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2004-08-09 - 9:50 a.m.

Centering - Continued

In our travels up and down the state, Merry and I met an artist and art dealer in Sacramento, who introducd us to some artists who were willing to put their serigraphs in our gallery on consignment. We found some exquisite pottery, as well as some whimsical pieces, many of which I still have, as I was never able to part with them. I always said that I probably have more of Greg Moll's pottery than even his mother had. We met another dealer who introduced us to the 10-color serigraphs of Hundertwasser. His work was one of our first shows at the gallery. While Davis wasn't quite ready for art of this caliber, Merry and I both made purchases, which we still enjoy.

As it turned out, Merry really enjoyed the setting up - the creative part of starting a store - but did not enjoy the day to day operation. Since I was doing the bookkeeping, much of the buying, and the advertising, I found it fascinating and challenging. I even enjoyed working in the store and chatting with customers (when we had them). Some days were very quiet in the early days. As Merry became more and more bored and depressed, feeling tied down to the store, I offered to buy her out. One of the brilliant things we had done as we started out was to have attorney Roger Gambatese draw up a partnership agreement, so it was a ready-made plan for exactly how disassociation would be handled.

We had been sharing the time working in the store, so my new independence meant much less independence in many ways. I hired some part time student help - a series of wonderful young people who added in a variety of ways. One young woman arrived for her shift in a different costume each day. She did outrageous things so that people would not look through her, she said. I remember one day she arrived dressed as a mud puddle - an outfit made of double sheets of heavy-duty plastic with mud between them. The students brought new life to my dream.

What started as an art gallery with some pottery gradually evolved as my passion for ethnic art took over. It became obvious that in order to make the store profitable, I would need to go to the Gift Show in San Francisco and find some more saleable merchandise to supplement the art, which while having a viewing audience, did not offer a big enough customer base. I began to bring in African art...and then just whatever caught my eye at market.

One day one of my student helpers came in and told me that on her wau to work she had passed a bead shop that was for sale. The owner, a woman with a small child, had had a premonition that California was going to be stricken with a horrific earthquake, so she had abandoned her business (and husband, who had now put the business up for sale.) So I bought her inventory and a couple of glass front bead cases for a pittance and supplemented my inventory. Strands of puka shells, tiger eye, turquoise, coral, and other gemstones now hung on pegs behind the glass cases. I bought a scale and liquid silver in bulk as it was the hot item for beads at the time. We spent down time measuring liquid silver and beads into little baggies. We sold all the fixin's for earrings of all kinds, as well as clasps for necklaces for men and women. Individual beads of all kinds and from all countries filled small pottery dishes of different colors, each marked with price and brief description. Bead boards made it easy for people to see their creations before making purchases. While this brought a lot of people into the store, it required at least two staff people to show beads, put them away, and keep the place stocked and in order.

One day at market, I met Laurel Burch, who designed jewelry, primarily silver and gold pressed metal earrings, with a few cloisonne enamel earrings produced in China. She later expanded to clothing, dishes, and cards, but Laurel Burch, Inc. at this time was a very small business. Laurel, a single mother, had up until this time been a street vendor in San Francisco, putting together her own unique necklaces and selling them on the street to support herself and her two children. I remember buying a dozen of her silver and gold earrings, many with an Egyptian theme, to retail from $12-16 - expensive for that time. I really didn't have room for more than a few pair at a time because of the beads. And I hadn't been sure people would buy earrings that were so expensive. They flew out of the store. I couldn't keep them in stock.

It didn't take a rocket scientist to decide that one could sell six pair of Laurel Burch earrings in the same time it took to help a college student put together a necklace with beads worth $2.50! So one night the beads disappeared and the cases became filled with Laurel Burch and Thousand Flower earrings, and all things bright and beautiful. My passion for accessories began! And the dream continued...and continued to evolve.

So what do I tell this young woman who has a dream? I guess I tell her to follow her dream...and just show up. Just like M.C. Richards said, the imagination, inspiration, intuition, all the fabulous functioning of this human being you are will take you to places you haven't yet dreamed. I guess that's my story. I followed it day by day...and I showed up. Centering was the first step in helping me get centered again. My suggestion to my new young friend: dream your dream, show up...and make a business plan!

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