Weeks ago, a woman from a regional Probus group contacted me. She was organising an outing for members, a bus trip to my area, and would like to make my studio, The Hatchery, a stopping off point. Was I agreeable, and would I accommodate the group? Yes, of course! It’s always a thrill to share my passion, art and processes. She would confirm the details closer to the date. Okay, wonderful.
There are two gallery/studios in Sandford that open their doors to the public, Darryl’s Glass Gallery and mine. As we are also next door neighbours, and a short walk apart, it’s convenient for visitors to Sandford. The group would visit both.
A few weeks later, the woman rang again, confirming. It was time to get my bum into gear. Like an lot of creative types, I work ‘messy’. Immersed in whatever current project/s I’m working on, supplies and wherewithal get pulled out, shoved aside, and form haphazard piles. The floor is littered with lino slivers, the bin overflows, and there is a general air of mayhem. There were several projects on the go, and I still hadn’t cleaned up from preparing work for a small solo exhibition at Gorman’s Art Gallery in nearby Casterton. After weeks of rain interspersed with brief bouts of sunshine, my patch was a wilderness, grass and weeds out of control, and the driveway needed sprucing up. That’s okay. It would be all in order on the day.
The week prior to the proposed visit by the group, I was given the time and numbers – around 10.15 a.m. and 40 people. Think about that, Jenn: 40 people! My space is small and rustic (let’s be real, here, it’s a bit rough, but quirky). A converted garage-come-shed, it’s divided into flow-through work and display space. Even accommodating two groups of twenty people, as agreed, it would be a sardine experience. What to do? Rearrange, of course.
I don’t normally air my disarray to the public (only good friends and family, who know me so well), but in this case I would like to share at least part of the transformation. The most recent phone call put a bomb under me. I had four days to get organised. I neglected to take photos of the initial chaos. However, you’ll get some (!) idea from the Work In Progress shots, below. (I am laughing, now..)
My work table is over 1 metre wide (over 4′) by over 2.7 metres (9′) long. The base frame is steel, the top a slab of thick particle board, with a heavy under-shelf for storage. Originally, it was made as a tailor’s layout table. It weighs a ton, even with the storage shelf cleared – which I did before reorienting the table from across the room to lengthwise (as seen above). The table holds my two cast iron book presses – a strength training exercise to remove and replace. With the weather being perverse, I could not risk stacking stuff outside.
Why did I tackle this? Because I was excited. Groups have visited in the past, and it’s a wonderful experience. I wanted my very welcome visitors to have a shoal-swimming experience, rather than feel sardine-packed. The cleaning, sorting, rearranging took the entire four days, and into late evenings. But, I did it, alone, without getting a hernia, or doing my back in. At 65, that’s always a bonus.
The fourth-night deadline saw the transformation complete. There was room for folk to stand at the front and one end of the table, to watch the demonstration. Blocks were available for those interested. The heater ready to be turned on, and not a sign of the mouse invasion that’s an annual occurrence in ‘the bush’.
Until I finish the reno on my cottage, the ‘good’ dining table, covered with blanket and cloth, is in service as display space in the mini gallery. There’s nowhere else to store it. Actually a pain-in-the-bum-nuisance, the old-world, well-made and heavy piece of furniture is yet another exercise in strength training and perseverance to move. Re-positioned, it allows entry into a more open, albeit smallish, viewing area.
The following morning I was up with the friendly shrike-thrush’s song. There was still a bit more prep, new prints to mount and package, pricing, and more freebies to put in the basket. Every visitor to my studio is encouraged to select a take-home keepsake (bookmark, small print). There was a demo to decide upon. No time to dilly-dally. A foam block reduction print would give the group some novel insight. And, should I nick into to town for lollies to fill the nibble jar? The essentials first, forget the lollies, remove the jar (you’ll only eat them, Jennifer).
I saw the bus arrive (me, watching? you bet!) and disappear down Darryl’s driveway to park. I knew they were on a schedule, and already running 20 minutes late. They would have morning tea while enjoying Darryl’s glass art and wares. Then they would wander over to me, from past experience, probably in dribs and drabs, but maybe en masse. I was ready and waiting, genuine smile hovering, keen to share.
Finally, I saw one woman coming my way. Woohoo! But, hang on. Where are the others?
Yes, the weather was iffy, showers earlier and grey clouds massing. Yes, they were behind on an already tight schedule. Yes, it was a short walk from the bus to my place…
The one visitor apologised for the rest. She did suggest and encourage, apparently. She did give my art a cursory glance, and did stay to chat, briefly. She did not introduce herself (the organiser? and me too flabbergasted to ask), did not sign the visitors’ book, did not bother with a freebie. “We’re supposed to leave by eleven,” she said, looking at the clock on the wall. “And it’s already after that.”
I was miffed. Even more so after speaking with Darryl, later. It had been discussed. The plan was for the bus to stop at the top of my drive (a disused road with wide road reserve and plenty of space). It didn’t happen. I watched it drive past, heading to Casterton.
More than anything, I was sad and deeply disappointed. I thoroughly enjoy interacting with folk who come into my studio. It’s the prime reason I open the door to the public. If they buy something, great. If not, equally great. I’ve chatted, laughed, shared and perhaps educated or even enthralled.
Why bother to contact me three times to confirm details, ensure I would be accommodating, and then, not come in? A consensus, or individual’s decision? Who knows, not me.
The upside? Yes, of course there is one. There had better be! No huge jar of lollies sitting there, tempting. Grass mowed, flowers planted, cobwebs swept, a studio that’s clean, tidy and more amenable to groups, and a joy to walk into and work in. And now for some printmaking.