Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Expose', Exposure, Just Plain Exposed

"A report of the facts about something, esp. a journalistic report that reveals something scandalous"
You've been begging for the words, demanding the goss, wanting all the dirt on the show. Today you shall have it. Today has been a day of rest and recuperation, unpacking all the boxes and containers, restoring order to my studio and house, taking photos of all the fabulous goodies I came home with and hanging out in my pj's. Now I am ready to tell you a tale.

Gorgeous wool from The Yarn Barn - I feel a winter project coming on
"the state of being exposed to contact with something, the revelation of an identity or fact, the action of placing oneself at risk of financial losses, the publicising of information or an event"
I had no idea when I said yes to joining the incubator section at the Stitches and Craft Show what I was in for. I saw it as an opportunity to put TinnieGirl out there in the world and see what kind of reaction I got. (In the interests of complete honesty, I secretly dreamed of making my fortunes.) Given my lack of experience with markets I focused on the tangible and went about the business of creating stock and designing a stall ready to sell my wares to the crafty people. With a strong chant of "you have to spend money to make money" constantly drumming in my ear I set off on a journey to take TinnieGirl to new heights.

Gorgeous wares from Leni and Rose. She gifted this to me. I was so lucky to have a buddy to share my stall with the whole time. So many great conversations, giggles and reflections.

Day 1. Totally excited, totally unsure of what to expect, totally hopeful. It's a very quiet day. Not many people come to the show. Few people seem interested in what I have to offer. No-one buys any of my things. Self doubt begins to grow. I feel looming failure. What does it mean? Have I got it all wrong? Are my ideas stupid? All that work, the tears, the financial outlay, all for nothing. What a disaster. I can hardly walk my feet and legs are so tired.

By the end of Day 2 I feel totally despondent. I've sold one Tinnie and had 3 people come to my workshops. I'm at a complete loss. What a waste of time and money. I never entertained the possibility that it could be this bad.

Something shifts. I look around me. I talk briefly with this woman who is so positive and inspiring, and reminds me that life is what you make of it. I'm surrounded by the most amazing and talented group of women. Crafters, bloggers, the exact kind of people I want to be surrounded by. I have the opportunity to spend 5 days living the very life I want to live. A creative one. There is so much fun to be had, so many lovely goodies to look at, purchase and swap. How could I not see it, the gift that the universe has given me.

Entangled scarf by Green Olive. I've been eyeing off one of these since last winter.
"make something visible, typically by uncovering it, leave or put someone in an unprotected or vulnerable state, introduce someone to an area of knowledge"
Day 3 comes and I arrive with a new attitude. So many people are saying lovely things about my Tinnies, how original and unique the idea is, how lovely they look. I start to listen and watch and learn. The collective wisdom in this group of crafters is extensive. There are woman here who are established business women freely sharing their experience and knowledge. How often do you have the opportunity to soak up free business advice from people you respect and admire.

Not to mention the Friday night bloggers dinner organised by Sooz. Enfolded in the arms of community.

I use the time and headspace that the show affords to reflect on what I want for myself in terms of a creative life. A rare opportunity in itself. It's hard to look directly at yourself and have honest soul searching conversations about commitment, desire, fears and dreams. I'm lucky, so very lucky to have this time, this challenge. If it had been all about sales and success I never would have seen the things I needed to see and learned what I needed to learn. Again the universe delivers me just what I need.

Hand dyed felt by the talented Winterwood. I hear that once you use this felt you never go back. I can't wait.

Day 4 and 5 are fabulous. Fun days filled with visitors, opportunities, laughter, conversation, creative dreaming, shopping and swapping. Oh, and sales of Tinnies!

Now at home, I am filled with courage, with new ideas and a long term direction for TinnieGirl starting to emerge. I have lots of work to do to take this dream of mine from idea to reality. However, I know that there's time. It's a marathon full of twists and turns, hurdles, uphills and downhills. I will keep on this creative path and keep seeing where it leads.

I have been completely laid bare on so many levels. I couldn't possibly have known that exposing TinnieGirl to the craft community of Melbourne would involve exposing my creative soul to me. With hindsight it makes perfect sense. Every step of my creative journey over this past 12 months has been this way. You'd think by now I'd be prepared but it blindsides me every time. All I can do these days (when I stop crying) is laugh. How could I not?

So there you have it. A flurry of words. A full expose'. All the dirt and grime that you could possibly wish for. It was wonderful. I'd do it all again in a flash.

In fact I am. I'll be at the Made n' Thornbury market on Saturday 28th March with CurlyPops, Buttons By Lou Lou, Finki, All Toile and No Reward and lots of other crafty souls. Come along.


  1. This is a really thoughtful post, Cathy. I think as crafters, no matter what we craft with or create, we owe it to ourselves and our customers to take that time and space to really examine our drive, our marketing, and our product. Even if that time and space in in the middle of a hug craft show!

    I'm sorry the first couple of days were a disappointment, but I'm so glad you learnt so much and were surrounded by those very inspiring people.

    And of course, I'm super chuffed that I finally got to met you. You are gorgeous, generous and so warm. I hope we meet up again soon!

  2. Haha! "Hug craft show"! Well, I suppose it was!

  3. Wow - what a rollercoaster few days. Good on you for sticking it out and ending on such a high! Look forward to seeing you in Thornbury.

  4. hey Cathy,
    thank you so much for the run down. I've been itchin' to hear how it panned out. It seams that you had a crash course in self discovery, creative energy, and fantastic networking.

    I feel like everything i've slowly learned since putting finki 'out there' in the last 6 months of etsy and markets, you learnt all in one event.

    I'm so glad that it has made your dream a little more concrete too and given you the drive to go onward and upward, you definately will.

    I Look forward to our next 'out there' event for us crafty gals at m.i.t market in a few weeks.


  5. Thank you for opening you heart and soul to us. Some days are diamonds and others, well others we'd rather forget, but we can learn something from the "others" as you did. It's all about keeping positive, having pasion and fire in your belly for what you do..As a fellow crafter, even though I dont know you , I feel really proud of you as a human being.. (almost tears !)
    I have been doing this for one year nearly and I just got a wholesale enquiry, so it doesn't happen overnight.

  6. G post, you have probably just said what everyone there was feeling! And I would be packing it too, hey, I admire you for just saying yes! I'll say hi at the Made in Thornbury market, I'll bring little miss to say howdy.

  7. What a honest assessment! So open with your comments. It is a very brave thing to put yourself out there. You did it. You took that step and you'll reap the rewards from the learning and self reflection. The journey continues ...

  8. Oh wow, I'm glad you took the time to choose the perfect words to describe the experience. It's fantastic that you had time to take in the experience and reflect on what it could offer.

    I was hoping that you were going to spend the day in your pj's today resting and relaxing those weary feet and legs!

  9. I'm so glad you stuck with it. It can be such a see-saw of emotions when you're "out there" ... at my very first market I didn't sell a single thing and I convinced myself I was a total sewing loser. It can be hard to bounce back from that. But I did, and you did too, and I bet you're glad now. Yay and well done to you!

  10. A great post. Thanks for being so honest and exposing yourself. I'm so glad that you got so much out of it in the end and that things can only further improve from here.

    Don't forget as well, that just getting your name out there is so valuable and will lead to more success!

  11. So much to say. I admire what you and the other incubator crafters did -- you lot were like a beacon of divine craftiness in the show for many of us! Scary though it was for you, what a stunning team you lot are, and a fantastic demonstration of what makes the blogging community so fantastic.

    Personally, I have every confidence in your ability to look and think, decide and go in your own best direction. In only a few short months, you've gone big strides.

  12. Wow. What a great post. Sounds like an amazing week, and a huge journey. Even if you didn't sell one thing (but you did! hooray!!) if would have been worth it for the week you had, the company, and all you learned. Yay for you!! I think I'll come to the Thornbury market to check out your tinnies in the flesh (tin?!).

  13. Thank you for sharing those amazing words and let me venture on that amazing journey with you. You are one amazing lady! Hope you have had a lovely and relaxing few days.
    Much love Sophie x
    PS. I heart Tinnies :)

  14. I love this post. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I learned a lot by reading. Hopefully next time I can come and see for myself!

  15. Congratulations on your experience. It sounds to me like you won the jackpot. You obviously got much more out of it than you expected and it looks like the future of Tinniegirl is extremely bright - Well Done. I enjoyed your post very much so raw, honest and enlightening.

  16. What a beautiful insight into your experience from the show. Thank you for sharing it with us all...

  17. I have to agree here with all the other comments Cathy - very brave and reflective post of yours. When I first put my collages and journals on a market stall I was shitting myself - exposed, that is exactly the feeling. But, you learn as you go - what sells, what doesn't and you adjust accordingly. and you come up with 100s more ideas :)
    But what a wonderful opp. you had meeting everyone and learning so quickly!! When I do weekend markets that process can take months - so you've had a really steep learning curve. What a gift indeed.
    Keep going! How exciting really!

  18. You are such a special person - I think that is all I can say!

  19. Thanks for your very open post. I'm so glad you got some clarity (for lack of a better word) of your own creative journey.

    As creative people it's always hard to put your ideas and products out there for everyone's approval, or, in more crushing moments, disapproval and not only did you do it bravely, you took advantage of the opportunity to learn about yourself and your business. In my book that defines success so good on you, I say!

    ps. it looks like you came home with lots of good stuff!! :)

  20. Wonderful to hear your experience expressed so eloquently - and also to hear that you gained so much from the experience.

    My head is still reeling as I try to process all the feedback (good and bad) and the ideas I had from my own experience at the show. One thing for sure - the company we were in was so welcoming, supportive and inspiring!

  21. Great post - it sounds like it was overall a great learning opportunity. I call that a success!

  22. I did the same "Oh My god what was I thinking?" assessment on the first night. Plagued by self doubt as always, but the social aspect won me over totally. I made so many new friends, and we can never ever have too many of those.
    Your friend

  23. i loved this honest Post!! so great to see you finish on a 'high' and dont forget it was your first show...many more to come!!
    so glad you had a great time and met so many talented people too!!

  24. Great post I think it sums things up for many of us crafters. I think you have a great product and I think you took a big step writing this post and having the great learning opportunity you did

  25. Wow, I really enjoyed reading this post. I didn't make it to the S&C show but enjoyed checking it out through blogs. Good on you for looking deeper into the whole experience and getting a fresh understanding of where you are going with your work. It would have been easy to just be negative but it sounds like it ended up being very positive for you.x

  26. I really appreciate your perspective as I so enjoy your writing, you are incredibly articulate and I love the way your thoughts evolve into words.

    I think being part of the 'whole craft thing' is so much bigger than sales, it's about community and connectedness with like-minded souls. For example, Handmade Nation as a film really resonated for me as it's the first time i have ever seen anyone like me on the big screen...

    I really enjoyed meeting you and I hope we can catch up again in a more chilled environment :-)

  27. Wonderful post! I was there on Saturday, outside in the rain, so disappointing as we traveled 600km! I'd do it again though, it's such a great experience to spend time with others that are so passionate about craft! I would have bought a tin and a little holly hobby top for my daughter from your neighbour's stall, if I had sold more of my crafts! They were very tempting!

  28. Well, how very empowering! Good for you.

    The creative life, looking from the outside in, seems all happy and filled with peace and paintbrushes... From inside, mind you, is a whole other story. I was only just chatting about this very subject today. Talking about how I'm sure people think I spend all my days doodling and painting to my hearts content, when in actual fact I hardly get any time to paint at all! Hardly ever!

    I spend all my days on the computer, sending files off for consideration here and there, waiting for responses... rushing to get stuff to people who decide at the last minute they DO want something of mine... emails to new prospects, following up things I've promised people, I do so much free stuff it's alarming, filling in submission forms, site updates here and there, rips back and forth from the framers, inventory checklists, invoices, banking, etc... and not a whole lot of art making!

    Honestly, it's quite a slog.

    BUT, it's all part of the creative lifestyle. Making it viable to live from, and keeping it going.

    Those people who think a creative lifestyle is all tea-sipping leisure are very misunderstood.

    BUT we creative life livers are the lucky ones! As much work as it is, and as poor as I am, I wouldn't change it for the world. I feel SO blessed to be able to live my life the way I choose, and surround myself with other who do the same :D

    Remember we are the lucky ones! ;)

  29. All in all, it sounds like a great experience Cathy! I really admire you for putting yourself out there. How wonderful to be part of the craft scene and to meet so many creative people!

  30. Cathy,

    Great post.

    I wish I was brave enough to start my own business & you are the first person that I have seen in a long time who is doing something really different & unique.

    TinnieGirl will go far, this is just the begginning!

    I am glad that you realised that it was an amazing experience to be surrounded by such a smart & creative group of chicks, when i look at some of the businesses that they have built i am in awe.

    PS i love my tinnie!

  31. Excellent & honest post Cathy. Big ups to you!

    Good on you for having a go & yep what Jodie said.

  32. Oh Cathy, I'm so behind on my blog-reading so sorry this is a very late comment, but I couldn't read your post without telling you how inspiring it was to read. And just how inspiring you are in general!!! It was great to see a photo of you and your set-up in person (Helen from BrisStyle showed me all the pics she took - sounds like it really was a blast!!). I wish I could have been there to say hi and add my support as well. Thank-you for sharing all this :) XXX Bec

  33. Such a good post! It was great to read and now I feel like I know you just a little bit better :)

    I think the show was quite a gamble for many people - we had no firm idea of what the customer base would be like, and I felt bad for those who came along with finished product when everyone was just after supplies & kits and things.

    I'm glad it all worked out well in the end for you though - it's all about perspective and mindset and what you can take away from the experience...

  34. I forgot to tell you a thought I had...maybe next stall you do, you could do a display of crafties made from things you sell in the tin? Like soft toys or a gift cards or whatever? I imagine some people who aren't as creative as us might go, "ooh it's nice but I wouldn't know what to make!"

  35. I never saw this post when it was originally published, but I am so glad I have now.
    I love that line about being enveloped in a crafting community.
    That whole supporting, warm vibe amongst crafters is something I never expected or knew existed. It wouldn't be overstating things to say that it has reinstated my belief in the goodness of people.