Archives for posts with tag: holidays

I learned the hard way that you should never turn down an opportunity.  When I was a freshman in college, I applied to be a foreign exchange student in Japan, and after I was accepted, I backed out.  I was afraid to be away from home for one whole year.  I’ve regretted that decision my whole life.  I also learned that when certain opportunities present themselves, you have to act on them,  because you may never have the chance to do them again.  I ask for what I want now, if the answer is no, I’m okay with that, because the next time I have a chance to do something I want to do, I will forge right ahead. I never want to look back and say, “damn I wish I would have done that”.

I’ve been to all three Hollywood premieres of The Lord of the Rings (as well all three after parties) and even  borrowed the executive producer’s limousine  to take me back to the Motel 6 where I was staying at the time!    I’ve been a celebrity wrangler at the Palm Springs Film Festival where I outfitted the legendary composer, Michel Legrand, with a bowtie he never paid me back for, and managed to swing a backstage pass to a  David Bowie concert where I met the great film producer, Ray Stark (who left his table and a fleet of people lined up to pay homage to him, to greet everyone at MY table when I naively asked if he would mind saying hello to my friends!).  I’ve been behind the scenes for the chuckwagon races at the Calgary Stampede, toured the stables at Cavalia (Cirque du Soleil on horseback), soaked in sulphur hot springs in Thermopolis, Wyoming, taken a helicopter tour of Kauai, auditioned for Expedition Impossible, Project Accessory AND The Amazing Race.

Last year  a friend of mine introduced me to a friend of hers over drinks, and when I found out that he was a flight captain for the big balloons at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, I immediately asked if I could participate.  I have always loved MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET and watch it every year after setting up my tree.  I know every frame of that movie by heart and I still cry every year when Natalie Wood gets her dream house. I swoon whenever I drive through Teaneck, New Jersey (if you need to ask then you don’t deserve to know!) so being a part of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade experience shot to the top of my bucket list like a rocket.

You can’t just call Macy’s and ask to be a balloon handler; you have to be sponsored by a current participant, and they give first crack at the balloons every year to Macy’s employees.  Because there are about 1800 volunteers for the parade overall, spaces do open up, and this past April, we received our online application to be balloon handlers for none other than the Spiderman balloon.  With the help of a very generous friend who agreed to trade  a hotel room for artwork, we were able to stay at the Marriott on 49th and Lexington, and with an outrageously inexpensive flight from Charlotte to Newark, we headed off to New York City on November 21 to walk in the most famous parade on the planet.

First, we took in the Broadway performance of Spiderman at the Foxwood Theatre on Tuesday night after a taping of the David Letterman Show that afternoon to prepare ourselves for what was to come.  The rush seats we had gave a perfect view of the flying sequences, but everything stage left was blocked so it was hard to see some of the actors.  Even so it was a great way to start the week.  Two attempts at winning lottery tickets to the Book of Mormon on Wednesday fell flat, and so did our trip to Macy’s to sit on Santa’s lap (turns out the old guy leaves the North Pole for Macy’s  Thanksgiving Eve, and because of the parade, doesn’t actually make it into the store until the day after) and go ice skating at Rockefeller Center (Justin Bieber was shooting a segment for the Christmas Tree lighting on November 30 so the rink was closed to the public).

By Thursday morning, I was about to burst.  We left a wake up call for 4:30 in the morning to give us time to pack our stuff and check out of the hotel.  By 5:30 we were on the subway headed to 34th and Penn Station, and as we rounded the corner to the hotel where we would get dressed, the line of volunteers stretched past us for two entire blocks.

My excitement level peaked when the delivery door to the hotel burst open and several people dressed as bees, bananas, and bacon and eggs rushed out onto the street.  Pretty soon we were in the lobby and on our way to the fourth floor where there were signs all over the place for the big balloons.  Kermit the Frog and the Sonic Hedgehog were down the hall to the left, while Ronald McDonald and Square Bob Spongepants were at the other end of the corridor.  I stopped to use the restroom before putting on my jumpsuit, and fought to hold back my laughter.  There were clowns, pilgrims and cowgirls all waiting to use the facilities, and if we were allowed to have cameras in the hotel, I would have taken a picture because it was an absolute  riot.

We dressed in our Spiderman jumpsuits, which consisted of blue coveralls, red vests with Spiderman eyes on the front an the word, Spiderman on the back, grabbed our red knit caps and fur lined gloves and boarded a bus for the flight line.  We sat across the aisle from Mother Goose and some beefy men dressed as fairies in purple wigs and tights, then headed for the Spiderman balloon on 81st street beside the Natural History Museum.

The parade starts on Central Park West, so balloons, floats, performers and bands all filter in from different side streets.  650 teenaged girls were literally squashed together at the entrance to the parade in an effort to stay warm, dressed in thin nylon costumes, leggings and fingerless gloves, while marching bands and Southern Belles in gigantic pastel dresses milled about.  After a brief tutorial on proper balloon etiquette and directional signals, we took up our positions.

Michael and I were in the very front,  and as we stepped onto Central Park West, the view was amazing.  It was 50 degrees and clear as a bell.  The street lights and traffic signals were moved up against the buildings, and between the barricades and 80 billion police,  the street was wide open. The NYPD Marching Band was right in front of us (we weren’t behind any horses, thank god) and up ahead, Uncle Sam bobbed along against the clear blue sky.  There were people EVERYWHERE.  Stacked several dozen deep on the streets, and in the apartment buildings and office buildings above us, people were gathered at the windows and on rooftops to watch the parade go by.  We had a man dressed in a Spiderman costume who was sent by Marvel comics to work the crowd, and he ran from one screaming group of kids to the next for photos and handshakes as we walked down the street.

I think the thing I loved the most about the parade was how it ended.   Just past the Macy’s grandstands, the parade just stopped.  Meaning the bands went that way and the floats went this way and the balloons went down a street covered with a tarp where we deflated Spidey, rolled him up and loaded him into a giant basket, then headed back to the hotel to change out of our jumpsuits.  People were disassembling the floats on all the side streets, and loading individual parts into bags, while cartoon characters  in costume were assisted onto golf carts and whisked them away to destinations unknown.  The streets were jammed with people trying to get home for Thanksgiving dinner, so the train station to Pearl River, where we had dinner, was a zoo, but all in all it was a total trip and I can’t wait to do it again next year!

When I was twenty I knew EXACTLY what I wanted to do with my life, and I often felt that if I could have barreled ahead without restraint, I would have been where I THOUGHT I wanted to be a long, LONG time ago.  But I am also reminded of two quotes that have defined my life, and how grateful I am at this particular point in time that I didn’t get where I wanted to be thanks to the lessons I learned along the way.

Patience is NOT one of my virtues, as anyone who knows me well can tell you, and yet, when it comes to my art career, I will take all the time I need to get things just right. I had no idea how to make a purse, or where to market one, where to find the hardware…I used to carry a BACKPACK, if I carried anything at ALL, and, anyway,  I’d invested fifteen years of my life in a career as the top gourd artist in the nation. I’d been on HGTV, had articles written on my work in the Wall Street Journal, Southwest Art Magazine and Wildlife Art news, participated in group exhibits, had one woman shows, gave demonstrations at gourd festivals and gallery shows all over the country and even presented a gourd commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the Gombe Research Center to  my hero, Jane Goodall.  I  sold a gourd to golf legend Hale Irwin, was commissioned by the executive producer of the Lord of the Rings to create a piece for the Lord of the Rings; The Two Towers with Golum, Frodo and Sam Gangee, and I still hold the record for the most expensive gourd ever sold at $22,500.

It always bothered me that people spent HUGE sums of money on artwork they left at home.  No one buys Christian Louboutin shoes, a Rolex, a Prada bag, or a Christian Dior dress JUST to leave it in the closet, so why do people buy gorgeous works of art to leave them at home?  It seemed to me you could have an AMAZING accessory that was ALSO an incredible addition to your art collection.

And so, I embarked on the journey of a lifetime when I decided to combine art with function in one of a kind and limited edition handbags…I wasn’t going to line the purses at first, until one very wise woman  pointed out that without a lining, you would hear everything you carried rattling around inside it.  I knew I wanted to work with wood but I didn’t know how to protect the purses against water damage. I knew I wanted to hand bead some of the handles, but the last time I tackled a bead work project with any great enthusiasm,  I wound up with a pile of very expensive seed beads and a loom that gathered dust for years until I finally gave it to the Goodwill.

As the saying goes, “If you want to hear the sound of God’s laughter, tell him your plans” and I am convinced I have had God in stitches most of my life.  I spent HOURS on the internet trying to find fabric and handles and beads and varnishes, craft shows, art shows, wholesale shows and boutiques, and just when I thought I had one aspect of the design process worked out, something else came along to challenge my approach; how do you secure all the things on a travel trailer handbag that make the handbag so fun to carry without sacrificing its function; how do you finish the back of a leopard handbag when the front and the insides are so captivating; how do you wrap images around handbag when it has irregular sides, and THEN finish the entire thing in gold leaf?

Its been an interesting process but, as the other saying I define my life by so eloquently states, “Its the journey, its not the destination”.  I have had some amazing support this past year from some truly remarkable women, and I thank you all for believing in me when I’d started to think this might have just been the dumbest idea I’d ever come up with….

I can hardly believe that 2011 is right around the corner, but I already have two very exciting shows lined up in February and March (The American Crafts Council Show in Baltimore, MD and Natureworks in Tulsa, OK) that are inspiring me to hit the studio with great passion and determination.  I have so much I want to do and such great opportunities ahead of me that the sky is the limit.

There will be more insights in the days to come, but for the moment I just wanted to say to all of you who have been on this journey with me, whether you know it or not, your faith in my work has been the fire that has helped light my way.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart….

Much has happened in the last week or two; most of it has been really great, but some of it feels like I am in slogging my way through quicksand.  Despite appearances to the contrary where the bags are concerned, patience is not my strong suit.  I am ready to be the next Judith Leiber NOW….but, the universe evidently has other plans, because for every step forward I take, I seem to take two steps back.  Or as a friend of mine so aptly puts it “if you want to hear the sound of God’s laughter, tell him your plans”.

The good news is that several of my bags have been accepted into Julie’s Art to Wear in New York.  One of my best collectors brought this amazing boutique to my attention, having been a patron of the store for many years.  Julie Schafler Dale practically created the art to wear movement, and her store, on Madison Avenue, is an institution.  And no, NOT the kind you would expect me to be locked away in, thank you very much!

I also finished my first jaguar bag.  I have done jaguar evening bags before, but nothing this elaborate.  It has 23 carat gold leaf on the front and back of the bag, which is also lined with a matching print. It comes with a  jaguar print hand made clutch as well.

I finished my first Mah Jongg bag…this one is a tote, and I am already in discussions with the head of the American Mah Jongg League to take samples to their next competition for the purposes of selling these new beauties to a captive audience.  The image on the front of the bag features the flower suite, and the handpainted symbols on the bottom are Chinese for…what else? Mah Jongg!!!!!

I have been wait listed for two shows; the American Craft Council Show in Baltimore, and the Palm Beach Craft Show in Palm Beach Florida.  That’s not so good, but its better than being told they don’t want you at all, right?

The trade show in Florida didn’t go as well as anyone would have liked.  But on the other hand, I am in discussions with a boutique in Maryland that looks promising.

I was named the Handbag Designer of the Day by

And finally, I made my You Tube debut as promised.   I’ve gotten 336 hits so far in the first week alone, and a spam email from someone trying to sell me on signing up with their service to help promote the segment.  How did I know it was a spam email? Because whoever wrote it told me I had “an amazing voice”.  I would have clicked on the link if he would have said I had an adequate voice.  After all, there IS still such a thing as truth in advertising, isn’t there????

Don’t forget that I am offering 20 percent off any handbag on my site until December 1 along with free shipping.  So let me know what you want for Christmas and I will have my elves get right on it.  But first, I probably need to find some elves…..

The handbag business is continuing to make minor strides in the marketplace with several new developments.  An online interview I gave last April to a handbag design website was posted this morning, and even though the questions I was asked to respond to were left out of the article (making for some pretty choppy transitions) I am pleased that it was finally published!

Handbag Designer 101 Interview

Secondly, my work is being debuted at the Trendz Accessories show in West Palm Beach, Florida and is being handled by a handbag rep who services Florida, the Caribbean and Puerto Rico, so hopefully by this time next week I will be up to my eyebrows in orders.

Thirdly, I managed to get portfolios to three top boutiques in Wilmington, Baltimore, and New York City where I hope to establish accounts before Christmas.  The boutique in Maryland is calling with an order, which is good, because I really need to have my Christmas accounts in a row and filled at least two weeks before Christmas.  And I have an idea for a handbag that will have all seven on the big cats on it for one very lucky lady to open on Christmas morning!

I also had a previous client contact me with a spectacular insight into what she thinks makes the bags so fabulous. She said women spend a lot of money on shoes so people can look….at their feet?  She thinks women should invest in a beautiful handbag, because a unique handbag can help you make a statement about who you are and what you are about better than just about anything else you can think of.  And of course, she’s right!!!!

So if anyone wants to get on board the Christmas Express to make a statement about who you are and what YOU are about, now would be a good time to do it!!   I am offering 20% off any handbag, evening bag or tote on the site, along with free shipping.

Happy Holidays!!!

I am conflicted. Christmas decorations are already up at most businesses in town and it isn’t even Halloween yet….

But I have a feeling that if I don’t start reminding people now that Christmas is almost upon us, they will wait until the last minute to place their orders……

That would be a real shame…..

Because these handbags don’t make themselves you know….

Although, it would be nice if they did….

So here’s to Christmas….

May it be ever so bright…….