Gridlocked cars and trailers, the sound of clanking metal bars hitting the ground, bins and bins of work being unloaded, yes, it is show time! For artists, as much time goes into creating our booth as the artwork and is our gallery that we put up and take down every weekend. When the show opens the public sees rows of gleaming white tents with wonderful art and cheerful artists. However, only hours before, the site was cluttered with vehicles and artists working feverishly to get their booths ready for the opening of the show. It always makes me giggle to hear the couples that have been doing the shows for years bickering about you are not doing it right! Somehow they have stayed married through the trials and tribulations of show life.Then there are the artists that go about setting up their booth like a well oiled machine making it look effortless. And there are also many women who do the shows by themselves because either they found it easier to do without their spouse, or find it faster to do alone (no one to tell me I'm not doing it right except myself!)
An average booth takes several hours to set up including the tent, walls, displays, and then of course our work. Sometimes set up is easy, but there can be unforeseen challenges.I once got to a show site and when I asked where my space was located the person pointed to the top of a hill. It required that I push my handtruck through the wet grass and halfway up I would lose part of my load and have to go back to retrieve pieces lost on the way. One would think that tear down would be easier, but going down the hill was like being on a luge track and one miscalculated turn sent things flying. I now have an impressive collection of bungee cords just for these situations. An artist who does the show circuit has to have stamina, good organizational skills, patience, a sense of humor, and a well stocked tool box. One never knows what they will encounter like a tree that grew since last year and is hitting your tent top, a sloping space that no amount of shims and boards will correct, finding that the two tents on either side of your space set up before you and left 9 ft to get your 10x10 tent into, and getting to the show at your designated set up time the night before with no way to get to your space because of a major gridlock and having to return at 6am to set up. I also quickly found that if you are located in the street and it rains, the river of water has to run through your booth to get to the curb. Nothing you can do about that! And then there is the unexpected flat tire and having to call someone to come and get you and the phone conversation includes did I mention I have a tent and my displays!
When I worked in an office I took for granted the things I now call luxuries including indoor plumbing, running water, the snack machine, and the ability to take a lunch break. Now I am grateful when offered free coffee, water, and a donut and I don't need a gym membership since I workout several hours every weekend. I work with an amazing and talented group of artists and my clients are the best!So next time you attend an art fair, think about what it looked like just a few hours before the show. It is amazing that it all comes together and we stand in our galleries smiling and talking about our work and ignoring the soar muscles and aching back. Once the public arrives, we seem to forget all the work that went into setting up our booths. We are now in our element and eager to greet returning customers and meet new ones.Then it is the process in reverse and we pack up to get ready for the next show.