TITLE: Sometimes We Just Need to Pause
DATE: 8/30/2004 07:46:00 AM
"Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero!" (Seize the day, put no trust in the morrow!) – Horace (65-8 B.C.)
Over the past nine months I have seen craftspeople wage successful wars against cancer and pass away after waving the white flag.
I’ve had artist friends die tragic deaths in a sudden moment and seen babies arrive at a show in the arms of their proud parents who, months before, were hoping for such an addition.
The last day of a craft show, from a backstage perspective, is always the best day. You are unhappy for artists who did not fare well but, mostly, you feel thrilled that your hard work paid off and your late nights at the office are about to come to an end for a few months. Until you ramp up for the next show, of course. The last day is the morning you wake up, back your bags in a flurry, check out of the hotel with a smile, and head to the show site with a quicker pace because that night you will be sleeping in your own bed.
Last February I arrived at our winter show site to learn that an artist had passed away. This was the morning of the last day of the show. I had been so busy at this show with educational programs, portfolio reviews, you name it… I hadn’t had a chance to even see much of the show, let alone see who wasn’t present or question why they were in the hospital.
The artist was Clifford Gateless and I immediately walked into our private press office and broke into tears. My second reaction was to call my father (who was already at work) and tell him I loved him.
Why would an artist I knew at arm’s length inspire this reaction from me?
I met Clifford at our very first Artist Resource Table for the Buyers Market of American Craft. The very first time I attempted to extend my art business education to visitors. The very first time I took a risk and admitted I had something of value to offer arts entrepreneurs. And Clifford was the first person I met that day at my tiny little table.
He pulled from his pocket about eight slides, all dark images with a slightly brownish cast to them. I seem to recall the work was also photographed against a wrinkly, casually draped drop cloth. We talked for nearly an hour and subsequently emailed and spoke on the phone several times. I saw him months later at an Arts Business Institute, with improved slides in hand and a notebook and pen in the other.
At his first show with us, I arranged for his booth to be second in from the front of the exhibit hall in a special furniture section. He needed all the help he could get as one of two fine furniture artists in the show. I was willing to take the risk in his booth placement because I knew he would do anything to ensure a great booth display. Day one was rocky but I drug him upstairs where he could see his booth from a high vantage point and see how dark it look compared to his neighbors. We nit-picked every little aspect of that display and the next day it looked 80% better with his improved lighting, his adjusted drapery, the addition of a few plants, and relaxed body language. By the end of that day (the second day of the show) he was so thrilled with the results and the galleries that stopped to compliment him that Clifford literally clicked his heels down the hallway after finding my to hug me and report the good news.
After searching for the right road, he had found it. His story always reminded me of my father and his struggle to find the right business path.
It also reminded me of another couple: Graham and Steph Davidson. They found their road in a very different way.
When I met Graham years before she was at an outdoor art fair with her funny, colorful wall scenes. Her exuberance could be heard aisles away and it was infectious. Every artist around her had a smile.
Graham handed me her business card and proudly exclaimed, " My name is Graham Scarborough-Davidson, with a hyphen… but I plan to change that soon because it’s too long…. Don’t you think? What do you think? I do like how unique it is though?" Turning around, she started quizzing her neighbors, running all the words together, passing around her business card and amazingly getting these artists (in full BUSINESS MODE) to disarm themselves and take three minutes to consider what she should do about the serious matter of her last name. Steph, her husband, was the perfect counterbalance to her boundless energy.
Less than a year ago I received an emailed obituary from a Pennsylvania Guild artist that recounted their tragic drive back from a guild fair, their lives suddenly ended on the highway after having had a fantastic show. Graham and Steph were also expecting their first child.
In both of these cases a life and a life’s work was abruptly ended. Stopped cold.
Unfortunately these are not my only sad memories from the past year, they are just the two that took the largest personal toll on me.
The blogging equivalent of a ‘moment of silence’, I feel, is about writing, reading, and life’s reflection. Today is my day to extend this and ask you to consider how your work, your business, and your artistic goals could change in the blink of an eye.
Nothing should ever be taken for granted. And everything, absolutely everything, is a gift.