Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Chester County Restaurant Festival

This past Sunday marked the end of my very first festival season. I finished with the biggest one of them all -The 31st Annual Chester County Restaurant Festival. For those of you who have been following my blog, you know that I have been looking forward to and kind of dreading this one all summer. I knew this was going to be huge. Around 20,000 people are estimated to attend every year. In the years past I have walked the few blocks from my apartment to check out the scene and every year I become agitated and uncomfortable submerging myself into the crowd. I usually don't make it there too long, and I never walk away with more than a sugary lemonade before the crowd makes me want to start throwing elbows.

The idea of having my very own stand was exciting because I knew of the exposure it was going to offer me as well as terrifying because I knew how exposed I was going to feel. Some may think it is just about the money and that I should be ecstatic thinking about the cabbage I was going to bring home. Of course that is a perk and I am very appreciative for every dollar spent under my tent but for me, that's not all it is about. For a generally private person that somewhat hides behind her craft, I was putting it all out there. If I didn't care about each piece I made, it would be easier. If I didn't think about what brought that piece out of me while you were looking at it and trying it on, it would be easier for me. I openly tell people which pieces are the hardest for me to sell while they are purchasing them. I think it is important for people to see that I am not just pumping out necklaces and earrings here. I do it because I love it. Everyone has a stress reliever. I am just lucky enough to be able to profit from one of mine.

All in all the day was just what I needed it to be.

An unbelievable crowd of people stopped by my booth throughout the day, and were very receptive to my designs. I recieved a lot of postitive feedback and was asked many questions about my technique and how I learned to work with polymer clay. I loved being able to talk about the craft. I have such a deep relationship with it now and I felt at home when I was able to speak about it.  At one point a customer found a piece he liked, but wondered if I might be able to put it on a chain instead of a leather necklace. Of course I was happy to oblige. I pulled out my supplies and went to work on it for a few minutes. I was surprised to find that a few minutes focusing on just that necklace provided me with some time to pull myself back in and center a little. This was a welcomed distraction as it was around the midday mark and I was beginning to feel the weight of the crowd. This confirmed to me at that point that this was truly something I loved to do - I am putting my time and energy into the right thing.

Although I was drained both mentally and physically by the end of the day, it was still a fantastic afternoon. When I came home and told my best friend about the day, she commented that this was my super bowl and I had won. I of course became emotional when she said this to me. 1- Because she was completely right and I felt very proud and satisfied with what I had accomplished; and 2- I was very touched that she understood what this day meant to me enough to put it in this perspective for me.  Other people don't seem to understand what the big deal is. If you haven't picked up on this by now...I am pretty certain I have a touch of social anxiety and although I do not allow it to stifle or cage me in, it is still something I find difficult to deal with. Sometimes you can't avoid uncomfortable and overwhelming situations. But this time I was thrusting myself right into the middle of 20,000 people, in my home town of new and old/familiar faces, offering something I put my heart into for everyone to judge and critique. Yeah, not a normal day for me.

I am aware that challenging myself like this is always a good thing. But in the midst of it, it is very difficult to take the initial leap. In the end, however, the rush from my reluctance turning into something that makes you feel amazing is an irreplaceable feeling. Still, not something I will do everyday.

With all of that being said, I can't wait until next year. No really, I can't wait. I can definitely feel the momentum building right now and I am very excited about what is yet to come.

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