Once I make a decision, I am fraught with doubt. It was just too simple. It wouldn’t work. No one would buy the rocks. The people wouldn’t buy into it, or understand or believe it, and would not be able to do it. But as I spoke to my friends and clients, so many of them led me to their nicknack shelf, to show me a rock they had purchased on vacation, and the story behind it. I told myself nothing bad could happen, but something great might happen, if I carried on.
Early in February, several weeks before my trip, I got a message from Ward Johnson. He is the founder of Save Our Monarchs Foundation, whose mission is to distribute millions of packets of free milkweed seeds. Having seen my intention on my Monarch Crusader facebook page, he told me he wanted to be a part of it. He offered to sell the rocks year round on his site! I couldn’t believe it! Before the first rock was painted, and had an order! And so I could promise the townspeople that their rocks would be purchased!
Three days before my arrival in Mexico, I learned that in addition to the evening workshop I had planned, the whole primary school was expecting me! 65 kids, and not even the teachers spoke English! I had been brushing up on the Spanish I learned 40 years ago, but now I went into high gear, making a list of art related vocabulary. I finished packing more than 50 pounds of art supplies, eye glasses, and clothing that I had collected or purchased, in a donated suitcase, and off we were, my partner Audrey and I, to change a few lives.
I had just over an hour to introduce 3 or 4 crafts. I quickly boiled it down to just one. I started by explaining the concept, that I was going to teach them to paint rocks with monarchs, to sell to tourists. I told them they could earn money this way, and that tourists would want them. I told them that deep inside, they were all artists. My fellow travellers flew into action to distribute the paints, take photos, give out monarch printouts as examples, and help the kids get started. The kids were as young as five! Thankfully, our interpreter showed up to translate my Spanish into Spanish (that the kids could understand). I asked them to paint the rock orange, then paint a monarch as best they could. I told them if that was too difficult, they need only paint black lines, and add white dots, and everyone would recognize that as ‘monarch’. None of them chose that option. Their very first effort was excellent. I later learned that this was the first time that they had ever had a brush in their hand. Money for art supplies? No, money in Macheros was used only for essentials.
Later this week: Branding and Selling the Rocks.