This is the fifth of a series of five pieces written by artist Leau Phillips about her experiences at the New Mexico State Fair.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I have met the underbelly of the arts and crafts events and lived to tell about it! It isn't pretty, is isn't easy, but it had to happen sooner or later. Met it, confronted it came out with all fingers and toes and ego intact.
I told you yesterday that we had decided to leave the fair a day early. Wasn't an easy decision, didn't come to it lightly, wrestled with those demons of "NOT fulfilling a commitment" It was a toss and turn night.
After having a conversation with the organizer yesterday, just casually mentioning the PET TAGS banner that hung above our booth (something to think about in the future, make sure no one person's banner is so outstanding that all the other booths are ignored in the process; not complaining) and talking about the traffic (none) and the location (those jumping flies, really were fleas and flea bites on your ankles hurt when you sweat!!) and the very casual use of the words "art" and/or "craft" followed by unique and HANDMADE to describe this particular motley crew of booths, I was ready.
Upon my arrival I immediately sought her to tell her my decision. Ms Sweetness and Light became devil dog and turned on me. She THREATENED me! Said I would never be invited back - I said I was good with that. Told me she would blackball (I kept seeing marbles rolling around) me from every other arts and crafts fair in the area. Huh? She wields that much power? I wasn't intimidated, I knew I could take her. She went on to say I was not living up to my commitment. I said she didn't live up to hers, she called this an ARTS and Crafts event after all. She said it was really a "mostly" arts and craft event and I said it was a NOT arts and "mostly" craps event.
There was wailing and gnashing of teeth about how hard she had worked with us to get us our space (she recruited us from another market), how she had bent over backwards to help us...when was that? We didn't see her more than once a day at most. There was no advertising, no promotion and we had to pay to get into the fair and for parking!!! She went on to blame us for not having things people wanted. She was right there, we had nothing that contained the words Dallas or Cowboys, nothing that came from another country (that's for you Mark!) or was so cheap it was a given that it would be in pieces and/or completely destroyed before it reached the exit. Nor did we import any of our work, order online or buy it at the dollar store. And no one could eat it.
She couldn't "control" the attendance at the fair or the fact that no one was spending money. She must not have seen the life-sized stuffed black Spiderman or the plethora (don't 'ya just love that word) of cheap and tacky crap coming out of the exhibit hall. She was really getting worked up, but I was very professional and said the decision had been made. Then the big one comes out of her mouth..."This will haunt you forever!" And ya know, I think I am good with that too!
Unfortunately, this also affects our new friends Ren and Ken because she accused them of encouraging others to leave early and since we were all the artsy types we must all talk and obviously they convinced us to do this and they would regret it if any of the others left today. We are writing letters to the fair folks to let them know. Do you think we can get any kind of restitution for flea bites? I guess that might be pushing it a little, eh?
So how was the last day at the fair you ask? HOT and then not and then HOT and then not. Welcome to fall in New Mexico. Many, many flies (just the regular kind but annoying as hell). My favorite outfit of the day was the little girl dressed in a soccer jersey and a chiffon skirt with a handkerchief hem...all in shades of pink!
And the pet apparel vendors? Well, after a rough start (the organizer took down their banners in the night after we left and then told them we had complained about them...) they sold like crazy. One woman bought a tag with her name and her husband's number on it so if anything happened to her while she was out jogging, someone could get help. I found that very sad. Did you know that if you squeeze a squeaky toy once, you must do it four more times (scientific study here folks, I have been sitting there for five days!!) to see if it will make the same noise each time? And they do, fast or slow, the same noise. Every time. They cost $5 people, of course the noise isn't changing!!
Biggest change of the day? Angry/Happy (depending on the minute) Hot Glass Lady is suddenly now my BFF! She would pop into the booth, give me some fascinating little tidbit and be off again. Kinda like Hammy in Over The Hedge. It was hilarious! One minute it was "This show sucks so bad" and the next, "Do you know about this show or that show?" "Where else will you be showing?" "Send me the information!!" She obviously hadn't heard I was going to be blackballed at all of those. Then she brought me caramel corn! I had already completed my prerequisite (roasted corn, caramel apple) fair food by that point, so I had to turn her down.
Another unfortunate thing about A/HHGL is that she doesn't appear to have any personal space awareness. Of any kind... She would stand in front of me, almost touching my knees if I was sitting down. And if I was sitting, there was no place to back up and so I had a few moments of panic that she soon would be sitting on my lap! If her attention span had been any longer and she had been able to stay right there longer than a few seconds, I am sure it would have come to that. Whew! Sometimes short attention spans are a blessing.
Best question of the day? "What happened to your pet tags?"
And ANOTHER weird haircut dude came by! Now a gang of three roams the street with weird hair. Where is that gang suppression unit when you need them? When I was telling Paul about them, he said they probably heard there was gonna be a rumble at the pony rides and they had to check out every rumor...
Regina's husband (upon seeing something bizarre) always says; " I didn't know the state fair was in town" and Chami's husband Eric said last night, "If you want to feel good about yourself, go to the fair." Boy are those true statements! It just doesn't get any better than this.
Have you ever noticed that is seems like middle class Americans have no taste whatsoever and wait for the counter culture to do or say or have something and then they latch on to it? What comes to mind first are vans. Remember when "hippy vans" were thought to be so awful? Then everyone started driving them and they evolved into the ever pervasive minivan? It now seems that all the funky off beat things I love that were not so popular or in the middle of that middle class stream (not that I am not dipping my toe in that stream once in a while...) are now EVERYWHERE on EVERYTHING!
Like skulls for instance. Today, every fifth or sixth person (scientific study, remember? I have been sitting here for five days!!) had on something with skulls. I know this is NEW Mexico and that has always been a part of the Mexican culture, but come on...skull camouflage? Skull backpacks and even on a stroller? I saw skull flip flops, sneakers, tiaras, dog tags, tee shirts, belts, wallets, belt buckles and even a tiny girl carrying a purse shaped like a skull. But in pink sequins, of course. As much as I love skulls, I think I liked them better when they were just a little harder to find.
I did admire the knee high lace up sneakers. And the black feather wings. I loved the young couple in a pink and black combo outfit, she in pink and black plaid with a black boa and he in a matching pink and black do-rag. (Can you imagine the conversation when they were deciding what to wear? "Oh please honey, just wear it for me, just this once, we'll look so cute together!!") And I loved, loved the Santa Fe Rodeo Queen's cowboy boots, well more like outfits for her feet. First the very cool boot, then the spurs with lots of dangling things and then the spats with Milagros and other cool things on them. If I used words like genuine, I would use it here to describe the look. I saw one of the few men in NM who is willing and manly enough to wear a skirt. Love a man in a skirt!
Decided maybe blacksmithing would be fun only in the dead of winter. Saw a young girl who had on a spray-painted tank that proclaimed to the world that "Dominic Q loves Ashely S" across her chest. As she walked by, it was on her rear as well - so we could know about this undying love coming and going. When I went to buy my pretty, pretty, purple parasol, I did not buy the most wonderful painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I guess the original is famous or something but it was fabu! All of the pieces of her clothing were people or angels. The background was all people and even her face was made up of people's faces. This doesn't come close to describing it in a coherent manner but I loved it. It was so unique. If I had sold just one more necklace, it would have been mine. Did I mention it had glitter on it too?
And that same vendor in Hispanic Village had these cool plastic bracelets with saints on them, mostly several saints mixed on each bracelet. One was all the same man. When I asked the first person who that man was, he said some guy. So the lovely man who was trying to give me such a great deal on "our Lady of the faces" tells me some name that sounded made up to me. I said what is he the patron saint of? He said "sheep" Is that true? Is there a patron saint of sheep? I should want to learn to speak Catholic, but mostly I love that religious art!
Some of my final thoughts on the 2007 State Fair:
1. People of any age should not use a roasted ear of corn with butter dripping to point at anything. Especially in a booth that sells art not craps.
2. Just because someone manufactures it or sells it, doesn't mean you should wear it.
3. Tube tops come in as many sizes as jeans do. See above.
4. If you are hot and sweaty, SO IS YOUR NEWBORN!! Get those babies out of the sun.
5. Underwear shouldn't advertise things. And it should be at least partially under something. Saw a bra strap
charm today, that's a first.
6. Forget demonstrating a mop for eight hours, the very worst job at the fair is really having to wash out those foot baths in the booth where you can "soak away" all of the toxins in your body. eweeeew
7. True love is biting off the red part of a bomb pop so your sweetie doesn't have to eat that to get to the
8. If you wonder if it might be a flea, it is a flea.
9. Somewhere, somehow, you can still buy lime green cat eye glass with genuine, imitation diamondettes.
10. You don't die from having the water that you can only wash your hands with sprayed into the fan in
front of you. I didn't drink it, I promise, I kept my mouth shut.
11. People will probably always say anything that comes to mind, no matter who can hear them.
12. No one enjoys the state fair more than those field trip cuties in their wonderful crowns.
13. There is logic and reason behind a sign that reads: Please don't feed the zebra your fingers.
14. I am incredibly grateful to be much older than 14.
Thanks for being my armchair fair-goers!
Photo and jewelery by Leau Phillips. Visit Leau's just-launched blog here. Leau also wanted to give a shout-out to her fellow artists participating at the fair: Raine Klover, Paula Scott, Regina Portscheller and Donna Barntiz.