Soggy Diary of A Local Vendor

Ever wondered what it’s like to be a craft vendor? No? Well I’m going to write about it anyway. You can choose what the next post is about, if you like.

Last weekend was Memorial Day  weekend, which in my town means ViVA Vienna. This is our town’s annual Memorial Day weekend carnival. According to my kids, it is a weekend of rollicking good fun and sticky sweetness. There are rides, performances, traditional carnival foods, freebies, vendors, and normally, there is blistering sun.

I wouldn’t know about this, because I never get to experience ViVA Vienna the way the rest of my family does. I am one of the aforementioned vendors. My own personal experience involves standing in one place for nine hours for two days straight, and then spending the following Tuesday slowly hobbling around town with a pained look on my face, and a large coffee in my hands.

ViVA Vienna holds a special place in my heart, and selling at markets is a necessary part of my job, but let’s be honest here for a second, okay? I have a love-hate relationship with markets. Like many vendors, I would rather be making stuff than selling it , but apparently the two go hand in hand. When people ask whether I enjoy selling at markets, I’m not sure how to answer them, because I have mixed feelings.
Take ViVA Vienna for example, on the one hand, I get to meet amazing people, introduce myself as a local artist to my community, and hobnob with friends, all while selling my work and making money – pretty sweet. On the other hand, I have moments of quiet madness, when I desperately want to get out of my hot 10×10 tent, and have a go on the massive slide with my kids. And then there’s Mother Nature; outdoor markets are so unpredictable, and things can flip in a minute. It rained so heavily on Sunday, that nobody stopped by for hours on end. My chair was soaked so I couldn’t sit down at all, and I was becoming increasingly freaked out about my merchandise getting damaged. That is not a recipe for big smiles.
Conversely, Monday was beautiful, sunny, dry, and jam packed with happy customers. Sometimes unpredictable is good, sometimes it gives you gray hair and frazzled nerves.

At the end of it all, the good does outweigh the bad and ugly, and it’s always a fun weekend for my whole family.

Here are some honest high, and lowlights:

  • Highlight So…many…cute…babies. One of the perks of designing for babies and kids is that I get to hang out with them while their parents are shopping. Cuteness overload, extreme happiness…sigh.
  • Lowlight A sudden torrential downpour on Sunday afternoon makes me give into soul crushing sadness, despite the decidedly cest la vie attitude that I tried to adopt on social media that day.
  • Highlight When the rain washed all the customers away on Sunday, I realized that I had bought a notebook with me. I worked on ideas for future products, and had a pretty productive few hours.
  • Lowlight My feet and legs still feel sore, and not the good sore that you get from exercise. Standing in one place for so long doesn’t really suit my temperament.
  • Highlight The people!! I got to catch up with so many friends, some I haven’t seen in a long time, and repeat customers. I discovered other screenprinters and designers, and made plans to meet up with them. ViVA Vienna really is the most sociable event I work all year. It’s lovely to realize how many people you love in your town. I even got a chocolate care package when it rained hard!
  • Lowlight I’m still doing laundry after some of my products got wet in the rain.
  • Highlight Friends always turn up to help us set up and break down our tent in Vienna. It is so lovely to have that support when you are exhausted.
  • Highlight Memorial Day turned out to be gloriously sunny. My tent dried out, lots of people came, and the kids looked ridiculously happy all weekend!

My next fair is on the Alexandria Waterfront in two weeks. Enough time to recuperate and get more things made. Fingers crossed for no rain.

Rainy Sunday
Deserted market because of rain
Chocolate care package from good friends


Memorial day – the sun comes out!

Mayday, May Day, and Mayhem. The Busiest Month of The Year

Apparently the distress signal Mayday comes from the French term m’aider, which means “help me”. The signal was invented in the 1940s by a radio officer in Croydon airport.

These two facts make me smile, because, first of all, I like the fact that something so important came out of Croydon; the term “mayday” comes to mind frequently when thinking about past shopping excursions there.
Secondly, May is just about the most manic month on my calendar. Three family birthdays, Mother’s Day, ViVA Vienna; and, with the end of the school year looming, hurried Summer Camp planning.  May is a month of looking and feeling like a dishevelled rabbit caught in oncoming headlights (apart from Mother’s Day of course, when I scrub up quite nicely). It is exhausting, but I have been pretty productive. I have been printing up a storm for my local Memorial Day festival, ViVA Vienna. It looks like I’ll be spending this week frantically ironing, sewing, and putting labels on things, in between large, fortifying cups of tea. I thought I’d share some pictures of my May work so far with you below.

Oh, and before I go, one last thought about May.
I miss traditional May Day – they don’t celebrate this in the US. You know, a day off work on the 1st of May to celebrate Spring and workers unions, and indulge in much pagan revelry. I miss watching kids prance around maypoles, and gawping at morris dancers. Does that still happen in the UK? So many things have changed since I left (mostly for the better), but I really hope May Day has been kept intact. I remember being one of the maypole kids when I was little.

Aaaah, the life of an immigrant, it’s like being the spread in a sandwich (I’m going to leave you to work out the meaning of that one yourself).

Happy May, wherever you are!


Choosing Self Employment – How To Stay Positive and Productive

Guess what? I’m a great, big whinger

Huge surprise, right? Please insert crying with laughter emoticon here.

I have noticed that I am constantly on the lookout for external reasons to blame my stuttering, pigeon-stepping, career growth on. There are just so many good reasons to choose from:
Being a mom, not having a proper studio, working in isolation, not living in an arts hub, lack of time, lack of contacts, lack of good chocolate. There is always something around to take the blame.

But I chose this path with my eyes open, and I knew about all those issues when I started. I knew that my growth would be slow and long, and difficult. I knew that the path would cut through my young family’s years of early childhood and early parenting, and that I would choose to be present for most of that. I knew that I would choose to work less for a few years, but not forever. Not forever. It’s time to work, and grow more now.

Taking Responsibility For My Choices

Most obstacles to growth are just that, something to stumble over, and then pick yourself up and carry on. We don’t lie permanently spread eagled on the sidewalk after a stumble, do we (even though sometimes we really want to)?
Yes, it’s tough to not have a separate studio, but I do have a big home, and there are plenty of artists, and small business owners who have managed to do a lot in very tight spaces. Yes, I would rather work in London, where I have a ready-made creative community to lean on, or in a city with a large art focus, but I’m here right now, and there are good things about that. It’s really pretty here, and I haven’t really taken advantage of the prettiness fully. I have an incredibly supportive spouse, who helps hugely with work and home duties. Plus, DC with it’s art scene is just a train ride away. I just need to make more of an effort to get off my backside and appreciate the good stuff.
And here’s the big one – Not Enough Time,  there is NEVER enough time, whether you are a parent or not. The answer to that is, I need to use the time I have more efficiently.

Managing Time

Those of us who are self employed, are very fortunate. We have more flexibility in our schedules, and can work strange hours, so that we can be present for those personal events that matter to us. I get to spend a lot of time with my kids, and I’m happy with that. But I do want to work more as well.

I have been listening to Laura Vanderkam’s audiobook I Know How She Does It, in which she talks about time management, and how people really have more time than we think we do.  It has made me look at my weekly calendar in a new light.
I have weeks where I am incredibly productive, and weeks where I resemble that character, Sadness, from Inside Out – just a melted puddle of a human, paralyzed by indecision and anxiety.  I think I need to accept that some weeks are going to be more productive than others, and that my work schedule is always going to be more unorthodox than usual. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t get as much done as someone working 9-5 in an office.  I’m starting small, but here are some things I am mindfully putting into my schedule, to help me be more productive. If you are self employed, maybe they could help you as well.


  • Get up early and work on deep thought activities, such as writing curriculum or blog posts an hour before the kids are awake. I’m a morning person, sharp as a nail at 6am, but I haven’t been making the most of that lately. Starting the day this way, will help to set the tone for the rest of the day (of course, that means an earlier bedtime too – I still need my sleep).
  • After the kids go to school, start the day by actually doing work. Don’t look at social media or emails in the morning. Put an hour aside in the evening after the kids go to bed, to answer emails, and communicate with customers.
  • Start big. Be super productive on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, so that if it is possible, I can ease up a little towards the end of the week.
  • Practicing self care. Do some form of exercise every day, whether it is a lunchtime yoga class, a gym session, or a walk. This is never a wasted hour, it will provide the energy needed to keep going strong.
  • Work a few hours on the weekend, maybe Sunday evening after the kids are in bed, to set up for the week ahead.
  • Don’t feel guilty about working in weird places such as outside my daughter’s Tae Kwon Do class. Having a hard stop at 4pm every day when the kids get home, can sometimes leave me feeling unfinished, but I like spending time with the kids, so I’ll fit the remaining work in at times that I can.
  • Whether it is drawing in a sketchbook, screen printing shirts, or working on a painting, maintain a daily practice, even if it is only for a few minutes on some days. Sometimes that means setting up automated tasks in advance on slow weeks.

There are other things I already do, such as keeping a visual schedule, and dividing my work day into small blocks of time. Those are just things that work for me right now. I’m open to suggestions from other self employed people in creative industries. You know where I am.

This Year’s Hot Themes For Summer Camp!

A week ago, I was in the middle of a serious curriculum writing streak. I wrote curriculum like a boss, there was smoke coming out of my keyboard, and I enjoyed it (honest, I did). Things were trotting along at a nice pace. There I was, researching, writing, ordering materials, checking boxes, signing checks, making slideshows, photocopying maps, pretending to drink coffee like a grown up, all while feeling pretty smug about it all.

Maybe a little too smug.

In response to my disgusting smugness, the universe has given me a sick child to deal with this week. Balance has been restored to the universe, and I have been, hmmm, very slightly less productive. I have taken a lot of temperatures, watched quite a few Wallace and Gromit films, and spent a lot of time trying to get started on things. Sigh.

I’d really like to give you a beautifully written, well thought out post, layered with meaning and beautiful prose. I’d like to be the person I was last week. However, the best I can do right now with my sticky Motrin-tipped fingers is give you a stream of consciousness paragraph about summer camp themes.

I love writing curriculum for the Summer camp. I’m the head honcho, so I have a lot of freedom with regards to, well, everything. I like to tie in a lot of current, real world issues to the projects, and choose themes that the kids can get really passionate about (like cake, and recess).
It’s Summer camp, not school, so the kids will drive the bus, so to speak. Some of these themes will fly far, and others may not be explored very much. Of course, we often go off on a tangent when the students get really excited about a subject, and sometimes we just pick berries, or our noses. That’s what summer is all about.

Here is a sneak peek of some of the things that the kids will be looking at (when we are not playing outside and napping under trees).

Wayne Thiebaud and Joel Penkman treats, painting childhood and nostalgia, color theory, OK Go, block printing, aerial landscapes, Janine Antoni, Play Doh bake off, cartography, fantasy lands, Narnia, Middle Earth,  Paula Scher, planning communities, perspective, wooden buildings, graphic design, transit maps, Mark Ovenden, Harry Beck’s Underground map, designing transit systems for Vienna, composition, minimalism, Mondrian, Christoph Niemann, logos and letters, visual narratives, comic books, Zoetropes, wordless books, illustration, Suzy Lee, Goodnight Gorilla, stab stitch binding, storytime ….. and more.

Well now I’m even more excited for camp to start. Only a month left before the fun begins….Maybe I should stop watching Shaun the Sheep?

Happy Friday.

Wayne Thiebaud cakes
My current state of mind
Keeping it real during the last week of camp
pretty picture from the last camp
pretty picture from the last camp
pretty picture from the last camp
pretty sandals from the last camp!