18 July 2006

Don't Look at the Leper Hippies.

That was the general reaction, it seemed, to the spinning demo weekend. To give some context, since we have a petting yard full of sheep and an alpaca and a llama, I volunteered to do a weekend-long spinning demonstration at the zoo. The director adored the idea and let me buy some fiber for the public to try spinning and such. This is how the weekend turned out:

In a zoo, packed with people (especially on Saturday for Ice Cream Safari), where the whole idea of the place is to go and look at things, I spent two days being decidedly and deliberately ignored. I could see people not looking anywhere near the gazebo I was in. The gazebo is a foot off of the main path, not near any animal displays, centrally placed between the ticket booth and the gift shop, and I had set up a table with fiber samples for the petting and information, a blanket full of spindles for trying, and hung the scarf and mittens set I was raffling up in a central location and in an attractive manner. I had a clear and informative explanation of the raffle typed and held in a picture frame. I had a schedule of events clearly posted. On Sunday, I even made colorful signs saying "Win Me!" and "Please Touch!". Out of 2 days and something like 600 people or more (we had buses of people come), I sold 10 raffle tickets to a total of 6 people (one nice man basically bought tickets out of sheer goodness rather than any interest whatsoever in the knitted goods). That's $10 of donations for the Zoo. It disgusts me. And I'm going to hold the prize and try this thing again, I think, regardless of how unscrupulous it is.

I ran a finger-knitting bracelet-making workshop both days. Probably 10 kids made bracelets (for free, out of yarn from my own knitting stash, including some very nice and flashy bits that were very popular). A few of their parents comprised the other raffle tickets, bought out of a sense of obligation for the bracelets. Maybe a dozen people both days actually stopped and checked out the table full of fiber and endured some information and demonstration. Mostly people averted their eyes and walked more quickly. I don't understand it. Case in point: On Sunday, Bill was the excellent Bill he is and came to fetch me lunch (Saturday I couldn't leave my stuff and wasn't willing to tear down and set up again to run to the top of the zoo and fetch foods, so I made do with a granola bar). While he sat with me for a while, a woman he works with passed by with her husband and child (probably 2 or 3). He said hello and waved and she waved back. And kept going. On Monday at work, she asked if he usually hung out at the zoo, and he explained that he was there with his wife. Who was the one he was standing with. To which she replied, "Yeah, what was she doing?" If you hadn't turned your eyes to the pavement and run away, you would know!. I don't exactly mind that a lot of people didn't stop and get the whole spiel or buy raffle tickets. (I'm hurt, but I think I'll survive.) It was the fact that so many people absolutely refused to look even in that direction. I'm not a scary-looking person. I have a very encouraging and cheerful customer-service voice (which I used all day and wanted to gag) that many of you know from listening to me order pizza. I wasn't selling insurance or religion or even really selling anything. I saved the raffle reminder until the very, very end of speaking (hoping people would READ THE SIGN themselves). I just don't understand. Lots of people have no interest in the fiber arts, I know, but even more people don't even know what the fiber arts are. Aren't people just a little curious about something they've probably never seen done before? It really makes me want to cry. Especially as someone who has always been the kid who wants approval.

I don't think I blossomed any leprous sores over the weekend. I didn't smell. And I had a whole bunch of soft, fluffy stuff I was begging people to pet and basically destroy. I called out gently to some, especially with little kids, who might like to know what the alpaca feels like since he's not part of the petting zoo. Or little ones who looked too little to go into the petting yard. Feel the sheep without getting stepped on. I invited people to try out the spindles. I asked people if they wanted to make bracelets. I did everything I knew how to do, and still no one really bothered.

I did have one guy who has probably already ordered his learn-to-spin kit and one little girl (whose dad is a prof in the geology department at BU, oddly enough) who had an absolute knack for it, but that's really about it. (Said girl's mother has an Ashford wheel and Kiwi fleeces from a trip they made for prof-dad's research, but girl never spun before. It's in her blood.) The problem is that this wasn't exactly about spreading the spinning love so much as it was a way to do something nice for the zoo, and it bloody well crashed and burned.