|Saturday morning, hot and humid, at setup. |
Note lots of big black bags in case of a
rainy takedown and four forty-pound weights
on the canopy to neutralize winds.
I'm standing on tired feet just off the capital square in Madison for the second day of a hot art fair. Jim calls at ten o'clock to say get ready, red radar indicates storm fronts are headed this way. I had already decided, but this news cements it: next year I'm not doing art fairs.
In 1988 we were thrilled to discover we could support ourselves by selling art; we made it our livelihood, dived in with dedication. We started our business in the economic boom, were able to get a home loan, settle in. We worked long days, set production goals, tracked inventory, traveled on weekends. When carpel tunnel, motels, and long days standing on sidewalks started wearing, I went back to school. When the economy stalled I was ready to freelance as a graphic designer with a plan to phase out of art fairs. It's been twenty-three years since that first little show, since the first thrill of coming home with enough cash to buy groceries and pay rent. We're doing no art fairs next year.
The patrons, customers, friends at art fairs taught me many things. I've heard their year's struggles and adventures, taken their suggestions about art to make and benefited by their guidance. I've seen their children grow up and marry--and supplied gifts for the weddings. I'll miss the annual get-togethers. Who knows? Maybe by 2013 I'll be happy to be back on a city sidewalk, eating celery and almonds, zip-zapping credit cards, chatting with long-time customers. But next year?
If you want a job that has flexibility and variety, times of great quietness and times of constant social contact, if you want a livelihood that tests your marketing and production abilities, develops your art skills, demands physical stamina and organized planning, art fairs are for you. But it's four generations of display panels and five canopies later. I'm ready for a sabbatical. No art fairs next year.
Back to yesterday's Art Fair Off the Square in Madison. The storms approach, black, noisy, and flashing. I panic; I take down the biggest art and run the heavy box to to the truck. Dash back to the the booth and zipper the walls down, make jokes to customers about holding on to the canopy, sweat. A drizzle falls, passes with no danger -- this time. I watch the sky and vow: no art fairs next year.