Sunday, November 28, 2010

One lap at a time

It always starts with the first lap,"ugh..36 laps, it's too hard, I wish it was over." I say this practically everyday. I go to the pool, I complain, I swim the 36 laps, I always feel better afterwards. It's a ritual, complain, swim, complain, whatever. Another of my many charms. Ha! Taurus, does that explain it? Stubborn, it's frustrating but it's not all bad. The huge mess from New York, two weeks later, that's another hard one. The shop, that one with no retail hours, has to look a certain way, impossibly time consuming because I have this involved process that requires moving and removing the same things and it's heavy and there's a lot of stuff. Ugh, my patient husband offers to help me the day after Thanksgiving. I work through it, he lets me grumble, moves it twice, says nothing, what a saint. Perfect, I'm chasing my tail. He's an artist, how well he knows the process. I want the store to look as beautiful as that booth, I want that feeling to come home. It isn't going to be the way I see it in my head, not on this day. It's Thanksgiving weekend and I have invited my mailing list to come by and see all that great stuff I talked about. Plus, people person that I am, I miss them. I know, I know, no more retail hours, but it's about balance and this is how you find it, by trying something new, in small bites. Staying with a narrative, not finding out what happens at the end of a story. Adjusting and readjusting. I open the door to my imperfect world Saturday and promptly break the first rule of sales; apologize for the mess. But you know what I've consistently found? My customers don't see it that way. They love the hunt as much as I do. They like digging and poking and finding a surprise. It's a bright menagerie of interesting things to their fresh eyes, and though I worried they wouldn't, they did come. Though I worried they wouldn't shop, they did. As one new customer said to me, it's like the white fire surrounding the letters of the Torah. Magic happens around the words, in the interstitial spaces and margins of what isn't spoken, seen or planned and holds an important key to life. I wanted to have the perfect shop I had in my head, and it was perfectly imperfect and me, I just don't get that it's ok that way. I expected familiar faces from my list, but most of the ones I saw were new and just happening by. I was a little disappointed at first and then these great new people came in and what a wonderful unexpected feeling, the store still draws new people and with them fresh energy. You aren't suppose to say anything that isn't positive, but I can't help but tell them, my business model is messy. It isn't necessarily a bad thing. I got what I needed, the shop and I are o.k. just the way we are. And then a few familiar faces came in that made my heart smile, like long time antique dealer Jim Secreto and designer Steve Knollenberg, who let me know that what I write, mattered to them and that they thought my new business ideas were good. Yes, I'm not mainstream, the show circuit sounded crazy because it is, but beneath it they understood that it's my passion and they admired my strength. Jim said go back to the Pier Show, be myself wholly, and don't flinch. And yes, I need to balance the hard work required with the quiet acceptance that it's time for something easier, like making better use of the internet and asking for the help I need. Ultimately, it's the only way to make my business and my life better, and the life of those I love and the people I have the privilege to do business with. I could go on, but I think I've made my point. More importantly, I haven't made it to the pool yet today. 36 laps, boy will that feel good…just as soon as I finish. By the time you read this, I will be there and be glad.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Kitchen Accomplished (well almost...)

Always happens, a job to finish just before a big holiday. This time it's client chef Dave Mancini and his kitchen is under construction and it's Thanksgiving. Of course he's cooking. He lives on Woodward Avenue, the route for Macy's big Thanksgiving Day parade and he's having brunch roofside for 20 people or more. It's not like we didn't know he didn't have a kitchen or that he would probably want to cook in it on Thanksgiving. No actually, I stopped production on the big piece, stainless counters, to jam a bunch of projects through for the Pier Show in New York. I think we can do everything! Or, we work well under pressure! Or I just want it all! The scary thing is it's all true and we get a lot done, actually we got it all done. (And now we are really tired). So here's how it all works. I cajole/encourage/beg/bug daily (ok, twice daily): Richard Gage Design Studio to fabricate and install 22' of stainless counter; Royal Oak Plumbing to install a sink, disposal, faucet and dishwasher and carpenter/electrician/all around handy guy Jim Linck to make, finish and install a cabinet. I also have to keep Dave reassured and calm amidst the chaos of having his large kitchen ergo his loft all torn up for weeks. Sometimes the little things mean a lot. Ahead of the big production, I send my crackshot do-anything colleague Amy Nolfo over to do a deep clean and organizing project. Just cleaning and getting stuff put away will make Dave feel better and his hectic life easier and the additional clean up later will be minimal. My plumber Bob Tourtillot is a prince, he had already rigged for Dave a temporary sink as a favor to me, it's a little insurance just in case we have to throw down plywood and call it a kitchen should everything fail. Yes it's busy and I'm stressed about getting it done and pleasing this client. But here's what's easy, here's why I love this job. I am working with clients who appreciate what I do and know I am doing my very best to achieve their goals. I am working with a team of skilled professionals that I have been working with in some cases for nearly 20 years. I believe in maintaining good relationships. These people know I will call them for every new project that comes up. Loyalty pays. You reward honest, good work, you pay the fair wage. You don't nickel and dime people, in the end you lose and save nothing. It comes with experience and time and I learned it the hard way, and I learned it but good. So it's the Tuesday before Thanksgiving now. The counters are done, with extra details and top quality stainless that will stand the test of a serious chef like Dave. The sink, faucet and dishwasher are in, who knows who Bob put off (and let me know about it) but by golly he fit my job in. Jim Linck, is the calmest zen all around skilled guy who has everything ready for the plumbers and will wait for Bob who is running late and has zero time to waste. The best pizza in the city is waiting for me as I bring the key to Dave and I get that bonus I've been waiting all day for, the heartfelt thank you. I also get to be one of those people with a ringside seat for the best parade, at the best brunch, in this city with a big heart, on this day of thanks. Detroit. It has my loyalty.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bad Company and I Can't Deny It

It's a good thing I like 70's rock, cause that's all you get besides country and pop on a commercial truck rental radio. I'm bad company all right, hammering the 12 hour drive straight to Detroit, sailing through New York am rush hour drive, you know I think I fairly own this town. I'm on a mission (fueled by adrenalin) and I'm gonna use all that time to figure out how I actually make New York a regular working location while still doing business and maintaining a normal family life in Detroit. I feel so good, I'm actually pragmatic about the whole dismal return from the show. I figure it's a cheap PhD in building a new business. I did my job, created a booth I was proud of and passed out cards. All good, that is until I finally stopped, literally had to lay down on my packing blankets on the gravel in front of my shop. Oh my God I am so tired. While I was riding high on New York, all the harsh realities of Detroit and all my responsibilities at home were waiting for me. Can a middle-aged, albeit high energy, mother actually do this and not take prisoners? Of course something has to give and I couldn't drop the regular retail store hours fast enough. I'm a little impulsive, I send this newsflash out last week in between the standby flight and the next day drive out to New York. Nobody's gonna catch me and talk me out of this decision. I confess I felt a twinge not being there this first week, but then I had to stare at all that mess from unloading and more hard labor. Oh sure I'm gonna do this again? now? not! It's gonna take me a while to catch up with my own self. I'm beginning to understand that this transition will be slower and harder than I want it to be. When you are raised in a blue collar town and you've been punching a clock there (or responsible for whomever is suppose to be on the clock) for 18 years, believe me, you're gonna be looking around like you just fake called in sick when you stop doing it. There's also the promise of today being that day when someone's going to walk in and buy up the store that's still on the loop. I keep hearing "breathe" and other yoga/spiritual-type mantras…WTF!! would be more me. But you know something? I go to the new early-bird buyers club at the Royal Oak Flea Market and there's MarkyD, Dr. Art, Daya, Dennis and David with big hugs for me. Dr. Z has his new 2011 pocket calendar, one for me and one to send to Lulu. Bob and Larry are discussing socrates or the Schrodinger equation or whatever those two brainiacs discuss at their regular table over coffee. I do some shopping therapy, nice painting of death, gymnastic rings, creepy always a pick up. I got 7 hours of sleep for a change. Design projects keep coming, a new client I will secure later in the day works for the big rock station. Just my kinda client, a straight forward single guy with no crazy girlfriend, who just wants to get the place done and get on with the party. How cool is that? Tomorrow it's another project I like, commercial retail space and two brave young women opening businesses in Birmingham. My dealer friend in New York has asked me to scout stuff for our favorite Brooklyn restaurant. I send her a slew of pictures. I'm doing it aren't I? My family and friends are behind me, I got money in the bank today, what's the problem? F--k it, I take Wyatt to see the new Harry Potter movie. He holds my hand, we jump at the scary parts, eat a bucket of popcorn. "Rebel souls, deserters we are called…bad company till the day I die…" I gotta rock on.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Gotham City Glamour

I've gone for baroque (see pic), jamming the machine to assemble this collection, my team, my 46 year old body. I called in every favor to get a booth at the Pier Show in New York. Only got word it was mine last week. Put Rick and his studio crew to the paces to get stuff built, including show walls (cause they cost $1000 in New York...well it seemed outrageous until we actually had to build them too). Flew home this past Wednesday from last week's trip to the NYC, literally changed clothes and went to work to help the studio finish, load (in the dark,$#%&&TYG daylight savings!), say hello and goodbye to my poor family and sleep a wink. I jumped into the van Thursday and hammered the 11 hour drive back to my friends' Adam and Andrea's couch, commandeered our friend Peter to help me set the booth up yesterday and break it back down Monday (his new mantra: lose my number lady). Then, I get to drive the 11 hours back home Tuesday, unload Wednesday, massage.... So basically it's the best booth in the entire history of booths (my humble opinion of course) Baroque and three ring circus (actual trapeze cape from the circus) crazy and I love it and this is putting hypomania to work for you. I swear soon I will lie down and not get up for days, in the meantime folks, it's showtime and I gotta get on the coffee drip to fuel this day. Wish me luck! Will have better pictures to post on the newly revamped website I'm gonna work on just as soon as I stop doing something else. Now it's Saturday, I am posting this, putting my show face on and taking the subway in to face New York! I hope everything sells out!!...but what doesn't comes back to the shop next week, so call and come see me (you come wednesday and take one end of any of this heavy shit and I promise you wonders! deals! the cure to salvage addiction!). Oh yeah, did I mention? Nor more store hours as of November 15. that stopping something else, it's retail. You like it better when I come in special just for you anyway.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Who would want to run the NYC marathon?

No one. That's the truth. No one wants to run 26 miles. You run 26 miles because you have to. I'm glad I don't have to. But it's 2:18 am and I just sat down to eat something like dinner, it sure feels like a marathon. I think it was only 8 miles, but by foot and train from the West Village to my Forest Hills stop in Queens, it was an hour and 40 min. commute. Yes, I sat at the wrong platform for 3 trains, before I realized mine wasn't gonna come here. And, I lost my metro card and had to fumble around for awhile before I said f--k it, just buy another. O.K. that's it, I'm done whining. Roll your eyes if you want, I can't see you. This is a very big pond, my fish just got smaller. But in water's distortion, I think I am bigger. So I met two really lovely men at the Rhinebeck show last month, the ones that spent their time and money with me. They said it was because I was nice and funny, good information. When they said they couldn't hang the light they bought, I offered to come over and do it on my next trip. So I followed up and they invited me over. I'm not going to tell you how wide my eyes got when I arrived at their apartment. They have big jobs, it doesn't seem to be fazing them. They are decorating the place themselves. They hung the ratty flag with the nude unstretched over it and over their bed. When they told me my stuff changed the feeling of their place, well it did a little. I wasn't in the door 10 minutes and I found I was holding the lucky ticket...cigarettes...Like how did they know I don't smoke regularly and had them? Of course they don't either...nice bond, my husband will love this. We had 3-hour group therapy starting at 9pm and then I got busy on the consultation. Said the "cool" light should go over the pine cabinet (and not blocking the view of the water and the lights of New Jersey!) Asked for something to put it up on, like those matching kiddie chairs looking bullied next to that couch, plugged it in at the dark entrance and voila! I'm a genius...well they thought so. Now I'm 12..look at me! look at me! Next I'm gonna do cartwheels. We need lights next to the New Jersey window view. Those industrial caged bulb and socket kind lying on the desk. I need a 10' ladder. Do you have a drill? It's some old boyfriend's good Dewalt, they don't know they don't use it. Already got the right bit in it. 4 drywall screws, a measuring tape, some nails a hammer, those hooks doing nothing there. Now we have sconces on either side of the window, cords neatly tucked against the window frame. Take all those pictures down, put the old oars underneath, much better. Some problems solved. All of lower Manhattan out the panorama of views from New Jersey all the way around to the top of Citibank in Brooklyn. They said I was pretty, hugged and kissed me goodbye. What a really very nice thing they did for me. Now I've known them 5 hours and all our lives, at least that's how it felt tonight. If this is a distorted view, well ignorance is bliss. Shit, I forgot to take time, they invited me back over :).

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Running the NYC Marathon…

Yes i've been training for years and I'm finally gonna do it. Pray i make it to the finish line, even if they have to drag me the last 50 feet…ok well not THAT marathon. I mean my parallel version of the nyc marathon where I fly into the city this weekend to check out doing the flea markets in December, fly home then turn around the next day in a loaded truck to drive back to do the Pier Show (November 13&14) that I just talked my way into yesterday. And I gotta write about this, right now? This my friends is the real antiques road show. It's an obsession and I'm a slave to it. All hands are on the bench, work benches that is. In between the new installation at the Detroit Science Center, Rick's studio is putting together the latest designs (oh no I can't just take Rhinebeck leftovers…)Remember the scraps from the Starlite lanes facade on 8 Mile Rd. The one where I was begging the demo crew to save anything for me? So far from that metal scrap, we cobbled together two 6' columns with light up stars. Those blue beauties are gonna be on the front of the booth. Then there's the void collection; simple modern furniture Rick makes from the voids left from punching industrial parts out of sheet metal plus lights we did out of industrial parts, etc. on one side. 20th century store display, signage and graphic looking stuff will go on the other and at the back some stunning pieces of historic architecture. It's the tiniest booth, costs more than my mortgage payment (a LOT more) for the weekend. It's a one-woman show and I'm taking deep breaths, but really it's me calling on all my friends to rent walls (scenic prop)borrow a bigger van (carlin construction inc.)hire crew in new york to load, set up, load out, sleep on the A team's couch (forgash photography&co) that makes it possible. I'm of course banking on bigger apple wallets and their love affair with Detroit. And what's not to love? If I could disassemble and truck the entire imagination station installation , that's what I'd really like to set up on that pier and I'd be hauling those tireless visionaries Jeff DeBruyn (president, Corktown Residence Council)and Jerry Paffendorfer (co-founders)the architect/artist Catie Newell, countless volunteers with me. Simply one of the most moving things I've experienced in Detroit. 150 people standing in a hush, waiting for the sun to set, the light at just the right angle to stream through all that wreckage art. I started the line and the man behind me finished, "There is a crack, a crack, in everything…that's how the light gets in…" Leonard Cohen.