Celebrate Brooklyn – C’est Fini!

Today’s posting syncs up with the ending of Celebrate Brooklyn in Prospect Park. Tonight, after work, I am taking the F train to 7th Ave for the last time this summer to pick up my remaining inventory from the collection I created for this event. This is also my last posting about Celebrate Brooklyn for the 2011 season. Cry!

I want to discuss two things here: The first, being the last weekend that I worked (Friday, August 5th and Saturday, August 6th) and the second, my expectations- the reality of this event and some other thoughts that I have about the over all experience.  So let’s begin:

1. Last weekend I worked my last two “free” shows of the season and they were both electric, inspiring, and reminded me, even in my glorious exhaustion, why I originally signed up to participate. The head lining act for Friday night was “Ra Ra Riot“, an indie band formed about five years ago in Syracuse, New York.  I had no idea what to expect. Not one bit. As much as I am always looking for new music, I must admit that I’ve gotten stale in music. So much so that I sometimes stop listening to the music collection I have because it seems so blah. Not good. This has been in large part why I signed up to do Celebrate Brooklyn – I wanted the experience of listening and being exposed to music (all new) and people I might not otherwise come into contact with.  I was able to get both of them.

The performance on Saturday was the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater who performed four selections, with the final being the well-known and loved “Revelations.” I will be the first to call myself ignorant here and say that I knew absolutely nothing about the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. Yes, I knew about Alvin Ailey and I have even take a dance class or two at the Alvin Ailey dance studios in Mid-town West, but  I had never seen the dance theater perform. Which means I also never knew anything about “Revelations”. That all changed last night as my fellow craftswoman, Lydia of Pure Spa 2 , turned to me and said, “you don’t know about “Revelations”? Go out there now! You will not be culturally deprived.”

As I stood with the crowd of people, I witnessed one of the most beautiful dance performances I’ve seen my entire life. As I watched, I noted the ballet moves that I myself have been practicing over the past few weeks, but I also acknowledged the beauty of the body as it contorts in dance moves. To be quite honest, I also really appreciated the gorgeous skin tones of all the African-American male dancers as, thanks to the lighting, I could see their sweat gleam on their bodies. It was breathtaking, it was inspiring and most of all, I felt connected to spirituality in a way that I often don’t by attending church. Photos and a video of one of the performances is below.

The difference between both shows is simple-one was music as art and the other was music that inspired dance as an art. I enjoyed both nights. Friday night’s show was busy for us, which is why I don’t have any pictures of the evening, but it was also a full experience-I had one of my best friends along with my aunt and cousin come by to support S2 Stationery and Design and experience Celebrate Brooklyn. Additionally, I was able to see people, who I would say are closer to my demographic, interact with my product and really genuinely like it. While they didn’t make any purchases, seeing their faces light up when they looked at a card of mine, or grab a friend to share what I’ve said, really felt like money in my wallet. I realize that I need to convert that into actual money in my wallet, but for now, that interaction is enough to keep me moving and exploring, which is what any good business person does as they move to expand and grow.

Which leads me to the second part of this long blog posting- my thoughts.

2. When I assess all that I put into making Celebrate Brooklyn happen vs. what I made out of it, I suffered a loss. I made maybe $100 of the almost $800 that I put into supplies and fees. This doesn’t take into account my time-my loss of sleep, paper cuts and everything else that went into creating and making this happen. In the end though, I am happy.

As a business owner, everything that I do is a risk. It is a risk for me to even have as much faith in myself and my business as I do. I am completely aware  that to many what I’m doing is completely batty. Yet, I know that for me not taking this risk is completely batty.

Last night as people came into our tent, I experienced several things:

1. people telling me that they love my items;

2. a woman, who had been ahead of me in the ice cream line, came into the shop and asked about my products and then told me that she is getting married on October 22nd (my lucky day) and wanted to know if I’d be interested in working with her on her invitations. Amazing!;

3. noticed a girl looking at my “Meat & Eat” invitations and then take a picture. I went up to her to ask her about the photo (have to protect my work you know) and she explained how her and her friends have “meat parties” and thought that my invitation was witty and wanted to sent the picture to her friends. She told me she loved the card and then as she walked out asked for my card and told me she had a friend who was engaged and wanted to pass my information along to her.

All amazing things! All of them! While none of them were money in my wallet, they may turn into money in my wallet at some point in the future. This is why I signed up for Celebrate Brooklyn! as a vendor. This is why I had no expectation about sales.

Ever the optimist that I am, I am also a realist. I know that our culture does not look on stationery the way it did at one time. I also know that people like things that are ritzy and sparkle. I like those things, too, but I’m not designing solely for those clients. When I walk into a paper store and see cards that are designed with beads, buttons and the like, I cringe. I don’t want to veer too far away from the topic, but what I am getting at here is that I knew that stationery might be a tough sell at this venue.

Another area that I failed to meet was catering to the Brooklyn demographic. Yes, we were selling in Brooklyn, but going into this I thought that Celebrate Brooklyn! would have more than just Brooklynites running around. I also didn’t expect them to be interested in only items that screamed Brooklyn. While I did bring some items that mentioned Brooklyn, this was not my focus. I wanted more well-rounded items. Maybe I didn’t listen to the customer, but I feel like the line I presented was witty, gorgeous and different from what most people see in the stationery/greeting card realm.  In the end, the cards that did sell were sets made by a fellow vendor, Serimony, who specializes in silk screened cards and shirts that offer various images, but were heavy on Brooklyn pride, aka, Brooklyn Bridge. They are cute and adorable, but definitely something that I wouldn’t focus on. So fail, yes, but not completely because I showed range and stayed true to myself.

Something else I learned from all of this is that I don’t know that I want to engage in working with many people ever again. I am aware that this was the first year that the NewNew partnered with Celebrate Brooklyn and on the whole I loved every minute that I spent at the Celebrate Brooklyn! concerts, but I don’t know that I want to be part of a 13 person share situation again. I do like collaborative efforts and I do like working with people, but you just never know. I respect every one of the woman I worked with and some of them, I bonded with and formed relationships that I hope continue for years and years, but when it comes to products, only you care about your products.

I am not speaking ill about anyone or anything in particular, but this past weekend, I realized that my commitment to not using plastic to wrap my items means that I really can not sell my products in an open out-door booth unless I am there to take care of my items. My two-week vacation at the end of July meant that I wasn’t there to handle my own products and it was apparent when I walked into the booth Friday night. Some of my cards were so dirty! I can not blame anyone, but myself because I don’t use plastic wrap, but my initial reaction was anger and I wanted to take all of my items home with me that night. I did not,  but I felt a bit of a defeatist mentality after that night. I had no expectation of anything selling in the last three shows and more importantly, I didn’t want my stuff on display anymore; I just wanted the show to be over.  Not good and clearly something that I could not do, but I realized that I can not commit to anything long-term unless everything meets my standards.

All of that leads me to the following-Celebrate Brooklyn! was an amazing experience. I feel like the pros outweighed the cons, but it gave me plenty to reflect upon and it taught me things that I wouldn’t have learned unless I participated. I definitely am grateful for the experience and having such a first-hand access pass to one of the hottest summer events in New York City, but if I don’t participate again, I won’t cry or feel upset about it. Instead, I’ll just support my fellow NY artists who do participate.

Many thanks to Prospect Park, the Celebrate Brooklyn! team who put together an amazing season and event, and the wonderful artists that I was able to work with through The {NewNew}. S2 Stationery and Design and I had an amazing summer!

I am gearing up now for Crafts in Chelsea, a successful market that raises money for the PTA of a school in Chelsea, and my second “market” this year. I am sharing a space with another Etsian and NewNewer and I’m excited. This event will just be her and I and I’ve already started to think about holiday-Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas- products that I can design and sell easily. I am excited, but I’m also terrified. If anything 2011 will be the year that I took more risks regarding S2 Stationery and Design than ever before. This is good and it means that I will continue to move forward thanks to these risks, but I have a long way to go.

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s2 stationery & designs

A rule-breaking designer, artist & entrepreneur who's passionate about paper and handcrafting stationery. I also write, travel, and focus on eco + social good.

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