It's been a long while since I blogged... a year and a half, to be precise. I kept paying for my blog service, even when it was hard to do so, unwilling to let the idea of blogging die, but, frankly, my words would not come. I even forgot the password to my blog account.
There are a lot of reasons for this. When I entered blogging, it was the era when a blog connected with a business supported the idea of a "lifestyle", and it was not considered savvy to show any weakness. Weakness was what I was feeling, as my Etsy sales plummeted to the point where I had to take part time work, and my band, which was going to take over the world, suddenly disintegrated. To change the tone, and make my blog more personal, was a concept fraught with danger, as my entire extended family, even the seniors, learned how to go online, and there are always family members who look down on a fully grown childless woman who appears in photos wearing silly hats, holding beers, and perhaps appearing to deserve the challenges that she is experiencing. Lastly, I had established a blog tone, and business tone, of extreme chipper-ness, and it seemed almost profane to quit all attempts to be clever or make people laugh, and just tell the truth... without smiley faces.
At this point, however, I feel like hiding my struggles is not doing me any good. Most people I know are struggling in one way or another, with money or with family or with relationships or with work. That is the human condition. Right now I feel like I have nothing left to lose, and perhaps by writing honestly, I can shift this story.
The struggle right now is around career. I work hard at my Etsy store, but plenty of people work hard- there was an element of dumb luck that helped me to do so well for a few years. In the past few years, as the marketplace, both online and on main streets all over America, became saturated with vintage clothing, I found that I had no skills to keep on top of the marketing and promotional game. As this was happening, I was also being more and more distracted by the labor of love that is rock and roll. It takes a lot of time and energy to run a successful home business, and my cup did not runneth over after two years of relentless live gigging and late nights. I knew it was, in part, my own doing, but I never realized how much I would miss working full-time for myself, until I found myself working for other people again. Argh.
Now I want so badly to climb back up to the top of that Self-Employment mountain, but I don't think it's going to be the same mountain. I'm not sure there is a place for me in the world of vintage clothing anymore. When I first started selling online, there was one tiny vintage shop in my town. Now there are at least three, and all of them sell dresses for dirt cheap. Personally, I like to try things on, and I like to pay less. Everyone seems to agree... I haven't sold an item to my girlfriends in town for years, and they used to be some of my best customers. I think the same thing must be going on everywhere. That, and the fact that every single person seems to have an Etsy shop now.
I'm also, honestly, a little bored, and a little frustrated. When I work with vintage, I am subject to the whims of the Thrift Gods. It is a great challenge, and I love styling, but I can never choose the style or the size, and I can never repeat something if it's a hit. I can express myself, but in a limited fashion. I try to bring out the best in the pieces that I find, but I don't invent them. My brain likes to invent things, to open to the channels of inspiration and see what on earth comes through.
My favorite job that I ever had was painting t-shirts for a brief stint in my early 20s. I loved it because there was no intermediary step between my inspiration and creation. I was the one who had to come up with the designs, often as I was painting them, and execution was immediate. The rules about "how" to paint each design were my own, made up as I went along. Serendipity and happy accidents were part of the process. I set up a shade structure in my parent's backyard, ran an extension cord out there for the radio, and listened to the Mexican pop station 8 hours a day and painted and dyed, painted and dyed. The shirts didn't do badly, considering I was painfully shy and basically avoided any opportunities to market them (a store in San Francisco wanted them, but I convinced myself they weren't good enough, and I would end up embarrassed, so I just never made an appointment to take them in). There was no internet, and I ran out of start-up money, so that story ended quickly.
The idea of coming back to t-shirts has been brewing in me for a long time. I announced to all my friends that I was going to do bleach painting starting in May. Everything else seemed to take precedent for months, and then in mid-summer I went to the grand opening of a hipster store in town, and what was featured in the picture window but a line of bleach-painted clothing, not far from the aesthetic I had been drawing in my notebooks. I felt like I'd been punched in the stomach... that was my dream! It took me a few more months to recover, and realize that it still was my dream, and that there might be room in this whole wide world for two bleach painters.
I was lucky to find a rack of inexpensive new blank t shirts at a thrift store, and that's how I began. I have done a few designs so far, and the initial response has been overwhelmingly positive... but it hasn't translated into many sales yet. I realize that I am starting from the ground up... people come to Astral Boutique for vintage clothing. T shirts are a whole other ball game. I don't know what people want, and why should I? I've only just begun.
What styles and cuts do women wear? Women are made in so many shapes and sizes, it's not just about Small-Medium-Large for us. We want to accentuate our best features and hide our flaws. We want to wear our favorite colors. Some of us like new trends. And then, the design itself. I work with symbols and archetypes, and those things are inherently personal. What will speak to someone as "treat for themselves", and what would make a good gift?
If you have bothered to read this far, and you have any input, I would love to hear it. Meanwhile, I keep filling my notebook with ideas, and asking my friends what they think, and trying new designs. A great store in town is carrying my shirts, and I hope to get some feedback from there about what works. I should probably do some craft fairs and street fairs so I can talk to people face to face about what they like. Ug... I hate selling my art in person! But I have friends. Someone will get on Team Sasha and stand by my side.
I want to treat this as what it is... something totally new, that will have a learning curve. I would love to be a success by Christmas, but that might not be reasonable. If I really want this-- and I do-- I am going to have to be persistent, and to ask for help.
Thanks for reading. This feels more like a well-edited diary entry than a blog... but it's my blog, and it can be what I need it to be. That is one part of life, at least, that I can control.