10 Things I Learned From Vending at My First Festival.

purple festival tent

I can say now that I am no longer a festival virgin.  I was initiated in a big way this past weekend and am still recovering from it.  Here is a list of things I wish I had known beforehand.

  1.  Make sure you have a reliable, dependable back up team.  I didn’t and was miserable.  Be very clear in communicating expectations and needs.
  2. Getting to your site can be an irritating problem.  I had to deal with equipment and trucks blocking the way and roads closed that were said to be open.
  3. Rethink your footwear.  I thought my faithful old hiking sandals would provide enough support.  Nope.  I was barefoot most of the day as a result.  Your feet may swell, especially if you are outdoors in the heat standing up for most of the day.
  4. If you need electricity be prepared for extra charges and the need to cover up your drop cords due to state law.  I am going to look for battery or solar-powered fans for  the next outdoor event.
  5. Don’t post your prices in a proominant place.  Even though mine were consistent with those of other vendors for the same thing people would stop, read my sign, and walk away not bothering to look at what I offered.
  6. Take a mini first aid kit. Include headache and stomach remedies.
  7. Carabiners work better than zip ties for some things.  You will need a hand truck or cart on wheels.
  8. Other handy items include extra tarps, trash bags, paper towels, hand sanitizer, bug spray, and sunscreen,  clothes pins, painter’s tape,and a box cutter.  A portable cell phone charger pack is a requirement.
  9. Sports drinks and electrolyte placement if outdoors in the heat is extremely important.  Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  Don’t skimp on salt.  Bring your own cooler full.
  10. Make sure your online presence is up to date before the festival.  I had been sloppy about maintaining my social media sites.  People would take my card and go home and look me up.

 

Overall, my first festival was a positive experience.  I didn’t make a lot of money, just enough to cover my entrance fee, but the lessons learned were priceless.  I was in tears often over the kindness of strangers and the camaraderie among vendors.  I made some great connections, met wonderful people I want to stay in contact with, and  have begun to refine my craft techniques as well as what I will be offering in the future.

 

Planning and Sorting

We have been quiet, but busy.  Today was for planning and sorting.  We have more dying to do in the next few weeks to get ready for our very first festival.

Here is a sneak peek at what we will have to offer at the Historic Morganton Festival in Morganton, NC on September 7 and 8.  Look for us on the courthouse lawn.

Tie Dye Zen

tiedyezen

Tie dye is a good metaphor for my life.  I think I can control it, but I can’t.  Not really.  I try, but it does its own thing.  I can fold and tie garments to create certain patterns, vary colors and thickness of the dye, and attempt to create what I see in my head.  Nope.  It rarely happens.  The dye will travel on the damp cloth to unexpected places, colors will blend and break at odd times.  The final product is always a surprise.   I have found that people and life events act much the same way.

If you are of a meditative frame of mind, tie-dye is a good exercise in letting go.  When I am on the cushion watching my breath I never know what is going to come up and what I am going to have to face just as I never really know how my tie-dye will turn out.  I often start out with a shirt and an expectation of the finished product. I often enter into a meditation session expecting/ wanting a certain outcome.

I plop my butt on my cushion, set the timer, and settle in and hope to come out of my session a little bit closer to enlightenment.   Most often I end the session with numb feet as memories and emotions surface and the monkey mind chatters away.  I focus on my breathing, counting breaths, and suddenly discover I have lost count.  I start over and over and over.  Sometimes I end the session crying, other times laughing, often merely relieved that I got through it.

Dying can be like that.  The studio in the garage can be uncomfortably hot and dying is a messy proposition anyway.  I fold and tie a shirt, plop it on the rack over the sink, pick up a bottle of dye and apply it.  Sometimes my hand shakes, sometimes the dye comes out of the bottle too fast or not fast enough, sometimes I am distracted by other things and put the dye in the wrong place or pick up the bottle of dark blue when I wanted black.  I prep a certain number of garments to dye in one session and I set a timer for the number of minutes I want to meditate.  There are days when I get to the end of the stack and am happy it is over because the dye, like my thoughts, was not doing what I wanted it to do.

Just as the effects of meditation will carry over once your session has ended, dyed garments have to “cook” for a while in order for the dye to bind with the fibers.  After the “cooking” period the garments are washed out to remove excess dye. Life events can “washout” the endorphins produced by the meditative state.  Dying creates permanent changes to a garment and regular meditation creates permanent changes to the brain.  Both processes are sloppy and messy and emotional.

The chaos in a dye studio is not obvious to someone buying a shirt at a festival and the chaos of meditation is not obvious to someone who is not on the cushion.  Colorful garments flapping in the breeze do not seem to have anything in common with a blank-faced someone sitting still.

But the process is the same.  I have to let go of my expectations of what the combination of dye and fiber will do as I have to let go of the emotions and memories that surface when I sit and my expectations of what life will bring me.  There is peace in that. Giving up the constant need to control what is happening, whether it be in dying or human interactions creates enormous freedom and makes room for boundless joy.

 

Tie Dye for Aries

 

Here are a couple of shirts inspired by the astrological sun sign, Aries.  The heart is a Fruit of the Loom crewneck size XL, the arch is A FOL crewneck size S.  $20 each.   Look for them on my my online store.  The reds on each shirt are deeper and less orange than appear in the photographs (Reds are a bitch to shoot, just saying).  The designs are on both the front and the back of the shirts.

Aries is the first sign of the zodiac, symbolized by the Ram and ruled by the planet Mars. In traditional western astrology people born from March 21-April 19 are generally considered to be Aries people and may exhibit the general characteristics attributed to that Sun sign.

The time for Aries is the beginnings of Spring in the northern hemisphere.  It is a cardinal, positive, fire sign symbolized by the Ram and traditionally ruled by the red planet Mars.  The Earth is warming up, the days are growing longer, hibernating animals are waking up, plants are starting to sprout and bud.  People are recovering from cabin fever brought on by the confines of winter.

Aries can be explosive and sudden, passionate and intense.  Think of the mythological god, Mars, who took no shit from anyone.  Aries rules the first house of the chart; the beginnings of things, the self, the ego.  The Ram will lower his horns and charge ahead at full speed. Look for the people in the room who are goal oriented, outspoken, take-charge types; assertive, loyal, commandos who may seem to be self-centered but do not hesitate to slay any dragon that threatens those they love.  Chances are there is a prominant  Aries in their natal chart.

If you would like to know more, contact me privately.

Wild Spirals

wild spirals

Health problems and weather have finally given way and I have been able to get back into the garage and start experimenting again.  These are “warm-up” shirts, exercises in color mixing to get back into the groove.  Plans, oh, do I have big plans now!  The challenge will be to get the images into my head translated into fabric.  I have started to  name my custom colors mixes after friends who have made particular requests.  In the mix up there you will find Zim’s Purple and Tom’s Yellow.  Let’s just hope my notebook survives the splattering.  I still have Technicolor hands.

These are what is left of the last batch of 6.  I am flattered that friends grabbed the others before I could photograph them.  The one on the far left with the big red spiral is already spoke for but the other two are available for adoption.

Middle shirt, purple and green, Fruit of the Loom me’s size large crewneck.  $25 includes shipping and taxes.

Right shirt, dropped spiral, FOTL men’s V-neck size 2x (I think it would be fun as a woman’s sleep shirt) $30 includes shipping and taxes.

PayPal only.  freakflagdyeco@gmail.com

Fly your flag, peeps!  Full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes!  Much love to all of you.

 

Finally Back At It

blueombre

This is an experiment, not a production piece but I am finally back at it!  It is exciting to see if I can make the shirt that is in my head.  If it turns out the way I want it to I will write down what I have done and do it again.  In the meantime, I have an appointment in a couple of hours and will show up with bright blue hands. *Shrug*. . . . after all, it IS the Equinox today and I often make jokes about painting myself blue on high holy days.

Happy Spring, ya’ll.  Stay tuned.

A Question For You

profile pic

Oh, best beloveds, I need your input concerning marketing, etc.  Any and all constructive criticism will be very much appreciated.

The header of this blog is also the front face of my business card.  I added the definition of Freak Flag from Urban Dictionary in order to explain my thinking behind the name.  It is also a reference to the song from the musical, “Shrek” and a nod to a favorite  tune by Southern Culture On The Skids.  On the back of the card above my contact information it says “Fly Your Flag.”  My intention is to encourage people to not be ashamed of or hide who they are but rather to celebrate and embrace our differences, to boost self-esteem, and add a little fun and joy to the mix.

A much younger friend recently schooled me on some of the darker, kinkier, street meanings of the word “freak” and suggested the phrase, “Recreating Individuality” instead of “Fly Your Flag”.

I kind of like it, but need some input here.  I am out of touch with popular culture in a lot of ways largely due to my age (64) and lack of interest.  I don’t have the developmental issues the most influential up and coming age group has now.  Been there, done that.

But I also need to sell stuff.  Already I live in a very conservative rural area and do not sell much locally, thus the push to develop an online presence.  I have been on the receiving end of some negative remarks about my company name and motto, but for the most part people around here just don’t seem to understand it.

Speak up, please.  Share your thoughts.  As long as you are not intentionally being rude I will welcome anything anyone who reads this has to say about marketing and branding.  I am already part of an online group concerning this, but I would particularly cherish input from my readers.  I feel I have a closer connection with you.

Many thanks.

Spring!!!

kite

We are finally having beautiful weather here.  It comes in spasms, but there are more gorgeous days than wet and cold.  Over the weekend friends and I wrangled assorted kids,went on a picnic,and decided to teach the kids to fly kites. I sent someone into a store to buy them for the crowd and this is the one they chose for me.  I hung it in the studio both for inspiration and as a memento of a wonderful day with friends who love me.  It may not stay there long, however, as everyone had a blast and I am sure we will be doing it again.

A Question For Those Who Read This

colorwheel

Facebook is no more as of a few minutes ago.  I am not sure when or if I will go back to it.  I have never been a big fan of Tumblr and am on the fence about Instagram. It looks like Pintrest will be my distraction of choice for the next little while and I am not sure how long that will last.  Here I am trying to learn to be an entrepreneur and I am sick and tired of ads being shoved up my nose every time I turn around.  Capitalism is not my thing in spite of trying to sell my work.  Marketing and self-promotion are not my strong suites and I shy away from people who are aggressive self-marketers.  It was one of the many reasons for leaving Facebook.

I started this page as a business page, as a way to sell the stuff I dye.  It seems to have turned into more of a personal blog and I am wondering if I should continue to combine the two.   I love color, am fascinated by combining and blending color combinations and by how it effects people’s emotions and moods. The graphic at the head of this entry is an example.  I don’t agree with the astrological data (the colors match the seasons but not the characteristics of the signs) but am intrigued by the word associations with the colors. (Apologies to whoever I stole this from.  If you don’t like it, contact me and I will take it down.  I found it in a random internet search ages ago.)  I am also an advanced amateur photographer (most of the pics on the blog are mine) and an avid gardener who particularly loves flowers.  So if you want to talk about color, I am your person.

A more business savvy friend of mine said that people like to have personal connections with people they buy from.  I have never considered that.  I know I am more inclined to take my business back to people I feel connected to but I never considered using that as a business strategy.  I am known as a galloping extrovert.  I have always liked people and am fascinated by their stories.  I would like for the clothing and yarn I dye to be a reflection of the people who wear and use it.  But using my people connections as a sales gimmick feels manipulative to me. Nothing pisses me off more than an insincere salesperson.

So, what think you, dear readers?  Please chime in. Should this blog stay strictly business and sales?  should I set up another blog for thinking out loud? or is the combination of the two acceptable?  I wonder if it might be a little confusing.

Can’t Escape The Irony

handsandshirt

 

Here I sit in the wee hours of the morning with my cup of faux coffee and buttered toast wrestling with the demons I am sure every “artiste” and creative type  encounters in their careers.

I am a fledgling entrepreneur who is close to deleting my Facebook and Instagram accounts.  Why?  Because I am overwhelmed with advertisements and self-promotion.  The “likes” and “follows” I receive on my accounts don’t seem to be because the people behind them are interested in dialogue but because they want to sell me something or garner “likes” for their own pages.

Sure, I want to sell my stuff, too.  But I don’t want to shove it in someone’s face every time they sign online.  I want to “like” and “follow” other accounts because we have something in common and can communicate about what we do, not because accumulating signs of approval boosts my ego.

I need to sell my creations. I need to create a market for what I do.  But I don’t want to be cynical and manipulative while doing it.  I like fiber and color and pattern so here I am slinging dye around, making tie-dye clothing in a world dominated by dark colors and ironic slogans.  On-line marketing, SEO, hashtags, etc. are a foreign language to me.  The learning curve is steep.

The world seems to be running on algorithms these days.  They are everywhere.  Not only in marketing and sales, but in all the service professions.  No one seems to know how to connect with others in an open, genuine manner any more.  The pressure to do more with less to keep the greedy stockholders happy has reduced the amount of time people have to be more than meat robots.  You want to offend me?  Treat me like just another step in your memorized algorithm.  I will get cranky and obnoxious in a heartbeat and do my damnedest to jerk you out of your robotic responses.  Who would you like me to manifest?  Robin Williams, George Carlin, Andy Griffin, or the evil witch of the West with the flying monkeys?  and I easily recognize jargon.

I am working with an online group that is helping me formulate a business plan.  The questionnaire I am required to fill out is intimidating.  What is my mission statement? Hell, I don’t know.  I make for the joy of making and hope people like what I do.  I want people who use my products to enjoy them, have fun, and feel loved.  Is that enough of a mission statement?  I am not out to save the world. Chip away at some of the gloom, maybe, but not lead a revolution.

And what percentage do I expect my business to grow in the next year? I don’t know that either. I will worry about it when it happens.  Right now I am concerned about materials and supplies to create enough product to sell and finding people to buy it. But I don’t want to get so big that the hand-produced aspect of the business is lost.  And people I have approached to sell to can get cheap rip-offs made in China for much less and toss them away after a few months instead of using them until they wear out.  The shirt I am wearing in the pic at the top of this article is my very first one ever, the one that started me on my journey, and it is now 8 years old.  The one I am wearing in my profile pic is one of my experiments from the past year and is the representative of the direction I want to go with my shirts.

I don’t know how to answer these questions in the same “corporate business speak” language the originators use.  I am afraid to distill my work into spreadsheets and financial projections because that will take the joy out of it, but reality raises it’s ugly head.  It is part of the not so fun side of running a business.  I am already very broke and trying to do this, if I don’t control cash flow I will just be more broke.

I find myself up against the Wal-Martization of the culture and the pitch to the lowest common denominator; the sad complaint of creative types for centuries.  These days hand-made objects are luxuries and the provenance of people who have the time and money to indulge themselves.  Skills that were once a part of daily life are now dominated by privileged white people, usually retired, and the competition among them is fierce. I have rarely seen locals or POC at Master Gardener events or fiber conventions.  In the town where I live the social and economic problems are such that survival is the focus and anything beyond that is viewed with suspicion, so I don’t sell locally.  Not yet, anyway; though I am not discounting the possibility.  When I first started I couldn’t give away my work here.  I hope that as the town grows and groovies up a market for my kind of thing may develop here. There are new bars and entertainment venues popping up downtown as people migrate here to escape higher costs in the big town on the hill west of us.

I don’t mean to sound bitter and angry,  I am more puzzled and groping my way in the dark.  So much of this blog has become a place for personal venting instead of for my business that I am considering starting a separate one for kvetching and keeping this one strictly for sales and marketing.  Any and all advice or comments are welcome.

Stay tuned.