The storm roared outside. Wind gusts flapped the side walls and rattled the roof rafters. Our tent was being pelted by nickel-sized hail and flooded by two inches of cloud-burst rain. We had not been able to close the tent’s roof vents, nor were we able to zip up the side walls, so rain was now spraying onto the artwork inside. Scrambling to protect the watercolor paintings hanging from the display panels, Betsy and I worked frantically to unfurl a large piece of clear plastic and to hopefully cover everything of value inside the tent. It wasn’t until later that we recalled we were laughing the entire time.
It was Day 1.
The 2018 American Artisan Festival was a ton of fun, despite some challenging weather conditions. Despite the heat, humidity and occasional hailstorm, the crowds were steady, and very thankfully, many of those who attended stopped by my tent to view my displayed artwork.
As always, I enjoyed the heck out of meeting with people, including many of my fellow vendors. While I’d hardly call myself an art show veteran, I’ve done enough of these festivals to know a sense of community quickly emerges as the tents are erected and displays are completed. Everyone helps one another, offers support and certainly shares ideas. Each artist wants to have a successful show, but we're always rooting for the other artists, too.
Over the three day festival, I had plenty of chances to meet new admirers of my work, and even sold a few paintings/prints along the way. Even though I’ve been at this for a while, there’s a wave of emotions that come with each sale. It’s equal parts flattery, elation, honor and maybe a little embarrassment. I sell my work because people have thankfully expressed interest in my art, and I’m always glad to see someone else happy … especially if I can “make” them happy through one of my creations. The honor comes from the understanding that someone has connected so much with a painting that they want to take it and hang it — and hopefully admire it — in their home. That’s actually a gift to me that keeps on giving. The embarrassing part comes from the transaction itself. Even though I’m now used to taking payment for my work, there’s a counterbalance of mild incredulity. That might be too strong a word, but maybe it keeps me grounded. After all, you can never ever take for granted that someone will like a painting enough to buy it.
The prevailing subject matter of my work always reels in more than few fellow fishermen and fisherwomen. It was the same deal at the American Artisan Festival, and I had plenty of opportunities to trade fish stories or to talk about some of the species presented in my paintings with a wide variety of interested anglers.
Throughout the show, the weather kept throwing haymakers, as the heat indices rocketed each morning, and the afternoons bursted forth some truly impressive storms. Even when strafed with hail, all of the artists rallied and endured the mad scramble to protect wares and to hold on from being blown away.
After each deluge, when we peeked out from our tents and soggily emerged into the gathering heat, we’d smile or nod at nearby vendors, unzip the tent walls and get back to business. And, each time, welcoming us back was a rainbow in the east and at least the temporary promise of clearing weather.
Thanks to everyone who attended and stopped by my booth, thanks to Samantha and the American Artisan Festival volunteers for putting on a good show, and special thanks to Betsy, who stuck with me through the entirety of the festival. There are a lot of definitions for true love, but there should be special consideration for spending four incredibly hot days in a tent with a sweaty husband. Love ya, Bets.