Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Am I Crazy? Continued...

Well, in my quest to make it as an artist (by which I mean actually be able to pay bills through sales of my art as opposed tojust siphoning off the grocery money to buy more art supplies!) I tried a couple of Street Fairs.

1. The first one was a cute little event sponsored by the local Humane Society. It featured lots of pet related activities. I thought this would be a good venue for my little Coloring Storybooks as each features a cute animal character. As an extra "draw" I put up a poster advertising $2 Cartoon Pet Portraits. I also set out a table with free coloring pages and crayons for kids to sit and color. Sounds good, right?

WRONG! I did end up doing a bunch of Pet Portraits, but only sold a few books. Turned out people mostly came for all the free pet related give-aways and activities. And the crayons started to melt in the sun, so I had to take them off the table. There went my cute little display. Oh well. At least my booth fee went to a good cause...

2. The next one was an Arts and Crafts Fair. I put a lot of preparation into this one. I bought the neatest display items for my paintings from a Dollar Store. They are little easel type stands made of wrought iron with the words "DREAM" cut out in metal on the fronts. They were perfect for my "Dream Horses" (see pic). And only $1 each! I also got a couple of heavier and larger tabletop display easels (in black wrought iron) from a local discount home decor store. I had visions of huge crowds of people and was worried I wouldn't have enough merchandise so I created a lot of new pieces. I made paperweights from recycled glass - they were cool once I figured out how to get my artwork to stick to the back - that was an exercise in trial and error! I made Art Nouveau-style bookmarks, painstakingly cutting out each design so that, once laminated, the text would peek out thro the drawing. (See pic). I made high res Xerox copies of some artwork so there would be cheaper versions of the originals. I digitally colored, printed and cut out my paper Qt-z dolls and packaged them with a couple of outfits. Plus my coloring storybooks, all of which I bound myself. I was ready!

It went better than the first one, but not exactly as I had envisioned. The canopy I bought on sale was broken so I had to set up under a tree to get out of the sun. A low-hanging branch seemed to have it in for my forehead. The wind kept blowing over my cute little display, so I ended up taking them all down and laying things out flat. Thank goodness I had the paperweights to hold them down. There weren't many kids so the coloring table I had struggled to bring and set up went unused. Everyone kept saying the fair wasn't as well-attended as the last one. My viewpoint of it was it was mostly a large group of friends (most seemed to know each other) who came to hang out for a few hours - it was more like a party. However, I did make some sales (most of the paperweights, some bookmarks, a few books, an original painting and a print) - although not enough to balance out what I had spent on displays, a table, chairs, and the art materials themselves.

On the upside, getting ready for the fair gave me a goal to work towards and helped me hone my skills as an artist. I also had a lot of inventory for my Etsy store! In fact it took me a couple of days to get it all uploaded. And I put myself out there, which is always a plus!

So, what have I learned? Street fairs can be unpredictable and it's best NOT to spend too much time and money on displays - cuz they may not work out at all. Also not a good idea to expect too much going in - look at it as an opportunity to put yourself out there and show your artwork Use it as a driving force to get a lot done by a deadline.

Will I do another one? Yes! Why? Well, I may be tipping the scales toward crazy....
Till next time,
Sheri McClure-Pitler


zenobiasouthcombe said...

Wow - big step! Well done on quitting the day job to go for the dream! I've recently graduated, so work is still on the cards for me, but I am trying to build the beginnnings of an artist career on the side.
Thanks for sharing your experience with fairs, as I am considering showing my work at one in the near future (once I get a decent amount of works done), and it's helped me gain a bit ofperspective. Good luck with your art career, I've subscribed to your blog so do keep us updated!!

smacart said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Zenobia! I checked out your etsy store and your blog. The pirate ship painting is awesome!

Another thing I learned about the fairs, is their own promotion has a lot to do with the success of it. If you're going to pay a large fee to be in it, you want to make sure the sponsors are heavy promoters. Also you will do better if you do a lot of your own promotion and invite folks that like your work and follow your career. The people that respond to the fair promotion are not necessarily your public.

So far I've only done these two little ones (with the exception of a few I did in my youth when I could haul a lot of stuff!

zenobiasouthcombe said...

Thanks for the extra tip, Sheri, and for visiting my blog & Etsy store :) It's winter here in New Zealand, so I'll wait until at least spring, that way I can have heaps of time to sort out my own promotions as well.

Take care!