I had a wake-up call this weekend. I was running errands with my husband on base when we stopped to browse a concession stand at the exchange. This woman had stuff unlike anything you would typically find on a military base. A fashion designer herself, she sold very high-quality, original pieces from all over Europe. We got to chatting and I thought it would be a good opportunity to get information about selling on base or at fairs on the German economy.
What she told me was sobering, though I have to confess not surprising, given the layers of rules military members and dependents must follow when doing anything in Germany. She said that, first of all, it is extremely difficult to break into AAFES (which runs exchanges all over the world). It may take years, you have to jump through a large number of hoops, and “they have to like you.” She said the same thing of the Ramstein Welfare Bazaar (a large Christmas craft show).
She added merchants must go through a process to register businesses in Germany and they must follow a host of rules, including this one (a deal-breaker to me): they must have a vehicle solely dedicated to the business if they plan to transport inventory themselves. I asked her how she navigates German laws as an English speaker and she says she has a “very good” German accountant.
So to get to the point: to participate in the occasional fair or set up a stand on base I need a personal accountant plus a whole separate vehicle on top of all the overhead and probable fees. And, it may take two years or more to get in the door.
I went home and thought deeply about all this because it has implications for what I want to do here.
You see, for about a year now, I have been focusing mainly on small works, largely on paper. I had a few reasons for taking that tack. First, I had opened an Etsy shop and I quickly learned that most Etsy buyers are looking for smaller, more affordable work. I continued in this vein when I prepared for my first arts and crafts show in Florida, with plans to do more shows in the future.
I was happy to oblige the demand for small works for another reason: I was in an artistic place where I needed to do multiple small pieces as I explored different subjects and honed my skills and vision. It was a great way to experiment and I was definitely in an experimental phase. It was also nice given how unstable my life has been lately. I didn’t have to feel guilty for not working on days when I just felt too anxious or harried to focus on longer paintings. I could just sit and do a small watercolor and… done!
The convergence of all those factors was right for me at the time but perhaps now the universe is –just possibly- nudging me back on track. In other words, it’s time for me to get back to longer, more ambitious paintings without the specific goal of getting them straight out the door or listed online.
Not that I mean to shun the world and focus entirely on my work, but I think I need to take the time I have now to think more deeply and work far more slowly. That means less instant gratification and more frustration, but I admit now I was seduced by what was easy for too long. It’s time to reach another level. Fate has left me in a beautiful house, surrounded by miles of countryside, a good distance from the nearest large city. Many artists would cringe at that, but I believe there is an opportunity here.
… But I still want to complete my series of German brötchen: