About a month ago I received a Facebook message from Michael J. Solender, a freelance writer for the Charlotte Observer. Apparently, the Observer asked him to write a feature article about the "button girl." "Crap," I thought, "Not another computer virus / Facebook spammer." To my surprise the man was legit. A week later I met with Michael, at a Starbucks, and told him the whole Not Made in China story. He was hilarious and great at making me feel at ease. Plus, he asked lots of good questions. Before we knew it, our hour was up and I headed into work recounting and over analyzing our entire conversation.
The next day, the Observer called to arrange the shoot and asked if I'd be making buttons when the photographer came over. I said, "Sure, I can be making buttons." The woman repeated, "No, will you be making buttons? Is Monday night a night on which you normally make buttons." I said, "Like I said, I can be if you need me to." A tad frustrated, she explained, "You see, we can't tell you what to do when we take the photos. Does that make sense? So, let me ask again, will you be making buttons?" "Oooooooh, in that case, yes," I said.
A few days after that, Jeff Siner (a photographer with the Charlotte Observer) came out to my condo to take photos for the article (shown above). I had cleaned up shop (read: postage stamp sized sunporch) in preparation for the shoot, but when Jeff entered the room he said, "You cleaned!? Nooooo! I want buttons everywhere!" To which I replied, "Aw hell naw, the world can't see my mess!" My mom raised me right: shove everything into a box and hide it when company comes over.
I thought about wearing my little "NMIC uniform" (hat with a button and NMIC logo tee), but my girlfriends protested, "You need to look goooooood for the public, not like the silly button girl... errrrr... uhhhh... I mean, you know, dress how you normally dress." I tried not to take offense and finally agreed with their sentiment.
Jeff took photos of several vignettes: buttons on display boards, buttons on the dress form, me with the button covered dress form and, of course, me making buttons (cough cough, like I do every Monday night). Jeff was also very good at making me feel at ease. I think it's because he's from Indiana.
Then it was time to wait for the article to run. Originally I was told it would run as a cover feature in the Thursday paper's Style section. After the photoshoot, Michael told me it looked like it might run in the Sunday paper. Whoa!? Sunday paper cover feature?! Who'd my dad pay to make that happen? I was so anxious the night before the article ran that I hardly slept. It was like Christmas Eve and the night before major surgery all wrapped into one.
When Sunday morning finally arrived, I ran out to my local Harris Teeter and bought 10 copies of the paper. The clerk asked if I worked at a hotel or something. When I explained that I was IN the paper, she held it high in the air and shouted, "Hey look everyone! She's in the paper!"... to all two customers. I blushed and strolled out of the automatic doors with a grin from ear to ear.
I stopped in at my Starbucks, and as I waited for my iced, grande, nonfat, two Splenda, latte (don't judge me) I saw a man reading a paper with MY FACE ON IT! I quickly reached for my cellphone to get a photo of this surreal coincidence, then lost my nerve and decided to ask for permission to take the photo. "Excuse me, sir, I have a strange request," I said as he stared blankly back at me. "Uh, that's me in the paper you're reading, do you mind if I take a photo of you reading it?" I said sheepishly. "THAT'S YOU!?!?" he exclaimed. Dude, you didn't have to look that surprised. I wasn't wearing make up and had my hair in a ponytail - OKAY?!?! He gladly obliged and I got the picture.
I rushed home to devour the article and scrutinize every single photo in the paper. But you know what? There was nothing to criticize. It was a great article. Michael totally nailed it. His tongue in cheek humor was spot on. In the week since the article ran, I've received a ton of emails about the feature. They mostly go something like... great article, you should be proud... so nice to read some good news in the paper for once... I've got an event coming up, can you make us some buttons?!
I really can't thank Michael, Jeff and the Charlotte Observer enough.
In case you missed it, read the article online here.