Category Archives: Selling Jewelry

Antonito

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One year I went to the tiny (population 781) town of Antonito, Colorado for Labor Day weekend. The town was hosting a free music festival in the park and for a ridiculously small fee, I was able to sell my wares all weekend.

I arrived in town early Saturday morning and found the festival organizer among a group of men setting up the stage. The organizer showed me where I could put my tables. I unloaded the tables, my hemp jewelry, my shiny rocks. I arranged everything nicely on the tables and waited for the crowds of music fans to arrive.

The first band took the stage. A few of their friends stood around to listen. The next band took the stage. Fans from Santa Fe had made the drive to the festival, including the grandmother of one of the band members. At no point during the weekend were there more than a dozen people in the audience for any musician. I quickly understood why the vending fee was so low.

A family set up a table perpendicular to mine. They sold water and sodas cold from an ice chest and homemade burritos wrapped in foil. Otherwise, I was the only vendor at the festival.

I made a little bit of money, despite the lack of attendance. Mostly I sold shiny rocks to people living nowhere near a rock shop. I sold a few necklaces after I offered people great deals, and I sold some bracelets too. I suppose I paid for my gas to get out there and the breakfast I ate at a restaurant on Sunday morning.

One of Antonito’s claims to fame is being the childhood home of Indiana Jones from the Raiders of the Lost Ark movie. Of course, Indiana Jones is a fictional character, so he never had a childhood, but in one of the movies, a young Indy is shown in front of a house. That house stands in Antonito, CO. I didn’t care enough to find it.

My favorite part of my two days in Antonito was Saturday morning’s Labor Day parade on the town’s main drag. The number of observers of the parade was slightly larger than that of the music festival. There weren’t any floats in a New Orleans sense, but some people stood in the back of slow-moving pickup trucks and waved to their neighbors. Someone from the Forest Service had dressed in a Smokey Bear costume and stood waving from the back of a government truck.

I stood on the sidewalk and watched the parade go by. It was pretty short. The whole thing passed in under ten minutes. But wait! There’s more, or at least the same thing all over again. When the parade got to its endpoint, all the vehicles turned around and came back down the main drag from the opposite direction. I guess when a parade’s that short, once isn’t enough.

I took this photo of Smokey the Bear,

Turtle People

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It was a hot summer afternoon at the Bridge, and Tea and I were talking between potential customers. A couple of young people (maybe early 20s, maybe late teens) came up to our tables sitting side by side.

Hello. How are you? Good prices on everything, we told the young people.

It seemed they were lookers, not shoppers, but it was a slow day, and we were happy to have new people for company. Where are y’all from? we asked.

One of the young people was a woman, a young woman, maybe even a girl in many people’s eyes. She had shoulder length dark hair and carried a guitar. She explained she and her companions lived at a local shelter for runaways and other young people who were having problems and could no longer live with their families.

Tea felt a connection with the young people because 50 years ago, she’d been a teenage runaway. After her beloved mother died, she’d been forced to live with her father and a stepmother who didn’t want her around. Life in her new family became too difficult and she’d bolted. Her experiences on the street gave her an understanding of the lives fo these young people, despite the decades stretching between them.

I felt a kinship with the young woman with the dark hair and guitar. She admired the hemp jewelry I’d made and had for sale. She was interested in my van, especially after I told her I lived in it.

Oh! she said with a smile. You’re one of the turtle people. You take your home with you wherever you go!

She wanted to travel too, she told me, when was 18 and on her own. She would be 18 soon, she said wistfully.

I encouraged her, told her if I could thrive living alone in my van, she could too. She could take her guitar on the road and busk to make enough money to see the world, I said.

In repayment of a debt, I’d recently been given a big bag of beads and pendants carved from bone. In the bag, I’d found several pendants shaped like turtles. I quickly realized that soon after I put a handmade hemp necklace adorned with a turtle pendant on my table, it sold for $20. People love turtles on hemp necklaces.

On the day I met the young woman with the dark hair and guitar, I had a necklace adorned with a turtle pendant on my table. The young woman admired it, but said she didn’t have any money.

What about a trade? I asked. Do you want to trade for it?

She said she didn’t have anything to trade, and I asked her to play her guitar and sing a song for me. I’ll trade you the necklace for a song, I told her.

She looked young and shy as she sat on the floor of my van where the side doors were open to the world. She adjusted her guitar and said she’d sing a song she’d written herself.

I didn’t hear the traffic on the highway or the conversations between the other vendors and their customers while the young woman gave her song to me. My ears listened only to her guitar and the words of joy and longing and promise she sang to me. I heard only her beautiful song.

When she finished singing, all of us who’d listened to her told her she’d sounded wonderful and thanked her for her gift. I got the turtle necklace for her. She placed it around her neck, and I fastened it for her. We were both smiling and a little teary when we said goodbye. I watched her and her guitar walk away and disappear.

I’ve thought about that young woman as the years have passed. She’s turned 18 and is in her 20s now. I hope she was able to get a van and take her guitar and lovely voice on the road. I hope she’s seeing the world. I hope she’s happy, joyful.

I wonder if she still has the necklace I made. I wonder if she thinks of me, her turtle sister.

 

Mean Lady

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When Mr. Carolina and I left Milton and his community, we really didn’t have anywhere to go. Mt. Shasta had been the light at the end of our tunnel of plans. Since neither of us wanted to spend a cold winter in Northern California, we knew we had to hit the road and head south.

After bidding adieu to friends old and new, our first order of business was to get some fuel in the van’s tank. The few dollars worth of gasoline Milton had put in two days before was nearly gone from the driving from the camping spot to the church with the community dinner, back to the camping spot, back to the church for the clothing giveaway, and to the camping spot again.

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I made these hemp bracelets with malachite stones. These are not the bracelets I was trying to sell in Mt. Shasta. These bracelets are no longer available because they have all been sold.

Since Mt. Shasta is a woo-woo little hippy town with shops selling crystals and new-age books and jewelry, I thought I might be able to sell some of the hemp bracelets with healing stones that I’d made. I decided to walk from store to store on the town’s short main drag of local businesses and try to make some money for us.

I went into several stores. Nobody was buying. Oh, the people in the shops liked my bracelets, but they all had reasons they couldn’t buy: the busy tourist seasons was over; the person authorized to buy wasn’t in; my jewelry didn’t fit with the other inventory in a particular store. Everyone was really nice, but I was getting discouraged.

I hadn’t given up, though, and I walked into yet another shop selling shiny rocks and angel figurines and books on spirituality. An older woman, plump with long grey hair, was sitting at a desk at the back of the store. I walked up to her and explained I wanted to sell bracelets I’d made so I could buy gas for my van and get out of town. I told her the bracelets were made from hemp and showed her that each one sported a healing stone. I told her the name of the stone on each bracelet and showed her how the slip knot clasps on the bracelets worked. She wasn’t super encouraging and didn’t even smile at me as I went through my spiel, but when I paused for breath, she asked how much I wanted for the bracelets, which was farther than I’d gotten with any of the other shopkeepers.

I explained I usually sold the bracelets for $4 each or three for $10, but since I really needed gas money, I’d sell them to her for $2 each. I felt a little sad to sell the bracelets off so cheaply, but I wanted to contribute to our getting out of town. Besides, I had more hemp and drilled stones, so I could make more bracelets.

The store owner’s attitude wasn’t making me feel any better. She acted as if she didn’t really like my bracelets much at all. She acted as if she were doing me a huge favor by taking the bracelets off my hands. In a way, she was doing me a favor, but I knew she was going to sell the fruits of my labor at a profit.

The shopkeeper picked out sixteen bracelets she wanted to buy. I was ecstatic! She asked me if she could write me a check. I explained again that I needed the money to put gas in the van, told her that I wasn’t from Mt. Shasta and didn’t have a bank account, so I really needed cash. She acted entirely put out, but rounded up $32 in paper currency for me.

I was feeling really good. Not only had I earned enough money to get us out of town, I’d found someone who liked my work enough to pay me for it and sell it in her shop. I was all smiles when I reached into my pocket and pulled out one of my business cards. (Yes, it’s true, I was living dirty and broke in my van, but I had business cards to hand out.) I want to give you this, I said to the woman as I thrust the card at her.

I don’t want that, she all but sneered at me. It’s not like I’m going to order anything from you.

My bubble was burst. It was all I could do not to cry as I took my money and left the shop.

I tried to sell the remaining bracelets at a few more stores, but no one was buying. We used some of my earnings to buy a fast food lunch and put the rest in the gas tank before we headed on out of town.

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I made these bracelets from hemp. The stones are turquoise. These are not the bracelets I tried to sell in Mt. Shasta. These bracelets are no longer available because they have all been sold.

 

I took all of the photos in this post.

That’s Ms. Coonie to You, Sir

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It was late afternoon and I was at the Bridge with the Jewelry Lady. I’d spent the day at her house, then we’d gone out to the Bridge in the relative coolness of the evening. There weren’t many customers out there, but the Jewelry Lady and I set up anyway.

Three cute little girls under the age of 10 stopped at my table. They were sunburned and windblown, and I could tell the littlest one was extra spunky. I asked if they were sisters, and they said they were cousins.

The girls asked about my bracelets. I said they were $4 each or three for $10.The littlest girl couldn’t afford that price and asked if I had anything for $2. I told the girls they could all pick out a bracelet for $2 each.

As I talked to the girls, their answers were yes ma’am and no ma’am. I said, Y’all are so polite. Y’all must be from Texas. They said they were from Texas.

The girls’ grandpa had been hanging around, and I’d figured out he was one of those old guys who thinks he is funny when he is really obnoxious. When I told the girls I was from Louisiana, he said to them, You hear that? She’s a coonie!

Coonie is a shortened (and more polite) version of coonass, a somewhat derogatory name for the Cajun people of Southwest Louisiana. I am Cajun, so that does make me a coonass, but not everyone from Louisiana is Cajun, so not everyone from Louisiana is a coonass. This man was making a mightly assumption about me and my place of birth. (Since I don’t have a Cajun accent, he was not basing his assumption on the way I talk.)

More importantly, coonass is one of those words people within the group can call each other, but outsiders should not use casually. And for a Texan to call a Cajun a coonass or even a coonie, well, them’s fightin’ words. But I played it cool and didn’t say, I’d rather be a coonass than a fucking Texan! After all, he had three sweet little girls with him.

I finished my transaction with the girls, and as soon as the family walked away, I said to the Jewelry Lady, did you hear what he called me! Of course, she’d never heard of coonies or coonasses, and I had to explain the whole thing to her.

According to http://www.acadian.org/coonass.html

Coonass is a controversial term in the Cajun lexicon: to some Cajuns it is regarded as the supreme ethnic slur, meaning “ignorant, backwards Cajun”; to others the term is a badge of pride, much like the word Chicano is for Mexican Americans. In South Louisiana, for example, one can often see bumper stickers reading “Warning — Coonass on Board!” or “Registered Coonass” (both of which generally depict a raccoon’s backside). The word’s origin is unclear: folk etymology claims that coonass dates from World War II, when Cajun GIs serving in France were derided by native French speakers as conasse, meaning “dirty whore” or “idiot.” Non-French-speaking American GIs allegedly overheard the expression, converted it to the English “coonass,” and introduced the term back in the United States. There it supposedly soon caught on as a derisive term among non-Cajuns, who encountered many Cajuns in Gulf Coast oilfields. It is now known, however, that coonass predated the arrival of Cajun GIs in France during World War II, which undermines the conasse theory. Indeed, folklorist Barry Jean Ancelet has long rejected this theory, calling it “shaky linguistics at best.” He has suggested that the word originated in South Louisiana, and that it derived from the belief that Cajuns frequently ate raccoons. He has also proposed that the term contains a negative racial connotation: namely, that Cajuns were “beneath” or “under” blacks (or coons, as blacks were often called by racists). Despite efforts by Cajun activists like James Domengeaux and Warren A. Perrin to stamp out the term’s use, coonass continues to circulate in South Louisiana and beyond. Its acceptability among the general public, however, tends to vary according to circumstances, and often depends on who says it and with what intention. Cajuns who dislike the term have been known to correct well-meaning outsiders who use the epithet.

 

You Need Some Hemp (to Go with That Tie-Dye)

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When I sold regularly at the Bridge, I often saw people wearing tie-dyed t-shirts. One of my marketing ploys was to yell out as these people walked by, You need some hemp to go with your tie-dye. Often the person wearing the tie-dyed shirt ignored me or laughed and kept walking. But sometimes the person in the tie-dye actually came over to my table and looked at my merchandise, and sometimes the looker turned into a buyer.

One Labor Day weekend, I saw a young man across the street walking toward the Bridge. He was wearing a tie-dyed t-shirt, so I hollered, You need some hemp to go with your tie-dye. He hollered back that he didn’t have any money. On a whim, I told him that if he came back, I’d give him something.

He probably didn’t believe I was actually going to give him something, but he and his friends did stop at my table after walking out on the Bridge. There were four of them, young people in their mid-20s. They worked for AmeriCorps or some other service organization and had decided on a whim to go camping on Labor Day Weekend. Once they’d gotten out in the wilderness, they’d realized they’d forgotten both the food and the drinking water. However, someone had packed booze, so they’d basically spent the last couple of days drinking tequila. Now they were on their way to town where they would go to a restaurant so they could finally eat.

They didn’t sound drunk, and they certainly weren’t obnoxious. They seemed to be really sweet young people, and the story of their weekend amused me. I ended up giving each of them a bracelet.

They couldn’t believe I was giving them something so nice for free. Usually when I gave away a bracelet or a shiny rock (to a little kid or because it was someone’s birthday or because I was feeling generous toward someone who didn’t have any money for a souvenir in the budget), I was met with disbelief. I guess it’s not often a business person gives away her or his wares to a stranger.

These young people loved my bracelets and each carefully chose his or her perfect one. Then they said they wanted to give me something. I said it wasn’t necessary for them to give me anything, but I did concede that I like trades.

One of the women gave me a pair of earrings made with little stones of snowflake obsidian. (To read about another experience of mine with snowflake obsidian, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/01/04/snowflake-obsidian-2/ .) I didn’t (and don’t) typically wear earrings, so later I passed them on to a lady vendor friend I suspected was involved in an abusive relationship. I hoped the snowflake obsidian could help her break patterns that were no longer useful to her.

Then the guy in the tie-dye said, And we wanted to give you this, and held out his clinched fist. I instinctively held out my hand—cupped palm up—to him. He opened his fist over my open hand and deposited a good size bud (of marijuana, for anyone who needs it spelled out).

I was surprised, but quickly closed my hand around the weed. I didn’t want to be showing off the fat bud in my hand  in front of God and everybody .

When people asked me if I smoked (marijuana or cigarettes), I always said no. I’ve never been a pothead and particularly don’t like coughing or feeling paranoid and stupid. As a homeless woman on my own, I needed to be alert all the time, so I wasn’t drinking alcohol or smoking poet or doing anything to make my brain sluggish. Also, because I was homeless, I knew I ran a greater risk of a cop hassling me and using my homelessness as an excuse to search me and my belongings. I didn’t need to be caught with anything illegal.

However, I had the bud in my hand. It seemed wrong to hand it back. I could tell these folks really wanted to meet my kindness with kindness of their own. So I smiled and thanked them and wished them a safe journey.

As soon as I saw them drive away, I walked over to a vendor friend who I knew smoked weed.

I have something for you, I said.

I held out my closed fist to him just as the young man had done to me. My friend held out his open palm to me. I put my hand over his and opened my fingers. You should have seen his smile when he saw that bud in his hand.

Mean Daddy

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It was another slow, cold day at the Bridge. I noticed the family—Mom, Dad, young teenage daughter—because their clothes said they had money, and they were actually stopping to look at the merchandise on vendor’s tables.

I told the mom about my bracelets and necklaces (handmade by me from hemp, able to open and close completely). The mom liked my jewelry and wanted her daughter (between the ages of 12 and 14, I’m guessing) to like it too. The daughter, however, was at the age and the stage where she didn’t want to like anything her mom liked. They wandered away, and I was disappointed I hadn’t made a sale.

Before long, the daughter was at my table alone. She asked me a few questions about my jewelry. Then she saw my hats. She really liked the hats. I even pulled out my back stock so she could choose from everything I had available. She picked out a cute one with a pompom on top. I told her it cost $10.

Her father was walking by, and she demanded, Dad! Buy me this hat! (I admit, she sounded like a real brat.)

Her dad said, No!

The girl said, Come on! It’s only $10. Buy me the hat!

Her dad sneered, This is just a knit hat. You don’t need this.

He said just a knit hat the same way someone might say just an old boot or just a pile of dog shit. He obviously felt great contempt for that hat I’d made with my own two hands. I stood there wondering if he realized I was the person who’d made that just a knit hat.

I could understand if he didn’t want to buy anything for his daughter because she was being a demanding brat. I could understand if he’d already bought her a lot of stuff on this trip and didn’t want to spend any more money. I could understand if the girl had plenty of things and needed nothing more. But the guy could have been nicer to his daughter and to me. (How about: This is a nice hat, but you don’t need it, and I’m not spending any more money until dinner.)

The girl kept pleading, and the man turned to me in exasperation and demanded, Will you take $5 for it?

Time froze. On the one hand, at $10 per hat, I’m not paying myself minimum wage, as a hat takes me more than an hour to make. At $5 per hat, I am paying myself a seriously pitiful wage. On the other hand, I’d only made $3 so far that day, and $5 was better than no dollars. Besides, a teenage girl liked a hat I’d made, and that was pretty cool. So I sighed wearily and agreed to take $5 for the hat.

The dad pulled a wad of cash out of his pocket. I saw a $100 bill in his hand. He fished a twenty out of the pile and asked if I could make change. I signed wearily again and said yes.

As I gave him the last of my change, he said gruffly, I don’t know if I’m going to get out of here with any money left.

Isn’t that what vacation’s for? I asked brightly.

(I don’t believe vacations are primarily for spending money, but that man had just shown me he actually had plenty of money to spend.)

To read about other hemp jewelry customers, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/05/we-feel-for-your-situation/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/10/red-letter-day-2/ , here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/09/26/turtle-ass/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/03/17/how-much-are-these/ here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/11/12/hard-times-on-the-highway/ and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/12/09/selling-hemp-again/

Selling Hemp Again

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I’d been back to selling hemp jewelry regularly for over a month, and not a single person had snickered when I said the word “hemp” or asked about smoking a necklace. I was beginning to think people had become more informed, that maybe hemp had taken a step or two into the mainstream. However, on a cold afternoon, I found there were still misperceptions about the fiber.

The first shoppers were a mother and teenage daughter, both tall and blond and from Oklahoma, it turned out.

(Sidenote: The majority of people from Oklahoma I’ve met at the Bridges act as if they are on their first trip away from the farm. Old people, middle-age people, young people, kids…trying to get any sort of conversation out of folks of any age from Oklahoma is usually like trying to pull teeth out of a firmly champed shut mouth.

Me: Where are y’all from?

OK Tourist: (Long Pause) Oklahoma.

Me: Oh, cool. Are you enjoying your vacation?

OK Tourist: (Long Pause) Yes.

Me: I made all the jewelry on the table.

OK Tourist: (Long Pause) (Silence)

Me: All the bracelets and necklaces are made from hemp.

OK Tourist: (Long Pause) That’s…in-ter-esting.

It’s maddening. And forget about making a sale to 95% of Oklahoma tourists.

Of course, there have been some exceptions. There were two lovely fat women who bought four necklaces from me one summer afternoon and offered to take care of my not-very-nice ex-boyfriend if he ever bothered me again. There was the rock guy I met at the Bridge who eventually supplied me with ammonites, and the fused glass artist I bought pendants from. There seems to be some sort of renaissance of cool going on in Tulsa, and in fact, all the folks I just mentioned did live in Tulsa. The visitors from the rest of the state seem to have a very difficult time mustering up any personality.)

So the mother and daughter walked up to my table and were exhibiting enough personality that I didn’t immediately peg them as Oklahomans. (Maybe they were from Tulsa.)

When I told them the bracelets and necklaces were made from hemp, they started giggling. The mom said to the daughter, I’ll eat it and you can smoke it!

I said, You can smoke it if you want to, but it will probably only make you cough. If you want to get high, Colorado’s right over there, and I pointed in the general direction of the state where recreational marijuana is legal.

That’s where we just came from! the teenager exclaimed. She (the girl gestured to her mother) kept saying she was going to buy me a brownie. (More giggling…)

You have to be careful with those brownies. They’ll get you real high, I told them. I think I scandalized them a little. I don’t think they planned to talk to someone with real life pot brownie experience.

They giggled some more, and I asked them where they were from. They said Oklahoma, and I realized they were more interested in giggling about hemp than buying any. I didn’t even try to explain the differences between marijuana and hemp. It seemed like a lost cause.

Not very long after that a young man in his mid-20s was at my table with his mother. When I said the bracelets and necklaces were made from hemp, the young man picked up a necklace and sniffed it. I’ll give him credit for doing something I’d never seen anyone do before.

I might have given him a strange look (although I swear I was trying to be cool), because he said, You said it was made from hemp, that’s why I smelled it.

Natural hemp (undyed and not manufactured to be totally uniform and soft) does have a particular scent, a bit like hay, I think. But I don’t know if that was the smell the guy expected to encounter or if he expected the necklace to smell flowery like marijuana. I didn’t ask. I was too cold and too tired to go into educator mode.

 

To learn more about hemp, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/11/19/hemp-2/.

To read more about customers, go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/05/we-feel-for-your-situation/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/10/red-letter-day-2/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/09/26/turtle-ass/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/12/14/mean-daddy/, here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/03/17/how-much-are-these/, and here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/11/12/hard-times-on-the-highway/