My drive to the Crowne Plaza in Ventura embarked at 4am from the Bay Area, all to arrive for a book-making session at the second Craftcation Conference, a three day paper, scissors and knowledge-filled event full of Etsy-style makers.
My room wasn’t yet ready so early, just the excuse to putter around in the pop-up craft supply and arts shop set up for the event and meet all sorts of cool chicks with dyed hair, glittery jewelry and an unfettered enthusiasm for plushy dolls. I was there to help people learn about food trends and California’s new Homemade Food Act which allows some people to make some foods for sale at home.
I sighed relief as reception finally handed me the plastic room key and I got in the elevator. Three more people loaded in. One guy had a big black suitcase, a black t-shirt, black hair, and a few black skulls and cross bones smattered around, most noticeably as a tattoo. The elevator was that slow kind designed for people holding an egg on a spoon. Amped up on hours of coffee, I decided to blurt out: “Are you here for a show?” After all, if he wasn’t, what guy wouldn’t be pumped to think some woman thought he was a rock star? He affirmed yes. With a mental eye roll, prepared to hear the name of some no-name band, I asked who he was with.
“The Specials.” My heart exploded. “Whaaaaaat?!” Like a teenage groupie of this late 70s ska band, a string of enthusiastic rants poured from my mouth about how I’d never seen them, what a big fan I was. He asked if I was going to the show, and when I said no, offered tickets. Uh, ya. Like a scene from the Brady Bunch he pointed to the corner and said, “He’s our tour manager. Give him your info and we’ll put you on the list with two tickets.” No networker has ever seen my business card whip out so quickly.
Talking to strangers makes magic happen
This 30-second encounter blew my Ventura trip out of the water from exciting to explosively awesome. From my idle comment I…
- Generated a day’s worth of ice-breaking conversation with other conference goers, from which I discovered an amazing correlation between crafters and old-school punk fans.
- Made new friends at the Caffrodite coffee shop, an adorable name for a ramshackle place two sisters own, also old-school punk fans I’d overheard saying they were going to a show. (When I ran into the owner at the show, she gave me a big hug.) See my Cafe a Day project, capturing “coffee and a slice of life,” for a visual flavor of the excitement.
- Reconnected with my old boyfriend who grew up in the town and drove up to see this awesome band which he’d surprisingly never seen earlier.
- Danced my ass off! Always a good thing.
- Met the singer when he was checking out…and got to further my teenage groupie connections with the conference attendees.
- Inspired my roommate at the hotel — who later said she thought a band member was on one of her elevator rides but was too shy to talk to him — that it’s silly to not talk to strangers and that she wants to re-gain her old chutzpah to take advantage of opportunities like that.
- Had a chance to write this article and inspire people like you to take risks and go with the flow.
When I decided to go to Craftcation, I also never dreamed that Ventura would so capture my heart, a very laid back place with more independent small businesses than chains. This clean, quiet, beautiful beachside town is only an hour north of Los Angeles and half an hour south of Santa Barbara. The Ventura Theater, which hosts lots of cool bands, is a restored 1920s style movie theater in the grand California over-the-top tradition (think: lots of gold paint). My big discovery was the massive number of great thrift shops. (Turns out my friends go to Ventura just to hit the thrift shops.)
What I discovered at the conference is that crafting and starting a business is fun and fulfilling. What I reflected on the drive home is that crafting a life of synchronicity whether traveling or home makes for a life well lived, plushy or not.
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