I bought a tent. I followed the newspaper sale flyer to Sports Authority and I bought a forest green, 10'x10', true 100 sq/foot area tent, complete with a carrying case on wheels. It weighs about 20 lbs, is about 4 feet long all packed up and I can pull it behind me more easily than a cheap suitcase thru the airport. I was also saved the time of ripping off my compadre's cleaver weight system when I spotted 4 weighted feet for less than 100 bucks. (They look like 5lb barbell weights with notches cut out of them to fit around the legs of the tent) WooHoo! $240.00 and I felt like I was half-way to nailing my goal of a craft fair. A tall, strapping girl who didn't want any of the male employees to think she was a sissy, helped me out to the car and loaded me up (she reminded me of myself). We shook hands and off I went. I was becoming an artist out of cyberspace. The alien had landed.
I got home, propped the boxes up against the garage wall and went into the house. I immediately went to the laptop and clicked into the application for the Nyack Street Fair in October and typically found the pebble in the road that I would allow myself to trip over for a couple of weeks. They want pictures of my setup and my tent isn't even out of the box yet. Shit.
Alright, keep it moving, keep it flowing. One step at a time. Break it down. The main table. I need to design the main table and take a trial run at the setup and display design. I had the little tole suitcases I had picked up at my local pharmacy/gift shop for an ultimate markdown price. I had the large metal daisies designed to hold photos in its cute little curlicue tendrils but I was going to hang jewelry on instead. I had my beloved Nell, the mannequin I had bought online that looked like a French coquette to model a few key items for me. And I had loads of table cloths and vintage fabrics to drape for luxury. I looked around the house for a place to set up the table and begin working. The kitchen? Nope. Between the cooking and eating thing, there were the plants and the dogs and all of my son's cords and papers and Cd's and other garbage that he annoyingly just drops on the kitchen table when he comes in. It didn't feel like the path of least resistance. Where would all that clutter end up if I take over this space? Okay. The Living Room? No, not the "pretty room" My studio? I can't cram one more activity or storage area in that already exploding space. The garage? I could park one of the cars on the driveway for a few days. No, that car would be up and down the driveway so that my son and his bros could play basketball every 10 minutes. The dining room. Move that buffet out of the bay window and cram it into a corner of the living room and I'll have a place to work. Done.
I get the table set up, start bringing things up from the studio and in a day or so I had a table that I could live with. (Bear in mind, I tend toward neurotic perfectionism so "I can live with it" is a good thing). The next step was to set up the tent in the driveway and replicate what my tent would look like in a show presentation. My husband assured me we would make time over the weekend for me to set up and take all the pictures I needed. A couple of the fairs were not accepting jewelry so I also needed to take some shots with furniture and mosaics only. Good enough.
Like many places in the world right now, we have been having some freakishly uncomfortable weather here in the beautiful state of New York so I began to track the weather reports for the upcoming weekend. As we got closer it became clear that Saturday and Sunday were going to bring oppressive humidity, unbreathable air and temperatures hot enough to bake the peach pie on the deck that I was going to make with the farmer's market fruit I had just purchased. That will be fun. Dragging all that stuff out to the driveway, dripping sweat and trying not to get into a fight with my husband about how he doesn't know how to zhuzh a tablecloth. Yep. That's what I call ideal conditions . I took solice in the fact that we were not living in the upper parts of Siberia where people who are accustomed to temperatures of -90 degrees are freaking out over the 90 plus temperatures that are causing their potato fields to spontaneously combust! (Don't anyone panic. There is no climate change or global warming going on.)
Lucky for us it rained all weekend but I still had no pictures and the clock was ticking on those applications. Around Wednesday I got a call from the Events Producer for our Suffern Farmers Market asking me if I knew any artists that worked with recycled materials as she was trying to put a last minute event together featuring local artist/recyclers. My mind raced. Dare I tell her? Can I do it? Am I setting myself up for a disaster. A nervous breakdown? Is this another one of my self-sabotage moves to beat the crap out of my confidence by not doing well? "Well, as a matter of fact, that is exactly what I do", I heard myself say to Alex. "Really!? Would you be willing to do it? I know it's short notice but you'd really be doing me a favor." "Sure", I said as my stomach tightened and I felt a twinge of migraine grabbing my left temple. "Yeah, I'll do it". "Great! See you at 7:30 on Saturday". "Okay. 7:30."
I don't even need to comment on the 7:30 thing. But I had just said yes to stepping over the line from the private vacuum of cyberspace to the bright, people populated realm of an open market. This moment felt exactly like the moment I had had last summer as I hit that button on the Etsy site that launched my NellsBells Etsy and put my work on public view. Now, I was crossing the threshold from how many hits Google calculated I got on any given day to actual face-to-face responses to the "Flights of Fancy" I toil over day in and day out. I was going to know, for certain, by looking at people, how they really felt about the work that I hold so dear to my heart. Holy shit. It was a worse feeling than the first day of school.
Being the engineer's daughter that I am, I packed my stuff in a very organized and calculating manner including how it was placed in the back of the car so that the tent, then the table, then the the cloths came out first so that the set up was done in order of need. I raced around putting together last minute necessities like signage, order forms and a change bank. I went to bed that night ready to get up, get dressed and pull out of the driveway. May I tell you, it was a fitful sleep at best.
When I woke up that morning and opened the back door to let the dogs out I almost dropped to my knees and wept - in gratitude. It was a crisp, breezy morning with one of those cornflower blue skies that only New York has. It was about 70 degrees with a cooling breeze that was strong enough to ruffle your skirt but not powerful to blow your tent over. By golly, it was a perfect day! Woohoo for me! I am actually going to enjoy being outside today!
At 7:25am (we live about 2 miles from this market - another plus for a training wheel venture) my husband and I pulled out of the driveway, arrived at the site, parked the car and I was set up and in my soccer-mom chair enjoying a home brewed cup of french press coffee in about 20 minutes. Honest to god, it was one of the most serene moments of my life. I felt like I had crossed the Mojave desert and was now lounging by a fresh water stream feeling satisfied at my survival.
The people began to arrive. Mind you, they were there to buy food for the week, not a necklace or a house number. Yet as people passed they would smile at my little NellsBelles universe. Many of them stopped in to browse and they enjoyed the stories I told them of the genesis of the vintage jewelery components of my work and asked me to tell them the stories of the pieces they liked. Some even recognized the folk art roots of some of my less understood pieces and loved that I was crafting in that tradition (Memento Morie, a Victorian practice of creating death art which includes hair jewelry, death portraits and Victorian Memory Jars which I create.) The young 20somethings were drawn to the more fun pieces like the Betty Boop bracelet and the Eyes on the Top of Her Head headbands, just as I had anticipated. The middle aged funksters loved the vintage compositions on the biker chains. Men liked the daintier vintage pieces and a couple of them bought something for their wives for a "just because" gift. (Yes, you heard me. I actually made some sales!) I got orders for a couple of house numbers, one for a woman who was returning to her home in the Bahamas the next day and was looking for a number for the post at her front gate.
All in all, I was a chatting, charming fool and for anyone that really knows me, that is no mean feat. I felt comfortable and in my element. It was never stressful, I never felt anxious (not even when one of my daisy displays blew over and sent about 5 necklaces skidding across the pavement). I felt at home. I felt like myself. My real self. It was quite simply, a joyful experience.