Monday, April 20, 2009

Mixed Up Media

I was following this boat through the foggy Tennessee hills between Knoxville and Chattanooga. The boat-on-a-highway theme was fitting -- I probably only travelled 20 minutes of an 11 hour trip without being in a fairly driving rain. The roads home were waterways.

Of course, I missed the dogs -- Breeze and Ariel -- and when I saw the name on the boat, I couldn't suppress a big grin.

But the odd coincidence of boat/dog names was only the finishing touch to a rather miraculous weekend. Miraculous, because I was witness to some incredibly strange phenomena at the weekend's art fair where I was set up to sell my pots

1. First (and probably the strangest) phenomenon:

There are a couple of Biblical miracles that came to mind as I watched the incredible -- the supernatural -- unfold before my very eyes. The Book of II Chronicles tells of the prophet Elijah spending some time living with a very poor widow and her son. During the time of Elijah's stay, he watched God's amazing providence as the widow's bottle of cooking oil never emptied. Every time she needed the oil to cook something, she poured it from the cruet and, sure enough, there was always more oil for her to pour out.

Later, in the Book of Matthew, Jesus asked a young boy for his couple of loaves of bread and a few fish and then proceeded to not only feed a crowd of 5,000 people, he actually ended up with baskets of bread and fish left over.

Such was the nature of the miracle I witnessed as the artist (set up right next to me all weekend) who won the top prize in the oil painting category sold thousands and thousands of dollars worth of merchandise over the weekend.....and yet not one oil painting! Shocking, indeed.

The cynics among us might point to the 25-plus plastic bins that spanned the space from the right hand side of her booth to more than half the distance to my booth (we both having paid extra for corner booths) -- the bins all labeled on the outside for easy access and recall as to the contents so as to waste the least amount of time while restocking -- as having come correllation to the artist's financial success and multiple sales. Pointing to those bins, those cynics might claim that this oil painter was selling something. To those cynics I can only tell you, "You must be wrong, because...

1. The show's rules expressly stated -- in no uncertain terms -- that every artist, in every part of the park, had to make sure that their entire art fair presence was confined entirely within their 10' X 10' booth space. That meant ---again, in no uncertain terms -- that nobody was allowed to use the grassy area behind them, nor any paved area beside them (but not within their 10' X 10' allowance) to store extra inventory.

Because these rules were stated so expressly in the artist packets (that were emailed to us months in advance of the art fair), I can only tell you that the scientist/rationalist in me can only conclude that the 25 plastic bins, clearly labeled for convenient access and restocking, must have been a figment of the imaginations of the passersby -- a figment brought on (no doubt) by the mass hysteria of our age.

Besides, this was (as I previously stated) an Oil Painter. Thus, even if those plastic bins, clearly labeled for convenient access and restocking, were somehow not a figment of collective imagination, they couldn't have been oil paintings....could they? Does one store stretched canvas in plastic bins? Surely this is just one more piece of evidence, indicating that those bins did not actually exist. So I think it's safe for me to conclude that the miracle of the event -- The Immaculate Sales of the Art Fair Oil Painting Artist -- stands.

2. Possibly not quite as shockingly miraculous as the first
phenomenon, but strange, nonetheless...

I saw not just one but TWO potters who were capable of throwing shallow bowls that were so perfectly uniform that, not only did they stack perfectly, but they could be held either rim-to-rim OR foot-to-foot and there wasn't a micron's difference in diameter from top to bottom!

When craftsmanship reaches that level of perfection, the cynic sometimes questions whether some sort of machinery -- some sort of technology -- has crept into the art fair scene. Those cynics might question whether or not those bowls were actually made by hand.

But I can assure you with the same certainty borne of having read the artist's packet of information, rules, and the show's prospectus, that ALL the work in the show was hand done work. Knowing the rules helps when trying to decide whether something is hand done or mass-produced by technology or machinery. If the rules state that things must be made by hand, rest assured -- they will be made by hand.

Besides, the bowls in question had those distinctive rings that one can only achieve by throwing clay on a potter's wheel. If that fact is not a nail in the cynic's coffin, I don't know what it must take to convince them.

Perhaps those cynics are just beyond hope.

Oh, here's what my booth looked like this weekend. If I hadn't been the guy taking the picture, you'd have seen me standing behind the counter, big 'ol smile on my face...

1 comment:

  1. Good Blog Brother John.

    Rules are easy to flaunt when it is common knowledge that they will not be enforced.
    We have spent our careers promoting the value of handcrafted art and craft. That effort has been undermined by the situation you describe.
    Do people know that they are not buying art but buying pictures of art?

    At least the customers who bought mass produced pottery took home pottery.