Monday, December 14, 2009

Expect Success Tralalalala la la la LAAAAAAAA

It's a funny thing about success... Sometimes it pops up even when you least expect it.

When I was sellling my 'French patine' furniture, I learned not to do Christmas or even summer "markets" the hard way... Zero Sales! To the extent that I came home a couple of times doubting both myself and my products. Were they not pretty? People would glance at my stand and race off to buy a yellow sunflower. Hmm - maybe it was all that grey ;-)

Thinking I was too expensive (dear Niminy Fingers has written about this here), I lowered my prices for my second market. This wasn't easy to do as I had worked hard and long on each item between getting up early to find them, cleaning and repairing, then painting and finishing etc. I work fast and still didn't count all my hours. I don't think you can with hand made. Lo and behold, lowering the prices didn't make any difference. I was devastated. It appeared plain and simple. People didn't like my work!

Then I had an insight - maybe I wasn't in the right place. You know the old phrase 'location! location! location! Through friends, I was lucky enough to meet a darling lady who had been doing private sales of up market home furnishings and fabrics to a select group of clients for about 15 years. She (to my surprise and delight) loved my products and had never sold patine but we agreed on a commission price and my first sale at her home in May 5 year's ago was enough to put a smile on my face for months.  It snowballed from there...

This summer, rather suddenly in some people's eyes, I stopped Patine. It happened for various reasons including: an increasing difficulty to find unique objects at fair prices, an increasing number of people offering a similar product at similar prices although not always with the same quality or finish  (Yes friends - I am a stickler for finishing off the niggly bits and having everything perfect.) and let's not talk about the influx of cheap imported copies made by poor people in hideous conditions. But mostly it was because I had been wanting to do something more original, that was uniquely me, that you couldn't find anywhere else and that would use my calligraphy skills at last. And most importantly of all: I want to encourage and motivate.

It started by handwriting my phrases on these planks as a way of inspiring others to live their dream. In the process I'm realising that it's through personal experience and by example that one motivates. Each of the people that uttered these words quite simply never gave up whatever the cost. They lived their words. That is why they are inspiring. Whatever 'success' we may see in these people is a direct result of an unbending faith and courage in the face of adversity. Speaking of, let's get back to Saturday's Christmas market.

I went NOT expecting success. Now don't get me wrong. I wasn't blatantly being negative. It's just that I had had experiences of Christmas markets before so I was pretty sure that I wouldn't 'fit' with what was on offer, and that's pretty penalising. (oh dear, is that an English word or not?). I didn't have many really inexpensive things either - just my wishsticks and my angels. As it turned out, I was right - I didn't fit. Neither did a very talented young woman who sculpts and makes art with clay... But that didn't stop us both from having a great time chatting away with 'potential' clients. A number of people also took our cards without it being forced upon them ;-) I'm not a good 'hard sell' person.
I also know from experience that it takes a time to acquire a reputation. People are rarely as enthusiastic about your own product as you are yourself. It takes time for them to integrate something new, understand what you do, and find a place for it in their homes. Such was the process with Patine. One month it's not in the budget or in the plans, the next month and idea's taken root and ta daaaa - you get a phone call. This is why big business has sales staff...
So NO, I wasn't being negative, just practical. I'm starting out... it's only just beguuuuuuuun.

To top it off, Saturday appeared to be a day when people just plainly weren't spending. I personally have never seen a cake or food stand still half full at the end of a Christmas market which was the case here. Maybe it's the effect of the 'crise.' So you can imagine that I nearly fell over backwards when a lovely couple stopped by my stand. I could tell right away that he was intrigued with what I did. While Madame looked at the angels and wishsticks, Monsieur asked lots of questions about my work including the prices. Without batting an eyelid he said to his wife, "I would like that one for my Christmas present. I love the phrase and the colours! It's just what I needed." Wow! It was one of my personal favourites too. One I liked, full of white, cobalt blue and big orange letters and texture. Men like colour - I've noticed that before.

I sold a couple of others too - notably an 'Expect Success' one that a lady thought would be great for her son who was passing his University entrance exams that year. So there you go! If you judge success by the amount you sell, then we could define it as being pretty average: 4 planks, half my little angels and nearly all my wishsticks. If you judge success by a few other criteria - then I had a great day all up! Sold the planks, made a few people really happy, met some interesting people, found out about a new market in Toulouse for 'createurs' with a definite art/design slant to it, and had the yummiest piece of christmas cake in years!
Now if that's not food for thought!

PS, let me know if you want a tutorial for the wishsticks or the angels. They seem pretty self explanatory to me but if you need a guiding hand - I would be happy to put it up!

And THANK YOU ALL for the lovely encouraging comments.
They really do give a much needed boost when you work alone in the country!

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  1. Hurrah! I love it that success was thrust upon you and it sounds like a lot of fun!

  2. Great news - slowly but surely. Love the angels!!!

  3. Well done Ange, I am very proud of you. I know exactly what it is like waiting for someone to buy something and you do wonder at times why people are not buying. I also had a good day Saturday and sold quite a few things which in this current economic climate is a blessing.

    I would like to learn how to make a fairy.....


  4. i read this post twice, just to as not miss anything.......I think you are so right, about a reputation.......sometimes it's as though your feel like a failure if no one purchases your art.....

  5. Congrats on your sales and your positive outlook, sounds like you had a great time. I really enjoyed reading this post!

  6. Ange - even after years in retail I still take all the negatives personally. Why people feel the need to tell you when they don't like something/find it too expensive/don't get it I don't know. And like you, I find myself questioning my skills/taste/talent or lack of it! I need to remind myself of your positivity more often. And I'd buy all the angels, they are so gorgeous!!

  7. Your angels are so angelic...Measures of success...well I think it is evident when you write so positively and have such enjoyment in your life.

  8. Oh My Goodness!!
    I LOVE those little angels!! those little peg ladied people.

    I've always had a thing dolls made out of pegs.. must be my poor upbringing hehe anyway seriously I love these.. and the wish stick too... they really speak to my soul!! Wishing and Hope.. that's what they say

    Anyway.. rambling.. will come back and re-read this post as was a little sidetracked by the Angels...

    Take care dear ANGEL!! xx Julie

  9. That is the best news I have heard all week! I am so excited and happy for you Ange. All of your hard work and determination is paying off big time....

    Dreams do come true!

    Best Christmas wishes, Natasha.

  10. I too know the kick you get when you find others less enthusiastic about something you've done than you hoped. You HAVE TO keep at it though. I would have some of your words-on-wood in a blink. The angels are wonderful. I'm very into little quotes, and words of wisdom right now, and to have one of these angels tucked into my handbag with a little message of encouragement would be lovely. xx

  11. So incredibly well said Ange!

    Success is such a state of mind, rather than a goal to be reached, I think you've definitely found it (and a good piece of cake!) Good for you! You never know how many of those people who took your cards will get back to you, and the new market sounds promising. Congrats!

  12. Rue - you know, that piece of cake was definitely worth it ;-)

  13. I'll take 20 wish sticks & an afternoon of fun, champers & much chat with their wonderful Designer!
    Millie ^_^

  14. Hi Ange,
    I love your work. I am a calligrapher as well so naturally all your letters and graphics appeal to me! You have a wonderful optimistic attitude...and loads of talent..keep doing what you love! Merry Christmas!

  15. Well, of course I agree with every word. Your glass is definitely 'half-full'! I love the little pegs.
    Chrissie x

  16. Hi Ange!
    Loved this post and your blog.
    So right to say that success is not necessarily measured on amounts sold nor is appreciation or recognition
    I was there Saturday and was MOST impressed with your beautiful work, your talent and the messages behind everything you made.
    Didn't try the Xmas cake but all other cakes were gooooone downstairs!
    Keep the work up and Happy Holidays

  17. Love your "Expect" piece. Your calligraphy is really nice!


Can't think of a famous quote that says 'communication makes the world go round' so you 'll just have to get my clumsy way of putting it instead ;-) Your comments are precious. Thanks for dropping by!