Friday, February 12, 2016


As you may have gathered from our previous writings, the business of Trading Post management offers many difficult lessons. Because of our unconventional business model, standard principals simply do not apply. As you may have also guessed, after all these years, Steve and I are still working on the fundamentals. We have read the books by professors of business and luminaries in the field. We still feel less than adequate when it comes to managing this business correctly. You may think that we are simply slow learners, and you may be right. We hope there is more to it than that.

One thing we know for certain is that the local artists are an impassioned group. We have developed a variety of reasonable procedures to deal with their various levels of excitability. These situations manifest themselves when an artist brings in his or her creation and the negotiation process begins. Attempting to work out a reasonable settlement can be an interesting experience. This bit of wisdom has resulted from numerous head on collisions with inspired artists. Translating that fervor into financial principles is seldom easy.

We do, or did feel that we had a handle on the art of the deal. There are, however, certain instances where reason and enlightenment overcomes well planned principles. The other day Lorraine Black provided us with one of those high lights. That day she had the patience to help us realize her point of view. Lorraine did not become frustrated when we began the negotiations, even though she figured my evaluation was out of bounds. She must have divined a chink in our armor and was ready to force her issue.
Navajo Yei's & Corn Basket - Lorraine Black (#220)

There are artists who approach us with their work that have built-up a head of steam, even before they arrive. Everyone scatters when one particular basket weaver comes in because she is always ready for battle. It can be an emotionally draining experience for everyone involved. I know you will forgive me for not mentioning her name. In contrast, however, when Lorraine strolled in through the Kokopelli doors she was unusually calm and collected. Her new tack of attack was preparation and patient communication.

Many of the workable standards we have in place for evaluating baskets were developed after discussions with numerous artists. For years now we have kept a log of individuals and their work. Each image shows the price paid for the basket along with notations relating to quality of weave, size, technique and creativity. This accumulated knowledge is intended to help us maintain a consistent pricing policy. It sounds easy but remember we are dealing with extremely sensitive individuals, and that is saying nothing about the weavers. We felt confident our pricing structure was in order; Lorraine’s past creations were documented and her values locked-in.

On this particular day Lorraine brought in a gorgeous basket with a profusion of Yei and corn figures. We were pleased with its creativity and visual appeal, so I cracked open the volumes of past knowledge and began comparing its size, weave and creative appeal. Thereafter I proudly proclaimed a price I felt was compatible with her previous work. Lorraine simply looked at me with her big brown (now sad) eyes, shaking her head in a negative manner.

Wincing under "that look,” I asked, "How can you think I have figured wrong? I have considered every possible aspect and the rules apply, the value is correct. I have a degree in Trading Postology--I am right-on the money!" "Learn-up!" said Lorraine, as she began to explain her point, "When I weave the Yei-be-chei, I am portraying an extremely sacred and powerful being; one that demands respect. If I convey this respect in the proper manner, these Holy People will bless my family and me. If I show disrespect, these same beings can, and will, cause me great distress. One way I show that respect, and protect myself from harm, is by having a Beauty Way ceremony done each year. I save part of the price from each basket to pay for the ceremony. Since you are involved, you too must help keep me safe and healthy."

As I stood there letting her explanation sink in, Lorraine simply smiled and quoted a new price. I looked to Steve and Priscilla for support. Steve shrugged and said, "It makes sense to me." Priscilla rolled her eyes and said, "Duh." Lorraine was aware that we knew she spoke the truth; this was her reality so we had to consider it. She also knew that we had learned and shared similar stories of ceremonial practice and tradition with readers of our missives. There seemed nothing to do but add another notation in the book of advanced learning and close it before another costly lesson was realized.

With warm regards Barry Simpson and the team: Steve, Priscilla and Danny.

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