How the Other Half Lives

Reposted from my blog.

When you come to a fair like Saturday Market, you see the pretty side of our booths. All the art/craft lovingly displayed, shiny and bright and organized to tempt you into taking it home.

This is what my side of the booth looks like.

We've got the restock boxes. Long ago, another vendor told me, An empty space on the shelf doesn't sell anything. (Or did I tell that to someone, myself? It was long ago, who remembers? But still true.) So I have extra pots in back, more than enough to refill the entire booth. My totes come in 9-inch (green lids) and 12-inch (blue or black) heights. I can fit three stacks of either two blue or three green totes under the counter. The rest pile up in the back corner of the booth. At Market, I have green boxes of soup bowls, tall mugs, plates, banks, and a catch-all with tool crocks, yarn bowls and things that don't always go on the shelf, but sometimes are asked after. Blue/black boxes include painted mugs, stew mugs, pitchers and cookie jars under the counter. In the stack there's glasses/tumblers, serving bowls, square bakers/pasta bowls and casseroles/batter bowls. Also a green box with Denise's paper products, and an empty one that held all the stands and riser blocks, packed in like a 3-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. Empty boxes go in the van at road shows, or stacked behind the booth at Saturday Market--unless it's raining. Then they're packed in the back with everything else, and it's really crowded.

Also in the back, there's the bag of bags--a big tote I sewed from rubberized ripstop nylon, to try to keep out the rain. We have two sizes of paper bags, a standard grocery bag for big orders--casseroles, cookie jars, bakers or serving bowls--and a #25 bag for smaller things, like mugs and bowls and incense dragons. Also in the bag'o'bags are towels to dry work off if it rains, a couple of seat cushions for our hard Ikea folding stools, and, in cold weather, a blanket.

Next to the bags, there's a square plastic bucket with a crack in the bottom. It doesn't hold water anymore, so now it holds wrapping paper. I used to buy newsprint end-rolls from the local newspaper, saw them down to a convenient length on a band-saw at the craft center, and pop them into my paper dispenser, a vertical rig with saw blade cutter. Since the advent of computerized printing presses, which can use the paper right down to the core, I've gone over to buying flat-pack dunnage paper, 24x36" newsprint sheets. I tear some in half, leave some whole, folded accordion-style for easy access standing in the bucket.

I mentioned the stool? It's an Ikea Dennis model; we bought a pair for $20 each years ago in Renton, Washington. Don't even know if they make them anymore, but they're perfect for art shows. Heavy duty seat and back, pivoting foot rest, the whole folding up to less than two inches thick to stow in the van. The only draw back is that the seat is flat and hard, and really needs a cushion to make it bearable over a long day. But it lets me be at about eye-level with customers, and that's a real benefit.

Also crucial is the show bag. It's just a public radio canvas tote bag, but I'd not survive without it. It has all the things I'd forget if they weren't in one place: price stickers, vitamin C lozenges, bandana and neck cooler, spare masks and paper towels and hand sanitizer (because global f--king pandemic), and the show book. It's a loose-leaf binder with my booth inventory, my at-home restock inventory, spare postcards, notes for whatever show I'm doing--load-in, load-out, rules and restrictions. Reservation confirmation from my motel. It's my outboard brain, basically. Tucked in the back cover are a couple of brush practice boards, water sensitive sheets I can use to demonstrate my drawing technique with the hand-made brush in my tools box.

Oops, almost forgot the tools box. Another green tote, with a cardboard box inside, divided into sections. It carries spring clips, ball bungies, clamps, S-hooks. Extra business cards. Spare honey dabbers. A pair of pliers and a wire-cutter. An Altoids box of loose change, for sales-tax states. The tin with the hinge pins, bolts and wing-nuts. The box with all the shelf-signs, a tape measure, small grindstone, and the Be Right Back sign.

Strapped around my waist is the till--a fanny pack holding the sales record book and pen, the Square slider and cell phone to take credit card sales, a spare van door key (I've locked myself out more than once), and $100 in bills--20 ones, 4 fives, 2 tens and 2 twenties. For a big show, there may be a second envelope in the back pouch with an extra hundred in change, just in case.

Then there's food. I convert plastic cat-food bags into shopping bags, so we'll have one of those packed with sandwiches, fruit, water bottles (for me) or tea thermoses (for Denise), a box of cookies, and a couple of tall mugs sized to fit behind the counter. Marketing 101: always use your own pottery at an art fair. For road shows, we generally bring our own lunch, then treat ourselves to supper, either at the food court, for late-closing shows, or a restaurant.

And then there's the bears. Always. One or two Marketing Bears are essential to the proper Off Center Ceramics ambiance.

Pop!

Club Mud pottery co-op will be holding a pop-up show on Saturday, May 1, 10 am-4 pm in the Maude Kerns Art Center's parking lot, 1910 E. 15th, in Eugene. You may recall we initially tried to do this last summer, but were stymied by, first, the forest fires, and second, a local spike in COVID cases associated with the return of students to the University.

Hopefully, third time's the charm.

Looking Brighter

Denise and I have both gotten our first vaccinations, and have scheduled follow-ups next week, so I'm beginning to feel like the world might not end after all.

With that in mind, I've applied for four road shows this summer: UVAA Summer Arts Festival in June, Silverton Arts Festival and Edmonds Arts Festival in August, and Corvallis Fall Festival in September. It also looks like Clayfolk will be happening in Medford in November, but applications aren't out yet for that. Still no guarantee that I'll be accepted, of course, but you can follow my progress at the Find Me link.

Loafing and Reading

I've had work for sale at a couple of south Eugene locations for about a year now, and both are selling very well, even though they're literally across the street from each other. Great Harvest Bakery initially commissioned cups last March to replace their worn and chipped coffee service mugs. When COVID closed down coffee sales, they decided to sell them to staff and customers. They've been doing well, just reordered more, and you get a free loaf of Honey Whole Wheat Bread when you buy a mug.

Tsunami Books has been carrying my tall mugs and pie plates for over a year now, and they've been selling so well that they've freed up another shelf for my work. I've take down a bunch of dessert plates (rebranded as Sandwich Plates for the bookstore crowd); we'll see if they sell as well as the mugs.

My rosemary bush is full of bumblebees, and the honey and orchard bees are circling my apple trees, just waiting for the blossoms to pop...

Encore Pattern of the Month:

Generating a Buzz

We used to have a dog that ate bumblebees. She'd snap them out of the air, dispatch them with a quick bite, then swallow them whole. We always assumed she bit the stinger off before that last gulp, but she may well have swallowed the sting as well.

We always cheered her on; something about the buzz of a bee or hornet scared the bejeezus out of us kids, even though I only remember one of us six kids ever getting stung.

Now that I have a garden and fruit trees, I'm firmly on the side of the bees. Bumblebees, mason bees, honeybees, they're all welcome in our yard. One of my favorite sights is a worker bee, legs fat with pollen, clambering around the apple or raspberry blossoms.

So it's no surprise that I paint bees on covered crocks, creamers, dessert plates, and, yes, honey jars.

Busy busy busy...

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