Ah yes, the life of an artist! Now it would be great to just sit back in my studio and let the sales roll in via my online shops, but the reality is pretty far removed from the fantasy. I’ve been around long enough to remember when the Internet was going to be the salvation of the artist! All artists had to do was get a website, post their work and wait. And we did. Waited that is :-).
So it did not take the professional artists long to figure out this was not a shortcut for sales. Maybe a compromise? Doing both? Internet and shows? And so it was back to what works best-meeting people and talking about your work!
Art shows can be stimulating, exciting, energetic, frantic and exhausting all rolled into one or two days (or more!)
From my studios in North Carolina, my artist hubby and I have traveled by van west to California, south to Florida, north to Michigan and northeast to NY and many states in between for shows. I homeschooled the youngest of four as my children graduated and he came on the road with us to the shows. I have seen every age participating and at this rate we are going to be one of the old timers! 🙂
Art tent for outdoor shows
Indoor show set up
For years I lugged my portraits around to art shows so at fiber shows, it was with a degree of delight that I realized I could fit all my silk work into 3 lightweight bins!
What you take to sell at a show is where the “wear and tear” plays a crucial role. We’re not getting any younger and it is far easier to have a product that packs and travels well. For years I dealt with large framed portraits in oils and pastels.
Portraits are my first love and I am still creating them! My fiber art, long dormant while I painted portraits, came back to the forefront when the economy tanked in 2009. It is good to be a versatile artist!
Working on a 24 x 36 bridal portrait
There is no getting around the fact however that a tent is needed for outdoor shows. We have invested a lot of money over the years for heavy duty tents and it has paid off. I have smaller, lighter weight (sort of) tents for a one day show but no matter what the ads say, every tent I have ever worked with has needed two people to set up :-).
Weather is a huge factor in the success of the show (and you) and our wear and tear. I have been to shows that were cancelled half way through due to storms or it rained the entire weekend. Ones that the temperatures rose to 100 degrees or the winds came in blowing aways tents and setups!. I have been to indoor shows that were empty but for the vendors because of snow . And I have been to shows where I dealt with mini-tornadoes.
What we found after mini-tornado
The wear and tear is real. It wears on your vehicles, your body and even your brain!A bad show can leave you feeling tired, disillusioned or broke.
But the fact remains that meeting your customers, sharing your story, your passion and your work with them is really what sells your work. If they can see it, touch it, understand it, then it speaks so much more loudly than a passive Internet presence. That’s what keeps artists traveling and on the road! It’s what validates you as an artist-the feedback, the compliments.
So drop a compliment when you see an artist in his or her booth! They have worked hard to get there and have put their heart and soul into their product. Better yet, buy something! America is built from micro-businesses. Keep them going!
Busy day at a show