Friday, July 28, 2006

Beads and Baubles and a New Friend

Today I participated in my first ever crafts fair. There were about 40 participants (I was the only non-Mozambican craftsperson), and the fair was held in the most spectacularly beautiful building - easily the prettiest place I've seen in Maputo so far. This space, called Café com Letras, was once an art gallery and was full of colored walls, tilework, wrought iron shaped like women and sunbursts covering the windows instead of the standard-order bars, and even still had a great collection of paintings by local artists on display. Café com Letras apparently is no longer used as a gallery - or for anything really, as far as I could gather - but I take it as a very positive sign that at least these crafts fairs are being held there.

The fair itself was held in the courtyard, where several rustic huts provide shade. I set up my stand against one of the walls, with a girl selling candles and soaps on my left and a guy selling batiks on my right. Here is my table, full of earrings and necklaces and bracelets.

Unfortunately, since the crafts fair wasn't advertised and it was a Friday, not many people showed up. I'd say that in the 7 hours I was there, about 25 people at the most wandered in to check out the artwork. Many people were complaining about the slow pace, but I was okay because it gave me a chance to chat with people and get to know some of my fellow craftspeople.

And do you know what? Despite the poor turnout, I sold something! Several things, actually.

A couple of Italian girls came by and bought a long shell and turquoise necklace, a pair of dangly earrings with round onyx beads linked together with spiraled silver wire, and a necklace and earring set made of sage glazed ceramic beads, silver discs and lime green glass beads.

A Mozambican guy with a guitar strapped to his back came over and asked if I had anything for men. I responded that my jewerly wasn't gender-specific, and that anything he liked could be worn by a man. This guy was really interested in my stuff, and finally settled on a necklace consisting of a Murano millefiore glass bead nestled between 2 bits of silver on a black leather cord. Honestly, I would have never picked this particular piece as the most "masculine" of my collection, but it thrilled me that this guy was totally up front about the fact that he was buying jewelry for himself. He even asked me to help with the clasp so he could wear the necklace out on the street. I was so excited to have this guy as my customer and had to bite my tounge not to cheer him on and be like, "You go, man! Represent alternative lifestyles in Mozambique! Buy whatever jewelry you think is pretty and don't let anyone tell you otherwise."

Then my new friend T., who is an American working in private sector development here, came by and bought a pale blue and lilac necklace and earring set. I was especially happy that T. ended up with this particular set because it had a big glass bead in the middle of the necklace I'd handmade using lampworking techniques.

All in all, I sold $75 worth of jewelry and - after buying lunch, paying for my taxi, and purchasing a beautiful batik from the guy in the booth next to me - brought home around $50 profit. Not anything astronomical in terms of sales, but I am satisfied and, most importantly, I survived the day without my self esteem taking a pounding.

I received compliments all day long on my work. People tended to describe my jewelry with the same words - elegant, refined, minimalist, tasteful, good quality. It was so validating to hear this feedback, even though I felt like some of my fellow craftspeople checking out my work were giving me the olho grande. I have to say, since most of my pieces are made with silver, semi-precious stones, handmade glass beads and crystal, they do stand out a bit from the rest of the stuff at the fair. Not that other peoples' works of art aren't worthy and beautiful in their own right, it's just that (as you read in my other post) materials are really hard to come by here. Most people take advantage of what is available locally and make rustic creations using natural fibers, seeds, wood and, in some cases, cheap chinese clasps and costume jewelry. I feel somewhat bad about having the advantage of access to materials in the US and Brasil, but on the other hand my prices are considered high so I don't sell the same volumes as the other fair participants. Maybe it all evens out in the end...

In other news, I am off to Nelspruit, South Africa tomorrow for a day trip with my friend T. and her boyfriend. They are taking their car to get fixed and to go shopping, I am going along for the ride. T. is someone I have known (of) since moving to Maputo, but we've never really had a chance to hang out. Now that I'm here alone, I decided to be proactive and invited her for lunch yesterday. We went out for Thai food and ended up having a fabulous time. I can now say that I have a friend in Maputo!!! T. is American, but just like me she has a multi-cultural background and has lived all over the world, including Angola and several other countries in Africa. It was priceless to hear her admit during our lunch that she feels isolated here in Mozambique and has struggled to make friends (even though she has a local boyfriend). I think we validaded each others' experiences and learned that we're not alone in the ups and downs of living in this place.

So, in the name of friendship, I decided not to participate in the fair tomorrow despite the fact that 2 TV stations filmed today and there should be a load of people coming through tomorrow. I can always do another fair. A day trip to South Africa with a new friend, however, is not to be passed up!

9 comments:

la vie en rose said...

yeah for the craft show...yeah for inviting a new friend for lunch...and yeah for a roadtrip tomorrow with your new friend...and yeah for those times when we learn we are not alone...

Rrramone said...

You go girl! Good for you for leaping into your adventures. :-)

deirdre said...

I did a crafts fair about 23 years ago and still remember how much fun it was. It takes an amount of courage to put your work out there. Sounds like you had a great experience. Have fun tomorrow - today? - you've probably gone and come back by now. The time difference is hard to remember.

Alina said...

Congratulations on your first fair, Ali! Your jewelry looks amazing, as always! I will have to come down there to get me some :D Oh, and have fun visiting South Africa!

Safiya said...

Your jewellery looks so nice.
Maybe you should start doing international orders. I'm sure you'd have a few customers here.

Have a great time in South Africa, I'm so happy you found someone to spend time with.

_+*A Elite in Paris*+_ said...

Hey girl, selling anything on the Internet????

paris parfait said...

I'm not surprised that you sold some of your beautiful creations! I'm glad you had such a positive experience and made some good contacts for future fairs. It's really great that you've found someone with whom to commiserate and have lunch and do fun things together! That's important in a place like Africa. Enjoy your trip to SA!

Susannah said...

hey sweetie - congrats on the sales - i would love to see some of your jewellery - could you post some pics? they sound gorgeous.... and i loved reading your answers in the post below - so good to get to know some more of your beans x

Kristine said...

I am glad the fair was successful ! It is indeed an act of courage to put yourself out there. Hope your trip and lunch with a new friedn went well. As someone else already said, I ope you'll post some pictures of your jewelry.