Glynnis Lessing

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Milkhouse Studio

As many of you who have read my blog in the past know, I recently moved from the city of Chicago to the countryside in Minnesota.

The first practical consideration of moving to become a “country” potter was: Where would I make pottery? And the place I thought of  right away was my grandfather’s old milkhouse on the family farm where my mother is living. I asked my mother if that would be okay and, as it was not in use, and had last been used as a chicken coop, she thought it was a fine idea.

It had what we needed: electricity and [cold] running water. It also had a lot of good memories for me. I feel so lucky to have known my grandfather for almost 40 years. He was a dairy farmer. I always took for granted that what he did was a natural outgrowth of living. Now I know that is life on a farm. He worked outside; he worked with living things.

Let me take you to a place I love, the milkhouse 40 years ago. Imagine for a moment these sounds and smells: the radio is playing, you can hear it over the rhythmic chugging of the milking machine and occasional lowing of the cows. Floury dust from the grain chutes floats in the path of sunbeams. You can hear the cows chewing and blowing into their grain. My grandpa is here. He’s here twice a day; moving purposefully, efficiently even lovingly around the milk house, milking his cows.

Patiently, he teaches me how to wash the cow’s udder and how to milk, filling up a little pan with warm frothy milk which I always drink. He lets me pull the line to send a portion of grain down to the waiting cow. I marvel at the fascinating system of ropes and pulleys, and weights he uses to open and close doors, gates, troughs and I am thrilled to be able to see the milk flow through the clear pipes which turn and weave through the ropes and rails and cows until they disappear through the wall and reappear in an even more fantastic tangle of floating balls and glass jars in the next room.

It was a wonderful magical place. I loved spending time there with grandpa. I can always find him here, whether it is the end of a long summer’s day when the buzzing of flies and the swishing of cows’ tails adds to the mélange of sounds or it is predawn on a cold winter’s morn, the waiting cows’ breath rising up, visible as I run past them into the steamy warmth and noise and light of the milk house…

There it is in the background (left) of me with my happy family carrying milk!

So you can imagine that I would love to spend my day there filled with warm memories, surrounded by greenery and the farm my grandfather created. A wonderful place to make things.

Last year, before we moved, I brought up my kiln and wheel and a few supplies on a spring trip to Minnesota so they would be out of the way and ready for me when we arrived.

2 months ago, as soon as we got settled in, my husband and I began to make the milkhouse usable for me. We moved out all the old bits left over from when it was a chicken coop, nesting boxes, etc. Machinery stored there was taken away and then we began to clean, scrubbing the walls, and floor. I removed chicken wire from over the windows and washed the grime from them to let in light. There was a temporary enclosure of paneling that had been put up to protect something and when we removed that we were delighted to find 2 sinks and a lot of the original machinery my grandfather had installed in his super-modern milkhouse. My favorite are the glass pipes in which, you could see the milk flowing. I love having that on the wall and using the sink he used.

We also worked to clear a huge amount of brush from around the building. Many brambles had grown up around it and wild grape had begun to take over the upper reaches.Quite a few volunteer weed trees were also taken down. Here is how the milkhouse looked on  previous visits:And here it is after we cleared around it.  

You can see the huge pile of brush and grapevine that we cleared in the bottom right of the photo. And it looks even better now!

I could feel the light and energy begin to flow much better in and around the building. I had planned to make a list of all the areas I needed (I am heavily influenced by Emily Murphy and her post about her wonderful studio) but I have less space and since I really don’t want to change anything about the building or permanently install anything because it is still, at its heart, my grandfather’s milkhouse, I am more constrained. Things evolved a bit more organically.

As things were made and moved in; the table went in the middle, the wheel went by the east window since I usually like to throw in the morning with the light coming in.Yes, that’s an old swallow’s nest in the upper left of the photo and the chair is salvaged from a shed.

My carving area is often outside but for rainy (or mosquito-y days) we found an old wooden ironing board in the garbage and made it into a counter by the west window for carving in the afternoon light. Shelves were fit in where we could . My grandfather’s area where he kept track of his cows and which ones he was breeding with what prize-winning bull is my area to track my calendar and production. His cupboard where he kept iodine and bovine medicines is where I have my slip and wax and colorants. I do not really have enough room to have a separate  packing area or a photo area or a glaze-mixing area- as much as I would love to have those but they can all be done in the general studio area.

My husband built me a beautiful table and we covered it with canvas. The clay is stored under the table in a built in area. Until I could get my box of studio supplies that the movers buried in the middle of our storage unit, I went to the junk store in search of a few supplies: a plastic lazy susan to use as a makeshift banding wheel when I carve as well as a rolling pin, some molds etc.

Another day was spent trying to refurbish a huge kickwheel friends had lent/given us. That resulted in a much better understanding of kickwheels, how ridiculously heavy they are and why we wouldn’t be able to really get this one working very well.

A friend of my mother’s generously donated a dresser, some shelves and a comfy arm chair;a quick trip up to Minneapolis to Continental Clay where they were wonderfully helpful and I was ready to go!

Further work has been done- the area where the cows used to get milkednow has juvenile chicks in it. I chose all black and white chickens for inspiration!

The small interior area is more than made up for by having a lot of area outside to develop!

On one side of the milkhouse is a slab where the cows used to wait to come in. The fence around it is all rotted and gone but we shoveled the dirt off it and pulled out the small bushes that had grown up in it and made a little patio area. To the north I’ve put in a couple of flower beds and much of the dead wood was set aside for firewood in the winter.

My mother gave me her old wood stove for this coming fall and winter. We will need to put in a good stove pipe (there is one but I don’t trust it). I really look forward to going out there and building a fire in the morning and making it cozy. I’ll let you know how I feel about that when it’s 20 below zero!

In the course of this journey found out my kiln needs much more power than the little milkhouse is wired for. We had an electrician out I learned a little bit about amps and panels and mostly that we can’t afford to upgrade the power to the milkhouse. Instead, I feel very lucky to have the Arts Guild in town which will allows members to bisk their work for a small fee and also that several potters in the area do a group firing of cone 10 reduction kiln! So my current firing needs can be met until we decide how we want to tackle the “kiln problem” which is as much a creative choice as it is a financial and technical one. By creative I mean, what kind of firing do I want to do? Electric oxidation? Wood, soda or gas?

So here I am, 2 months into our big change-of-life, I’ve got about 50 pots made and often, as I stride across the farm yard, I flash on my youth, my many crossings and journeys across this particular space in time; my path only dictated by buildings now missing or inhabited by my grandfather and his cows in that time instead of me and my pots now. The milkhouse seems so happy to have purpose or perhaps to contain purpose again; to be used and inhabited by a human and animals (the chickens) certainly it is now my place of work, of creating. I hope my clay dust will not obliterate the slightly milky smell it still has.

Since she passed away, I have often thought of my grandmother, I always carry her with me, as she was the embodiment of home life, kitchen doings and indoor games. She is portable and home tasks and crockery evoke her. But grandpa is of this place; of these fields of driving a tractor under this huge sky and the crops and the pastures. It is he who I envision walking across the space out back, carrying 2 bales of hay, strong and patient. I love being here. I love honoring both of my grandparents with hard work, patience, with just the sheer joy of the beauty of this place and the pleasure of existence that comes from purpose and gratitude.

Posted 5 years, 7 months ago at 7:55 pm.

13 comments

A Big Change

Announcement

In 1971 and I was a tween, my mother started a commune with her best friend. This was a rural “Intentional Community” in northern Wisconsin.

Instantly there were a lot of people in our lives. We were living with 2 other families with children. Suddenly I was the oldest of 7. Many college students would come and stay for the summer, other people for a year or two. We became acquainted with other people living in the area who were also trying out alternative ways of living.

Throwing in the barn at 17

As a result of these connections and my interest in pottery (which is a whole other blog entry) when I was 16, my first job was working part time for a potter. I sifted straw ash, pugged clay, sat up during wood firings, washed his dishes (I loved doing that because all his dishes were handmade pots- many by Warren MacKenzie, his teacher, mentor and friend) I also met and spent time with a few of his potter friends.

Somewhere in there, I think I assumed I would become what I now call a “country potter”.

I didn’t think about it consciously. I didn’t even realize at the time that there were “city potters” I just loved the people I knew who lived out in the country in these funky cool houses and made pots for a living (sort of – there were auxiliary sources of income like teaching and employed wives and insurance settlements).

I went off to college at the U (Minneapolis) took ceramics, met my husband there and eventually moved to Chicago. After about 5 years living here in Chicago (and not making pottery), I met a potter at an art fair who told me of Lill street. I called there that afternoon and was signed up for a class that week, teaching there within months.

That was in 1989 and I’ve been there ever since.

I met so many “city potters” and saw the great benefits of belonging to a large community of potters where we could see each other’s work every day and in process and grab anyone to discuss technical or aesthetic problems as they arose. Resources could be pooled, glazes shared, firings happened 2-3 times a week, test tiles came back immediately. I learned a huge amount.

Most of all at Lill, I learned I was a teacher. That I loved teaching, loved imparting information, loved the challenge of finding the best way to help someone understand how to do something. Teaching is an ever-changing, ongoing endeavor as you adapt to your students and their age and the environment in which they are learning. At Lill I came to realize I truly had something to offer people.

And now, I’m choosing to leave.

It’s not that I actually want to leave Lill it’s more that I have never completely let go of my dream, my image of myself as a country potter. Of my children growing up in the country. Of open sky and forests and the freedom of space you get when you live in the country and so we are moving back to Minnesota. Most likely to Northfield where my family is from so we can be near aging mothers and other family.

I will be tackling such challenges as setting up a studio and, most worrisome for me, figuring out how to continue firing my pots to cone 10 reduction. I don’t know if I will build a kiln or buy one or share an existing kiln. I hope to connect with a small community of potters in that area and perhaps find a place to teach again. I have some friends and connections left over from my college days and also some transplants from Lill who have inspired me. I will be excited to see them again.

I look forward to sharing this whole journey with the readers of my blog.

 

 

Lastly, in between selling our house and moving to Minnesota, we will be traveling to Nepal!!! I am sure I will want to post about the potters there because I have always wanted to see in person, those potters who throw off a massive hump on a hand-turned wheel set in the ground; the fruits of their labors spread around them drying in a sunny courtyard.

Posted 6 years ago at 10:16 pm.

7 comments

The Bucktown Art Fair

The Bucktown Art Fair

I will admit I was in a lousy mood for the early morning set-up on Saturday. Perhaps it was the nightmare- just before I woke- that someone stole our newly purchased (used)Mini-van loaded the night before with all the art fair stuff?

Everyone seemed a bit grumpy and “off” and I can only blame the humidity that lifted mid-afternoon. Or maybe Mercury finally moved all the way out of retro-grade- whatever that means. The artists were pretty much on their own for parking management made even more complicated because after 9 or so, stages and things began to be set up and routes became even more limited. I ended up parking on a nearby street despite free parking provided for the artists at a slightly farther away school.

I was assisted in unloading by a friendly and cheerful (and strong!) volunteer and that went a long way toward making me feel welcome and supported.

Check-in was not advertised and only the sight of other artists striding past with a plate full of muffins and bagels and a banana and a glass of OJ notified us of free food Saturday morning (only). When I checked at the info booth, I was given a small info packet and (best!!) a free little black apron with pockets. What a useful freebie! Thank you Bucktown!

At any rate, I was ready for my uneven site, having scoped it out a few days before. We brought a few bricks and boards to level things out as well as the shims that we always carry; but I was still feeling sorry for myself until I saw what other artists had to contend with and I had lots of shade! If you get a spot in the park, come prepared for very uneven spots. The guy next to us moved because his site had a lot of really bad tree roots sticking up-I think I’d be most worried about customers tripping on them!

This left us alone on our little hill and I have to say, I think the booth looked great with the galvanized tin gleaming in the sun.

The fair opened at 11 which seemed luxurious in light of the morning set-up. We had arrived about 7 :40 and were all set by 10. However, I did not make my firs sale until 1:30 so I was relieved to find that this seems to be a fair that just doesn’t get cooking until late afternoon.

This is a NOISY art fair and is also packed with kids and dogs. There are a lot of really terrific shows for the kids and also a kid’s activity tent where my son spent most of his time. When he wasn’t there, he was constructing this.There is also a great playground and a city pool- though I didn’t notice if they closed that for the fair. If you have kids, this is a terrific fair to keep them happy- it’s also very contained so they are less likely to get lost or go far.

 

My ponderings as I waited to sell anything and then as I waited to “break even” was: perhaps not every fair is the right fair for me even if I get in. Maybe this is too young a crowd; do they want trendy? Or are they just wandering around looking at stuff to entertain themselves. No one was carrying any purchases- this is something artists look for. If someone drags a bunch of bags into your booth, you feel optimistic!

Then, after people began to buy things I decided that my best work always sells. When I mentioned this to my husband, he asked me what percentage of my work is my best work I guessed perhaps 30% of what I create? Don’t get me wrong- and you artists know this; the work I put out is all “good”. It’s technically sound and attractive but there are always those pieces that, when you pull them out of the kiln, you say, “ah, that’s a nice one.” You might even be tempted to keep it- some, the very best, you do. You can’t quite bear to let them go. We know which pieces those are.

At any rate, my day picked up so that by the 7 o’clock closing time, I was relieved and felt I had not made a mistake in participating in what I think, is a lovely little fair.

The next day, again, I did not make a sale until well after noon and, this being my last fair, I put out everything in my bins. I wanted to just get rid of it! Surprisingly, I sold a lot of older work- one vase I was so sick of, I just gave it away with the purchase of a larger vase. It was a great day and this turned out to be a terrific fair- definitely the RIGHT fair for me!

The day ended at 7 again although sales ended about 6 pm. And  the load-out in the dark kind of  sucked. Every one was tired and there was even less space (tents and stages still up) and less traffic management. Thank goodness for the van! I cannot imagine slipping in and out of there with anything larger!

Other drawbacks to this fair was that we were positioned precisely where we could hear the kid’s shows (and taped music) at exactly the same volume as we were hearing performances on the main-stage. I went home with a sore throat from having to raise my voice to be heard by friends and customers. I also think that much noise is tiring although I did find it energizing when we were packing up!

Lastly, the hike to the porta-potties was almost painful and  time-consuming and then, at the end of the day, no TP was adding insult to injury. Clearly I’ve been spoiled in the past (most notably by Krasl).

 

As for artists I liked, I am loving Neil Estrick’s  skilled throwing, beautiful cone 6 glazes and graceful gourd shapes. Also a shout-out to my many Lill Street compadres who all seemed to be doing well at this show.

On the way out, I saw this incredible booth but never saw what he was selling!? In looking at the map and people’s website, I think it might be Keith Skogstrum but I can’t say for sure.

All in all I think it was a great fair- if you participate, bear in mind it could be a late-starting crowd.

 

Posted 6 years, 4 months ago at 10:18 am.

2 comments

The Powderhorn Park Art Fair 2011

Well, Hello and here I am blogging about yet another art fair and this one went really wonderfully!

The first thing you should know about this fair is that the load-in (and load out) for me and really, for most of the other artists, is incredibly easy.

You drive along a paved road that runs around the lake and there is just a whole lot of room to park. I had a U-Haul™ 4×8 trailer again and those are a bit unwieldy and I just pulled in, going in a big U in front of my area. For load out, I actually BACKED IN! I’m so proud of myself. Then we unloaded everything, set up and drove to our accommodations (free since we have lots of relatives here). The next day we parked up the hill from our spot- in this case on 10th Ave. and just walked down to the tent. The weather was a bit warm the first day but sales were good.

My thing at the Powderhorn is that I have family in Minnesota; I went to high school an hour away and I went to college here so it’s a great time and place to have people stop by. I was visited by 2 high school friends , 4 old college friends (and wives or children) and lots of family. We actually set up an extra tent (and chairs) out back for shade.

My 11 year old son set up the “easy-down” (as he heard someone call them) all by himself and dubbed it the “Relative Relaxation Room”. It was good because it kept the display tent clear and available and everyone was in the shade. My only problem was paying enough attention to actual customers!

I continue to get a lot of compliments on the display. It’s no secret- Ikea.

 

Sunday was glorious weather and people were in a good mood. Even the wildlife is exciting and entertaining. My son caught a couple of toads (released into the pond) a butterfly hung out with us for all of Sunday morning; the ducks geese and cormorants kept the pond interesting. The only drawback to that is the ground is a little… well…

ew.

I did manage to walk around the entire fair and was impressed with a Jeweler from Tallahassee, Florida: Zee Galliano (http://zeegalliano.com/) had some really cool stuff.

 

This year the awards were heralded by four stilt-walkers. My friend said he couldn’t bear to watch. I reassured him that they had all trained by putting up dry-wall for years. He said there used to be twice that number in the herd.

I do have to complain about the Judging because I didn’t win- what can I say? I’m biased.

Aside from that, this is a wonderful fair, great music, for a good cause in a great area.

the volunteers were also helpful and friendly. We had one visitor who was unable to walk far and they simply brought her to the tent in one of the golf carts.

 

 

Posted 6 years, 5 months ago at 7:48 pm.

5 comments

The Kohler Midsummer Festival of the Arts 2011

 
We were looking forward to the Kohler Midsummer Festival of the Arts  although I will say, after Krasl last week, it would have been hard to beat. And similar to last week, not much to tell. But for those of you resarching the Kohler I will elucidate… or is it expound?

Load-in was very easy as was check in. They have a lot of very nice and helpful volunteers. We had the same spot as last year; a shady spot in front of the school.

After set up we went to the fabulous restaurant we went to last year, Il Retrovo. YUM. Unbelievably good wood fired pizza and then, truly heavenly Sea salt caramel gelato. Wow.

Back at the hotel,we thrilled to the Tour de France.

The next day I put out all the pots and I have to say, I think the booth looked really good.

I thought the day started very auspiciously when I sold my biggest showpiece, a large Octopus platter, first; but the foot traffic was low and my sales sporadic.

We also found out that our Square™ couldn’t be used because we had no reception! Luckily I still have my credit card service until the end of this month. I will have to look into how to process the cards without reception.

I had some nice people come in and look around. They were an educated group. Most of them knew what slip is and I had some good chats about technique. My son was obsessed with a nearby booth, clever and lovely puzzles by William Waite. He spent a good part of the fair over there trying to solve all the puzzles.

Saturday night we were all fed good food and awards were given. Compatriots, Judy Zeddes (print) and Sarah Chapman (jewelry) both won awards! We sat with another couple who had a pottery booth.  I had a lovely chat with Joel Huntley and Debra Huntley who makes terrific early-American inspired work. He has been making pots for 27 years and is going to sell his Pottery (the business) in Columbus Wisconsin. Is anyone interested?

After the dinner, we all walked around the museum. This is an excellent museum. Their exhibits are really thought provoking and well, good. The museum is the big treat of the weekend. That and the bathrooms. I never got tired of the bathrooms.

We all hoped for a better day on Sunday although we knew it would be hotter.

Sadly, it was worse; even though the heat was never too bad at all- every once in a while, we got a lovely cooling breeze from the nearby lake.

Sunday was disheartening because we heard things like:

“There’s a wallet store over here.”

“Naw, I’ll just order something online.”

I wish that people understood the huge amount of work that goes into the art fair. It’s not just making the work all week; but also loading the vehicle, the drive, the unloading and set up, the selling all weekend; being cheerful and informative, the take down, the long drive home and then unloading. It seems, for most of the artists at the fair, a labor of love. A choice to do this so that they can keep on with the pleasure of making the things they love to make. Still, we do like to have the work acknowledged. Clearly, we’re not doing it for the money!

There’s just so much STUFF in the world now!  Everyone is decluttering- a concept, I’m sure, that didn’t exist until after 1975. Until then, stuff was hard to come by. Now, machine-made goods have filled our houses, perverted our aesthetics,  devalued our work and numbed the public to what it takes to handmake things.  It’s alittle soul killing to have someone walk in to the booth and whine, “I have so much stuff.”  Yes!  I know! We all do! But I am a maker of stuff. I don’t know what to do – how to resolve the pull between wanting to make stuff and knowing there is  (and having) too much stuff!

So after that rant, I want to thank those many many people who do get it. Who love the scale and imperfections of hand-made things. Who appreciate the creativity and skill and who want to live with these things every day.

Another interesting set of work was by  John Woodhouse.  Judy put it perfectly when she called his beautiful wall Barns “Fine Craft”. I could look at those all day and I don’t think he sold a one.

Now I don’t want to badmouth the Kohler art fair. They do a fantastic job- it’s a great fair but for some reason their circulation was down.

This left me crabby by take-down but it went very smoothly.

The really exciting part of this whole story is that, about 30 minutes from home, at 9 pm, our car had a blow out on the highway. After making it safely to the side, we actually changed the tire ourselves. The spare had almost no air in it so I had to leave Juan and the trailer and all our stuff sitting there on the side of the expressway and went to find a gas station where I made sure I got my 50¢ worth and inflated all the tires and went back.  And then yes, we still had to unload and I had to return the trailer. Needless to say, we were beyond tired by the time we got to bed.

 


 

 


Posted 6 years, 6 months ago at 5:47 pm.

6 comments

The Powderhorn Park Art Fair

The Powderhorn Park is quite possibly the loveliest setting I’ve been in for a fair. I’ve wanted to be in it ever since I visited it in 2005. 

Set up was much easier than we’d anticipated. I had returned the trailer to U Haul after we got up here and we were able to fit everything into our station wagon and my brother-in-law’s SUV.

We probably could have used the trailer but this was at least as easy. There is a wide paved path around the lake but what I wasn’t sure of was how much space we had to pull off. It turns out the tents are set quite a way back from the path and into the shade- especially where we were. There was plenty of space to pull off the “road”.

This is also an excellent set up for a fair.  At this fair you don’t have to wade through crowds or slog along behind some family of 5 going .03 mph because if you want you can walk along the path which acts as a kind of outer ring and stop at the booths that interest you.

We had a really lovely spot under the trees and geese came and went, landing on the water, trooping in to eat 

and leaving via the lake again.

Set up went very quickly as this was our 4rth event this year and we have a pretty good routine plus my brother in law helped too!

After we were all set up we ate lunch and then went over to visit the Argentineans at the Uptown art fair.  The Uptown opens Friday at noon and is HUGE. Luckily their tent was not on Hennepin where there is no shade and buses fume by regularly; but off down a green and shady boulevard  and not far from one of my very favorite potters, Bob Briscoe.  I stopped in to say hi to him as well but didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to chat.

The next morning we were able to park on 10th right above the hill down to our tent.

We got all set up and again, the geese landed, ready to do their routine and follow their path in to the grass. They milled around on the water wondering what the heck just happened to their park. They started to come in and then gave up and left again.

it rained on us a bit after we were all set up. That was actually good temperature-wise and the hardy Minnesota patrons were not daunted.

Amazingly, one of the first people to come into my tent was my college roommate whom I haven’t seen in 30 years!! She always attends the fair.  It was really fun to catch up with her.

My mom came and brought me flowers to put in one of the vases.

Another notable visitor was the potter I worked for when I was 17- a big influence on my life and my pots.

This fair was a pretty steady stream of friends and relatives. It got pretty loud in back of my tent at times.

People were very nice and I had a steady business on Saturday. My friend Tom played his Irish bagpipes at the “Tea House” at 3 and we could hear him across the water.

Sunday was really unbelievably hot. Traffic and consequently sales were a lot slower although I still had some friends stop by; my mother in law was unable to walk that far in (we were at a point furthest from the entrance) and the staff cheerfully drove her over in a golf cart.

Another Sunday visitor was  Emily Murphy  and husband who lives very close by. We sat in the high heat and talked about kilns!  Hotter yet!

Finally it was time to  pack up and take down the tent. By the time I was done it was all I could to keep from jumping in the (very scummy looking) lake!

The fair is very well run, and I had a really lovely time!  And best of all, no high winds and shattered glass, no crazy people being taken away and no tornado sirens!

Posted 7 years, 5 months ago at 12:05 pm.

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Kohler Festival of the Arts

For some odd reason I’d hoped to get through this latest art fair without any dramatic incidents but of course that would not make for a good story!

We rented a trailer again- it’s really easy to load and then we have our own car the whole time.  The drive to Sheboygan was lovely.

This person travels heavy!

When we got there, there was ample space to just pull up and it was shady too.  We unloaded and then ate a picnic lunch right on our spot.  As we prepared to set up they decided they had to do some last minute mowing!

Set up is getting smoother as we become more practised and find short cuts and routines.

We had a really nice spot.  

As soon as we were done, we went right over to the Kohler Arts Center. The exhibits were excellent. Interesting, thought provoking and sophisticated.

Then there were the bathrooms.  Luckily our little group (my family)  had genders of both kinds and so got to give each other the “all clear” sign so we could view ALL the bathrooms (there were 4) Here is the main Men’s note that the mirrors are reflecting the other wall – all of it was AMAZING.

my favorite was this Women’s Bathroom.

And the other Men’s was also great.

it was all about water. Although that paisley pattern has a germy look.

Next we went out to eat at Il Ritorno- OMG!  The best pizza I’ve had in years!  Possibly ever! Also a great salad.  Sated, we went off to our hotel which has an attached water park and we all went on slides and inner tubes etc. until we were exhausted and saturated with chlorine.

The next morning dawned beautiful and sunny but I had a fairly slow day. At some point I left the husband in charge of my booth and walked around.  I was really impressed with all the great pottery. I now own some pieces by Michael Kahn of Greenbush, Mi. and also Ryan Myers (who won an award at this fair) of Mudhead Studio.

As soon as we packed up for the night (all the pots in boxes on the ground) we went over to the(  free)  Artists Buffet and Awards Dinner. This is the 40th anniversary of the Festival.  Chinese food, great salad and beer or wine; very nice.

Another winner was Sarah Chapman a fellow Lill denizen- a jeweller.

Back to the hotel where we had a walk on the beach and the kids did the water park again.  So far incident free, right? Everything going smoothly… BORING but smoothly.

The next morning we got all set up- we had the awnings down overnight because of possible wind- and right after we got all set up it rained on us pretty hard.

Unlike 57th Street, that didn’t scare the customers away for the day- they came out with the sun and I had a slow but steady day.

THEN with 45 mins left to the fair, while a volunteer was shopping in our booth, this HUGE TORNADO SIREN goes off. We were about a half a block from it

it was so loud it obliterated all thought and all my decision making functions in my brain shut down.  Should I take my kids to the nearest basement? Should I try to pack up my pots? Was it a REAL TORNADO?? What if it was just a strong wind? Kids would be okay but the pots could be detroyed…. but what if it was a REAL TORNADO? Then I didn’t care about the pots at all….. finally the sound stopped and my brain unfroze. The jeweller across the way who had already lost a tent that weekend (his wife was in Iowa at a different show and wind destroyed their better  tent) was packing up extremely rapidly – to put it mildly.

It looked to me as though the artists all decided, “okay, the customers are gone, it’s been a fair with lackluster profits* let’s just call it a day”

*let me just reiterate here- the fair itself was really really nice- well run, great art, lovely setting, good treatment, good music. These are just tough economic times.

So we all began to pack up.The sun actually came out again and everyone was pretty relaxed.

Amazingly, some customers did return only to find the things they’d been eying for several hours packed away.

Load out was easy, and we were headed home by 6.

Oh, and by the way, there WAS a tornado- north of us!


Posted 7 years, 6 months ago at 8:19 pm.

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The Krasl Art Fair

What an interesting fair in terms of what I learned and also rife with little incidents.

First of all, I decided to try using a trailer to haul my stuff to the fair.  I paid for a hitch to be installed on our poor old car and rented a U Haul 4×8 trailer.  The men at the U Haul seemed vastly more confident in my driving skill than I was.Really flattering picture, eh?

I picked it up Friday morning and drove it  without a hitch (haha!) to our house where a spot to load magically opened.

Everything fit in there with room to spare; darn, now I realize I didn’t take a photo!

As we drove off I noticed in my rear-view that the trailer has a sign on it- designed to be readable in my mirror- “Max Speed 45” !!

So there I am creeeping along the highway until I see some guy pulling the exact same trailer whiz past me at about 65 or 70!  So I went 60 with no problem after that.

We arrived in beautiful weather.

There is a certain air of quiet, hardworking, purposefulness when all the artists are setting up. It feels good to be part of that.

While we were setting up some guy sunnily walked through singing very badly at the top of his lungs.  Pretty harmless.

Our spot on the bluff overlooks a brand new fountain. We knew they were building one last year but we had no idea it was an interactive fountain!  My son could barely contain his excitement enough to help us set up and then we let him go down there where he stayed for nearly 2 hours! Every 20 minutes or so, the “big cannons” go off.

We also have two friends from Argentina in the fair. Last year, I noticed Marisa Rufino’s  paintings and sent my husband down to check them out and he came back very excited saying they were from Argentina, up here for about a month to do a bunch of art fairs and could they stay at our house?

So they are back. Her partner, Daniel Belloli makes these incredible sun dials so they were both in the fair this year. This is their web site:  http://www.artejuela.com.ar/

The next morning as I was setting out my pots, I could hear some guy just yelling. I thought maybe it was our singer from the evening before but pretty soon word began to spread. The guy had been asked to leave and was completely out of his gourd. First the police tried pepper spray and then finally they had to use a tazer- neither of which had any effect at all! As I went to change clothes at the hotel,  I saw 4 of St. Joseph’s finest really struggling to get him into the squad car. He was alternately yelling “I love you!” followed closely by vicious swearing. I just kept walking feeling grateful this happened before the fair opened!  By the time I emerged, the squad car was gone with the guy in it.

It was a beautiful day and people were very appreciative. This fair is the best run fair I’ve ever been in and they treat the artists wonderfully. I love being here.

My son and husband went off to ride the new carousel and check out the museum and fountain (again).

Sunday was another lovely day

and I had several customers who had bought things from me last year. It’s always so wonderful to hear how people are living with my pottery and if they like it.

I guess the reason I make mugs is because it is an object so many people take away from the table, cradle, hold, sip from, and start their day with.  I can’t tell you how much pleasure I get from hearing people say, “I start my day with your mug every morning”  or “ I love my mug!”

Late in the afternoon we had yet another small incident when I heard one of the artists nearby chide a tourist – who had been bad mouthing Obama- “you’re not a very good Christian” at which point the tourist came at him very aggressively and the tourist’s wife had to physically drag him away while he raged that he had been called a  “bad christian”.

This unpleasantness was completely erased by the pleasantness of all the other fairgoers who cheerfully walked the length of the fair in the hot sun buying art and chatting with the artists.

Our take-down is getting better and more organized but we did have to stop and go get the trailer which kind of slowed our momentum. I tried backing it in but at some point, with traffic backing up I started yelling “just unhook it and we’ll push it by hand!!” which is what we did and that worked just great. The 4X8 is easy to manouver by hand when it’s empty.

We had a a celebratory dinner with Dani and Marisa and slept well at the hotel. The next day we went blueberry picking and had a picnic lunch at the beach nearby.  A perfect weekend!

Posted 7 years, 6 months ago at 7:18 pm.

1 comment

57th St. Art Fair- How it went.

That was SOME FAIR- unfortunately I don’t mean I sold out or anything like that. We had a lot of dramatic WEATHER with dramatic results.

Overall I felt we were pretty lucky …until the end.

I was mostly worried about the morning load in. We purchased this hand truck (the R10) just in case we weren’t able to drive to our spot.  It’s a great item, recommended by our good friend Judy who was also in the fair. She is pretty much my go-to gal for Art Fair tips. She’s been in the biz for 20 years and can take down her tent before you can say “Jumping Jehosaphat!”

But I digress.

We were in the “alley” behind the school and were able to drive to our spot…. if we were stunt drivers! Inching through other artists’ vans and trailers we finally got close enough to unload. Then we left our 10 year old to guard everything while we went off to parallel park in the streets of Hyde Park. There were rumors of an artist parking lot- attested to by our neighboring artist but hotly denied by one volunteer manning a street barrier.

After my husband helped me maneuver the UHaul cargo van into a parking spot we walked back and began to set up.  The sky got darker and darker.

After we got the tent erected and had even put a tarp from the back of our tent over the fence behind us to make a kind of back tent area-

(you can see the moisture on the ground)

and after we got everything assembled and inside, it POURED.

We were dry and protected.  So I felt lucky.

Then, magically, at 11 when the fair opened, it stopped raining!

Unfortunately the damage was done, we had pretty low traffic that day.

I also felt lucky that both of the artists on either side of our tent didn’t show up! We could open our walls up and have a lot more visibility.

So we spent some of the time getting to know our nearest neighbor, a beautiful young woman who makes incredible glass and metal sculptures.

I was really happy to see so many of my friends who came to visit and look at my whole set up. It was the absolute best part of the fair for me.

Near the end of the day, rumors of high winds went from booth to booth. We passed on the information and my husband began strapping down the tent to the fence in back and doubling up our 40 lb. sandbags to the front poles.

At the end of the day I took everything down and packed it into the boxes and put them all on the ground- no stacking of boxes. This is pretty much standard procedure. Then we zipped up the tent and drove the UHaul home.

I was asleep by 9:30.

Sunday dawned absolutely clear and cool- none of the steaming humidity that made us all sticky the day before. It was going to be a great day!

We parked and walked the 4 blocks to our tent, passing our glass sculpture neighbor’s tent and were horrified to see shards of broken glass spilling out from under her tent.  High winds had blown her tent into her display and knocked down a lot of it on one side. Many pieces were irretrievably broken.

We opened our tent to find that indeed, high winds had knocked our shelves down but nothing was damaged. We  put the shelves back up and began to set out the work. When our neighbor arrived she was devastated.  The entire artist community felt terrible. Everyone wanted to help. A fellow glass artist came and helped her sweep up the carnage. There was an outpouring of sympathy and support for her.

Being the amazing person that she is, she rallied from losing perhaps one third to half her inventory and within an hour, her booth looked amazing again.

We had a lot more traffic on Sunday, more friends stopped by and I had a fairly steady stream of customers.

After the example of what wind could do (of course rain doesn’t hurt my work!) I was very skittish every time there was a gust; but the wind only blew over a vase that had flowers in it – the flowers made it top heavy- and the vase didn’t break (because my work is sturdy!)

There was a sudden cloudburst and all the fairgoers simply dashed into the nearest tent. It was kind of fun to “host” a small group of people during the short shower.

At the end of the day we had to take everything down before we could get a ticket to drive in and load up. We felt pretty good because we had packed up in about an hour or so- everything was stacked and ready to go but when I pulled in I was unable to park and there was probably 15 minutes of screwing around and waiting for various people to move their vehicles before I could finally pull up.

And then, KASPLOOSH!  A deluge!  Now we’re throwing our shelves in (they can’t get wet- the POTTERY can get wet, but not the shelves!!) helter skelter and trying not to swear at eachother. In retrospect, we had a tarp there – we should have just covered everything and waited a bit.

When we got home and unloaded we were utterly exhausted; my darling 10 year old son wiped off every shelf bless him! And we used that hand truck and it was great!

I am really looking forward to the Krasl.

Posted 7 years, 7 months ago at 7:30 pm.

3 comments

Powderhorn Park Art Fair

This wonderful Fair is located in Minneapolis with the emphasis on Local Artists.

http://www.powderhornartfair.com/

Posted 7 years, 8 months ago at 8:45 pm.

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