Outdoor Art Market - End of Season Reflections

Another outdoor art market season is a wrap and I worked furiously last week to finish up, tag, and price those final works-in-progress. I also kept my fingers crossed and hoped for a break in the winds and rain (typical of Pacific Northwest Fall weather) that have dampened the enthusiasm of both buyers and sellers the past few weeks. Vendors did, indeed, get lucky. Saturday was clear and sunny, but jacket-and-gloves-chilly. As I expected, my mittens, hats, scarves, and bulky sweaters drew the lion's share of attention from buyers and browsers.

End of season is a bittersweet time for me. On the one hand, I'm happy over the prospect of once again having my weekends free - and my weekdays, too, for that matter. On the other hand, I miss the social side of life at the market - the other artists and vendors, the old friends and locals who drop by each week to see what's new, and meeting the tourists and travellers just passing through. It's a great deal of work each week, but an enormous amount of fun and camaraderie, too. The icing on the cake for the vendors, of course, is the validation of our talents through the kind compliments and patronage these folks give us. As I've said before, the greatest compliment is when someone is willing to spend their hard-earned cash on something we've created. That's the best validation of all.

This past season was a bit of a landmark for me in that it was my first time exhibiting and selling my needle felted landscapes, seascapes, and abstracts. This is a brand new medium for me and one that is really just in its infancy in the art world. To my very great surprise (and delight) my artwork drew a lot of attention to my booth and, I believe, helped boost sales of my wearables. As a bonus, most of my artwork sold quickly, too. That was totally unexpected and very, very exciting. That encourages me to produce more and emboldens me to ask some of the better galleries for an opportunity to hang my work over the winter. Quite understandably, gallery owners are only interested in hanging pieces that are likely to sell. While they may feign the attitude of being about promoting "art for art's sake," it's sales commisions that pay the bills and keeps their doors open. The artist that can walk into a gallery with a portfolio of sold works in hand is less likely to be snubbed. That's my theory, anyway. I'll let you know if it proves to be true.

Experience and observation during this past season taught me some new things about branding, marketing, booth set up, and display. Each is worthy, I think, of an individual post. I will write a little something on each topic over the coming weeks in hopes that it will help someone else carve out their little niche in the wonderful world of the outdoor art and craft market.

DIY Network Tells Crafters To Take a Hike!

What have the programming gods at DIY been smoking?!? It all began several months ago with the disappearance of Vicky Howell's Knitty Gritty. Apparently, we didn't howl (pun intended) loud enough about losing that show, so the mental midgets at DIY Network decided to cancel the rest of the crafting lineup in favor of more home improvement shows. Are they nuts? I did (count them) ONE home improvement project this year (refinishing my wood floors) and in retrospect, I'd rather have my tits nailed to the table before I'll tackle a horrific job like that again. It was dirty, backbreaking work that took way more money and time to accomplish than anyone could ever imagine from watching a DIY show on the subject. I'm sure the only reason networks like DIY and HGTV continue to get program viewers is because do-it-yourself home improvement is like giving birth. Eventually, over time, we forget just how downright painful and expensive the whole experience was. On average, it takes about two years before we're willing to get pregnant again. That sounds about right. I'd love to remodel my kitchen, but it'll take at least two years for both my bank account to recover and for the miserable memories of the floor refinishing debacle to fade away.

On the other hand, I am an artist and a crafter every single day and enjoy every moment I can devote to being creative. Like you, I'm sure, I spend a good chunk of my discretionary income on crafting supplies...even in lean economic times. Come to think of it...ESPECIALLY in lean economic times, because it's the only relatively inexpensive recreation I enjoy. I'll drive less, turn down the thermostat, clip grocery coupons, and give up every other form of recreation so that I can afford a couple of skeins of yarn, or a few tubes of paint, or some other crafting supply I can't live without. The folks at DIY just don't get it. Which commercial message do you suppose grabs my attention and spurs me to go shopping - a sale on storm windows at Lowe's or a sale at Michael's?

Well, I say, the heck with DIY Network! I'll go back to getting my new crafting ideas and inspiration from fellow artists and crafters on the Internet - uncut and commercial free. And, when it comes time to tackle the kitchen remodel or the landscaping project, I'm sure I won't have any trouble finding all the do-it-yourself advice I need without wasting my time watching DIY or HGTV.