Jan and I both were otherwise gainfully employed when we encountered weaving. We lived in two different counties, fifty minutes apart. Weaving actual “stuff” was a heady experience, we made lots of it. “We could sell this stuff” was the next thought and we looked around for venues where people sold the “stuff” they made. We talked to people we were meeting who made and sold “stuff” and the Utica Ice Cream Festival was recommended as a good place, so we booked a place and showed up on time.
I just googled Utica Ice Cream Festival. It is still going strong. Read the list of activities and see our learning curve. Folks who come to a festival to eat ice cream, cheer their kids in sack races and check exhibits of vintage cars aren’t there to buy much hand crafted “stuff.” The ice cream is excellent, however, and we made new and life-long friends travelling the same curving road as we.
At that festival we met Todd and Joni, silversmiths, with their three young children and another on the way. Utica was a good half day’s drive from our homes, back then, and Todd and Joni lived in another small village between us.
To the day I retired I envied Joni. Or any jeweler. Three or four hours into my own unloading, unpacking, set up, with maybe twenty minutes to show time, Joni would come in from the parking lot with her canopy over one shoulder, carrying two large cases with handles. The cases became the display, the beautiful silver pieces displayed on or behind glass counters. And her so lovely, smiling, getting out this ring or that bracelet.
But back to our modest beginnings. After the ice cream festival Joni wanted some place mats and came to the studio to select the fabric. Jan made her five, and she wears the ring she received in trade to this day. A couple of years later Jan met the toddler who she last knew as a baby on the way. Mallory.
Back at the studio Jan went rummaging for anything left of Joni’s place mat fabric and found enough to make Mallory a small, square place mat. It would fit her high chair! Jan sent it in a manila envelope, addressed to Mallory. Her very own place mat.
When her plate covered the entire mat, Mallory still used it. When Mallory went to college, so did her place mat. We saw Joni last a couple of years ago, at a local art festival, and yes, Mallory is married and still uses her place mat under something.
It did us no harm to learn from the bottom up, as it were, there are festivals and there are festivals. Even with a “craft” tent, an ice cream festival is not an art festival. And there is no experience to boost one’s learning curve like hearing, over the loudspeaker from the ice cream eating contest tent, “Sorry, son, it must stay down to count.’