Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bellevue Arts Museum ArtFair

Wow, what a show! Yeah, there were some hitches, but overall it was kind of amazing. This show is in fact staged under a parking garage and it is in fact one of the best craft shows in the country. (Last week I had my doubts... remember?) The only other time I have seen work of this quality was at the American Crafts Council show in San Francisco. I mean, it's hard to believe that the jurors think my work should be shown beside the AMAZING craftwork in this show.

Here's my gear placed in the booth space, ready to set up.

And here it is with the booth mostly assembled. There's no merchandise in this shot because I was lucky enough to have "back room" space behind my booth.

Right after I snapped this photo the fire inspector came by and asked to see the flame-retardant certification for my drapes. Well, it turns out that I should have carefully read the paperwork where it told me that this was required. The bottom line is that those drapes had to come down and be replaced with a fireproof version at 4:00 PM on the day before my most important show yet.

When life hands you lemons, dilute them and pile on the sugar, right? I knew that there was a company that rented pipes and drapes to other artists in the show. I called them, but they were out of drapes. Well, thankfully the onsite wifi was up...

Bingo! Because this company wasn't lucky enough to land the contract with this giant show, they had plenty of drapes left. Two phone calls and one cab ride later and I was back in business!

Why the cab, you might ask? Well, there are so many artists in this show that we all park at a high school a few miles away. There's a shuttle every half hour or so, but it just didn't make sense to take two shuttle rides, waiting upwards of an hour to use my van for a 10-minute drive, possibly arriving after the rental agency closed.

I got the drapes, swapped them out, and went on with my setup.

I'm afraid that the show was so busy that I just did not have time to shoot more photos. Here's one shot of my booth early on Friday...

...and here's the next time I thought to take a picture. After two 12-hour days and one 9-hour day, I was exhausted! I had the booth packed up in an hour and went out for dinner with my booth neighbors while we waited for the long train of bedraggled artists to dwindle. This is the photo I snapped before loading it all into my van.

Would I do it again? Oh, yeah! (If they'll have me.) I'll do it alone one more time and keep track of the busy times of day so I know how to manage the time of a sales assistant. It would be really nice to have a little downtime and see more of the show myself.

As an aside, this is the first time that I'm staying away between shows. It's totally weird. Monday was spent mostly sleeping. When it got too hot to sleep in the van I went to a park and watched the waves lap the shore of Lake Washington for a while. I had a very refreshing shower at the Y. It was a welcome day of silence. No small talk. No crowds. No work. And really, no thinking.

Today I'm ready to sit at a table in a cafe, balance the books, and catch up on correspondence.

And, learning my lesson from the last couple of shows, I've read all the paperwork for the next show. And it's a good thing, too! It turns out that they've placed me in the center of a space with three sides open. This is a new configuration for me and requires some serious thought about how I'll handle it.

Remember when I said last week that I was done building new booths? Ha! Three open sides means that I need three awnings instead of just one. It's another new configuration. I'll let you know how I solve that problem in the next three days...

Update! Canopies By Fred is the answer. They were referred to me by another vendor in Wilsonville, and it turns out they're based in Seattle. They're making my awnings today so I can pick them up tomorrow afternoon. They clamp onto my regular canopy frame and give me three more feet of shade.

Monday, July 23, 2012

New Banner And Booth Configurations

A while ago I showed y'all a few things - a teaser for my new booth banner and a look at my new booth frame in an incarnation that was too tall to use. Well, today I'll show you the finished version of each of these.

There were a few goals to meet with the banner design:

First, I want to give people a context for what they are seeing. At either end of the banner the words "weaving" and "handwoven" appear.

Second, I want people to understand that this work is part of my lifestyle and my spiritual practice. I did not, however, want to conjure incorrect images of the large stone edifice that is often associated with the word monastery.

And tying this all together, I wanted to get people past the work itself and onto the reason why I do the work. I think this new banner will cause them to ask the questions that let me tell them the backstory. Remember my theory? I'm not just selling cloth. I'm selling the dream of a world where people live together in close-knit community and support themselves in the process. If they can't do it themselves at the moment, many people want to support others who are doing it.

And to get me from a set of goals to a full-fledged business identity package, I needed a real designer with experience in this sort of thing. Let me tell you a little about the designer, Carl Crossgrove. He's been my best friend for about 20 years and is primarily a type designer. He took my vague ideas and turned them into a concept. He then sketched the banner and modified it until it was precisely what I wanted. He designed a typeface that matched the mood with more nuance than I could have imagined and turned it over to me so that I can design business cards, hang tags, and labels with the new identity.

He is not looking for more logo and identity work, but if you'd like to see his latest type design you can find it here: http://www.linotype.com/6765/biome.html.

And yes, he is the friend who's recovering from heart surgery. He's doing really well.

Here are some images of the fantastic banner that he designed, including a custom typeface that needs a lot more work before it's ready for release to the public.

And here's the new booth, brought down to a reasonable height. You'll notice that the walls from my canopy fit it exactly. This was by design. I really like being able to zip up the walls at night. And why is there no ceiling? Because this booth is meant to be used indoors with constrained ceiling height. It just needs to hold lights, walls, and the banner. And, OK, this isn't quite how it will look at the shows. The overhang pipes have sleeves and there will be nice-looking spotlights strung between the pipes, pointing down onto the front racks.

Notice the extra foot of blank space on either end of the banner? This allows the same banner to wrap around an 8' booth without losing any of the design.

And here's the second new booth configuration. The booth is essentially the same size but the cantilevered awning is lower, the canopy is higher, and there's a solid ceiling. You'll notice that this is the same wraparound lighting rig that I configured for McMinnville this past Winter. Today I stitched up a tie-on awning to give me a little shade. As a bonus, the frame holds the banner up above the front edge of the canopy.

I'm not bothering to attach the walls and drapes because I've used them a lot and know they work. The goal with my tight schedule is just to build and test new stuff.

And with that, I'm finished building booths. I think that I've finally cycled through all of the booth configurations and built a booth for every need: indoor, outdoor, wind, rain, sun, 10x10, 8x8, 8x4, low ceilings, high ceilings, inline, corner, blah, blah, blah. Famous last words, right?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Weeks Offline

It's been a long time since I posted. I got into the Oregon Country Fair at the last minute by working in someone else's booth. It was really a perfect match. They sold beautiful micromacrame jewelry to which my weaving is a perfect compliment. In return for loaning them booth parts and lighting and working half of every day selling their wares, I was able to sell before and after the public hours of the fair.

This might not sound like such a good deal, but it really is. I learned from a friend on security that there are 17,000 people on site during off-hours. This includes all of the entertainers, food vendors, booth workers, infrastructure teams like construction, security, parking, medical, and more. I brought my booth lighting setup and spent a week adjusting my sleep schedule so that I could be up and selling in the cool and busy evening hours. It was a fantastic experience in terms of sales and in terms of fun. I'll definitely be doing this again!

When I returned home and got online again I found that my best friend in San Francisco had gotten the results of a batch of tests that he'd had the week before and they were dire. He's had a heart murmur for his entire life. Somehow, some ordinary bacteria in his bloodstream took advantage of the eddies in that valve to set up residence in the area. The end result was a dangerous infection that damaged the valve and required a quickly scheduled valve replacement surgery.

I was so tired on the night that I returned from fair and that I wasn't thinking straight. After a good night's sleep I knew that I needed to be in San Francisco for a few days to be with Carl while he recovered from surgery.

His medical team is fantastic! Everyone from surgeons to physical therapists and nurses seem to know exactly what they are doing and how to do it well. He was recovering very rapidly when I returned home to finish my preparations for the trip to Washington.

He comes home on Tuesday where he will be cared for by friends and a daily visit with a nurse who administers IV antibiotics.

And now I'm home and trying as hard as I can to make sure that everything is done and packed up before I drive away for the three biggest shows this year, back-to-back, without coming home. Woohoo!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Another Booth Variation

There is one big way in which it still feels like my first year doing shows... It seems like every couple of months I have to buy parts and build a new variation on my booth for the specific requirements of a show.

This next one is under a parking garage. (I am having a hard time picturing it, but seasoned craft veterans tell me this is one of the most prestigious shows in the Northwest.) There's no wind, but it's dark with short ceilings.

Since the ceilings are too short for my regular canopy and its rafters are ugly with the cover off anyhow, I'm going to use a variation on the booth I put together last winter just for indoor shows. It uses heavy electrical conduit and specially designed joints.

These things are great! Once the pipes are cut, it's like a giant erector set. My plan was simple: put the two walls together, stand them up and just pop in the side-to-side pipes. Boy, I sure didn't think that through at all! I mean, this is a 10' room that weighs about 100 pounds and just wants to flop around until it's fully assembled. In this photo I have put together one of the walls.

And here's the pile of parts that make up those complicated front posts.

After several attempts at just standing them up, I noticed that I could rig up the center ceiling joist as a kickstand on one wall while I lifted the other one to attach it. It took some coordination, but it worked!

Then I just had to work my way around and cajole the rest of the pipes into their spots and voilà! It's a 10x10 booth frame with a banner façade and a snazzy cantilevered lighting rig.

If you look off to the right in that last image you'll see the legs of a ladder. This is a problem. The new booth is ridiculously tall. I cannot reach the front lighting rig to install the pipes or the lights without a real ladder. I don't want to buy one and then haul it with me to shows. At the same time, the top edges of the walls sit a foot above my gridwall panels, which would be a major source of stability if I could zip-tie them onto the frame.

And, finally, if you look closely you'll see a rope across the doorway. This marks the bottom of the new banner, and it sits at 7' 3". It's so high that it will not do one of its primary jobs, which is to prevent the booth lights from shining into people's eyes when they look in.

And the answer to all of these problems is also the reason why I put this thing together today when I'm supposed to be packing for the show that I will travel to in the morning... I need to take another trip to the fix-it shop and cut a foot from each post. I'll just take the pipes with me to this show and get them cut on my way home, saving myself a whole trip down the mountain next week.

The next dry run of this booth assembly will actually be the dress rehearsal. I should have the banner by then. I'll bring out the gridwall and test the canopy walls, too. Then I'll be completely confident of my ability to put on a good show in Bellevue.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Headless Chicken Scramble

I'm taking a quick break to snap photos of all the irons I have in the fire at the moment. (At least the most photogenic of them...)

I finished the red beam. Don't even ask how many hours I've been working every day to make that happen. I've lost a noticeable amount of "winter weight" and gained an astonishing amount of muscle tone as a side effect.

Notice how the sections mostly ran out at once? This means I've mostly solved the winding problem from March.

I wish I had more time to really celebrate this next bit. I am caught up with my weaving workload! In January I set a goal for how much weaving should get done every week to keep me in cloth at shows and start next year with a good variety and a little surplus. Despite losing my in-house apprentices, setting up a new studio, and taking six weeks medical leave, I am caught up! Thanks to Jacob and Max for their help. Even ten days made a huge difference.

In the graph, see that straight green line? That's the goal for my steady average. See how I've been below it all year? The red vertical line is "now", and indicates that, for now, I'm slightly above my goal. It also predicts that I will dip below it when I'm traveling and unable to weave. No resting on laurels in this studio!

With red off the loom, it's time to start plying green. I'll have none in time for Washington, but there are plenty more shows this year and people are crying for green.

At the last minute, I got "into" a show I've wanted to try for years. And, I'm not even in, really. I am selling someone else's work and will have the chance to sell my stuff at night to the other vendors and actors. This means a portable lighting set up put together in a hurry! Wheeee!

I'm also working on a new booth for the Bellevue Arts Museum show. It's got low ceilings and requires lighting. I can't use my standard booth, but I can repurpose the tube-and-joint affair that I put together last Winter. I just needed six new joints for a flat roof, and they arrived while I was typing this post. And look! I still remember how to draw perspective projections from back when I thought I would become a draftsman. (Boy, am I showing my age!)

I am also learning that I can't do it all. This pipe cutter is OK for a few cuts, but my hands can't handle making 11 cuts on thick-walled 1" EMT conduit. I'll take them to the fix-it man this afternoon. He's got all the right tools for this stuff.

And here's a sneak peak of the new banner design. I've been living with these tiny replicas for weeks as I worked with the designer to get it finalized and off to the banner printers. I'll write more about this when I get the real banner next week.

And finally, I realized in Seattle that folks want to scan my QR code inventory tags with their smart phones. So, instead of an internal serial number, these tags now direct people to hidden product pages on my website. And they still perform their primary function, which is to speed up checkout in the booth. Yeah!

I'm not going to retag items that are already in the shop, but instead I'll use these tags for all new products. By the end of the season, there shouldn't be any old tags left.

And that's the studio in a nutshell!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Weaving Math





Now do you see why I wanted that main shelf so tall?