Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Looking Back, Looking Ahead II - Chapeaux de poissons à Chamonix

The next craft chapter (not necessarily in chronological order) as I look back, evolved into a business that my husband and I started while on a trip with friends to the french alps. But it started months earlier on the banks of Lake Pocotopaug, well in a two bedroom condo that faced the lake anyway.

While Dave and I were dating he told me a story of wanting to have a great big shark hat, which, when he skied down a mountain would fly behind him giving the appearance of the shark swimming.  (Note to all: Never, and I mean NEVER tell such a story to a bored and extremely creative Pisces with a sewing machine and a coupon for polar fleece)

Unsure of just what I was getting myself into, I started drawing up patterns and cutting out fleece sharks and teeth until after about 8 prototypes I had one that actually worked! Then I really got creative...the flood gates were opened and I was fully focused on finny fleece fish! Once I had the shark figured out, it was super easy to alter it a tad to create a dolphin, then came the gold fish, spotted puffer, clownfish, starfish, sting ray and the octopus (oh yes, it was immense and absolutely hysterical to see in action). These were joined by a beautiful blue marlin, electric eel and a seahorse and finally the piece de resistance - the Orca whose blowhole doubled as a chapstick holder!

During my fleece fish fabrication frenzy, we planned a ski trip to Chamonix with our good friends Jeff and Lori from Cinci. And in February 1999 (? I'm sooo not good with dates and numbers...) we headed across the pond. We landed in Paris and took a few days to toodle around London and Paris before renting a car and driving the 2-3 hours to Chamonix. It wasn't long before we realized that the drive would be much longer due to the heavy snowfall.  It took us about 12 hours to make that trip and we arrived in Chamonix around 4:00 am to the Gendarme asking us what our destination was.

Unbeknownst to us there had been a series of major avalanches and the slopes were all shut down to skiers. We shared our chalet address with the guard and travelled about 10 yards from him when our car coughed, sputtered and died, the little Renault couldn't handle any more snow. Luckily for us the bars had just closed and 4 young men came up behind the car and started pushing! They pushed us into a parking lot and lo and behold (i kid you not) it was parking lot to the Chalet we were staying at! It was fortuitous and unbelievably surreal - 4:00 am in a foreign country covered in 12 feet of snow has that effect.

Anyway, here's where the business part starts...Since the slopes were all closed we had no options other that walking around the adorable town of Chamonix and mixing with the locals. With all the snow and freezing temps all four of us donned one of the super warm stuffed fish hats and before long we had droves of small french children following us down the snow covered streets singing "Les poissons, Mama, les poissons!" We received the same excited and amused response from just about everyone we met. People flocked to us and tried on the hats and took pictures. We all laughed and many joined us for drinks and broken conversation. We found a great internet cafe that had a great house red, and there we registered the website and that was the start of SkiDaddles hats and our company Liftlines Inc.

Below are some images of the hats. I will have to find the rest of the candid photos and scan them in tomorrow so you can see them in action.

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