Carnival Expo 2017 is coming!

The last time I didn’t know what to expect.

The last time I was coming from a place of dread and resignation. We could reduce our financial struggle if I went back to work BUT after 8 years doing admin pre-kids, the idea of giving up the one thing that breathe any life into me (painting) to go back to a brain dead 9-5 cause it paid … that was painful and I was struggling to reconcile it in my head. My youngest was starting nursery, we could possibly afford childcare if I went back to work now… but I was already working, behind my easel. It just didn’t pay very well, or with any consistency.

Then Andrew called. Andrew is the man behind Carnival Expo. He is de daddy of the largest indoor carnival event in London.

An opportunity to show my work in London to a group who would naturally be inclined to like my bright colours you say? An opportunity to reach thousands of people in one weekend with my art you say? An opportunity to network and get my name out there you say?

I’ll be honest, I was dangerously low on self-motivation. Working on my own for the last 3 years in stolen moments with constant interruptions from my ‘real’ job (stay at home mum & housewife) had worn my drive and gusto down to pretty much nothing. Andrew was talking and I was thinking ‘sounds terrific but I was just making peace with giving up my paints for admin and PA diaries again. I had pretty much started my grieving process for my business and here was Andrew trying to draw me back in.

It was my mother. You know how mums are, and Caribbean mums? God save you if you don’t listen!

“An opportunity to show in London?!
Yuh thinking about saying no?!!!!
Yuh mad!!
I know you have more sense than that!
You could look for a job after!
Girl, go and take yuh paintings!
Steups (i.e. sucking of the teeth)
You trying to make me come over there for you!
Gyul! Doh be dotish!”

In one phone call, she had me set to rights. I wasn’t any more energetic but I was going to say yes and give this a go.

I now had just under 2 months to paint enough carnival themed paintings to fill a booth. At least that gave me something to focus on. Val at The Old School Studio let me take over her private studio and bought me canvases in exchange for some website work. Hubby’s business, Ross Laird sponsored By Leigh for the event. (Bless that supportive man of mine!) It was on.

Come Expo weekend, I was finally excited. The excitement had started creeping in bit by bit –
… when I got my PayPal reader so I could take card payments,
… when Hubby got his sister to babysit so he could help me run the booth all weekend,
… when I saw our (first ever!) By Leigh T-shirts,
… when we got the roof box fitted to take all my stuff down to the Oval,
… when we unpacked the car and began setting up the booth

Then finally it was time, and the people arrived!

Folks, it was fabulous! Amazing! Wonderful! Terrific! Blow mind! Energizing! Oh-my-God-ah-coming-back-next-year good!

I will admit. I didn’t make any financial profit on my booth at Carnival Expo 2016.

I had the wrong mix of products on offer. I needed less large originals, more prints, more merchandise, to focus more on Life Story Art – it was an invaluable learning curve. This year ah go be ready fuh dem!

Still, I found the experience to be highly profitable… in spirit. My emotional profit was through the roof. I think I explained it best to Andrew,

“Your beautiful Carnival Expo saved my soul. No joke. It made me remember who I am. That I come from the land of colourful, loud, laughing, raucous, clever, creative people and in this country of gray stoicism it’s ok not to blend in. I can be me! The whole experience just woke my slumbering Caribbean Queen up and this year has gone from strength to strength for me. So from the bottom of my heart I thank you Andrew. Truly!”