This is the part I hope you read and then the rest is just all the clutter in my head there for your consumption if you choose:
Ideally I’d like to be on the road in May. I live in Orlando so that will be the starting point and I’ll most likely start with the east coast. I’ll update when things get closer, but I want to start hearing from you guys! I want to hear where to stop, where to hike, where to eat, what to do, etc! Anything that you think is special or intriguing from scenic detours to charming shops to dog friendly coffee shops to local markets or fairs. Or a craft you’d like to do together! I don’t want this to feel like a shop on wheels but more like summer camp on wheels. This is much more about pulling up to a charming park with stuff for pb&js and a bin full of art supplies and having a picnic/craft session with whoever wants to join. Comment and share your ideas and thoughts!
Voice memo from drive to Philly
Warning, this reads like I speak and I only read through it once so I’m sure it’s full of typos but my eyes hurt and I can’t bring myself to read it again. And as a heads up here’s a tally count so you don’t have to tell me I don’t write well or have a good vocabulary, I’m acknowledging it on the front end:
I need to type out this whole process, even though I’m only a few days in I’ll regret it if I don’t write it out. So I figure I’ll wear headphones and listen to this while I’m at Sam’s and type it out. A few weeks ago I was uh, I don’t know if I was more sad than usual but, I was pretty sad. I was pretty down about the 12 year old boy who killed himself from being bullied and Leelah who also killed herself. And I was kind of struggling with these things. I went to a show in Orlando and met two girls who were so excited to see me and one of the girls told me I’m part of her inspiration for her art. She gave me a really sincere hug and while she was hugging me she told me I make her so so so happy. It was such a genuine connection, I teared up when I left. You see your numbers on the internet and you get messages but often times the internet doesn’t seem real. I feel like it’s not until you’re in person and you see these people and make genuine contact with them that it really hits you. I realized how much it meant to me and how much I needed it, or I guess needed the reminder because I’m often pretty discouraged and don’t really know what I’m doing. I’ve always kind of dreamt that one day I may have stuff in stores but hadn’t thought about it in a while and after this encounter I had this epiphany that I needed to be in a big box store. I felt I had a social responsibility to take on that kind of project and to give it everything I had even if it seemed unrealistic. Because if I could help anybody else be nicer or be happier then I felt like I had to do it. So I got really caught up in it and I was doing all this research and watching all these corporate videos and telling everyone I wanted to be in this one big store. And I didn’t know how I was going to do it. I think my numbers are decent and I think the testimonials from people are the most important and that I could probably get a positive vibes/be nice product line in a store. I was really hyped up on it. Financial reasons were not why I was doing it. I wanted it to be more of a collaboration with the store, I thought it needed to go beyond just a positive vibes product on a shelf but it needed the videos and store displays and it needed to be a whole campaign to try and convey the authenticity of it. I met with an old friend of mine, Nich, who helped me out when my old best friend Michelina and I were doing Chree, a little clothing line when we were 17, and he was a mentor to us. I haven’t seen him for years and I saw him when I did chalk art in Winter Park a few months ago and we caught up a bit. So once I had this idea I knew he was who I should meet with and talk to about it. We got lunch and we ended up talking for over three hours and it was very eye opening to me about what it would really mean to take on a big box store project like this. And using words that I don’t really like and words that scare me like celebrity, and I was like no I don’t like the word celebrity and he said “well you’d have to embrace it because that’s what they’d be in to and you’d have to own it”. And just capitalism and you know, he just said I can’t have my cake and eat it to. So as involved as I would be in the process there, I would still be losing some aspect of it. The thing that really really hit home was well, a couple things, one thing was we went to his friend’s wood workshop and we were talking to him and just trying to figure it out. Just trying to figure life out. How do you balance everything? And where is happiness? And how do you gauge success? Yadda yadda. He knew nothing about anything I’ve done so I told him some of my beanie sales numbers and he was trying to figure out how, like how that happened or what I do. I told him my beanie sales are reflective of a few times I’ve put beanies up, that I haven’t quite taken the initiative to run a constant store because it hasn’t been worth giving up other things in my life. I sell 1,000 beanies and then I go hike in Colorado for four months. And he said, “well it sounds like you’ve already got it figured out”. And then Nich followed that up with, “if you do a big box store collaboration it’s maybe hiking a couple mountains a year and calling and checking in with your assistant”. That’s not what I want. I don’t know if mentally I could handle the pressure and demands (added thought that wasn’t on the voice memo, I don’t want this to sound like I can’t handle the demands of work. These demands take on another perspective when you’ve built a brand around yourself. It becomes overwhelmingly self absorbent and while things are solely in my hands I can find that balance for myself between the attention on my art and the attention on me, I hope that makes sense). And also, another thing Nich said is everything, all of it, is about finding your inner peace. And he looked at me and said, “Charlavail, if finding inner peace for you is fixing everything, you’re never going to get there”. And um, that hit really hard. Then his friend kind of pointed out to me that there’s no way to take a product, such as my beanies, and produce 100,000 units and put them in a big box store and have them maintain the magic that they have right now. And I know not every beanie sale is as significant to that person as the next but I do know some of you put a lot of faith and a lot of emotion into a material object and that’s remarkable and phenomenal and I never anticipated it. It’s just been the best and craziest thing, getting messages all the time “I wore my beanie into surgery” or “I was having a bad day and I wore it and it turned my day around”. It’s just that you can’t really measure the effect of positive energy and even if it’s inspired by an inanimate object it’s still powerful. I would never want to lose what we have right now, we as in me and you. Yesterday I rewatched Amanda Palmer’s Ted Talk and at the end she said, “celebrity is about a lot of people loving you from a distance but the internet and the content that we’re freely able to share on it are taking us back. It’s about a few people loving you up close and about those people being enough”. I can relate to that so much. The big box store idea was kind of a naïve attempt at a wide spread movement that wouldn’t be as organic as what we have right now. I don’t want to give that up, I don’t want to lose that, I don’t want it to look like I sold out or for beanies that exist right now to lose their meaning to people. I do think that some positive would come from a positive product line being in a big store, I do think that we need that, whether or not that it’s my job I don’t know. Before I met with Nich I had come up with more product ideas, store display ideas and commercial ideas. I’d come up with this artwork and sketches and I really wanted to use it because I loved it. So I thought, well maybe I’ll just do a small pop up shop. I’ll build this stuff, I’ll ship it from big city to big city and I’ll go into a little retail location and run a little retail shop for a week and still get to do the product line, do all the art stuff that I wanted to do. Just realizing I could do it on my own, I didn’t have to rely on someone else. So I was toying with that idea and logistically it didn’t seem to be worth the time and money, it wasn’t working out in my head as I wanted it to, I wasn’t feeling the inspiration from it. So that idea wasn’t working out but I wasn’t quite ready to drop it. I was just thinking about it trying to figure out what could I do, I really just want to be in touch with you guys. Because everything up until now has taken so much longer than I had anticipated and I thought that I would be on the road with something by now, when in fact I haven’t even really started the project that was suppose to come next.
How do I explain this?
Okay, so let’s see, the confectionery, okay back up. Some of you know my dream was to open up a bakery. I went to pastry school at Valencia Community College in Orlando, I looked at buildings, I had all these ideas I’d been dreaming about for years. I can still picture it in my head, it’s this big elaborate project that’s magnificent in my mind. Then I started looking at potential buildings with my dad, I wasn’t ready to make that step yet but I was just trying to figure out where in Orlando I wanted to do this. I guess I always imagined maybe there was this little magical part of Orlando I hadn’t discovered yet. So we start driving around and looking at buildings and realizing there was nowhere in Orlando that would be conducive to this project and that was really discouraging. I like parts of Orlando but generally speaking I don’t really want to be in Florida. And a bakery ties you down and even if it was successful it would take a long time to get there and the statistics are hard and they’re real, like 9 in 10 restaurants fail in their first year and I didn’t want to be naïve about it. And I knew it would be less art than I wanted, even thought the initial design would be art based it would be more business and hard hard restaurant work and it would lose it’s magical artistic element for me (another side note that wasn’t on the voice memo, I don’t want to discourage anyone from opening a food business! I just realized it was the wrong path for me if I wanted art to be my day-to-day job). I changed my mind about that which is kind of a hard thing to do because when you share your dreams with people on the interent some people aren’t very open to you changing your mind. They think you failed or call you a quitter or that you were a liar, etc. So that was kind of hard. And I initially wanted to open my bakery 11/11/11 and it’s 2015 and still don’t have any one project thing that I’m very proud of and that’s kind of discouraging and I feel like a failure sometimes even though I know that’s not necessarily the case. Anyway, so the confectionery was the idea that followed the bakery. I was like, what can I do that still has a pastry element but is more art based. So I came up with this idea that would be a pop up shop of sorts and I would rent retail spaces in initially five big cities then if it went well I could do more cities. This idea is a lot more intensive than the camper idea and I don’t really know how to break it down and explain it. I don’t want to share too much because it is still something that I want to do, regardless of how long it takes. But I have a the whole interior of the confectionery shop planned out and it would have a pastry counter and it would either need to have a kitchen in the back or we would have to rent out commissary space. The art would be the main attraction though and it would be free and hopefully I would sell enough merchandise and pastries to keep it afloat. The confectionery is kind of everything, almost everything I am building up into one artistic project. It’s years and years in the making even though I don’t have a lot of sketches and stuff, it’s everything I’ve been planning for the bakery carried over. I really need it to be incredibly done, I guess. I want to be an artist. I want to look at it and it all matches as one beautiful portfolio and the skill set is incredible. It’s a gallery, it’s impressive and I know I’m not there yet as an artist. I’ve stepped away from art for the last couple years and I’m intimidated to even sit down and pick up a pencil and I want to know that I can be an artist and that’s going to take a lot of practice. And that’s really what I wanted to start next but that’s a year and a half probably two years in the making. I just feel like that’s too long to step away. I need to get in and be involved with you guys and meet you guys. This is also a way for me to practice art and when I’m on the road I can be doing art. I can get back into the routine of drawing and painting and figuring it back out again because I haven’t done art in a really long time. I did the aprons, which took a year and half, so much longer than I ever ever could have imagined, so much harder than I could have imagined. Production based, not artistic for most of it. Then after that the puppies were born, I didn’t do any artwork I just hung out with puppies all day. All the meanwhile I’m selling beanies. Then my dad and I spent our summer in Colorado and I told myself I would do art but we ended up leaving the condo almost every single day to just be outside and I failed myself again not doing the art I wanted to do. Since I’ve been home I’ve been busier but just somehow a few years went by without very much art. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that this camper roadtrip is different, it’s a totally new idea that I had a week ago. So I want to emphasize that I had this idea last week and there’s already a camper in my driveway (so much of this sounds like I’m a spoiled kid haha. I do live at my dad’s house because until I’m ready to move out of Orlando it doesn’t make much sense not to and we get along and he loves having the puppies around, etc. But I support myself otherwise and I’m funding this project. So in saying I had this idea and now I have a camper isn’t saying, hey I got what I wanted right away, it’s saying you can make things happen). I had this idea, I told my dad and he totally got it right away. I showed him a camper I wanted to buy and he said let’s go get it and we got it. These projects are totally different ideas, they have similarities and I can see why people would think that this idea was planned saying, “you’re finally doing it!”, but it’s different. I don’t share a whole lot so I don’t expect people to know these things. The confectionery is very intimidating to me, if I sit down and try to do a sketch I freeze up because I want it to be perfect. Whereas this, it’s not that my hearts not in this, it absolutely is, it’s just more fun, light hearted and more cartoonish. I can’t quite explain the difference but with this I just know I can knock it out. I’m really excited! I have some artwork for it already. I just want to get in the camper, totally renovate it and paint the outside of it. I want to be on the road and get to know you guys. It will be less of a shop and more of a cute hangout. It’ll have stuff for sale in it but it’s not the main focus. I want it to be charming and fun to look at and fun to come see. I think I started talking about all this to explain the camper thing and went off on all of it.
So I had this idea at around 3 in the morning on the 16th and I was up for a few hours after that, my thoughts were moving so fast and I was looking at campers on craigslist. There were a couple, nothing that seemed really great. I want to be transparent with this project so I currently have about $10,000 to invest into this project and bring it to life (money made from beanie sales). Ten thousand can seem like a lot but project wise it doesn’t go very far (I’ll be breaking down expenses on the blog) but I know it’s enough to get started. I’m really trying to not let fear get in the way of this project so I just wanted to go for it. So I realized when I was looking at campers that they were going to be in the $3,000 range, that’s doable. I had emailed probably five potential campers and nobody got back to me right away which when you’re excited can be discouraging. I was suppose to leave for Philly on the 20th and I had emailed craigslist listings on the 16th and 17th. Even though I’d be checking craigslist constantly I checked one more time after Blake and I went and saw Selma on the 18th, which by the way I cried almost all the way through. And there were some parts where I started crying and thinking about all these other things in the world and whatever and had a hard time not leaving the theater to pull myself together, which is also why it’s really important for me to do this project right now because I’ve just been having a hard time lately. Which I know is kind of silly, and I’ve always thought its silly to live such a good life and it’s not that I feel sorry for myself I’m just overwhelmed with sadness and it’s a crippling sadness for me. And it’s important for me to focus on doing what will give me hope and make me happy and I know meeting you guys and seeing the country will help and inspire me. So anyway, we got out of Selma and I’m checking craigslist and it’s probably like 2 in the morning and I see this camper for sale that had been posted around 10:30. He was asking $2,000 for it, it was in Rome, Georgia which is about 8 hours from us. It’s a 1965 camper and looked to be in decent shape. It wasn’t gutted like some of the other ones I was looking at. It didn’t have too much charm in the photos to me though but it was a good price. I emailed him and was bummed I didn’t see it sooner thinking maybe I already missed my chance. I woke up the next morning around 9:30 and he had emailed me saying he already had like 5 other inquiries so to call him as soon as possible. I run to my dad’s room to ask him to call him and I can hear my dad’s on the phone, so I’m waiting for him to get off and I realize he’s on the phone with the guy from the craigslist listing. I knew this guy had to have a southern accent because my dad started talking with an accent. My dad gets off the phone and said that Dairyl had called him since we were the first ones to email him and he wanted to do right by us and make sure the first person that asked got the chance to buy it. So we told him first thing the next morning we were going to go to the tag office and figure out what we would need and then if it worked out we would be on our way. Then we remembered the next day was MLK day so we had to wait until Tuesday. Meanwhile I’m very anxious, I’m thinking he probably doesn’t want to wait for us and he’s going to sell it. Even though I was suppose to be leaving for Philly, I knew I had to do everything I could before I left because I was so worked up about it and I didn’t want to let fear get in my way or talk myself out of it so I just had to be impulsive and act on it before I left. So my dad went to the tag office the next morning, Dairyl was still willing to wait for us and we got out of Orlando around noon on Tuesday. We stopped on Hampton which is south of Atlanta to see another camper. This camper was a 1953 Rod and Reel selling for $1,000 and I was absolutely smitten with the shape of it. It was gutted on the inside, in pretty rough shape and not tow ready, we would have had to put it on a trailer to get it home. It’s a project I’d maybe like to take on one day but it was way over my head, I wouldn’t know where to begin. It would also need more money put into it to get it just in it’s simplest blank canvas form. All the wood would have to be taken out, then the interior sandblasted, new tires and maybe even a new axle. But I loved the shape so I was trying to figure out how to get it home. We were looking up trailers and couldn’t figure out a way less than $1,000 to get it home, which I didn’t want to do. We spent the night at my cousin’s in Atlanta and the next morning I was trying to figure out if I wanted to go look at the 1965 camper, the one we originally made the drive for. After seeing the shape of the 1953 camper I wasn’t sure I would like the 1965 one, it’s a little boxier, it doesn’t have the teardrop shape that I like. So I was thinking do we want to drive another hour north to go see this if I’m pretty sure I don’t like it because I wasn’t crazy about it in the photos. We decided it was worth going to at least look at and start getting an idea for what I’m looking for in these vintage campers. We drive to Rome, Georgia and pull up to Dairyl’s, he’s super nice and waiting for us. I see the camper and I’m immediately in love with it. It’s so much cuter in person. It’s in exceptional shape especially since it’s 50 years old. The interior has no leaks. It’s got a bed, two little benches with a table, a kitchenette and a bathroom. I absolutely know at that point that I want it. We check it out and it looks good and Dairyl’s confident it can be towed. We drive ten minutes down the road into town and I take out the money. We go back and when I handed him the envelope of $2,000 and told him he could check it and make sure it’s right he just says, “I trust ya” and never even opens the enveolope. The purchase and the tow home went smoothly. It’s parked next to the garage at my house. Now I’m on my way to Philly. It was hard to leave it behind because I’m anxious to get in there and start working on it. I’ll be in Philly for almost a month and I can work on ideas and figure out the logistics and expenses. I want everything to be ready to go when I get home from business plan to renovation sketches. And that’s where I’m at so far! I don’t expect very many people to read all that haha but there it is, I don’t expect most entries will be nearly this long.