Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Gales, Gazebos & a Game of Two Halves

all set up on Saturday morning
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2010

Last weekend thirty local artists erected their gazebos on Harpenden Common for the annual Art on the Common fundraiser. As a first-timer I was nervous: would we be ready in time? could we strike our exhibition on the Saturday evening and put it up again on the Sunday morning? would we get any visitors? it never occured to me that in the middle of June the main problem would be: could the gazebos withstand the gusty winds and make it through to the end of the day?


we had cards, paintings and photos on display
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2010

Things started well enough; it was breezy but between us my fellow exhibitor S and partner J and I got the gazebo up and the side panels on. Luckily J is a six-footer - oh, to be a few inches taller!! S had already thought about how we should organise the display and before long we had a good mix of paintings, prints, photos and cards out on tables, and our browsers out front.  J went off and the two of us settled down, well wrapped up in our fleeces. It was so chilly I began to wish I'd worn gloves. The Art show was running alongside the Harpenden Common Discovery Day, so every now and then some volunteers came by offering tea to the stallholders - we were pathetically grateful - and one or two of the visiting public also bought a cuppa! because, in True Brit fashion, people had come out to look. Some were on their way to, or back from, the Discovery Day, and many stopped to browse and chat. We had quite a lot of interest, and sold the odd card or two. But nobody was lingering long enough to make that decision to buy something larger.

visitors braved the cold to talk to the artists
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2010

We were lucky. The jeweller next to us had set up her display in a gazebo with no side panels at all; the stiffening breeze knocked over some of her stands and she broke four pieces. Less than two hours after opening, she was taking everything down; her helpers had left for the day and a passing gent took down her gazebo for her. A large gust of wind caught us unawares and two of my paintings went flying; luckily the only damage was to one of the frames.  I couldn't sort it out - I was outside hanging on to the back of the tent to stop it billowing in.  My browser had also gone crashing and a visitor retrieved it for me - S was hanging onto the gazebo frame - our knight in shining armour also re-attached the roof cover to the frame for us.   J returned with lunch and we pegged down what bits of the gazebo we could, then ate watching the passers by, some pausing to take a look, others just rushing home. Most people were dressed for the arctic, but across the way a fellow artist was shivering in her summer skirt and leggings, still gamely demo-ing her beautiful acrylics with a coat thrown round her.

anyone who hadn't wrapped up warm was freezing!
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2010

After lunch it got worse.  We knew that the leg weights I'd luckily bought would prevent the gazebo from taking off, but the wind was starting to bend the frame of the gazebo on one side. Instead of going home to watch the football, J spent his afternoon holding  the frame straight with one hand and reading a book with the other. I thought we'd set our gazebo up wrongly until I saw the chap in the next one along doing the same . . . all around we could see billowing canvas, and hear the occasional crash and shriek as something fell over. S and I were hanging on to the front of the gazebo, J to the side, all I could think of was how glad I was I'd got third party insurance! Still people came in to take a look . . . a little rain fell and we whipped the browsers inside. It was only 4pm, we were due to stay open until 5pm but all round us others were packing up, so we cut and ran with the rest.

real-live-guy rope.  We replaced him on the Sunday with a piece of string . . .
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2010

We took longer to set up on Sunday because (a) we were tired out from clinging on to that gazebo and (b) we were determined to secure it firmly against the wind which was still blowing, although not so strongly. I even had a bit of sandpaper with me to sort out that damaged picture frame. Although we were due to open at 11am, potential customers were around by 10 o'clock . . . . the weather was slightly warmer and looking hopeful. More and more visitors started to arrive. Lots of folk who'd thought about coming to see Art on the Common had sensibly decided to wait unti the Sunday. I never did get time to sandpaper that picture frame and S was still trying to finish her lunch at 4pm because people kept talking to her about her pictures. J delivered lunch and managed to get home to spend an afternoon watching the football (we'd replaced him on gazebo bracing duty with a piece of string).

the sun started to peek through on Sunday morning . . .
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2010

My Dad turned up. Lots of friends came alongto encourage us, and other artists who weren't exhibiting - Mel & Julie from B Gallery, Betty who did Open Studios with us last year, Kim Major-George . . . . Card sales were so brisk I was concerned we might lose track of them and S was thrilled to sell some prints. The wind dropped, the sun came out, my fleece came off and before I knew it I was burning and had to use S's factor 50 (by the next day my nose was so red I looked like a clown). Gosh, it was hot!! Eventually things quietened down enough for me to take a look around the other stalls to see what was on offer and how they'd done their displays. Some stallholders had opted to exhibit with no side panels, some with just a couple and one with just a panel at the back (I did wonder if that was all they had left LOL).  After 5pm we still had visitors as we were trying to take it all down!

blue skies and sunshine at last!
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2010

By the end of the weekend I was completely exhausted but what a sense of achievement! I'd had some wonderful feedback, learnt a lot, chatted to some lovely people, met the Town Mayor and sold enough bits and bobs to give a respectable amount of commission to Cancer Research. Do it again? oh yes. Bizarrely, I loved every minute LOL.

finally able to abandon our fleeces . . .
© Teresa Kirkpatrick 2010

1 comment:

  1. Yes a fantastic weekend and I really didn't mind acting as a human guy-rope. In any case it was a very good book....! Well done girls - great job and a beautiful and eye-catching display.