Keep at it

This weekend, my girlfriend and I visited her hometown of Fresno, mainly so we could go to the Big Fresno Fair. I wasn’t really sure what to expect–the main selling points for me had been racing pigs and rollercoasters. I did not expect the enormous building of exhibits of things–gems, jalapeno peppers, afghans, rabbits–courtesy of the people of Fresno.

I have this vague recollection of doing 4-H in second grade. Our whole class did it; I have no idea why. Why that year and no other year? Why were public schoolchildren in Chicago participating in 4-H to begin with? We had to grow plants, and for those plants we were given ribbons and a corresponding amount of money. I think I walked away with about ten or fifteen bucks, which was a lot of money for a second grader, especially in the late eighties, especially in public school. Where did this money come from? The good people of 4-H? I know our school couldn’t afford it.

So, that is one of the great mysteries of my youth, and I’ve sometimes wondered if I just made the damn thing up. But the Juniors Exhibit at the Big Fresno Fair would seem to suggest that I’ve got at least some of my facts straight. We saw everything from plants to photographs to pies to fully assembled barbeques, all of them (in the juniors section, anyway) awarded either first, second, or third prize. For each of the kids sections–fine arts, agriculture, etc–there was an entire BUILDING of adult entries, though the judges were less liberal with the ribbons there. I hadn’t really thought about the money thing, and anyway I would have assumed it was only for the kids, but nope, when we were in the agriculture building one of the ribbons was flipped over and I saw that the entrant had been awarded $7.50 for their peppers. Of course, then I had to sneakily turn over other ribbons. Some of the first prize vegetables commanded as much as $15, some as little as $3. I don’t know how many plants we had to grow in second grade, but I remember them being pretty wimpy, so I don’t know how on earth they managed to earn me what they did. Different standards in Chicago, 1988 vs. Fresno, 2012? Higher expectations there?

Of course I was most excited about the home arts section, because that’s where the sewing was. There were also pies, quilts, lampshades (there’s a lampshade society!), scrapbooks, and other frozen-in-time endeavors. When we finally got to the garment section I was momentarily overcome by this pure glee that was not really proportional what was in front of me. I mean, it was nice, there was this beautifully embroidered vest, but I think it was more the excitement of finally getting to the section I’d been looking for. But my squealing did not escape the notice of either S or a very nice lady in some sort of official capacity. She came over to me and asked if I’d won a ribbon.
“Oh, no, it’s just that I’m learning to sew and so I was excited to see this work.”
She was probably still a little confused, as well she should have been, but she was very sweet. She asked me how old I was, and I told her (S and I both suspect that she was surprised to learn I’m in my early thirties. In cutoffs and a t-shirt with rabbits kissing on it, I probably could have told her I was 18 and she would have believed me), and she said “Well, most of the people who win first prize are in their sixties, and they’ve probably been sewing for fifty years, so you just keep at it, dear, and one day you’ll get first prize, too.” The cynic in me probably wanted something terrible like “Well, I’m planing to aim a little higher than the county fair circuit,” but I am good person so I said “Thank you.” And anyway, f*** that cynic. F*** the idea that winning a blue ribbon at the county fair is a lower greatness than whatever it is I’m aiming for. Though S and I were amused to learn that you have to come to the fair to find out if you’ve won a ribbon. Which we assume means you have to pay the $10 to get in. Which does seem like a bit of a racket, no?

In school-related news, in sewing class, we’ve moved on to making objects that aren’t squares. This week, an apron! (pictures forthcoming) Next week, a skirt! Though I’m most excited about the camp shirt that runs most of November.

In other other news, I’ve been thinking a lot about how weird it is that the more I learn about starting a business, the more do-able it seems and the more excited I get about it. I would have guessed it would be the opposite, that the more I learned about all the complicated details, the more scared I would get and eventually I would just say ‘This isn’t for me.’ Instead it has gone from this fuzzy, nebulous ‘Hey, it might be interesting to start a business,’ to ‘This is a thing that I’m doing. For real.’ I’ve never considered myself business-minded. I mean, I’m good with numbers, but I also know that’s not what business really is. I have always been under the impression that a skilled business person has to be ruthless. They need to be exceptional in the arts of persuasion and negotiation, and these are not my strengths. But I’ve started to realize a few things. First, ignoring the ruthlessness question, running a business may be the perfect occupation for me because it will keep me from getting bored and/or resentful of my work. I know that makes me sound a little full of myself, but oh well. Maybe I am. I think that’s the reason I keep winding up back in school–because (and I know not everyone sees it this way) that is where I have the most freedom to explore. Sure, we have assignments to complete, but, at least in the classes I take, it’s not as though each student is turning in an identical assignment. (Actually, come to think of it, this may be why both Sewing I and Digital Illustration have been frustrating to me at times this semester–because often the whole point is to duplicate something that already exists.) Anyhow, I have always loved to make things. I have always loved to do lots of different things instead of one thing over and over. Running a business would allow me to do both of those. I had a second reason. It had to do with the ruthlessness question. Maybe next time.

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6 Responses to Keep at it

  1. Some of the very same reasons I started my own business 10 years ago. I have since ruined myself forever for the mainstream working world. Don’t get me wrong, it is hard, hard work to make a successful business, but once you have a taste for it you will never go back.
    And by the way, you don’t need a degree from a Fashion School to own and operate a successful sewing/fashion related business;-) I learned everything I needed in 4-H. A couple of years as an undergrad studying costume design was mildly helpful, but painfully expensive.
    I wouldn’t say you need to be ruthless, either. Be unyieldingly persistent and always do the very best possible work that you can with the skills you have always striving to reach the next level. Never settle for just good enough.
    Good luck!

    • silkandsqualor says:

      Thank you for your good thoughts! Don’t worry, I’m not going into crazy fashion school debt. I take classes at the community college where I also happen to work, so my tuition is zilch. Even if I did have to pay, I think my bill this semester would have been $440 for three classes–not nothing, but nowhere close to the $30,000 a year for the various design schools that pepper this fine city. We don’t have as much fancy equipment as they do, but the instructors are amazing and I’ve learned SO MUCH since I started in January. Some of it in class, more from what being in class has pushed me to learn on my own.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. tsotse says:

    How great that you are thinking about going into business. I think you’ll be a great success. I was in 4-H for a few years. Your grandmother Myers closely watched over the skirt I made to be entered into the fair competition. She wasn’t satisfied with how it fit (It didn’t have a zipper, fastened with snaps along the side) Anyway…Gma decided to add elastic to the waistband and,of course, I was marked down for that little addition…even tho it made perfect sense to my mother. See what you escaped from not being in Clothing in 4-H? It might have marked you for life. 🙂

    • silkandsqualor says:

      Oh no! Why did the fit even matter? Did you have to wear it to the competition? Does this mean you got a red ribbon instead of blue….or was this before everyone got ribbons? I’ve been scarred by plenty else, though thankfully not in the realm of sewing. Yet, anyway 🙂

      • tsotse says:

        The fit did matter…at least to your grandmother(waste not,want not) I wore it one time…and then put it in the back of my closet. I think I got a green ribbon(3rd place or 4th) Certainly not a blue. Keep up the good work. I am enjoying seeing your creations.

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