This time of year, I get a little distracted from writing. It’s August, and the third weekend of every August is the annual Poulsbo Arts Festival, where my sister and I set up a booth and sell our lapidary work.
I love this time of year. Not just for the weather, which can sometimes be too hot, and once was way too wet. Not just for the people-watching, which is in abundance the entire three days. Not just for the chance to sell my hard work, or chat with tourists from all around the globe, on vacation and happy to talk to the locals. Not just for the camaraderie of my fellow artists or that sense of family you get being a part of these things year in and year out.
No, not for any of those reason. I love this time of year for all of those reasons!
I’ll spend the next two and a half weeks mentally fidgeting about what needs to get done, what hasn’t been done, and what we should think about doing. Do we need new business cards? Did I print enough labels? Should we add another table? Will the new batch come out of the tumblers in time for me to drill?
Thursday evening will be a big headache. That’s when we come home from work and pack the cars, I’ll worry about what I’m forgetting, my sister will fuss about keeping things organized and tidy.
Friday morning, we’ll get up early, pack some food and worry about what we forgot to do, then since we have to take both cars, we’ll pile in and drive to Starbucks, then head to Poulsbo — a thirty minute drive from our house. There we’ll find our spot, which never changes. We’ve been extremely lucky, and were awarded the prime spot our first year, and have kept it every year since. It’ll be early, around 9:00 a.m., and the bay will be calm. The town itself just waking up, businesses just beginning to open, tourists on their boats or breakfasting in the park.
We’ll unload the cars, then move them to another lot and begin the work of setting up the canopy and tables, then the inventory, all while drinking our lattes and eating a scone. Morning joggers will pass by on the boardwalk, and wave hello. Dog walkers will wander by on the same trail and be social. Fellow artists will arrive and set up, all chatting about how good or bad their year has been. The seals that watch us from the harbor will pop their heads up and bark as we all get ready for our day.
The Art Festival officially begins at noon, so we’re all set up by then, but often we’ve already made sales to passersby who had no idea what was going on, or early birds just off their boats, heading out to start their days.
Friday is usually busy, hectic and fast, since it begins with setting up and settling in. From noon till 6:00 pm, we’ll have customers, lulls, and enjoy good conversations with each other.
Saturday is an easier, but much longer day. Since we don’t tear down at night, we only need one car that day. My sister and I will get up early and head out for coffee, then arrive at the show by 8:00 am to open up the booth and reorganize, then sit and enjoy our coffee with the seals as the harbor sleeps in. There’ll be a morning rush, then a slight quieting down, followed by a mass of customers right when we thought we could sneak in our lunch. After that, another quieting down while one of us runs out to a deli to get some food. Then it’ll pick up again, and before we know it, it’s 6:00 pm and time to close up for the night.
Sunday we’re back to two cars, and the day doesn’t start until 11:00, but we’ll show up at 9:00 to relax with our coffee and the seals. By noon it’ll be pretty crowded, then ease down to a slow but steady pace until around 3pm. By 4:00, the show’s over and we’re beginning the long, slow process of tearing it all down and packing up the cars.
Every year, without fail, we end up making sales while we’re packing up, which slows the process down, but you can’t refuse a customer.
By the end of the weekend, we’ll have sunburns, be physically and mentally exhausted, and barely able to move.
But I can’t recommend this enough. If you’ve ever done this before, or you’re an artist who sells his/her wares at festivals, then you know what I’m talking about. There’s a sense of community that you can’t find online. If you do several shows during the year, you’ll find yourself part of a gypsy mindset, fellow artists you see at regular shows, year after year. You begin to form relationships that update once a year, and make the experiences that much more rich.
And the regular people you meet – – There’s a couple with a dog, Emily, she’s a Giant Bassett Griffon Vendeen, the only one I’ve ever had the pleasure to see in person. They know how much I adore this dog, so every year they make a point of walking down to the show and letting me visit. Last summer we met a couple who snowbird, between Poulsbo and San Diego. They rescue Greyhounds from the race tracks, and spent an hour enjoying the shade behind our canopy and chatting with us.
Being in the lapidary arts, we have the pleasure of being popular with a lot of older men who were rock hounders in their youth, or still enjoy the hobby themselves, who love to chat for hours and have the best stories to tell. Still others are interested in the hobby, and I end up explaining to them how it’s done, and how they can get started. Some even bring me rocks from their home towns, to polish and experiment with.
Then there are the more colorful aspects. The man who didn’t understand that rocks weren’t trees (I shitz you not), the man who told his little daughter that shiny rocks weren’t rocks at all, but glass made to look like rocks. Or the very nice gentleman who wasn’t sure if they were rocks, or stones.
But ultimately, I think what I love best about doing these shows, is the fact that this form of art is so different from writing. Here, I’m producing art, my sister and I, and offering it up for sale. People who come by don’t ask if we have a storefront somewhere. They’re not interested in whether or not our products have been vetted by an outside authority, or quality checked by a select group of people in the business. I don’t have to defend the fact that I’m an independent artist, selling my own creations directly to the public, with no agent or producer backing me up (or taking my profits).
In fact, that’s the norm. You’re not allowed in these Art Festivals if you don’t hand make your work.
This business is as close to a convention of Indy writers as I can imagine coming. All Indy artists, all producing and selling their own work, standing by their products, promoting themselves, pressing the flesh as it were, having conversations with their customers. Meeting interesting people doing interesting things, and being amazed by the sheer oddness of humanity !
This is life in the trenches, baby! And I can’t recommend it enough.
If you’ve never been to Poulsbo Washington , you’re missing a treat. If you’re going to be there August 20th, 21st or 22nd, stop by and say hello !