We call the loading/unloading process the Show Tetris Game. Yes, it is named after that computer/video game of a decade ago, because what is being loaded comprises blocks going into a set volume of space. We've got two types of space as well, Forrest Nissan Pickup Truck and Sydney Subaru Outback the Younger. Sydney Subaru Outback the Elder also served, and provided a lot of learning. Sydney Younger is slightly larger, and that pays off.
In the past three weeks, we've done two weekend art festivals. One of those is a repeat show, with two years in a row now participating. The second is the first time for our participation, with the previous year being an attempt (as in we applied, and did not pass the jury). Life overall this year did impact on doing these two shows, and that is simply the way it is, so other than acknowledging the impact it isn't something to dwell upon and certainly not here. Here I'm going to look at each event in review, provide a brief summary of the event and sales, and discuss the process of showing ones art because that is what discussing with the newcomers covered.
Let us begin with the Micanopy Fall Harvest Festival.
Micanopy is a small community in North Central Florida, located a bit south of Gainesville and a bit more north of Ocala, right in between two major roads, the I-75 and US 441. Settings in Micanopy provided scenes in at least two major cinematic productions, Cross Creek about Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (who lived nearby while writing her many well known stories), and Doc Hollywood. The folk who live there enjoy the fact the place preserves a lot about a quieter time, and also provide a lot of support to local arts, crafts, and antiques collectors. Each year the community (or at least a lot of members of same) come together to produce the Fall Harvest Festival as a community fundraiser, and all their proceeds go to several different non-profit community agencies. So for us, much like the Windsor Zucchini Festival it's an event we like to participate in both to sell our work and to help provide to local community well being.
This means, sure I want to make back expenses to break even, but I'll keep on applying for this festival if I at least recover some of those expenses.
Micanopy allows for vender set-up on the Friday before the Festival, which runs both Saturday and Sunday. It is a pretty big deal for the town as a whole, even the folks who aren't participating, because it draws a Really Big Crowd. The main drag for the town is the site of the Festival, all traffic for the three days is routed one way (vendors, that is, as the main drag is then closed to general traffic other than by foot). The length of the road here (and calling it main drag is true, but we're talking about a two-lane road, not a highway at all) which is set up for the Festival is a bit longer than half a kilometre, about a third of a mile.
All the properties and routes around this are cordoned in preparation. Designated vendor parking is provided for vendors, and those who want to help provide parking for attending folk are allowed to charge for parking on their property. This probably provides the funds to recover from the amount of traffic involved. Those who don't want to provide parking, their places are cordoned off as Private, No Parking. Don't want to pay for parking? No worries, park on the right of way of US 441 out there, but plan on a short hike to get over to the festival.
Booth spaces are marked on the roads with spray paint, corner markers and booth numbers. Check in, get ones paper packet (includes booth designator sign, and some other bits), drive in to ones space, stop, unload, and drive out to ones designated parking area. Seriously, drive out before setting up or a lot of folks (not just the community residents) are going to be quite upset. Remember, two-lane road, eh.
After parking, walk back to booth space and start setting up. I don't usually bring the artwork with me on setup days, unless that day is also going to be an Opening Day (happens, some events). Setup of the basic pavilion runs like this:
Pavilion Up. Anyone who's gone to some sort of weekend art festival fair or a farmers market will know what the pavilion tent looks like. There are a variety of manufacturers and styles. Some are more rigid and a bit more involved in setup as the legs and roof pieces need assembly. Some are fairly easy, expanding frames. We've used some from several manufacturers over time. The one we're currently using is an EZ-Up® Instant Shelters® (Web site is EZ-Up® Instant Shelters®). We use this one not because we think it's the best (it is pretty good) rather because we got a good price on a new one at one of the major discount box outlet stores. Since there are a lot of them out there, and periodically weather or wind trash one so those folks toss it, we've also been known to grab those abandoned damaged shelters to disassemble for spare parts.
First step is expanding it, then raising it to the first height latch. At this point I've been putting on what I call the Weather Walls (EZ-Up calls them the Sidewalls, eh). These get 'furled' and secured in the up position for now. Next I place the wind weights, because these types of shelters do act as parachutes or sails in even a rather mild breeze. The company provided add-on feet to put weights onto. I use those, but also add a heavy canvas tote bag which holds three jugs of water. Two are repurposed soda water jugs, one is a repurposed liquid laundry detergent jug. Between the three there are eight litres of water, so about eight kilograms of mass. One each is placed at each corner on those add-on feet, then a strap and hook is fastened around the upright at the roof frame for belt and suspenders security.
Mind you, even with this much weight (eight kilos times four bags so 32 kilos) there have been festivals with enough wind that I've acted as an interactive additional ballast weight for the pavilion.
With the Weather Walls on and furled, and the weights on and secured, I hang the Art Walls. There are companies out there that make assorted display walls, rigid and flexible. We use a mesh wall because it is lightweight and folds up rather small (relatively) for storage and transport. Again, there are companies that make these walls and I went shopping for them on-line. And gasped. Needed a stiff drink, because a set of these to display in a 3 by 3 metre pavilion runs about $700 US. So we went shopping. For some time invested, and possessing some skills with sewing machines, we made our walls out of mesh shade fabric for about $20 US per wall. We run grommets along all four sides. Ball bungee cords (looped bungees which close in a ball, eh) through the grommets and around the frame of the pavilion and the Art Wall is in place.
The first year we did this, we also inserted a PVC tube into a sleeve along the top to help distribute the weight of the hanging framed artwork. After that first year, I flipped the curtains over and that tube goes into the same sleeve just along the bottom. The curtain attaches securely enough to the frame of the pavilion (this is one of the benefits to us of the EZ-Up design) that the tube mostly helps the wall keep its shape and the pavilion bears the weight.
With the Art Walls up, it's time to finish raising the pavilion to working height. Sometimes that doesn't happen until the next morning, though, just before hanging artwork and opening.
We've a small assortment of furniture which comes along with us. Two tall directors chairs (folding chairs) because being in the booth for eight hours, one does appreciate being able to sit down. Our first setup for holding the matted artwork (we sell more matted work than framed, another bit for discussion later) involved a folding table and the transport bins. We've since shifted to using two folding canvas racks that hold a portion of the matted work. As pieces sell, we replenish the stock in the rack. These are put inside the pavilion on setup day and left with the kit.
Much of the supplies for this and some other items transport in a hinged-lid tote box. This includes the Booth Banner (currently, and will stay there but the main Booth Banner is a bit different now), a Bag-o-Bags holding shopping bags for those customers that need one when they purchase something, a roll of paper towels, a small tool box with odds and ends in it for the setup, and a nice repurposed teak breakfast tray table. I set the tote into a corner, cover it with a blue cloth, and put the teak table on top of that. Holds a few things on the table, the paper towels and other small bits for ongoing display work go under that on the tote.
On Setup days, it's now time to close up for the night, go home and finish things on the Ranch.
Next morning (day of show usually) on arrival I park whichever vehicle I came in, and unload the framed and matted artwork totes. Framed work is currently being transported in large corrugated board boxes and a few recycled portfolio bags. I like the bags, they're easy to move (comparatively) and rather a bit more weather resistant than the corrugated board boxes. However, the boxes are fairly inexpensive which makes up for it; portfolio bags are not so inexpensive though they do last longer.
Haul this over to the booth pavilion on collapsible hand-trucks, usualyl two to three trips, then it's time for coffee and getting the setup done. Framed art hangs on the mesh walls using drapery hooks. Once that's up, each piece is labeled using a business-card sized pin-on name badge holder. Each framed piece has a corresponding name card which says Studio 318, the Title of the piece, which of us made it, and the price. Simple, easy to print, looks very professional. Once the walls are done, putting matted pieces into those folding racks takes maybe ten minutes.
Add assorted other small signage (“We take the following Debit/Credit Cards”, “Buy Local, Support Local Artists”, and “Artist Blurb(s)” which, that last, I find rather difficult to write up.
By now, it's time to roll up the Weather Walls and Open Up.
Set up, it usually looks something like this:
Come closing time I drop the front wall (We're Closed) which allows me to pack up the matted work, clear the floor slightly by folding those racks and leaning them against our tall directors chairs, and then take down the framed work into those boxes. I don't like leaving the artwork there overnight, it's paper, even with the protection it's vulnerable to damp and wet. So I pack it back out to the vehicle, come back and close up all the weather walls.
The Art Piece Name Tags and drapery hooks stay where they are though, so the next morning setup takes far less time. Pack in the artwork, hang, adjust the matted racks. And Open for Business.
Each show will be slightly different, but not much. Both sides will hold art, and the back wall will vary between being a half-wall, a three-quarter wall or a full wall. Some festivals allow the artist vendor some space behind their booth. Others do not. Sometimes we've either enough space between booths or we're on a corner of some sort, and we hang one or a few pieces on the outside of the Art Wall.
Most festivals inform the accepted vendors that the festival will go on rain or shine, which is one reason the Weather Walls are put on as well. And yes, we've dropped them for rain. Rain often thins the crowd, thin crowds do tend to buy less, so it goes.
The Downtown Art Festival, the setup looked like this:
At the end of the Festival it's time to strike the set, pack up again and go home. So we're back to the Show Tetris. Forrest Nissan is a bit easier to load into, being a pickup truck. Sometimes though, particularly if we know the weather threatens rain, transport in the Subaru is preferred. Sydney Subaru Outback the Elder could fit most of the kit. With the addition of the chairs though, things got... excessive tight. We'd started thinking about a small trailer, or a roof rack (and in fact, used the roof rack on several occasions with good weather). Sydney Subaru Outback the Younger is as I've mentioned a bit longer, wider, and higher than Sydney Elder. We will still, likely, get to a point that a small trailer is going to be needed.
Here's the Show Tetris into Forrest Nissan after Micanopy:
Herself remarked when I got home and we started unloading on Monday Morning (left it all under the tarp Sunday night, home safe and protected from wind and other weather, besides, good forecast) that it is all primarily one layer. What's on top of the totes are the two collapsible hand trucks. The directors chairs went onto the middle column of totes before folding over the tarp.
That middle column of totes are 32 Litre Really Useful Boxes® (Web site Really Useful Boxes Inc. Really Useful Boxes) and we're using more and more of them. They are tough, lightweight, weather resistant boxes with a good positive lid seal. The one on the end holds the Art Walls, because I learned after pulling the pavilion tote out to prep for the fall season that over the summer, palmetto bugs got into the blue tote. Needed to clean the Art Walls of (ahem) nasty dirt. The matted work is in the other two.
The long blue tote across the back on the left of the truck is the pavilion tote. In front of that is another tote, don't recall the company, holds framed artwork up to 11x14 frames (so 8x10 prints, or smaller). The corrugated boxes behind the cab hold the larger framed pieces. The pavilion shelter itself is in the long black bag to the right. Weight bags behind each wheel well. The grey roll in front of the matted totes are two foam shop floor pads. They make being on pavement in the booth (a common situation) easier on the feet and legs.
Because we did get some rain, overnight Saturday to Sunday for the Gainesville Downtown Art Festival, I drove Sydney Subaru Outback in on Sunday. I'd taken everything into town on Saturday Morning for setup. Part of the Festival is set up in City Hall parking lot, and City Hall didn't want to close for business on Friday for vendors to set up. Well, actually, since five to six city blocks hosted all the vendors for the Festival, that would tie up traffic pretty much. Plus, the Friday Night Kickoff included a live band in the Bo Didley Plaza. At any rate, Setup took place Saturday morning and I took it all in the Nissan pickup.
So coming home with the kit, the concern was would it all fit. We thought it would, but Herself did text and ask should she come help. I felt confident and told her no. The first time Tetris game went pretty well, considering loading after dark albeit with street light illumination. And...
It did, as you can see, all fit in. The corrugated boxes sat behind the front seats.
The Weather Walls up to this time we packed into a pocket on the EZ-Up pavilion bag. However, I didn't pack them this time, being concerned they still felt damp from the previous night rain.
They now live in another of those Really Useful Boxes. It may ad to the layering, we shall see. The pocket on the big bag will still be used, for other items which the pavilion will need periodically. The kit came with two short metal tubes which support a sun shade we sometimes put across the front, and we are building supports for the back wall to stretch it out during the day as another shade source for the 'back room' of the booth when we can.
There is always something going on. I expect the Studio 318 Booth itself may be considered a Work In Progress. There's more to discuss, even, since one of the visitors to the booth on Sunday is half of a young couple looking to start showing their own photographic artwork. This led to some thinking and recollection about those who helped us as we started gearing up. There are folk out there who proved not too forthcoming with us. Others proved very helpful. I remember them with fondness, and did my best to answer the questions asked. So another State of the Artist is going to look at the process of setting up ones business as an artist showing at weekend art festivals.
Tonight, though, it's time for beer. G'night.
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