Monthly Archives: July 2010

THE BEST ADVICE FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

I found this essay by Paul Graham today–advice for young people in high school, leaving high school, getting ready (or not) for college, and actually, for anyone else, too.

And it is exactly what I wish I’d known in high school. And college. And the first 30 or 40 years of my life. (I finally figured it out when I was 42, I think….)

I came across this by way of the Fine Art Views blog. Fine Art Views is a great resource for artists. It’s kind of geared towards 2D artists, but the advice is general enough for all creative folks.

I’m printing it out for my latest high school graduate. Pass it on to someone you know could benefit–it’s good stuff!

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Filed under art, business, career, craft, inspiration, life, mental attitude, perseverence

SAY THE RIGHT THING

When is a stupid question from a customer not a stupid question? You can read my latest column at the Fine Art Views website here.

A great tip on customer care just in time for your summer shows!

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Filed under art, booth behavior, craft, craft shows, customer care, marketing, selling, shows

RUNNING WITH DOGS

Last week I made my first little dog artifacts.

My very first little dog artifact, in faux green soapstone.

Today I have pics of my very first dog pack. I love them so much already! I stayed with a very ancient-looking prototype, with long snout, upright and slightly cocked ears, and a curly tail. The curling tail seems to be the discerning characteristic of a dog versus a wolf or coyote. I could be wrong, but I’m going with it for now.

A whole pack of ancient dogs!

Running with the dogs. For Joanne!

I also have two little otters who are different from their brethren. Their backs arch up. I think they look like they’re doing that thing kittens do, when they arch their backs and hop sideways. And look–see the tiny toes on this one’s feet??

Bouncy otters!

Otter toes!

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Filed under artist statement, craft books, creativity, criticism, jewelry display, life with chickens, press release, shows

MUSIC TO MY EARS

Today someone sent me a link to a compelling music video. (Thank you, Ann!)

Usually I’m big on drums, especially frame drums. Coincidentally, I’ve just learned that women and frame drums go back, oh, many thousands of years. If you get a chance, watch Who Does She Think She Is?, a fabulous movie exploring why it’s so damn hard to be an artist. Layne Redmond, drummer extraordinaire, explains the history of women and frame drums in the film. As an art history major, I instantly recognized all of the images shown that depicted women playing drums. And realized I’d never heard that mentioned, referenced or discussed in a single art history class.

But today, this excerpt from Philip Thornton’s “Tibetan Meditation” hits me hard. Especially the initial images of animals, which coincidentally, encompass all my favorite animals featured in ancient cave art. That, and the amazingly beautiful images of mountains, and clouds, and air, praying people, and the deep resonating music, transport me to a time far, far away.

I feel like I am listening to the earth holding its breath, gently, softly, waiting to exhale.

And I wonder where I’ll be transported on that outward breath.

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A MAN SHOULD NEVER GAMBLE….

Deciding if you should do a wholesale show.

When people ask if they should do this big-name show or that new wholesale show, I think of that old song by musician David Bromberg….

“A man should never gamble
more than he can stand to lose….”

(From his song, “Diamond Lil” on the Demons in Disguise album.)

This question came up again in a forum I frequent, and this is my response:

I haven’t done the ACRE show in a few years–I did their first show in Las Vegas, and stopped doing wholesale shows soon after, after about seven years of doing shows like BMAC (wholesale), ACC Baltimore (wholesale/retail) & ACRE Las Vegas (wholesale).

Here are some points to consider:

1) Wholesale shows are EXPENSIVE. And even a good wholesale show is with an established reputation and good management, is not a sure thing. Used to be, but not any more.

2) First year shows are notoriously dicey. An artist friend with 30 years in the biz recently told me, “Never do a first year show or a show you can’t drive to.” I’ve learned the hard way this is excellent advice on both counts.

Wholesale buyers are still being cautious, and buyers at first year shows are the most cautious. Adding travel costs and shipping costs (for your booth) on top of that and you can easily spend $5,000 on a show with no guarantee you’ll get the orders to even recoup your investment (let alone enough to make a profit.) I don’t know where you live, but that’s something to consider.

3) Who are your customers? Who do you hope to find there? Years ago a good wholesale show would draw from stores and galleries across the country. Now, more buyers tend to stick close to home. So there MIGHT be buyers from all over, but it’s MORE LIKELY the buyers will be local. So…are stores in Orlando and Florida your target audience?

4) Have you done any shows at all? Even smaller, local ones, just to tweak your booth, display, selling skills, support materials?

I’m all for people going for their dreams and dreaming big. But you say you’ve only been in business a few months, and you’re still in the process of “building a website, creating a collection”, etc. Doing a wholesale show is a huge outlay in money, time, energy.

Are you–and your business–ready??

You might be one of those people we read about who takes that leap and flies. But doing a wholesale show is a HUGE leap, one that’s daunting even for people who already have some experience doing small shows, doing wholesale, etc.

Almost all shows across the country, retail and wholesale, have taken a hit in attendance and sales. And $3,000 is a lot of money. So…..

5) Can you afford to gamble $3,000–and lose?

My advice: I think the smarter bet is to take advantage of the Visiting Artist/ABI program. I was actually a guest faculty member for ABI, and it’s a good deal.

The critique will be helpful (though remember, even expert advice is still just one person’s opinion). They can advise you on all kinds of wholesale matters: Are you sure you’re making an adequate profit on your product? Do you have reliable sources for supplies? (If one critical supplier drops out, can you still make your product?) Are you solid on your production schedule and shipping procedures? Are you familiar with industry standards re: billing, payment, terms, etc.? Do you know how to qualify your buyers?

And you will get a chance to actually visit the show.FWIW, I think the most educational thing any craftsperson can do (who wants to do a wholesale show) is to VISIT THE SHOW FIRST. You’ll get to see what the deal is, you’ll be able to see how many buyers show up, and you’ll get to talk to exhibitors (if they are not busy and if they are willing, of course).

I wrote a entire series on how to wholesale on my old blog, but this new series I did on how to “half wholesale”–get started building your wholesale biz before doing a major show, may be more helpful to you. You can see links to both series here.

And all this information was before selling on the Internet became a “big deal”! Add in all you know now about websites and selling in your own online store, and you’ll be off to a good start

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Filed under art, business, craft, craft shows, half-wholesale, marketing, selling to stores, shows, taking chances, wholesale

TWO BEAUTIFUL OBJECTS IN SPACE

Just a quick note, artist Nicole Caulfield is doing a portrait of my daughter Robin wearing my “Gaia” shaman necklace. She just sent me the first draft and it is beautiful!

Can’t take my eyes off Robin or the necklace. I’m doubly blessed, not only to have such a great kid, but that she looks so good in my jewelry! (Doug is cool, too, but he won’t wear these necklaces….!!!)

Nicole Caulfield's portrait of my daughter Robin wearing my Gaia necklace.

Second portrait is the one I had done at a mall photo studio a few years ago. I still love this photo and use it as a large poster in my booth. It shows my daughter Robin wearing my necklace, “Ceremonial”, made with my horse, shell and bone artifacts. Charms made with antique trade beads, electronic resistors and vintage buttons, and tons of semi-precious stones such as turquoise, amazonite, jade, etc. The look is tribal and nomadic and fits my artwork beautifully.

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DEEP THOUGHTS

Something snapped loose inside me in the last few days, design-wise.

I’ve made lots of the usual items for the upcoming League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Annual Fair–very simple and inexpensive animal necklace for the young and the new collector, braided leather cord necklaces for men, etc. And I have lots of pretty new items, too.

But suddenly, things got wild.

Last night I made the most wonderful earrings. They are so amazing, I put them on and have been wearing them ever since. I think I’m keeping them!

Earrings for my inner wild woman.....

Not only are they beautifully made (if I do say so myself), they are incredibly light and easy to wear.

I’m really feelin’ the cave these days…. And it feels deep, and rich.

On a lighter note, I found this fascinating page while surfing the net for ideas for new markings. (More complete reading can be found here. Incredible!!

This sends another shiver down my spine…. The second artifacts I made were fossil fish. The story I made for them was that they were trapped in layers of sediment, dreaming of forgotten oceans. “Where is the water they were promised?” I wrote in the little gift cards for them.

When people asked me why my fish were grumpy, I said it was because they missed their oceans.

How eerie to think that these ancient people perhaps also made stories about these creatures trapped in the stone. Stories that were important enough to include the fossil images in their art.

I can’t even begin to think about what this all means. Perhaps it means nothing. But the on-going synchronicity of it all brings me, metaphorically, humbly, gratefully, to my knees.

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Filed under art, craft, craft shows, creativity, inspiration, jewelry design, show and tell, telling your story

ANOTHER SNEAK PREVIEW OF THE FAIR

I’ve been working night and day on these new earrings. I’ve been making astonishing necklaces for awhile now. I realized I needed to make some astonishing earrings, too.

These came to me as I was thinking about my shaman necklace series. Suddenly, I realized I could get a little crazy with shaman earrings.

And who said they have to match?? I’ve had customers asking for unmatched earrings for ages. Folks, I’m ready for you this year!

!

Who says earrings have to match?? I love these faux stones and shells, and the little bird is so sweet

Not all the earrings will be birds, but I wanted to make some with my signature faux ivory. Black birds make these pop!

My faux ivory meets my new faux riverstones.

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TINY TINY BEADS AND LITTLE LIZARD BRAIN THOUGHTS

Lately I’ve been “shopping my stash” for new design ideas–going through my countless drawers of goodies (beads, findings, wire, chain) to see what inspires me. It’s a concept that’s become popular in home decorating, seeing what’s already on hand that can be repurposed/rearranged/upcycled.

I have some examples today, riffs on an older design. I’m using tiny, tiny hand rolled silver beads culled from strands of Thai hill tribes silver beads. I used these a couple years ago, alternating the silver beads with turquoise chips.

But this week I’m using tiny, tiny, tiny turquoise chips. And teensy tiny pearls. And very, very small faceted crystals of smokey quartz.

How tiny? Well, the pearls are about 2mm. The turquoise chips, about 3mm. I cannot even imagine how the holes are drilled in such tiny beads. (For reference, I’ve put a #2 pencil in one of the photos.)

I thought working with these 4mm pearls would be tough, til I saw these 2mm versions!

My thumbs hurt from picking up such tiny things, and when my eyes began to swim a few minutes ago, I decided to take a break and write instead.

But it’s worth it. Because I love the extreme delicate look of these. And I especially love how the tiniest of my artifacts (stones, otters, birds, bears, horses) look with them.

The weird thing is, sometimes as my brain struggles to wrap itself around this miniscule work, I can feel my thoughts narrow down, too. For example, this is what popped up as I made a little stone for one of these necklaces today.

I realized I’ve always hesitant to show my work in “real time”–as I’m making it, etc. So much of my work has been copied over the years. A “crafter” here in NH actually “borrowed” my popular Sea Stone and Pearl designs a few years ago, to make her own line of jewelry with the same colors, identical components, even a similar-sounding name. She was on my mailing list for awhile, so she either bought some from me or visited my booth the year I introduced them. She now sells them at smaller fairs in the region. Ow. Last year, a customer came in who’d bought a piece from her and raved about her work, saying that I would really enjoy it, because “she does stones, too.” I had to bite my tongue….hard. I see some evidence she is evolving in her designs so that it’s more her own work.

I console myself with the idea that I must be one of her artistic “heroes”. And pray for her to evolve faster….!!!

My lizard brain wants to dwell here, nursing old hurts and grudges. But I try to let go.

After all, I can’t control this. And though it’s painful, I’m trying really, really hard not to give it too much energy anymore.

We are ALL inspired by others. I am. I just try to make sure that, as an idea comes to me from someone else, it gets substantially transformed into something that’s truly mine.

It also happens that different artists work through different ideas from different directions, and innocently converge onto similar territory. That’s happened to me a lot, too. There are, after all, very few truly new things under the sun.

Whatever. It happens. It’s time to move on. And so, in that light, there will more images in my blog from now on.

Who benefits? YOU do! You get to preview my new work for the show. You get to sneak a peek at the less messy parts of my studio.

Hopefully, I benefit, too. I get to spread the joy as I work.

Enjoy!

Older version of silver and turquoise with bird below, newer, more delicate version above!

Elegant neutrals--tiny faceted smokey quartz crystals, old silver, faux lava artifacts with a tiny faux bone accent. Pretty!

Tiny smokey quartz and little tuquoise pearls, with artifacts...

Tiny antique red white heart glass beads, made in Venice and traded around the world. I love how they look with the old silver, my red faux coral artifact and my little ancient horse (with real coral).

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Filed under art, cleaning the studio, copycats, craft, craft shows, creativity, jewelry, jewelry design, show and tell

WHAT’S KNOT TO LOVE?

A few years ago, I began a series of “Shaman Necklaces”, inspired by neolithic artifacts. I wanted big, bold pieces, and I wanted them to look OLD.

I decided to attach the artifacts with leather cord. But I had no idea how to tie them so they would look nifty. My daughter’s boyfriend at the time, an Eagle scout, suggested the collar and capstan knot.

He couldn’t quite remember how to tie it, though, so I searched for it on the internet. And found this amazing video.

So a big shout-out to the Marinews website in Australia and Andy’s World of Knots animated tutorials.

I absolutely love watching these knot videos, though some of them make me dizzy. And I couldn’t have made my beautiful necklaces without them. I actually had to modify the technique a little, since I needed to connect two objects together.

Why did I think of this today? Because I’ve been working on simpler, less expensive versions for the League of NH Craftsmen’s 77th Annual Fair next month.

And I still need to check the video to refresh my memory! Thank goodness lives don’t depend on what I do…..

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ICED COFFEE

Today it’s too hot to write. Even with my little air conditioner going full blast, it’s all ready in the high 80’s in here. (Obviously, it’s TOO little….)

So I am obsessed today with staying cool. And one of my favorite coolers is….iced coffee.

I LOVE iced coffee. But there are two problems I have with it.

First, I drink hot coffee with cream, no sugar. But iced coffee, I have to have it creamy and sweet. And granulated sugar does not dissolve well in cold drinks. I end up adding too much to get the sweet, which only gets way, way too sweet near the end (where all the undissolved sugar sits at the bottom of the glass.)

Second, the ice cubes in the drink eventually melt, diluting the coffee. Even if you start with very strong coffee, it just means it’s too strong at first and still diluted at the end.

So I’m giving you two little tips for making great iced coffee that stays great from start to finish. I learned these tips from two local stores this week.

The first is from Prime Roast, our favorite local coffee shop. It’s our favorite especially because Judy the Roaster is also our friend, and one of our favorite-est people in the whole world. I’ve learned a lot about retail from Judy–when you are served by Judy, you feel like she was just waiting for you to walk in the door, and now her life is delightfully complete.

Anyway, Prime Roast offers simple syrup to sweeten their iced coffee drinks. This sugar syrup lets you add sweetness more easily to cold drinks because the sugar is already dissolved–no glob of sugar crystals at the bottom of the glass. Bar sugar works the same way, but simple syrup is cheaper and foolproof.)

The second tip came from Kristin’s Bistro and Bakery, one of my favorite places to have lunch in downtown Keene.
They make their iced coffee with…..

(wait for it)

Ice cubes made from coffee!

No melting ice cube dilution effect!!

They even use hazelnut coffee ice cubes if you order hazelnut coffee. How cool is that?! (Pun intended.)

So now when I make iced coffee with coffee ice cubes and simple syrup, I have the perfect version.

And the last time I was in both stores, I shared the other store’s great tip. Kristin’s was baffled, but I think Prime Roast got it.

Last tiny tip: A few months ago, I acquired an extra carafe for my coffee maker, because I’m always breaking them and then can’t find one. (Yes, I purchased a carafe proactively.) And I just realized I can make a whole pot of coffee, let it cool, and stick the entire carafe in the fridge. I don’t know why, but this is easier than trying to keep a pitcher of coffee in there….

And one more tip–gadzooks, I’m full of them today! Store your coffee cubes in a bag in the freezer. Frees up your ice cube trays for other things–like, ice.

Stay cool!

I never dreamed in a jillion years I'd someday be photographing a bag of coffee ice, let alone BLOGGING about it...

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GETTING READY FOR SUNAPEE

I’ve done the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen’s Annual Fair, or “Sunapee” as we Leaguers call it somewhat affectionately, for eleven years now. Twelve, if you count the year I exhibited but didn’t have a booth.

It kinda wrecks summer. Just as school gets out and the weather gets nice and things slow down, just as I’m sitting in a sidewalk cafe enjoying a well-earned margarita, just as I’m wondering what to do with all my free time, I realize….

It’s time to ramp up inventory for the fair.

It’s time to make sure I have enough gift boxes, labels, working booth lights, spare parts and wall hangings for this nine-day show.

It’s time, in short, to PANIC.

I hate the panic. I hate the hot. (I’m actually not wild about summer. I hate bugs and sun.) I hate the realization that I forgot to order more clasps, wire, chain, polymer clay. I hate worrying about everything I have to pull together to make it work.

Fortunately, I love my customers. And I love making my stuff.

I also love the creative energy that wells up in response to my panic. Suddenly, there are simply too many wonderful ideas and new ideas to work on.

Anything to keep from thinking about the more boring tasks, like updating my mailing list. And looking for those boxes. And wondering if I have ALL the parts to my booth this year. And trying to remember where I put the light bulbs I bought last year when I realized I didn’t have enough the day before set-up???

Yes, making otters and stones and earrings and necklaces is much more fun!

I love playing with these new riverstone beads I’ve made….

I love love love the soft water colors of my new handmade riverstone beads

A tin of teeny tiny beads. How tiny? Each round tin is an inch across!


I drag out all my little storage cases of handmade beads, including teeny tiny beads I use as accents.

I love how all my artifacts look gathered together. I tend to make little “arrangements” with them in between projects. But when it’s time to put designs together, it’s better if they’re neatly sorted.

I love how all my artifacts look gathered together--what shall I make with these today?

I love to see all the little animal artifacts gathered into “herds”. Of course, it’s not so fun to pick all the chains apart after!

Animal herds. Horses and fishes and bears, oh my!

So there you have it, a little peek into my studio today. I’ve having a little trouble putting the photos where I want them. So if you’re confused, trust me, it isn’t YOU.

Aren’t you glad I didn’t show you the four foot tall pile of papers waiting to be filed?

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HOW TO TRADE WITH WITH OTHER ARTISTS

One of the nicest perks about being a craftsperson is trading stuff with other artists.

At its best, you get wonderful, beautiful works of art you might never afford on your own. I have some lovely pieces from top-notch artists, items that are totally out of my price range. And my own work now graces the homes of those very same artists.

It’s also a great way to “pay” the people who help me out by working in my booth at shows. Sometimes they fall in love with the work of another craftsman. Trading my work for that often works better for me than paying my assistant outright.

At its worst, however, there is embarrassment, frustration and hurt feelings. What can go wrong? Let me count the ways….

It’s not your style.
Someone asks you if you’d like to trade, you say yes, and then realize their work is not to your taste. You get to their booth and realize there is nothing there you want. (You can get around this by using their stuff as gifts for other people, but it’s just not as much fun as an “emotionally balanced” swap.)

It’s not to your standards. It’s just not as well-made or executed as you thought.

It’s not comparable in price. By that I mean you may not want to trade one of your $600 wall hangings for fifty $10 mugs, no matter how lovely they are. Or vice versa.

It may be unrealistic in price. Or the work might be hugely overpriced, something that sometimes happens with new craftspeople. They see something in the marketplace priced at $1,000 and think, “Oh, I can sell mine for that, too!” Maybe yes. Maybe…not.

Someone very new to the industry once offered their product in trade, naming a price equal to one of my $600 wall hangings. They really wanted a fiber piece, and insisted it was a fair trade.

In a nice way, I demurred but they persisted. They just wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Finally, I said, “Look, your work is nice but I’ve exhibited and sold my work for over a decade. I’ve won awards. I’ve been published. This is the going price for this piece. I know I can sell it for this much money. It’s proven itself in the marketplace.

You’re just starting out, you’ve never exhibited or sold your work, you just made this and put a price on it. It’s not a medium I like or collect. So it may very well be worth that much–but not to me.

Fortunately, he got it, and we’ve stayed friends. Whew!

Bottom line–You just don’t want their stuff.

But even when you DO want their stuff, things can still go terribly wrong. Perhaps because….

The person is whacko. (Sorry, no other way to put it.) One of my most excruciating trades was a woman who approached me at a wholesale show, asking to trade some jewelry for her beautiful fabric purses. I knew her work and loved it. I went to her booth, selected a purse (checking again to make sure that was okay with her) and invited her back to choose her goodies. She chose several pieces and left.

What’s embarrassing about that?, you may well ask. Well, a few hours later, she stomped into my booth with my jewelry and tersely demanded the bags back, saying she’d “changed her mind”. I never found out what that was about, but it felt awful.

Whatever the circumstances, when things are out of balance, it gets difficult. There you are, standing there stammering like an idiot, trying to figure out how to get out of the swap. And everyone feels bad.

Here’s a simply way to set the stage so everyone can feel good about a trade:

Say NO first.

If I am asked to trade, I always start off by thanking the person for wanting to trade, what an honor, etc. Then I say no.

It may look like this:

I’m so honored you want to trade–I’m delighted you like my work! And I really, really wish I could. Unfortunately, I’m extremely strapped for cash this season. So I can’t do any trading at this show. I’m so sorry!

I always offer a discount to fellow exhibitors and show employees, always, so I let them know that, too

Then when I get a chance, I come over to look at their stuff.

If my answer is still “no”–If it’s not my taste, or if I can’t use it for gifts, whatever, I just make cooing noises (“So pretty! Maybe next year….”) and leave.

If it’s something I want I say “yes.” “You know, I really shouldn’t because I’m so broke–but I just LOVE your stuff, so if you still want to trade, I’d be willing to trade with YOU!”

See how much better that sounds?

Saying “NO”, then “YES” works better than saying “YES”, then “NO”.

If I initiate the trade, I don’t ask outright, forcing them to say “yes” or “no” on the spot. I’ll say, “If you’d be interested in trading, let me know.” And then I leave so they don’t have to respond.

In fact, it’s even better if they’re busy with a customer, or not even in their booth. I’ll discreetly leave a business card or postcard at their booth. The card has an image of my work and my booth number, and “Do you trade?” I don’t follow up. If the person wants to trade, they can respond. If not, I’ll never know if it was because they didn’t want to or they didn’t have time, or they couldn’t afford to.

The “left card” approach works for me because it gives the person an idea of what I do. They have time to think about it. And they can come by and browse without pressure.

I like these approaches because….

Nobody’s feelings are hurt if I (or they) don’t want to trade. Everyone involved gets a graceful “out” if they need it.

When I say no and then “change my mind”, it’s an even greater compliment to the person I’m trading with. (“I won’t trade with just anyone, but I’d love to trade with YOU!”)

Even if I don’t want to trade this time, I’ve left the door open for future trades. (Because you never know….!!)

The biggest benefit of all?

It’s true.

I can’t afford to trade with everyone and anyone. I do always need cash.

It’s also easy to modify–I can say, “I can’t afford trade a $600 wall hanging this year, but I could do a trade in the $100 range….” Or do a partial trade, $100-$200 in trade and the balance in cash. Whatever.

And if any trade-willing fellow exhibitors are reading this, OY!!!! My secret is out!!!

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HOW TO GIVE WITHOUT BEING TAKEN Part 2

Second in the series, an article I wrote for the Fine Art Views newsletter and you can read it here.

Be sure to add your thoughts. Like the Borg, we like to add your uniqueness to the collective. (Unlike the Borg, we do it in a good way!) :^D

I was going to add an image of a Borg, but it was juuuuuust too creepy, folks. Use your imagination.

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