What is it that I really do?

By Terri

My job title in this business is Manager, specifically Business Manager/Artist Wrangler. My personal business cards read "Knitting Instructor & Artist Wrangler*" But that's an incredibly vague term that conjures up images of Ariela in a Lasso of Truth and doesn't really describe what I do or how I learned how to do it.

I began working at The Judaica House in early 2006. Early on I was tasked with re-inventorying many of the special order items that they carry, such as personalized benchers** (yes, that's pronounced like the thing you sit on followed by the sound you use when you can't find a word), yarmulkes for imprinting and personalized ketubot from various artists (among them, Ariela's former employers). Over several years of employment, I developed relationships with some of the artists we carried and learned a whole lot about how the business works. The personalization form you fill out if you order a ketubah from us? It's a hybrid of the form I used to use at work and the one the Caspis use. My initial proofreading skills came from doing the final check on any ketubah before it went to the customer. And boy did I have to chase down a lot of rabbis. Why? Because before we would send the personalization information to any artist, that information needed to be verified by the wedding officiant.*** That led to me ranting to Ariela during May of 2009:

clearly, it must be wedding season

either that or Rabbi season, because all I seem to be doing is hunting them

Some time later, the following sketch arrived in the mail:

The giant kippah *really* makes this sketch. If you look carefully, you can see where Elmer used to be wearing a black hat.

The giant kippah *really* makes this sketch. If you look carefully, you can see where Elmer used to be wearing a black hat.

[Image shows a pencil sketch of Elmer Fudd on the phone, wearing a kippah, holding forms. Text declares "Be vewwy vewwy QUIET. We'we hunting WABBIS...."]

So I amassed a set of incredibly specialized skills over the course of my employment (proofreading, how to get what you want from an artist without making them cranky, dogged persistence in tracking down officiants). I learned what sorts of designs appeal to the standard Jewish consumer vs. the geeky ones. And most importantly, I developed a deep and close friendship with an artist who wanted to start a calligraphy business. 

I stopped working full time at The Judaica House in 2010. By then, Ariela was living in New York City and was steadily taking commissions for ketubot.**** I was her on-tap proofreader for these (I even did one over email), and we began to banter back and forth about Ariela quitting her day job. It was all pipe dreams, even in 2012 when we established that I would be the business manager. It wasn't until 2013 that I actually started doing Business Manager type things (mostly attempting to adjust unreasonable expectations from clients - something I still do). 

But, you insist, none of this answers the question in the blog post title! So what is it that I do?

I proofread texts when possible (not being local to Ariela makes it trickier), answer wholesale inquiries, rein in Ariela's runaway impulses, respond to certain types of client inquiries, come up with product lines, track down phone numbers for licensing departments,***** make sure Ariela meets her deadlines, write many of our product release blog posts, serve as a sounding board, and generally act as the first line of defense for anything that keeps Ariela from being able to Do Art. I smile and nod at calligraphy details, keep our products within scope (and just slightly subversive), act as a font of completely useless knowledge, track down frames at thrift stores, make sure Ariela doesn't take on too much, tweet and share things on Facebook that are relevant to the business, and write long rants on our blog when fandom needs a good swift kick in the pants. Since that doesn't fit on a business card, you get Artist Wrangler instead.





*Unfortunately they went to print before I could get "professional killjoy" added to them

**Small prayerbooks or laminated cards containing the Grace After Meals and other assorted pre and post meal prayers for the Sabbath and Holidays. 

***We ask for your officiant's contact information for this very reason (also, if we have any questions we can avoid asking you them during what is a busy and stressful time for you).

****Our friends did persist in getting married.

*****It's amazing how much easier it is to contact the people in charge of Star Wars licenses now that Disney owns Lucasfilm.