Friday, October 16, 2009

Virginia Got Lucky!

Last Thursday, a Navajo rug weaver I had known in the old days walked into the trading post with one of her beautiful Yei-be-chei weavings. Virginia had not been in Twin Rocks Trading Post for years, because her pricing had long ago outpaced our purchasing power. Sometime in the early 1980s, our Sedona, Arizona competitor began offering extraordinary prices for her rugs. Being unwilling to compete with this high-end buyer, we stopped purchasing Virginia's weavings.

Virginia and her son.

Virginia originally came to us through her mother, Lena Poyer. Lena also wove white Yei rugs that made me weak and was one of the toughest negotiators I have ever dealt with. Somehow she knew I would always buy her weavings, so she universally took advantage of the situation to put me through my paces. Unfortunately, Lena now struggles with dementia and can no longer weave. I miss her a great deal.

Virginia Poyer-Begay shares her mother's weaving talents, but has an altogether different negotiating approach; she simply doesn't bargain! Virginia is one of those artists who has always been a pleasure to deal with; she is calm, cool, collected and self-assured. In the past Virginia would state her price and we would scramble to empty ash trays and lift the sofa cushions, looking for every spare coin to pay the tariff. There was simply no negotiating, it was all or nothing. I think Steve and I bought every rug Virginia ever brought in; until her prices tripled.

When Virginia came in this time, I was working in my office. Priscilla, who was covering the floor for me, said, "Barry, you might want to come out, there is someone here to see you." Looking through the open door, I noticed Virginia toting a rug rolled into a long narrow cylinder. Even from my poor vantage point I could tell the weaving was spectacular.

Although I was pleased to see an old friend, I feared the rug in her hand, knew the process that would follow and immediately got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. "Hello Virginia," I said, and in the same breath, "I can't afford your rug." Virginia smiled broadly and said, "Hello Barry, yes you can!" We bantered pleasantly for a short time, and I mentioned that she could likely get a lot more for her weavings than I could pay her. "That was then." she said, "Have you been living in a cave? Times have changed." I was dumbfounded, because this is the approach I have recently taken with artists trying to sell their work. Virginia had turned the tables on me and I was in unfamiliar territory.

"Whaddayamean?" I stammered. Virginia explained that she was well aware of the difficult economic times, and that it was no longer possible to get the extraordinary prices she once received. She told me she was willing to sell her rug at 1980 prices. "But I want something more," she said. I looked at Virginia skeptically and said, "Whaddayamean?" "Stop that!" she laughed, "Do you remember what that price was?" I shook my head in the affirmative and looked at her closely, trying to predict what would follow.

What I did not know was that Virginia and her entourage had become attached to "Lucky", the mangled brown sheep which stood just inside the Kokopelli doors. We had taken to calling the sheep Lucky after that famous lost dog poster; the one featuring an accidentally neutered dog with three legs, one blind eye, a missing ear and a broken tail. The dog answered to the name Lucky, you know the one. Our brown sheep was in a similar state of disrepair. He was so popular with visiting children that he had been worn to a frazzle. Our hapless sheep had loose horns, was missing his tail, one eye had fallen out and his ear had been loved off; thus the descriptive moniker. "I want the same price you used to pay me and that brown sheep!" said Virginia.

Struggling to understand the psychology behind the request, I gave up and began scratching my head. "We used to have the tail around here somewhere," Priscilla said. I shot her a wondering look and asked Virginia why she wanted such an ill-fated character. "He reminds me of the Simpson brothers!" was her spontaneous reply. "All three of you are in various states of disrepair. The sheep reminds me of you, and the economy. I like it!"

Laughing at Virginia's painfully pointed statement, I agreed to her terms. I paid Virginia's price and her son gathered up Lucky, leaving me to wonder at the unusual encounter. Once Virginia and her clan were gone, Priscilla began rooting around noisily in the cabinets. "What the heck are you doing", I asked. "Looking for Lucky's tail", she said. "I promised to drop it off at Virginia's place if I find it." I shook my head sadly and went back into my office, smiling at the memory of all the good friends we have made through the years.

With Warm Regards,
Barry, Steve and the Team.

Copyright 2009 Twin Rocks Trading Post

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