Frequently, as I leave for a craft show, I say to my husband, “Honey, I’m going camping with my pottery now.” Potter being perhaps the second oldest profession, I believe that shortly after someone discovered fired clay’s amazing utility, they got the notion to drag it out to a field, set up a display and invite customers. So began (in my mind) the process of evolution that resulted in large groups of people going camping with the work they create.
My pottery and camping gear weigh upwards of 800 pounds. I try to arrive early to avoid rushing (which is harder on the body). Early arrival means I have a view of the empty space where the show will take place. To most people it probably just looks like a lot of artists setting up booths at the craft fair. To me, it always looks like people going camping with their art work.
When recreational camping, shelter is primary. This is the same when camping with pottery. I set my tent up and stake it down based on past experience. I err on the side of caution. My tent (and many other art camper’s tents) stayed in place during a hurricane many years ago. I ended up in the ICU after a tree branch fell on my head (kind of ironic, right?) en route to my sturdy booth. This is perhaps the topic for another entire blog post or two but in terms of camping, even in the hurricane, my tent withstood. I consider myself successful at the shelter part, anyway.
Once shelter is constructed and firmly anchored, it’s time to set up the interior. The recreational camper is usually making a place to rest. In camping with pottery, one sets up a gallery and store. Shaky tables and walls can result in breakage so the display needs to be level and sturdy. I actually use a level for the largest display furniture. I recently redesigned one display unit to include leveling feet to accommodate all kinds of slope variations. While exciting, it still required a few good shims. I have two tubs of shims plus an overflow bag. It seems I am always running out of just the right size, even though I carefully scour the ground for them and put them away after the show. As I’m working with the stacks of shims and screws and bars it takes to stabilize everything I again think of how ludicrous it actually is, to drag all this stuff to the middle of a field to display.
Still there’s something magical about the time lapse image of empty field that converts to a busy (one hopes) art market, only to be collapsed at the end of the weekend leaving nothing but an empty field again. From the perspective of an exhibitor, I love the optimistic belief there will be people who understand not just the hard work we do setting up our campsites, but also the work to feed creative fires and master processes. The act of taking the things we create out and showing them is more than some artists ever attempt. To offer our work for sale takes that optimism a step further. It’s an act of faith that someone else might see what has been created and understand enough to want to take it home from that campsite. Crazy as it is, that is a big part of what motivates me to take my pottery camping from time to time (but never again in a hurricane).