Monday, February 8, 2010

Crafty Notes in Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

So, I finished rereading Confessions of a Shopaholic this weekend and am well on my way to finishing my reread of Shopaholic Takes Manhattan. (I decided to just go on and reread all five books in the series as if they were one big novel.) This time around I couldn't help but notice a few parts about selling handmade things. It's not that I didn't pick up on this during my first reading. But I wasn't selling my work then, so I had an entirely different perspective. So, what am I babbling about, already? Well, in Confessions, Becky goes to a school craft fair with her mother. Although she doesn't expect to like anything, she buys loads of stuff (of course). Then at the end of the fair she comes across "one of those really sad stalls which no one is going near, the kind people glance at once, then quickly walk past." She goes on to say, "The poor guy behind it looks really sorry for himself, so I pause to have a look. And no wonder no one's stopping. He's selling weird-shaped wooden bowls, and matching wooden cutlery. What on earth is the point of wooden cutlery?" (Kinsella 45). Becky decides she'll buy a bowl if it's only $5 (well, the British equivalent, whatever that is) but then finds out that it's been featured in Elle Decoration and decides to pay the $80 the artist is asking. Even though she doesn't like the bowl and thinks the artist wasted a week making it. Now, when I first read this I thought she was a fool for buying something that A) she didn't like B) that was valuable to her only because it was in a magazine, and C) that was clearly overpriced. I still stand by my conviction that no one should buy stuff just because they think they should like it. But as someone who sells artwork, I no longer think of the bowl as overpriced. I mean, I can see the poor guy huddled in his apartment, whittling away at the wood day after day, living on Ramen noodles to get the bowl just right. (Not that I know anything about whittling. Or have ever eaten Ramen noodles. But you know what I mean.) And I know how discouraging it can be to sit in your tent while people shuffle by, idling picking up things and asking questions and more often than not giving you false hope. So, even if her intentions weren't pure, I was kind of glad that Becky bought that bowl. (Even if she does unearth it in her mess of a bedroom in Manhattan only to reiterate its ugliness.)

The other, more prominent "crafty note" in the Shopaholic series is the whole picture frame making thing. Becky buys a picture frame making kit from a cheesy, pyramid-like company called Fine Frames hoping to make some extra money to help her get out of debt. She's supposed to wrap a bunch of cheap frames with fabric, but the whole thing is a complete disaster. Yet her roommate (er, flatmate), Suze, turns out to be a natural and goes on to design her own frames. A wealthy socialite, she has a connection at British Vogue and snags a feature, then puts her frames in a few London gift shops. True to her good-hearted and shopaholic ways, Becky ends up buying every frame that Suze has made (expect for the ones in some odd store out of the way). A department store takes note of the phenomenon of Suze's top-selling frames and offers her her own line of home accessories. Then Suze finds out that Becky's really responsible for her success and is a little miffed. And who wouldn't be? Because in a way, this turn of events is kind of depressing. I mean, if a stay-at-home heiress with connections at Vogue can't make a go at selling handmade goods without her friend intervening, then what hope is there for the rest of us? But even so, I couldn't help but find this whole segment kind of intriguing. Improbable or not, it's the kind of Cinderella story we crafters dream of.
See, isn't rereading fun? :)

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