“Do you know what I think Mayflowers are, Marilla? I think they must be the souls of the flowers that died last summer, and this is their heaven.”
~ Anne of Green Gables
In 1991, this delightful Anne of Green Gables Treasury was published, which brought the world of Anne Shirley magically to life; with authentic recipes, arts & crafts, old wives’ home remedies, historical facts about life on Prince Edwards’ Island at the turn of the last century, everything a fan could wish for…. including a section on gardening and the “meanings of flowers”.
My grandmother gave me this hardcover book when I was around twelve (for my birthday or Christmas, I can’t remember, as they fell within 2 weeks of each other), and a huge fan of the Sullivan production of “Anne of Green Gables”, and its spin-off mini-series “Avonlea”.
I remember pouring over the flower section, and learning the meanings of all my favorites: lilacs (“first emotions of love”) violets (“faithfulness”), pansies (“you occupy my thoughts”), dogwoods (“durability”), maidenhair ferns (“secrecy”), and English ivy (“fidelity”).
As a child, I was especially interested in secret means of communication, so the idea of composing a bouquet of flowers to act as a coded message was intriguing.
Of course, the majority of these flowers proclaimed affectionate feelings (or lack thereof) and confirmed the status of a relationship. So instead of posting “it’s complicated” on Facebook, you might send marigolds for “uneasiness”, or evening primroses for “inconstancy”.
In Jane Austen’s time, it was considered inappropriate for unrelated (and unmarried) men and women to correspond back and forth via letter-writing. Letters were reserved for relatives, close (same-sex) friendships, and betrothed couples.
Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 29
… That such letters, so full of affection and confidence, could have been so answered, Elinor, for Willoughby’s sake, would have been unwilling to believe. But her condemnation of him did not blind her to the impropriety of their having been written at all; and she was silently grieving over the imprudence which had hazarded such unsolicited proofs of tenderness, not warranted by anything preceding, and most severely condemned by the event, when Marianne, perceiving that she had finished the letters, observed to her that they contained nothing but what any one would have written in the same situation.
“I felt myself,” she added, “to be as solemnly engaged to him, as if the strictest legal covenant had bound us to each other.”
“I can believe it,” said Elinor; “but unfortunately, he did not feel the same.”
Marianne’s eagerness to dash off notes to the scoundrel Willoughby upon her arrival in London, going so far as to send one in the middle of the night, was sure to spark rumors of a secret engagement.
The other letter which readily springs to my mind is Mr. Darcy’s confession after Lizzy refuses his marriage proposal, in chapter 35 of “Pride and Prejudice”… he admits that defending himself against her accusations within a letter was a bit extreme, but he felt it must be written to absolve his character.
It’s fascinating that in an era before text messaging and telephones, long before relations between men and women became commonplace… in a proper society which demanded young couples keep a respectable distance and always be chaperoned, that they still found ways to circumvent their elders in order to get better acquainted. They managed to communicate their feelings through secret codes and carefully crafted flower bouquets.
Obviously, Mr. Darcy couldn’t have expressed everything in his 2-page letter with a handful of posies… it’s unlikely even a hothouse would have enough variety in bloom to tell the full story of Wickam’s unscrupulous actions.
But what flowers might have anonymously arrived at Longbourn, tied in satin ribbon? Pink roses and honeysuckle ~ “admiration”, and “generous, devoted affection”? Or possibly a contrite bouquet of blue lilacs and snowdrops ~ for “humility” and “hope”?
I have started a new series of tiny ACEO paintings, titled “Flower Cats” (because I couldn’t think of an appropriate name for the collection)… each cat, dressed in a Regency-style gown, is named after a particular flower and holds a symbolic bouquet.
So far I have finished seven portraits: “Pansy”, “Iris”, “Fern”, “Lilac”, “Carnation”, “Sterling Rose”, and “Asphodel”.
I like working with these miniature paintings, working on 2-3 simultaneously. They are addictive to paint, and I wish I could spend more time with them.
I decided to list the originals on eBay, as my re-introduction back into selling artwork there. I have been auctioning them off beginning at just one penny ~ and all seven have sold to a couple of new collectors.
If you are interested in beginning or adding to your current collection, I always announce my latest paintings on Facebook, with a link to the auction when it goes live. (You can also add me to your Favorite Seller list on eBay).
I will also be selling reproduction prints and greeting cards of the entire Flower Cats Collection in my Etsy shop.
Both of these wonderful ladies encouraged me with kind words, but there is still one more person I’ve yet to mention whose impact was significant.
I had never heard of Robert Kraus, a.k.a. RAK-Graphics… as Megacon was my first foray into the Comic-book jungle, and I daresay when we first met during Thursday night’s set-up, it was not unlike Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth’s first encounter at the Meryton Assembly Room.
Let us just say that I was less than impressed by his manners.
Upon arriving at my booth, arms loaded with boxes, I greeted him with something along the lines of “Hi, I’m your neighbor.” …..before proceeding to duct-tape my booth together.
I’m sure he smelled my noob-ness from a parsec away. =P
I had studied photos of exhibitor booths online, and had decided to hang my artwork from the metal framework using shower-rod hooks. However, during the actual set-up, I discovered that my hooks weren’t large enough to clamp over the unstable metal frame of our adjoining booths. Seriously, these booths were so wobbly, they would sway like suspension bridges whenever we sneezed.
But Robert had his artwork neatly hanging from similar hooks.
Hooks which seemed tailor-made for the booth.
So I inquired where he purchased his hooks….
And his reply rivaled Mr. Darcy’s attitude at Meryton:
“I do a lot of shows.”
“Um. Okay. But… where did you get your hooks?”
“When you’ve done as many shows as I have, you pick them up.”
He really didn’t want to tell me where those blasted hooks came from! =P
Or, maybe, he was being serious.
He literally picked them up at every show.
With persistence, I finally got him to admit his secret. He did, indeed, collect them from empty booths after each show.
They were the same hooks which the event coordinators had used to hang the booth signage… which I had promptly taken down because my banner was prettier than the default block letters on white.
Having only experienced the Farmer’s Market, where vendors are expected to sweep and tidy their areas before leaving, I was completely unprepared for whirlwind chaos left behind after Megacon exhibitors exit the building.
Overflowing trashcans, puddles of spilled coffee on the tables (I’m serious!), leftover food, cardboard, and debris everywhere, and many vendors’ signs lying on the floor with hooks still attached.
I scavenged around and collected a fistful of hooks for future use.
That was the first of many useful tips that RAK gave to me over the course of three days.
That is, once my uncle broke the ice and mended my wounded ego….
On my first day, I confided to Sarah that RAK seemed like a jerk, so we avoided talking to him at all.
I will regret that missed opportunity.
I did take notice how well his $1.00 ACEO trading cards were selling, and vowed to bring a bunch of mine next year…. as my cheapest product on the table was $3.00.
On Saturday, Carrie Hawks stopped by my booth before the show started, and greeting RAK warmly. Much to my surprise.
She proceeded to tell me that RAK was HER neighbor at her very first Megacon, and that he was full of helpful advice. She basically encouraged me to pick his brain while I had the chance…
And I was thinking to myself, “Yeah, Mr. I-Do-A-Lot-Of-Shows” doesn’t seem to be very forthcoming.
However, I did see fate at work in this situation: this being my first show, and RAK was my neighbor…
perhaps he was a good luck charm of sorts, and my placement beside him would increase my odds of future success.
Ignoring the duct-tape and yarn, he did point out that, unlike many new artists, I had enough common sense NOT to hang framed art (with glass) from the rickety metal booth frame…. apparently booth walls do topple over occasionally! (I didn’t confess that my tent blew away at last summer’s Farmer’s Market! heehee)
Of course, having a chatty man assisting me on Saturday, might have helped to warm his gears.
Robert likes to talk shop ~ he reminded me of a used-car salesman, and I don’t think he would mind me saying so, as he described himself as “a hustler”. LOL
From his pulpit, he preached to us about “multiple streams of revenue”… a catch-phrase that I had heard bandied around in online business forums, but hadn’t put seriously into practice.
He encouraged me to reconsider my break from eBay.
I hadn’t made much money from selling artwork there years ago; I felt like I was giving art away for free to customers looking for a deep discount… but Robert encouraged me to see it as a form of advertising.
“Put something up there that doesn’t cost too much. Don’t sell it for less than it costs to make, but keep the price down. My $.99 ACEOs do really well on eBay.”
“You get 50 FREE listings per month,” he continued zealously. “That is 50 items that will be in Google’s search, and in the Product search where people shop.”
eBay gets a ton of traffic.
Google loves eBay.
He suggested that I peddle my artwork to antique malls
The classical vibe of my Regency cat portraits will complement the vintage picture frames and antique furniture, he mused. My artwork might be a impulse buy for a customer looking to redecorate their living room in a 19th century flavour.
And the one piece of encouragement that Robert gave to me basically summarized the feeling I’d received from all the wonderful artists at Megacon: Don’t give up.
He believed that I had a good product
“It is unique and eye-catching, and people love cats”, he said.
He doesn’t care for cats. But apparently he is good luck for cat artists!
He went on to quote some numbers…. it’s estimated that 50% of new businesses (including artists) fail. They get discouraged.
They do one or two shows, and lose money, and stop doing shows altogether.
They try something once, and it doesn’t work, and they quit. (Like me and eBay).
“If you don’t make your booth fee back, don’t write off this show. You exposed your artwork to thousands of people. Think of it like renting a billboard.” ~ RAK
Fortunately, I did make my money back and then some.
It was true that I had been discouraged; I was the newbie in the room, and the other artists had been working professionally for years, and were technically more proficient than me. It was daunting to think how far I have to go.
But according to Robert, I’m already ahead of the 50% who gave up years ago.
The message I was receiving loud and clear from Jasmine Becket-Griffith, and Carrie Hawks, and finally from my neighbor RAK-Graphics, is that I will eventually be successful like them.
I just have to keep working at my art, and take failures in stride, learn from my mistakes, learn from others, and put myself out there. Be everywhere.
If these established artists can see my potential, and have such faith in me, how can I continue doubting myself?
Still, I found myself worrying whether or not I could convince my husband that this trip was worth all the effort and money that we spent preparing for it. He was hoping that I would return stinking rich and able to put a down-payment on the house of our dreams.
Would he still support me unequivicably if I came home merely breaking even?
As if he had eerily read my mind, I received a text-message from Joe which said,
“I’ve always believed in you, but I know what it means to hear it from your peers.”
And immediately I felt guilty, because in all this excitement and stress, I’d forgotten how much faith he had in me.
He allowed me to spend gobs of money on supplies, purchase a rental car, leave town ON HIS BIRTHDAY, and drive 15 hours to Florida… leaving him at home for an entire week with the children.
While I frolicked in the 70-degree sun, it threatened to snow in Maryland.
I had spent years of my life with men who were possessive, distrustful, and oppressive, seeking to cage my free spirit.
It was humbling to acknowledge I could take for granted a man willing to throw open the door, and say “Go follow your dreams and be happy.”
But I couldn’t find the right words to articulate my thoughts, so instead I wrote:
“Yes, it’s great to hear praise and encouragement from successful folks who have ‘been there’. But without your support, I wouldn’t be here in the first place. So YOU are my most important fan! Okay, did that sound like an acceptance speech?! LOL”
One day, honey, I will get there.
And if I’m lucky enough, you will be right there beside me.