I’m back from the Des Moines Arts Festival and it was wonderful—it never lets me down. It isn’t just the community of art appreciators and collectors (over three hundred thousand people attend)—they are pretty amazing—it’s the show’s philosophy, organizers and hundreds of volunteers. The Festival organizers are highly thoughtful, efficient and professional. Everything runs smoothly. The art fair dovetails with events in the adjacent parks, bringing fireworks, concerts and even outdoor yoga to the long weekend. Grand Funk Railroad headlined the Saturday show, bringing an American Band to our town. The volunteers are constantly on the job, bringing by water and snacks, squeegeeing the streets after a rain, or just asking if there were things they could do to help. The set-up window is long enough that we can leisurely put together the booth. I arrived to my two rented 500 pound weights in place. They lie on either side of my booth space so I can tie my art down to big rocks with handles and keep everything from shifting around too much.
I passed over a very nice part of our trip to talk about the festival, and that was a night spent with Ute, David and Simon in Iowa City. Ute is a friend of Jim from graduate school and they put together a nice salmon dinner for us on Wednesday night. It makes the trip so much nicer to spread it out and see friends. Thursday breakfast brought fruits (white currants, strawberries, and plums), rolls, and home made black currant chutney. Yum! The best part was that Ute sent me home with a jar. She even visited us at the fair on Saturday with a friend so we got to chat a little bit more.
One of the most popular pieces at Des Moines was my willow piece. There’s always enough breeze to keep the leafed branches swaying a little. The movement draws in a lot of people to see the drama of the piece. Many people admired the it, and a few even came back to show friends the piece after it sold and were disappointed. When the dust settled, four pieces had found new homes. For me, selling pieces has a few stages of realizations. First there is a very happy sensation to sell the piece, then it’s a little sad, and then: oh crap! The reality of the next show looming on the horizon sets in. In this case its Madison, WI (Art Fair on the Square) and I need more pieces! That’s the mental space where I am right now—work, work, work! I do pride myself on being organized and prepared, though. Just for such a contingency I had several pieces in various stages of completion when I arrived home. I’ve been up early and working late to complete three new pieces to take to Madison.
The first piece that I finally brought together is called ‘My Roots’ I have been pushing the piece along, continually discovering that I needed a few more vegetables to fill in a space or round out my vision. If you haven’t been following the blog, it is a statement piece about root vegetables that tell the story of my roots. Some of them, such as sweet potatoes, are a very recent addition to our family food repertoire. I didn’t grow up eating them. Others I can’t remember not eating, such as kohlrabi. Radishes, of course, were the first root vegetable seeds that we planted with the boys. Yellow onion, especially the skin, is my favorite natural dye to work with because my grandmother first told me about using them to dye Easter eggs.
The next piece to be finalized is called ‘Heirloom Tomatoes’. I did the weaving of the ground months ago and incorporated all sorts of objects that families pass down, which is part of a family’s history. Sometimes objects mean something to only one person. For example, I have my grandfather’s stage make-up set as a treasured keepsake. He was a bass in the Czech opera, and the make-up case was passed to him from his uncle. While that’s not in my weaving, I do have objects such as fishing lures that are an important part of my husband’s family. The weaving includes an old rusty lure with hooks filed down that used to belong to my husband’s grandfather. The sewing bobbin in the piece reminds me of my great grandmother the seamstress. Actually, the origin of the composition began when I discovered a tailor’s circular knife at the Recycle Center. I wondered what it’s story was (the boys thought it was an old pizza cutter). I knew it belonged in my piece. Another item in the background is a hair curler. My family went to an estate sale in our neighborhood and discovered the tools of the trade in a hairdresser’s estate. One of the extensive collections for sale involved hair curlers. I told the daughter that I planned to use them in a weaving. That got me thinking about Fonzie from Happy Days and his famous comb, along with my childhood combs. The piece also features objects that were essential but are now obsolete, such as film spool winders and a skeleton key. In my ‘Heirloom Tomato’ piece, the plant is an heirloom because it springs up from its family history, not that the variety is truly an heirloom in the eyes of a gardener.
My third piece is called 'Tired Tree'. As a kid I always dreamed of lazy summer days as I imagined them from books. I wanted a swing on a tree that traveled out over the water from which I could leap into a cool lake. The best I could do now is to create that experience for myself. I also enjoyed the unexpected materials that surprised me as perfect for the piece. I created the tire from a small section of core material used to create the piping on the edge of furniture. I wrapped it with black yarn and glued three rows of shoelaces to create the tire tread. A very thin shoelace forms the lip of the inside tire rim. If only I could be five inches tall, ever so briefly—I’d have a great time on my swing!
The drive home from Des Moines was long, bringing us home late Monday night. We did find a delightful restaurant in Crawfordsville, Indiana, called the Barefoot Burger. What a fun place! We’ll be back after the next show on the road. The sad part of weekend art fairs is missing the Saturday farmer’s market in Bloomington. What ever could I do to get a much-deserved pie? Fortunately, in a stroke of husbandly brilliance, Jim brought me to the Tuesday afternoon Farmer’s Market. Lo and behold they still had tart cherries! Three boxes of late-season ripe tart cherries and the wheels were in motion. Jim pulled out his pitting tool (thanks Grandma!) and by morning we had a pie. Of course there were several pie filling units in the freezer, but I thought I might not get one in season this year. Hooray! Now the bad news—I finished my last slice of pie this morning. It was an amazing tart pie, but now its just a distant memory. I wonder what the next farmer’s market will bring? Which berries are blue and tasty in a pie?
Until next week, or sometime soon,