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! 

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