Sunday, May 23, 2010

On the Road with Dreamweaver and other Musings

It's been a long time since I've written in this blog. To catch up, on fast forward, Cameron and I have both graduated. Cameron's applying to grad school school, but is temporarily in a holding pattern. I am officially done, but graduation isn't until August. Since student loads have paid mortgage and lot rent for three and a half years, and we didn't expect the lag time for Cameron's acceptance into grad school, we've been suddenly thrust into overdrive. 

So in addition to working full time and finishing grad school, I've been devoting every spare moment to jewelry making. I work 5 am to 1 pm, Monday through Friday with occasional three hour stints early Saturday mornings. So I would get off work after trying to work in homework where I could, and rush home to the studio. The result has been amazing. I've done great work, if I do say so myself, and have had a wonderful time at various venues showing off. I created wonderful puzzle piece necklaces, inspired by a dream, and thought they would be perfect for Murrell's Inlet. But since I'm so far behind blogging, I'll start with the Myrtle Beach trip several weeks ago.

Immediately following Cameron's extremely successful senior show (he sold a fabulous painting for $1,000!), we went to the Blessing of the Inlet at Murrell's Inlet in the Myrtle Beach area. We had a wonderful time there, learned a lot, and met terrific people. We had been very excited about this opportunity to vend. Last winter, Cameron found the ad in a local paper looking for artists/craftsmen. The first rule was that all items had to be hand crafted by the exhibitor. No reselling of items, representing someone else's work, no kits, etc. Since I not only design jewelry but create much of it from polymer clay, I was certain I would be successful. I submitted a portfolio and was accepted. When we arrived I was surprised by the number of jewelry vendors, since the application stated people would be turned down if too many representatives of any one type of item applied. Nevertheless, I liked the vendors surrounding us, especially Carol from Connecticut who vends gorgeous dichrolic glass. 

Shortly after the festival began, I sent Cameron out to case the competition. He came back rather alarmed at the breach of the clearly specified rules. Cameron stated that a group of four had ten tables and three tents in the center of entrance. As soon as patrons approached, they saw this booth of Murano style glass pendants. No decoration to the tents. Just poster board prices, ribbons, and glass. Cameron even walked up and asked which of them was the artist an the lady just kind of sputtered. Another woman overhead, and walked over bold as brass, proclaiming, "Both of us." Since I have a couple of identical pieces beaded into necklaces on my table, we all know she lied.

My neighbor Carol didn't sell a thing all day. She said she's vended for 22 years and never had that experience before. I sold three necklaces, only earning the cost of the festival (add camping for two days and gas money and I lost $200). Turns out, the pendant people had been in my very spot last year and were the only ones to have a successful day. (Carol and several others were new to the festival, like me). The hosts are aware, but tolerate the fiction in order to fill vending spaces. Carol told me that up until 5-10 years ago, vending was extremely lucrative. If you spent $30 for a spot, you averaged $300 in profit. As costs have increased, standards have decreased. Rules are ignored to fill spaces as older vendors stop vending. Newer folks making smaller profits and sometimes break the rules to be able to come out ahead.

Certainly, many festival do enforce their rules. But smaller ones, maybe not. The more I talk with other vendors, the more I hear about declining income, desperation, and necessity. I knew I to get a new plan...more on that in the next blog. Despite our bitter disappointment, we still had a lot of fun. The day was beautiful, the smell of salt water enticing. We had a steady breeze and later I used a napkin to wipe my face -- it came awake entirely blackened! Silt was everywhere. The music on stage was also off key all day. A comment form passed to the vendors became my opportunity to clearly explain why I wold not be back. But we stayed cheerful, had a wonderful fish dinner at the local eatery, and spent the next morning sitting on the beach.

The following day we headed to Brookgreen Gardens, a treat we have discussed for years. As an English Major with a minor in Art History, I discovered a little known sculptor by the name of Paul Manship. I wrote several papers on his work having seen it in the Dixon Art Gallery in Memphis, TN. Many years ago I told Cameron about him, and he was enchanted. I shared by museum book of his work, and he was stunned. He had seen several of Manship's work, those marked location unknown, in Brookgreen! 

There are no words for the wonder of the experience of Brookgreen Gardens. We arrived at the height of the spring flowers. The walk around the gardens, the heady scent of spring blooms, and the wonder of the art soothed our much wounded souls. I hadn't sold a single puzzle piece necklace, although I must have head a hundred compliments on them, and was bitterly disappointed. As I stood beneath Manship's sundial, I cried in wonder. It had stood at the gates of the 1939 World's Fair and was considered to be the world's largest sundial. 

Then we found the piece from the cover of the gallery book I had shared with Cameron, and I gaped. Diana about to turn the pursuing man into a stag. The detail was staggering. The enameled eyes Manship was famous for still glisten at the viewer with hidden knowledge. Every moment of the trip suddenly was worth that moment of standing in the hot sun, gazing at the works of a man who had inspired by my love of art history.