Welcome to our blog! For those who are unfamiliar with Lizard Key Designs, here's a brief synopsis: LKD - Island Style Photography and Stained Glass Art, was formed in June of 2006. A joint "pipe dream" venture turned reality through the combined efforts of Bill and Tess Dirienzo. Bill and I met in 2003, married in 2004, bought the home we now share in 2005. On our second marriage, we now enjoy a diverse blended family with two children each and four awesome grandchildren.
After a little art show research we walked through some shows and talked to a few artists, got a license and made it official. We developed a logo, put together a booth display (complete with our signature bamboo panels), bought a used Ford conversion van and a utility trailer and took it on the road.
We started with a one-day show in Sebring, Florida in November of 2006. Touting a "newbie" exuberance, we were very excited for our first show experience. Our visions of grandeur were greatly amplified after the artist hospitality dinner the night before - boasting live music, free drinks, and a catered gourmet spread I don't think I've seen the likes of at any show since. I thought we died and went to artists heaven... will all the shows be this wonderful?! Unaware at the time that most shows require one artist/medium per booth, our bubble would soon be burst... with our first show rejection in 2007. WHAT?!... we have to have SEPARATE booths... and double our fees?!!
Enter the unglamorous world of inconsistent show application requirements: Submit applications online or by mail; submit work on discs, slides or glossy photos; identify photos by name or numbers; include bios and/or description of work; include booth fees/app fees, and last but not least, don't forget to include a S-A-S-E (Self-Addressed-Stamped-Envelope... we also have to pay for our return notifications). For artists without any marketing/book keeping skills, the whole process can be sheer torture, like walking with a ball and chain. I've resigned to the fact that, like with any business, comes the drudgery of paperwork... a necessary evil - as inevitable as death and taxes!
Well we've matured a lot since that first show. Bill and I now spend approximately 35 weekends out of the year participating in art shows from south Florida up to Georgia, and working our way to the Carolinas. We never seem to have any "down-time" (I really don't know what that means), as we are always busy working on our inventory, revising our displays, designing new products, updating our websites and when we have "spare" time , it's spent on home and yard projects... all are ongoing... none are ever finished!
So we've since graduated from our Ford conversion van and utility trailer, to a Dodge extended van and 19' travel trailer, and currently to a Chevy Box Truck and 27' travel trailer. I think it needs to be mentioned that Bill is the KING of buying/selling used vehicles... his motto is to buy low/fix well/sell high. He has a knack, and know-how for fixing things up and getting top dollar for his efforts. He could easily make a living at it if he wanted to. That being said, I should also mention that he definitely prefers his current profession.
Our first vehicle was extremely tight, but was a sweet ride! We converted the back to a sleeping area, complete with a portable DVD player (we were easily satisfied back then). No facilities or appliances... we stored all our camping gear under the bed. As we continued to build/modify our inventory and displays, we quickly out grew the conversion van and utility trailer, ending up with a no frills extended van. Bill rebuilt the back end to house all our stuff... tents, display walls, inventory... every square inch was strategically utilized. Then we bought ourselves our first travel trailer - a little 19' Trail Lite, we happily made our little oasis for about 3 years. Eventually, this also became a little... well, too little. With no closets and minimal storage, we were constantly moving things around... from the bed to the seats, from the seats to the bed. I got tired of hurdling over Bill at night to use the facilities, we both got tired of doing the back slide or circle dance from one end to the other.
We now live and work in comfort... OMG! What a difference a few feet of space can make. Our new 27' trailer feels like a little apartment, we have a dining table and a couch that expand into a slide-out, a separate bedroom, a real closet, I no long have to do hurdles to get to the bathroom and Bill can actually stand up in the shower!
The booth set-up/break-down process can easily turn into natural disasters. We've endured all kinds of weather circumstances, from stifling heat to extreme cold.... from dust bowls to downpours. One of our most memorable was our first Apollo Beach Manatee Festival. The show location was in a newly built park around a fenced pavilion... no solid ground cover. While we were setting up on Friday, severe storm warnings and a cold front were forecast for late Friday night through Saturday. Well, by Saturday morning, the winds were gusting up to 50mph and the rain was torrential. Consequently, the show was canceled for Saturday. We couldn't do anything but watch as our booths began to sink into the newly laid ground cover, more like hay (didn't qualify as grass) that quickly turned to muck. By mid afternoon the winds died down and the temperature dropped. With the help of fellow artists, we were able to pull our booths out of the muck and move to higher/dryer ground. A few artists did not fair so well, some tents were lost beyond repair. By the time we had finished, my feet were soaking wet and I was freezing, I could not get warm enough. We huddled in the Van on and off the remainder of the day, trying to keep warm. By Sunday, like waking up from a bad dream, we were greeted by a clear blue sky, and to my amazement, the people came out in droves. In the end, we managed to have a good day and pulled out with little damage... a slightly bruised ego and a few more gray hairs.
This was only one of many extreme weather experiences we had. We've had many pleasurable experiences as well, maybe I'll share a few of those on the next posting. All in all, we love what we do. Love being road warriors... making new friends... collaborating with other artists... experiencing new places... checking out the Irish pubs for the best Guinness on tap. We haven't determined a single winner yet, but definitely have a few favorites. Those of you who know us, know it's not just about the drink, but the connections we share. Like a bottle of good wine... it only gets better with time.