Art Fairs and Car Repairs

Sometimes the biggest obstacles are internal; as in internal combustion. Our well-traveled vehicle gave us great service and no surprises on the trip to Chicago and back over Christmas. Such is the case with aging autos that recent history provides no guarantees for future performance as our second major trip began less auspiciously. We left San Miguel for Florida in the early morning darkness and began to notice the windows fogging up, a problem that was eventually diagnosed as being related to a failing water pump. In between San Miguel de Allende and the border at McAllen, Texas we spent some quality time with two mechanicos who helped stitch the old Toyota Rav4 together with various temporary rigs (some of which may have included actual bailing wire) just to get us to Los Estados Unidos. We spent an extra night in Monterrey at a sweet little fleabag while we weighed our options after enduring a second rig job by the highway. The trick for these guys is to get you moving again as quickly as possible with the best fix they can devise, after siphoning off as many pesos as possible from their grateful unfortunates. I shouldn’t sound ungrateful since they are extremely resourceful and without them we’d probably still be broken down by some Mexican highway. By Monterrey we were zeroing in on the water pump issue after a few wrong turns down thermostat and head gasket dead end lanes. With the previous rigs in place we only had a small leak to managed by packing extra water and stopping every hour or two to cool down and refill the radiator. In that fashion we finally limped across the border into Texas. The car spent about 28 hours in the Toyota dealer’s shop in McAllen where we had them fix the water pump and change the timing belt, which was about 40,000 miles overdue for replacement.
The “Golden Crunches” along the Gulf Coast

The “Golden Crunches” along the Gulf Coast

We left McAllen, miraculously just a day behind schedule. Driving through part of Katrina country we saw plenty of twisted and broken trees, and blue tarps covering roofs still in need of repair. The commercial property came back the quickest of course but there were still many tall blown-out signs visible from the highway. Remarkably normal though, considering the magnitude of the disaster and the fact that this monster storm ripped through here just six months ago. The causeway bridge at Pensacola east bound on I-10 is in the process of being replaced and we inched along across the old, patched up structure. Our Super 8 in Baton Rouge was still pretty trashed out, not from the storm directly but instead from the refugees who crowded into these rooms and made a provisional life here for quite a while. That whole place may need a gut rehab after the punishment it took from being a full-time family housing facility for five-plus months. There were even some displaced people still living there in the process of sorting out their lives.
Stefanie’s watercolors on display at Ft. Pierce, Florida

Stefanie’s watercolors on display at Ft. Pierce, Florida

After another overnight in Tallahassee we drove down to Sarasota for the first art fair where I got to hang my batiks on our newly fashioned display panels for the first public showing. Stefanie and I began the first of many discussions we would share over the course of the next four weeks regarding the look of our display. We were very pleased with the panels themselves, crafted in Mexico as a team project between a local metal fabricator and us. We got lots of compliments from other artists who were curious to know where we got them. The other features of the overall presentation will be refined over time, adding nice name plaques, sign banners outside the tent, maybe even some accent fabric to add color and a friendly softness. All in good time of course. This trip was the great shakedown cruise though Florida, to “learn by doing,” to see what worked and what needs to be improved.
…she didn’t have to wait long for the crowd

…she didn’t have to wait long for the crowd

As for the show itself, it actually turned out well for me. We talked with many people who were fascinated with my approach to batik-making. Many of the guests who came in to chat were exceptionally knowledgeable about the batik process and art in general, really a sophisticated art fair crowd. At the very end of the show on Sunday a couple came back for a second look at my “Market Watch” batik. She wanted to know more about how to care for the piece and, since it is not framed with glass, how it would fare. I reassured her that it would not be a problem; I told her to keep it out of direct sunlight, and that it was treated with water-resistant spray so any accidental moisture would just roll off. She said she really loved it and her husband said, “Take it down!” Of course I was tickled to hear that since it amounted to my biggest single sale ever at $2,200. In the process of wrapping it up and completing the credit card transaction I asked what they did for a living and he said he was a “storm chaser’, working at construction contracting in the hurricane corridor along the Gulf coast. While we initially had concerns about the amount of discretionary funds available for art purchases due to all the hurricanes, that sort of turned it on its head. Depends on which end of the stick you sit I guess. By now “Market Watch” is probably well settled into its new Victorian home in Alabama.
A Lesser Blue Heron goes after lunch near the shore

A Lesser Blue Heron goes after lunch near the shore

That was the major highlight of my two art fairs since the second show in Tampa provided absolutely no sales. I met another painter named David in Sarasota; he also showed his work at the same Tampa art fair. He offered good counsel for me with tips on improving various aspects of my presentation. He told me that the no-sale shows (called “zeros” on the circuit) come with the territory and over time you begin to sort out the promising shows from the not so promising. The goal, of course, is to have more of the former than the latter. Ultimately, it’s all a crapshoot since it all falls to the luck of the draw and a profitable show one year can be a bust the next. A sculptor in the booth next to us in Sarasota said that after ten years doing these fairs he was still trying to figure it all out.
A White Ibis in a high perch at Ding Darling

A White Ibis in a high perch at Ding Darling

Stefanie’s shows in Marco Island, Fort Pierce and Holmes Beach garnered some sales and she sold her beautiful watercolor “La Maceta” to a lady who teaches with her sister. That piece has been a favorite of mine since she created it. I told the buyer quite sincerely that she has excellent taste because I really think it is one of Stefanie’s best pieces.
Two Great Blue Herons look to filch fish on the beach at Captiva

Two Great Blue Herons look to filch fish on the beach at Captiva

So, our first spin through the Florida art fair circuit is over. Our relatives in Ft. Myers were gracious and generous hosts for us in the days between shows. The weather was spectacular with no rain and very little wind (the bane of Florida art fairs). Our little art fair travel kit held up well and with some small repairs will be ready to go in the fall. We even got in some quality wildlife viewing time with a memorable day spent on Sanibel Island viewing various critters at the spectacular wetlands reserve called Ding Darling.

We’ve returned to our casita in San Miguel now, seeking forgiveness from our emotionally starved kitty cat, getting on with the next phase of our lives here. That will include some long hours happily creating more art, completing our small house on our land in Alcocer, and attuning our senses more acutely to this life we have in Mexico.

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