Yesterday I decided to call her just to confirm everything was set, and discuss exactly what time we wanted her to show up. I tried to pull up her website for her phone number, and discovered the site no longer exists.
I googled the website's name, Artistry By Tess (also known as the Artistry Group), and discovered an entry called "Special Report: The Artistry Group" at a blog called Wedding Bee.
Goodbye disconcerting, hello lead weights in my stomach. I'm one of the people who paid in full to get the discount, back in April, on the basis of several years' (I think) worth of glowing reviews on the weddingchannel.com and theknot.com forums with nary a dissenting voice. At least I paid only for me, and my maid of honor's hair, and not more. It sounds like others may have lost significantly more.
The bottom line appears to be that Tess Standley (aka maiden name Teresa Johnson, according to her pricing page) says she has cancer, and also a pending divorce from her husband, and has decided to stay in Boston with her family while she undergoes treatment and tries to rebuild her career there. A blog where she made several posts about these things during early July had already been taken down by yesterday, but helpful Google has cached a copy here.
Using emails previously exchanged, I looked up her (Pasadena studio) phone number and tried calling it, and it is indeed disconnected. I sent a brief email inquiry, half expecting it to completely bounce, and got an autoreply, which seems to be missing a few lines in the first paragraph:
For updates pleasde visit:
As you may or not be aware, I have been fighting cancer since March. On
a recent trip to Boston to see my family have been my closest
assistance for the past 5 years and can always mimic what I have done.
I understand that this may cause you stress and anxiety and having been
a bride, I can completely understand.
I have provided a list of contacts below as replacements for your
services. Design Visage and Stacy Oliver are happily taking brides.
I am so sad that I will not be able to personally fulfill my obligation
to you on your wedding day.
Love and Thanks
followed by a list of contact information for several Southern California hair and makeup stylists.
I did discover a mirror of her website which is still up at this writing, which announces "Booking both Los Angeles and New England appointments for 2007," although the phone number listed is still the disconnected Pasadena one: http://theartistrygroup.com/
I'm a patient sort (sometimes too patient) who usually gives a person the benefit of the doubt, until I have reason to do otherwise. It is possible that she is telling the truth. Fighting cancer is as good a reason as any to have a bit of a nervous breakdown, BUT: not notifying her clients of this situation is a big ol' honkin' red flag. She had enough energy to set up and publish a blog, if only for a week or so. Said blog, and the email auto-reply, would only reach those who attempt to find her. Those who do not suspect that anything is wrong, which was me until yesterday, would have none of that information. In my opinion, the honest professional's very first response to a situation beyond their control would be the mass-email notification of all clients. The autoreply demonstrates that she does or did have access to her email, which presumably contains her clients' addresses, yet she did not do this.
That said, I sent her another email today taking her at her word and inquiring about refund procedure, and I will give her a chance to answer before I decide whether to take further action. Anyway, I've got a few errands this weekend, what with getting married in a couple weeks and having to find a new hairstylist and all.