My Heart is Gonna (c) Marika Reinke Watercolor 8" x8" 2017
My Heart is Gonna (c) Marika Reinke Watercolor 8" x8" 2017

something better than a slug

Late one night at a sleepover, when I was nine-years-old, my friend taught me her newest passion; sewing. Maybe it was her enthusiasm or mine, but we were hooked.  We couldn’t stop sewing once we got going.  We spent the whole night sewing and stuffing any kind of fabric we could find. We found googly eyes, we stuck those on them and cheerfully exclaimed that we could make our own stuffies. We made more. The end result was a pile of stuffed sock-like creatures of multiple patterns and threads.  We put some hooks on them and called them Christmas ornaments.

We were brilliant.

Tragically and fatefully, late into the night when we were delirious and sleepless, we decided it was a genius idea to sell them at the elementary school Holiday Arts and Crafts fair that next weekend.  Sticking to the general design theme, we made even more. We were going to be rich.

Believe me, they were ugly.  They were hideous; poorly crafted (I mean we were 9!) stuffies. They were unfortunate attempts at lumpy stars and misshapen teddy bears. A Christmas tree looked like a green snake and I glued ribbon on it to try to save it – just enough.  We focused on creating as many as we could; quantity over quality.  We needed lots, because we were going to sell lots.

In the end, we had a pile of handmade slugs. Slugs with grandma flower patterns, googly eyes and Christmas ribbons dripping with glue. We were so proud of the pile of them, we had no idea how horrible they were.

With hearts full of ambition, we boxed these things up and took them to the Holiday Arts and Crafts Fair which was in a school building hallway.

As we walked down that hall, clutching our box of crafts, I understood too late: this Crafts Fair was not a crafts-by-9-year-old affair. It was crafts made by moms event. We were completely out of our league. We walked past ladies unpacking beautiful wreaths, lovely ornaments, ceramics, knit stockings, handmade mittens and baked goods reeking of sugar and cinnamon on tables draped with festive cloths, lights and beckoning signs. The kids that were there, were helping their parents set up and clearly had a well guided hand in the business.

We were literally the only parent-less kids with completely 9-year-old handmade ornamental slugs-like stuffies for sale.  We were so original, we were original and that was about it.

We both knew that we were in it, so we had to finish it.  Our stall was the last one.  We laid out all our slugs neatly in rows on the naked table and waited. And we watched.

This is what happened:

Almost everyone came to the end of the row of tables right before us, very subtly stood on tip-toe lifted their chin and looked down at our pitiful slug-display from a safe and unsellable distance and gracefully pivoted away and back down the hall as if they hadn’t even seen us.  But you know they had, they just didn’t know how to respond to two 9-year-old friends innocently selling hand-made 9-year-old *crap* at a fair like this.

Only one person, a kind and curious lady with pity and sympathy, bought one slug – I mean Christmas ornament.  We sat there the whole day and we sold one slug. Aside from her, we only spoke to our parents who stopped by to see how we were doing.

This memory comes up as I prepare for the studio party on November 12th.  It comes up a lot. Honestly, this experience may have scarred me a little.

I *hope* I’m not selling hideous Christmas slugs or their equivalent. I really don’t think I am. I *hope* I’m compelling enough to have guests come close enough to actually take a look.  I *hope* I’m interesting enough to have a conversation about art. I *hope* I’m original but in a good way not a holy *wow* out of your element way.

If I sell something better than a slug, that’s a good goal too.

Hope to see you there.