“Posture! Energy!” Ande’s voice came over the intercom. “And 5, 4, 3,….”
Seated beside the centered Camera 2, Colleen mimed numbers 2 and 1.
I’d met Ande 10 minutes ago as I presented my first project to the cast and crew on the Iowa Public Television set of “Fons and Porter’s Love of Quilting”. I knew Ande was on top of her game. She immediately caught on when I mis-spoke while describing the second step in my project- I hope I’d gotten all the mistakes out of my system early on.
I met Colleen an hour before I’d met Ande, when she visited the dressing room and kindly offered to press my clothing. Colleen’s title of Sewing Specialist doesn’t seem to accurately describe her expansive role as a continuity monitor and wardrobe manager.
Between meeting Colleen and Ande, I’d made sure to introduce myself to the IPTV crew, which apparently not many guests do. While this isn’t an instructive article, I’d recommend ingratiating yourself to the people who are supposed to make you look good- especially if all it takes is shaking hands and saying “Hello”.
The only person on set who I’d met before this trip was the new host of “Fons and Porter’s Love of Quilting”, Sara Gallegos. She was a familiar face from years of Baby Lock Tech conferences- a link from my past life as a sewing machine dealer to my new life as a sewing podcaster, blogger, and what-may-come.
Countdown over. Posture and energy established, Sara welcomed our audience to the 3000 series of “Love of Quilting”. The huge clocks placed above the cameras began to tick away the seconds. Sara introduced me as a sewing instructor about to share a unique project with you, our audience, and we were off.
This is PBS, so I didn’t appear as “Mallory Donohue of SewHere.com” or “The cohost of the Sewing Out Loud podcast”, and I couldn’t profess my love for the Baby Lock machine sitting next to us. In here, Wonder Clips are “sewing clips” and Annie’s Soft and Stable is “foam batting alternative”.
Playing within these constraints didn’t bother me. As an artist I know that limitations (even mundane ones regarding product promotion) can be good for creativity, but it’s a stark contrast to the goals I’m setting in my business.
Back home, in my new environment, it’s a daily goal to get someone to buy something from us. Often I look back at our podcasts or my live Facebook videos and think “Why didn’t I tell people that we sell that?”. It’s all a part of adjusting to the new world order of SewHere.com as a purely online presence. Part of that new world order now includes PBS appearances- and who knows what else.
So, here I was, selling myself without selling myself to the apparently 90% of American households that receive PBS distribution. And while I know that not 90% of Americans watch “Love of Quilting”, I know that whatever the percentage, they’re a dedicated and vocal audience. Could they become my audience?
As Sara and I moved through the projects, I made sure to speak clearly and to keep my voice from becoming too high-pitched when we got excited. I tried my best to say “Yes” instead of “Yeah”, as I’d read one angry commenter on the “Fons and Porter” Facebook page admonish an unnamed guest for that particular sin. I was determined to make a good impression here.
I had a bit of making-up to do, as it was. My step-outs for my two projects were due two weeks prior to my appearance. I sent them late, and they arrived two days prior.
Closing a retail store is hard- harder than running one. In the past month, I’d worked 12 hour days moving heavy furniture and dealing with genuinely excited or disappointed customers, as well as some newcomers who reeked of cat pee. Physical therapy for pelvic floor issues related to my pregnancy couldn’t provide the relief that some rest would have. And since rest wasn’t in the cards, neither was after hours sewing and planning. Luckily, my mother’s skills provided a solid framework for project number one and put me on track for success with project two.
Content Director, Vanessa, told me that she was impressed with the detail of the step outs, giving me a little confidence boost while I was getting an appearance boost from Ashley, the hair and make-up artist. I hoped everything would be ok.
The giant red numbers on the clock raced backwards from 22:00 and I got nervous when we had 15 minutes left to fill. Then I had a stronger sinking feeling when the project wasn’t finished as we counted down the last 3 minutes. Running a little over or under wasn’t a death sentence. Marianne Fons films a “Tips” segment that fills the time that we don’t, but my heart still raced.
Sara guided us precisely to through the episodes, as she made sure each progressive sample made its way into the shot and wrapped up our segments with a tidy bow of invitations to watch more episodes. I got to to say “Thank you” and smile at the camera. We finished both episodes before lunch- a record matched only by the legendary Fons’s themselves- I think I’d made up for my tardy step-outs.
After filming each segment, we recorded “teases”. Vanessa wrote and rewrote tantalizing copy to describe the projects and hook our viewers into spending a Sunday afternoon with us.
Since age 5, I’ve been instructed to flirt with my audience on stage and screen. People tell me that when I read something on camera, it sounds like I’m telling a secret, or that I’m about to tell one. I got that feedback again this time, and I don’t imagine I’ll break the habit soon. My friends in the Self Sewn Wardrobe Group seem to like my playful demeanor- hopefully commenters on the Fons and Porter Facebook page will too.
After all, I think my main job now, is to flirt with my audience- and I couldn’t be happier. I don’t have to smell anyone, but I must continue to charm viewers and listeners. I’ve got to make videos, answer questions, teach new techniques- and maybe even be on some more TV shows. Thankfully, I’ve got some new skills, thanks to F+W Media and the crew at IPTV.
Before my live broadcast this morning, back in my home studio- all alone with my iPhone and podcasting mic- a little voice said, “Posture! Energy!”
Too bad there’s no hair and make up artist living here.