Two Sundays back, I had such a delightful day. I spent it hawking my art-wares in a small tent, longish grass sprinkled with those little white lawn daisies and nice-smelling herby things beneath my feet, a small brook lined with willowy things and spring-green trees behind me, a temporary village of similar tents beside and before me, meadows of wildflowers and oaks beyond and, a little more distant, fir-covered slopes rising toward a miraculously sunny blue sky (in this valley of western Oregon these things indeed seem miraculous when one is at the end of the Gray Season). In between the tents were festival-goers of all sorts: kids of all sizes, mamas and papas and grandparents, and oodles of other grown-ups solo and in groups, of all ages and dress. Many were clad in flowery garments befitting the event: Mount Pisgah Arboretum's annual Wildflower Festival. It's a nature-education themed day, with nature walks and talks, plus live music, food, native plant and art vendors. It is a fund-raiser for this lovely open space reserve that, I'm told, has been held since the 1980s. Now that's a nice long run!
And no wonder. I do declare, a celebration of wildflowers: what a good idea is that, no? The main event is a hall filled with big long tables of every sort of wildflower you can imagine (photos below). It's all stuff that grows around here, with labels that tell you what it is, if it's native or something else, and suchlike. It is beautiful, fascinating, and informative. A real treat. If you are local, and have not been, do go next year. You will be pleased you did, yes indeedy.
One of the things I love about this show is that the specimens are displayed in vases and jars of all shapes and sizes. It is as if there was a call to all involved to bring every vase they had on the back shelves of the pantry, tucked up in the attic behind the Christmas decorations, up in the unreachable-cabinet above the fridge, next to the home-canned tomatoes in the larder, gathering dust beside the curious assortment of fasteners at the back of the workbench in the garage, nestled beside the hose-valve washers and other oddments in the potting shed, or tucked back behind the hen feed in that cubby behind the chicken house, and bring it on down on to loan for the day. There is an individuality and humanity to the assortment of vessels that I find heartening. It also makes for a good game of instant history... trying, for example, to invent the backstory for the green glass crystal-cut vase that reminds me somehow of being in my grandparents house in New Mexico, especially the pantry, and its cool concrete floor, its open screen door through which the smell of dry grass wafted, and its tall cabinet doors, painted in that 1950s forest-service green. But I digress.
At any rate, it was such a delightful day; it was my first festival as an art vendor, and I am inclined to mark it down as a success! I had such a nice time talking to browsers and buyers about the art and its subjects. I chatted about art technique with lots fellow folk-who-draw-and-paint, which was good fun. And so many of you who came through shared with me stories about goats and deserts and jackrabbits and fireflies, the current obsession - I mean focus -of my paintings.
I was so nice to find that my paintings of critters and plant-scapes conjured memories for so many people. Among other subjects, I got to chat about cholla (Cylindropuntia) and its stunning landscape (and the jackrabbits who live there) with people from the Sonoran desert of Arizona. It is not every day that I get to talk about cholla; it's one of my favorite plants, with a reputation for grabbing people, who soon learn to steer clear. I also learned, from festival-goers who grew up in the lands where fireflies roam, that there is a regional distinction in nomenclature: fireflies or lightning bugs, depending on where you grew up. I am forgetting the lines of divide, but I shall make it a subject of survey at future festivals. (Perhaps someday I shall make an artsy map to show the distinct lightning-bug/firefly regions!)
So, I hope you enjoy the photos if you did not make it out this year. And! The fall equivalent, The Mount Pisgah Mushroom Festival is coming up on October 29th. Imagine those tables filled with mushrooms instead of wildflowers, and you get the idea. It is similarly fascinating and well worth a visit. I plan to be there as a vendor, and hope to see you there!
P.S.: I would like to send out a hearty thanks to some of the people who helped me make this first art show adventure a success. Thanks to Juli Brode and Greg Slowik/Greg Slowik Design, for the loan of their drill press. Thanks to Nancy and Boomer McNaught, of Boomer's Grilled Brats and More (...like jerkey. Yum.), for the loan of the green tent and instruction in its operation. Thanks to uncommonly fine land-people Bill & Carolyn for letting me test the operation in the back parking lot, helping me lug the tent in and out of the basement 68 times, and coming by to say hi on the day of the Festival. And thank you to dear friends KT>, & KW, who came by to see me and buy a few things! You warmed my heart. Thanks y'all.
Melinda Nettles, proprietor of LEAN2creativeworks, an independent art and illustration studio located in the Cape Cod town of Eastham, Massachusetts.