It is odd that after three days back from our vacation, it is only now that I am beginning to feel caught up. We were only gone four days and three nights, but it seems that the time it takes to recover seems almost as long as the holiday itself. Am I getting old, or what?
I still have some emails to catch up on, and I plan to try to do that this morning, but overall I actually got some work done yesterday and feel like I am getting back on track. I do admit that I spent a great deal of time working with getting the pictures that I took uploaded. Like anything new, there is a learning curve and I consider the several hours that I spent figuring things out yesterday as school. And I do believe that any time spent learning, no matter what the subject, is time well spent.
I am happy that everyone enjoyed the pictures. I think they came out quite acceptable considering that I don’t know what I am doing. While the new camera that I got had many similar controls and adjustments, for the most part I needed to start from the beginning and figure out what worked best for each situation. I still have a way to go, and I don’t deny that it will be a rocky road for me at times. There is a great deal of difference in the settings needed for the larger, landscape types of shots that I took on the trip and the micro-photography that I take for my work every day. I am certain that it will take a bit of time to know which settings will be optimal for the situation. But that is part of the fun.
And then there are the videos.
While I took a couple of short videos when I accidentally hit the wrong button, I didn’t really shoot any on purpose. Looking back, it would have probably been nice to have some videos of the places we saw, but I found myself getting tired of hunting for the camera every time a shot came up and in the end, I opted for still shots. After all, I didn’t want this to be a working vacation any more than it had to be. I say that because part of me justified my time off by telling myself that I would be scouting for possible outlets for our finished work. While I did do that (it is difficult to get away from thinking in that direction – even for a short time) my conclusion was that trying to sell finished items to any of the many, many shops that we visited would in all probability cost more time than it would be worth. (So see, I learned something in that respect also.)
Overall, I must say that visiting most of the shops was quite unimpressive. I know that sounds ‘snooty’ but I don’t think that I ever tried harder in my life to spend money and found that I just couldn’t bring myself to do so. Perhaps it is because of my exposure to excellent things here on Lumberjocks, or because I see the incredible work that my colleagues and fellow artists do. I don’t know quite what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t what I saw and I couldn’t bring myself to shell out for something that was crap or made in China (which most of it was) just for the the sake of buying something.
I truly had the idea when I left that I would be doing some ‘Christmas shopping’ and get some gifts out of the way ahead of time. I usually ship many of my gifts and having them ready to go early would definitely be a plus. But try as I did to find nice things that would represent Nova Scotia, it just seemed that there was very little out there that was locally made and didn’t cost an arm and a leg.
Nearly every shop we went to had cheap garbage-y knick knacks that had either “Nova Scotia” or “Cape Breton” stamped on them. At one Christmas shop, there were some crappy resin ornaments (you know – the kinds where you could see the seams of the molds) that had tiny clear stickers stuck (crooked for the most part, I may add) on them that said “Cape Breton” as if that qualified them as a ‘keepsake.’ The price on the particular ornaments that I am referring to was about $12 cdn, and there was also a ‘China’ stamp on the underside. It was sad.
There were so many of these types of stores along the way that it made your head spin. At the start of our journey, we stopped frequently at these places in hopes of finding some lovely trinket or treasure to commemorate our trip, but more so than not, we walked out empty handed. At the start it was difficult to do so. We would usually get to the car and talk about how we felt bad for the shop keeper because we would walk through the entire place and not buy a thing. But as we kept on going, it was more and more evident that they all had the same Chinese suppliers and nothing really even stood out that was worth buying.
As we entered the Cape Breton highlands, there were several artisan shops that were much better, and we did buy a couple of small items from them. There was a pewter shop that was particularly nice, as it had a variety of things that were made on site and also affordable. The art galleries were nice too, but most of the pieces were quite expensive (in the hundreds or thousands) and as much as we love our family and friends, the prices were out of our budget. Keith’s particular favorite was a larger glass shop, which featured hand cut and blown glass. There was even an out building where we could watch the blowers at work and they offered classes. And of course, there was a woodworking shop, which consisted mostly of beautiful turned pieces.
Visiting these types of shops was a pleasure, and even though we purchased only a few small items in them, it was much like a visit to a museum, where we admired the workmanship and designs. While some of Keith’s pens may have fit into some of these shops nicely, we felt it would certainly be more trouble than it was worth to consider it. However, he did say that seeing the wood items made him want to bring out his lathe – something that he hasn’t done in several weeks.
My biggest pet peeve with the shops was their lack of customer service. In an economy that is struggling (and it was clearly evident that most of them were) you would think that they would be more hospitable to their customers. I can’t tell you how many of the shops had signs on their door announcing that “We have no bathrooms for public use.” The more I saw this, the more irked I became. At one point, I needed to use the facilities and we were in a large Celtic shop that had clothing, children’s items and family crests. Most of it was made in China, but some of it was textiles with family plaids and such. It was in the middle of the province as we crossed from one side to another and there really was no other businesses nearby. When I asked about using a washroom, the young woman smiled and said “We don’t have a public washroom. The museum five kilometers down the road does though.” I must admit it made me a bit cross.
We left the shop without buying anything and I made a mental note to myself that from that point on, I would refuse to make a purchase from any shop that wouldn’t allow their customers to use their bathrooms. To me it was appalling that they would be happy to sell you a $300 cutting board, but you weren’t good enough to use their bathroom. After all, we weren’t high school kids looking to tear up the place. We were quite in the middle of nowhere and in all likelihood, most of the customer had been driving a considerable amount of time and it was a natural bodily function. It just didn’t make sense.
I found myself quite dehydrated throughout this part of the trip. Knowing that the bathrooms were few and far between caused me to only drink what I felt necessary, even though it was quite warm. God forbid I had to use a washroom and we were in an inconvenient place. Even the roads along the woods had few places where the shoulder was wide enough for stopping (besides the lookout points, which were out of the question.)
If it were me and I owned a shop, now more than ever I would make it as comfortable as I could for my customers. Perhaps the shop owners felt that since most people were passing through, the prospect of return business was slim and they just didn’t care. There were a few that were not like that, but most of them unfortunately were.
Near the beginning of our day in the highlands for instance, we visited a gallery that was owned by a charming woman. On our way out (without buying anything, I may add) she struck up a conversation with us and took the next fifteen minutes telling us what sites were the best to see. She brought out a map to give us and marked all the places she talked about on it. She was pleasant and thoughtful and even though she knew we weren’t purchasing a painting, genuinely wanted us to have a good time and see the best places and artisan shops. If we return there, we will definitely visit her shop and who knows – maybe we will find something that we will buy.
As you can see, I am getting back into the swing of things. I had so many thoughts of things on this trip and there are still several things that I will be sharing as time goes on. Part of me really missed writing a great deal, but I refrained from doing so, as I did want this to be a bit of a break. I am sure as I remember things, I will convey them to you all.
Today I am writing pattern packets and getting ready for the next update for the site, which is coming shortly. I am also going to be working more with my camera and experimenting with the settings and lighting and so forth. It will be a full day.
It is good to be back, and even better to be home. Sometimes all it takes is a couple of days away to make us appreciate what we have right in our own back yard. (Isn’t that what the story ‘The Wizard of Oz’ was trying to tell us?) Although the world around me is full of amazing beauty, being away for a while makes only makes me realize “There’s no place like home.”
Have a wonderful day!
Pause to appreciate the beauty around you.
Whether rainbow or butterfly,
mountain or tree, painting or poem -
whether crafted by nature or by a human hand -
beauty adds a magical element to life
that surpasses logic and science.
- Jonathan Lockwood Huie
-- Contributing Editor, Creative Woodworks and Crafts, Sheila Landry Designs http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com "Knowledge is Power"