with moved to another state. So for most of 2014, I didn't touch my flute, which was a shame. I missed it.

That December, my friend Amy asked me to play holiday songs at a party she was hosting. She lives in a building complex called Southbridge that has a senior program and decided to hold a "Senior/Toddler Mixer." To be honest, the kids and seniors didn't really mix; the kids ran around while the seniors sat listening to me play. But I was surprised by how much they enjoyed my music. I'd warned Amy that I was rusty -- and I really was -- but they didn't care. They were all singing along and told me afterward that they'd had a great time.

I had a chat with the program's director and asked if she'd like me to come in again for a Valentine's Day performance. This time, I played classic love songs and we printed out lyrics so the seniors could sing all of the words. Again, the program was a success.

I realized how healing music can be, both for myself and the seniors. I'd been disappointed and disillusioned with my writing career, but music helped me deal with the loss. I love making jewelry, but needed a different kind of creative outlet. Music was it.

I then called several other senior homes in the area and asked if they would be interested in having me play for the residents. Most said yes! The Atria happens to be right around the corner from us. I'd passed it a million times and would always say to Jon, "I should give them a call and see if they want me to perform." I finally got up the nerve and am so glad I did.

These days, I perform in five different places, but most of my work is with the Atria. I've made some good friends, but have also made some jewelry sales through these connections. Judy, my musical co-conspirator, purchased two glass pieces from me and is constantly advertising my work. It's through her help that I got this sale set up.

Onto the sale itself! When I arrived at the home in the morning, it was chaotic. They were moving furniture and the lobby was filled with various pieces, crates and boxes. They weren't sure where they were going to put me, but finally set me up in the parlor. About an hour later, they moved me back into the main lobby.

A few seniors recognized me from my flute performances and got a kick out of seeing my "other personality." "You're confusing me," one lady said with a laugh. "I confuse myself," I told her.

People were intrigued with the glass, though many didn't understand what it is. A few called the pendants "stones" and thought they were ready-made. I had to explain how I cut sheets of glass and fuse them together, and then shape them.

I didn't make that many sales, though I did sell a few of my glass pieces, as well as some bracelets. I also have a couple of requests in for custom orders. However, I did get to spend time with the residents, which isn't something I normally do. Yes, I am there often, but I'm playing music. Then when my gig is over, it's time for whatever their next program is, so I leave. I do chat with them before and after my shows, but I only have a few minutes.

I ended up talking with one resident for over an hour. We first spoke about our mutual love for cats, but she then asked if I'd ever be interested in teaching a class. I told her I would! She explained that she's on the home's council and has a background working in Wall Street. She then came up with an idea for me to bring ready-made wire and glass pieces to the class so the seniors can simply put together a necklace or bracelet. She asked if I could bring in my little kiln, but I explained how I've had some minor accidents and wouldn't want to put anyone in danger. She noted that I could simply fire their pieces at home and then return them a few days later since I live so close. I love it! This woman is a true problem solver and very creative. I don't know if this class will actually happen, but I've made a new friend.

There were a few funny things that happened throughout the day. One lady came by and asked if I sell pants. I guess they've had some all-purpose vendors who sell jewelry and clothing items, but the question took me by surprise. I was also taken aback when I heard a loud meow in the lobby. To my delight, there was a cat! One of the residents has a kitty named Schmedrick, who was big, gray and oh-so-handsome. I, of course, had to say hello. I love his name, too. It's fun to say.

I didn't make a lot of money at this sale, but I'm happy with how the day turned out. I love how my music and jewelry are combining, and leading to some interesting opportunities! Here are a couple of photos of my table:

Check out more of my handmade jewellery at Naomi's Designs and MayaGirl Creations.

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