I love Kodak moments—moments and events that ought to have silver frames around them and be placed in prominence for all to see. The only problem is a photo never tells the whole story. It never quite conveys the sounds, the smells or the atmosphere. Kodak moments need a storyteller to take your mind’s eye and transport you there. And so I begin my story . . .
The place was Knoxville, TN. The day started out as most conference days do. Hubbub of scurrying about finding classes and standing in line to register, and “Where do we find the shuttle back to the hotel?” All the usual conference things.
The vendor hall, like all vendor halls, had a familiar quality. A nice comfortable sameness that translates to friendly faces glad you stopped by. If you want to ask for anything, vendors pretty much have their mouths puckered on “Yes” more than on “No” at conferences. I love to shake their hands, look them in the eye and ask for stuff. It’s kind of a hobby to see if I can find any who will tell me No. They never do. What a lovely, expected experience that happens over and over at these shows.
HUM AND CHATTER
But with all of its familiarity, Knoxville was nevertheless different. At the heart of the vendor hall was The Working Workroom. I am sure most people are aware that rooms don’t work, people do. And people did at Knoxville. Members of the Workroom Association of America came to Knoxville with their game faces on, their tools in their hands, and they put their backs into it.
Renderings from Minutes Matter and DreamDraper were hung on a black backdrop with spotlights above. Those renderings provided perfect work orders for what was to come. Four worktables stood in a row waiting with expectation. Yes, those are human emotions, but in case you’re not aware of this, worktables beckon. Yes they do. Workroom people are drawn to a clean worktable like flies to honey. And these four worktables were no exception.
A pile of fabrics and trims tempted attendees to come play. Fabric after fabric, trim after trim held nothing if not endless possibilities of what could be.
A row of industrial machines stood in a line at the side. Hmmmmmmm! They all buzzed in unison. Lights switched on and motors switched on, all to the ready. “Try this foot, now try this foot, now what about this machine that you can sew on while standing up . . . and I’ve never tried a blind hemmer, I’m afraid of blind hemmers.” I call it sewing machine chatter. The excitement of moving from a home sewing machine over to the big industrial bad boys requires chatter. Squeals of delight when sewing machines tried to run away. “Down boy! You can do this! You can do this, get back on that machine and ride, sister!”
Back at the worktables with the newfound fabric and trim treasures, people huddled. “I do it this way, how do you do it?” “What’s that tool you are using, where can I get one?” Chatter, chatter, chatter as the renderings came to life.
Suddenly a bright eager face was in front of me as another shy, smiling face stood to the side. “Can you guess what this is?” It looked like a board covered in black fabric with fuzzy trim all around the edges and a ball of fluff on top, but I was guessing it was more. I was right. “This that you see in my hand is the very first time this lady has used a miter saw, and the very first time she has used an air stapler,” is the answer I got. The shy grin widened. “I can do it . . I really can. I was so afraid of those tools, but I can do it.” Success!
Later, a vendor came over. “Do you suppose you could make me a drape for this corona?” Oh, how I wanted to, but instead I turned to two attendees nearest me. “Would you ladies like to make a drapery for this gentleman?”
“We’re only attendees, we’re new.”
“So what! There’s a pile of fabric, there’s a worktable and there’s machines,” I said as I pointed. As they looked at each other their eyes widened, their nostrils flared, and they burned rubber racing over to the pile of fabric.
For the next hour, they were in the zone. They sorted quickly through the fabric for just the right one. They found the perfect trim. They huddled over the worktable making plans. Like fine surgeons they demanded, “Scissors!” and now, “Pins!” We kept them supplied like good nurses in a life-saving situation. At one point I looked over and saw the vendor standing over them . . . watching them. They didn’t care, they were in the zone. He was too. His booth abandoned, and there he was engrossed in watching the craft. It was magic.
I saw this same vender later in Atlanta, GA, at the IWCE conference. Behind him was the drapery the ladies had made—displayed in his booth. It looked great. I told him I wanted to write about what happened. “I have photos!” he said proudly. Another Kodak moment was recorded.
Workrooms lift up your heads. Your craft is magic. It draws people. It fascinates people. Be proud! Now go make your own Kodak moments.
Mary Ann Plumlee is the owner of a retail and wholesale workroom. Starting with only $50 and a home sewing machine in 1985, her business has expanded to include a showroom, 12 employees and two locations. She firmly believes that in this business only the tough survive. Finding the humor in the everyday life of a “curtainlady” is how she not only has survived, but thrived in this industry. Plumlee is often seen traveling around the country teaching classes and seminars. She is the author of The Adventures of Curtain Lady and has launched a workroom related blog: www.workroomintelligence.com.