By the time you read this I will be one or less days away from my only major in-person show this year: the annual ACGA Palo Alto Clay and Glass Festival. There’s an unholy amount of prepping to do to ensure I represent myself well in a constrained 10′ x 10′ setting. Add to that the fact that I haven’t been able to do this show since 2015 and have both cream-of-the-crop older and brash hot-out-of-the-kiln work to share. Still, after five times, I know my drill and the Festival itself is fantastically organized, so it will all happen as it should.
After the art was finished and curated, I got curious to photo-document the maelstrom created by the show preparations. It matters that it’s done at a measured and sane pace because it’s absolutely the optimum way I support my exhibitorship in advance. The photographing, the pricing, the list-checking, the rounding-up of all the booth and display parts, the packing, the snacks and the changes of shoes all count. So, with only a few days to go as I write, here’s an annotated behind the scenes photo essay for you. Let’s start with the uncurling of the brand new but long-stored booth banners relaxing in the sun on the hot tub cover, looking like the Star Wars opening crawl — if it were done in classic Cooper Black (a typeface “for far-sighted printers with near-sighted customers.”)
From the banners in the backyard, we move to the airing of the stinky tablecloths in the front yard. You know how laundry smells when you forget it in the washing machine? (Yes, you do!) Take that pungency down only a notch and you still need a couple of days of sun, air and fresheners to banish it. Wonder what acridity the long-stored EZ-Up will waft over the festival grounds when I get there and set it up?
If we turn our gaze from the yard to the porch, we see things beginning to be staged for loading in the car. Note that slick folding stool. I absolutely cannot stand up all weekend long bobbing my head to the nonstop conversations. It exhausts me in mind, body and spirit. While mind and spirit need longer and more subtle remedies in order to reknit the “ravelled sleave of care”, I got the body handled with that stool. It takes a load off in the present moment. Even perching on it with one bun does the trick and – bonus points – I know what to do with my hands too.
While all the booth things are gathering on the front porch, there’s finally a foggy morning with the perfect soft and directionless light which lets me take photos of the last of the new works out of the kiln. Whew! I was going to have to break out all the photo floods and the last thing I need is more stuff to commandeer.
I operate my cash register out of an open 5 x 8″ file card box. It discreetly holds what I need to make transactions and at the end of the day folds it all up and snaps shut. I always include a small notebook to write down the tips, suggestions and references that come not only from my visitors and collectors, but from the other artists in the ephemeral Brigadoon that a festival creates. I also use it to write the coups de foudre that hit me about how I could improve my XYZs next time. Here, too, resides other key paperwork like the Festival map and detailed Exhibitor’s Instructions.
Over the years I have tried many ways of price-marking my work. First requirement: stickers that stay stuck! After that: Small or large? Large and handwritten. On the bottom or the side? Usually the side, but for sure easily visible and not covering something interesting. This year I added one green highlighted sticker to a random piece (that may or may not be in this photo) which reads “Yay! You found the FREE one!” A reverse scavenger hunt in which I Free Bomb my own booth and get to watch.
OK, it’s all packed and moved to the driveway behind the Element. Just know that all of the artwork – except the larger items – is contained in those four lidded Rubbermaid tubs in the back with the stool leaning against them. Everything else is in support of displaying, protecting and selling. It’s a rather mad and expensive endeavor, really. At this juncture, though, I am too far into it to think about that because, even when I have reduced it all to a new minimum, I am still anxious to see if it all fits.
And it does! Is it me, or does this look like the big gray hippo that just swallowed my weekend?
–Liz Crain, who knows a bunch of you readers live an inconvenient distance from Palo Alto and/or have lives which won’t permit you to come by her booth to high five her for all the excellent prep-work and, just maybe, the pretty good ceramic art. But, for those of you who don’t have those impediments, here’s the link to her Events Page for all the scheduling and orienteering particulars to help you need. Scroll to the second entry on that page and thanks.