Diary of a (Mad) Craft Show Artist

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Normandy invasion, officially known as Operation Overlord, but popularly known as D-Day. On June 6th, 1944, the long-awaited offensive began in what may well have been the most meticulously planned and well thought out operation in history. There were, of course, some glitches, mistakes and moments of abject terror; but, in the end, with luck and a lot of prayer added to the supply list, the invasion succeeded.

The ‘D’ in D-Day simply stood for Day, meaning the day of the actual landings. The days leading up to D-Day were numbered in descending order…hence, June 1st was D minus 5. In the decades that have followed, the term “D-Day” has become synonymous with any massive operation including lots of moving parts, logistical challenges, and larger-than-life personalities.

And so, I declare today to be D Minus 42…..42 days until artists from all over the USA invade Evanston, Illinois, creating a barrage of beauty and a hail of fine craftsmanship as they land on the shores of Lake Michigan….or, actually, the parking lot.

ACE Artist Michael Scarborough

ACE Artist Michael Scarborough

Like Gen. Eisenhower, I, for one, can say that I have planned meticulously, thought out and created what I hope are excellent examples of fine craft, and predict that the remaining six weeks before the ACE show will be flawless, with nary a tremor of a nervous hand or a voice raised in frustration. There will be no last minute agita!

Oh……really?

OK…so maybe a little anxiety may creep in. A tad, at most.

Yeah….uh huh.

Fact is, it’s an understatement to say that a lot goes into preparing for, getting to, setting up and existing at a fine craft show for a long weekend. And, if for some reason, things are not going well, the weekend can be excruciatingly long and the trip home, even longer.

For most seasoned show artists, the preparation and set-up for a show are pretty similar from one venue to another. One variable, however, is the method of getting one’s self and one’s art to the event. Depending on the distance from home, the choice is whether to drive or to ship the art work to the show site. As we live in NYC, we usually drive to shows in Philly, Boston, Baltimore and D.C. Packing the tables, lighting, chairs, suitcases, etc., etc., etc., (and, oh yes, the art!), into, and onto, a Subaru is always a challenge which must be undertaken with the greatest care, especially with the items in the car top carrier. And, of course, an artist must pack the top of the car with especial attention to aesthetics. A clean and streamlined silhouette is a must; the Beverly Hillbillies look should be avoided at all costs.

Shipping the art to the show, on the other hand, allows one a comfortable two-week period to relax before a show. That would normally be the most hectic period of preparation, when one wishes one were two. But, if the pieces have been shipped off, they can no longer be worked on, said artist need not run around tearing his hair out (assuming he is not bald already), finding, and re-finding, things that need touching up. It really pays not to be OCD at times like these. Of course, during this fortnight, the term carry-on baggage is oft invoked and, inevitably, a piece that didn’t make it onto the truck headed West, finds itself traveling in the overhead compartment of an airplane, hopefully in an upright and locked position.

So, the clock is ticking, and we have not yet decided if we are driving or shipping to Evanston. It’s a choice between emptying the wallet for shipping, or sitting on the wallet for two days of driving through verdant and bucolic mid-west countryside. (I know which one sounds more aesthetically pleasing.)

Regardless of mode of transport, I can assure you, dear reader, that the time remaining, inspired by Operation Overlord, will be “the most meticulously planned and well thought out operation in history.”

Yeah. Sure.

(Actually, if past show preps are any indication, it will be more like Operation OhMyLord!”)

A special thank you to ACE artist Michael Scarborough for this guest post.

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