What follows are my lovingly-curated observations from Booth 23 at this year’s annual Association of Clay and Glass Artists Palo Alto Clay and Glass Festival.
Making my best artwork and supporting it with improved booth infrastructure, perfect prices and personal stamina is always a challenge. And this year I almost did not make it at all as younger son Max fractured his pelvis and needed surgery to place pins in it only a week before. But he quickly got better, it worked out and make it I did. It was a rewarding weekend in so many ways beyond the satisfying sales figures. I enjoy collecting the stories to share with you, so, as I did last year, here are the Tales of the Festival II.
What changed this year? Instead of driving 55 pre-dawn miles and setting it all up on Saturday like an early morning maniac, I and my loyal support team (family) put up the booth and tables on Friday, ate a fantastic lunch and called it good. We brought the artwork in at a reasonable hour on Saturday morning. This was so much saner than trying to pull off the historically busiest first day sleep-deprived, anxious and achy from all the loading, lugging and locating. It was as fun as camping!
So, let’s look at what went down with The Collectors, the Tribe and the Crazies.
It’s true, I do have Collectors now. Some come to this Festival seeking me out. Some find my other venues throughout the year and buy more there. Some email me with their special ideas. These are the folks who get my work and have the means and space to acquire it. My Dearest. My Perfect People.
The Jet-Lagged Loyalists: Even though they had returned from three weeks in Eastern Europe only a few hours before visiting me, this vocal and enthusiastic couple playfully chastised me for not sending them a postcard this year (Note: NO-ONE got one, what with the Broken Pelvis Incident.) They reminded me about their stellar ideas for robots and gumball machines and took home two big pieces. Loyalty like that cannot be created, only treasured. I love them dearly and promised to be a better communicator!
The New Enthusiasts. I have a thing for typography buzzwords. Some of the “product brands” I invent use a type designer’s vocabulary. It’s nerdy and esoteric. It was great to have an astonished new enthusiast start laughing raucously at it and make a purchase. She brought her husband back on Sunday, whereupon he responded to the Interrobang and Octothorpe TeaCans because he knew immediately what they were referring to! Later they sent me a photo of the pieces they had bought installed on their ornate liquor table (see above!) and requested a Right of First Refusal for a specific piece we all want to see get made. They feel like my new best friends on the playground. “I’m FIVE too!!!!” she exclaims, holding up all fingers on one hand. So lovely.
Facebook Friends in 3D: The ACGA is a wide-spread and growing group, with many artist studios ringing the SF Bay Area, Silicon Valley and the North Bay. A lot of them know each other from way back and get together often. Being both newish to the group and located one mountain range away from the epicenter, here on the Monterey Bay, I know many of them only as Facebook Friends. It was beyond lovely to meet a half dozen in person this weekend. Whether they were in their own booth, visiting mine, or dropping by the Festival to enjoy it all, they – and their work – looked better in person. I was pleasantly surprised at their sweet mannerisms, voices and cadences. The Presence of the Original cannot be overstated.
Booth-a-rama: Social media or no, I now know scores of the artists who show at this Festival. It is special to see them in their traveling habitats with their art. I both traded and bought work from several. I yakked casually, shared confidences, pricing opinions, sold stickers and feedback about how the festival was going. There is a whole ‘nother village backstage of the village! It is good to have the collegial interest and support. No competition, only camaraderie.
THE ADORABLE BUT CRAZY
Of course there are the visitors. SO many visitors! The economy is very obviously picking up. Saturday was packed all day long. Sunday was lively but felt the impact of the World Cup Finals. Another telling change is that 66% of my sales were made with some form of card on my iphone card reader – the rest in cash. Not ONE check was written. A first.
Most visitors are lovely aficionados or willingly along as friends of one. A tiny few just don’t make sense, but they make the best anecdotes! Yes, an undeniable part of Festival Booth Management is suffering gentle fools.
Here is this year’s crop.
Whistling Denture Man The jury is really out on whether this guy was crazy or just being his charming 80-year-old self. He had plenty of time while his lady friend shopped, easily sharing that the thing that was keeping him vital was building his Dream House – an all steel beauty, even the built-in furniture, he was proud to say. I soon realized his soft but whistling speech (which sounded like the beaver in Lady and the Tramp) was probably due to his dentures. Love that. But I really took notes when he said that when he died he wanted his ashes put into an Etch-a-Sketch so his great-grandchildren could play with him.
Wandering Philosopher When the booth is quiet, it’s an art in itself to listen wholeheartedly to someone who feels that my attention is exclusively available for them to expound on their pet theories. And it is an art to be responsive but to not go completely down the rabbit hole with them. I’m better at not being monopolized than I ever have been, but it is SO hard when that person is as unique and interesting as, say, Pete Seeger or Woody Guthrie might have been on a random Sunday Art Festival in the Park. This Very Tall Lanky Spirit told tales of his life, his travels, his jobs, his politics, his bons mots, his children, his passions. When time’s up with folks like this, and there are others to greet, I want to practice Kindness. Like Ram Dass said, “We are all walking each other home.” Especially the Wandering Philosophers.
I leave you with the view from from the chair I finally sat down in after packing it all up on Sunday. The curb was full of other artists’ cars. We were fully packed, I had done my check-out, and there was nothing to do but wait for a spot to open up. Another artist and her entourage were doing the same. They had wine, but no corkscrew. I had a corkscrew AND cups! She sat in the other folding beach chair and we all spent an absolutely wonderful hour in the slowly emptying park getting cozy and swapping tales. It was as peaceful of an end to a long and fruitful weekend as I could never have imagined.
–Liz Crain, who gets better at the fullness of this Art Festival Life only by living it.