And Then There Was Mirrix

By Mirrix President Claudia Ann Chase

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I remember my 24th birthday very well. I was surprised I did not yet have all the answers or even any of the answers. I wasn’t even sure what the question were. I wrote a poem about it. To celebrate Mirrix’s 24th birthday we will not be writing a poem. But we did create a couple of quizzes to deeply test your Mirrix lore knowledge. 

[Here they are:
What's Your Mirrix IQ? (A quiz about Mirrix as a company and its history)
Test Your Mirrix Loom Knowledge (A quiz about Mirrix products.)]

While discussing these quizzes with Elena, we were flooded with Mirrix related memories, some of which I thought I would share.

I don’t want to give away any of the quiz answers, so I will skirt them while communicating some tidbits I recall from this great experiment we called Mirrix.
It was 1996. We had just landed in New Hampshire. We had been living in Wisconsin where I had dreamed up the idea of a very portable tapestry loom which had great tension, a functional shedding device and an optional treadle. A friend of mine pounded out the prototype in his garage and the rest is, as they say, Mirrix history.

The first thing I did upon entering the new house was to plug in the landline phone. It was green and boxy. We had had the phone line turned on before arriving. We also bought an 800 number so folks would actually call us. We thought we were pretty fancy! Within a few minutes, the phone rang. It was a woman looking to buy a loom. She was at Convergence in Portland, Oregon. We had shipped about twenty looms (16 and 32-inch looms) to Earth Guild for them to take to Convergence for the Mirrix debut. I told them if they did not sell I would pay to ship both ways. The woman wanted to purchase a 16-inch loom. Why did she not just buy it from Earth Guild? It was day two of Convergence. All the Mirrix looms had sold. I had hired a tapestry weaver to sit at their booth and weave (payment, a loom!) and that must have done the trick.

That was an auspicious beginning. I knew it was a sign that this random thing I had done, turning my personal desire for a certain size and kind of loom into reality. I hadn’t planned to go into business. It just happened as it was meant to happen and sometimes one just can’t mess with destiny.

I took her credit card number and went through all the gymnastics one had to go through back then to get approval for and process a credit card. I will not bore you. It was a real pain in the butt! It was our first direct to the customer sale. Wow. Wow. Wow. "So this is how it works", I thought. And now I am in business. It was exhilarating and terrifying all at once.

I wasn’t ready to be in business. Who is? Other people started businesses. To start a company, especially a manufacturing company, was not in my DNA. I just wanted to weave and sell tapestries. But the universe had different plans for me, for us.
As we were discussing our 24th birthday and the quiz, so many memories flooded back to us: Memories of our first loom, our first accessory, our first customer, our first show, our first lost shipment, our first wholesale customer, our first overseas sale, our first ad, our first website, our second website, our third website... Mirrix was being distilled in our brains into all its firsts. There were so many. 
I think back to the beginning and wonder how did customers find us? (I guess ads, shows and word of mouth). How were sales actually made (that thing called a telephone). Sales from our website did not happen until probably year five so all of it happened via phone, mail, in person. Do you remember those days? We used to send out mass mailings of postcards that I believe to this day netted us exactly 0 customers. 

In order to earn money in high school and later in college, Elena was given the job of maintaining the website my husband created. I don’t remember how many times that website was replaced! You never see how bad something is until you make it better. Elena just kept making it better and better. And then one day Elena decided to make Mirrix her full-time job and we’ve been gathering mutual Mirrix memories ever since.

I was looking back through our Quickbooks database. Every transaction we’ve ever made is recorded in those files. I was so surprised to discover how many stores sold the Mirrix Looms from the very beginning. Almost every one of the original transactions is a sale to a store. There was that one customer from Convergence and then here and there a few would trickle in. Most of those stores are now, sadly, out of business. From the get-go, we sold through the larger distributors, most of whom are still in business and still sell the Mirrix Loom. But those wee little yarn stores we so loved, most of them have gone by way of the dinosaur. 

Mirrix feels like a living organism. It grows and changes and makes friends all over the world. It unites people through the magic they make on the Mirrix with their hands. Mirrix is our ambassador for the arts. She had done us proud and served us well and will continue to do so as long as folks want to weave! Here’s raising a glass to another 24 years!

Happy 24th Mirrix. You are the best.
Claudia Chase
President and Founder

6 comments

Maurine Adrezin

I’d like to wish you and Mirrix Looms a very “Happy Birthday”. I enjoyed reading about the history of the Mirrix Loom. I own 3 different sizes of Mirrix – a 22", 12" and a Saffron Pocket Loom. I enjoy weaving tapestries on them.

Kantu

Happy memories. And best wishes for the continued success of Mirrix.

Ann

Hi Claudia: You brought back memories of when I started out my business. I too sent out postcards and no I did not get business per se from them but you have to start somewhere! I also roped my daughters into helping me in my business at different points. One of my daughters now does social media marketing. I like to think “I knew her when”. Congratulations on 24 years of starting and running a successful, women owned and run business.

Judy H

What fun to read about the history of your company! I am enjoying my two Mirrix looms and all you do to support tapestry weavers! Thanks for all your efforts.

Masseyna olstynski

Hi claudia, many happy returns! The happiest birthday ever! You get us all and keep us weaving! All the best for a shinning future!

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