Thursday, August 25, 2016

Drive To Nebraska

[Still catching up! These pics are from July 22-24th.]

Since March, I've been spending every spare minute preparing for the woodblock printmaking workshop and residency at Constellation Studios. Finally, the day had come to drop everything, pack the van, and head halfway across the country to Lincoln, Nebraska.

Knowing that I was going to be giving up my "normal" life of mountain hikes and swimming in wild rivers and lakes, my friend was able to convince me to take one last hike and swim as I was leaving. He drove out Highway 140 with me toward Nevada and we stopped to hike and swim in Woodpecker Lake. As is often the case out here in the wilds of Oregon, we had the whole place to ourselves. The air was warm, and the water was the perfect type of cold - refreshing but not freezing.

[One Last Swim in Woodpecker Lake]

After that, I took off, driving in an unusual direction for me. As the sun was setting, it was directly behind me.

[Heading East at Sunset]

Since this trip is going to be a long one and the time is short, I'll be driving far into the night while I'm in somewhat familiar terrain. When I get to beautiful and unfamiliar places, I only want to drive in the daytime so I can see the places that I'm passing through.

When I get out on long straight highways, I don't mind stopping in the middle of the road for a minute to take a photo because I can see cars that are 2-3 minutes away in each direction. This sight was so beautiful that I had to stop and take a photo. The moon was slowly rising directly in front of me.

[Moonrise Over My Lane]

Finally, it got to be quite late and I was too tired to press on so I stopped. In the morning Iwas excited to see these mountains illuminated by the sunrise. And they're off! Day 2.

[Sunrise Mountain Panorama]

[Pure White Salt Flats]

In the middle of the day I stopped in for a quick break and a meal with a friend in Salt Lake City. We've known each other for over 20 years, meeting when he moved to Santa Cruz in something like 1994. He moved back to SLC a few years ago so we see each other quite rarely these days. It was nice to stretch my legs and have a quick visit.

[Salt Lake City]

The rest of the very long day was a blur. I knew that I wanted to arrive in Nebraska as quickly as possible so that I could rest up and be ready to sponge up information as thoroughly as I could. I did't really stop to take many pictures, opting instead for one-handed camera operation when there was nobody around me on the road. Sorry about the window reflections.

[Pretty Red Rocks]

[More Pretty Rocks]

At sunset, though, I did have to pull over. I could catch glimpses of a sunset in my rearview mirror and needed to stop and see what I was missing. It was spectacular.

[Big Sky]

Then I slept at another rest area somewhere outside of Cheyenne, Wyoming. There was a giant bust of Lincoln at the rest area, a foreshadowing of the weeks to come...

In the morning I got up and pressed on, driving out of the Rocky Mountains and into the plains. There is one very notable feature of the large expanses of farmland - the skies are HUGE! This means that you can see hundreds of miles in every direction. Living in a very mountainous region, I'm not used to this at all. It also means that the clouds do very strange things. (Or maybe that I can see the strange things that clouds always do...) This is a crooked snapshot of a weird dark V-shaped formation that was flat on the bottom and mottled like a checkerboard. I've never seen anything like it.

[Weird Clouds in a Very Big Sky]

And then, I arrived in the truly flat farmland of Nebraska. There is so much corn that the locals tell me it's changing the environment. From the highway, you can't really see over it very much. It's tall! So I drove onto an overpass to take a panorama from a vantage point that's higher than the corn.

[Corn on the Horizon]

And then, almost soon as it began, the trip was over. I had arrived in Lincoln, Nebraska, and was looking at the tallest building in town. I am now kicking myself that I didn't see if there are tours of this building. I'd be surprised if you couldn't see the Rockies from the top.

[Nebraska Capitol Building]

So here it is, laid out on the map, three days of travel. The bright dots are places where I stopped to stretch my legs, get gas, or take a picture. As you can see, I didn't really dilly-dally on this trip. I checked into my Airbnb, took a shower, and headed out for a quick bite to eat before crashing hard.

[GPS Track]

Monday, August 22, 2016

Last-minute Residency Prep

[Still catching up! This post is from about July 19th.]

You will notice that the last few posts have been about weaving shows. My life is really quite divided at the moment. I need to spend lots and lots of time learning and practicing printmaking, but at the same time I still need to make a living from weaving for another couple of years. I'm trying to keep the blog about printmaking because that's the new and interesting stuff, but stepping into my real life from time to time is unavoidable.

In preparation for my trip to Nebraska, I decided to learn as much as I could about consistent, repeatable plywood sources. Karen recommends birch plywood because of its consistent but not dominating grain, which should appear in the finished work with the techniques that she teaches. I had been buying it at Home Depot or Lowe's, but found that their supply was inconsistent. The same exact product in their inventory could have very different characteristics like the thickness of the top layer of birch and the hardness of the glue used to hold the layers together. These two attributes make a huge difference in the carvability of the wood. If the top layer is too thin or the glue too brittle, the wood can splinter and make carving almost impossible for a beginner like me.

[Plywood Specialist]

By going to the plywood specialty store in Eugene, I was able to find a source for plywood that is of very high quality and, more importantly, repeatable. If I fall in love with a specific product, it will be the same every time I go there to get it.

Since I wanted to make the most of my time with Karen, I decided to go the extra mile and be sure I had every type of wood that I would want to try. This included making my own 1/4" plywood by gluing together two sheets of 1/8" plywood. It just takes lots of glue, lots of time, lots of pressure, a steady hand, and lots of patience.

[Lots of Glue]

[Lots of Weight]

In the end, it was just hours before my trip across the country when I finished gluing, cutting, and labeling all of the plates that I could possibly ever use in my time there.

[Lots of Printing Plates]

I can't wait to see what these plates can do!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Salem Art Fair: More Art Acquisition

[Another post from last month. This one happened around July 17th. I'm catching up! Just one very full month to go!]

The weekend after Oregon Country Fair I managed to squeak into the Salem Art Fair. They treat us really well, with custom omelets and such, but that's not the focus of this post...

At SGCI in Portland I had briefly met an amazing printmaker named Kelli MacConnell. I then followed her on Instagram (which you can do HERE) and fell in love with her work.

[Kelli MacConnell and her beautiful work]

In my life, there are a few things that are very meaning fun to me and likely to become the focus of my print work for quite some time. These things are trees and mountains. Well, Kelli is also inspired by these same things and doing an amazing job at capturing their essence in her linocut printmaking. I will have to work extra hard to make sure that my work doesn't even try to duplicate the beauty that she is capturing. And while I do this work, I can be inspired by her prints in my studio.

[Kelli's Douglas Fir In My Studio]

I know that it looks dangerous to hang her print uncovered in a messy print studio, but I know that it is not. I cannot afford to frame it yet so I have hung it in a central location that gets no traffic. I just learned this method of hanging from Karen in Nebraska. It uses thumbtacks in the walls and very clean rare earth magnets on the front of the work. As soon as I have a budget for framing or the skills to do it myself, this piece will be ensconced behind glass.

[Naked Gallery Closeup]

[Unhung Print]

I was also lucky enough to acquire another one of her prints, smaller and less iconic than the douglas fir, but absolutely gorgeous and in a style that I can only admire. This one, thankfully, is in a cellophane envelope so I don't have to hold my breath when I get near it. If I continue to collect the work of people whom I admire, soon I'll have an impressive collection!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Oregon Country Fair: An Awesome Trade

[Another post in the "catching up" series. This one is from about July 11th.]

One of the amazing things about doing events with lots of artists is that we can sometimes acquire each others' work even if the show isn't otherwise financially successful. I call it an occupational hazard. Oregon Country Fair fell into that category for me this year. The booth space where I was didn't have much traffic compared to other spots in the fair so my sales were not what I know that they could have been.

And then this guy and his girlfriend came into the booth. The piece of art he was wearing was gorgeous, but not my style at all. Recognizing the technique, I asked if he had any other work with him. It turns out that he did, that one of the pieces was exactly what I have been seeking for decades, and that he liked my work enough to trade.

[Three Happy People]

[One Amazing Piece]

[In situ]

His name is Brendan Stiles, and he has a solid future ahead of him designing and creating this labor-intensive wire wrap jewelry. His sense of form and style is breathtaking, and his execution is flawless. You can see more of his work on his Etsy site: BstilesDesign. If you like his work, I wouldn't wait to acquire a piece. He's pretty new at it, and his prices are just going to go up as he finds his market niche and runs out of time to produce this amazing work.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Oregon Country Fair: Booth On The Move

[Here's another post in the "catching up" series. This one is from July 10th.]

Yesterday I talked about my incredible luck in getting an actual booth at the Oregon Country Fair. It was great, but it doesn't solve my greater challenge - a space where customers know that they can find me year after year. My desire for a dependable spot has a lot to do with my "sales cycle". Most customers don't buy my work the first time that they see it. They wait and think about it, coming back to see me the following year and make the purchase. At Country Fair, this just can't happen. I don't know if I'll be there from one year to the next or, more importantly, where. The fair is HUGE and someone looking for me will have a heck of a time finding me.

Folks tell me that the way for a new vendor to find a permanent space is to network with booth owners. Well, how am I supposed to do that when I'm working in my own booth all day? This was the impetus to create a portable booth in the first place, and it wasn't really diminished by lucking into a booth this year. I still don't know if I'll have space next year or where I'll be.

[Booth Signage]

[Stack of Business Cards]

So as soon as the event closed to the public at 7:00 PM, I hit the road with my marketing message, "I want a regular booth space." I had a sign to that effect and gave cards to anyone associated with any booth, even if they didn't have space for me.

[Next to flowers]

[Along the main path]

[In front of a small stage]

 [In another meadow]

Of course, I won't know until next year if this marketing message was received, but I did inadvertently enlist some people to get the message out there. You see, my booth looked so good and so permanent wherever it was that people didn't understand that I was moving. I had a couple of different customers walk away to think and come back to find that the booth was gone. Not only closed, but literally not in the place where they clearly remembered seeing it. Lighting, umbrella, merchandise, and racks, all just vanished! They started asking the booth holders in the area if they knew where I was or how they could find me. It was way more perfect than I could possibly have planned for. I want people who have space to share to know that I am tired of moving and having customers unable to find me. They got the message delivered by frantic customers. You can't pay for that kind of advertising! We'll see next year if this marketing tactic was successful.

Oh, yeah, and the cart performed perfectly. I hauled that thing nearly two miles, over all terrain, through mud, up and over bridges, and through crowded streets. Yes, I had to walk backwards while watching for low trees, tall roots, and other strange obstacles, but I did it and the cart did exactly the job that I had designed it to do.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Oregon Country Fair: Real Booth Space

[Here's another post in the "catching up" series. This stuff happened around July 5th and 6th.]

Before I can tell you about what happened and why it's so amazing, I need to talk a bit more about the Oregon Country Fair and how strange and wonderful it is. Well, it's not like a regular show. In a regular show, you submit an application with jury photos and, if you score high enough that year, they let you in and give you booth space. You pay a booth fee and bring everything that you need to set up and sell.

At the Oregon Country Fair, you have to jury in, but then it gets complicated. If you score high enough, they give you a booth space like a regular show, but you are required to share with someone else of your choosing. If you choose another high-scoring vendor for a booth mate (and they accept), spaces open up for others who may have scored a little lower. But you're not required to stick with only high-scoring vendors. You can choose from anyone who has ever juried in. This is the crux of the unique setup at Country Fair. Once you have juried in, someone who has a space to vend can let you share that space with them. If you don't score high enough, you stay in the pool of people looking for a space.

Well, I arrived on Tuesday night certain that I would be working during the day selling my friend's jewelry, but having no booth space of my own. Strange things happened and I was offered space to vend by that same friend who ended up with more space than he had envisioned.

[Cart is handy for load-in from 1/2 mile away]

Since I like to be prepared for any eventuality, I had, of course, packed the van as if I had a real booth of my own, including tools and a stack of lumber to make booth modifications. When I was offered that space to sell in, I whipped out the power tools, made the modifications to the booth to accommodate my panels, and poof! I was in business.

Folks ask me all the time how I'm so successful. That's my secret, y'all! Bring all of the booth parts, all of the tools, all of the materials. If you don't use them, it's not a problem, but be ready to capitalize on any opportunity. "Fortune favors those who are prepared to succeed." (I think I made that up, but who knows anymore.)

[Booth halfway set up]

Well, it worked. We worked together to get the space ready to show. You'll notice in the following photos that half of my panels are a little short and have a strange canvas behind them. That's the portable half of the booth. I'll write in a day or two and show you how that worked out.

 [Side Entrance]

[Front Entrance]

I have to say that we did a great job of dividing up the space and showing all of our work very well. It was a very happy outcome and a good helping of fair magic.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Oregon Country Fair: Building A Portable Booth

The last few months have been a whirlwind. I've taken lots of pictures but had no time to write the stories. For the next little while, I'll try to write faster than things happen so that I can get caught up.

The beginning of July was filled with preparation for the Oregon Country Fair. I didn't get a real, during-the-daytime show booth this year so I decided that I would run around at night when only the staff and vendors are there. Along with selling my wares, I would also sell myself. To get a booth there, someone who had one needs to decide to share with me so I was going to really put myself out there and show off my booth building skills.

[Computer rendering]

The challenge with this booth was a pretty big one. I needed to build a structure that could hold two of my regular wooden booth panels and have space for a banner, an umbrella, a mirror, and an onboard lighting system. The biggest constraint, though, is that whatever I built needed to stand up to the rigors of the Country Fair site - miles of uneven ground, potholes, and possible mud. One person needed to be able to haul the thing, weighing in over 300 pounds, and steer it without the danger of it tipping over.

[Cutting Pipes]

[Framework Done]

The first step was to design and create a system using pipe joints that I already have from other booths I used the computer model to "get a feel" for whether or not the thing would be stable. I didn't want to take the time to do a real load/stability simulation.

I designed the frame to be very rigid and sturdy because any sloppiness in the frame would let the whole thing fall apart.

[Sturdy Undercarriage]

Once the frame was constructed, I needed to attach it VERY securely to the garden cart that I had bought to serve as the rolling structure. I cut a piece of 3/4" plywood to fit exactly within the outline of the cart bed. I then added six extra joists underneath the bed to screw the plywood into. These joists underlapped the steel frame of the cart bed. Once the deck screws were in place, the plywood was as stable as if it had been part of the original cart itself.

[Assembled Cart]

Then it was time to roll the thing around downtown Wolf Creek and see if it was going to be stable on uneven ground. It passed the test with flying colors!

[Cart With Garments]

Then I added the final test - 100 pounds of garments on the rack arms. When rolling, I clamp them together so that garments are not falling from the hangers into the mud. The added weight gave me some trouble on very rough terrain, but it really seemed like the whole thing was going to work!

[Now With An Umbrella]

At that point, it was the day before I left for Fair and all I had left was to check and see if the umbrella was stable and gave me the protection that I wanted. It did. So I tore it all apart and packed the van. Whee!