Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Fair Day Off

Even though preparations for the upcoming Labor Day weekend at Fest are keeping me busy (and will now require some all-nighters), I couldn't help but give a day away this week to the great Minnesota get-together: the Minnesota State Fair.

The State Fair runs every August for (I think) twelve days, ending on Labor Day. And because my weekends are devoted to the Renaissance Festival at the same time, I have to fit it in where I can.

I like it more every year I'm there. 

James, as it turns out, has never really been a fan, but I like to think that going there with me is changing his attitude. We can now spend an entire day there together from dawn until dark, and he'll patiently look at every quilt and 4-H project I choose to ponder. However, the one thing I think he could happily live without is the Annual Touring of the Animal Barns....

It doesn't matter that I've never really lived on a farm or even spent a moment slopping pigs or milking goats. In my head I see myself as a Farmgirl. So spending long and happy moments touring the noisy animal barns is one of my State Fair pleasures. And because James would be meeting me there after half a day of work, I decided this year to get to the Fair way before he did so I could see the barns at my leisure without having to park him on a bench to read the paper.

It was a great idea.

However, I slept through my morning alarm, then missed my first bus to the State Fair shuttle point, and then was annoyed and dismayed to discover that what was supposed to be a shuttle point wasn't.... Hours that could've been spent seeing farm animals were rapidly slipping away.

And I was sitting on a bus bench feeling dang sorry for myself when I observed a couple getting out of their car across the way. Both were in straw cowboy hats and sensible shoes -- definitely Fair folk. They approached a bus driver, asked a question, seemed surprised by the answer, and began returning to their car. A lightbulb went off in my head and I quickly caught up with them. And -- bless their hearts! -- they were willing to give me a ride to the real shuttle point. And soon we were all en route to the Fair.

Ruth and Sam Stuart are from Carlton, Minnesota. They are definitely kindred spirits. As we rode together they told me stories about everything from beekeeping to hand-woven rugs to their travels around the country. I was fascinated. As we got closer to the Fair, I suddenly realized that the crazy mishaps of my morning were far away in my memory, and because of these delightful Minnesotans I had a smile on my face once more. (Thank you, Ruth and Sam for saving the day!)

As it turned out, James had arrived at the Fair just moments before me. We began our day in the International Bazaar by checking out the merchandise in the Irish on Grand booth and sampling some new (to us) State Fair foods. First on the list were the lamb 'fries' at the Holy Land Deli (tasty), and then the beef tongue caramelos at Sonora Grill (not so much....). And over the course of the day we sampled smoked pig ankles, SPAM curds, and bacon ice cream, as well as a host of other State Fair faves like Pronto Pups and cheese curds.

I'm the world's best customer, I swear. As James and I strolled through the Grandstand I couldn't help but yearn for the Singer sewing machines and the Hammond organs, the hanging hammocks and the Sham-Wow, the mop that picks up pet hair and the slicey-dicey kitchen device that does everything from creating serving boats out of watermelons to turning radishes into roses. I listened to all the sales pitches with eyes filled with wonder until James gently led me (and his wallet) a safe distance away.

I stood in line for a free tube of pickle-flavored lip balm. I wore a paper mosquito hat so tall that it kept bumping into things. I dodged strollers, trod through manure, watched strands of fluffy cotton candy float away on the breeze, smelled barbecue and heard calliope tunes. I saw beauty queens carved in butter, ate chocolate-covered bacon, drank cold Culligan water, listened to banjo pickers. I shook hands with the Vita-Mix lady who sold me my appliance over 15 years ago and told her that I still use it every day. I collected literature on how to raise rabbits and how to compost kitchen scraps in a bin under the sink. I ate more ice cream in one day than I have all year! I thought my feet were going to fall off....

I ate my first ear of sweet corn of the summer. I took pictures of art made entirely of seeds. I saw the state's largest pumpkin, weighing over a thousand pounds! I studied the workings of a steam-powered pencil sharpener. I delightfully toured (and by 'toured' I mean entered and barely turned around in) some of the smallest little camping trailers ever, and I imagined myself going to Renaissance Festivals and living in one of them.

And then at the end of the day I finally got to the Poultry Barn.

I like all the barns, but the Poultry Barn is one of my faves. (No surprise: the Horse Barn is another, but by the time James and I get to the Fair, most of the stalls seem empty....) James found a bench for resting his feet and closing his eyes, and I made a bee-line for the chickens.

I love the big and fluffy ladies that I'm sure would take my head off if there wasn't a cage between us, but my favorites are the little ones that look like they just stepped out of a painting of an old English cottage. I'm a big fan of Runner Ducks. And even though I'm sure they're nasty as all get-out, I can't help but love what I like to call the Mother Goose geese....

All the while I was in the Poultry Barn, I kept encountering an elderly man in a suit and a straw cowboy hat. A young woman was pushing him in a wheelchair. They stopped at every cage and he whispered to each bird. It made me think about farms and the farmers who love them. It reminded me of the story Sam Stuart shared with me of his 80-year-old friend who was offered millions for the acreage surrounding his homestead but stubbornly wouldn't sell. It made me think of the farms that are disappearing.... And my inner Farmgirl, stuck here in the 'burbs with a deep yearning for wide open spaces, kind of wept for him.

It was dark and the Midway was just gearing up by the time James and I called it quits. My old legs were screaming and it was a blessed pleasure to climb into the car for the ride home. And on the way I thought about beekeeping and cornfields, and the logistics of bringing a thousand-pound pumpkin to the Fair, and how many hours it must take to recreate the Last Supper out of millet and mustard seeds. And I thought about kids and their cows, and old men remembering chickens, and old women submitting shining Mason jars full of pickles and rainbow-hued jellies so pretty they look like stained glass. And I wondered if there are any little kids nowadays who even get to see a farm let alone live on one or have grandparents who still live on one. And I thought about the Stuarts and how lucky I was to meet them and hear their stories.

It was a day full of happy and sad and wonder and awesome.

It was just a normal day at the Fair.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Magick Comes to Mayfaire

As pretty on the inside as she is on the outside.

Twig Oaklyn Flewinia Thistlebottom (aka 'Twig the Fairy') graces Mayfaire with her beautiful and melodious (and very glittery!) presence.

Enchantment was enjoyed by all. :)

What Would I Do Without YOU?

You have my heart.
I can't thank you enough.

You came all the way to Mayfaire just to say hi. You don't even like Renaissance Festivals and you came all the way to Mayfaire to say hi.

To me. Thank you.

You brought me coffee, introduced me to your friends, asked about my grandbugs, shared your art with me, even made me a gift, for heaven's sake.

You gave me the warmest and gentlest of hugs.... Twice. :)

You laughed at my joke (and we all know I'm not funny), and your laughter at just the right time made my day. You made me like you even more than I already do. You made me SO glad we're friends!

You looked at my work, you studied each piece. "Which are you proudest of," you said. "Which one still fills you with wonder when you look at it?" And I couldn't decide. I considered each one, and I didn't know how to talk to you about them because you're an artist, too. But I tried and you listened. I wasn't trying to sell you one, I hope you know that. And you didn't have to pay me twice what I'd listed it at. And you didn't have to say, "I know you think this is worth $25, but to me it's priceless." You made me cry happy tears. I am so glad our paths crossed!

Thank you....

You trusted me with your crisis. It was a harsh year for you, wasn't it? And all I could do was listen and hope my heart wasn't breaking too loudly. But you gave me a smile before you left, and I hope it was as healing for you as it was for me because I'd give it back to you if I could.

You shared your milestone with me; what an accomplishment! And we were proud for you together, weren't we?, because you're amazing. :)

You sang that song, you know the one. The sweet and melancholy one that makes me see cloaked and kilted shadows and feel oh so far away. And that toe-tapping one that I'll find myself singing for the rest of the week. And that old standard that you tweaked and twisted and breathed jazzy new life into until I hardly recognized it, and when I did it filled my whole day with delight.

You were patient with me. You urged me out of my comfort zone and then let me hurry back to it again. You put me in a hat, for heaven's sake. With a snood. And a feather. You chose that pinpoint of color that kept me looking in the mirror all day wondering just who that sassy lady was.

And at the end of the day when that sassy lady was gone and there was just me in my old black tee and cammo pants, just me covering art and closing up shop and singing aloud to myself in the gathering twilight, you peeked in the door and said, "You have a nice singing voice. I've walked past your shop twice now just to hear you." And for a long moment I wondered who the heck you could be talking about. And then you were surprised when I leapt through the doorway and hugged the breath out of you.


Do you know how special you are? You are MAGICK.

And I'm so grateful for you.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Busy, Busy, Busy!

My 3-year-old grandbug at Fest's 1st Weekend
My Eldest has been home, the MN Renaissance Festival has gotten underway, and since I wrote last I've been knee deep in grandbuglets and Fest preparations. It's all been a blur!

And in a few moments I'll be heading out to the site to get an early start on the 2nd Fest Weekend of the season.

There are so many things I want to tell you and so many people I want to thank for making my 1st Weekend so dang memorable. But Time has caught me up and it will all have to wait, sadly.

But when we do 'meet' again, I'll just have that much more to share with you! :)

Can't wait that long? Then come out and see me at Mayfaire, shop #443 by the Crown Stage. You'll be glad you did!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Huzzah -- It's Almost Here!

Mayfaire -- looking all Fest-ive!

Since I wrote last so much has been happening.

That little caterpillar I mentioned in the last blog post? It made its chrysalis today.

The new little grandbug that my arms keep longing for? She's here! All the way from California. :)

That little shop called 'Mayfaire' that I keep talking about? She's all swept, scrubbed, furnished, and set up. New art's been hung for display. Plants have been planted. Flags are flagging.

The Renaissance Festival that I've been creating art for? It starts in just two days!

The Village soon welcomes YOU

Just in the bit of time between this post and the last, my Fest neighbors and I have been working like bees readying our neighborhood. It promises to be a fun, new season that I'm totally looking forward to.

(And I must have been channeling some of its energy because I've been happily drawing nothing but mermaids over the summer and now guess what? There will be MERMAIDS there. Real live ones that swim and everything. Am I psychic or what?)

If you're planning to attend the MN Renaissance Festival (and I hope you are), here's a great ticket offer from the Startribune. And when you get there, you can use this map to help you find my shop: Mayfaire, #443 by the Crown (aka Tortuga/Johnny Phoenix) Stage. Cool beans.

Oh, and don't forget to download the merchant coupons before you leave so you can save money on everything from tarot readings to fantasy hair weavings to -- ahem -- art by ME. :)

Need directions? You can find them here. Ticket info? Ditto. Too late to get in on the Strib offer? You can find discount coupons at your local Subway, Dunn Bros. Coffee, or Papa Murphy's Take-n-Bake Pizza.

And ladies -- if your guy isn't into Renaissance Festivals, take heart. There's a pub on site that features beer and sports broadcasts. Park him there and then come have some FUN, 'k?

Don't bother telling him that there really are knights in shining armor there ready to sweep you off your feet or that he'll be missing enough tightly-laced bodices and ample cleavage to last his eyes a lifetime.

He'll figure it out!

Friday, August 3, 2012

A View From A Sink

An ever-changing tableau that now includes freshly picked tomatoes, the first Monarch caterpillar of this season's 2nd Generation, and the promise of rain. :)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Self-Doubt and Sleeplessness

Eeyore understands -- :)
The last two weeks have been sponsored by the letter 'i'. For 'insomnia'....


This happens to me every summer prior to the start of the MN Renaissance Festival's season. Even though I know to expect and prepare for it now, being in its throes gets harder every year.

It's all due to the fact that even though I'm physically exhausted at the moment, my thoughts are a perfect storm.  There's so much to do, order, create, organize, scan, clean, print, package, sew, launder, frame, sign, number, count, fill-in-the-blank. The list is endless and intimidating! And then I have to go and add to it a plateful of self-doubt with a side of longing-to-rewind-Time-and-do-all-sorts-of-things-over.

I look at the recent work I've been so happily creating and I suddenly dislike it in spades. It's not good enough. It's all too whimsical or something. Too light! And too cartoonish, maybe. I imagine harsh public scrutiny. I compare myself unfavorably to creative friends I know who really ARE artists. I imagine few sales for the millionth Festival year in a row....

I find myself wanting to rewrite my history. Insert some stuff in there that never happened but should have. How would things be different now if I'd gone to Art School, learned to use the correct materials, learned to do things the right way, found my style? Would I have a healthy respect for my work now and not see it as simply lucky scribbles? Would I finally view it as Real Art, worthy of payment, and stop giving it away? Would I be able to call myself an artist and not feel like a liar?

I know it's just my inner Mean Girl. I recognize her voice. She's taking advantage of the fact that I'm too tired right now to fight back and I know this. As I try to fall asleep at night she hits me with her best shot -- over and over again -- and I just lie there and let her.... I've learned over the years to anticipate this, too. (Again -- doesn't get any easier.)

Do other creative people feel this way, I wonder? Do they share these doubts? And if so, what do they do to silence their inner critics?

What am I saying? Why don't I just ASK you: You're creative, my friend. I'm in awe of everything you do, and you know it. Do you experience what I'm describing? And if so, how do you handle it?

Waiting on your every word,