Welcome to my blog dedicated to my Elizabeth House Shop Talk Series. I have worn many hats in my life and continue to do so. One hat I wore for several years was as a shop owner. I had zero experience, zero dollars, and zero connections. The Internet and blogging were practically non-existent back then and shop owners back then were not willing to share. Books were too complicated because my questions were so basic (and almost too embarrassing to ask!). I had no clue what I was getting into and to be honest, I had some resentment that I had learned so much the hard way because I truly had no one to turn to. I swore to myself that if I ever learned a darn thing, I would pass it on to others because there is no such thing as a stupid question. I am willing to share my experiences as a store owner, consultant, buyer, vendor, stylist, and designer. Basically, we all want the same thing - to create, to learn, and be happy doing it. I hope this blog brings you a little joy in knowing that you are not alone and that there is at least one person out there that has "been there done that" who didn't have a clue and has lived to write about it. I love to talk shop and the biz of business continues to intrigue me.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Oliver Twist Fruit


I know! Surprise! A new post so soon. If you read my other post, The Adventures of Elizabeth, you are aware of my first book that is about to come out...a book that I photographed and styled, that is.

Well, recently, like as in yesterday, I had email me asking me what kind of camera did I use and how did I get so published "so quickly" and how did I get started in this field? He hadn't been a reader for long and was just getting started in the blog world as well. Well, that actually forced me to slow down a bit and I wrote him back. It wasn't until I wrote him back, did I really realize just how long it has taken me to come this far. And that made me think of you readers who are in the same boat...trying to live out your passion. We may have those days when we are screaming....when, when...will this ever pay off? I mean, we love what we do, right? But at some point, when can we ever really make a living at it? Others make a living, why can't we?

I want to be clear that I am far from making a living at it, but I will say having this book done, has given me a boost (a much needed boost) but I also thought I would share with you my "timeline" so to speak of how I got here. Not to discourage you, but rather comfort you in that you are not "slow" or "doing something wrong," but rather things just have a timeframe that sometimes, we just don't see or understand.

I thought I would illustrate my timeframe with a trip I took a while ago with my friend Debbie, who was down in the dumps a little and I emailed her and told her to pack her bags, I was taking her away for the weekend. I won't go into detail about out weekend, (that is another story), but rather, I want to focus on just one small part of the weekend that hopefully illustrates my timeline and how it all came out to be - well sort of.

See if you can follow me as I try to tie my life to this little scenario below:

The very first time I ever really seriously picked up a camera was in 1993, when I took one class in darkroom for an art credit that I needed for college. I fell in love with it, and wondered if I had majored in the wrong field...but I was a senior, and never gave much thought to it. In 1994, while living in South Dakota, I had a photographer who saw my work (I took a little community class to brush up on my dark room skills. I only did film back then) and he wanted to pay me to develop his work for his studio. I immediately said "No...this is only a hobby." 

However, I was excited about my new hobby, even though I really had no idea what I was doing. I was completely self-taught with my camera and definitely digital when that came out later.

My friend Debbie here, is trying to load her treasures into my car. She is very excited because she just discovered a huge find...a European metal kitchen cabinet! However, she has no clue how she is going to get it in or on my car. I just wanted to photograph the whole thing. By the way, it is about 150 degrees outside...

Back to my timeline of my career: during the time of the photographer wanting me to develop his work, I was an officer in the military. I had other things in my life going on, and taking photos was just something I loved to do, but never, even gave it a thought other than just taking out the camera when an event took place, or on travels. But over time, I did begin to slowly learn a few things. 

Now as I stood here and watched Debbie and the store's hired help "wrap" this cabinet, I found myself fighting my urge to jump in and help, as they were doing a very crappy job. In fact, he had no clue what he was doing and that is when I realized how I have always lived my life. Not that I go around thinking people are clueless...I just tend to jump in and "just do it."

I stood back, determined to catch this feat on camera. But back to my timeline, it wasn't until 2002 did I really start to use my camera a little more...only because I had opened my store, and needed photos for ads, my website and other things that I needed and couldn't afford to hire a "real photographer." Now this is EIGHT years after I have had a professional photographer ask to PAY me to develop his own photography for his studio. I had zero confidence then, never considered myself a photographer, and besides, I was active duty military as well.

But think about it...eight years...

I am standing here and clicking away and thinking to myself, "What...is there a bubble wrap shortage, or what?? Get some damn bubble wrap on that METAL cabinet before it gets on top of my friggin car...." That is what I am thinking as I stand on the side and click away. Never mind I have loaded and unloaded about 1000 pieces of furniture since 1983....

And so, that brings me back to my life's timeline...1000's of things happen in our lives that we never really consider that just gets in the way of our goals and dreams and what just may be in store for us. And while my beautiful friend, Debbie and the clueless hired help struggle to wrap something that would I find so simple to wrap in a second, they are both struggling to figure it out. And that is how life is...we struggle daily to figure out the best we can, how to do the best we can with what we have...based on our experiences.

Now my timeline is 2003 and I am having my apartment above my store photographed for Mary Englebreit's Home Companion magazine, and after the shoot, an editor sees some of photography hanging in my store and she tells me that I really should take my photography more seriously. I remember just smiling and thinking that she is just being nice. And only a few moments later, her assistant comes over to me and tells me that I should listen to the editor because she doesn't hand out compliments very often at all when it comes to photography. And AGAIN, I just smile and think, "How can I run a store, do design work, and do photography...besides, I am not a photographer!" 

That exchange with the editor was in 2003. I had convinced myself that I was meant to be a store owner, a designer, a faux-finisher, and that photography was "just a hobby." Never mind that I loved it to a passion. Never mind that I could spend hours and hours shooting if I even had the time (I didn't), but you see, I had no real experience, no training, and absolutely no technical knowledge. I was limiting myself by my experiences. 

Also...I wasn't listening to the people that I now believe God had put into my path. However, I was listening to the wrong people. I was starting to listen to those who saw what I had already accomplished and who only wanted to see more of what I already had done, except bigger and better. And because that was my experience already, there was comfort in building upon something I already knew about. Others didn't know of my passion for writing or photography. They hadn't really seen it. But that photographer in South Dakota had. The editor for the magazine had. But those who spoke the loudest and most often, were those who only saw what I already produced and already created. 

I was ready to create something different. I was ready to create more from my heart, then from my head. But unfortunately, I was listening to my head...not my heart.

I continue to watch my friend and the worker wrap up her precious found item. As you can see, they aren't making much progress, and in my head, I am thinking, "I would have that friggin thing on top of the car by now..." and I smiled as I watched my friend because she was so excited by her find, so passionate about it going into her kitchen, and yet so clueless what to do with it right now.

And that is exactly how I was about my photography. I was so excited and passionate about my photography but so clueless about what to do with it. I wanted to take it places, but had no idea how to "wrap up" my new passion and take off with it, just like Debbie so excited about her find, but no idea how to take off with it either...

It wasn't until 2005 that I began to write and produce features for Romantic Homes. They asked me to be a contributing editor in 2006. I began to finally feel like a "real photographer" at that time, but yet, I felt I had to work so hard, when in my head, I was so sure other photographers really knew what they were doing, and could do it so much better.

But still, it was two years after a professional magazine editor told me to take my photography more seriously did I ever even get a small payment for a tiny feature in a magazine. Two solid years AFTER a professional editor saw my work. And even still, it is  now THIRTEEN years since I seriously picked up a camera did any of my work ever appear in a magazine and TWELVE years since the first time a professional had noticed my work did I ever get paid a very small fee for my work.

Many times, over the years, I felt like I was just standing by, on the sidelines, watching time go by and my passion was just always going to be only a hobby. And it is a great hobby, one that I will have the rest of my life. But like most artists...our passion never dies, it only ignites larger at the slightest glimmer of hope of our work being noticed or validated by those in our field. That is why artsy vendors love antique shows...not to just sell, but to SHOW. That is why there are gallery OPENINGS...so the artist doesn't just sell, but SHOW. That is why there are SHOW homes...not just so the designers can get new clients, but to SHOW how talented they are in putting a room together. The art/craft world is about showing what we are all about.

I truly believe there comes a point in every true artists' life where the heart overtakes the head. Where logic takes second place. Where business takes backseat. I am not saying this is good. I am not saying this is bad. I am not saying this cool. I am not saying this is foolish. I am just saying this is what it is. It is like saying at some point during a particular season, leaves fall off a tree. We don't stand around say that leaves falling off a tree is good. Or that leaves falling off a tree is bad. Or that leaves falling off is foolish...it is what it is.

And for some...waiting for that season of the leaves falling is very short and for some (like me) that season is very, very long. Everyone has their own timeline, their own season.

And as you can see, my timeline as far as watching this painful ordeal of wrapping a damn metal cabinet is a very short season...

The camera is now off my neck and in the car, safely put away. I am now wrapping like a mad woman, having no problems telling the helper how to really help, and asking for much more tape. What? Is there a shortage of tape too? Do you see that short piece he is using? Do you really think my gal pal's coveted piece will make it home with that scrappy piece???  No way will I let her passion fly off into the ditch...

Just like I wasn't about to let my life events toss me into the ditch over and over again either. Between many moves, unemployments stints, losing my twins, a divorce, closing the store, a car wreck, losing my mother, my brother, two good friends in two years...and more...things that we all experience in one form or another. None of us escape life's rough spots...we must take into account when we are in that self-hate mode and thinking we should be doing "better."

Really? Better?

How about we start thinking more like how my friend looks in this photo below...how we accomplished a lot...and are about to take our accomplishments home with us where it belongs...in our hearts.

And this is where the heart overtakes the head...and things start going full gear and to hell with what anyone thinks about our choices. If you are a good person, and I know you are, your choices will always be considerate of others, but your heart will beat loudly with your passion and then with purpose.

And soon, your heart (like mine) will be smiling just as big as my gal pal is as she takes a gander at her treasures all packed and ready to head home, where it all belongs...in her heart. 

But it is easy to get down on yourself. I am the queen of that. It is easy to look back and question our choices, our timing, and ponder why didn't I do this? Or listen then? But then one day, you might get an email from someone who innocently asks you how did you do it? How did you get to where you are so quickly?

And that makes you slow down just long enough to think. To remind yourself of all of life's adventures that led you to this point. Of how much you had to hang on to and let go of. When I lifted this metal piece onto the top of the car, it fit just perfectly onto my car rack. See below? It fitted perfectly because it was meant to be. The timing was perfect. I really believe that.

I always, always have work gloves and a toolbox full of bungee cords with me at all times. Not just when I am on a flea-market adventure either...


Because with my experiences, I have learned that work gloves never go out of style and bungee cords makes total strangers in need instants friends in just about any parking lot.  :-)

After all is said and done, it is amazing to sit back and really take a look at the lives we live, what we do, how we do it and how long things can really take. So to my emailer who wanted to know how long did it take for me to get my photos published in my new book? 

Well, exactly it would be from 1993 until 2012 - 19 years.

That is the technical answer. The passionate answer would be - just a season.

It looks like I have it all together in this photo. All good to go...and for the moment I do and I am happy about that. But this was taken about a year and half ago and so much has happened since then. But I enjoyed the weekend with my buddy and we gabbed for hours and hours. And if my seasons take a little longer, then that's okay, as long as I have my gal pals to spend them with.

So what's with the fruit? What's this "Oliver Twist" fruit title? Well, for our trip, I packed us a basket of goodies for the road and along with candy, chips and junk food, I thought, I should at least attempt to pack something healthy. When I showed Debbie this plumb, I turned it over and showed her the "dent" as you saw in the opening photos.  I told her that my barber husband calls this kind of fruit "Oliver Twist fruit" and refuses to eat it!

She laughed and laughed. I try to sneak it in his lunch now and again, and he will call out as he leaves sometimes, "You didn't give me any Oliver Twist fruit, did you?" 

And the thing about "Oliver Twist fruit" is this: It may be dented, but it is still good. It just isn't as pretty. And if I hand it to my  barber husband just soooo...and if he isn't paying attention, and bites into it and starts eating, he hasn't a clue as he watches TV.

My point?

Sometimes, when a situation isn't so great looking, we just gotta take a bite out of it in a different direction and it may surprise us how sweet it can be.

(That, or hand it over to someone else to deal with for a while!)

I hope this post helps someone out there who may be going through some changes and may be doubting themselves, their timing, or feel they just aren't feeling up to par. Don't get down on yourself...go get some Oliver Twist fruit...it's cheaper, and a sweet reminder that even if dented, we are all doing just fine.

from my house to your house


Donna said...

I have now read this post twice my friend and don't know whether to cry or figure out how to send hugs via the internet!
It's just been one of those days...so lost, so uncertain as to the next step.Doors shutting just as they open or open the wrong way..you know what I mean?
Your post was encouragin
Thanks, I needed that!
I love that you had to jump in and handle this~ I would not have been able to wait that long!
I bet it looks fabulous in her kitchen!

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Donna,

Oh, those kind of days do seem to ring louder at times than the days that things go right, don't they? I am so happy that my post could bring some comfort. Know that I love you and that your doors (whether opening or closing, or opening the wrong way) are still YOUR doors...designed just for the perfect moment, even though we sometimes have just no clue as to why...

I guess we aren't built to understand everything, because if we did, then there would be no reason for faith and no reason to trust in someone bigger than us....that's all I can offer right now.

That, and a cyber hug :-))

Big hug to you,

Amy coo said...

Hi Elizabeth
I have read through this entire blog at least 3 times. I am starting the process of opening my own boutique. Is there an online resource you would reccomend to find products to carry in my boutique. Ie vendors. This has been my biggest roadblock finding the items I would like to sell. Thanks so much and especially thanks for this blog I have learned so much.

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Amy,

Congrats on opening your boutique! I have no doubt you will find it exciting and do really well. I had the exact same issue many years ago, way before Internet and blogging....hmmm....thought it would be easier by now.

Back then, I couldn't afford to go to Markets, and I got lucky on only a few times when some store owners actually provided some resources to me (I think because I was leaving Texas and they knew I was moving out of state).

What I learned over the years became much easier. Go to markets' websites, such as the Dallas gift show market, NY gift show market, or Atlanta Gift show market and request their market guide. You will have to sign up (no cost) and once you get their market book, many vendors now, have online orders or websites! Yeah, way back when, I didn't have that!

They will send you TONS of catalogs and you will be in heaven. What to look for before ordering:

Minimal order amount
Delivery times
Reorder quantities
Backorder terms (some will automatically take your order and then send your order months later due to backorders....you may not want to accept those terms)

Read the fine print of ordering BEFORE spending time falling in love with products to see if you can even afford their terms.

Hope this helps. Google stuff like: ordering wholesale, how to buy wholesale, how to buy for the trade, how to buy for a boutique and so on...tons of info now.

I am sure you will do well!
Big hug
Elizabeth :-)

Lisa said...

I have bookmarked this post so I can come back and read it again...time I need a kick in the butt. It's true, if we only knew then what we know now.

I would have told them to just wrap the danm thing up already...anyway, thanks for this post.


Sherry said...

I hadn't seen this blog in your profile before. I came over and read this and it feels like you wrote it for me! LOL Great inspirational post! Such a true perspective. Seasons take awhile!

Elizabeth Maxson said...

I am glad you found it, Sherry! Your comment made me come over and I even reread it too...which always amazes me that my own posts sometimes remind me to take my own advice :-) And of course, I reread the comments, which really make me feel good - they are always worth reading again.

So glad the post did the trick for you today.
Big hug

Kelley Dibble said...

Oh, the messages you teach. Priceless.

I feel like going on. :D


Bohemian said...

I'm glad I came over today and accidentally pulled up your 'other' Blog that I hadn't read yet... even though this is an Archived Post, it is still relevant... and so very relevant to my own Experience on this Journey of Life. Which makes it very Encouraging for me since at every Season I had Life sidetrack me from many Passions being pursued... but eventually, as Time begins to run out in most cases... you DO start focusing more on the Passionate parts of your Being... those things that never could be snuffed out by the Issues of Life unfolding and stifling them in many cases. Creative Passion has always been in me, coming out in dribs and drabs over time as my 'Hobby'... whether Art forms such as Drawing, Painting, Fabric Art, Mixed Media Art, Photography... the list is quite endless really... it was always essential, like breathing... regardless of the 'other stuff' I HAD to be doing that weren't Passions, but I could be good enough at to make a living or fulfill an obligation of the Heart. Love coming by for Blog visits Elizabeth... sometimes you make me Smile, but always you make me pause in Reflective Thought... because we seem to be so very much alike. Blessings from the Arizona Desert... Dawn... The Bohemian

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Thanks for visiting Dawn,

I haven't read this for some while and it was nice to read it "fresh" again. I am so right there with you about having many passions. Actually, I use to hate that about myself - I used to wish I had that ONE interest and pursued it like so many others - doctors, lawyers, engineers, landscapers....but no matter how hard I tried, my other interests always crept into whatever I was doing and finally, I accepted who I am. I'm okay now with having so many interests...I just wish I had more time in a day to devote to them!

Always nice to hear from you

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