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New Season, New Trailer, New Shows

Inside of the new trailer

Inside of the new trailer

In the aftermath of the Main Street Fort Worth show, I had some time to reflect on what was working and what wasn’t with my transportation systems. After a lot of thought, a few sketches and some conversation, I decided to go with a setup similar to the one I had before. Of course there are a lot of options for getting your stuff to and from shows. Many artists are opting for Dodge/Mercedes Sprinter vans now, which have more headroom, run on diesel fuel, and are easy to maneuver into tight show spaces. Many artists still use the standard Ford E250 white van. A few tow a trailer behind a truck camper. But I’ve been set up to tow a standard tag-hitch trailer behind my Toyota Tundra, so that’s what I decided to stay with. I can’t use a Sprinter because of the two large bin boxes, and without rethinking that whole system, it was easier to stay with a truck/trailer combination.

About three weeks after returning from Fort Worth, I placed an order with my dealer for a new Wells Cargo Road Force trailer. As it turned out, I was able to drive to Elkhart and pick it up. I bought one that was in stock, saving about six weeks build time. It wasn’t quite what I wanted, but close enough. 14′ length, 7′ width, an extra six inches in height, a modified v-front for aerodynamics, dual axle with electric brakes, ramp in back, door on the side. A nicely built trailer.

After I picked it up, I spent three weeks building a rack for the panels and a new pole cart. I also built big drawer units that hold mats, frames, glass and other supplies. Shelves were constructed in the front of the v to make use of the wasted triangular space. I installed a spare tire hanger up high, to get it off the floor. I also had to build a new unit to carry larger framed work, because the two boxes that handled my 30×40’s were stolen with the Artanic. Luckily, the weather cooperated, and I was able to use the driveway to spread out to make the various parts and pieces.

Work in progress

Building panel racks and shelves on my driveway

Panel Racks and Pole Cart

The rack holds about 16 30" x 84" Pro Panels

Materials Storage

6 Drawers hold mats, frames, glass, clear bags and other materials

Arthur the trailer

Arthur

I had to build a ramp flap on the back ramp, as this trailer didn’t have the extra piece. Ordered a 6′ steel hinge and drilled holes for large screws and installed that. I built a rack to hold the four 75 2″ steel weights near the front door. I used to have to stow them on the floor and they would slide around. The rack holds them in place vertically in the 12″ space between the door and the v — a space that would normally be unusable. The ladders stow behind the panel rack so that they are easily accessible for setup and teardown. The two print bins weren’t stolen, so they stay in the same place in the back. I installed e-track along the door-side wall, and in the v, to secure various boxes and bins. I also bought industrial strength ratchet straps with e-track attachments, which are vastly superior to the Home Depot variety in strength and durability. A good source for e-track and cargo control is US Cargo Control.

All in all, this trailer is more efficient than its predecessor. It’s quicker to unload and load. Lessons learned from the first two trailers proved invaluable here. Little things like bigger ladder hooks to stow light bars and hang a lantern from, the weight rack (not seen in the photos), the spare tire hanger — all of these items help keep the trailer neat and tidy.

And the Road Force with the torflex axles rides smooth as silk. Items don’t shift in transit. It doesn’t quite get the mileage that the Artanic did (10 mpg vs 11mpg), due to the flatter v-front. But the 4′ v on the Artanic added weight without being very useful storage space. Probably a good trade-off.

And the final touch: security on the trailer. When we leave it parked, it gets two wheel boots, one on each axle. The hitch gets locked up with a gorilla guard and a padlock through the hitch release. Hopefully it won’t get towed off like the Artanic. The wheel boots are Titan Grips, from Universal Security. They take about ten seconds to install, and don’t take a lot of space on the trailer when not in use.

Front end storage

Bungie cords keep small bins from flying out of control

And we’ve had the opportunity to test it out on the road several times now. It’s been to ArtBirmingham, Northern Virgina (Reston),  the Columbus Art Festival and Chicago’s Wells Street show. It’s a bit easier to park and maneuver due to it’s slightly shorter wheelbase, and it’s easier to load and unload. There aren’t any barriers in the middle like the old had. I did have to build a ramp for the side door, for emergencies when I have to unload something in the front without taking everything off the back first. But it’s essentially done.

I’m thinking about print storage like I had on the old trailer — 6 boxes to hold prints in alpha sort. But that can wait. The drawers hold an awful lot, more than I expected, so I have some time to see if the additional box is needed.

We named the third trailer, of course. His name is Arthur, sort of an abbreviation of Art and Third. A faithful beast of burden…

A comment on failure and ethics

I had an interesting experience at the Tempe Art Festival last weekend, one that I thought raised other issues as well as the one I’m about to describe. My booth was set up on a small side street off of Mill Avenue, the main shopping district in Tempe. Another artist, also a photographer, was set up with a double booth. She had done the show before and was able to answer a couple of my questions about the show, which was helpful, as we had not been in Tempe before. The set up itself was confusing, and most of the volunteers had no idea what was going on — just getting to the location took time and patience, and I very nearly took out a booth more than once with the Artanic.

The Artanic and Blutan the Truck

Friday morning, the weather was perfect for an art show. We were at the end of a small side street, which is usually the kiss of death for sales, but there was an elegant jazz stage and the Arizona Wines tasting area across from us. A large parking lot also brought customers by the booth, so I wasn’t too worried about foot traffic. But what did worry me was the photographer across the street. She had plastered several crude signs on her print bins: “Going Out of Business — 50% Off Everything”. This type of blatant self-promotion is not allowed at most high-end shows, and Tempe has a clearly stated rule against it.

We watched all weekend as customers swarmed the booth, buying multiples and large framed work off the walls. More stock appeared. More prints went home with happy customers. Meanwhile, at the end of the street, I had many wonderful conversations, and many interested patrons. Until they discovered the sale booth down the street. This went on Friday and Saturday. On Sunday, the markdowns continued. The signs had been changed to 70% off! I thought to myself, why not just give it away?

Lonnie Brock Fire Sale

The other artists on the street were also dismayed — one neighbor agreed with me that it just wasn’t right for the photographer to blatantly disregard the rules. A painter wondered if they had created extra stock to make up for the money lost by giving it away. You know the old saying, “Sell at a loss, but make it up in quantity.” When one artist devalues their work so much, it tends to devalue everyone else’s work as well. I’m sure that the woman and her husband thought about this, as she apologized to me for doing it. I love you means never having to say you’re sorry, I guess. Pfooey.

We as artists can’t control how other artists choose to value their work, or the price points at which they sell, but we can speak up when somebody violates the written rules of the show. I finally called the festival hotline on Sunday, and spoke to one of the show directors about the situation. I asked if the show had any restrictions on “fire sale” selling. She told me that while it was prohibited, that it might be okay if I “didn’t bark”. I said that it wasn’t my sale, but the photographer across the way, and that they had large signs proclaiming the sale. Obviously it was too late to do any of the artists on the street much good, but I felt better anyway. The woman I spoke told me that she was glad I mentioned the issue.

It would have been better for everyone if the sale prices had been marked on the pieces themselves, and the artists had mentioned it to customers who stopped in. Were they so lazy that they couldn’t make new price stickers? Instead they chose to Walmartize their booth, and drag down the rest of the street as their business failed. She knew it was wrong, but she and her husband did it anyway. To top it off, their web site says nothing at all about going out of business. Looks as if they will continue to sell prints at full price and to do workshops.

What I find especially disturbing is that other artists have no compunction about breaking the rules in order to gain unfair advantage. It is no different than the big business world many of us tried to escape when running away to join the circus. Unfortunately, there are those of us that still have high standards, and are forced to compete with low-life dirty pond-sucking scum. Such is life. After the show was over, and we all stood around counting our wads of cash, I made enough money to fill the tank and get to the next town, so I guess it worked out all right, but it certainly left the taste of rat in my mouth when I was hoping for steak. <End rant>

A big thank you to all of the patrons who felt my work was worth the price they paid! Happy Trails to you!