Saturday, March 7, 2009

My Favourite Dartboard

I'm going out to play darts with a bunch of friends this afternoon. I'm especially looking forward to it today because a friend of mine from Texas is in town and I haven't seen him in years. In 2002, I worked for Chris while he was doing his MA fieldwork in Labrador. He was excavating at archaeological sites at Snack Cove near Cartwright, Labrador.

It was an important year for me. From 1999 to 2001 I was involved with a large community archaeology project at Bird Cove on Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula. It was my first big archaeology job coming out of grad school -- I was initially a crew chief and then one of two project co-directors. Days before we were supposed to go into the field for the 2002 field season we learned that we wouldn't be getting our ACOA funding for the year. Basically, I was out of a job.

I had started Elfshot in 1997 and while Bird Cove kept me busy from the spring to the fall, there was still a downtime in January-March that Elfshot fit into nicely. By 2002 I knew that I was turning down Elfshot jobs and that I might be able to expand the business beyond those 3 months, but I had no idea if there would be enough demand to fill up 12 months of the year.

When Chris' Snack Cove project came up I jumped at the opportunity to work in Labrador and the remote location and small crew meant plenty of time to ponder the future. We played a lot of darts. I'm in the habit of taking darts into the field with me, but we didn't have a dartboard. We stayed in an old wooden cabin with a few run down fishing stages around it. In one of the buildings I found an old wooden barrel lid and working from memory we turned it into a dartboard. The 8, 14, 15, & 16 were in the wrong places and you had to throw the darts really hard to make them stick, but we got a lot of use out of it.

By the end of the summer I'd decided to give Elfshot a go full time and its kept me steadily employed, contract to contract and order to order, for the past 7 years. I wasn't happy about losing the ACOA funding at the time, but without that shake-up, I wouldn't have gotten the push I needed to make a go of Elfshot as a craft business.

I was at a Craft Council Shop committee meeting yesterday afternoon and one of the things we were discussing was ways to deal with the downturn in the economy. Newfoundland seems to be in a bit of a bubble, the brunt of the recession hasn't really hit us yet, in fact, the shop sales in December 2008 were the highest on record. It was amazing, but we can't expect to stay unaffected forever.

If there is a silver lining to this downturn, I wonder if we will see a surge in new craft producers? It took losing my job for me to make the entrepreneurial leap and go to work for myself fulltime. I'd wager that there are other people who may be going through exactly that same thing right now. Its a scary decision to make, but if it works it can be very liberating. When you are your own boss you can put the numbers on the dart board in any order you choose.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast
Photo Captions:
Top Right, Groswater Palaeoeskimo endblade in situ, Snack Cove, Labrador
Left, A foggy day in Snack Cove. The building in the picture is where I found the barrel lid.
Middle Right, My Favourite Dartboard
Bottom Right, Arctic Cotton, Labrador

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