I did my very first solo art show (since 1978 – I did one in 1978 when I was still a hippie-child, and I totally missed the mark of nurturing a patron, but I was young and thought I could do this on my own. It’s a long story & not worth boring you with). My mentor has invested several years in me and she let me go for my first solo flight this summer. I think she was pleased.
I know I think it went well.
I didn’t make a lot of money (more on that), but I networked, made artist friends, and discovered I like this niche. I learned, I was given advice, and I believe I evolved as a vendor. The venue was a fine arts show, not a craft fair, the sponsors were amazing and supportive (and the food was wonderful!). I came home feeling very good about what happened over the past few days, and my husband (who has watched my progress with a bit of an arched eyebrow) seems to be totally on board. He isn’t even (too) upset that I didn’t make money.
I bought a very cheap canopy. Donald loaned me his hippie camping carpet. My friend, Diane, helped me man the booth. This is Phase One: the canopy is set up per instructions, minus the front panel. Don and I set it up on Friday, enjoyed dinner and some minor networking over wine. Really not Don’s thing (or mine). He’s more introverted than I am, and I am an INFJ (look it up: Myers Brigg Personalities).
This is Phase Two, and how we set up shop on Saturday. Diane observed that my artwork “disappeared” against the windows and the silver backing of the canopy, so we took down the panels on two sides and turned them around. It was a nice effect until the wind started blowing and those walls poofed inward, and everything came down. Not to mention, the way we hung the mini portraits made them look like there were too few pieces. The brown paisley on the right of the photo just didn’t work.
Phase Three, Sunday Morning. We took the side wall off, eliminated one wire frame, and hung a dark cloth across the top half, where we hung all the minis that weren’t on the tables. New cover for the little table, and a different floor arrangement. We did have to zip-tie the wire frame to solid items due to the winds, but we increased our foot traffic by 100%.
Sadly, I did not sell much. I got TONS of compliments, a lot of laughter, and some deep conversations about the plight of certain animals/insects, but not much buying traffic. I could blame that one the way we were set up: off the beaten trail, mostly to avoid a huge hole in the ground in front of us (most people stayed on the paved trail), but I think it was also a lot of inexperience and beginner’s luck.
Stage Three offered us more ability to interact with the artists next door, and that was a boon. The artist on one side was a metal artist who went into great detail how he achieves the color in the metal, how to use plasma, how to weld, and the best arc welding helmet. He was wonderful, and his partner had a great sense of humor and marketing strategy.
The artist on the other side was a photographer who digitalizes her work onto canvas (stunning work!). We swapped artwork. There was a calligrapher across the way that bartered a commission with me (tit for tat: I wanted something from her & she wanted something from me): woot. There was an artist who paints birds – watercolor – and I mean, paints birds. He was wonderful! Another artist who paints miniatures (smaller than mine!) who gave me some very sage advice. Another artist who creates garden art and who I promised to connect with during Gardenpalooza next spring (how did I miss her last April? I spend too much money on my garden in April!).
Every person who took the time to actually walk through my booth and look at my art said something nice and encouraging. They laughed. We shared stories. They loved the whimsy. They hemmed and hawed. A couple from Hong Kong admired all of it and told me that the Chinese legend of the eclipse is very similar to the Korean fire dogs, but they weren’t buying art, just killing time until Monday morning (he was a retired elementary teacher). The soccer players all loved my soccer team.
The biggest feedback (from other professionals) was: raise my prices. Make prints. Lots of prints. Huh. I was going competitve pricing with other stuff I saw, but – apparently – the detail I put into my critters warrants higher prices.
So higher prices and prints will be coming.
In the end, it was a Very.Good.Experience.
And – as an INFJ – I am going to be hiding out in my house for the next few days, processing. But watch for changes. I’m excited. I don’t feel disheartened, but I feel encouraged. I will do this again. (And, better, my husband is willing to support me through the “again”.)
TCFW is taking off and I hope to soar with crow’s wings!!