Saturday, February 23, 2008

Travel Log Part I: I *heart* Philly!

I just got back from an amazing trip to Philadelphia. I went to participate in the Visiting Artists Program at the Arts Business Institute. They are affiliated with the Buyers Market of American Craft and the program was held at the conference center where the buyers market was going on (see photo one: glass and jewelry and other fine crafts as far as the eye can see).
I learned so much and there were great networking opportunities, too. It was a very valuable experience. I highly recommend this program to anyone serious about making a living from products they create.

Earlier this month I went to NYC to walk the New York International Gift Show - to see what the offering are and where Mountain Ash Design products might fit into the market. Now, I don't get out of my little corner of Vermont much and just being in the big city is rather overstimulating. Then going to the Javits and looking at 8000 dynamic displays of goods? Whoa. I could not take much in and was only able to spend a few hours trying to cover the Handmade section before getting saturated.

Now back to Philly. What a beautiful city! I dig all the old buildings and cobbled streets and trees growing out of the sidewalks. I want to go back when all the trees are in leaf. Without any former knowledge of different parts of the city I was fortunate to book a B&B right near South Street and 2nd so I had an easy walk to lots of great restaurants and shops and a pleasant walk to the subway in the morning. And it really is the city of brotherly love. People are so friendly. Every young white woman on South Street seemed to have some fab creative hair color, including the fireygoldorange-headed student who served me at the divey-looking though tastey Middle Eastern spot on 3rd Street. It's just south of South Street and there's a room in the back with cozy booths and hanging plants. [note to self: if intending to write more travel logs must get names of establishments] I found an independent coffee house on 4th within sight of a Starbucks and that became my regular spot for filling up my trusty travel mug. I even had an ice coffee one day when it was 65 degrees and I lost my thrift-score Eileen Fisher charcoal sweater vest that I was schlepping around. I replaced it with a light blue Brooks Brothers one at the Curiosity Shoppe across the street - a dollar. I bought two hats at Hats in the Belfry. A rather dorky name for a store, but a much better selection of stylin' hats than I find in VT, esp for guys. Bought one for the 13-year-old boy I live with who is finally starting to express some fashion sense. And I got a lovely hemp-linen cloche for me.

I'm making plans to go back to Philly in May to catch the Frida Kahlo exhibit at the art museum and to see all the body art. There is a tattoo parlor on every block. It must be a constant parade of ink in warm weather to keep all those places in business.

Other than the workshop the high point of my trip was going to yoga at Practise Yoga Studio on 4th Street (see photo two - thought it doesn't convey how wonderfully large the banner is). I went to two evening classes during the five days I was there and it was only after them that I got a decent night's sleep. I had so much on my mind from the workshop that my brain would not shut down even when my body was, unless I'd been to yoga. Then, of course, I felt wonderfully mellow and able to be in the moment with a comparatively empty mind. More on yoga below.

Walking down 4th to yoga I went right through "fabric row." The fabric offerings where not very interesting to me, but there were some cool indie designer storefronts and I did buy some notions and supplies at Zoll's.

Here's what I've learned from my solo forays into the big cities: In New York I learned not to overdo it walking all over the place. It was such a treat to walk to one's destination, though, when I have to drive most days here in the country. When I got walking was hard to stop. There was always more to see on the next block. And too often hard to find a non-Starbucks to take a break in. I also learned that Hotel 17 is a great place to stay if you are on a budget and that I need to research specific locations of destinations in the city before heading out.

My trip to Philly taught me to bring the following: pre-paid phone, travel alarm clock, wheels for my bag. Train travel is the way to go - business class. It took me all day to return to VT by train, but is was perfect: I got to process all I'd taken in on my trip, decompress, and catch up on my rest. It was the day of transition I needed to re-enter my regular, very domestic, family-centered rural life.

Also, I want to make it a tradition to find a yoga studio in the places I'll be traveling to in the future. Yoga class was like a mini-vacation within my trip. And it was a wonderful context in which to enter into a local scene for that hour and a half. The two classes I participated in were taught by two very good instructors with very different styles. The first one was quite challenging for me - I was falling over a lot! But I felt great in the end. Then I went to Rachel's class and I was home. She was speaking the same language as Anne, my wonderful friend and yoga teacher at home, and the practise was very similar. And the banter and community in the class was so warm and friendly and very relaxed. It was a great comfort to be a part of it in the middle of a very intense 5 days on my own away from home.

I gained a lot of confidence from my recent trips and am excited to find reasons to schedule more - craft fairs in Chicago and LA perhaps?


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sarah O.,

I love your blog and you can stay at my place when you come to LA.