Roadside Artby Ben McNitt on Sep. 21, 2009, under arts
“OH MAN, IT’S CRAZY HOT OUT HERE,” Lucas McDonald said gulping water from a gallon plastic jug.
McDonald was wrapping up a Saturday afternoon standing in the sun by the side of the road waiting for customers to pull over and check out his horseshoe saguaro creations.
McDonald is a roadside art vendor, one of a coterie you’ll see at the side of North Thorneydale or South Silverbell in places where there’s room to set up shop and accommodate turn in traffic.
McDonald is a novice at the trade, taking it up this summer while visiting from his home in Minnesota, using horseshoes he gets from a blacksmith friend for the pieces he makes that run in the $40 range.
Mike Stephenson is a veteran.
For 17 years, he says, “this is what I do,” surveying an array of objects he designs himself and crafts from steel using a plasma arc cutter. Sun symbols are popular and tourists, especially, like the kokopelli figures.
His repertoire now spans some 300 decorative items ranging from $20 up to the $950 asking price on an elaborate swing set he’s prepared to install at a buyer’s home.
Over the years he’s traveled to art and craft shows in California, Utah and New Mexico and likes to make an annual trek to a show in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. Mostly though, he sets up at one of six local spots over the weekend, finding that business tends to be best between about noon and 2 pm.
It’s been a real slow summer, he explains, “but if I do good today, you won’t see me out here ‘till next week.”
Terry Paschen is a veteran too, selling his hand made furniture by the roadside as a sideline for the past 11 years. His pieces range from tables and chests to beds, dressers, armoires and grandfather clocks.
He was packing up the first afternoon I met him, racing to get out from under a belt of rain headed to his spot on Silverbell on Sunday afternoon. A bust of a day.
A couple of weeks later along Thorneydale, Paschen told me he’d gotten a commission for a wet bar in one customer’s home and another had stopped by for a repeat sale.
That’s the way it goes by the roadside. You never really know until you just get out there and see what the day will bring.