Reader, Writer, Merciless Reviewer and Incurable Romantic
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The 2017 Studio Tour is over. The post-mortem can begin.
When the group that would become known as Artists of the Superstitions began the current incarnation of the Studio Tour in 2007, we had about 10 members. Not all of them participated in that first event; many of the non-members who did that first Tour eventually became members. Six of those original members are still in the group, but I know at least two of them have not been in every tour since then. That leaves four who potentially have been on the map (literally) for all eleven Tours we've put on.
I'm one of the four.
From 2007 to 2017, I've been on every single Artists of the Superstitions Studio Tour. Always in the same place, in my front garden under the big mesquite tree with the pretty view of Superstition Mountain.
I am there from the opening bell to the closing buzzer. I love this event and I would not willingly miss the chance to chat with customers even if they don't buy anything. (And most don't, to be sure.)
Two years ago, I received a complaint sharp reprimand from one of the other AOTS members because, he alleged, I had "closed up early" on the Tour. His complaint was that someone came to his studio further along the map than mine and told him that they had stopped at my studio but it was closed. I told him they must have been mistaken because I never never never close early. Never.
Instead of that being the end of it, he passed along the complaint to other board members. Despite my providing written evidence that I had not, in fact, closed early, I was later accused by two other people of having done so. Why? This made no sense.
Every year, there are mystery visitors, the ones who drive up and stop, but never get out of their cars. Obviously, I never know why this is. Sometimes they come into the driveway and back out; other times they pull off to the side of the road and stop, then drive on. I always figure they've seen my set-up out in the garden and for whatever reason they've chosen not to visit. Oh, well, that's the way it goes. I shrug and appreciate all the folks who DO stop.
This past Saturday, I had a great day. Customers were in the driveway on the dot at 9:00 a.m. I made a big sale at 10:30, and had to bid farewell to one of my favorite pieces, though I know it will go to a good home.
(It's Brazilian Agate, in case you're wondering.)
Because I'm the first studio on the list for the Apache Junction part of the Tour, I expect a flurry of visitors early, and then tapering off, with another flurry in the early afternoon. That's exactly how Saturday went, with of course the occasional mystery visitor who doesn't stop. I ended up with a satisfactory take on Saturday and looked forward to an even better Sunday. For some reason or other, I have always sold more on Sunday than Saturday.
After closing at 4:00 Saturday afternoon,I packed up the valuables, went out to dinner, came back and dealt (successfully) with my back spasms. On Sunday morning I was all set to repeat.
I put up the pink "ART TOUR" sign at the end of the driveway, where it always goes, with its almost invisible arrow pointing in toward the property.
This is the view of my driveway, looking due south, from Google maps as taken in May 2011. At the lower center of the picture is the pile of rocks on which I place the pink "Art Tour" sign with its arrow pointing into the driveway. (My house is on the left, not visible behind the trees. ON EDIT: I'm pretty sure that's the big mesquite tree on the center left; the Google view has a weird but wide angle.)
Anyway, that's the view the Tour visitors see when they approach my studio.
This is a slightly zoomed in shot, obviously from Google. Again, the entrance to my Studio. (The signs on the gate, left by previous owners of the property, are "Beware of Dog" and "Private Property." The latter seems to mean nothing, as people are constantly thinking the driveway is a road. It actually used to be depicted as such on Google Maps until I got them to fix it.) For the two days of the Tour, both of the front gates are swung all the way open to the inside; the drive is wide enough for two pick-up trucks to park side by side.
The inner gate beyond it is a rolling gate, and it stays closed. There's nothing for the Tour beyond that gate. Never has been. During the two days of the Tour, that gate has always been closed.
Though it's not readily discernible from the Google Streetview angle, the outer swing gate does not block the footpath leading to the left. Even so, most people park outside the swing gate, either in the driveway or along the side of the road, and walk in, coming down that path to the left and thence to my set-up under the big mesquite tree. The edge of that tree is visible to the far left on the second photo. It's a huge old tree that provides a perfect shady spot for my tables.
The path winds through the "garden," and is lined with rocks and cactus and agaves and yuccas. People approaching the display set-up notice the unusual cactus plants -- especially the numerous "spruce cone" specimens -- and the large, unusual rocks that I have on display.
A roughly basketball-sized chunk of rainbow obsidian, positioned to catch the sunlight.
A slightly smaller chunk of chrysocolla sitting atop an ironwood log. (That's a cinnamon dot cactus, in bloom earlier in the spring.)
I should go outside and get some photos of the spruce cones. Maybe later. Oh, wait. I have some older photos. Hang on a sec.
Photo is from 2009, in the spring with flowers. But I think you can see how the main part of the plant looks like an unopened pine cone. The new growth breaks off very easily and roots itself wherever it falls. I have dozens of these darn things, and often put a few pieces in a paper bag to give to folks who seem interested.
Anyway, as people walk down the path toward me, I can hear them talking so I can greet them when I arrive. They remark on the cactus -- and ask what the heck those weird ones are that look like pine cones -- and the rocks and what a beautiful setting I have under the tree and what a marvelous view I have of the mountain.
And then they look around at my "stuff" and sometimes buy some of it.
That's how it has worked through ten and a half AOTS Studio Tours. Until yesterday.
I had a reasonable morning. Sunday mornings are historically quiet. Remember, I've done eleven of these things, so I have some record of how they work. I had some customers around 10:00 and they bought a few small things, and then . . . nothing.
Nothing, that is, except lots and lots and lots of mystery visitors.
Sometimes they just slowed down and then drove on by. Sometimes they pulled up along the side of the road before they drove on. But the ones who flummoxed me were those who drove into the driveway -- several came all the way right up to the rolling gate!! -- and then backed out and left. They never got out of their vehicles. They never did anything.
I should have kept track of how many there were, but at first I didn't think anything of it. There are always a few like that. But as the day wore on and I had no customers at all, I began to wonder what the heck was going on. I wasn't doing anything different from any of the other Tour Sundays.
Around 2:00, some more customers arrived. They drove in just like normal, got out, walked down the path, looked around and chatted a bit but didn't buy anything. That's okay, too. I greeted them with all the enthusiasm I greet everyone; my back wasn't bothering me and even though I hadn't made any big sales, I was having fun. I always do. I thoroughly enjoy the Studio Tour.
At 2:40, BF returned home after a day of socializing and watching football. (He is NOT into artsy fartsy.) He opened the rolling gate and drove in to park his vehicle, then closed the gate again, after which he went into the house to let the dogs out.
While he was in the house, a car drove into the driveway all the way up to the rolling gate. I was standing where I usually stand under the mesquite tree. After a few seconds, the people in the car backed all the way out to the street and drove away.
BF then let the dogs out and came outside to ask me what that was all about. I told him it had been happening all day. I said, "Gee, maybe they expect me to be standing at the entrance with a tray of canapes and glasses of champagne?"
He said, "Maybe they do."
Over the next several hours, while I waited for the Tour to wind down to 4:00, and while we then packed everything up and put everything away -- and my back started to scream louder and louder -- he said he thought maybe people couldn't see to where I had the actual exhibit under the tree. I argued that while that was possible, why had it never happened before? Why so many people this year who missed the path and/or just didn't look around?
Two weeks ago, we had a landscape company come in and trim the trees, including the big mesquite, so the display area would be clear and visible. (The tree is ancient, and it is probably slowly dying of old age.) People have always been able to see the exhibit before. No one has ever told me, "Gee, it's hard to see your stuff from the driveway." They just park, get out, and come down the garden path. (ha ha ha ha ha.)
I suspect -- and maybe this is just personal bias on my part -- that the Sunday shoppers are those who went to the Gold Canyon part of the Tour on Saturday, and do the Apache Junction segment on Sunday. More of the GC studios are "suburban" in nature -- the artists have homes in the upscale housing developments of GC and either literally open their houses as their studios, or set up their displays on patios or porches or suburban-type yards. Mine in the wilds of AJ isn't quite as nice and neat, and maybe they come into the driveway and expect to see everything on one of the patios inside the gate??? [[shrug]] I don't know.
Maybe they go on to the next studio on the map and see a cluster of "guest" artists at an upscale home and think they didn't miss out on much by skipping mine? Again, I don't know.
I don't have a fancy house, and I'm not a painter with big canvases and lots of prints to display on vertical grids. I play with rocks. My jewelry doesn't lend itself to big displays. It is what it is.
I don't have the space to add a bunch of "guest" artists, and what does that accomplish anyway? It's supposed to be a studio tour, where the visitors get to see where the artist actually works. It's not a party -- or it's not supposed to be -- where you invite a bunch of artists from Mesa or Eloy or Show Low to set up their wares and you all have drinks and taquitos and make merry. But that's what some of our studio hosts have chosen to do, and they want to raise the limit of how many "guest" artists they can have.
Does that make any sense? If the purpose of the tour is to showcase the artist in his or her studio and working environment, what does it accomplish to have five or six outsiders?
Oh, well, I'm just showing my bias again, as usual.
I love my setting. I love my view and I love hauling out all my rocks and showing off the bigger specimens in my yard and talking about where I find my rocks and what it takes to turn them into gems.
It would make no sense to me to pack up all my shit and haul it to someone else's studio just for the sake of getting more traffic. (I'm not sure that would happen anyway, since I've always had good traffic here.) Then I'd lose the effect of the garden path and the rocks and the cactus and the view. I'd also be limited as to how much space I would have, since I'd be sharing with who knows how many other artists.
So, no, I'm not leaving my studio.
Can I put up another sign, inside the gate, that points to the path? Of course I can. And since we have another Studio Tour planned for the spring -- that in itself is another long story and I'm not holding my breath -- I will make sure I have pink signs inside the gate that direct visitors to the area under the mesquite tree.
After I collapsed in agony in bed last night around 8:00, I contemplated the situation and still came to the conclusion that there is only so much one can do to counter the stupidity of people. I've done this event for eleven years and no one has ever said anything to me about not being able to find or see the display area. I've had good sales every year and great sales a couple years. After Saturday's sales, I expected to do at least as well as I've done in the past. I had no reason to think otherwise.
I ended up doing a lot less than expected. I also ended up in horrible pain, which has for the most part been alleviated with 13 hours in bed and more ibuprofen than I care to think about. I'm sitting on the heating pad again, and trying to figure out how I'm going to manage all my future shows without winding up a total cripple.
All the table covers are washed and dried; I have two of the five yet to fold and put away. The studio itself is a worse catastrophe than ever and I despair of ever making any order out there. I took in less than half of what I anticipated based on previous years' sales, so I have to take a close look at my budget over the next few months. And there's another show in less than three weeks, to which I will have to haul my tables and tubs of inventory. I'm hoping maybe I can enlist BF's assistance . . . . . but I'm not counting on it.
And then I have another show two weeks after that, and it's an outdoor show that requires the canopy.
This is what I do. If I don't do this, then I need to find another source of supplemental income, and that's already taking into consideration the writing. I'm just worried that "people" will do something stupid again.
They usually do.
Sorry to be such a downer today. At least I'm able to move around without yelping in pain at every other step and breath.