Building an Art Booth (scenes from real life… more or less)

About this time every year, my life takes a major change, and I find myself deep in the midst of an alternate reality.  Well, it’s not so different than many of my art shows, but then it is.  It’s the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, and it is a thing unto itself.  It’s not the usual two or even three day weekend show; it pretty much takes out my entire December – not that it’s a bad thing.  It’s just a tremendous undertaking.

Normally I take my Pro Panels, very transportable walls used by many flat art artist types to arrange in such a way as to be a gallery away from home.  They were a blessing to artists who had finagled all sort of different, and often heavy, assemblages of put together stuff to make walls.  I used to have heavy, and I mean heavy (and I was younger then) grid walls, backed by a fabric background, that were designed more for permanent displays in stores, not so much the gypsy-like “put it up take it down” world of the traveling artiste.  They were the rue of every boyfriend I ever had who cussed them every time they helped me with a show.  Finally I had enough, too, and managed enough money to invest in the Pro Panels, which as I understand were designed and now manufactured by folks who used to be artists, and now they probably make a much better living… sort of like promoters who always make their money on putting the show together and collecting all those incredibly high booth fees, and don’t have to worry about selling any art.

But the Dillo is different.  It’s long.  Way long.  Usually it’s about 14 to 16 days, but this year – due to a bunch of circumstances I won’t go into – it’s a walk in the park – sort of – only 10 days of actual show.  11 to 11 every day, live music, bar, truly a fun show, but I must admit it was more fun when I started doing it when I was a young thing, some 17 years ago.  Gee, where does the time go?  So when I build a booth at the Dillo, I’m telling you, I build a house.  If I’m going to live there for two weeks, and present myself in a way that defines me, I go for it.  I have wooden walls, eight feet high, and they are some heavy mamas.  Add to that all the extraneous accoutrements, and you have yourself a barn raising every year.  I have to hire people to help me, and then to haul it there and away to be stored all the rest of the year since I don’t have a place to put another “house” in my house.  It’s all a big deal, and sometimes I think I’m getting too old for all this.  But what else, get a real job?  Well, that may still be in the cards if the economy doesn’t resuscitate itself and people feel more willing to buy things that speak to their souls… things that don’t include keeping the lights on, filling your tank, allowing for a roof over your head, putting the kids through school, eating…. those little things.  Art sort of takes a back seat to such amenities when times get hard, ,even though inspiring or comforting things may be just what the doctor ordered.  Like other things doctor related, sometimes you just don’t have insurance to pay for  it.  Swell.

First let me thank FRIENDS, (thank you PATTI!!!), who come through and help me with this madness.  As it is usual with friends, you couldn’t get through it without them.  The Armadillo gang is a family for sure, and just like a family reunion we can’t believe that another year has gone by, (my first Dillo was in 1994!)  There’s always time for hugs and hellos, but sooner or later you’ve got to get down to business.

Having such an elaborate booth entitles me to the “privilege” of setting up a day earlier than most, since it’s hauled in by the “Booth Erection Boys,” and now a few girls, and it’s really nice to have space and relative quiet to deal with it all.  The next day will bring in almost everyone and their booths, and the madness will truly begin.

It all begins with an empty hall, and then things and people start to show up.  Since this show has live music and is known for its entertainment lineup as well as all the art, the prep for the music and stage is part of the puzzle.  We have to wait for the trusses that hold all the lights to raise off the floor before we can begin, and then the fun starts.

And so, (you ask), what does “setting up an art booth” entail?  I will tell you it’s very physical.  Maybe not for the faint of heart or weak of body.  (Ask me how I felt about breaking that second elbow at the end of that art show during breakdown this summer.)

Our venue is a cavernous hall, a big empty shell, but in three days time it is transformed into an Art City.  And here we go:

One disclaimer, however.  I know I’m supposed to be a “professional” photographer, but the following images are hardly worthy of that.  Please excuse the poor exposures, out of focus shots, composition, all the rest of it.  It wasn’t a “professional” shoot.  Alrighty then……

Day One of setup.

It all begins with a piece of carpet.

And then the waiting walls are ready for assembly.

Worker Bees haul the wall panels over to the site,

And then, a few hours later, Behold the Walls!

In case you’re curious, here’s the back side.

At the end of Day One, we have something like this.  We’ve already got the furniture in, and the rest of the set up materials.  Time to call it a night.

Day Two

Time for the lights.  Lights are tough.  Second story stuff on ladders and step stools.  Extension cords.  Track lights. (I know, poor me.  For this I left “office work.”)

Then if you think the lights were a pain, wait’ll you get to the garland and Christmas lights.  Christmas lights are always a nightmare.  I always SWEAR I’m going to get in that box and fix the lights BEFORE the show. Never happens – at least it hasn’t yet.

More of the evil garland, waiting to be tamed.  (And of course it sheds those nasty fakey needles all over the carpet – but then it hides all the light cords, and supports the Christmas theme, so we deal.  At least I have to do this only once a year, right?)

Finally we come to the end of making the booth ready for art.  Time to go home and get the 3rd or 4th wind, and load the van.  All that, of course, is happening until about midnight.  Oh my, art is so hard.  (Kidding, kidding…..)

Day Three

The art is unloaded and at the booth.  Another long day ahead.  (Can you tell I’m tired already and still?)

And the first piece of art to be hung, of course, is my Horse image.  Long story about that horse.  It has saved my life so many times at art shows that I can’t tell you.  People, (especially Horse people), LOVE this horse.  I do, too.  New this year:  Gallery wraps.  (In fact, this one is already sold, on opening day!)

More art…

And then a little, or at lot, more art… coming together now.

And more…..

Back front wall – the abstracts

The “Cheap Thrills” Department – magnets, greeting cards, and new this year, lamps.

And…… we’re done!  Outside front wall.

And from the left out front…

After all this this, we have Tech Check, in which all the booths are inspected for lighting and safety issues and whatnots and this and thats, and then we’re released at the end of a LONG day, to show up bright eyed and bushy tailed, (uh, glazed and bushwhacked), for Opening Day!

And here it is!  The hall has been transformed.  It’s Dillodaze, and the show is ON!

A note about the Spirit Horse drum you’ve been seeing.  That was the first (and only) of the painted drums I had planned to add this year.  Somehow, as it does, time got away from me, and there was only the one, but it seemed appropriate to hang her for good luck.  And it worked…. that Big Horse is GONE!  By golly, we’ll have lots of drums next year.

And seeing how this is the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, and this is Austin, Texas, the Live Music Capital of the World, (or so they say), I should also include a shot of the opening act, beautiful Sahara Smith, enjoying a fast paced success, after years of pursuing her dream.  She’s the daughter of one of the artists, and I’ve known her since she was a kid.  Look at her now.  She opened for Raul Malo on part of his last tour, and then I caught her on Letterman a few weeks ago.  And so, I tell all of you…. Dreams Can Come True.  It’s all about PASSION!

Jimmy LaFave is singing to us toward the end of the first night.  I’ve had a great day, and nine more to go.  I don’t think I’ll be writing you about breakdown though.  I’m not ready to think about it yet.

Come see me if you’re in or close to Austin.  Merry Christmas, y’all!


3 Responses to “Building an Art Booth (scenes from real life… more or less)”

  1. I’m loving the canvas wraps!!! Yea!! Wishing you all the best for a successful and prosperous event. We need to go PLAY in 2011.

  2. queeniesays Says:

    Bisti or Bust in 2011! And then there’s that houseboat thing on Lake Powell in the fall? You didn’t happen to mention THAT to our fearless leader, did you?

  3. This is great Queenie! Your booth is gorgeous ….wishing you great sales this Dillo Bazaar! Merry Christmas, D

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