DeLAND, Fla. - Adding the thick, lined Michigan gloves to the cold morning ensemble was almost the last straw. Or layer, as it were. But the experience, even on another cold morning in Florida, was worth the effort as I helped my cousin Joyce, a crafter, at a craft show and festival on DeLand's main street.
Fortunately I believed the weather forecast and was ready for the day in Thermal undershirt, two sweatshirts, a coat, hat, and gloves. Yes, this is Florida. I did shed the coat and gloves by noon but the rest of the protective clothing still felt good.
Prior to my first-hand experience, craft shows had been places to buy handmade items that I didn't need. I also expected to find real deals. After all, there's no overhead. Wrong. That assessment has changed drastically.
The artisans, who like to be called crafters, now have my complete respect and admiration. They work hours making the products that they load into boxes, then stack in cars or trucks, and take to the site of the show, where they unload the car, unpack the boxes, set up tables and tents, arrange their merchandise in a way to attract business, and pray that it doesn't rain. If it doesn't rain, they spend eight hours or longer hoping their jewelry, crocheted doilies, hand painted pictures, dog bandanas, or hand-sculpted bowls will bring in enough money to cover the $50 rent for the booth.
Some vendors are super salesmen, while others cower in the background, hoping their wares sell without a pitch. It is a rule that vendors stay until the end of the show, no matter how bad business is. Then they get to load up the stuff that didn't sell, fold up the tables, pack it all in the car or truck, and say good-bye to fellow crafters until the next sale.
There was a genuine camaradarie among the crafters of all ages. They have much in common.
They share information about future shows and don't hesitate to tell each other if they think it will be a good one or not worth the registration fee. They buy each other's merchandise as a sign of friendship and are quick to offer compliments on each other's products.
They also keep an eye on each other's space when a crafter finds it necessary to leave his or her post or just take a break to check out the other booths and question how sales are.
It's common for crafters to pack their lunch and water for the day. We did too, but I couldn't resist slipping out to buy funnel cakes, the deep-fried dough circles that originated in Pennsylvania Dutch country and are popular at northwest Ohio fairs and festivals.
A bright green bowl has been added to the luggage on this southern journey. Mehg Marshall, a potter who was also our neighbor at the show, made it. Mehg is 20 years old and just getting her feet wet in the craft-show game. After high school she attended Penland, a school of crafts, near Spruce Pine, N.C., and Arrowmont, an art school near Gatlinburg, Tenn.
She enjoys working in her studio in the garage at her home in DeLand because, she says, it's peaceful.
My heart sank when several pieces of her lovely pottery were shattered when they tumbled from the display in the strong winds. She picked up the pieces, tossed them in the trashcan, and said, "These things just happen. It's OK."
I will remember Mehg and her cheerful attitude when I toss a salad in that green bowl next spring.