Tag Archives: All-Con

State of the Gallery: January 2018

Doom and Gloom (mostly gloom) in Dallas in JanuaryAnd the holiday season is over. Well, that’s not completely true: we can’t forget the importance of February 2, when Sid Vicious rises from his grave, looks down for his shadow, and learns if he has to wait six more weeks until spring. The decorations are down, the last of the leftovers are dispatched (unless your grandmother is like mine and wants to see if she can make turkey-flavored Jell-O out of the carcass residue left in the refrigerator), the more gothically inclined are building dinosaur skeletons with the chunks Grandma couldn’t use, and everyone in retail can get rid of that twitch from overplay of the mandatory Christmas radio station. True, you don’t want to go anywhere near a gym for the rest of the month, especially in the parking lot as everyone fights for the closest space to the door, and we’re all keeping an eye on the skies for that one falling snowflake that convinces the worst drivers on the road that they need to switch things up by driving with their buttocks. All things considered, though, things are good.

Out here at the Triffid Ranch, it’s time for introspection, renovation, negotiation, and potential amputation. We may have 295 days until that happiest holiday of the year, but the work starts now. This includes cleaning and prepping new glassware, potting new plants, scoping out new shows and new venues, and trying to limit nervous breakdowns to every other Tuesday. In other words, just like every year since the gallery first opened. The highlights:

First and foremost, the emphasis in 2018 is finishing new enclosures, and that starts with getting commissioned enclosures out now. (A friendly reminder for those who purchased Nepenthes pitcher plants at Triffid Ranch shows in the past: now’s the time to ask about upgrades to give your plants more room.) This includes getting more photos with those enclosures, in order to enter enclosures in regional and national art shows and inform local media outlets of those shows. Right now, everything is being kept on a winter lighting schedule to encourage growth later, but when the timers switch to spring hours in March, the fun really begins. It’s not just a matter of viewing Nepenthes blooms, but trying some luck with pollinating flowers in order to develop a few new hybrids.

On the subject of shows, it’s no surprise that the first big Triffid Ranch show of the year is All-Con on St. Patrick’s Day weekend. The surprise was discovering the new venue for the 2018 event. For years, All-Con ran at the increasingly cramped Crowne Plaza hotel, but size limitations required a move to a larger venue. Two years ago, it moved to a much larger space with a bit of a parking problem: hotel management promised to augment its tiny parking area with access to the parking garages of the office buildings around it, which was a surprise to the owners of said office buildings. A majority of attendees discovering that parking options consisted of a muddy field across from the hotel wasn’t enough to kill the convention, and last year’s All-Con returned to the Crowne Plaza, which was now charging for parking when it wasn’t hosting meth labs. This year, though, All-Con moves to a MUCH larger venue, the Hotel InterContinental in Addison, right along Dallas North Tollway.

Why is this such a big deal? Well, for starters, the InterContinental, formerly the Grand Kempinski, is a legacy of Dallas’s great oil and development boom of the 1980s, back from the days when it was the tallest building in the area. Because the old Grand Kempinski was intended to compete for convention and conference business with the Anatole and Fairmont hotels near downtown, this meant having an absolutely gigantic ballroom on the second floor and an equally expansive ground floor atrium. This means that instead of fighting crowds in the artist’s alley section to get to the main dealer’s room, we have room to stretch out. Even better, this is one hotel where the promise of “multiple restaurants within walking distance” is quite actually true, and more than just a McDonald’s or Jack In The Box. (The hotel is just off Addison’s impressive Restaurant Row, which includes pubs, novelty venues such as the world-famous Magic Time Machine, and even a Whole Foods within a ten-minute walk.) A convention with food options other than the hotel restaurant and a convenience store? The mind boggles.

For vendors, the situation gets even better. The Hotel Intercontinental features two large entrances, big enough to allow two-way traffic while loading and unloading, and a large elevator sits right by the escalator leading to the second floor. (Those familiar with the absolute mess at the Crowne Royal can understand why this is a big deal.) With most of the club and Artist Alley tables on the ground floor, all groups involved won’t be fighting for room, especially close to opening hours. Parking is voluminous, and the loading lanes are big enough for small aircraft. Miss this one at your peril, because with the convention running during Spring Break for most of the high schools and colleges in the greater Dallas area, we’re going to see crowds at sizes we could have only dream about seeing at previous shows…and they’ll all have elbow room.

Not that All-Con and Texas Frightmare Weekend are the only shows outside of the gallery for 2018: these are just the only ones that can be discussed at the moment. Right now, the greater Dallas area has an excess of riches as far as art shows are concerned, and while the Deep Ellum Arts Fest isn’t an option this year, a lot of other events are going on at the same time. Right now, it’s all about confirmation, as well as making sure that schedules don’t conflict. Keep checking back for more details.

With the carnivores, the biggest change in the Triffid Ranch involves an expansion into Mexican butterworts and terrestrial bladderworts, two traditionally neglected groups of carnivorous plant. As mentioned before, this is just a continuation of plans set for last year before the gallery move, but with the advantage of many of the new species of butterwort exploding with new plantlets over the winter. Even better, both butterworts and bladderworts are now big and sassy enough to bloom in spring, adding an extra angle to the planned Manchester United Flower Show showing in April. Again, details as the date gets closer.

In hot pepper news, it’s time to start the new year’s first batch of pepper seedlings, and it’s time to make an admission. Namely, Carolina Reaper peppers are the Venus flytraps of the Capsicum world. Want to thrill me? start a discussion on comparing the colors and flavors of Black Pearl and Numex Halloween peppers both ripe and green. Compare the dishes best using Uba Tubas versus Trinidad Scorpions. Share a flavor combination for salsa with Bhut Jolokias that works even better than mango. (This may not be possible, but I’m always open to argument.) Carolina Reapers, though, are a one-trick pony. They grow to an impressive size in cultivation, but nothing about their foliage nor their shape distinguishes them from other peppers. The fruit, ripe or green, is only marginally more interesting than a standard green bell pepper, and once you get past the “you’ll pee fire!” heat, they taste like tomb dust. Aside from the subjective and often dubious Scoville Scale ranking, the Carolina Reaper has precious little distinction in growth, flavor, or idiosyncrasy. But what’s the one pepper EVERYONE asks if I’m growing? Ah well.

And if this is a roundabout way of hyping up the ZestFest 2018 spicy foods convention (https://zestfest.net/) at the Irving Convention Center at the end of January, so be it. ZestFest has a grand supply of salsa and barbecue sauce vendors pushing “no pepper is too hot for ME to eat!” neural overloads, but its main emphasis is on flavor, and the danger isn’t in not finding anything that tempts enough to buy a case or two. The danger is in not bringing a basket with wheels, because it WILL fill up by the time you reach the end, and all of those glass bottles and jars are heavy.

In any case, it’s time to get back to the linen mines. The plants won’t water themselves, and one of the new enclosure elements requires lots and lots of tumbled glass shards for the proper effect. Pictures will follow: I promise.

The Aftermath: All-Con 2017 – 7

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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.

The Aftermath: All-Con 2017 – 6

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The Aftermath: All-Con 2017 – 5

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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?

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The Aftermath: All-Con 2017 – 4

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The Aftermath: All-Con 2017 – 3

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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.”

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The Aftermath: All-Con 2017 – 2

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The Aftermath: All-Con 2017 – 1

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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?

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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.

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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.

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To be continued…

State of the Gallery

The big buy-stuff-and-get-drunk holidays are done. At the day jobs, everyone’s starting their first full week of work, and already planning vacations to get away from co-workers without the promise of violence. The kids are back in school, which in Texas means dodging the dolts who are terrified of thunder birds swooping down and stealing their children away, so they have to park in the middle of the street at rush hour and walk their kids directly to the front door. This being Texas, the weather keeps fluctuating between “black ice on the bridges” and “you’d think it was spring if you didn’t know better.” Yes, January is here, and preferably with as little pain as necessary.

With the new year comes the regular evaluation of where the Triffid Ranch is going, because we’re not sure ourselves. To answer the incessant questions: yes, we’re still at the old Valley View Center in North Dallas. Yes, we know the mall is going to be demolished. No, we don’t know when it’s coming down, or when we’ll have to vacate the space.With the incessant TV news segments involving someone who hasn’t been to the mall in 30 years, with closeups of the shock on their faces to discover that Wicks ‘n Sticks and Kay-Bee Toy and Hobby are shut down, you’d never know we had a thriving gallery community out here. Tell some people where we’re located, and they react as if they’ll be hit with demolition charges and buried in loose bricks the moment they step inside.  (I had to explain that to a niece who had to comment that “the mall is coming down” as if we’ll be caught in the destruction the next day, explaining that just because the mall will eventually be brought down, but it won’t be brought down today.)  This isn’t being helped by coverage in the Dallas Morning News by the self-styled “James Lipton of Fandom,” where you have to wonder exactly how many times he had his head flushed in mall toilets during his high school days that he’d dedicate so much time and effort gloating about the mall’s demise. (As someone who also once had a career at a weekly newspaper involving writing about nothing but science fiction movies and comic books, yes, it sucks that nobody can afford to pay for that coverage any more. Get over it.)

So here’s the situation as we know it so far. Yes, Valley View Center is facing demolition. Everyone knew that going in, and we specifically knew that when we opened the gallery nearly two years ago. No, we don’t know when demolition will start: that information hasn’t been shared with us or any other gallery owner. Yes, some galleries have cleared out, but most of that was because of the hype about the demolition last summer, where patrons worried about flying bricks stopped visiting. Right now, what we know is that the AMC Valley View 16 cinema, which I’ll add is the best first-run movie theater in the Dallas area for the price, signed a new lease for at least the next six months, and demolition can’t be completed so long as the theater remains. The old Foley’s building at the southwest corner of the mall is beginning demolition, but as that space had been empty for years, this doesn’t affect anything with the main mall and won’t for a while. For the duration, until we specifically hear word otherwise, the Triffid Ranch will remain at its current location, and we’ll be continuing with events at that location until we get that final word.

On that subject, the next Midtown ARTwalk is scheduled for Saturday, January 21 from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m., with this month’s theme being “January Green“. This one will be a bit different: besides premiering a new commission for famed voice actress and dear friend Clarine Harp, this show features guest horticulturalist Christian. A local high schooler, Christian first came out to the gallery last year to see Nepenthes pitcher plants in situ with his large and very enthusiastic family, and then invited me to see his collection of rescued plants. Folks, seeing Christian’s work with cuttings and plants previously rejected as being “too rough for sale” made me remember what I was like when I was 17…and makes me want to invent cheap and effective time travel to go back and kick my previous self’s lazy butt up around his shoulder blades. January Green is an exhibition and sale of Christian’s best houseplants, and all sales will be matched by the Triffid Ranch with a donation to the charity of Christian’s choice. Yes, he’s THAT good.

As for the rest of the year, the show season is going to be a bit sporadic, and only partly because of the mall situation. For those unfamiliar with the glorious fiasco that was the Marvelous Nerd Year’s Eve event last month, we didn’t dodge a bullet by not attending. We dodged Slim Pickens riding the bomb. We missed this, but after last summer’s InfiniCon, combined with more and more local conventions and shows having issues with attracting attendees, it’s a matter of cutting back on outside shows and concentrating on the gallery. That said, All-Con on March 16 through 19 and Texas Frightmare Weekend on May 5 through 7 are still essential. As for the next Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays show at the end of the year…if they want to put up with me, I’ll be honored to show off plants. Until then, ARTwalk is always open, and expect a special surprise involving the Dallas Arboretum in March. Details WILL follow.

The Aftermath: All-Con 2016 – 4

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The Aftermath: All-Con 2016 – 3

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The Aftermath: All-Con 2016 – 2

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The Aftermath: All-Con 2016 – 1

When mentioning the hectic situations of the past few months, nothing is more prominent than the lack of updates over here on the site. Sadly, when given an option between caring for plants or posting new pictures, the plants always win. Now that the full summer heat has kicked in and there’s not much else to do but wait for the first Halloween displays at the local Michaels stores (the first hint in Dallas that the heat will eventually break), it’s time to get back to it.

2016 marked the fifth Triffid Ranch show at All-Con, and we had a lot of promise with a new larger hotel. Well, the con staff did what they could, and they went to heroic efforts to do so, but they could only do so much with a hotel that would have been considered shoddily run in the 1980s. Vendors paid for electricity, only to find out that the hotel didn’t bother to set up power cables for lights and other essentials. The hotel abutted a large business tower complex, and informed the convention that attendees would have access to both the hotel parking and the complex’s extensive parking garages. This was a surprise to most of the attendees who arrived on Friday and Saturday after about 6 in the morning, as the parking garages were chained up to prevent that promised access. After a temporary parking lot, literally in the middle of a vacant lot, filled up, a lot of regulars simply gave up after circling for an hour in the hopes of finding anything, and a promised hotel shuttle from the nearest DART train station also turned back into pumpkins and mice. Those of us who could get in (and no thanks to the idiot in charge of the hotel parking garage, who repeatedly waved in vehicles too tall to fit in said garage and then insisted upon tips when they finally got free and escaped) made the best of it, and swore things would be different in 2017.

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Future events and current developments

Well. September already, and everything is starting to gel. Lots of new developments with the Triffid Ranch, and all of them good. Now if I could invent the 47-hour day or remove the need for sleep, things will be spiffy.

Firstly, some may have noticed the new logo, courtesy of Gallantry Web Design. This whole summer has been nothing but change, and the logo sums it all up. The next plan is to update the rest of this site: things have been quiet here for far too long.

Now to developments. The first of these involves the new Perot Museum of Nature & Science in downtown Dallas, and its First Thursday Late Night events on the first Thursday of every month. This month, the subject is “Botanicals,” which entails a lecture by yours truly in the lower auditorium. Any excuse to get out to the Perot after normal hours is a good one, and you can either come to listen to me yammering away, or come out for the screening of the equally grim and gritty Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Either way, admission to the special events is free with a regular museum admission, so use this as a opportunity to see the rest of the museum without worrying about fighting the traffic while heading home.

Otherwise, the real news is that, after two months, the space at Midtown (formerly Valley View Mall) is nearly ready, with an official opening on September 19 to coincide with September’s ArtWalk. After that, the new space is open every third Saturday, from 6 until 10, and otherwise open by appointment. More details will follow closer to the opening, but one of the big upshots is that this allows the opportunity to produce enclosures and containers too big and bulky to bring out to individual weekend shows, as well as carrying carnivores too esoteric or too specialized for beginning enthusiasts.

This isn’t to say that the shows are stopping, though. Plans for a return to regular show tours fell apart due to several potential shows collapsing, but the following three are absolutes:

  • Funky Finds Holiday Shopping Experience in Fort Worth: It’s been a very long time since the Triffid Ranch last traveled to Fort Worth, and it’s about time to return to the Funky Finds show the weekend of November 7. Expect a lot of new species, a lot of new enclosures, and a general experience unlike anything else you’ve ever seen at a handmade craft show. It’s good to be back.
  • All-Con in Dallas: After skipping out on the 2015 show due to scheduling issues, there’s nothing quite like coming out of winter blues in March 2016 with four days of carnivores at All-Con, now at a much superior and more central location. This show starts right about the time temperate carnivores start emerging from winter dormancy, so it’s just as much about the new blooms as it is about the rest of the plants. In addition, with the new workspace, expect to see a lot of things that simply haven’t been possible to bring out in previous years. John Belushi was right: March 2016 will come in like a lion, and go out like a salt marsh harvest mouse.
  • Texas Frightmare Weekend in Irving: Once again, this is the big one. Texas Frightmare Weekend is the show to which all others in the Dallas area should be judged, and all of the surprises from previous years will be eclipsed by the arrangements and enclosures planned for the May show. Get your tickets now, as they sell out incredibly fast these days, and keep an eye open for special Triffid Ranch promotions only seen at Frightmare.

And as one final extra, the plan is extremely tentative, but 2016 may be the year that the Triffid Ranch escapes Texas, at least for one weekend. The idea is to haul everything the weekend of August 17 to Kansas City, Missouri for MidAmeriCon II, the 74th annual WorldCon. Again, that’s the idea: while Kansas City is about an eight-hour drive from Dallas, we also have the logistics of interstate plant certifications and dealing with KC’s not inconsiderable summer heat. If it works out, though, look for the distinctive logo above in KC, and with luck, this may be the first of many traveling shows outside of Texas. We hope.

Things To Do In Richardson When You’re Dead: Dr. Delphinium orchid open house

A quick signal interrupt, and an excuse for my fellow Dallasites to stay as far away from the Greenville Avenue St. Patrick’s Day parade as possible. (Dallas is particularly good at turning ethnic Catholic holidays of celebration and glee into excuses for Anglo Protestants to feed vast rivers of booze vomit running through our streets, which is why you avoid Greenville Avenue at all costs on St. Patrick’s Day and Cinco de Mayo.) For the last several years, I’ve had to skip out on the legendary Gunter’s Orchids open houses in Richardson because the open houses coincided with my first spring show at All-Con. Not that I’d tell you to skip out on All-Con for any reason (especially since the dealers, particularly Tawanda Jewelry, will appreciate the attention), but my not having a booth means that I’m free to head out for the open house. Much to its credit, when the florist company Dr. Delphinium bought out Gunter’s two years ago, the old traditions remain, and Dr. Delphinium hosts its open house this Friday through Sunday at its Richardson location. This means lots and lots of freshly-blooming orchids, and you might even luck out and see the revived Tahitian vanilla orchid in full bloom.

Me, I’ll be out there on Saturday at around noon, so anyone who wants to join me is welcome to do so. If you can’t, well, I’ll get plenty of pictures. One way or another, see you then.

All-Con 2014: The Aftermath – Finale

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As a final comment about All-Con 2014, after a few years, you start to notice trends. At any given show, the costumes range a wild gamut, and there’s no telling who’s going to come in with the outfit that stops the entire show. Half of the fun at the convention is people-watching, and with so many great costumes coming through the front doors, half of them pass right by the Triffid Ranch booth. With that many people, as mentioned, you notice trends.

The first trend that I’ve noticed for a while is that the comics character of Poison Ivy is an extremely popular as a costume subject, and I’ve seen some incredibly detailed and composed Poison Ivy oufits over the years. The odd part, considering the obsession the character has with plants, is that I’ve met all of two Poison Ivy cosplayers who had any interest in plants whatsoever. The second one was one of the first people to stop by the Triffid Ranch booth on Thursday afternoon, and she asked nothing but fascinating questions about the various plants on display.

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The other surprising trend? While I don’t regularly meet Poison Ivy cosplayers who like plants, I have yet to meet a Wonder Woman cosplayer who didn’t. This young woman not only had the look and the attitude down pat, but she made me wish I had miniature roses in this year’s assemblage. She was incredibly happy with her Nepenthes arrangement, but somehow it didn’t seem right to let her leave without roses, and I don’t know why.

And that finishes up the overview of All-Con 2014. As explained earlier, the Triffid Ranch won’t be out at All-Con 2015, but expect to see a whole new presence in March 2016. At least, that’s the idea. See you then.

All-Con 2014: The Aftermath – 9

Echinocactus texensis

Each Triffid Ranch show is a surprise, considering that most customers never know what they’re looking for until they see it. I regularly bring succulents to shows, and I never can tell which one will bring the best response. This time, the belle of the ball was our old friend Echinocactus texensis.

Tommy Gunn

Now, both horsecripplers got quite a bit of attention, but this gentleman came through on Sunday after taking a break from his space in Artist’s Alley. When he learned about horsecrippler fruit and the need for two to produce viable fruit, well, two went home with him right then. I regularly get photos from customers who want to show off their plants after they become established, and I fully expect to see photos of many happy horsecripplers before too long.

All-Con 2014: The Aftermath – 8

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All-Con 2014: The Aftermath – 7

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All-Con 2014: The Aftermath – 6

Tracy of Azrael's Apprentice

While it may seem understandable that these show and convention reports focus on Triffid Ranch customers, I also have to give credit to and a shoutout for the other vendors who make these shows so much fun. Among many others, I was lucky enough to have Tracy Robertson of Azrael’s Apprentice Designs as a next-door neighbor. Since All-Con started as a costuming convention that expanded its focus, it has an understandable reputation for excellent costume and couture designers, and having one of the best as a neighbor was an honor.

Half Price Books booth at All-Con 2014

Likewise, it’s always a joy to talk to the folks at the Half Price Books booth, even though we were all so busy that we only had a chance to say hello on Sunday morning before the vendor room opened for the day. In the process, I had a wonderful talk with the HPB district manager, and that leads to a big project to be announced soon. Let’s just say that between the new Day Job and this project, there’s no time to slack off.

Custom tank enclosure