Had we known the respect she held over the entire island population, we may have been dissuaded from ever even approaching her regarding our venture. But our naiveté of her position dictated that we forge ahead.
I initially contacted a select group of artists by email to see if there was interest in participating in a calendar project we were producing for Island Art. It was intended to feature the works of some of St. Martin’s talented art community. Having spent a little time on internet searches, and reading the volumes of information available about her, I admit to a certain degree of surprise that she was interested. Having Ruby Bute in our calendar would definitely lend an air of credibility and help insure further commitments from the fence riders.
We made preliminary arrangements via email, and exchanged phone numbers for our pending arrival on the island. A couple of brief phone conversations from the states left us excited to meet her face to face, but with an image already beginning to form, we knew that this was indeed a special woman, and that we were going to be in for a unique and rewarding experience.
…Upon our arrival we pulled up to the large painted steel gate and honked per the posted sign. After a few minutes the gate slowly slid open to allow our passing. Driving on to the yard we see her sitting on the front porch of her home as the gate slides shut behind us. We were on the “inside” now. We felt elite, part of a select few, allowed briefly to see behind the curtain. We approach with nervousness and trepidation wondering how we will be received.
We were given a grand tour of the entire home and previewed a wide array of her completed works. Numerous attempts on my part to direct us towards the purpose of our visit were rebuffed as if a pesky gnat or fruit fly. We were treated as special quests and her hospitality was humbling.
…At the conclusion of our two-hour “visit”, she announced that she had needed to find out who this man from the states was before she committed to the project. “Now we can talk business” she declares, “but not today.” She had another appointment that she had to keep and would have to leave. We were invited to come back the following day to talk business.
So we learned that this entire meeting had only been held so that she could see if there would be a need at all for a 2nd meeting. As we drove off the lawn and back to our resort, we were jilted a bit by the lack of progress, but celebrating the fact we had passed muster. I have not known before or since, an island resident so clearly in command of everything that goes on around her. Nothing happens without her knowledge and subsequent approval. To have survived this first test of character was exhilarating and left us in a celebratory mood. We now knew that with her in the stable, the rest of the calendar would fill quite easily..
I started the business discussions by pointing to the agreement, and started to briefly discuss the merits of each article in it. Mind you, this is a very brief legal document; only two pages in length, but nearly one half of its contents are dedicated to the discussion of royalties, the calculation, and the auditing of it. As I reached Article 3, Royalties, she stopped me in my tracks. “Why do we need all this?” “Well” I explained, “I wanted each of the artists to feel I was being transparent and forthright in my dealings.”
“I understand, but I don’t want to have to worry about what this Mr. Vanderpool is doing back in the states” she said. I was beginning to see the picture she was now painting without benefit of brush or knife. “Would you rather have a certain quantity of calendars to sell in your own studio” I asked?
“Exactly!” Now quite clearly pleased that this stranger from the states has finally caught up with her unspoken directive. Now all that would remain would be to determine a proper quantity for her contribution. So after a few uneasy moments of pregnant pause, I finally played right in to her hand, “Did you have a number in mind?”
“Well, whatever you think is fair” she coyly responded. I now quickly make some royalty calculations in my head based upon the projected sales and first run printing. “How does 100 or 150 units sound?”
“150 is a good number… but I was thinking of a different number.” I laughed out loud and she too chuckled, both of us realizing we were now entering into the Art of the Dance…
To read the this story in it’s entirety, and to hear other tales of transitions to a slower-paced island life, check out the book “A Beach Less Traveled” by John Berglund. It’s a great read for a beautiful day on the beach!
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