*Disclaimer: Feel free to read this entire post in a Kermit voice. You probably weren't going to do that, but now that you're doing it you can't stop, and I'm sorry for that.
Okay, we're going to try something a little different today, folks. Instead of your usual blog post info, useful tips or fashion advice and 'how-to's, I'm going to share a secret. And no, I'm not just saying that to hook you into reading on, it's actually true. The secret is, I have a library of client stories that have deeply touched my heart, and I'm going to tell you a few of them today. You might be thinking, 'umm, why?' You certainly didn't ask for this, and there's a good chance you don't care, and that's why I'm going to tell you. Because you need to hear this.
The culture around small business ownership (especially right now), is often focused on the grind, the chaos, the long hours and short pay. I personally can be found on social media joking about these things, because sometimes you have to laugh so that you don't cry, but that's a different topic entirely. ANYWHO... I want to shift the attention to what small business ownership is really about. This is going to sound cheesy as hell, but hear me out. *Human connection* (queue the rainbows and butterflies.)
Anyone who knows me personally can attest to the fact that I'm more than a little difficult to get along with. I'm a mega-introvert and essentially a ticking time bomb whenever I'm around another person. Like, get the hell on with it because my headache is setting in and I have t-minus 45 minutes before I abruptly excuse myself so I can go home and meditate. That's just who I am. But when it comes to my customers...I'm talkin' people I've never laid eyes on in real life.. They touch my friggen heart. I don't know why, but I have a weird soft spot for strangers. I've been told I'm "a delight" and a "sweetheart" on numerous occasions. Whaaaat? <-- That's me, flabbergasted when someone calls me a delight. I told my dad this story when it happened and he laughed heartily. So there's that. Okay, so back to the point...
Running a business is hard, that's no secret. Running a creative business is STUPID hard. People often ask us why we do it when we could easily work a regular job with benefits and vacation time and sanity. (I ask myself this occasionally, too.) But every time I go through a hard stretch, the universe reminds me why. Just this week I received an email from a customer of mine from a few years ago. A super nice guy who ordered one of my 'Hug' rings because, he's just "big on hugs". This fellow reached out to tell me that recently he lost his newborn daughter and the ring has been a source of comfort for him; he then requested a matching ring for his wife. I don't know these people at all, I can't picture their faces or hear their voices in my head, but I can do this one small thing for them. And I've done this same thing for countless others. A suicide awareness ring for a brave young person who overcame an unbelievable struggle. A tiger lily ring as a memorial to dad. A holding hands necklace as a reminder of a loved one who lives 1,000 miles away. A world map ring with a requested heart placed over Tanzania, the place where a very special proposal would take place beside a waterfall. I could go on and on with examples, but I won't because there's other important stuff to get to.
I have made more heartfelt and thoughtful gifts that I can even count, (the thoughtfulness entirely the customers doing, I just make the stuff). But in addition to using my talents to make people smile, sometimes I actually get to know these people. The amount of thank you emails I get would blow your mind. Can you believe that? Thanking me?! They are gracious and generous and pay me cash money to do what I love doing and they also go out of their way to thank me. Sometimes it's literally moments after they open the package (too excited to wait, which is adorable), sometimes it's after years of wear. Every single time, it means a great deal to me.
Again, I digress. Let's get back to the cool people who buy my art. I'm not going to name names because I don't want to call anyone out for being incredibly awesome, I know how embarrassing that can be. So can I please tell you how kind and wonderful my customers, excuse me, friends, are?
For example, I get more mail from my client friends than from my actual friends and family. I'm talking artsy postcards from vacations, sugar cookie recipes, handmade holiday cards... marshmallows from scratch, for goodness sake! And it's not just thoughtful snail mail, it's hours and hours of laughing at silly memes, sharing recipes or just talking about life with these wonderful souls whom I would never have met had I not been an artist, putting myself out there.
One of the best things about this rare group of people is that they like my work, (and me, I presume) so much that they come back over and over, bringing me funky ideas that are right up my alley every single time. Aliens, mermaids, obscure characters from Jim Henson's Labyrinth, weird stuff I actually LOVE to make. Artistic freedom AND happy customers? Jackpot. There is no way to describe the feeling of knowing the product of your hard work is in the hands of someone who truly appreciates it.
Whenever I stop to think about all my tiny creations out there in the world, it's almost hard to imagine. A woman is Kuwait is wearing one of my open book rings. A group of friends in the Canary Islands are all wearing necklaces that I made. I man from Australia studying Snow Petrels in Antarctica is wearing a custom wedding ring I designed, with god-dang Snow Petrels on it, as we speak! An acrobat on tour is wearing my Cool Cat ring. Classy as heck French ladies drinking lattes, pinkies out, have tiny pieces of my artwork.. on said pinkies. *Sound of head exploding* Friends in all 50 states, and over 30 countries around the world. I actually get teary eyed talking about it, that's how grateful I am for these people.
Ok so I lied, I said I wouldn't name names, but a customer appreciation post just wouldn't be complete without a shout out to a special lady named Myra. When I first got started on Etsy in 2014(?) it was a bit of a rough go. I was fumbling my way through teaching myself jewelry casting after being a large scale sculptor for several years prior. My sculpting style was sooo different than it is now, I still look back and think, 'oh sweet lord, why?'. But Myra found me, a budding jeweler, and saw something in my work that she just couldn't get enough of. She was patient and kind and asked me to make all sorts of fantastical things for her. Even when I wasn't actively working for her (which was rare), she would email me to catch up, confiding in me that she was lonely after her husband passed, and I would keep her company by telling her silly stories about my cats or discussing our favorite fables. She loved poetry and commissioned several pieces based off of classic illustrations. The last piece I designed for her was an intricate little boat, inside which a tiny owl sat playing the guitar to it's cat companion.
She loved it so much she immediately commissioned another ring based on the same poem. Soon after this she stopped responding to my emails and the half finished design sat on my desk while I waited for her response. I sent a few more emails, in case she had missed the previous ones but they all went unanswered. One day I googled her name and her obituary came up. Needless to say I cried like a baby for this woman I'd never met... and I'm crying again, just thinking about it. Aaand that's the side of small business ownership that no one sees. Now that we're all good and weepy, I'll wrap this up.
In conclusion, thank you to all the amazing people who support small businesses and artists. I can guarantee you don't know the depth of what your kindness means. I will forever share my mac and cheese recipes and put silly stickers on all of your packages. *shooting star with rainbow glitter trail.. end scene.*