Sunday, September 27, 2009

a marriage of two parts

It usually comes together at night, my best ideas. I had time to write this all day, but how to bring together the day's medical emergency and a new table delivered to the shop late Friday? I just couldn't do it, all afternoon in the ER. I'm tired. I started in on the Sunday New York Times, reading about design and creative people. Then it hit me: that table, my husband's emergency. The gestalt: good marriages of any two things necessarily endure rough spots. Wow this is the good idea? Hang on. When it comes to design projects, Rick, my husband and I work well together. I had this great old 1940's Detroit sign advertising Christmas trees for $1 and I wanted a table made out of it. We agreed it needed to be simple but the thing was big and getting the scale and leg shape right took a few meetings. You are looking at the picture and saying huh? Yeah I know, four legs, we need meetings? Ok so we do a lot of things on the fly: I ask his opinion, ignore it, he gets irritated and forgets what I said, we start all over two weeks later, I've changed my mind, nothing is drawn still, he sorta gets what I want, weeks goes by I forget about the whole project and then suddenly it shows up in my store. I love it. This is evidence of working well? This goes for well in my book, I've done this marriage thing before ok? Yeah, I know four legs, a sign, whatever...The deal is I never get over how great I feel when I see that idea realized. I fall in love with the man, that genius, all over again. So maybe this isn't the design he would show you as evidence of his talent. But that sign was face down in the dirt. Now look at it. Speaking of in the dirt. About that emergency. Rick is allergic to bees, the deadly kind of allergic. The bees are everywhere this time of year. We had a false alarm 3 weeks ago at the country cottage 20 miles from the hospital. He decides to plant bushes amongst the wild flowers today, same country cottage. That genius. So there I am rushing to the fire station, again. But this time he's got 4 bee stings and gripping the epi pin and not yelling at me to go faster. He's looking white, I dial 911. The emergency team shows up...big beefy men in t-shirts smelling of fried bacon. They remember him from last time, the gardening enthusiast from the city. There's no mistaking the dirty wellingtons, smelling of dog shit. He's all layed out on the sidewalk. I get to explain how he can't help himself, he's on the beautification committee. Would have no clue about the sports teams on their t-shirts... What's not to love? It's good enough for me. Make that perfect.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sabbatical dream

I should be going to bed, instead I'm up late searching for an opportunity to go on sabbatical. You know, the kind for people with no money who want to go somewhere fabulous with their kid, house sit some tuscan retreat, paris apartment, spanish hacienda...poke around for interesting objects or projects, in short not a vacation of sight seeing and shopping but of doing and learning. I mention this to my kid and pretty soon he has his class (and their parents saying) "we heard you were moving to Spain!" So I guess "we" are putting it out to the universe that we want to go on a sabbatical. I met with a marketing consultant today and discussed the need to expand my reach and the limits to my marketing ability on top of running the show, finding the stuff, designing, parenting, homemaking etc. Indicators point heavily towards the internet and my figuring out how to find more business and bring it to me. Well then if it only requires a laptop, couldn't I take my show on the road and work from a remote location, say overlooking the Seine? Is anybody around that remembered those days when we flew on $200 plane tickets to France and enjoyed 7 francs to the dollar? I could actually make money outta what I brought back in a suitcase (or 7). My travelling partner Lulu and I would write, draw and cut and paste a newsletter on the flight home, make a few phone calls et voila, instant sell out. While everything's changed, some things remain the same. I got wanderlust, some of you still want interesting stuff and a good story. How about we sleep on it, see what the universe provides..

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Digging Mondays

I use to ruin my Sundays dreading Mondays so when I had my own business guess what day I had off. Mondays are often digging days, which is the best part of my job. I go with my friend Jon who knows every square inch of Detroit and also has Mondays off. This Monday we were on a last minute hunt for the movie set of Red Dawn. They wanted 16 old woodend crates, the kind produce comes in, to make a wall-mounted shelving unit. My goal with the movie industry is to be the "go-to-girl" for off beat vintage/found things. Jon's my secret weapon and has an encyclopedic mind of cast off stuff and where it all is in the city so naturally he knew just where to find them. We headed to the Southeast side. If you ask Jon the destination is just down the street, from my point of view it was waaaayyy far away, but the drive through the city always turns up some other treasure or happening that makes for good adventure and reminds Jon of some entertaining story. I had just been turned onto the most amazingly good and cheap produce store, Randazzo's and when we cruised by one of it's locations, well we had to stop. If you didn't know, Randazzos must be one of the oldest Detroit family-owned produce sellers. The turnover of product is amazing. The set up is simple. Produce is piled up on hand-built wood tables painted green. There's stuff you've never seen or heard of like Jujube (some kind of Asian plum that's sour). The customers are from 22 countries atleast making for fantastic people watching. We both left with 2 bags full of stuff for a total of $15.00. Find out where the closest Randazzo's is and check it out. It's old world Detroit at it's best. Pays to dig.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Relationships Keep Me Going

It wasn't in the business plan, but the reality is it's relationships that have made and kept my retail operation solvent over the last 12 years and through a fair share of recessions. Take this day in the life. Starting at 9:30am last Friday my friend Jeff Newsom, social networking wizard, creative genius and all-around jump-in and get-it-done-kind-of-a-guy came over to help unload a truck. Longtime Indiana antiques dealer Amy Wheeler of Butter Beans antiques is setting up shop upstairs at The Heritage Co. and we needed a man on the job. Unloaded inside of an hour, I had a call for an emergency color consultation at 10:30am so I left her and Lisa to organize and took off with my client to choose some paint colors. Those little jobs lead to bigger ones you know, in the meantime it took the pressure off my client (and bought me lunch). Once fortified, Amy, Lisa and I got to know each other as we rearranged and admired the new wares. Shazam! The magic of fresh stock and new vignettes. That energy is a magnet and I swear as soon as you move something around, it all looks new. A designer expressed interest in a few new items so rather than wait for them to find time to come in, I took advantage of all those bodies hanging around and loaded up some choice new bits and drove them up to his office in Birmingham. 2 out of 3 ain't bad! I left with a check and headed back to the ranch. Knowing those girls would be hot and bothered from all that schlepping, I stopped for cold drinks (and appeased my guilt for getting out of the moving job). Friday afternoons are all about the regulars and they can always tell when a truck's been unloaded and the drinks are flowing. Lots of laughs, a few good design ideas hatched and the prospect of much more with our new tenant on board. It doesn't take a lot to keep me going; fun people to work and play with and a little business. Just now, that's a good thing.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Just when I thought everything good was going to be exported out of Michigan, lo and behold signs of life in Detroit! Yours truly initiated a holiday weekend save and at the ninth hour, (literally packed and on their way to market in Brimfield Massachusetts when they were whisked off to the client's home at 6:30am Sunday morning) these museum-quality architectural "porch kitties" were purchased for a private residence in Metro Detroit. Lifesize, these sheet-copper lions come with quite a story. They were originally on the front of a 1920's mansion in Stevensville, Michigan, owned by a sheriff. Not necessarily thought of as the sort of career leading to high living, this particular sheriff however just happened to live in Al Capone's cottage community. You'll make the same connections we did...According to Richard Gage, who had the lions in for repairs to split seams in their feet and tails, the lions are made in the Italian-style and likely made by Italian craftsman either in Italy and exported or the craftsmen were brought in and made them in Michigan. The lions are menacing to be sure. It's amazing to me that up close you can distinctly read anger in their eyes and this rendered in sheet metal! We didn't know until Rick had them on their backs that hidden deep in their mouths were light sockets. I can only imagine how that must have looked, with these scary big lions on the porch, their open maws blazing, Yikes! You weren't on the porch in that neighborhood without an invitation and the lions were the least of your worries. I guess it's only fitting that they ended up in Metro Detroit.