Tuesday, July 29, 2008

July 29, 2008 - The Calm Before the Storm

It's been over 2 weeks since the Madison Art Fair and I'm just now getting around to writing about it. It wasn't the experience I was hoping for. In fact it was kind of a nightmare. It all started the night before the fair when artists set up their tents. I worked from 7:00 to 10:00 pm that hot night getting my tent, shelves, and curtains up so I could be ready to go early Saturday morning. I decided not to put my lamps in the booth because the night previous Madison experienced strong winds. The news reported downed tree limbs and even damage to a large tent that was set up for a festival nearby. We were expecting storms again early Friday morning. It was just too big of a chance.

When I arrived early Saturday morning things looked very wrong. My tent sides had been blown off. The tent has been moved about 3 feet toward the center of the street. The metal shelves were all on the sidewalk haphazardly behind the tent. All my containers holding tools, receipts, paperwork, and supplies were scattered around the back of the booth. The curtain rods were badly bent. And everything was soaked with water. There was standing water in many of my containers. My heart sank. I started looking around and several tents nearby were damaged. It looked as though someone had dragged all my stuff over to the sidewalk. However, the tent on the other side of me had moved but it looked fine. It seemed the wind was very focused on a small section of the street and mine was one of the unlucky ones. I was in a wind tunnel.

I would have taken some photos but my camera was wet and I was intent of assessing the damage. My mind was going back and forth trying to decide if I should pack up and leave. But I slowly worked through the mess, drying what I could and realized that on the whole things were okay. I got the booth into shape. When I was done I was surprised that it looked so good. You really wouldn't have known. 

The woman next door had to leave. She had a much heavier and well made booth but one of the legs had bent and she couldn't repair it. I also heard that maybe 20 other booths around the square had been damaged during the night. In fact one group of tents were all pushed together in a big pile. Some people had their art in the booth and it was a terrible mess. Artists were very upset and a lot of them left. This information was all via the grapevine and I never really got the whole story. Our local news didn't mention the incident at all.

The wind gusted all day. It was very stressful for me and many others. On the whole my tent held and my lamps did not fall over. I had a few sales but it was a fairly slow day. The people attending the fair loved it. In past years it's been over 90 degrees and sweltering. This year it was cool and very breezy. They had no knowledge of the small disasters that happened the night before. They did notice many empty booth spaces.

I packed up my lamps that night thinking I just couldn't take a chance. I had high hopes that Sunday would be a much better day. The photos here are taken early Sunday morning. All the tents were bundled up and the sun hadn't gotten high enough to illuminate the square. The wind kept gusting. And the gusts got stronger and stronger. At times I was literally holding down my tent. My neighbors decided to take their tent down and were much better off. They sold heavier ceramics and didn't have to worry about the wind blowing them over. We heard crashes every once in awhile and cringed. I was a nervous wreck. I was talking to my neighbor about the wind when a big gust hit and two of his pieces crashed to the ground. Around two in the afternoon I got hit with a huge gust and all my lamps and shelves tipped over. Luckily people in the booth grabbed the lamps while I held the tent down. Within five minutes another gust hit. Again all the shelves and lamps tipped over. This time I wasn't so lucky and at least two lamps broke. 

It was time to pack up. On top of the erratic winds—which, by the way, were hardly effecting the people across the street from me—my sales were very low and it just wasn't worth the stress. So I packed up while people tramped through my booth to get to the sidewalk behind me, tripping over my tent poles, oblivious of what I'd been through. I finished around five, just when the fair closed down. I was defeated and grumpy. When I got home my neighbors were happily curious as to how well I did  and all I could do was tell them that it was a long sad story and I'd have to tell them later. 

Looking back I was pretty lucky. Only two lamps were damaged. I'm guessing that some other artists suffered much worse. I doubt that I'll do the Madison fair again. It's hard for me to do outdoor fairs because of the unpredictable winds and rain. Also it's rare for fairs to offer electricity and my lamps look so much better when lit. It was also interesting being on the selling side of things. The public was ignorant of what many of the artists were going through. They were there to have a good time, eat some food, buy some art, and enjoy the breezy summer day. On my side I was totally stressed out thinking my lamps were all going to be blown away at any moment.

I'll leave it at that. It was an experience I could have lived without but it's not an unusual experience for artists on the art fair circuit. I'm just not a seasoned participant and have had it pretty lucky, until now.

Here's a few more "calm" photos. I also want to wish a big Happy Birthday to Kristin on her 51st! 

Friday, July 11, 2008

July 11, 2008 - Getting ready for the fair

Well, I'm all packed for the Madison Art Fair on the Square this Saturday and Sunday. Got the old rental van stuffed and now I have to wait 4 hours before they allow you to start setting up on the square. In other words after 8 pm this evening. I guess it's better than setting up at the hottest time of the day. Unfortunately the weather is not cooperating this year, at least for set up. They are expecting storms to come through tonight and go into the morning. If it's anything like last night I'm a little worried that my tent will still be standing tomorrow morning. Trees were down and streets were flooded. It's one of those nights where the thunder makes you shudder in your bed.

I'm going to try and take a lot of photos this weekend so I can take you through the process of doing an art fair. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

July 8, 2008 - A day at the zoo

On July 4th Amy and Jeff invited me to lunch and a walk at the Vilas Zoo. I needed a break from all the lampmaking and it was one of those days where the weather is perfect and the sky is dotted with cottonball clouds on a blue blue sky that are indigenous to Wisconsin summers. I don't always love zoos. I can't help but sense that the animals are bored and caged in a very unnatural way. But they do offer joy on some level, and there are many animals who seems perfectly content and even happy. Below are a few of the critters who inhabit the place along with a particularly happy monkey in the upper right corner who goes by the name of Mia (actually Amy and Jeff's daughter).
And Dubai continues to entertain us with completely absurd architectural gymnastics, now offering a rotating skyscraper. It seems each floor can turn on a central axis allowing the building to change shape continually. The building is 80 stories high and powers itself with 79 wind turbines located between each floor. The building boasts the feature of offering it's residents the ability to change views at will, but I wonder if your neighbors will all cooperate and all want the same view. Living in a continually rotating environment might get a little disorienting. The building was designed by David Fisher.

Friday, July 4, 2008

July 4th, 2008 - Alternative Motivational Posters

On this July 4th take a look at the beautiful, well-designed and inspired pieces of art offered by Right Brain Terrain. The posters are printed on post-consumer recycled, FSC certified papers, chlorine-free soy/vegetable inks—in other words about as green as you can get in printing. There are 17, 18"x24" posters as well as a set of note cards.

The Art Fair on the Square in Madison is coming up next weekend and I'm ramping up by making more lamps. Unfortunately I won't have electricity to display the lamps the way I like but that's life. It's hard to pass up a local and high-quality fair like this one. Please come by booth 458 if you can. The hours are Saturday July 12th, 9 am to 6 pm; and Sunday July 13th, 10 am to 5 pm. Of course it will be one of the hottest weekends of the year, it's just tradition. And if a storm comes up just pray I don't blow away with all my very kite-like lamps.

Have a happy and safe 4th of July. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

July 1, 2008 - Back from the LFOA

It's been a week since I've gotten back from the Lakefront Festival of the Arts in Milwuakee. I had a wonderful fair selling more lamps than at any other show I've done. My booth is shown below. The weather was perfect except for a few thunderstorms on Sunday at the end of the fair. But as luck would have it the rain stopped right at 5:00 when everyone started packing up. I should also say that the entire 172 artists are housed under a huge tent structure so the rain wasn't a big deal. The festival learned a hard lesson many years ago when their art fair turned into a mud fest. They've been under a tent every since. When they designed the new addition to the museum I'm sure they planned a space for the art fair. 

If you haven't been to the Milwaukee Art Museum it is a wonderful piece of architecture. The building was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. The main hall features a 90-foot-high glass ceiling and a Brise Soleil, a moveable sunscreen that unfolds every morning to form a 217-foot wingspan.