Sunday, December 27, 2009

We All Start Somewhere

A friend of mine back in Maputo makes beautiful jewelry in her spare time, but despite her obvious talent for and enjoyment of the craft, was embarrassed and incredibly reluctant to show me her work. Why? Because she thought her work was too novice, that it would perhaps be laughed at or dismissed by an "advanced" jewelry artist like myself. Ah, if only I could infuse myself with her perception of me every time I am nervous about my own work...

I told this friend there was absolutely no reason to be ashamed of her work, that we all start somewhere. I showed her the photos of some of my very first pieces, and apparently they were enough to put her at ease. From that moment on, we had a great time showing each other our work, and I ended up leaving her the bulk of my glass beads when we moved away from Maputo.

This interaction reminded me of how important it is to remember our journeys, both to appreciate our progress as well as to remain humble. I look at the first booth I ever set up at a crafts fair and part of me wants to cringe, while another part marvels at how much I have learned over the past 4 years.

When I think about doing exhibitions and fairs here in the US, however, I am reminded that there is still so much to figure out, so many tweaks and adjustments to make, so many logistical and aesthetic hurdles to overcome. At least here it is easier, in the sense that there are companies specialized in exposition booth displays, you can buy tents and tables and cases and whatever else your heart desires to showcase your work.

In Maputo, it was such a challenge. I was basically working with a tablecloth and buletin board for the first year or so. It was like guerrilla fair-participation, working with whatever was available to create the best show possible despite severely limited resources.

Once I was accepted to show my work in the National Crafts Fair in 2007, I knew I had to step it up. I had a client of ours who was a woodworker design some custom displays for my jewelry. They were heavy and bulky, but a great solution for my needs.

Still, it was tricky to do these fairs because the organizers wouldn't allow the participants to bring their own tables - you had to fight it out with the other artisans to get a assortment of oversized wooden blocks and mismatched planks with which to "build" your own stand. My friend A. really saved me last year, because I got the worst set of wooden pieces imaginable. With her background in fashion design and mechanical engineering, however, she was the ideal woman for the job and managed to create a really cute and functional booth for me.

Today I am getting ready for a new phase in my work. My own website - complete with e-commerce functionality - is almost ready to launch. My task today is to write the text for the site including my artist's statement, biography, a bit about the materials I use in my designs, my shop policies and more.

I've been wanting to take this step for so long, but wasn't able due to the restrictions of living in Mozambique. Without a mail system, there really is no reason to put the time and effort into creating a website because you can't ship anything or order new materials. On the flip side, those same restrictions really pushed my creativity because I was forced to work with what I had, to find new solutions, to think outside the proverbial box. It was a very valuable time, for sure.

I'm off to get some tea and a piece of the delicious lemon curd cockaigne bars that I made a few days ago in hopes that the caffeine and sugar will inspire fluid writing. It's been quite the journey thus's to the next step!


Jo Ann v. said...

I love reading about your evolution in your craft ! :-)

david santos said...

Hello, Ali loca!
Happy New Year 2010.

--jenna said...

Congratulations on this new step, Ali! You've really encouraged me to take my hobby to a new level, and I'm constantly inspired by the work you do. I can't wait to see the new website!

laundrygirl said...

Nice custom made display pieces! It's so true - we all start somewhere, that is if we have the courage to take the leap! I can't wait to see your website!

Ali la Loca said...

~Jo Ann - It's fun to write about, actually. Sort of like a pep-talk for myself. :)

~David Santos - Thanks, Happy New Year to you too.

~Jenna - Let me know how the next steps go. You've got great work already, and I'm excited to see what you do with the new Brazil gemstones. Força!!

~Laundrygirl - They were great display pieces. Shame I had to leave them in Mozambique. The cost to transport them here was many times their replacement value. I suppose that means I'm in the market for a woodworker!

Marcia said...

Hey Ali

thanks for the reminder. I sometimes also get discouraged reading about all the "million dollar coaches" but you're right - there is a journey to all careers.

I love those wooden displays. Thanks for sharing your work!

P.S. I bought the domain, organising recently. After you "named" me, I had to do it :)