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Monday, May 31

gimme shelter

We took a big step in our art show world yesterday and upgraded to a heavy duty artist canopy.

When you visit festivals, most likely all you notice is that the tents are white. Before I got into the game, I wouldn't have remembered anything about the many tents I ducked into as a customer except that: they were white. But there is a big difference.

Most of us start out with a "pop-up" canopy that opens sort of like an umbrella. You can get them now at discount stores for $200 or so. The sides hook on with velcro or ties, the sides zip up, you attach as much weight as you can to the legs to keep them from sailing and you are good to go. Well, not "good" so much as "OK".

We rented canopies our first year and we were seduced by how easy they were to pop up, not realizing that the rental places used industrial grade materials that we would never see again. Over the past dozen years we've bought about 3 of them, replacing the ones that were damaged by wind or rain.

A few events last year made me start thinking seriously about upgrading. There were storms last year, big ones, scary ones. The little pop-up held its own for the most part but I worried every time. And then, at the Waterfront Festival, I saw what so many art carnies speak of, The dreaded flying canopy.

But our pop up was still sturdy and brave and then came that tricky wind and the need to weld and an uneasiness inside our shelter. Even on that beautiful, sunny day last weekend, a few stray wind gusts threatened to dance our tent sideways and Russell went schmoozing with owners of the "pro" tents and came back convinced. I found a used one advertised on an artist forum by a photographer I "knew" from the business and off we went to Pittsburgh.

My fear about the pro canopy was that it would be a pain to put up. There are poles to attach and patterns to remember. So, when Larry offered to put the thing up in the driveway with us, we jumped at the opportunity. He showed Russell all the parts and I got dizzy just trying to imagine how it worked.

We are going to be here for hours, I thought, and went to get Q out of the car. When I turned around, it was already started!

Well, OK, then. I'll get Q some water and put it in his dish and....

OK, seriously, how can this be so easy? I asked Russell if he was understanding what Larry was showing him and he responded with a big grin about how simple and logical it was. Russell loves logic. OK then.

I walked the dog over to the back yard, cleaned up after him, brought him back and Larry was explaining the awnings

Yes, we get awnings. I always wanted awnings....

We sealed the deal and started to pack things up and then Larry asked Russell if he could use one of these

which probably doesn't send tingles up your spine unless you do art shows. It's a hand truck that folds out to a flat bed that you can pile almost your whole set up on. Yes!, Russell shouted.

So, off we went back home, our van piled high with poles and vinyl, Quincy snuggled up on a mountain of walls

Our next step will be to lay the parts out on the lawn, scrub them up, let them breathe, maybe get some wrinkles out. Separate the extras from the basics and then set it up again, without Larry's help. Just to be sure.

A friend of ours told us that once you have the pro tent, you set it up and then forget about it. You can focus on your show. Not worry about wind or rain or leaks. That will be nice. Next time you see me, I should be looking pretty relaxed. And so very professional :-)

Friday, May 28

sex and the city and me and the city

OK, here's the confession. I can't wait to see Sex and the City 2. This is no big deal unless you know me. Because, most likely, I am one of the least likely SATC fans you could meet.I mean, I consider stiletto shoes to be an evil plot foisted on vulnerable women by men who thought it would slow them down. Barefoot is my shoe preference. If an outfit isn't made of denim or t-shirt material I feel like I'm in costume and my boutique of choice is AmVets. So what is it about Carrie and Samantha and Miranda and Charlotte that calls me?

I refused to watch the series when it first came on HBO because the little bits I saw of it looked like it was a series about women in search of men and little else. Yuk. Then, one night, bored and finding nothing on the 427 channels TimeWarner provided, I chose an old episode. Then another. and another. I watched for hours. This was actually good stuff. Funny. Sexy. Touching. Silly. Fluff. Fantasy.

And these women had lives and careers. A writer, a lawyer, public relations, an art historian. Huh. The men they partnered with were interesting, sexy, flawed. And they are grownups. Imagine.

I think women escape into this movie just like some men escape into comic book characters and action figures and alien fantasies and shoot-em-ups. It is hard for me to take seriously the smug dismissiveness of a grown man holding a ticket to Spiderman 3 or Dark Knight. Same, same, same. The girls are my comic book. For a couple of hours I can watch an existence so alien from mine that it makes Avatar look like real life.

Besides, I can identify with Miranda's reluctance to be domesticized, Carrie's struggle with love and art, Samantha's desire to feed her desires her way and Charlotte's family fantasies that bump into real life. It's women's work dressed in shimmery fabric. Add in hysterically over the top ridiculous, funny stuff like trying to answer a cell phone while riding a camel through the desert and I'm there. I get it.

One of the things I love most about women is our ability to laugh at ourselves and our lives. You have to. And I intend the multiplex in my city. I'll be the one in jeans and an old shirt, shoes kicked under the seat, big grin on her face.

Tuesday, May 25

where are the lilacs?

Off we went in the early dawn, a van filled to the brim with display stuff and 2 dogs. We had been dog sitters for my son and his sweetie and the handoff was to be at the show. I don't know who I felt sorrier for, Ginger the Golden Retriever who sat on the floor of the van under Russell's knees or Russell who tried valiantly to give the dog more room even if it meant being a contortionist. The other dog was a teeny dachsy who was able to find comfort and look out the window, too.

It was the first day with the new set up and it went OK, but I can see the tweaking that is needed. I have been trying to have a nice looking booth for a dozen years and it is taking way too long to accomplish it. At my next show they are offering a consultation with an expert on booth design and I am so there!

What can I say about this show? The weather held, there were lots of people. The show runs 2 weekends and most of the sales were on the first weekend according to those who had done both. Story of my life, eh?

But I got to reconnect with a lot of friends, made enough money to order supplies, got back in the groove.

But the best part? I sold art! Yeah, yeah, I know, it's all "art", but I sold 2 of my new collage pieces. Now, at a show where there were few sales and most of those were cards and cheap things, the fact that I sold 2 of them is really heartening. It makes me think that at a "good" show with more buyers I may do well with this. Makes me happy.

I'll leave you with some random art show photos. The fun thing about shooting at the shows is that you have lots of colorful things, lots of people, images you don't see every day....

sunshine through the crystals

so, that's how they make those!

winner of "cutest kid at art show"

brown-bagging lunch to avoid the food court

true attention getter. wonder what he cost?

wonderful vases from my friend, Deb.

I promised to give a day to my "real" job, but then it's back to work for 100 American. Gonna make "art" for that one. No stopping me now!

Monday, May 24

here we go again..

I've done some small shows this year, but I don't consider the season "on" until the first big outdoor show. We signed on for the Lilac Festival in Rochester to help fill a gap, making our start date a couple of weeks earlier than usual. Much to do Friday to get ready. Especially when you let things ride until the last day. Oh, I had reasons...

Anyway, we started the day with breakfast at Sweet_ness 7, a favorite funky coffee shop with really good food. Shared a breakfast burrito while we planned the day

Then it was off to the frame supply shop. I buy some supplies there, like cases of my book board, but now I was there for frame stuff because I just decided to do mixed media collage. Gotta follow the muse.

Now, I have no idea how to frame stuff. And I just that day figured out how to cut a mat on my mat cutter. (I was sooo excited) Plus, I want to "re-purpose" vintage frames, so I needed help to figure this out. I threw myself upon the mercy of the fine folks at New York Frame

Oh, what's the big deal you ask? Don't you just slide a thingy inside the frame and slide another thingy over the back and that's it? Oh, no, my sweet deluded blog reader. There are mats and backing boards and little sharp pointy whatits that you slam into the sides to hold them all together and 47 kinds of wire and paper for dust covers and a slew of options for adding a way to hang the thing, well... look:

...and those are just some of the little odds and ends.

So, we left there with an assortment of mat board and a bag full of hardware that we weren't sure how to use. But I was excited and optimistic.

Then it was off to gather our display stuff, assess the damage from last year, dust off the WInter cobwebs. Russell had repainted all the components for our walls and shelves and they were drying.

But our main concern was the canopy. Last year that old workhorse EZ-Up weathered 4 major wind and rain storms without a leak or a shudder. Then, last show of the year, she got caught on a weird twisty wind that ruined one of the arms. We had it welded in Oregon and it worked but then we sort of folded it up a bit when we were taking it down. So we set it up to see if it woud hold and it did. Phew!

But we are in the market for a "real" art canopy now.

Van loaded, new artwork framed, ready to go.

Oh! New artwork! Wanna see?

I like them and, better yet, I enjoy making them. I'm looking forward to getting better at it.

They combine my favorite things..paper and words. Simple songs.

Would the art show folks like them? Stay tuned....

Wednesday, May 19

laughter and tears

The memorial for my former brother in law was Monday. I wrote of him last week. It was a sad day, naturally, and it hurt my heart to see his wife, whom I love, so cloaked in grief and pain.

The service was light and brief, filled with stories told by friends, stories that brought a chuckle. And there were recordings of Phil playing the guitar he loved, his son operating the player, wiping tears from his face.

And then the minister, who had previously acknowledged that he never met Phil, rose to give what was to be a comforting talk and immediately referred to the legacy of Jeff.


Some family members in the front row loudly whispered "Phil!" and he apologized and went on. And then, a few moments later, referred once more to Jeff. This time there was scattered laughter and a louder correction from a greater number of people. Mortified, he apologized again and said "I don't even know a Jeff!"

There were refreshments afterwards and Suze was surrounded by friends and family, so we went to the dining room and waited to speak to her there. She hugged Russell and cried and then held me and I felt her finally give way to it all, shuddering breaths and deep sobs so I held her even tighter and stroked her hair. Her eyes were swollen with days of tears and I wiped them from her cheeks and said I knew she would be OK, she would. She spoke of how much she missed him already and her loss was so deep, her pain so raw. Be strong, I said, reaching for cliche when there is no wisdom to offer, and then I said "Jeff would want you to be strong" and she threw her head back and laughed. Finally. And took a breath.

I went back to my ordinary life,thankful to have it, and she walked into an unknown life, one that she doubts she can navigate, but she will. She has her children and her memories and the ability to laugh.

And I know Jeff is looking out for her.

Sunday, May 9

forces of nature

My show yesterday was at the Botanical Gardens in South Buffalo. It is a glorious place with a sky-touching glass dome and meandering walks and gold mottos inlaid in marble floors. I was lucky to get a spot in the very center, under the dome.

My table was nestled cozily amongst the foliage, which meant I was brushing fronds off my face a lot, but it was serene, green and lush.

I wasn't expecting to make enough money to save the old homestead or buy an iPad. Any income helps during the Spring when we are all sending money out for shows and supplies and nothing is coming back in. This was not an art show event, after all, we were an added attraction within an attraction and I am nothing if not level headed about this business.

The unexpected surprise was the amount of people. They come in buses! From out of town! I forget that this place is a destination. So, at 10am, the dome was filled with seniors wearing name tags and so it was.

For a while.

During the quiet of set up, I asked a neighboring artist what that infernal noise was? Were we near train tracks? Was it thunder? No, she said, it's the wind.

Wind. We are in a glass building. I skooched my chair closer to my tree, under the branches and tried not to look up.

Over the next few hours the rumble of the wind against the glass went on, sometimes loud enough to make it difficult to talk to the customers. I tried to ignore it. The building is ancient, it has withstood whatever upstate NY has to offer and that's plenty. Besides, I was actually selling stuff. To hell with risk to life and limb!

And then they announced they were closing early for safety reasons. Drat!

We closed up our little shops and packed our trinkets away in their boxes. I have done plenty of shows where an announcement of early close would have been welcome. This was not one of them. It was cozy in my tree house.

That night Russell and I had a date. Sure, it was at my work place, but, then, I do work at a theater. We had drinks first, with baked brie in raspberry sauce and then "Jersey Boys" from the best seats in the house. :) All paid for with the proceeds from my little tree house boutique. Works for me.

Now, off to hang with Mom. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 4

real life

I've been plugging along, in production mode (which I hate but it's necessary), focused on the beginning of the season. The weekend was interrupted by a surprise visit from my son, which brought much joy. After years of seeing him just twice a year because of the distance, having him within a 7 hour road trip is such a gift.

So, things are plodding along as usual. I'm in the rhythm, the new stuff is working nicely, my PT job hours are now down to "hardly there" , most of my apps have been either accepted or rejected or put on hold. I'm able to see how the year will unfold, finally, and that eases my stress.

And then real life stepped in. My real life is that a long time ago, when I was very young, I fell in love and married an even younger man from a big Irish family. It was a short union that produced my beautiful boy and gave me an extended family of folks that continued to care for me long after we divorced. One of them, in particular, stayed close to my heart. The woman I still call "sister-in-law", the one who refused to let us drift too far.

She married young too, and I remember how her parents opposed this reckless dash to wed. I remember the small wedding and a family dinner in a restaurant. So different from my big fancy do the year before. They were married 36 years. And then, tragically, this weekend, her husband lost a short battle with a rare blood cancer that we all thought he had a chance to beat. A bone marrow transfer was set to go. He just had to get strong enough. He never did.

What do you say to a person at times like this? There are no words that can help, but I sent her a note, via email as is the way these days, that she was in my heart and I would be there for her. I already knew she was surrounded by her kids and sibs and that there would be a time later when the comfort of woman talk would be called for.

She wrote back, a sad and honest note about her struggle, said she knew I would be there for her when things settled and then she wrote something that squeezed my heart and brought tears to my eyes.

"For the first time in 36 years, I don't know where he is."

I was in the parking lot at Borders, reading email on my iPhone, not expecting to have my world shift into a new focus. I ran my finger over the screen, touched her words, rested my head on the cool window.

And then Russell came back to the car with his package, chattering happily about the book he just got, how the 30% coupon saved him a bunch of money. I just looked at him, looked at him, reached out to touch him, rested my head on his shoulder, kissed his cheek.

"What?", he said, smiling.

"Nothing". I said, "just glad to be with you, to know where you are."