I had given up on my hopes of being at the Harvest Festival in 2021. I had sent them a request for info last fall, and was in the process of gathering photos and filling out the application when Casey had his aneurysm occur in February. I didn’t even open the studio again until May, and I had decided that Silver Dollar City wasn’t going to happen for me this year. It was ok. I accepted it happily, as I am more than ever seeking peace in my life and in my business after feeling that brush with mortality, which told me life is short, enjoy what you have, don’t pursue all the dreams this year.
Then Silver Dollar City pursued me.
In a nutshell, here’s what happened. While helping a customer on a busy day in the studio during Fair Week, our biggest annual home event, my watch vibrated. I glanced at it and saw the first line of an email that basically said, “this is such and such from Silver Dollar City, and we would love to have you…”
OMGOMGOMGOMG, my brain said, while I calmly continued my conversation with my client. While my customer was browsing, I screenshotted the notification on my phone and sent it to my team, with the message “With a client, but dying to open this email.”
About an hour later I finally got to open the email. I replied with my number and a request to chat. That turned into a phone call with lots of questions and taking notes, and that turned into a verbal “I’m in!”
And 3.5 weeks later, I was set up ON THE SQUARE at Silver Dollar City, decked out in 1880’s attire.
It was a hard and fast weekend. Setup Wednesday, then run back home for fiber arts (we didn’t crochet; everyone helped me finalize preparations and tag merchandise), head back for final setup Thursday, then Friday Saturday Sunday in the amusement park. I had my old ironing board set up behind a barrier, with lots of uncut containers of all sorts on the shelves behind me and in the area around me. I ended up cutting with my back to the crowd, so that they could see what I was doing. I would see a group heading up the hill from the Funnel Cake shop, and I would start cutting. Since I had my back turned, I couldn’t see who was there. The groups always stopped at the top of the hill to rest, at my booth, and they would watch, and sometimes I’d turn around and two dozen people were watching me cut a design.
It was so fantastic. I answered questions, took on custom order challenges, used the crowd for ideas, and cut whatever they asked, if I thought I could do it.
Cool Stuff I Made on the Spot
I did so many custom cuts, but I don’t think we got photos of even a fourth of those.
I took a saw and cut “$20 YOUR NAME” on the blade. We positioned the saw on the barrier above a bucket full of old saws. People would choose a saw and bring it up to us with their words to be cut. I cut so many last names! The funniest cut I made all weekend was a saw that said “She Shed He Shed” and that was also the one with the most letters.
I had an EMS worker who wanted the EMS star cut into a teapot.
One lady wanted me to cut an owl, and she chose the perfect shape of brass pot for it!
My area leader asked me for a Herman Munster freon can luminary, and showed me some options for the cutout. I think he turned out pretty cool.
This couple wanted something rustic and outdoorsy.
I did this one of my own volition, after several requests for holiday ideas. It ended up being popular. I’ve cut several more since.
Here I’m cutting a family ranch brand on a cream can, while the family watches in the background. One of their kids chose a saw after that, which I cut a name in, then one of them wanted a freon can with his name on it, so I improvised that one on the fly and did “CA$H” for him, which he thought was awe$ome.
This family had me cut a 4-foot saw, a hubcap, a small saw and 4 different custom containers. They did a lot of their Christmas shopping with me.
I had two grain bin lids with me, and we carried them up to the booth from craftsman parking on Sunday.
My first custom cut of the day was a custom saw for a couple. After I cut their saw, they hung around to watch me a bit longer, and I cut a Chiefs logo into a rusty grain bin lid. I was chatting amongst those who had gathered to watch, and my saw customers liked the lid. He showed me his tattoo, and I took that on as a challenge, adapting the design to be cut easily and still look awesome. They stayed to watch me do that and ended up buying the lid. They sent me a pic of it hanging in their home already.
The Takeaway and Circling the Wagons for Next Time
What an experience!
I won’t lie. It was so amazing, I can hardly believe this is my life. I love it that people can walk up and watch me work, think about it for a few minutes, ask me if I can “cut a such-and-such out of that doohickey” and I can do it for them on the spot. It’s instant gratification for me and the customer. The connections afforded this way were amazing. If you’re an artist, find a way to connect live. On your facebook feed or in person at events. Don’t just set up a booth. Do the art right there where they can talk to you and get a feel for who you are while connecting with you on a personal level. Form relationships. You won’t believe what happens! So yeah, being a Silver Dollar City Craftswoman was incredible. Fun. Exciting. Gratifying.
But…As with every first-time at a new event, mistakes were made. I need to up my game next time around. Pare down the variety of items I’m taking and focus on creating metal art on the spot. Re-work the checkout stand and closet so they are one space inside the shack. Streamline my checkout experience. Make it easier for my helpers to run the point of sale. This was the maiden voyage of a new point of sale system, so it had its hiccups. Glad that’s over and ready to make changes for ease of use. Putting in variable pricing on similar items is a must, and is a solution to several problems we encountered. Create signage or a little leaflet so that the questions we answered a hundred times over are answered for the customer before they have a chance to ask. I can’t help but feel that this might ease some of the mental burden. It’s not easy to answer a lot of questions while doing the art, so I feel an attempt to answer some of those right off the bat somehow is worth a try.
Which brings up talking to over a thousand people a day. I say if you can do your art this way, go for it. But what if talking to a lot of people isn’t your thing? Well, a large crowd might not be the best route for you, but it would behoove you to manage your stress and talk to the people somehow if you can manage it. Start with a small event and work upward from there, or do it all online. Here’s a little more on my personal experience with it at SDC, and how I plan to mitigate the mental fatigue I felt from constantly talking to crowds…
I can talk to people, and I enjoy it, but doing it all day is hard for me. Especially while doing live artwork. It was “noisy” all day every day. It’s hard to describe how noisy my head already is, then add in lots of different constant input and I get frazzled, tired. I was mentally exhausted every evening. I hardly did anything on my computer in the evenings because I only wanted to veg out. So my self-care routine needs some tweaking and beefing, to provide maximum mental energy and stress management so that I can also operate after hours. I think a lot of that had to do with how I ate during the day. I would duck behind my shack into my little closet and shove an overdue meal down with an unsweet tea and then get right back out there to cutting. I need smaller portions and more often. I should have had a cooler of fuel-like snacks in my closet along with small serving-size water bottles. I didn’t drink enough water and felt like a wrung-out sponge. We have a lot coming up in the holiday season, so I’ll really need to be working in the evenings next week on planning holiday party workshops and organizing workflow for all of us as we gather materials for the workshop menu and prep the studio for groups. So self-care has to be a must or I’m going to come out of SDC behind on management work.
(((My self-care basics: Lifelong Vitality, Terrazyme, PB Assist, Mito 2 Max, Balance oil and Douglas Fir. Nature Valley Granola Bars, cranberry grape juice, water flask, Lemon oil, walnuts, cranberries with dark chocolate.)))
Again, overall it was amazing, and I cannot wait to get back and do it again!
I’ll be there for the last weekend of the Harvest Festival NEXT WEEK October 26-30. If you plan on going, you should probably reserve your spot…I heard through the grapevine that the park was at capacity last Saturday.
Thank you so much for being along for this ride.