September 12, 2007|
Thelma and Louise weíre not. We havenít broken
any laws, weíre both happily married, and we donít
plan on driving off any cliffs. But Lauren Kingsley
and I are packing up her truck and heading out west
Weíre both artists, trying to make a living in a
bad economy in Michigan. So weíre branching out,
doing the Fly-Fishing show in Denver and then a
little fishing of our own in the mountains northwest
of town. Lauren has done a few of these trade shows
already, driving or flying east, south, and west. Her
company, PaintedTrout.com, carries her creations, as
well as Chelsea potter Margo Westís mugs, my
coasters, and Motawi tiles, all fitting the outdoor theme.
People from specialty stores, museum shops, and
galleries all over the country come to these shows
and pick out merchandise to sell, buying samples or
ordering direct from the artist or supplier. Iíve
sold my stained and etched glass at many shops,
shows, and galleries, but itís always a thrill to meet
the buyer personally.
I havenít been back to the great state of Colorado
for fifteen years. I was born there, and have grown
to appreciate Michigan by falling in love with a few
Michigan men, but I long for those mountains. My
first husband was from the U.P., and although as a
yooper he would tell you that he was born to do it,
my dad and I actually taught him to fly-fish.
Ironically, heís lived in Colorado for the past 25
years. My husband Bill and I went fishing on Lake
Winnewana on our first date almost twenty years ago.
I caught a nice bass, and he hooked a wife.
Since then, Iíve enjoyed other peopleís travels
vicariously from home, reading about them in the local
paper, or in letters and e-mails from friends who live
and work all over the world. Now itís my turn to share.
For weeks now, Lauren has been silk-screening fish
on her scarves, t-shirts, aprons, caps, and ties.
Iíve been sand-etching coasters depicting little scenes
of fishermen and women, moose, deer, bears in the forest,
and log cabins in the mountains. Iíve tied some flies
and encased them in watery glass ornaments. Weíve
packed it all up, along with our fishing gear
and our dreams, and we leave tomorrow at dawn.
Hopefully, itíll all be worth it financially, but
even if not, itís sure to be an adventure.
September 13-18, 2007
It was cool and sunny when we left Michigan
the 13th of September, and the weather
stayed beautiful throughout our trip. When it
clouded up and threatened rain as we headed home ten
days later, we thought perhaps Colorado was as sad
to see us leave as we were to go. Iíd missed my
home state for years, and my friend Lauren Kingsley,
an avid fly-fisher, had never fished the Colorado
Rockies. Her company, The Painted Trout, markets
my glasswork as well, so when the opportunity to
do the Fly-Fishing Retailers Show in Denver came
along, we took it.
We breezed through the south side of Chicago
before noon, taking I-94 to 80, and had lunch at
a diner in western Illinois. When we crossed the
Mississippi River, I was further west than Iíd been
in 14 years, and I had a knot of excitement in my
stomach. We took turns driving across farmland,
through towns like Belle Plaine and What Cheer,
noting that all the barns in Iowa are painted white.
Reaching Council Bluffs, Iowa, shortly before dusk,
we had driven for about ten hours and called it a
day. Council Bluffs was named for an 1803 meeting
between Lewis and Clark and the Otoe tribe, and
settled in the 1830ís by the Pottawatomi, who were
removed from what became Chicago.
The next morning we eagerly crossed the Missouri
River to Omaha and through Nebraska, following the
Platte River. How the covered wagons ever made it
across the prairies is beyond me - thank goodness
for an 80 mile an hour speed limit now. Michigan
has a slower speed limit for trucks, but out there
they hurtle past at disconcerting speeds, although
traffic thinned the further west we drove. We
reached the Colorado state line and I began
searching the horizon for mountain ranges, but we
didnít see much until we were almost in Denver -
total driving time just short of 19 hours. We
found our hotel in the heart of downtown, unloaded
our luggage in our 7th floor room, and
took off for the house where Lauren had stored her
inventory after a gift show in Denver a month earlier.
Continued at the top of the page
We arrive in Denver...|
Bill Carlson owns that house and is a friend of
K.C. Groves, member of the internationally known band
Uncle Earl, and K.C. is an old friend of Laurenís
husband Jack. Bill has attended almost every
bluegrass festival in Telluride, Colorado, and has
posters all over his walls. We took him out for
dinner to thank him for the storage space, eating
outdoors at the Pearl Street Grill, where I had a
steak salad to die for.Normally Iím not a big meat
eater, but this trip I seemed to hunger for
it, and my salad really hit the spot with its
chili-dredged grilled steak, fresh greens,
perfectly ripe avocado slices, crumbled bleu cheese,
and cilantro lime dressing on the side. Afterward
we loaded Laurenís truck with her inventory, drove
back to the hotel, and crashed.
Early the next morning, we walked two blocks to
the Colorado Convention Center,where we spent the
entire day setting up our booth for the trade show.
Iíve done a lot of art shows in the past sixteen
years, but this was intense. First of all, the
space is huge Ė 584,000 square feet of exhibit
space within 4 Ĺ acres of glass walls.There were
two full-size casting ponds inside the hall, for
heavenís sake. (When we broke down the show a
few days later, I saw that they were constructed
with PVC pipe held in place with cement blocks;
gigantic sheets of black plastic draped over the
pipe, then filled with a few inches of water.)
Convention goers could practice casting, try out
the many fly rods for sale, and participate in
competitions for distance and accuracy.
We were amused at the soft laughing sounds
beneath our feet when we stepped onto the
escalators at the center. We were not amused at
the cost of food - $4 for a small bottle of juice,
$8 for a small salad.
We had dinner Saturday night with a college
friend in Lakewood, first making a loop through
Golden, where Coors beer is brewed and Buffalo
Bill is buried. We sat on the deck looking out
over the lights of Denver,and my friend relayed a
story of a mountain lion attack on a deer across
the street from them last year, the first of several
cougar encounters weíd hear about on our trip.
Mountain Standard is two hours behind Michigan time,
so we turned in, exhausted, at around 9 p.m. MST.
The next three days were spent meeting other
entrepreneurs, retailers, and manufacturers from
all over the world. Lauren kept a book of business
cards from contacts and handed out catalogs and price
lists. We both pitched our creations Ė Laurenís
scarves, bandanas, t-shirts, aprons, and boxer shorts
and my coasters, ornaments, and panels, all with a
fly-fishing theme. Lauren licensed her bandana
fishing motif, for the royalties, to a company
called Fishpond, who promised theyíd be in a
thousand stores within a year, including Orvis,
Cabelaís, and Bass Pro Shops. I spoke to a man
who seemed interested in my ornaments with
hand-tied flies encased in watery glass. He asked
if I could produce them in quantity and I told him
it depended, then asked where he was from.
"Oh, a little company out east," he said, "called
L. L. Bean." Iím sure my jaw dropped. He sent
others to look at my work over the course of the show,
so I have my fingers crossed.
We met two interesting women, a fish-carver
from New England and a Louisiana lady who designed
fishing vests for women, but it was mainly a man's
world. There were meetings going on in other areas
of the building, too, including a recycling convention,
with an appearance by former president Bill Clinton
one morning (we didnít see him.) I attended a seminar
Sunday where my friend Becky Winkler, who works for
Zingermanís Zing-Train, spoke on merchandising.
She was surprised to see me, and I was very inspired
by her talk.
We attended a couple of networking parties in the
evening Ė one at the Wynkoop Brewery, and another on
the roof of the Denver Athletic Club. It featured
live music, a buffet, and some rousing games of washers
(a lot like horseshoes) in the moonlight.
Downtown Denver boasts an amazing public
transportation system, including a free shuttle.
I did some exploring Monday, visiting Union Station
(where Iíve come in on the train many times) and
Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies, and the
16th Street Mall, a mile-long outdoor
pedestrian corridor of shops and restaurants.
Tuesday afternoon we packed up our booth,
checked out of the hotel, and headed at last for
Lyons, a small town north of Boulder.
Then the fun really began!
Click here for Part 3 & 4...