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Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained. Or, Just Do It

So, I did.


Why?  Because!

I am terrible at self-promotion, and I always have been.  Since I never win anything, I don’t enter contests.  (The only time I ever won an award was when I not only didn’t enter but didn’t even know it existed!)  As I wrote on Facebook, however, there was a kind of convergence of events that prompted me to take advantage of the last day of nominations.

So I nominated myself.  Since the nomination form requires all kinds of information about oneself, one’s history in the handmade “business,” and so on, self-nomination is the only kind that really works, so I didn’t feel too awkward.  I’m not sure that I gave all the right answers, but you can judge for yourself if you click through from the badge above to my profile page on the award’s site.

I have been a rock hound all my life, and I grew up in a family of do-it-yourselfers.  My grandmothers knitted and crocheted.  My mother sewed.  Handmade Christmas ornaments were a tradition on all sides of the family, whether they were Styrofoam balls with sequins pinned on, reindeer made from clothespins, or walnuts painted like strawberries.  It never occurred to me as a child to be ashamed of or embarrassed by handmade stuff.  I loved having one-of-a-kind.  Maybe that’s why I still have my dolls and especially all the handmade doll clothes.

By the time I approached adolescence, I had an inkling that part of the reason I had a lot of one-of-a-kind, handmade clothes was that we didn’t have a lot of spare cash for a ready made store bought wardrobe like most of my friends.   There were a few nice hand-me-downs, and I appreciated those, but they came with an understanding that someone else had more than we did and felt kind of sorry for me.  I preferred to have less, but to have it be handmade.

The same held true when I was on my own.  I took pride in making do on a slim income.  Making my own clothes, making my kids’ clothes.  Making quilts, even if they weren’t from intricate patchwork patterns.  Crocheting afghans and knitting sweaters.  In many cases if I didn’t make it, we didn’t have it.

I signed up for my first craft show in November 1975, when I was six months pregnant.   The $10 entry fee entitled me to one 10-foot table.  I brought no table cover, and I had barely enough inventory to fill the table.  Not my best showing by a long shot, and I barely made back the entry fee.  I remember that the weather was terrible; even though the show was indoors, people were kept away by wind and freezing rain.  A few years later I did the same show again with a bigger and better inventory, and better results.

Then we moved to Arizona.  With its really neat rocks.  As I made more jewelry and became more proficient at the craft, I ventured to apply for larger shows than the small local events.  Some were successful, some weren’t.  There was no way to be successful, however, at a show I didn’t even apply for.

Even so, when I learned about the Martha Stewart AmericanMade award, I hesitated for a long time.  Do I qualify as a business in the Martha Stewart sense?  I don’t know.  I have a business license.  I pay taxes.  I have a website and an Etsy shop.  Is that enough?  I don’t know.

Last week my daughter-in-law, photographer Shonda Hilton of Clinton, Washington, wrote her own blog post about the value of professional photography.  She wasn’t really saying anything I hadn’t said and thought myself for many years, but because she works in a different creative field and was speaking from a slightly different angle, her justification resonated with me.  Sure, I’m selling a stone I went out in the desert and picked up off the ground, but my contribution doesn’t stop there.  (By the way, Shonda took two of the photos I used in my AmericanMade nomination; I don’t do white backgrounds very well!)  There’s a lot that goes into making a stone into a piece of jewelry, both before and after picking it up.

After reading her blog post, I began to think some more about the Martha Stewart award.  Why not?  It wouldn’t cost me anything, not even an entry fee.  Just the time to fill out the form and nominate myself for the chance to win $10,000.

What sealed the deal was the baseball game Sunday night.  Jessica Mendoza had been hired by ESPN as a baseball analyst, the first woman to hold that position, and was announcing the Cubs/Dodgers game.  Yes, the NFL had recently hired their first female official and the Arizona Cardinals had hired a female football coach.  But I’m a baseball fan.  White Sox more than Cubs, but that’s beside the point.

Well, no, it’s not beside the point.  It’s actually part of the point.  Because back in the 1960s, it was the Chicago Daily News newspaper, in conjunction with the White Sox, who sponsored the annual contest for batboys.  There was an official form and I think you had to write 150 words about why you wanted to be the batboy, and then get a parent’s signature.  Everyone who entered got a baseball, and two lucky boys would be chosen.

No girls allowed.

That didn’t seem fair, so prior to the 1961 season — I was in seventh grade — my friend Sue S. and I decided we would enter.  We would somehow forge our mothers’ signatures on the form and enter in defiance of the rules.  I did it, she didn’t.  Of course I didn’t win.  I didn’t even get the free baseball.  Maybe the newspaper just automatically disqualified me because I was a girl, or maybe they figured out I had forged the signature.  At any rate, I didn’t get to be batgirl for the White Sox.

But Jessica Mendoza’s presence in the announcer’s box reminded me of the fearless 12-year-old I’d been.  So as soon as I got up yesterday morning, on the last day of nominations, I wrote out all the stuff you see on the linked profile and nominated myself for the Martha Stewart AmericanMade award.

Of course I won’t win.  But maybe someone will see what I’ve written and understand what it means to make something yourself and then share it with others.  That’s the whole point of being in business.  Oh, sure, making money is part of it because we can’t get by without some kind of income, and that’s why we make our hobbies into businesses.  For me, though, a good part of it is the sheer joy of playing with the rocks, finding them, turning them into wearable art, and then sharing with someone else.  Especially sharing them with someone who might not be able to afford the more expensive baubles traditionally touted for the ooh and aah factor.  I’m going to give people something no one else can buy anywhere else for any price:  One of a kind.


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