Regrets, I've had a few and there’s one I’d like to mention. I could kick myself all the way from one end of Mahone Bay to the other for selling this rug!
So why did I do it? Well for one thing, it didn't belong to me, although that was a mere technicality. All I had to do was fork over the dough for it. Stupidly, the thought never occurred to me and besides, my company was a newborn that I could barely afford to diaper, let alone scrape together cash register fumes to buy a rug.
The pattern came about after a client brought in a picture of a rug hooking with a woman in a bathtub and a framed picture of a woman in a bathtub on the wall behind her. She wanted me to copy the exact design and put it on burlap I told her that was someone’s artwork and copyrighted, so I couldn''t touch it with a ten foot pole. She was very disappointed so I said leave it to me tol come up with something along that theme. So I started sketching and one thing lead to another and using the tub as a jumping off point I surrounded it with a nautical theme and a rich underwater sea life, using the basic concept of the bath but making everything else original.
The mermaid idea was born. She would be washing herself in the tub with portholes and sea life all around her. The housecoat in the shape of the mermaid tail was a bit of fun and then I thought King Neptune could be peeking at her through one of the port holes, and thence the name "Peeping Neptune". The client loved the drawing and gave me the go ahead to put it on a backing. She was taking a class in Chester and all of the students were working on a copy of a floral design that didn't inspire her.
She was very excited about the project and eager to get started. I hoped she would come back to show me the finished rug but I never saw her again, until on day when I opened the newspaper and there it was looking at me, Peeping Neptune in all its splendor. The excitement was short lived because she told the interviewer that she had come up with the idea. She said she wanted something different than the fine shaded floral the other students worked on so she created the design. What could have been an excellent plug for my shop, and a bit of a shining moment for me as an artist was just another missed opportunity in what would be a long line of disappointments. For some reason people seem to think if I design them a pattern they own it lock stock and barrel, but I'll rant about that another day.
I called the paper but they didn't care to publish a correction. After all, it's only a craft so I moaned and licked my wounds and complained to Susan about losing out on some free press and she said she would hook the rug to cheer me up. She left mumbling something about giving the mermaid long flowing red hair and I couldn't wait to see what she's come up with.
The rug turned out better than I imagined. I loved her colour palette and the way she brought all the characters to life. Susan enjoyed hooking it but offered it as a consignment piece for the shop. She was always more interested in the journey than the destination, and received a lot of pleasure knowing her rugs went to appreciative homes and the money she made afforded her globe trotting. While I had it in my shop it was the poster child of my business and on my brochure. If only a person could go back and make itsy bitsy changes to the past. There are a few things I would do differently and I would never have let this rug slip through my fingers!
I was only in business a bit over a year, set up in one small room at 14 Pleasant Street. The shop was so tiny, every time I bent over my butt knocked something off a shelf or a table. Really! I had lofty ideas to expand but in the meantime I had crammed that small space with as many supplies as I could afford and the walls dripped hooked rugs for sale.
So one hot, sticky summer’s day this guy from Chester pops in. My tiny space was so small you had to go outside to change your mind so he’s standing in the middle of the room turning 360* while eyeballing the rugs for sale. He raised his arm like the reaper in the Salmon Mouse, Monty Python skit and points his boney finger to a compass rose design and says matter of factly, “I want to buy that rug". And then he turned and pointed to another piece and said, "I want that one as well". He didn’t even ask if they were for sale, for prices or who hooked them, just mumbled he
Now I was pretty much crapping my pants from the anticipation of a fat sale. Dollar signs were flashing like neon in Vegas, and I felt a bit dizzy. I hadn't had lunch yet and low blood sugar was causing my upper lip to perspire. Also, when I get off the wall excited, I sometimes get the trots. The entire last month’s sales didn’t add up to what these rugs would yield so there was a bit of hyper ventilating as I wrote up the slip.
And then, Heavens to Murgatroyd, he turned straight towards me, his hand came up and that finger unfolded and he pointed to the wall behind my head where my precious Peeping Neptune was hanging and then I heard those dreaded words.…"I want that one too."
I hadn't sold three rugs since I opened let alone all in one day. And knowing how I felt about this particular rug, this was the time to pipe up and say it wasn’t for sale. But something had come over me, a greediness that overpowered and clouded my thinking. At that very moment I was prepared to sell my underwear if he asked. Cha Ching sounded in my ears and my pupils formed the shape of dollar signs.
Once after my father died, we cleaned out his house and held a big yard sale. I got so caught in selling stuff I kept driving home at top speed to search my house for more items. I’d never even considered selling those items but the rush I got from the yard sale fever created a monster. I didn’t experience that feeling again until that day in the shop facing the man and his Visa.
By now my stomach was in knots and the gurgling noises almost drowned out the sound of the cash register. I knew I'd have to get to a bathroom PDQ, but I managed to ring up the sale, pack up the rugs and bid them a sad farewell. The second he walked out the door I was in the washroom and even before I emerged the money high was gone, leaving nothing but a sickening feeling of loss. To the buyer it was just a lovely little rug, but to me it was sentimental, I’d bonded with that mat if it was possible to forge an attachment with a bunch of loops. I loved the humour of it, King Neptune peeking through a port hole to watch the object of his desire at her bath. It was one of the very first designs I’d created for a client. I felt sick letting it go, ashamed that I’d prostituted art for money. And if I had known that in only a few short years Susan Leslie would be gone that rug would have never left the shop and it would only have been pried out of my cold dead hands.
I should have raced down the road after the buyer or tried to trace him from the credit card slip to beg for it back. I did look up his name in the phone book but I knew it was useless, I remember him telling me he was only a seasonal visitor.
Lack of funds was no excuse….I could have hooked….you know, the world’s oldest profession, stood under the lamp post on the corner until I had the money to buy it. Let’s see, at two bucks a pop…..well, I’d have been there a long time but it would have been so worth it! I could have borrowed the money or maybe worked out a payment plan with Susan, maybe bartered for wool and supplies…anything would have been better than just watching it walk out of my life.
So the rug was gone with only a bare space on the wall and a dust bunny to hint that it had ever been there. I fumed for weeks over the loss. The shop’s cut of the sale did little to appease the emptiness but Susan was happy, two of the three consignment rugs were hers. She didn’t hold any sentiment for the rug and said she would be happy to hook another one, but it didn’t seem the same. I like first editions; the first of anything is always the best, except for husbands! But in
retrospect, I should have jumped on it. Susan was prolific; she could have easily fit it in between her latest projects, but I didn’t have the heart to push it. If you read the blog about my one and only commission you would know how I feel about hooking the same rug twice, right up there with a pin in the eye or root canal, so I couldn’t ask it of her. Every now and then I threaten to hook it myself and Sue Cunningham said if I made the kit she’d hook it as well. I really like the colour choices Susan made, but if I ever tackle it I’d probably make it match one of my bathrooms, if I’m putting in the time, it’s got to rhyme. One of these days I’ll get around to it but in the meantime I have a story to tell of the one that got away….…