02 December 13

Mixed Emotions

It’s been more than week since the day when the DIY Trunk Show usually happened. I’ve had more than a week to think about how I feel not planning it this year. And my emotions? Well, not surprisingly, they aren’t cohesive. They’re still all jumbled and a bit conflicted and messy. And I shouldn’t be surprised, because this is how I felt a year ago when I realized that I just couldn’t bring myself to do it again. It was almost exactly a year ago when I admitted to myself first, and then with a queasy and nervous stomach admitted to Andrew, that I just was done. Not bitter angry finished, done. But just done. But sad, oh my. I was so sad. It took weeks before I could tell the other people who had helped me to organize the show, some of them for many years, that I couldn’t do it again. But in almost every case, when I told someone I was backing away they all said “That makes sense. It’s been a good run, eh?” No one tried to make me feel bad. Sure, some people expressed regret and sadness that I was backing away.

And so a year after I made the realization, I can’t even call it a decision, more like an admission, that I was done with show organizing, I still have all the same messy feelings. I’m so very, very, very happy for all of the amazing people I had the chance to meet. All the people I saw go from “having this super-cool idea” to running a full-time business based on hard work, creativity, ingenuity, and fulfillment have made me thrilled to have helped them. For 10 years, Amy, myself, and the many and lovely people who have been in the Chicago Craft Mafia created a place where crafters and artists could see customers look at something they made with their own hands, have their faces light up, and then exchange money for that item. And I say a place, not a show, because the DIY Trunk Show wasn’t just a one-day event. It was a storehouse of awesomeness that was collaborative and inclusionary that lived all year long, just spread out further and mostly accessible via the internet. The reasons we decided to do a second show revolved around the realization that the “market” (made up of people we knew and people we wanted to know) needed this yearly get-together to keep people doing what they loved to do.

I know from talking to many vendors that our show made it possible for them to build their business from a small infant of an idea, into many varied and larger companies that run their lives. I see the popularity that many of these people have enjoyed and I’m thrilled. For them, not for me. I don’t look at them and think “I made it possible for them to do that. Without me, without our show, they wouldn’t be where they are today.” Nope, I look at them and think “I’m so happy that I got to see them start and build and grow. I’m so happy that they used DIY as a springboard to get to awesomeness. I’m so happy they stuck with it. I’m so happy they’re still around fighting and making and just being awesome.”

So, I look back on the history and I’m happy and I continue to be awed by the awesomeness that exists all around this city, and I still want people to get together all year long and support each other and grow together and see how much stronger we are in unison, than as individuals. And I’m also sad that I won’t be able to see the new baby crafters come up the way I saw a generation of crafters develop. I’m sad that I won’t have email addresses memorized and linked to amazing items. I still remember the email address of a woman who I bought a necklace from at the very first DIY Trunk Show. She left the state many years ago and her email address began bouncing shortly thereafter, but I still have the necklace and wear it and think of the smile on her face when I picked up the necklace and said “This is such an amazing necklace. I have to own it!”

I’m also sad that I won’t get to see the season’s coolest creations months and months before anyone else does. The jurying process was stressful and I blame it for more than a few grey hairs and sour stomach aches. (Turning down people was never easy and I hated it intensely.) But I’m glad that I’ll never be in a position to have to find a way to tell someone, “I like your work, but we decided to choose someone else for the show.” I’m so much better at accepting rejection now than I ever would have been if I hadn’t been a show organizer.

But, I’m happy that there are still many people organizing shows. The DIY Trunk Show that I helped create and helped to run 10 times was fantastic, but it wasn’t The Best Show Ever. There was always something I wanted to do differently, or wished we could have added on, or had made changes faster. There was always one bit of information that didn’t make it to one person who was then upset, or hurt, or stressed out. I was human and I made many mistakes. I have many regrets and things I wish I’d done differently. But they’re few when compared to the things I’m proud we were able to accomplish.

I travelled to Ohio and participated in Crafty Supermarket instead of staying in town. It felt weird to not have a big dinner with a group of crafters and friends after the show. It felt weird to end the day tired, but not muscle-shatteringly sore and exhausted to my soul. It felt weird to be surrounded by crafters who were mostly strangers. It felt weird to see my friends, back home in Chicago, doing shows with each other and not be there. But it also felt good.

It felt good, it feels good, because I know that these people aren’t dependent on me. There are new shows being organized this year for the first time and they’re doing it without me. And the first show of some of these organizers was The DIY Trunk Show. So I’m happy to pass on the baton of craft show organizing to others, to see them run with it far ahead of me. I’m not needed anymore. I’m wanted and loved and appreciated and respected by many. And honestly, in the end, that feels so much better than being needed.


  1. You should get those “lessons learned” written down while they’re still fresh-ish in your mind. Could be a huge help to those you passed the baton to (and beyond). Thanks to you and Amy for all the sweat and tears!

    — Brenda on Dec 3, 06:57 am

  2. SO proud of you for conceiving of, creating and spending a decade nurturing this incredible, growing community to the point where it can fully thrive without you. That is a huge accomplishment. Hope you’re feeling every bit as loved and wanted and appreciated — if not needed — as you deserve to be.

    Jennifer Pozner on Dec 3, 06:59 am

  3. It’s such a strength to know when you’re done with something and be able to step away. Especially something you created and raised and nurtured for so long. I’m so proud of you, and I’m so glad we got to spend the weekend together in Cincinnati!

    grace on Dec 3, 01:18 pm

  4. Brenda, Amy and I have written (separately and together) a variety of things about creating/running a show. I and others in the craft mafia have also answered many questions and provided advice to others who want to organize shows. I’ve sat on several panels about show organizing over the last 8 or so years. Sharing our successes and failures has been an on-going effort. The only thing I’ve not done is given our “to do” list to people who have asked for it, since every show and every space, not to mention every city/state is very different.

    Thanks, Jenn. Your kind words truly mean a lot. :)

    And many thanks to you, Grace, for the floor/sofa to crash on, the ear that understands and supports, and the energy that keeps on going with your own amazing show.

    Cinnamon on Dec 5, 01:02 am

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