The Faire-y Files: Borrowed Buggies

3 07 2017

If I ever get around to actually publishing a book or something, a lot of my material comes to me straight out of the mouths of… well… my customers, the world around me, um, frankly EVERYONE. I find lots of what people say strange and hilarious (maybe that’s just the way my artist’s brain takes in the world around me.) But I feel like the bar is higher for this particular blog post because:  (1) last month my BFF and I were doing our usual “running my booth together thing” at the TN Faire. We were told by several people this year, “Hey, no kiddin’ – we stop here every year because you two are the funniest act at this Faire.” Considering there are stage acts at that show (and every other Ren Faire in the world) who specialize in humor? Ya. Bar feels high. (2) There is now a published author who reads my blog.  EEEEEK. (Hi Laura.) (3) I haven’t blogged a Faire-y Tale story in a year and I feel rusty.  It’s hard to explain the absurdity of my world, and my weird job to people who go to my day job for their “day-cations“.  So “once more into the breach” and all that happy greeting card crap, right? (4) Someone informed me that one of my blog articles cost them a keyboard because of sprayed coffee while laughing… I mean, I don’t want to be a record holding keyboard mangler, but that compliment alone was… intense. Maybe the world views me just as funny as I view it.

I was driving home from Faire late one Sunday night about six years ago, in a borrowed car that I was trying to purchase. The seller was being a bit slow with paperwork, and although I didn’t like the idea of borrowing a car for interstate travel before I owned it, it was one of those things that was really unavoidable that weekend in particular.  I also had my mutt, Guinness with me.


He’s part Wookie, part Ewok, and basically my funny little sidekick with genius comedic timing.  At the time, he didn’t have a seatbelt.  He had a 6 gallon milk crate that I inherited at a garage sale, and Ren-gineered into his car seat. (“Ren-gineered” being a term that means a Rennie made it with materials that have no right being used in the manner they are, and that said Rennie probably got all of their engineering experience from having dated an engineer at one time. And yet, often the constructed object in question generally works fine.)

This day (which shall now live in infamy forever) is the reason Guinness now has a doggie seatbelt (visible in the photo above) that clips into the back of his harness. Well, that, and I don’t want him hitting a windshield at mumblety-thump mph if I get in a wreck.

I drove home that night in my garb, because Faire ran late, and it was about a 4-5 hour drive home. I had to stop for gas on the way, and, as per my usual, stuck my cell phone into the top of my corset out of habit.  (Many thanks to David Vail for the amazing photo below.)

As I was pumping my gas, Guinness leapt over onto the driver’s seat to scope out why we’ve stopped.  And stepped firmly on the auto-lock button.  Now, to recap: Borrowed car, so title, registration, etc are all not in my name.  Spare key with the owner, about 3 hours/200 miles away. No AAA.  And the gas station was closing in 45 minutes (it’s was a Sunday night in the middle-of-nowhere).

I said a string of Very Naughty Words and asked the gas station attendant if perhaps, they had a slim-jim door unlocker thinger behind the counter. He did not.  I received inept help from a lovely passerby with a coat hanger and mansplaining tendencies. After he left, I now had scratches on the door of the borrowed car.  With no other options I could think of, and with it getting later by the minute, I called 911.

“Hi, I am super sorry to be calling.  I understand that my emergency is low priority, but my dog just locked himself in my car at a gas station, and I’m 200 miles from home.  Is there an officer in the area not busy doing real police work tonight that could pop my lock?” (Now, I don’t recommend this course of action.  Seriously, if I had had ANY OTHER OPTION… I wouldn’t have called them.  But apparently a “live animal in a locked car” is an actual – if Very Low Level – emergency.)

92 minutes later, Officer Friendly (O.F.) shows up.  I try really really hard not to judge people on appearances, but to say this gent probably could’ve attended Woodstock as a late-blooming college student, with a physique that would make it impossible to chase down anyone on foot (even me, and I’m lucky to run a 10 minute mile at my best) would be visually accurate. And I’ve already mentioned how my brain works – I filter a high proportion of what I say… typically. But when you stir in exhaustion from a busy work weekend dealing with hundreds if not thousands of people, a long drive made longer by my own damn stupidity, and concern for my dog?… The force required for holding back snarky comments delivered a la Wednesday Addams deadpan with a smoky jazz lounge singer’s voice was EPIC.

O.F.: Examining my outfit from top to bottom, pausing long enough at my cleavage to be inappropriate, despite the fact that said cleavage is reasonably but decently displayed because ELIZABETHAN CORSET. “Your dog lock himself in the car, huh?”

Me: Yes, sirDude, dispatch had to have told you that.  And you can see my freaking idiot dog bouncing up and down in the driver’s seat in anticipation of meeting someone new.

O.F.: May I see your license ma’am?

Me: It’s in my wallet, sir, (points to purse, sitting Very Evidently on middle seat, inside locked vehicle.) 

O.F.: Where were you headed tonight?

Me: sigh. Didn’t dispatch ALSO tell you this? Home, sir.  Akron area. Ohio. I still have about 2.5 hours of driving ahead of me.  (hint hint… can we get this show on the road already, please?)

O.F.: Well, lemme get my fjdskalfdsg. (unintelligible, yet probably proper name for slim-jim door unlocker thingy aka the SJDUT.)

He walks back to the car with his SJDUT.  Pauses at the sight of Guinness, who has started licking the freaking window in abject joy that the new person is almost within reach of meeting.

O.F.: Is he friendly? 

Me: Yes, sir. He’s 21 lbs on his best day sir, I think even you could probably take him… have you really met a quantity of mean dogs who lick and paw at windows with their tails wagging at a rate of “supersonic” when they spot you?

O.F.: Pausing, with the SJDUT in hand. You know you should grab your keys when you stop for gas.

Me: thank you, Captain Obvious. Yes sir.  I’m in the process of buying this car from a friend, sir.  I’ve never driven one with auto-locks before but I guarantee I will remember that in future sir.  

O.F.: You know the SJDUT may damage the door, right? 

Me: Yes, sir, but since the spare is with the friend in question, that leaves me with no choice.

He works on the door for a minute, pauses, and asks, “Where’s the friend live?”

Me: Sigh. Ohio, Sir, as the license plate will confirm.  And so you’re aware, the registration will of course match her name, not mine.  But I have my insurance card in my wallet if you need that for your notes, sir.  Please just open the dang door.

He jimmies the door, Guinness greets him with more kisses than the Pope’s ring has seen in a decade.

O.F.: He’s sure a friendly little thing, isn’t he.

Me: Yes, sir. Thank you sir.  Guinness, kennel.  (“Kennel” being the command that means “Get your ass into your milk crate on the passenger seat because you’re overdoing the greeting.”)

O.F.: Well behaved little dog too.

Me: Thank you sir.  Grabbing my keys from the ignition, and pulling out my license. Did you need the registration too, sir? I’ll need to grab that from the glove box. 

O.F.: Yes ma’am.

Me: leaning over Guinness to grab the registration and receiving a barrage of kisses myself. Here, sir.

Eons pass, wars are won, and novels are written while he examines my license and my friend’s registration Very Carefully before handing both back.

O.F.: … no actual words come forth, but he seems to be… waiting for something.  

Me: looking at the time on my cell phone which I’ve plucked out of my corset while O.F. was examining my paperwork, and realize I’ve been stuck at this gas station for nearly 2 hours. Thank you very much for unlocking my car, sir. Am I free to go sir? I’ve got a goodly bit of driving left tonight. 

O.F.: He makes another visual appraisal of me, this time pausing at my cleavage long enough that even Guinness takes notice that Time Has Stopped again.  Just one more question before you go ma’am…  – are you Amish?

Me: Closes eyes, takes deep breath. For the hairy love of Oedipus. Amish people don’t drive cars, SIR. Mennonites drive cars, and I hope for the safety and well-being of the local Amish community here, you are not dispatched any time that actual knowledge of said community is required.  At minimum, you’ll be on their prayer list.  And I don’t want them to think that you are representative of our “English ways” No, sir.  I work at a medieval theme park. 17th century? Queen Elizabeth? These are my work clothes.  

O.F.: …. blank stare wherein it’s clear he’s never heard of either the 17th century or Queen Elizabeth, although the stare breaks long enough for him to do another – although this time blessedly quick – visual sweep of my garb. Drive safely ma’am. He gestures in a way that makes it clear I’m free to go.

The End… but in the way of Disney movies, here’s the Easter egg scene:

So I’m retelling this over breakfast at the KY Ren Faire to much laughter, and get to the “Are you Amish” punchline, and T (a tall, voluptuous, and brassy lady who very much speaks her mind) pipes up, “You TOTALLY should have struck a pose and told him you work in Amish porn.” So I lower my voice from “smoky” to “come hither”, cock my eyebrows at the breakfast table crowd and say, “I work in Amish porn…” The table explodes in laughter over and over, with mass giggles and people holding their stomachs from laughing too hard, and then, because “the more you know…”

Fierce googling ensues to discover whether or not Amish porn exists…


On Real Estate & the Paperwork (Non)Reduction Act

26 12 2013

I’m anticipating a move in my near future. Moving is more stressful to me than having a suspicious lump in one’s breast (and considering I’ve had both the former and the latter occur in my life, please believe me when I tell you there is no hyperbole involved in my statement.) I’ve been trying to buy a stinking house (well, not a stinking house, but you get my meaning) for over a year now. I am crossing my fingers that I am on the home stretch, because this has been dragging on well past the point where I wish to cry about it, and go hide in my room.

It has also been a learning experience – not in a good way, mind you – but the kind of learning experience where I wish to a) cry about it, and go hide in my room, b) swear a lot or c) blog about it and hopefully feel better in the morning. With both a & b already accomplished and doing nothing in terms of hustling the process along, I decided to embark on some cathartic blogging, and in the spirit of David Letterman and his infamous lists, I have composed a list of my own:

The Ten Absolute OMG Things I Learned Trying To Buy A House While Self-Employed

(Starred items indicate that the item has cropped up simply because I am self-employed.)

10*) You are required to have a profit/loss sheet in a format used by Australians rather than Excel because that is the format that is required.

9*) You have to prove you didn’t make your money robbing a bank. In other words, any cash you intend to use to purchase said house has to be deposited in an “account of record” for 30-90 days prior to purchasing a house, although how this eliminates a well-executed robbery as a possible avenue of income I am unclear.

8*) You have a dent in your forehead from getting daily emails that are titled, “Just one more piece of paperwork”…

7*) If you intend to use any assets that are not in a conventional bank account (example: a mutual fund, CD, etc.) you have to provide proof of those funds, proof that you’re cashing in any of those funds, and proof of depositing said funds into said conventional account.

6) Your realtor has your phone number memorized from the number of times you’ve had to contact him/her because of some monkey wrench in the works.

5) You have your realtor’s email memorized (despite moderate dyscalculia and the fact that said realtor’s email contains numbers.)

4) You play the lottery for the first time ever in the sole hope of winning enough to just pay for the damn house in cash.

3*) You play the lottery for the first time ever in the secondary hopes that you will win, and thereby be able to buy your loan officer and your realtor a tanker truck of alcohol or pay off their houses for the amount of extra hoops they have had to help you jump through because you’re self-employed…

2*) You have to provide proof of a previous trustworthy rental lease agreement and your current landlord’s contact information. (I marked this one as a self-employed thing because no one I have ever talked to with a “normal” paycheck has had to submit this.)

1) You cannot get “typical” homeowners insurance, but instead have to pay through the nose for the first year of coverage because a) the house you wish to buy is a foreclosure, which means that on the basis of the landscaping being dead, the insurance company assumes that there are other inherent problems with the house as well. (Of course the bloody landscaping looks like crap. It’s DECEMBER. In OHIO.) b) You’re self-employed and must run the insurance gauntlet of proving yourself as trustworthy with your newly titled position as “homeowner” because God knows, running a successful art business that is your full time job must mean you’re a fly-by-night sort of person who doesn’t understand the meaning of spreadsheets. Or landscaping.

Betty Boop, Bouncing Balls and Bad Math

12 04 2012

Dorothy had it right. There’s no place like home. I’ve been back in Ohio for about a week now, and I happened to get home right around the start of a late spring cold snap. I am so enjoying being cold. And wearing my favorite sweatshirt again. And drinking hot drinks to warm up a bit. And so on. I’m also relishing being back to my studio (despite the fact that nothing got done while I was away. That’s one of the downfalls of self-employment, although I was sincerely hoping that I had a house elf or two lurking that would “make things happen” while I was away from my glass…)

Where's the House Elf?

Part of the reason I’m so glad to be back though, is that Florida was a journey of epic proportions, and I’m not just talking about the mileage. Several people have expressed wonderment and disbelief at such an undertaking (although heading to Florida with a small dog and a trailer in tow seems kind of par for the course in this artist’s life I’ve chosen.) No, Florida had some “life lessons” to teach me. Sometimes life approaches you like a little old grandmotherly type who dispenses bus-stop wisdom while waiting for her Greyhound to arrive. And sometimes life’s lessons come at you with all the timidity of a broken bottle across the jugular in a bar brawl. Florida was definitely more of a “bar brawl” kind of journey. But I learned a lot about life, I learned a lot about me, and I learned a lot about what sort of person I want to be. To totally paraphrase my friend Elliot (mostly because I can’t remember sitting here how she puts it, exactly,) “No learning is ever wasted”… or something like that. (Sorry, Ellie, if I butchered it.) My job = my art and sometimes = my life, but it doesn’t have to be the sum total of it. So, like the rubber ball I referenced a few posts back, I think it’s time to drop a few things around here that can be dropped.

Like my blog.

I realized is that I’ve been blogging pretty regularly on the advice of someone who is a much better salesperson than I. (Hey, I just make the glass, and while I am getting better at marketing my own items, it’s never been something that I rock at.)

It occurred to me in Florida that one of the nice things about being there was that I didn’t have to blog, since I had pretty much let me loyal 15 readers or so (hey, I said I learned a lot about myself. I didn’t say I’d lay off the self-deprecating humor) know that my blog would be bare during my Florida trip. Don’t get me wrong, I like blogging, but in more of a “if the mood fits” kind of a way, and I had strayed from that because I wanted to try blogging long enough and regularly enough to see if the numbers contributed to my overall sales and well being of my business.

And, well, they don’t.

I had the time in Florida to do the math, and even with my quirky math, the numbers didn’t lie. My blog shows up nowhere in my stats. I repeat, nowhere. And I had more hits in the past three months on my etsy store than any other months I could find. I realize that it’s due mostly to being featured in several knitting podcasts. (Thanks again to HighFiberDiet, 2KnitLitChicks, and WexfordKnits) In fact, I have had so much business in stitch markers recently that I am having trouble keeping up, drives to Florida and back notwithstanding.

So my blog is one of the balls I’m going to let bounce on the pavement for awhile. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not giving this up entirely… I just plan to go back to blogging irregularly and more in the fashion of “when the mood strikes”.

Oh, and the use of Betty Boop in the title? Well, it made for a nice alliteration. And since stitch markers seem to be what the universe is handing me lately, I said yes when got invited to merchant at the local World Wide Knit in Public Day event. I’ve done shows for (eegads!) 7-8 years now, and I got out of art shows in general because my setup is a pain in the patootie. There is nothing, I repeat, nothing, like spending 2.5 hours setting up (or more) and 2.5 hours breaking down (or more) for a weekend long event. And that’s if it doesn’t rain. So I pitched the idea of being a portable merchant, selling stitch markers and knitting accessories from a tray that I’ll wear, much like the cigarette girls in old-fashioned bars. Of course my only reference for such an idea comes straight from the movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”, where Betty Boop has a cameo.

I think I’ll forgo the garter and short skirt, though. Know your audience, and all that.

So yeah, I think I covered it all… Betty Boop, Bouncing Balls and Bad Math. I’ll catch up with you the next time the blog ball bounces my way.

The Grass Feels Greener with Cookie Cutter Art

6 03 2012

Dear Florida,

You are not greatly endearing yourself to me. (If you’re not a regular reader of my blog, I’m not gonna use up the ink space to fill you in. Go back a few articles and start there, and all will be explained.)

Oh, there are good points (mostly in the form of people) down here, and in fact, my existence down here has been very much helped by various folks. A thank you and shout-out goes to Ms. R for the booth help, Ms. F for the sewing tips, Ms. E for dog-watching, Bailey’s and other stuff that would take too long to mention, Mr. N for a fantastic and much needed night out and key lime pie, Mr. D for actually opening the door when I showed up unexpectedly, Mr. P for the weekend doses of cookie therapy, Mr. C and Ms. D for the wi-fi access, and various family members who are calling more than usual to make sure I stay grounded.

Any time I add a new show it’s always a crapshoot, because I’ll have never done this show before, so I don’t have records of what sells the best for me yet, and since I’m new, I can’t depend on my regular customers (because I haven’t made people there into regular customers yet,) and so on and so forth.

You can’t ever gauge how you’re going to do at a show (regardless of whether a show is new to you or not), as election cycles, weather, whomever’s winning the SuperBowl-WorldSeries-sporting thing in the city/state/whatever nearest your show, etc. etc, – all change annually, and can positively or adversely affect gate counts. (Gate counts are a fancy way of saying “attendance”.)

But I didn’t expect to find myself down here on what is apparently the worst year that people can remember for this Faire on record. It happens. Florida’s economy is suffering right now, and I’m sure that has a lot to do with it. We’re in a presidential election year, and that in of itself is usually good for a 12-20% drop in sales.

The biggest thing though (and please, if you see a dent in my forehead the next time you see me, don’t comment. It’s from banging my head against the front post of my shop…) is that I should have saved myself the bloody trouble of making beautiful one-of-a-kind things and just made cookie cutter art. Seventy lanterns all in the same shape and 4 choices of color. Or maybe I should have gone the route of Henry Ford when he announced that, “You can have the model T in any color you want so long as you choose black.”

‘Cause I swear, if I have to say, “This piece is unique. Therefore, I have one of them. In blue.” Or worse, when the customer takes a look at what I have, I explain the definition of unique, they say they have to think about it, I sell it while they’re off thinking, and they come back to buy it and get pissed off at me.

Jeez, lady, go vent your spleen on someone else. Florida’s been kicking my ass enough already.

Besides, I’ve got cookie cutter art to make.

Bits of Wire, Lots of Beads, Some Reptiles, and My Posterior

10 02 2012

Ever heard the expression “ass deep in alligators”?

Funny how the alligators found me before my trip to Florida.

When it rains, it pours.

Feast or famine.

Hackneyed phrases aside, seriously, the life of a self-employed artist is kind of like that of a hungry person. You always remember being the up-and-coming artist, and with that little shrine of memory involving an empty piggy bank, empty fridge, and choosing between art supplies and ramen noodles occupying a back corner of your brain, well, let’s just say it’s hard to say no to anything that could possibly further your art career or get your name out there in a good way.

It’s even harder when you’ve suddenly won the “Miss Popularity contest” out of life’s lottery. I make knitting accessories, which I rattled on about two blog posts back, in horn tooting, because I had just been asked if I was okay being mentioned in a knitting podcast. Like a snowball rolling down a mountainside, my little knitting accessories are suddenly the hot thing. I’ve gotten orders from two other podcast hosts, and at least one of them may put a good word (and hopefully a link!) in for me on her podcast. It’s set to air next week… which means at T minus 4 days and counting for the Florida departure, my world has narrowed to an alarm clock, chocolate, bits of wire, lots of beads, and feeling like I’m up to my ass in alligators. After all, when stuff is selling out of my online store at a rate that I can barely keep up with, and I have 8 hour days at the studio that involve work other than knitting accessories… well, you get the picture.

As with anything, there are silver linings. In this case, my rampant case of helium hand disease (otherwise known as the inability to say no) has resulted in a staggering amount of income (Well, staggering to me. I’m sure Donald Trump would be singularly unimpressed…) in a short period of time. Each little set of knitting accessories sells for between $11 and $20 and I end up paying roughly 10% of my gross in fees between my online store and paypal. So I’m one podcast in at this point, potentially two more podcasts to go, and I’m not worrying about how I’ll make my studio rent the next two months.

I’m also finally (finally!) losing weight. I’ve been pretty good about keeping my New Year’s resolution, managing to only fall off the bandwagon when it involves chocolate. (Hey, it’s about the only damn vice I’ve got in my life, and trust me, there are worse things I could pick. Speaking of which, thank you Constance for the single-serving chocolate cake recipe.)

Anyhow… if I haven’t talked to you in awhile, or you get my answering machine when you call, please understand.

An alligator temporarily ate it.

T Minus 10 Days

4 02 2012

and counting…

I head to Florida in 10 days. Not that I’m counting obsessively, mind you. (Yeah, right…) They really need to make a calendar app for Iphones where you can have the alert level vary depending on the importance of the event. A screen full of fireworks and an exceedingly loud klaxon alarm, for instance, when you have an event of Very Much Importance in your life. I’d set the dang thing for every day with a “T-minus X number of days and counting” message and then put a list in my reminders for what I need to pack that particular day, because right now, I’m sort of distractedly packing when I pass something in the house or studio that I need to take with me. I’ve got a good memory for that sort of thing, so when I go to do the final packing, I’ll be able to look at a box and tell you what all is in it, even if the items are all only peripherally related, but I have this sneaking suspicion that actually packing in earnest will make the stress dreams slow down or subside a bit.

Unfortunately, since most of the final packing will take place when I actually have the trailer (It’s at the trailer dealer still getting D-rings installed so I can lash some of my cargo against one wall or another), I’ve started a three page long spreadsheet to help me remember everything I need to take when I finally have the trailer in tow. I’m a Virgo, which means lists and anal-retentive little places to check things off of said lists. And stress dreams. Did I mention stress dreams?

Sigh. I love working for myself (love it, love it, love it!!) but I’m not so enamored of the weeks where it feels like I’m so far behind that my ass is starting to look small. (And that’s saying something…) And this whole month has been like that. I’m still sticking to healthy eating (best as I can), but everyday, it’s been gettin’ harder to keep from yelling at the top of my lungs, “Pass the damn chocolate!”

Horn Tooting

31 01 2012

Okay, well, I’ve been told that I’m not very good at tooting my own horn, nor am I a fan of doing so, but really, this is so cool.

I was contacted by one of my etsy customers last week. She has a blog, called WexfordKnits where she talks about all things knitting both in her blog, and the podcasts she embeds within said blog.

This week’s episode, called “Pumpkinheads” is on stitch markers. Rebecca’s going to be comparing and contrasting several varieties, and, um, she really likes the way mine are made, so she’s going to be saying good things about my work. (For those people that know me well, I am in fact blushing while I type this.)

What’s a stitch marker? Well, since part of the point of my blog is standing on my soapbox about educating oneself, I’ll give you a pass this week (instead of my usual game of “follow-the-links”.) Stitch markers are things (tiny bits of drinking straws, a bit of yarn that doesn’t match your knitting project, wire wrapped bits and bobs, etc.) that go around your knitting needle and are a visual way of marking a place (like a bookmark) so that you don’t have to count ridiculous amounts of stitches, or remember where your Aran sweater pattern changes. (The photo directly below is of an Aran sweater, and the arrows point out the crazy pattern that you do not want to have to keep track of in your head. All of the other photos in this article are of my stitch markers.)

As long as I’m kind of blowing my own horn, since I am a self-employed artist, yadda, yadda, yadda, if you have someone in your life that knits something more complex than scarves, chances are good that they use stitch markers of some sort. Mine are pretty and located here.