The Faire-y Files: Mum’s Proposal

22 09 2015

For those of you who’ve never met me at my day job, there are two facts you need to know so that this reads correctly (as this tale is really the first written chapter in what I hope is a collection of weird but true tales from Faire.) First, I have a rather thick Scottish accent, so bear with me, but I’m going to try and write my part in the farce (for farcical it seemed) as I sound in real life (even though that’s a big “no-no” in professional writing).  I think it’s funnier if you can “hear” me that way.

The second fact is that after selling my glass art at Renaissance Faires in a multi-state area over several months of the year for the past 7 or 8 years, it’s a rare day when something happens that hasn’t happened before.  I’ve seen Storm Troopers in kilts, I’ve seen King Arthur and his knights clapping coconuts and riding stick horses, and I see a guy swallow fire every day I’m at work.  (In fact, I try not to land in front of him in the parade we have to walk in because it makes the back of my neck super hot and prickly feeling when he pops off a fireball.)

Me at Work (photo by Gary Coates)

At Work (photo by Gary Coates)

This weekend had a “first” in it though.  I got proposed to.  By an older Italian lady …for her son. I was chatting with a trio of people -the lady in question, her husband, and her son- in front of my booth. I don’t remember what they were eyeballing (it’s irrelevant) but the conversation went something like this:

Lady: You have an accent.  Where are you from?

Me: You have an accent.  Where’r you from?

Lady: Italy

Me: Mai accent is from Scotland.

Lady: You married?

Me: If you’re asking fer you, while I ‘ppreciate the enquiry, I, eh… I like boys.  I don’t date girls.

Lady: NO! I’m asking for my son. (Points to son, who now looks like he wishes the universe would swallow him into a hinterland of darkness so that this conversation may be over with and he may die with dignity.)

Me: Eh… If your lad doesnae have the bones to enquire for himself? Then that’s a definite “no” straight-out-the-gate.  But I thank you for your interest.

Lady: (Addressing her husband, while pointing at me.) I like her!

Me: Besides, both the boys and the wee kids that folks offer up as payment or in trade are nivver the ones you want to be takin’ home in the first place.  It doesnae work out.

Lady: Gimme your card.

Me: Only if you’re gonna buy something.  I’ve no wish to be wooed over the internet.  I run a small art business, which is verra similar to having a cranky, non-verbal toddler that eats all mae money. I’ve no time for a husband.

At this point she grabs my hands, and looks at them.

“Heh!” She chortles. “No ring! You’re available.”

“No,” I reply “Lack of a ring means naught.  Have you ever worked with glass?” I turn to the husband and the son, asking, “Can ye picture getting wee bits of glass down under a ring? No thank you! Besides, lack of jewelry doesn’t logic’ly imply an unmarrit state anymore.  This is the 16th century.  For all you know, there might be a simple marriage contract pinned to the wall of mae house.  And I refuse to allow you to infer on my pairsonal life based on complete supposition and a five minute acquaintance to boot.”

Lady: (Again, to her husband as an aside) I really like her. I love her accent.

Me: Pah, I hear that every day.  If only I could collect a coin for every time I hear that. My wee house would be paid off. Maybe I should start a “proposal jar” like a tip jar, but you put a dollar in and I can say something funny. Or tell a joke that involves sheep.

At this point the son starts literally dragging his mum to the other side of the booth, away from the scene, because some of the other customers have stopped their perusing to watch us, heads popping up around the booth like a herd of small mongooses sensing either humor or impending fisticuffs. I’m not sure which, so I chalk it up to another Weird Thing At Work, and drift toward the folks that actually look like they might be interested in buying a glass thing.

My Booth (photo by Terry Belles)

My Booth (photo by Terry Belles)

The trio continues to browse, and about 3 minutes later, the son actually expresses an interest in a piece.  We discuss it briefly.  I mention how one-of-a-kind most things are, and he insists he “must think about it.” I start to hand him my card (it’s usually how the “I hafta think about it” dance goes) and then smiling, pull it back out of his reach for a moment.

“Here’s my card,” I explain. “But so as I’m verra clear, I’m handing it to you because we’re discussing my glass.  There’s no subtext, hokay?” He blushes and takes it, looking at his toes.  I then whisper conspiratorially, “Good luck with yer mum. She’s a corker.” He grins, making sure his mum can’t see, and he starts to walk away.

However, his mum isn’t done.  She’s spotted the card exchange (although she’s too far away to have overheard the sotto voce part. I am, after all, a pro.) She turns around, quicker than I would have believed, snatches a card from my top shelf, winks at me, and darts out of the booth to join her men.

I just shake my head and go back to the job of selling my work.

The Battery Life of an Introvert

26 08 2015

Yep. All this. To quote a friend of mine, “I thought I was fairly introverted… And then I met Molly.”


I know that a lot of my extroverted friends struggle to understand my introverted nature. Despite an attempt to explain this in my ‘Dear Extroverts‘ post last year, still they are confused. And so, after a recent conversation with one very extroverted friend, we came up with an analogy. Being an introvert is like being a mobile phone.

Let me explain.

Think of an introvert’s energy supply like an iPhone battery. Different levels of social interaction drain the battery different amounts. 4G results in an excessive drain on battery, 3G leads to quick loss of battery life , general use will drain the battery slowly, airplane mode won’t take much battery life at all, and charging gives back energy previously lost. Pretty much every situation and every person fits into one of these five categories…

4G – large crowds of people we don’t know. Think house parties, networking events, basically anything which…

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“Not Going” is the Story of My Life.

17 08 2015

This is a rant. Kind of. It’s also an explanation. Kind of. So if swearing offends you, sod off and go look at a nice kitten video or something, because my blog is probably not your cuppa tea.

Because I am out of fucks today.

Because I get really tired of people asking me if I will be at their “thing“. Anniversary, party, wedding, SCA event, THING.

Because I’m tired of people trying to guilt me into attending something.

Because I get tired of missing every damn weekend thing that happens for six months of the calendar year.

All that being said? No, I can’t be at your thing if it happens between April 25th and October 10th.  Notice I didn’t put a year in there… and that’s because my schedule is cast in stone, oftentimes up to a year in advance and NO I cannot miss a weekend of Ren Faire to be at your thing.

I am lucky enough to make my living being a full time glass artist, and often, when people buy something from my booth (whichever booth that may be at whichever Faire or medieval event I may be attending) they are combining a material purchase with an experiential one.  Anytime my physical body is not in my booth, my sales take anywhere from a 15-40% hit.  Sometimes at my good shows in one really good weekend I can sell more than 10% of my annual income. (Take a minute and apply that math to your own annual income and visualize some thing you just got invited to…)

Attending your thing could cost me a comma in a paycheck, because my physical body is not in my booth. I’m in no way a gambler by nature, and I’m certainly not going to gamble my paycheck to attend a thing in a sea of things, many of which I already wish I could be at.  Some of which I cry over missing.  Some of which have hurt friends and family when I’ve told them, “No. I can’t be there.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 6.42.37 PM

In case my argument needed more fuel to the fire, consider that (because of my awesome customers) I am now lucky enough to own a couple of permanent booths in a couple of Faires.  Ren Faire property ain’t cheap – I’ve owned vehicles that have cost less than one booth – but at the end of the day, my “property” sits on land owned by a Faire… Which is not a comfortable place to be discussing why I won’t be at Faire to attend a “thing“.  God forbid, and I hope it never happens, but if I have to miss a weekend at Faire, I want it to be for a dire emergency, and not cash in my accumulated karma points to go to a thing.   If that weren’t enough, I have (in some cases) an actual clause in my contract that states, “The artist must be present X weekends of the 2015 (or whatever year it is) season.” Failure to do so can result in my booth being seized and while I have excellent legal staff, I’m not brazen enough to get in a dick-wagging contest just so I can be at your thing.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 6.40.36 PM

It’s not an ego thing – In my deepest and most secret place in the back of my head lives the little girl who loved to color rainbows everywhere as a child, and she cannot figure out why people flock to her glass booth.  Because I’m the person I am (with what I believe to be a slightly underdeveloped sense of ego if I’m accurately understanding what my friends and colleagues tell me) I’m too shy to ask what brings people in. And while I love meeting new customers, and seeing repeat customers, my favorite thing to do is just make glass art with my headphones in. And occasionally talk to my dog.  That’s my thing.  The nuts and bolts of how I facilitate a paycheck from my favorite thing is why I will not be attending your thing.

New Things For… Some Point

4 10 2014

I wish I could say, “ya, hey lookit all the new shinies I’m gonna rock your winter with…”

But art glass R&D is slower than that.

It takes me several days (if not weeks, and sometimes months) to muck around with a new idea until I have the hang of it enough to make it in a timely and cohesive fashion.

So poke me if any of these is on your holiday list, as I always, always, always try to get stuff that people want to buy immediately done faster than say, some random idea I’m farting around with. The photos are uncropped/unaltered btw because I’m a lazy sod, dinner is almost done bubbling away, my office is chilly, and I wanted to just throw this out inta cyberspace while it was fresh on my brain.

1) Bacon Suncatchers.


The funny part is that I haven’t eaten pork in roughly 20 years, and I really don’t see what the heck the fuss is about bacon.  That being said, I had a commission for a slice of bacon this past year, and boy did my views fly up.  So now that I’ve got the “recipe” nailed, I should just make more.

2) Spike magnets for the Atlantian Contigent


I made one of these bad boys for a friend.  She’s AwesomeSauce personified when it comes to web stuff, so of course, all of the Kingdom of Atlantia knows about them now.  (Coming sooner than some other stuff fyi cause I have the quirks of this particular glass cutie worked out already!)

3) Agate Slices in Wind Spinners


My wind spinners are kind of an homage to keeping a greener footprint as a small business.  The big glass chunk in ’em is made from scrap glass (which is why you kinda get more bang than you’re really entitled to for your buck.) They get kind of similar looking though if I make too many at a clip, or when my supplies are unchanging. So the other week, I was talking to a rockhound buddy (I was querying after agate slice prices, which ended up being straight out of my budget unless I wanted to raise my prices significantly on my spinners.) But he mentioned this little nugget of info: agate slices (like glass) sometimes arrive broken at their destination.  “And then what happens to them?” I wondered.  So I contacted one of the huge agate importing folks in the US and asked if I could buy (cheaply) broken agate slices of a particular size.  I got a green light and a good price, and (long story short) I think broken pieces of agate fit the overall theme and feel of my spinners, and you’ll be seeing the agate additions to them by next Renaissance Faire season, if not sooner. I am also not likely to run out anytime soon.  The gent I talked to who deals in agates was thrilled to do business with me, as he has a 44 pound (yes you read that right) box of busted bits, most of which I can probably use.

4) Naughty Magnets, Part Two.

I have a lot of naughty friends, and I’m no paragon of puritude myself… so on the lousier (read raining) days at Faire this fall (of which there were several, let’s just be honest and throw that out there) we came up with new things to put on naughty magnets.  Here are the winners so far (although feel free to suggest others!)



Awa’ An Bile Yer Heid (It’s Scottish.)

Naughty/Nice (With Naughty and Nice inverted from each other so whichever you put at the top is readable, whilst the one on the bottom is not… To be potentially sold with a back so that one can wear it as a brooch. ::grin::

5) Some Sort Of Challenging Thing Which Has Not Been Thought Of Yet

Something new.  Something challenging.  Suggestions taken.  Please don’t suggest glass windchimes though.  I let other people make those.  Glass windchimes have a real kinda icky tinkly sound (rather like glass breaking) and I can’t see not freaking having the sound of breaking clanking glass happening in my booth… not even for the spirit of retail.  Anything else is fair game.

So When I say I’m Busy…

10 09 2014

I had to explain to a friend why I wouldn’t be at her _____  this weekend.  I’ve been surprised several times within the past year to see people’s expressions when I explain what “busy” means to me, but as the universe seems to find it funny to keep redefining what “manageable” means in my life, the expressions on people’s faces indicate that they and I perhaps define “busy” a little differently.  So for example: last weekend between Thursday and the Tuesday that followed it, I put 1Snuugly Cat148 miles on my car driving from southern Ohio to Michigan back across Ohio to Pennsylvania, and back via a different way through Ohio to home.  That’s like driving from New York City to Tampa Florida (I just checked it on Google.) In the midst of that 1148 miles, I worked 8 hours on Thursday, 4 hours on Friday, 13 hours on Saturday, 11 hours on Sunday, 11 hours on Monday, 4 hours on Tuesday.  I felt kinda lucky on Tuesday night actually, cause I decided to nap for a whole two hours rather than make more glass related things to sell.  My cat had other ideas, so I ended up reading the artist Marrus’ book, called “Lightsurfing”.  It was fabulous, and I can sooooo relate to her thoughts about people, art, selling art, and the weird world that sucks you in while selling your art.

Her book not only made me feel “normal” for an artist, but it gave me some new ideas, and in the state that I’m in (which would be a wee bit ragged at this point) I know why people do drugs.  Really I do.  There’s a part of my busy season (which is happening right now if the title didn’t clue you in) that I get so ground down that my filters fall off, and somehow that frees all the worldly concerns and allows my creative side to take flight.  It could also be because I do a lot of driving this time of year, and for whatever reason, long drives seem to be one of the few places where my brain goes into hyper pattern recognition, ideas flow, (thank gods for Siri who takes weird but acceptable notes for me) and things click together in new ways.

I still think that this weekend may have been totally absurd in its own right…. because first off, I got

Upstaged By a Grasshopper

I was standing at an oblique angle to the “Cadillac” piece in my booth at the Ren Faire, and three ladies IMG_4344walked in, pointed to something in my booth and said, “Wow! It’s huge!” (For the record, the lantern in the photo stands a little over 2 feet tall, so it is huge, and I couldn’t logically see what else they would be pointing at.  I mean, my booth itself is kinda small – 9 feet 3 inches per side to be exact, so the lantern in question is definitely “the piece of wow” in my booth. I proudly exclaimed, “Let me show it to you in the light!” and held up the lantern, door ajar so the glass shone true.  One of the ladies corrected me. “No,” she said, “We were talking about the grasshopper.” I looked closely at the tall part of my checkout stand (which has two tiers, the lower of which the lantern was on) and see a pretty good sized specimen of grasshopper sitting there, taking in the view.  I kind of laughed, and said, “Well the noise you hear is my artistic ego deflating.” They chuckled, but clearly the grasshopper was unimpressed.  I swear he looked at the three ladies like, “Why are you guys laughing? She’s not as funny as I am! Watch this!” As we stood there watching him watch us, he wiggled his tail section, which looked like moveable miniature armor plating, and out from it shot a grasshopper turd.  Admittedly I’ve never seen a grasshopper take a dump before.  His timing was perfect.  My three potential customers looked at me, looked back at the grasshopper,  made a collective “Eeeeeeew” face, and left like greyhounds in pursuit of a rabbit.

More Fecking Wildlife Doing What It Shouldn’t Where It Shouldn’t

I went to put more salt in my softener today and noticed… a dead mouse.  We’ve had a run of them lately, (Mice, not dead mice…  Well, I guess actually it is a run of dead mice if you count that I keep finding them in my mousetraps and not in exciting places like my water softener.) I don’t know where they’re getting in, I don’t tend to leave food out… but I do live in a ranch house that’s over a crawlspace.  And it’s a foreclosure, which means that there are probably mouse colonies that have years on me in terms of who’s been the longest tenant here.  I keep filling holes as I see them, around pipes and vents and stuff, but until I stop catching them in traps? Well, let’s just say the traps will be out and filled with nummy peanut butter.  My first thought upon seeing Ralph S Mouse floating in the drink was, “Oh holy feck I’ve been drinking the gorram water with mouse poop and dead mouse in it.” And promptly thought about vomiting.  My second thought was, “Holy shit my arm’s too short to reach the bottom of the softener tank and fish it out.”  Enter a stick, bleach, one vomiting episode, a shop vac, one phone call to Kenmore to ask exactly how much bleach one can put through said softener and not damage it…  Needless to say I didn’t get my full workload done today.  Some things just take precedence…

Praying Mantid And Another Reference to Vomit

(According to my friend Tamar, “mantid” is the plural of “mantis”).  It’s a weird thing to be trying to describe in a blog, but for those of you with a well-defined spiritual side, praying mantid seem to come along whenever my business is expanding in a “Oh, please don’t let me vomit during this ride” kind of way.  So it’s good, but scary. Like a roller coaster.  The last time my business expanded like this was about five years ago, and I think I spotted 3 different mantid that fall.  I’m seeing trends in that direction again.  It’s cool but scary.  And it means that I’m so busy riding the roller coaster that other things happen…

I Should Go Buy a Lottery Ticket Because I Didn’t Get Arrested In Wal-Mart

When I’m this busy, I just naturally lose weight.  I put high calorie food in my mouth whenever I remember, get extra cream and sugar in my coffee (just for the extra calories), and at one truly epic (and cold) Ren Faire season in Ohio, every weekend we were open I would make hot chocolate in the mornings by melting a Lindt bar and stirring in cream or evaporated milk until it looked like a mug-full.  But yeah, weight loss happens.  I also tend to run short on clean clothes this time of year, so I end up wearing the dregs of my wardrobe (ya know, the stuff that never gets pulled out unless you’re desperate.)  The pair of jeans I wore to WalMart were too big, and although they fit when I initially bought them, they didn’t really fit anymore by this past weekend.  And I neglected to pack a belt because I hate wearing belts unless I’m in garb.  (I can’t explain it, it’s just a weird quirky thing, ok?)  And I wasn’t wearing knickers because, well, I miscounted the correct number needed for the weekend, and dear god I just wanted to buy my crisps/potato chips and whole milk and get back on the road… (No I didn’t say I eat well during shows season, I just said I eat high calorie food.) So the poor folks at Wal-Mart were getting treated to a rather stellar eye full, cause I was wearing a stained and ratty old tee shirt, pants that were clearly too big for my current size, hair that looked like it had seen better days, and I could smell me because I’d been driving all morning in a truck with no air conditioning and it was 87 degrees out.  And sunny as hell.  I think I inadvertently clinched the “Dear gods is she a meth-head?” in the rheumy eyes of the wizened WalMart greeter when I stood outside the automatic door for five minutes (waiting for people to stop going in) so I could get a photo of this:

IMG_4352If you can’t read it, it says, “LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAVE – Please make sure children are not left unattended in vehicles.” Now, I don’t have kids, but really, if you feel like you have to post this on the door of your business, I think that perhaps you may want to reconsider the demographic you’re marketing to.  In other words, I actually fit in okay while shopping there the other day.

But the pants.  Luckily the aisle was empty when I reached up really high to grab the chips I wanted.  I think the security camera was either not on me, or it was a horny guy watching, because, well, when you reach high, your stomach flattens out.  And  my pants had a wardrobe malfunction.  If there was someone on the camera at that moment,  he (or she) got a fairly solid look at at least 2 inches of “more-than-I-show-to-someone-who-isn’t-living-with-me”.  At least I didn’t get arrested. Although I did remember standing in the dairy aisle that I should grab a can of metallic spraypaint to touch up some lanterns I acquired that needed a little TLC.  That clearly changed the greeter’s opinion from “Meth-head” to “Huffer” when she saw me walking out with my booty cause I refuse to bag shit I can just as easily carry… Sigh.

Children Shipped In From Hell

I don’t know where the kids came from at the Faire this past weekend.  I think hell was running a special. “Buy one hellion, get one free!” (Or something like that.) It was so bad that other vendors were asking if the kids were particularly bad around my booth.  (I’m the glass artist on the row. I think that’s the Ren Faire equivalent of the litmus test when contemplating child behavior “en masse” on any given weekend.) Nothing got broken, but it wasn’t for lack of trying by the anklebiter set.  I actually yelled at a kid this weekend.  (For anyone that’s seen me at Faire, I can’t remember in my 10 years of doing this of ever yelling at a kid).

Kids are impressionable, and frankly, although I’d hate to lose a piece, I would always rather compliment a kid on being gentle with something (particularly if they’re not quite hitting the “gentle” mark, but haven’t yet actually connected with a shot that puts it into “Danger Will Robinson!” territory), as it makes their parents react in a non-defensive way.  And if you’ve ever worked retail, Ren Faire is guerilla retail – it’s high octane, super fast paced, and the sheer number of people is staggering.  On a good day, depending on the faire, the gate count can vary from 8,000-20,000 people.  I don’t want someone remembering my booth as the place where their kid got yelled at.  It’s just my philosophy, but in my opinion, our primary goals are to a) sell stuff) and b) make sure people enjoy themselves enough to not only come back, but bring their friends.  Word of mouth and all.

Seriously though, I stopped one little girl from having a swordfight with my Tardis lantern, another kid from juggling some of my magnets in my booth, one child from pulling on my hanging stuff like he was practicing for an epic cow milking experience, and another pair of kids from fencing with sticks in my 9 foot 3 inch booth. (Half of which is taken up by my product, so there ain’t a whole lotta room to maneuver while dueling.)  I had more offers than I can remember ever cumulatively in one weekend from parents asking if I would “take their kid in trade”.  My standard reply is that the ones that get offered up so quickly are never a good deal in the end.  As Wallace Shawn’s character in the Princess Bride says, “It was inconceivable.” (And I know what that word means.)

And Then The Universe Rights Itself

Near day’s end, this guy came into the booth with his daughter in tow.  Dad looked frantic.  Little girl was weeping.  Dad asked, “Have you seen a clear crystal pendant anywhere?” He points to little girl’s neck, where there is a string and a clear dent in the string where a pendant recently hung.  Now, at this particular faire, I don’t tend to bring my workbox with me – nobody in 3 years has asked for french hooks instead of posts on earrings, and my booth is tiny.  There isn’t a lot of room for spare bits that aren’t for sale.  I asked the standard, “Have you checked Lost & Found?” He replied with an affirmative, and so I asked the next logical question, “Do you remember where you got it?” Dad shook his head no.  (Meanwhile I”m kind of swearing inside because I tend to over-engineer my products so that someone has to really try to lose them. If the little girl lost her new pendant within a few hours of getting it, I can only imagine what sort of clasp was on it… I’ve done my homework, and I’ve strolled around to see how other people do it.  Ego aside, I don’t like to make stuff that won’t hold up. And it frustrates me when other people don’t make their stuff to a high standard.)  So I said to Dad, “I don’t have the same type of pendants, but I have my box of crystals with me, and nobody should lose their treasure at Faire.  Faire is supposed to be fun!”  I pulled out my crystal box, and while little girl was ensconced in looking, I asked Dad in my sotto voce voice if $2 was okay, since that’s about what a crystal runs me. Dad gave me a thumbs up and a huge smile, which tells me that a) he paid a lot more for the first one, and b) made me swear inside all over again about ethics and quality and stuff. Little girl pointed to the one she wants, I made a wire hanger for it, and all is repaired.  At this moment, Dad reminds little girl to say thank you (she had been completely non-verbal to this point).  Little girl grabs me around the waist and hugs.  Dad shoves a wad of cash in my hand.  Day is saved.

So in thinking back, I realize that I’ve done this faire for 3 years now.  I have never had my workbox with my crystals with me at this faire.  I get weird inklings sometimes.  Stuff I’m supposed to do, places I”m supposed to be… supernatural stuff, and when I’m in my busy season, I don’t tend to recognize them when they happen. Stuff just happens.  So here’s the math: Even considering the odds, and the number of days I work this particular faire, that puts my having my crystal box with me (actually with me in the booth) at a 1:21 ratio.  Weird huh?  Cue Twilight Zone Theme.  Fade to black.  Good night folks.

Glamorous Fecking Lifestyle

26 08 2014

Warning: My filter flew out the window somewhere in the 727 miles I drove since Friday morning at 5 am.  Therefore this blog article is likely to be disorganized, rambly, and probably contains more than the FDA’s daily approved number of swear words. 

If you don’t know me personally, you might as well push the back button on your browser as this is really a love letter to my tribe.  Ya know, the Village that raises this Artist. So if you don’t actually know me, or we haven’t met personally, that’s not to say you can’t read this… I just don’t know that it will make a whole lot of sense.  I’m okay with that.  There are plenty of other bloggers, blog articles, and hell, even back pages of mine you can trawl through if you are That Bored.

There comes a point every September when I pretty much look at my life, swear a whole bunch, and ask, “Why the FUCK do I do this job? Why? Why? Why?” (This is also the time of year when some well-meaning person announces in my booth that “Your job is so glamorous! What a glamorous lifestyle!”… which is ironic on a level that only O. Henry could dream up.)  This time of year usually involves tears or banging my head metaphorically against a hard object, because for six weeks I juggle two booths in two Ren faires in two different states of the union.  The good news is that they both have the same tax rate (thank Gods) or I’d really be losing my cheese.  The bad news is that I never get a day off between the middle of August and the first week of October, and I generally work 80-100 hour work weeks, drink too much coffee, and put about 1000 miles on my car weekly. I’m carving time out to write this because I feel like it needs to be said.  Count your blessings and all. to

Why I do this job is because there are parts of it I love.  Being able to eat whatever the hell I want and not gain an ounce this time of year is a pretty cool benefit, all things considered.  But seriously, WHY I continue to do this job is because it takes a village to raise an artist.  When “the artist” crumbles (always this time of year, and generally no other, with little to no exceptions) my Village steps in and tapes me back together so I survive until October.  When I get a day off. 

This year has been particularly noteworthy both in its extreme ups and its extreme downs.  There wasn’t a whole lot of middle section in my sine/cosine wave diagram, in other words.  We call this the “yay, fuck” syndrome.  Happens a lot when you work for yourself I think.  Example: “YAY!” We sold to the walls this weekend.  “FUCK!” I have three working days before I have to reload the car and have enough stock for whatever things we particularly sold out of for next weekend. 

Further examples: Yay! I own a house. Fuck. It took 5.5 months to close and I moved in freaking February.  (Do you remember the week of -6?)  I do.  My fingerprints are still growing back because I have never had the skill of moving glass with gloves on.  Over 500 square feet of glass.  In February. 

But I own a house I own a house I own a house!!!!!

Also: One of the two serious guys in my life (who generally functions as my stock runner this time of year) totaled his car last week.  He is okay, (YAY) and it wasn’t a wreck that he should have walked away from. Literally.  (Yay he is OKAY, yay, yay, yay ad nauseum.) But now I am my own stock runner for All of the Things this time of year. With my time already crunched by trying to make All of the Things.  (Fuck.)

See what I mean?

So when the credit card system went down at one of my booths this weekend, I about lost it.  And it feels too early to be losing it.  (Please may all the elements I’m pulling together please fix it for this rest of the run because I can’t lose another paycheck, amen…)

So here’s the thank-you’s that need to go out to the crazy-ass Village I’ve assembled.  They are jn no particular order and I apologize to those at the bottom.  The list is freaking EPIC this year, ok?

Elliot: Tech support the week before DragonCon, TN and ALL of the phone therapy.  I love you. 

Marc: All of the Things.  From tackling the dinner monkey more times than I can count to quoting Twain at exactly the right time.

Ian: for understanding me enough to know my phone forgets to dial out, unknotting all the sore spots, and an epic photo of a motorcycle dog.

Josh: for motorcycle dog.

Katla: Venison, loving me because of and perhaps despite myself, and Wookie sitting.

The visitor from Toronto: for fixing what I couldn’t, and therefore I will be forever in your debt.

Mom: phone calls and offering to help my friend.

Dad: phone calls.

Emmy: care packages that involve lots of chocolate.

Mr. Katla: a much-needed lesson on peripheral vision, and wookie sitting.

Mz LIzzie: Please don’t ever quit.  I really don’t think I could do this without you.

Mz Sarah: Guerilla retail sucks, and I hope you stick with it.  I couldn’t do this without you either.

David: Roses are lovely, and yours are always well timed. As is the coffee tradition and the knowledge that I can leave you at the dinner table without you being angry with me.

Milissa: Coffee and the loan of your handyman.

Ed: Being the handyman on loan when I freaked out about the floor.

Wayne: Fixing parts of the damn floor.

Linden and Emma: Ice cream and chick time.  I’ve always been good at the first, rarely at the second.  Appreciate the assist.

Sammi: Wading thru the Charlie Foxtrot that was “that” show this year. 

CJ: 7 am baby.  Let’s do it again next year but at a different time.  I had a freaking blast.

Fuzzy and Denise: Coffee.

Jane Huff: kid wrangling and food delivery. 

Kelley S: Use of your couch, and the general care and feeding of a Rennie.

Cloud: Helping in a capacity I don’t have the ability to repay right now. 

Brian “the Chessboard”: For being patient with my art not happening the way I would wish. 

Melissa R: offer of a couch, and helping unload the truck

Adele: reorganizing the truck.

Amy H: I really thought I had it covered this year.  Thanks for having my back when that changed. 

April M: wookie sitting.

Rob Z: Vehicular problem-solving. 

Lori H: For going to bat for me if needed because the car ate my stock. 

Mz Switzerland and her tipsy companion: For stating what you did and the hugs. 

Katryna: learning how to talk to people this year.  And the dependability of the fact that you know my schedule better than I do.

Vlad and Tommasa: For staying up late at night for random acts of glass, and thereby allowing me a huge range of options for stock this week because, well, this week just sucks. 

The deity(s) responsible for me having tiny pieces of good fortune all day yesterday that made this week look quite not so insurmountable. 

If I forgot anyone, I apologize.  Hugely.  I don’t do drugs, but this time of year my brain has limited RAM, too much coffee, too many to-do lists, and therefore functions as if I am on drugs, including but not limited to high margins of error and rambling.

Love you guys.  My bitchy boss is demanding I go work more now.  Ain’t quitting time yet.

Combat Calligraphy (aka the Fine Art of Making your Text Fit)

21 04 2014

I apologize in advance to my regular subscribers, this post is actually information for several people who have requested it.  Lacking somewhere to put it with enough detail to actually be helpful I stuck it here on my blog.

Laying out lines for calligraphy can be a righteous pain in the butt, and it’s not uncommon for new calligraphers to put in all the lines and then figure out that their text won’t fit.  So here’s the method I use (your mileage may vary) when I’m doing combat calligraphy. It’s quick, it’s a bit weird, but in about 10 minutes, I can figure out how to make my text fit on the scroll blank I’ve got in front of me.

First, put in a small grouping of lines that are correct for the nib and hand you wish to use.  I use an Ames Guide, but I know a ton of people who just do it by measuring the nib and extrapolating line heights from there. I end up with three lines for each “row” of text, so that I have a space for my ascenders, a space for all smallcase letters (a,c,e,m,n,o,r,s,u,v,w,x,z typically) and a white space, 1/2 the height of which is usually reserved for descenders. I’ve labeled the groupings in the photo below with -1, 0, 1, 2, etc.  I generally draw out about 4 rows (or 4 groups of 3 lines), and begin my scroll text on my line marked “1”.


Don’t draw out any more lines yet- if you’re off on how much room you need, you just end up erasing a lot of lines. 

Step two is to write or type out your scroll text (I use an index card typically) as it will actually be callig’d, and if you write it, keep your handwriting consistent.  That’s super important.  Also write out things like “Anno Societatis” and rather than using Roman numerals for the year, write it out.  (Example: forty-eight, rather than XLVIII.)  Also write out the date so that 14th becomes fourteenth.  Check out the example below to see what I mean, but for now, ignore the stars.


Okay.  Next step! The only scroll blank I had lying around is the one I used below, which starts with an “F”. Pretend it starts with a “D” for our purposes, so that the first line of text would read: “Do you hear that King… etc. etc.” On your scroll, pencil in the first line of text, meaning whatever fits on the scroll in a rough approximation of the actual hand you’re going to use.  My big fat bouncy penciled letters are a super quick emulation of the Uncial hand.  (See the photo below.) I probably could have fit King John’s name on the line too, but it’s always better to overestimate the room you need for text in my opinion then run out of room.


Here’s where the stars come into play.  If on my scroll, I can fit what I did – “Do you hear that King” on the row labeled one, I need to measure an equivalent on my written out text.  So if those 5 words measure 2 cm or 2 inches or whatever, then I put some delineation (like the little rows of stars) throughout my written index card. (See below.) If my measurement lands in the middle of a word, I put my stars before that word begins so that I’m not potentially putting half a word on a row.  (Again, overestimation is a good thing!) The idea is that after I measure out my index card text, I can count my little stars and figure out that I’ve got 12 rows of text total.  I generally add one extra for good measure, bringing my total rows to 13. 


At this point, I measure one row (or a set of the three lines needed for my ascenders, smallcase letters, and descenders) and determine approximately how tall a row is.  (I use cm for this measurement as it’s super easy to use a calculator since metric is based on 1/10’s.) Measure the height of your available area for text and double check that you’ll have enough room for your 13 rows.  If there is no way that your text will fit (as in, you end up more than 2 lines short) you may still be okay if the illumination doesn’t run all the way to the bottom of the text area, because that means when your left margin shifts to the left (at the bottom most edge of the illumination) you’ll gain a little space to jam another word or two onto each line.  If that’s the case, then sketch in whatever row of text would conceivably land there, and shift your measurement on your index card accordingly.  If after doing that, you’re still running more than 2 lines short, then erase your lines and choose a smaller nib. 

If you’re close to fitting all the text on the scroll, but you’re ending up with no “wiggle” room, NEVER FEAR! You’ve got a few options so that you don’t have to redraw your lines.  First, bump your starting row of text up to the “0” mark (as shown in the photo below) and if the white space still looks okay starting your working a little higher on the scroll I mean, and that gives you enough room, great! Draw in the rest of your lines and callig away. If that’s still not quite enough room, then chop all the numbers etc. back down to their shorter counterparts.  Example being: fourteenth becomes 14th, “Anno Societatis” becomes A.S.


You’ll have to re-measure out where your stars or tic marks go, but I keep two brightly colored Sharpie markers in my kit for this reason – so that I count the number of little green dots rather than stars.  If it still doesn’t quite fit, remember you added an extra line “just in case” and so if you need to, revert your number of rows back to the twelve you actually need for the text and see if that fits.  

At that point, you’re good to go.  And the best part is that you’ve given yourself an actual row by row draft of what text should be fitting on each line, so you can check that you’re on target at the end of every single row. 

Last but not least, remember to factor in some sort of space for the royalty to sign.