Posts Tagged ‘Des Moines Art Festival



As previously threatened, here (finally) is the epic story of our travels this summer. Four shows in five weeks without driving home between them may be good for the gas mileage, but it’s hell on one’s personal life.

First stop: Columbus Ohio.  I think I’ve written quite enough about Columbus (see previous blog post).  That storm was one of the scariest things I’ve ever experienced. According to witnesses, one tent caught the gale just right and ended up stuck in some trees, two stories up. But we survived, my back has recovered, and we’ve already been invited back next year. But here’s what gives me pause–maps of the layout for next year’s fair, which moves back to its original location at a riverfront park, show most of the artists’ booths on the two bridges over the river. Sorry, but no freakin’ way. There’s nothing blocking the wind for miles, and if we get another storm, they’ll be fishing art out of the river for months.

Here’s a weird anecdote about the Columbus show. At the thirteen previous shows we’ve exhibited at, we’ve had maybe three requests total for a dentist robot. At Columbus, we must have had a dozen. What gives, Columbus? Was there a dentist convention going on there at the time? Are you all obsessed with dental health? Were we the victim of some kind of bizarre flash mob or practical joke? So here you go, Columbus–meet the Tooth Fairy:

Next up: Chicago, for the Old Town Art Fair. But first—shopping! We must get asked 400 times a day, “Where do you find all your stuff?” Our new favorite answer–and pastime–stopping at antique malls as we drive between shows.  Here’s the haul from Columbus to Chicago:

And what else did we do in the five days between shows? The Field Museum (awesome), the Chicago Art Institute (awesomer), and the Shedd Aquarium (seriously un-awesome, as it was cold and rainy and absolutely crawling with unruly kids). Given the choice of looking at live fish or a video display to help one identify said fish, kids will completely ignore the live fish and focus on the electronic ones. So here’s a picture from an exhibit of electronic art at the Art Institute. Yup, that’s us on the video screen. No irony there…

The Old Town Art Fair is the only show for which I will wake up at 5am for a 6:30am setup. It’s THAT good. Even though it had been raining for days, and the only thing worse than setting up at 6:30am is setting up at 6:30am in the rain. Miraculously, the rain stopped just in time, though the cold lingered and I had to buy a winter coat that evening. Did I mention this was June? But sales were brisker than the climate. I even sold a bunch of my best, more “high end” pieces to some very discerning collectors. I love you Chicago.  Please invite us back next year. Pleeeeeeaaaaaase?

Flew home Monday to furiously restock before show #3, a week and a half later. Picked up the van in Chicago and drove to Des Moines. Not our biggest show, but definitely one of our favorites. Great organizers and volunteers, a kick-ass party for the artists Saturday night, and a beautiful setting encircling a sculpture park. Here’s a picture of my favorite piece, an three story tall seated figure composed of metal letters, by Jaume Plensa. It looks like he’s watching over the row of lighted tents, blessing and protecting them.

We’re on the far left. No horrible storms THIS year until a full two hours after we’d packed up and left. Woohoooo!

And then…more junking!

Finally, the Cherry Creek Art Festival, holder of the record for most Fobots sold in 2010. You know the cliche, “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity”? It really is true. Temperatures parked themselves in the mid-nineties all three days, and it was so dry it was wonderful. At least, compared to the sauna that is North Carolina. It’s so dry (how dry is it?) that if you get the turndown service at the fancy hotel we were staying at, they don’t leave a chocolate on your pillow, they leave a bottle of water. Seriously. By the end of the day, deer were coming out of the woods to lick my face, it was so salty. And I did suffer one injury–after two days, back in the hotel, I felt like I’d burned the thumb and forefinger of my right hand. Couldn’t figure out how I did it for the life of me. That is, until I got back to the show Monday morning, and tried to twist open the first of probably a dozen bottles of water for the day. Yup-I’d developed “water bottle hand”. Can I get workmen’s comp for that?

Once again, students sponsored by Janus, and armed with large amounts of cash, descended on the show to buy art for their schools. And once again, they picked a Fobot: “Boy Toy”, pictured below along with some of the student buyers. These kids were so bright, so inquisitive, and so determined to pick just the right pieces of art for their schools, they restored my faith in kids. Which was still pretty shaky after the screaming hellions at the Shedd Aquarium.

So, bottom line, how was the Cherry Creek Art Fair? Let me put it this way–you may have noticed that there’s one less show listed in the schedule on the right side of this blog. Sorry, Arts, Beats, & Eats in Royal Oak Michigan, but sales were so overwhelming, we had to cancel. And there’s now a new sales record. DENVER LOVES FOBOTS. And we love you too, Denver.


Mojo, No Mojo, Mojo Returns

Hello, Fobot Fans.  Sorry for the long absence–I’ve been meaning to write about our trip to the Cherry Creek Arts Festival in Denver over the July 4 weekend, but it’s been work work work ever since we got back.  You know, I actually started writing this post a month ago, when I finally had the opportunity–nay, the requirement–to sit still for a whole evening.   I’ll tell you why at the end of this post.  If I tell you now, you may stop reading, or at the very least, have your reading experience tainted by unsavory mental images.  But I’ll give you a hint–I recently turned fifty…

After leaving Des Moines, swimming away in a sea of mastiff slobber, we headed for our old stomping grounds–Colorado Springs, CO.  After 17 years in Raleigh, I cannot fully explain the ecstasy induced by spending time outdoors in the summer without being covered in sweat and mosquitos.  Not to mention six good hair days where I didn’t resemble Roseanne Rosannadanna without the bangs.  This whole portion of the trip was so wonderful that I have vowed, once Phil retires, to find a way of living in Colorado for the summer and basing operations there from July to September.  And I’m not even going to go into the joy of seeing all our old friends.  On our final night, Eve and Sol hosted a party at their gorgeous home, overlooking the mountains, that remains the best party I have ever attended in my life.  And not just because I didn’t have to cook or clean up after.

We spent the day before Cherry Creek in Boulder, visiting a friend from my art licensing days (man, does THAT seem like a century ago).  We were asked to do a Friday morning TV spot for some Denver TV stations, so decided to spend Thursday night in Denver to avoid having to get through rush hour traffic in the morning.  Here’s a picture from the shoot:That’s Denver media personality Dan Daru sticking a Fobot’s groin into the camera lens and asking the anchors if they knew how he could tell it was a boy (by the bow tie, of course).  Yup, Dan is quite the comedian.  A very nice man, very funny, but on the whole an unnerving experience, as you just never knew what the hell he was going to say next.

Setup for the show proceeded smoothly, and although it didn’t officially start until Saturday, we participated in a preview event Friday night.  Which meant that Phil got to man the booth by himself, while I attended the gala. Imagine, if you will, about 20 sweaty artists hobnobbing with a few hundred well-dressed, wealthy art patrons at a formal event with much food and wine and an open bar.  Sweet…  There were individual menus at each place setting telling us what wines would be served with what course.  I kept waiting for a waiter to ask if I would be having the filet mignon or the sea bass.  Silly me, they brought us each both.  DO NOT TELL PHIL–he was stuck in the booth and believes we were given cold baloney sandwiches and juice boxes.

Saturday was hot, by Denver standards–93 degrees, but so bone dry the the bottles of ice water the volunteers brought us every hour didn’t sweat.  It was pretty funny–the volunteers, knowing that most of us weren’t local, kept INSISTING that we drink the water, citing the area’s altitude and low humidity.  I think they need to change the state motto to “Welcome to Colorado.  Here’s your water”.  But although the locals apologized for the heat (and after surviving the Great Sauna of Des Moines, we just laughed) they were there to BUY.  By the end of the day, we’d racked up our biggest single day of sales ever.  What can I say–Denver loves robots.

Sunday started out the same, but cooler and with the threat of rain later in the day.  Great sales until about noon, and then…nothing.  Still crowded, still nice weather, but that elusive thing art show people call “buying energy” just evaporated without explanation.  At first I thought it was just us, but everyone’s sales plummeted.  It was the weirdest thing–I thought we’d lost our mojo for good.

Fortunately, Mojo came back on Monday.  Starting with some of the most interesting, discriminating buyers we’ve yet encountered; middle and high school students with a checkbook, part of the Janus art buying program.   Janus, a large investment company with a mission to get art into the schools, gives selected schools a big chunk of money to buy art at Cherry Creek for their school.  But rather than just giving it to the teachers or school administrators, they give it to committees of students who, after asking many thoughtful questions, bought three of my best Fobots.  Afterwards, they had to present their choices in an open forum and explain their decisions.  I’m sorry I missed that, but as I mentioned earlier, Mojo was back, and sales were brisk again.  By the end of the day, we’d wrapped up our best show ever, which made the two day drive home a joyous thing.

Which brings us back to Raleigh, a severely depleted inventory, and three–count’em THREE–shows coming up in September.  Long’s Park Art and Craft Festival in Lancaster PA, September 3-6, our triumphant return to the St. Louis Art Fair September 10-12, and the Plaza Art Fair in Kansas City September 24-26.  So I’ve been a robot-making fool for the last several weeks, sitting still only long enough to prepare for “Baby’s First Colonoscopy” last month.  If you’ve been through this, then you know where I was sitting.  And that “salt” and “citrus” are two tastes that should NEVER be combined.


What the %$@&!?!?

OK, you know how a few posts ago I threatened to title the entry “What the %$@&!?” 
Well, What the %$@&!?, What the %$@&!?,  What the %$@&!?

Let me explain.  I was expressing some justifiable concern that the weather gods were angry with us, and were punishing us with freaky, tent-crushing storms.  I’d rather you not mention this to the other artists on the art fair circuit, because it’s happened again, and I don’t want anyone getting the idea that we’re bad luck and driving us out of festival sites with pitchforks and flaming torches. 

Actually, we had a very good show, but once again, Mother Nature proved how much she hates artists. Or maybe just their little white tents. The bitch…Strong thunderstorms both Friday AND Saturday nights wiped out several artists each night. For the first time ever, our tent actually moved–slid a few inches south during the first storm, and a few feet during the second. This is a 200+ pound tent, with 48 pounds of weight on each corner.  No damage, but when my cell phone rang at 6am Sunday morning and the voice on the other end said it was the show director, you better believe my heart stopped beating.  Until he said the tent looked fine, but had moved 3 feet.  Easily fixed, and we’ve taken steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.   But it was really wonderful to see artists come together to help each other out. A photographer across from us, whose work I very much admire, arrived Sunday morning to find the top of his tent inverted and full of water. Had to cut a slit in the canopy to let it drain. Poles were broken as well, but everyone rallied, helped get it back up, and even found some spare poles for him–he was back in business by 10. I LOVE this community.

And since I’m tired of posting pictures of mangled tents, I’m including a shot of one of the nicest aspects of our stay in Des Moines.  A huge national track meet was happening in Des Moines the same weekend as the show.  And since hotel rooms were at a premium, the show organizers put out the word to their patrons, asking them to house a visiting artist if they could.  Boy, did we hit the jackpot.  We stayed in a gorgeous house, owned by friendly, interesting, and generous art collectors and THE BIGGEST DOG WE HAVE EVER SEEN.  Here’s a picture of me with Lucca, 180 pounds of pure mastiff puppy lovin’.  His head is bigger than Mongo, and when the slobber starts, you better head for higher ground.  My profound thanks to Pat McFarland and Jim Carney for letting us stay, and sharing their wonderful home–and dog–with us.

Now–on to Denver.  Where it better not snow…


Fobots Massing for Invasion

That’s what it looks like, doesn’t it?  And this is only about half of the invading force that will be storming (ooh, no, don’t say storming…) Des Moines, Iowa on Friday, June 23.  Yes, we’ll be appearing at the Des Moines Arts Festival June 23-25, before driving to Colorado, hanging with all our old Colorado buddies (hi, Jan!), and then doing the Cherry Creek Arts Festival in Denver from July 2-5.  And then, a looooooong drive home–lucky we have a new Fo-Bo-Mo-Bile, but that’s the subject for another post.  Stay tuned…

So, what do your new Fobot overlords have planned for you after the invasion?  For starters; mandatory recycling (with violations punishable by flogging), the return of “Battlebots” on Comedy Central, and “Domo Arigoto, Mr. Roboto” will be the new national anthem.


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.

October 2021

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