Friday, June 19, 2009

Real Artists Don't Skimp

I always tell people when you go to the festival at least bring enough money for the food. Some of it is a bit pricey but it is sooo good. Every year I get chocolate covered strawberries and a big chunk of chocolate covered English toffee to bring home.

Visiting the renaissance festival each year is a tradition in my family. We all have costumes and go in full regalia, packing kids and accessories into the wagon. I once suggested that we might try visiting like normal people sometime, in normal clothes, but I was unanimously outvoted. So this year we once again spent all morning dressing and preparing for the day. So many layers and laces.

I usually really enjoy a day at the festival but this year was a bit of a disappointment. Oh, they still had the chocolate booth and we watched a show we hadn't seen before. (Arsene of Paris was a silly french man who didn't speak but let us in on a few magic trick 'secrets' and juggled fire. Gabe loves anything with fire juggling. He is not allowed to, he's still working on 4 ball.) But we didn't have much time to window shop. We only got to stop at a few shops between being 2 hours late and needing frequent stops for 1 person or other.

The window shopping is an integral part of visiting the faire,especially if you are an artist. There are well over 200 artists at the faire selling any number of things. I love being able to ask the artist personally about their work, being able to see demonstrations or learn about new (old) forms of art. Many craftsmen there take pride in working the same way as, or offering the same products as would have been available in the 1500's. For the artists like that I expect to pay them well for what they are worth as I appreciate the work and workmanship that went into their wares.

I have a pair of leather shoes from Renaissance Moccasins that I bought about 10 years ago that are still in fabulous condition. They are so comfy. The artist makes each shoe from 1 piece of leather and she gives them a lifetime guarantee. If they ever need fixed-which mine never have- just send them in. Now some have told me that these shoes are too expensive. Over $50. But these are HANDMADE LEATHER shoes. Hello? A pair of Nike's costs at least that much and they are ugly junk that I know wont last that long. And if they wear out can you send them to Nike to get them fixed? No. Nice try.

The problem that I have been seeing though, is that there are just as many artists there that have been 'cutting corners' to make a buck. There were a couple shops that we visited, that I have purchased from before, that I was deeply disappointed in. The materials that they are using now are cheaper, flimsy, not as pretty or fancy, and yet they are charging the same or even more for these lesser quality items. Now I understand trying to keep costs down or dealing with inflation, but to switch from a nice quality product to something obviously inferior just doesn't sit well with me. Part of the appeal of the faire was the artist/customer relationship that blossoms in that type of environment. I imagine its like walking the main street stalls in old time England visiting with the person who actually created the thing, and even bartering a little sometimes.

One of the shops we visited used to be a favorite. I bought my self and my eldest daughter bodices there when she was little. (both of her sisters has since worn it) I have since sewn my own bodice that I usually wear, but this year I wore my old one to better facilitate Baby Boy's nursing needs. It's a beautiful bodice with several types of fabric patch worked together and that was actually the inspiration for the bodice I made a couple years ago. I love it's green and brown tones, the velvet and the brocade. I love how adjustable it is with the lacing, it's just a really nice garment all around. That they don't make anymore. Not only do they not make bodices like this anymore, but they were rather snide about it when Gabe asked. And the young girl that was 'helping' run their booth knew nothing about the product or company. (Nor did she endeavor to play the part and speak with a proper English accent. Another pet peeve of mine that has permeated the kingdom these last few years.) The bodices they sell now are all plain, 1 fabric (not even pretty fabrics) with no character, no imagination, no customer service, and no business from me.

I know not all the artists there have given up on their art or its quality just to 'do their job', but there were too many that did for my tastes. I so want to go back, though I don't think finances will allow, to visit all the shops that we missed, which was a lot. To visit all the shops that are still run by true artists that don't skimp on quality, who are happy to take a few moments to visit with you, with your kids, who will give you mini lessons and demonstrations , who are there because they love their art and they love to share with you. I want to go back and see some real art from real artists. And maybe get a bit more chocolate.
Baby Boy in his festival cloak. Baby moccasins dangle next to him.

Daughter #3 on the climbing wall. Yes, she went all the way to the top!

Daughter #1 at the archery booth

Daughter #2 at the archery booth


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sew Much To Do...


I'm totally distracted. I guess I'm always distracted though. I think I'm gonna get "stuff" done but there's always something. I finally got Gabe to show me how to set up the computer to take photos for my Etsy shop, but he set up on his computer so I don't have the pictures until he transfers them. I should probably have him show me how to do that too.

This weekend is the first weekend of our local renaissance festival, which we attend every year. It's a great place to visit for an artist of any level. There are jewelry artists, painters, sculptors, metal smiths, leather workers, costumers, musicians and instrument makers, henna artists, artists who make masks, hair sticks, shoes, feather art, and the list goes on and on. So many have been regulars for as long as I've been going (17 years!) and there are many, many whose work I admire and aspire to. I also go for the chocolate booth which is just a round the corner from the petting zoo.

Now I know some people don't like the festival because there are some "weirdies" that work there but come on, there are "weirdies" at the mall. And Walmart. And just about anywhere you go. And no, there is not a larger concentration of them at the festival either. If someone is providing a service, or a piece of art that disagrees with my moral standing or conscience I avoid it, whether I'm at the mall or some other place. It doesn't mean I don't go shopping. But that's just me.
(Gabe in a slightly upgraded costume-he started out as a peasant. This was bought.)

Shortly after I met Gabe I learned that not only had he been to the faire near his home, but that he had worked at it. He worked for a leather shop watering the dirt. Yes, watering the dirt. He was later upgraded to hawking wares. He therefore had his own costume, and I had mine. Not cuz I worked there, just cuz I'm a dweeb. After we had kids we started to get them their own costumes and even upgrade our own. I've sewn at least half of them myself. I am currently working on a cloak that was supposed to be for my oldest daughter, I may wear it first though. I'm having trouble getting motivated to sew. I just realized that I don't really like to sew. Which is kinda strange. I like to make things and I like seeing the outcome of what I've sewn but the actual process of sewing always puts me a bit on edge. Not sure why, it also frustrates me because no matter how hard I try, my sewing is not as beautiful and straight as the work of so many other amazing seamstresses. And that's just annoying.
(I made this coat to mimic the one on Geoffrey in 'A knights tale' and bought the amazing leather top hat at the festival. I also made the sash to match.)

I have two days to finish the cloak (and hopefully a mini one too) and I know I can finish it in one. The question is will I? Or will I let myself get distracted by things and be up at midnight trying to finish? Or will my machine poop out? That tends to happen a lot when I'm almost done too. I bet I would really love sewing if my machine cooperated more. And did all the work. (I guess its a good thing I don't have to make everyone's clothes by hand, what a whiner I am.)
(This is the fabric that will soon be a cloak. I'm about 1/3 of the way there.)
(Baby boy testing out his costume. This one was bought at the Cali faire.)

I'd better get to bed, I've got work to do tomorrow.