It's always difficult to post during Ceramic Showcase, because the show is so exhausting. We've tried to mitigate this, a little, by spreading out our set-up over two days. We drive up Wednesday afternoon, unload the van and set up the carpet, shelves, grid panels, lights. Touch up the paint on our well-worn pine shelves. Thursday morning, we returned to put out pots and signage, organize and stow our many boxes of back stock. By noon, we're done, so we spend the afternoon of Denise's birthday visiting the World Forestry Center, and walking in Washington Park.
The show itself opens Friday morning at 10 am, with a huge crowd. Collectors and enthusiasts try to be first in the door, thinking they'll get the best stuff. They're right, to a degree, but I'm still finding new things in back stock right up till Sunday afternoon. Friday also brings busloads of students. Most of the local high schools arrange field trips for their art/ceramics classes, and they add to the hubbub in the hall.
I like talking to the students. They always have at least a basic ceramic knowledge--some are quite advanced--and are always interested in my process. Some want to know about the painting, some the throwing, some want to know how I assemble animal banks. I give out a lot of business cards with links to my blog, invite them to stop by my demo that afternoon. A couple of them do, which I find gratifying.
By one o'clock, I've talked to hundreds of people, restocked a bunch of pots, including a $60 serving bowl, and am ready to escape to a quiet hallway outside the show to collect my wits and prepare for my 2 pm demonstration. I've had a number of titles for this demo over the years: Making Art With Roadkill is probably my favorite, Brush-making and Decorating the most common. This year I reverse the focus and go with Decorating With Handmade Brushes. I talk about my history decorating pots as I set up my work station ("A long time ago, in a pottery far, far away"), glaze and paint three bowls. Then I talk about my handmade brushes, and make a couple of them. By this point, about an hour in, a new group of people have joined us, so I decorate the other three bowls, and give a high-speed recap of brush making. I end right on the 90-minute mark, though my voice gives out about two sentences early. (I've been talking a lot, today, in a noisy concrete space.) I have a microphone for the demo, but I'm still using teacher (/radio host) voice, which is wearing.
And back to the booth, and more customers--Denise is just selling an $85 octopus oval platter, and trying to remember if we have that pattern on anything else. (Yes, a medium serving bowl, but we're too tired to bring that fact to mind. There's always next year...)
Saturday morning, we're still dragging a little from Friday. I take first shift in the booth again, as I have a work shift from 1 to 4. Showcase is entirely run by the potters, so we all take turns doing work on the show. As not everyone has an engaging, professional spouse (is she reading this?) to mind their booth for them, we have a central check-out where everybody's pots get sold. There's an elaborate, step-by-step process that makes sure everyone gets paid for their work, and allows us to track and correct errors.
At quarter to one, I show up at my cashier station, with my high stool (gives me a better angle on my adding machine and card processor), my computer/glazing glasses (ditto. Bifocal line is at just the wrong place for this job. Unfortunately, this means I can't really see my customers, but they don't know that), and my water mug. I've got a good wrapper, not too fast, not too slow, and willing to help pick off labels when a big order comes through.
We work steadily for the entire three hours--I think we got one ten-second pause between groups of customers. The lines are never huge, unlike on Friday, but they're constant, always about three or four people waiting. They've put me on a busy station, which I enjoy. Furthermore, it seems to be the only one at the show that processes MasterCard Debit, so we get a steady trickle of customers who've already been processed and packed at another station who get to jump the line to actually pay us.
The show was originally scheduled to close at 5, but due to a communication snafu, some of the vendor information says 6 pm. As the crowds are still fairly good, they announce an extension. Apparently, no one tells the venue, as they start turning lights down at 5:15, and we experience Showcase After Dark for a few minutes before they turn them on again.
It's always Sunday morning before we finally feel rested again. We've packed up and checked out of our lodgings (AirBnB this year, nice people, killer stairway. Sigh.), ready to be done.
Sunday is always the quietest day, but we're still busy, still selling the occasional high-end piece--we sell two more large serving bowls (for a total of four out of the same spot in the booth), and run out of large squared bakers entirely. I see a lot of familiar faces, people who come back year after year, and today we actually have time to talk. Another sales shift at one, more relaxed this time, except for one particular customer--more about him later--and we finally get done 15 minutes past closing, when my credit/debit machine runs out of tape (for the second time).
Load-out is more concentrated, thus more hectic, than load-in. I bring in my empty boxes from the parking lot and we concentrate on packing and disassembling the booth. I’ve got three empty boxes, so let Nicole fill them with her pots. (She had a friend bring up more stock on Saturday, and now can't fit everything in her vehicle.) We belong to the same co-op in Eugene, so I'll drop them off tomorrow. She says she owes me, but she brings us baked goods, day-olds from her husband's workplace, so I think we're more than even.
Once everything is stacked, packed or otherwise dismantled (Is the process of setting up "mantling?") it's time to get in line. Get the van in line for the loading dock, get in line for a cargo cart. Denise and I take turns waiting, then everything happens at once. I back the van up the ramp, she scores a cart, and a few loads and a bunch of creative stacking later, we're ready to pull away. It takes three hours, in all, but we're on the road by 7:30, home by 9:30, feeling ready to sleep for a week.