Lost and found: Newton Open Studios 2013

Red Nickel photo display at Newton Open Studios

I love how the gray panels make the neon signs glow.

I usually devote the day after an art fair to three things: Recuperation, reorganization, and reflection. Recuperation because these shows are exhausting, physically and mentally.  Reorganization because there are things to do — unload the car, put away the magnet-making supplies, find a home for stray pieces of bubble wrap, update my mailing list. Reflection? Read on.

The days leading up to Newton Open Studios were more hectic than usual.  Because this was my first show of the year, I had to replenish my inventory of fridge magnets and prints, update my display materials, and remember where I stashed all sorts of critical bits and pieces after the 2012 holiday shows.  I volunteered to co-captain the display space at the Newton Cultural Center (along with jeweler Lauren Berman), so I had a few extra responsibilities this time around.  And having just returned from a photo trip to Las Vegas the week before, my normal last-minute preparations were compressed into just a few days.

Which meant that Thursday — the day before set-up — was a blur of activities that culminated in a trip to Target to buy string for the crew scheduled to post signs and balloons throughout neighborhood on Saturday morning.

And then things fell apart. On Friday morning I managed to jam my printer when I inserted a new ink cartridge. I put that little issue on hold, only to realize that I had not seen my wallet since I returned from Target the day before.  Trying not to panic, I made a few phone calls. No one had turned in a wallet at Target, and my credit card company reported no suspicious activities.

So I chose to believe that I had probably misplaced the wallet, and I tried not to think about it as I loaded the car and showed up for my 3 PM – 6 PM shift at the NCC.  Of course, lost-wallet anxiety doesn’t exactly disappear, and it came as no surprise when I cut my finger with a box-cutter while I was setting up my space.  (Thanks Sue Schneps for the band-aid!)  After finishing my set-up, I enlisted the expert assistance of Jennifer Yogel from Local Color Jewelry to help assemble the neighborhood signs. Then I waited for everyone to finish setting up and locked up the auditorium at 6:30.

Friday night’s accomplishments: Unjammed the printer and found my wallet.  Stress levels drop appreciably.

Finally, Day 1.  The day started slowly, and the expected crowds never quite materialized.  Was it the earlier date? Competition with school activities and Saturday errands?  Impossible to know.  But still, people seemed to like my work.  And the mood — like the weather — was sunny.  I was encouraged.

Day 2, and suddenly the crowds showed up.  Lots of visitors, lots of conversations, and lots of sales. Previous customers stopped by to say hello. My fridge magnet depicting the CITGO sign continued to  be a best seller.  But I was also encouraged to see that people were connecting with my new prints on metal — and the stories behind the images.  Many visitors shared their memories of Newton’s South Pacific restaurant, and others connected with photos showing the Modern Pastry shop in Boston’s North End, the Shell sign on Memorial Drive, and the Rosebud Diner in Davis Square.  Sometimes the conversation turned to Boston’s lost neon signs — the Coca-Cola sign at the edge of Allston, the White Fuel sign in Kenmore Square, and the Dunkin’ Donuts sign in North Brighton — and the wonderful collection at the Neon Museum.

And then it was over.  I took apart my display, wrapped up my work, and packed up the car.  As the last volunteer standing, I made sure the auditorium was ready for Monday’s NCC activities and closed the door at 6:30. Exhaustion aside, it was a wonderful and well-run event and I was honored to be in the company of so many talented artists.  Thank you to everyone at Newton Open Studies (special shout-out to Ellen Fisher), the Newton Cultural Center, fellow artists and volunteers, and — of course — the art lovers who shared their interest and enthusiasm for our work.

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