This was my first year participating in the DIY Street Fair in Ferndale, Michigan, and my last outdoor show for the year. I prepped non-stop between the Lexington Fine Arts Fair and last week getting ready for what was supposed to be the biggest show of the year for me. DIY lasts 3 days, running Friday night 6pm – 12am, Saturday 11am – 12am and Sunday 11am – 11pm. This was also my first nighttime show, which required lighting for my booth! That was the least of my worries. I’ve never ventured into the Metro market to try to sell my artwork, so I was going in blind as to the clientele, atmosphere, and sales expectations.
I created “Body Positive” mugs specifically for DIY, neutral colored clay body with a black charcoal drawing of different nude bodies. Large, small, men, women, stretch marks, fat rolls, basically any beautiful body that might exist. I am “positively” in love with them. Majority of my booth visitors chuckled, some were “startled”. The other 20% appreciated my vision, my work even garnering comments such as “that’s a great idea” or “this should be called the Bod Mug”. Those are the comments that got me through the weekend. Friendly reminder, the artist sitting at the back of the booth can hear your “reviews”! Does it really bother me that they weren’t a big hit? No. Does it confuse me? Hell yes! Is it really any different than any other art show? No. Not everyone is going to love everything I do. In fact, the things that I make and really love usually don’t go over well with the general public. Then I ask myself what the common denominator is. Me! Anyway, back to the drawing board. Needless to say, I have a very large inventory sitting at the studio available for purchase <insert laughter>.
The booth fee was substantially more than I usually pay, then add in gas/travel, labor, etc. In my experience, I’ve made more dollar for dollar at shows I paid the least for. I did break even, making back the booth fee and paying my assistant for the weekend. All of us art fair vendors know that magic number that is your booth fee, and once you hit that you can sigh a tiny bit of relief. The weather was miserably hot both Friday and Saturday, and also included a deluge and lightning storm on Saturday. I’m sure that impacted sales greatly.
The absolute best part
To he folks that visited my booth and loved my art, my most sincere thanks. To the patrons that purchased my work, even greater thanks, as it encourages me to keep getting out there. That really makes it all worth it. One particular moment stands out- two children ran into my booth and almost simultaneously said, “Who made all of this beautiful artwork?” It was so cute and heartwarming. Good job parents for teaching your children to appreciate the arts!
My Saturday/Sunday assistant killed it this past weekend. She knows what to do before I can even generate a thought.. Don’t know how I would have gotten through without her! My Friday night helper was also a huge lifesaver, easing the stress of setting up and staying for the duration. The days are tremendously long, so that means a lot to me.
I did make some amazing connections and new friends at DIY. Both of my booth neighbors were totally awesome – Chris Laporte an amazing artist from the Grand Rapids area & his assistant Dale and Magnolia Mercantile, run by Cait Quinn of Ann Arbor. A few folks asked me about the process of making pottery (which I love talking about) and hopefully inspired them to start making their own. I might even have a few new students!
Do I really like art fairs?
There is a marker board in studio with my shows written on it. Markered along the top is “You do it because you love it”. I truly do love art fairs. I love the interaction, observing what people are drawn towards, how they enter my booth, respond to my merchandising/customer service process, meeting other artists and of course, unloading that pesky inventory. I’ll forget the load in/out hassle over the winter, the blistering heat, the panic of the tent swaying in the gusts of wind, wiping down pottery 3 times in 2 hours, and slow sales. It’s a risk I willingly take, but I need a little time to regroup.
After a couple of weeks of going on roughly 4 hours sleep per night, I’m ready to slow down a little bit. The Port Huron Elks Club craft show is in November, which gives me some time to be creative and leisurely create some Christmas inventory. Did I mention that I absolutely love that show? The customers are in the holiday mood, the building smells like cinnamon, and there’s twinkly lights.
I’m so ready for sweaters, cool nights, crisp air and not dying from the extra heat generated by my kiln! Fall is definitely my favorite season, the wind down from a year gone by too fast. That being said, October classes are posted. I would sign up as soon as you can!
Until next time