Who, Where, and Why
Who: The Texas Triffid Ranch is a gallery specializing in custom enclosures for carnivorous, prehistoric, and otherwise exotic plants.
Where: As the name implies, the Triffid Ranch is based in the Dallas, Texas area.
Why: Because stunning and unique plants need a appropriately interesting environment in which to show off their best features.
How: Check the Contact page for more details.
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Monthly Archives: April 2017
And that does it for 2017’s All-Con: we’re already registered as vendors for 2018, and our next show is at Texas Frightmare Weekend in the first weekend of May. See you then.
At shows such as All-Con, new attendees always ask about the “Shirt Price” tag on the enclosures, and Melissa demonstrates the concept: get a Larry Carey Triffid Ranch shirt, wear it to a show or gallery event, and get discounts and other perks. Don’t let her be the only person to take advantage of the perpetual perk program, okay?
A little tip to beginning gallery owners: unless you own the building, don’t get too comfortable. Even if everyone involved swears up and down that tenants get 60 days’ notice before they have to vacate the premises, that promise is generally worth the paper it’s written on when the owner decides otherwise. I say this not out of bitterness but as a friendly warning: For those not already prepared, 30 days to find a new space, take care of occupancy permits and fire inspections, get the keys, and move everything is problematic even if everything works perfectly. Here in Dallas, where often the only way to get a retail leasing agent to return phone calls is to call the CEO of his company and ask if he’s unavailable because he’s hurt himself from masturbating all day, 30 days just simply enough. It’s possible, barely, but it requires starting packing and searching pretty much the moment the notice came through. We were lucky: as we were leaving the day before everyone had to be gone, we had neighbors who were just starting to look because they’d assumed that this notice would be the same false alarm as it had been for the previous five years. As we pulled the last items out of our space, others were openly wondering what they were going to do, and you do NOT want to be in that position when the doors are being boarded up and the demolition crews start rolling in.
After eighteen months, it was strange to realize that we were the last-ever tenants in a particular venue, especially since that venue had been around for almost as long as we had been alive. We moved out on the last weekend of February thanks to the Herculean efforts of friends and cohorts who didn’t need to waste a weekend helping to pack and lug multiple truckloads of detritus, and when it was done, the place was strangely smaller for being empty. The only echoes of past tenants were little touches of urban archaeology: the number for Mall Security on a piece of masking tape (with no area code because most of the area was under only one area code until 1997) on the front counter, the tags for long-removed paintings from the previous gallery, and the strange assemblage of clothes displays from the next-door Foot Locker, apparently scavenged after a rebranding, in a Home Depot box over the fire escape door. The move wasn’t something we’d planned, but it was done, and now it was time to leave with a bit of dignity and grace. Trying to stay only would have made the memories sour.
And in the end, that was it. The last truck was loaded, and we waited for the sole security guard to inspect the space, ensure that we weren’t trying to prise fixtures out of the ceiling, and sign the all-clear on what was called the “sweep-out form.” We handed over our keys and turned off the circuit breakers in the back for the last time, and the guard rolled down the gate. 20 months since we first viewed the space and contemplated moving the Triffid Ranch to a semipermanent location, it was all over. We no longer had any connection to the mall, and with the impending demolition, we knew we’d never see it again. And so it goes.
One of the aspects of a gallery setup and expansion that nobody considers, until they have to do it, is working with the space as is available. The old Triffid Ranch space was apparently used since its construction as a men’s clothing store, so it had all sorts of vagaries that you’d never find in other locales. A lack of electrical outlets, for instance: in the main space, we had a couple in the main register island permanently affixed to the west side of the room, two along the back wall, and two on each side of the front gate. Of course, those ones by the front gate were on the ceiling in order the power the ridiculous halogen lighting so popular in the 1980s for store displays. This meant that extension cords were our friends, and we were incredibly happy to live in a future where compact fluorescent and LED lighting took a significant load off the electrical system while still supplying enough light for the plants. Getting the cords to the lights, though…that was fun.
One of the problems with working in a mall after hours is the ridiculous quiet. With the exception of the occasional security guard doing his rounds, most nights were accompanied acoustically only by tintinitis unless you brought sonic or visual stimulation. Hence, because the big register island couldn’t be moved, and Square point-of-sale apps made having a distinct register area as quaint as daily milk delivery, it became the de facto worktable. Also, since the mall was built at a time when wifi and cell phone reception were science fiction but tornadoes weren’t, phone reception cut out about three meters from the front gate and radio reception of most sorts after about five. Combine that with a mall wifi installed around 2005 that wasn’t going to be expanded or updated, said entertainment consisted of lots and lots of DVDs and a rather old flatscreen that got the job done. This even expanded into formal events such as the ARTwalks: considering the outside crowds coming to the mall during its final months, it might have made more sense to turn our openings into Babylon 5 viewing parties, because everyone was glued to episodes playing in the background.
Because the space was intended to be work area and showroom, we at least tried to separate the two with curtains, but naturally that meant that everyone wanted to see what was in the back. Those same people strangely had issues with workspaces that had everything I needed, combined with a “Hunter S. Thompson crashing in your living room for a month” vibe that should have said “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” Silly me: that was just encouragement, because this was where the magic happened.And then there was the actual back growing area, intended for plants that weren’t ready for general dissemination. The spacescape painted over the entire area was there when we moved in, a legacy of the art gallery that had been there until early 2015. Combine that with the reflective film on the growing racks to reflect light back onto the plants, and it was as if the1980s never ended.
Finally, one of the biggest challenges was letting new visitors know where the space was located. By the time we moved in, the mall’s owner had no intention of updating the various “You Are Here” maps throughout the mall, but he had no problem with our putting up signs to steer customers. This was when we learned the extent to which most Americans have learned to block out advertising as a matter of mental survival. Multiple signs on the upper and lower levels, the big Styrofoam pillar covered with posters and fitted with postcard holders, and an extensive online presence that included maps, and wise still got calls asking “So where are you? I’ve been looking for you in the mall for an hour!” And so it goes.
Now that the new gallery is getting to the point where it isn’t a horrible post–apocalyptic accumulation of dead tech and cultural detritus, it may be time for a few last looks at the old. When we got word that most of the remaining tenants at Valley View Center had to move, we’d finally managed to beat our space into something approximating a real gallery. One whole wall covered in shelving, separate aisles set up and clear, and ready visibility of both finished plant enclosures and in-progress projects to anybody who came in. Naturally, getting everything under control meant that it was time to move, but at least we’d worked out most of the logistics issues by the time it happened. Oh, and what a space it was.
In addition to the plants, the old gallery was the home of Tawanda Jewelry, and it became a vital meeting locale for new and longtime clients. Just as with shows and events, it made sense: why couldn’t you mix plants and carnivorous plants in the same space?
And there it ended, right after our January ARTwalk. It wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely getting there, and it gave us plenty of experience with setting up a more permanent gallery. And so it goes.
While not necessarily a customer, the gentleman above was of particular note at a neighboring vendor’s booth, as he ripped through quite the rendition of Iron Maiden’s “Two Minutes to Midnight.” I was honestly suprised: I was expecting to see a cover of the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen.”
It’s a perfect recipe for a nervous breakdown: get a 30 days’ move-out notice on an existing space, line up a new gallery space, get everything moved from one to the other, and then conduct a scheduled show when fully two-thirds of necessary tools and supplies are still in boxes and tubs. The amazing part wasn’t that the 2017 Triffid Ranch show at All-Con happened, but that it happened with a minimum of blood loss. The show was a blowout success, but let’s not try this sort of schedule again, shall we, universe?
Before going any further, I would be remiss in not giving full credit to the person who helped more than anybody else to get everything together. You may remember reading about Christian Cooper, the guest artist at last January’s ARTwalk: this time around, he took time from his spring break to haul enclosures, inspect plants, and otherwise keep us all on the straight and narrow. As soon as the new gallery is ready to go, he’s getting another guest spot, because he earned it.
As it turned out, we weren’t the only ones stressing about sudden change. All-Con’s total numbers were down a little compared to previous years thanks to a very big media convention running two weeks later, forcing a lot of attendees to decide which show they could afford to visit. Ultimately, this worked out well, because the folks attending All-Con were especially enthusiastic. On a personal level, North Texas’s general lack of winter this year backslid at the beginning of March, pushing or breaking freezing temperatures and thereby keeping a lot of the carnivores in dormancy until the last minute. As it turned out, that worked out extremely well, as one of the biggest draws was the big Venus flytrap globe full of freshly emerging traps and flower scapes, The expressions on some attendees’ faces as they realized that flytraps bloom made every aggravation worth it.
To be continued…