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Saturday, June 27

taking one for the team

So, this weekend we are at the Roycroft Campus, a shrine of sorts to the master craftsman himself, Elbert Hubbard, set up amongst the Artisans with "banners" that indicate they have passed the rigorous test of craftsmanship set up by the Institution. 

It is a lovely show with good people in a pleasant setting and it is usually our best June show. Sales were brisk, attendance was very good. But the best thing was a story told by a Roycroft artisan I'll call Ethel.

Ethel has a banner. It is a testament to her artistry in a field that shall remain nameless, but suffice it to say it is a craft that is ancient and lovely and has few people who still practice it. She has a slate of good shows that she does every year and while her sales are usually modest by the standards of most art carnies, it is enough for her needs. She was content.

Then she got juried out of Allentown. Now, I was juried out this year as was a jeweler I know with truly unique work. It was an odd year. So, while I just picked up another show to minimize the financial hit of losing what is usually a good chunk o'change, Ethel marched herself down to the show to see what was going on. She did not like what she saw.

She saw tons of jewelers and potters, she saw some work that looked suspect. But what really got Ethel frothing was the number of empty spots. No-shows. People who got the golden ticket and tossed it in the garbage.  Allentown has no wait list. If the folks don't show, the spot goes empty. Ethel stared at the empty spots and mentally figured her bills and she saw red.

There is no avenue for protest at a show. If they piss you off enough you just find another show for that weekend and don't look back. But Allentown is a really good show for Ethel. She decided to make herself heard.

She marched into the offices of the Allentown Village Society and demanded answers. She wanted to know why there was no wait list. She informed them that if they gave her a spot she could be back with her stuff and set up in an hour. And wouldn't that be better than an empty spot? She told them she counted on this show to pay her taxes and now what was she to do? She said there is nobody else in the area that does what she does and she is right. I've never seen another.  But the show was heavy with jewelry, pottery, photography. She would have been the only one out of 400 with this particular talent. How could they not take her? She informed them that this is serious business for most of us, that it is not a hobby it is our job and we count on making a certain amount of money every year. She said they needed to jury with an eye to diversity and, while they were at it, their categories were hopelessly outdated and difficult for many to fit into. Including her.

Oh, she let 'em have it. They, of course, were just committee members, they had no influence on selection blahblahblah. But I am proud of her. She made herself heard. Will it make a difference? Probably not. There will be too many jewelers, an abundance of potters, mediocre paintings that were juried in simply because they ARE paintings. Those of us who labor under the label "artisan" or "craft" get the balcony seats, the last page of the program, the smallest slate of available openings. 

Ethel will have financial trouble this Summer. Her taxes may be late. That new gadget she's been thinking she'd get in June will not be purchased. But she took one for the team two weeks ago, she marched right up to her problem and faced it down. She did what none of us ever do in this business. We meekly accept the rejections and thankfully gather the acceptances and seldom do we say "Hey! Are you kidding?" 

Thanks, Ethel, You can hoist a canopy in my yard any time. You rock. :)

1 comment:

Terry said...

Hurah Hurah for Ethel and you Pat