Thinking inside and outside the box for a special window display.
It’s that time of year again, Keene’s annual Art Walk. Downtown store owners offer their window space for artists to display their work, for nine days. Area schools bus their students downtown to see the art and meet the artists.
I have a special place in my heart for Art Walk. It was one of the very first venues I displayed my artwork, starting a little over ten years ago.
As an art venue, it really has its little idiosyncracies, though. I remember one year when I took my family downtown to see my display. To my dismay I discovered my host store, a drugstore, lowered its blinds every evening. No one could see my wall hangings after 5 p.m.!
Another year, my host store had no way to hang anything in their windows–and I had wall hangings. I was allowed to use duct tape on the metal frame along the top of the windows. It seemed to work. I spent the better part of the morning running up and down a ladder, hanging each of my wall hangings from fish line that I tied to strips of duct tape, taped along the top of the window. Everything looked great!
Unfortunately, as the afternoon sun poured in the windows, the heat softened the duct tape, it gently sagged under the weight of the fiber pieces, and everything began to sadly droop. It took about 3 days for everything to actually peel off to the floor, so every two days I went in to put up fresh duct tape and rehang the work, until the end of the show.
I begged the organizers not to put me back in that store the next year. They gave it to a painter with easels for display. And I thank the Lord every day for my wonderful ProPanels display. They were not cheap, but they have made my art display issues sooooooo much easier.
Last year I was split between two stores. One was down a flight of steps, below street level. The other was right above, up a flight of steps. No problem, I thought, I’ll actually have twice as much display space.
Til I realized that a store window that’s already eight to ten feet above street level is not a good place to hang a wall hanging that’s six feet long. People could only see the bottom half of it, it was hung so high. I reconfigured my ProPanels, using only the bottom halves. I decided to display only short pieces. And I was consoled by the lovely wine tasting my downstairs host store held for me on opening night. We tasted many, many, many kinds of wine. I love Colline the wine lady!
This year I started out in one store. Yay! Then I found out which store it was. Hmmmmmm…..
There’s not much foot traffic in front of the store–it’s actually on a side street–but there’s tons of car traffic. It’s at a major intersection, and if you drive through Keene, you’re gonna get caught at that light sooner or later. As you wait for the light to change, your eyes wander to look in the handful of stores right there (narrow sidewalk, no parking, so the stores are right there)–and right there is where my work will be!
The store has four large windows, but unfortunately they are paned–about 20 panes per window, about 10″x12″ per pane. (I say “about” because I measured them wrong the first time.) (In fact, I’m beginning to realize how really, really bad I am about measuring things….) Anything big I put behind those panes would simply be chopped up and difficult to “read”.
To make up for it, I was given additional space in another storefront about 50 feet down the block for my wall hangings.
But how to create a cohesive jewelry display in those little sections?
After much thought and countless sleepless nights, I came up with a great solution.
First, I decided to just use two of the windows. That would be better than trying to utilize eighty panes! I also decided the top row or two was really out of sight of most pedestrians, and even most cars. So that narrowed the number of panes to deal with, down to about 24-30.
I rewrote down my “Animal Stories” and broke it out into sections, including a separate section for each animal mentioned. I printed out each section into its own individual sign with a huge-sized font. These could be taped directly onto the glass pane.
I would create little vignettes of jewelry and mini collages, one for each section, and each animal.
I have a large stash of leftover mat board pieces from friends who used to own a framing ship. I cut several colors of mat board into pieces that were a little bigger than the glass panes. They actually sat out about half an inch from the glass, creating a little “shadow box” in each window.
Fortunately, after cutting all the mat board, it occurred to me to actually test one to see it if actually fit in the window. Too big! I hastily trimmed them all again. Thank goodness I thought to do that before completing my display….
I affixed a selection of jewelry on each mat board. For the “artifacts” in the introduction, I laid out a sampling of artifacts. For each animal, I laid out a selection of jewelry, netsuke (small hand held sculptures) or tiny fiber collages featuring that animal.
I agonized about how to attach the jewelry and polymer pieces. I thought I could use fine wire to attach them. I have some nifty black annealed wire, very fine, and that would blend in well. But what about punching tiny holes in the mat board?? I remembered that book artists sometimes hand drill tiny holes for stitching bindings. Maybe I could do that…..?
After trying to hand drill ONE measly little hole, I almost gave up. Then I realized I had that little jeweler’s drill, with a diamond bit I use to enlarge holes in pearls and glass beads. Would that work? YES!!! It took seconds to drill each hole. Yay!!!
I marked where each hole would go to fix each piece, drilled all the holes at once, and wired each item down. It worked beautifully, and went rather quickly (considering.)
I even remembered to make a sign to let people know I had more work on display a couple stores down the street.
Again, I agonized over having to use masking tape to secure everything–I didn’t want scotch tape pulling their paint or fusing to the glass. But it didn’t show up very much, so that was a lot of needless worrying. (Please note that perfectionist tendencies are still very much in the forefront of my brain….)
It took less than an hour to fill up about 25 panes. It looked great! The fine black wire actually looked kinda neat, like an old museum displays. I’d worried that using five different colors of mat board wouldn’t look cohesive, but it gave the display some movement and a little liveliness. (The host store is painted sort of a golden yellow, and my mat boards were medium blue, rust, olive green, aqua and bittersweet orange, so the whole thing had a Van Gogh sunflower-thing going.)
I think it looks so good, I’m thinking about maybe using an old paned glass window someday as a display. It would be really hard to get the jewelry in and out of it, so I wouldn’t use it as an actual selling display. But something about the pieces being right up inside the window, only half an inch or so from the viewer, made it look lovely.
A few things were a teensy bit tippy, and after I finished hanging my wall hangings at the neighboring store, I realized I’d bumped the display when I squeezed past it to get out. But I’m going to pretend I didn’t see that.
The whole experience was an exercise in just doing my best, preparing for as much as I could, and then letting serendipity take over.
I’ll see if dear hubby can get some pics.
And I’m going to try not to hang out on the Central Square this weekend to see if I can catch people oooh-ing and ahhhh-ing over my display!