This summer has been very profitable. My artwork sold to people I had never met from places I have never been. And although it is super fun knowing someone likes your art enough to buy it, I discovered I had way more fun getting to meet the people. This is the story of one such meeting.
Since showing work at various places comes with various rules, you must adapt. Luckily if I had to drive all the way from Maple Valley to Seattle to meet someone interested in my art because the particular place I was showing didn’t act as the seller, at least I had a good friend I could make plans with when I got there.
One such sunny day I picked Stephanie up from in front of her Belltown condo and headed up to Macrina’s Bakery and Café on Queen Anne. I was rendezvousing with someone who had emailed me saying he was interested in two of my pieces. Someone being interested in one piece is exciting, two was thrilling! Stephanie was excited for me too and immediately agreed to accompany me, you know, in case he turned out to be an art collector/serial killer. We arrived early to have something to eat, because who wants to be killed on an empty stomach? We scoped out each guy we thought might be ‘the one’.
He lived just a few blocks from the café he had told me. I was pretty sure he would drive so he wouldn’t have to carry my art all the way home but a few guys walking looked like they might be very interested in buying art that day. As we sat there sipping our coffee it occurred to me I should have told him what I looked like, or visa versa. Oh well, more fun to guess.
Finally up he pulled with a back seat half full of dry cleaning. The joy of living in a little village like neighborhood is that you can do three or four things in one trip – have coffee, buy art and dry clean clothes. He grabbed his pile of shirts and seemed to sense we were watching him so he asked if I was Jen. It made me suddenly nervous to be face to face with a stranger who had judged my work, thought about my art, considered my expression. Then I wondered if he would change his mind all of a sudden right in front of me? I told him I was Jen and took a few minutes to compose myself while he ran next door to drop off his clothes to be cleaned. I was more excited than worried by the time he returned.
We went inside and he went directly to the work he wanted. We took it down and talked about how it was made for a few minutes then he took out a wad of cash. He didn’t know exactly how to do this he said, but handed it to me to count. The bills were kinda crisp and stuck together; it took me awhile to get through the stack. I felt a little silly and distrusting counting them but it seemed the business thing to do. All there! “Now what?” seemed to be the question as we stood smiling.
Then he offered quietly, “These are my first pieces of original art. I used my ‘grandma birthday money’ to buy them.” Apparently over the course of a few years his grandmothers had remembered him on his birthday, sending money. Being a traveler and often working abroad he had never acquired large or important things like art or as it turns out a dining room table. He had simply saved each card and each little donation – until now.
I know he didn’t have a real dining room table because he then asked if it would be weird for him to ask me to come over and help him decide where to hang the pieces. This is where having Stephanie along really came in handy. We figured he probably couldn’t take us both, right? So down the street we drove following him to a large apartment building over looking Elliott Bay and the Sound beyond. My art was going to be competing with a gorgeous view.
We walked up a couple flights of stairs and into his apartment. The walls were all but bare facing 20 feet of nearly floor to ceiling windows. I felt a wave of gratitude thinking that these two pieces had moved him out of his usual routine, he was including them in his life and I felt strangely included as well. I felt honored to be there.
We discussed where to hang them and in the end I’m not sure there was a bad choice. He claimed not to be creative but I have my suspicions he’ll put them in the perfect place. As Steph and I turned to leave there was the stack of birthday cards resting open in their envelopes on top of a bookcase. Grandmas’ birthday money.
We said our goodbyes and walked out the door and down the steps to my truck. Stephanie looked at me and said. “I feel like I got to be in someone else’s life today.” Lucky me I thought, it’s mine.