Sunday, August 05, 2007

To Market, To Market

I've been keeping a secret.

I have long yearned to have a yarn shop. And I have also long struggled against any notion to abandon or diminish my career in animal welfare.

I do hope to be able to retire someday, and to feel satisfied that I have done my part in the world of animal welfare. And I often entertain the idea of opening a yarn shop at that point in time, if I can ever bring myself to retire from my line of work.

A random selection of my handspun and hand-dyed yarns.

But I am no candy-eyed fool. I suffer no delusions about a leisurely life of shopkeeping. I grew up in retail -- my Mom managed a card and gift shop -- and I knew from an early age that your life is not your own if you manage a store.

Some people are absentee shop owners. They see their shop only as an investment. And with a stellar manager like my Mom on your payroll, you can be an absentee owner. You can say, "Here are the keys, O Competent One. Manage my shop and make money for me while I go to the Bahamas." The owners of Mom's shop did that sort of thing all the time. They went to Europe, and Mom went to work.

But I don't have enough "play money" to set up a store and pay a good manager the salary they deserve to run the show on my behalf while I do my fulltime work (much less go to Europe).

I've been employed in the animal sheltering business for quite some time. It's not the sort of work you want to pursue if you deeply need to impress others with your monetary prowess, but it's what I do, and it's why I am here on this planet. I also knit, and spin, and write, and do other things to express my creative self, but caring for those creatures who cannot care for themselves is my real calling in this world. And that's where I need to spend most of my time.

However, my urge to create, to make things with my own two hands, and to put words down for others to read, is quite large.

I knit. I spin. I design garments. This helps me deal with the endless frustration of keeping a candle lit in a hurricane, which is the nature of work in a municipal animal shelter. You save a life one day and you are called, sadly too late, to help another life tomorrow. You beat your head against the wall a lot, trying to convince abysmally stupid people to do the right thing -- to spay and neuter their pets, to vaccinate their pets, to keep their pets from running at large.

Some days, you take a cruelty case to court, and you prevail, and the bad guy has to pay for his horrid actions. Most days, you don't have enough solid evidence to make a good case.

Some days, you get a dozen downtrodden dogs off to rescue groups, four adult cats are adopted, and a batch of healthy puppies go off to loving homes.

Other days, you find yourself investigating an animal poisoner, prosecuting a dog-fighter, and euthanizing a litter of desperately sick puppies whose lives could have been saved if the owner had considered that spaying --- or even just vaccinating -- the mother was more important than buying a carton of cigarettes.

Often, you come home and you just want to curl up in a ball in the darkest recess of your closet, with a blanket over your head. On days like that, it's not hard to think that everybody's old friend, Jack Daniels, might have some good advice. You think about giving him a call, climbing into his pickup truck, and having a good, long, bumpy drive through the woods and swamps and backroads of your mind, while you retrace your steps and carry on about how you could have done things better. Mr. Jack and his friend Ms. Merlot are good listeners, and you have a lot to get off your chest, and maybe you should give them a ring.

But then you remember that you have to work tomorrow, and you acknowledge that it might not be such a good idea to give old Jack a call tonight.

Ah, well then. Maybe on the weekend.

Unlike Mr. Daniels, knitting and spinning do not drag you deeper into Dismal Swamp. Knitting and spinning provide repetitive kinetic release, soothing the eyes with color and beauty, and soothing the hands with texture and softness.

So I knit, and I spin. When I really want to let go of some tension, I scour fleeces and make felt.

And I write compulsively. It makes me happy to have a small audience for my blog, but I'm just as pleased to do technical writing for my job. On a good writing day, I can inspire others. On my bleakest and most barren writing day, I can at least crank out presentable employee training materials.

But no matter how lousy my day has been, I can almost always knit or spin.

We've had our share of frustration, aggravation and waiting for miracles in my line of work since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit south Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. We have worked insane hours in burdensome conditions. We have built new shelters and clinics. But there is still so much more to do. My job situation has changed twice since Katrina hit.

Not good for the ol' morale.

But last week I learned there is some available space at the arts market downtown, which is affiliated with the farmer's market.

And I thought about yarn.

So I have applied for a weekend booth at the arts market downtown. Into this booth I shall bring my handspun yarn, and offer it for sale. In addition, I plan to offer some "recycled" yarns -- mill ends combined with other yarn into new skeins of one-of-a-kind novelty art yarns. And I will offer some small knit goods for sale -- scarves, amulet bags, that sort of thing. The sort of things that will be seen as good gift items as the holidays approach.

And of course I will spin. The arts market likes to welcome people into their fold who do what they call "heritage crafts" -- knitters, weavers, potters, dyers, basketmakers and now a spinner. As far as I know I am the first spinner to give it a go.

This could potentially lead to a fulltime or part-time indoor stall later in the year. We shall see.

So let's see what happens.

More later.

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At 6:35 AM, Anonymous Beverly near Yosemite said...

Oh, Dez, my very best wishes on the new venture. If you spin for sanity, you must (like me) have yarn you know will not be knit up in this satisfying to see it going to good homes! And the few times I have demo'ed spinning, it's very fulfilling to share my solitary pastime with others.

At 6:53 AM, Blogger Barbara-Kay said...

Best wishes, my furry friend. Please let me know when you open. I want to get some of your handspun as a special gift for...well, perhaps I shouldn't say who.

At 9:28 AM, Blogger Sonya said...

That is just wonderful!!
It will be so exciting to join a group of artists.


At 11:42 AM, Blogger sweet-Vangogh46 said...

I had a three paragraph message typed and the blog ate it. So, suffice it to say, while, I haven't the strength of heart to do the job you do, my kitties are tended as well as any of my off-spring ( and I haven't heard the off-spring complain.) and protected as fiercely. I contribute by crocheting for the Native Americans on the Pine Ridge Reservation, and other things they need, here and there. I seem to always have access to an unbelieveable sale or a stash someone hands down to me so I crochet constantly.
I will be visiting you in your stall as I live in Mobile. And I do have to say Rock On, Dez, as the BritComs say because the animals depend on people like you. I raise a glass to you.

At 11:56 AM, Blogger ambermoggie said...

Good for you Dez and I know you will do brilliantly in the market with your yarn and knitted items:)

At 1:45 PM, Blogger Redblur63 said...

Let me know how this works out. I get to New Orleans about four times a year, and I would definitely patronize your booth. Also, I have family and friends in NOLA, and can direct them to you as well. My sister is opening a dog care center in Faubourg St. Jean, maybe she would be able to send folks to you.

At 5:08 PM, Blogger Ronni said...

I'm very happy for you, Dez, to follow your inspiration that way. I wish all manner of success for you.

At 9:58 AM, Blogger Jo at Celtic Memory Yarns said...

Go with all my good thoughts, Dez, and I will be down there to see you just as soon as I can.

You know you're following the right instincts and that is always worthwhile - even if the rest of the world doesn't seem to recognise it.

Love and strength

At 8:50 PM, Anonymous oneken said...

dez, this is an interesting direction you have discovered.... and there are truly interesting and lovely things to be found at the arts market-- one enjoys bringing some of them home occasionally.

i will sooo come downtown and visit your booth in search of knitterly things .... the arts market has usually been held on the first saturday of every month... do you begin soon?

btw, be on the look-out there for a subtle genius named mudcat with his national steel guitar. he parks himself on the curb and plays casually for free.

At 6:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best of luck in the new venture - I hope it is every bit as successful as you imagine it will be, and more so!

At 7:15 PM, Blogger Amanda said...

And if you're ever tempted to join, and ply your yarn wares there, please do post it on the blog, I'd love to give a home to some up here in NJ.

As for the animal welfare work you do, words fail me. I couldn't, and am so very glad that you do.


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