Posts Tagged ‘Coconut Grove Arts Festival


Fobots on Ice!

“Tragedy + Time = Comedy”
—Somebody smarter than me

When all this went down, I was devastated. I thought, “Never in a million years am I going to find this humorous”. I was wrong.

Funny thing happened on the way to our first show of the year–Coconut Grove in Miami. I’d been working my fingers to the bone–literally–all winter long, and I was itching to get to a show. Any show. The fact that the first one was in Miami, during a Raleigh winter that had been long, icy, and cold, and that Miami had been posting the same BORING forecast for weeks (74 and sunny, every frikkin’ day), made it a matter of LIFE AND DEATH that we get the hell outta town soon or something was gonna blow. So when yet another ice storm was scheduled to arrive on the day before we were supposed to leave for Florida, I was having none of it. Ice storms in Raleigh tend to bring traffic on most of the streets to a standstill. People abandon their cars, packs of wolves roam the deserted roads, there’s cannibalism…OK, just the first one. Anyway, I told Phil “Hop in the van, Sweetie, and let’s get out of here before the Storm of the Century of the Week hits”.

Coincidentally, this was Phil’s last day of work before retirement. The going away party had already been cancelled due to impending Snowmageddon, so he figured he’d just work on his laptop while I drove. We calculated that if we made it to the highway before the storm hit, we’d be golden. The highways in North Carolina are pretty well-maintained during ice storms, even if the side streets become Winter Olympic events.

At first, the plan seemed a good one. It was Wednesday. We’d get to warmer climates, maybe stop in Savannah for a mini-vacation, and get to Miami on Friday. We headed south, and missed the ice in North Carolina entirely.

Trouble is, we caught up with it in South Carolina. As the snow got heavier, we went slower and slower. Visibility was poor. And eventually, I ended up behind a huge semi, that was spitting even more slush up onto our windshield. Cautiously, I attempted to pass the rig on it’s left, and that’s when all hell broke loose. I must have caught a draft from the truck, and the van started fishtailing wildly. I hit the truck with the right rear end of the van, which spun it around so that I’d have the opportunity to hit it with the front end as well, sending us spinning like a top on the ice. After pirouetting gracefully around a mercifully empty highway a few times, we came to a halt in the fast lane, facing the wrong way. Fortunately, the van had enough spirit left to restart and drag its sorry carcass over to the median, where it breathed its last. Phil stopped working on his computer. Happy last day of work, honey!IMG_0350

(BTW, these photos were taken days later, after the storm blew over and the sun came out).

The police came quickly, and called a tow truck. The driver of the semi stopped his rig hundreds of yards away and came over to see if we were OK. As I sobbed “I’m so SORRY” to him, over and over, he just smiled and said, “Well, I THOUGHT I heard a thump!” Evidently, the truck had little or no damage. Not so our van–the passenger side was inoperable, chunks of the front end had been pulled off, and some red fluid was leaking from the engine. It looked like blood on the snow. But we were fine, as was everything in the van. No Fobots were harmed in the making of this adventure.

Enter Tommy Jr., our rescue angel and tow truck driver. Phil could not exit the demolished passenger door, and his double knee replacement in September had him even less mobile than usual. Tommy Jr.–all 5”4” and maybe 120 pounds of him–commenced to pull Phil backwards towards the driver side door and probably would have pulled him all the way out if Phil hadn’t stopped him in time. As we waited in the warm tow truck, Tommy Jr. finished things up with the Highway Patrol, and we called our insurance agent, who instructed us to bring the van to a collision center in Florence, SC.  Tommy Jr. cut off some of the dangling bits from the van and we were on our way. IMG_0348

Trouble is, the storm had knocked out the power to most of Florence SC, and the collision center was closed. I started crying again, since all my work was in the van, which couldn’t be locked as the passenger side window was gone. And the collision center–as collision centers are wont to be–was not exactly in the ritzy part of town. No problem, says Tommy Jr.–I’ll bring it to my house, lock it in the yard, put a tarp over it, and my dog won’t let anyone near it. Good dog. Good dog.

Our luck continued to improve. We got one of the last two hotel rooms in Florence, in one of the only parts of town that had power. Tommy Jr. helped us bring as much as we could into the hotel, and after settling up with him, he asked us if there was ANYTHING else he could do for us. Anything at all. Phil, observing that I was still shaking like a leaf, jokingly asked if he knew where we could get a bottle of tequila. “I’m on it!”, says Tommy Jr. But even our resourceful tow truck driver could not find an open liquor store in a town that was almost completely closed. But that’s OK. The front desk informed us that the only two options for food were a convenience store across the highway from the hotel, or either Papa John’s or Domino’s could deliver. We called up Domino’s (I mean, we’re desperate, but we’re not monsters, right?) and they took our order, but apologized that there would be a 2 1/2 hour delay. Seemed reasonable.

And so we settled in for a day of pizza and Winter Olympics. Around 10pm, my cell phone rang. It was Tommy Jr. “You still want that bottle of tequila?” I’d stopped shaking by then, but I believe the response was still “OH HELL YEAH”. This dear man drove it to our hotel and met Phil downstairs. Phil asked him in wonderment, how he’d managed to find an open liquor store under these conditions. “Well, it’s like this”, replied Tommy.  “I’d just given a guy a tow, and when we went inside to settle up, I noticed all these big bottles of liquor on his counter. I asked him how much he wanted for the Cuervo, and when he said forty bucks, I said, let me call someone…”

Thursday brought another day of pizza, tequila, Winter Olympics (I am now an expert on luge and curling, though the luge was difficult to watch after our incident) and hourly calls to the still unopened collision center and car rental places. The Miami weather reports continued to taunt us. Finally, around 6pm, the power came back on at Enterprise, long enough for them to leave a message on their answering machine that they would reopen Friday at 8am. I immediately booked a cargo van online, and arranged for Tommy Jr. to meet us there to transfer all our stuff from the wreck to the rental. Things are looking up. We may have to set up in Miami in the middle of the night, but we just might make it…

Not so fast. We arrived at Enterprise just before they opened, and were first in line to collect our reserved cargo van. The guy behind the counter looked stricken. “I’m sorry”, he said, “but there isn’t a cargo van to be had anywhere in the state”. HOW CAN THIS BE????!! Note to future self–do not attempt to rent a van on Valentine’s Day. Those greedy florists have booked every last one for extra deliveries. At this point, I uttered a sentence that has never before left my lips.

”OK. I’ll take two minivans”.

The collision center had also reopened that morning, and Tommy Jr. met us there with his son, who we will always think of as Tommy Jr. Jr.. They helped us transfer our cargo, and it miraculously all fit in one van. The Dodge Caravan with the Stow and Go seats is like Hermione’s handbag (Harry Potter reference, for all you geeks out there). We were able to return the spare van, and were finally on our way south by noon.

We weren’t the only ones setting up at midnight in Miami–others had been caught by the storm as well, though not as spectacularly as we’d been. The only other problem we encountered was trying to get everything out of the minivan, whose back door was too low to slide the display cases straight out. I don’t know how the Tommies did it, but when I attempted to do it in reverse, I tore the meniscus in my right knee trying to heave a seventy pound case sideways out the back. When the show opened the next morning, we were ready to go, and all the other artists, having heard of our adventure, thought I’d messed it up in the crash. Nope, just not as agile as the Tommies. I turned out to be a really good show for us (can you imagine how soul-crushing it would be to have a bad show after going through all that?) and we even won an award.IMG_0353

So there you have it. On the way back home, we got confirmation from the collision center that the van was, indeed, totaled (duh), so I got on the phone with some Ford dealers and informed them that whoever calls me with the best price on a 2013 Ford Transit Connect in the next few hours gets a cashier’s check the next morning and the easiest sale they’ve ever made. Sure enough, we pick up our new van, “The Botmobile”, the next morning, and are off to our next show in Baltimore that day.

PS–If you ever crash your car in Florence SC, call O’Dad’s Towing.  Ask for Tommy Jr. Oh–and I made him a Fobot with angel wings, out of a tin that held sealant for cracked radiators.  Seemed appropriate.MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA


Welcome to Rejection Season

It never fails to amaze me how many people think that the artists they see at art festivals simply decide which shows they would like to do, and then arrive the day of the festival and start selling.  In tents provided by the festival, no less. Wish it were true, but it ain’t. No, we’re just now starting what the artists I know call “Rejection Season”.

“Rejection Season” is when all of the shows we’ve submitted applications to months and months ago (along with a hefty jury fee) start letting us know who’s in and who’s out. Imagine, if you will, thousands of artists obsessively pressing the refresh button on their email inbox like chickens trying to get a pellet of corn to dispense. At least I do. Don’t you judge me.

And the stakes are high. Get into enough shows–or even just a few of the “right” ones–and your year is made. Get enough rejections, and you start wondering how you’ll look in a Walmart vest. And since you can’t count on any show coming through for you–even ones you’ve done for years–you apply to multiple shows on the same weekend and hope for the best. It’s expensive. It’s stressful. It’s why my parents wanted me to study accounting.

But before you feel sorry for me, I have a confession to make. I don’t want to tell this to my artist friends, many of whom are struggling now, but so far this year we’ve gotten into every show we’ve applied to, and even had to turn one down (sorry Dogwood, but when you’re on the same weekend as Main St. Ft. Worth, our best show ever, you’re going down). This is an embarrassment of riches, and I consider myself the luckiest artist on the planet. If you’ll look to the right of this page, you’ll see a list of where the Fobots will be in 2014.* And if you don’t see your town on the list, don’t panic. We’re still waiting to hear on plenty of shows. Rejection season ain’t over yet…

*Old Town Chicago–we’re in, but may not be able to make it this year, so you’re not on the list yet.

UPDATE–we’ve been accepted to Lakefront Festival of Art in Milwaukee, so we’re going to put Old Town back on the list, since they’re on consecutive weekends.  I was hoping to audition for a play that would conflict with both of those shows, but the idiocy of canceling not one, but TWO art fairs, in favor of an unpaid community theatre gig, has finally sunk in. Dates and other schedule details are in the column on the right.


Coconut Grove and Winter Park

Where does the time go? Two shows under our belts this year already, and at least seven more to come. Yup, I’ve been a robot-makin’ fool lately. But on a rainy Saturday morning, I just though I’d let you know how it’s going so far.

Our first two festivals of the year were in Florida—Coconut Grove in Miami, and Winter Park near Orlando. Like I was telling everyone before we left, even if we don’t sell a thing, at least we’ll be in Florida. But we did sell, and pretty darn well, too. I don’t know if the economy has finally turned around, or if the difference was the awesome new display units I’ve been working on all winter, but we had two of our best shows ever. Miami outpaced WP by a fair margin, and yet, if I had to do one of them again, I’d pick Winter Park.

The weather was sublime at both shows, much to my relief. But the big difference was the atmosphere.  In Miami, we were jammed in together on the streets as tightly as possible, loading in and out was a disorganized mess, the music (?) from the Verizon stage was deafening, and the whole affair had a carnival atmosphere. Whereas in Winter Park, we were under the trees in a beautiful park, there was plenty of room between booths and for storage, and the artists were treated more as honored guests than as sideshow attractions. But the biggest difference was this: in WP, ALL the artists seemed to be doing well.  Not just us, not just a few lucky ones, but everyone around us was having a good and profitable show. I can’t tell you what a difference that makes. The mood was euphoric. And I speak as someone who just can’t have a good time unless EVERYONE is having a good time. It was bliss. We’d be happy to participate in either show again, but Winter Park holds a special place in my heart–cross your fingers that we get invited back next year.

Here’s a photo of the new booth, taken in Winter Park. Try not to be blinded by the whiteness of my legs–they hadn’t seen the sun in quite a while. And the hair–well, no excuses. It’s always like that.



Paying Dues in the Grove

I have a theory.

Our swift rise in the art fair world has some people shaking their heads and complaining that we haven’t paid our dues.  I mean, we’ve been at this less than a year, and our 2010 schedule now includes Coconut Grove, Winter Park, Reston, Des Moines, and Cherry Creek in Denver.  That may not mean much to you, but it’s kind of like saying, “Gee, I think I’d like to be in a play”, and getting cast in a bunch of Broadway shows.  (OK, Maybe Reston is off-Broadway, but still…)  Some people strive for years to be accepted into fairs of this caliber, and here we are waltzing in on our first try.  Like I said, dues must be paid.

Here’s my theory.  The Art Fair Gods have put us on an accelerated dues-paying program. 

Think about it.  First was St. Louis, where we struggled with dehydration, problems setting up the tent, and display units that wobbled.  In other words, rookie mistakes.

Then came Bethesda Row, where the cold and rain made for an experience so miserable it’s a miracle we didn’t get out of this business altogether.

And now we’re back from our third outdoor show at Coconut Grove in Miami.  We arrived Friday afternoon, and after checking in, proceeded to set up.  Weather was pleasantly warm, if a little windy, and things were going normally (make that extremely well–“normal”  for us is NOT something to shoot for).  We had the top, back and side walls in place and were waiting to put up the front until we were finished, when a security guard came zipping by on a golf cart, yelling “Secure your tents, there are 70 mile per hour winds heading this way!”  I thought he must have been kidding, or at least exaggerating, but we made sure our tent was properly weighted down.  In retrospect, we should have put up the front wall.  Not three minutes later, a wall of wind and water hit us so hard I thought we were going to end up in Oz.  Even with the tents upwind of us blocking some of the wind, the force was still strong enough to rip the grommets out of the canvas walls where we had zip-tied to the bottom stability bars, and one of our massive display units, weighing about 75 pounds, got blown over.  Fortunately, all the bots were still in their packing cases, so all we had to do was hang on for dear life while getting completely soaked.  After about ten minutes that seemed longer than W’s administration and just as scary, the wind diminished, although the rain was persistent.   Mercifully, except for the grommets, some dents in the tin front of the display unit, and a few soggy gift bags, we escaped relatively unscathed.  Others were not so lucky–we heard that six tents were destroyed–no mention of the damage, if any, to the artists’ work. 

Fortunately, the following three days of the show were pleasant, despite some lingering winds on Saturday that made me nervous and jumpy but which the veterans didn’t even notice.  Sales were good.  Not St. Louis good, a fact that I attribute to the fact that the pot was being split by 360 artists, as opposed to St. Louis’ 165, but worth the trip.  And we’re starting to meet some of the nicest people, both patrons (Hi Tammie!) and artists.

So, the way I see it, we’re starting to collect the requisite horror stories that all artists swap at these events, and have cleared the hurdles of rookie mistakes, cold, rain, and wind.  The only dues we have still to pay are the ones involving high heat.

We’ll be in Winter Park, FL next month.  Bring it on, Art Fair Gods.  Let’s get this done with.

May 2020

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