As Spring approaches, I’m looking ahead, planning for the goals I’m hoping to achieve at Hieropice.
As an independent artist who makes work to sell, it’s always a bit of a challenge to figure out the best approach to getting my stuff out there. There’s such a broad field, there are so many artists out there, so much work, how do I distinguish myself from the others?
One of the ways artists, like myself, get out there, is art/craft shows. A particular venue, like a center for the arts, gallery, or educational institution may host a craft show, a consortium of artists may put a show together, or, particularly around the holidays, an enterprising individual will organize a show and invite artists to apply to vend.
Often, a selection of established artists, or a “jury,” will determine which artists, out of those who’ve applied, will get to participate in a particular show. It’s like college apps all over again! Sans SATs… You submit photos, an application fee, info about your work, commit to a date/time in advance, send in your app and hope for the best. If you’re lucky, you get accepted, and you’re on your way!
Different shows require different items, but there are some essentials that an artist must always have on hand. Cash, in small bills, to make change with, and a cash box to store it. Bags, boxes, and paper to package sold items. A receipt book. Tape. A table covering (and often, a 6-foot table and chair). Portable lights. Decor for your table. Pens. Mannequins and display stands. Business cards. Your merchandise. If you’re a jewelry artist, several pairs of pliers, extra chain, extra earring backs, just in case. Tags for merchandise. Signage for your table. Chargers for various devices, like your phone, or laptop, if you bring one. Extension cords. I also bring a portable hotspot and charger so I can always connect to the internet to accept credit card payments, and a device to allow me to swipe credit cards, for customers who don’t have cash.
Whew! There are a ton of things to think of, to make your show seamless, and ensure happy customers. If you’re doing outdoor shows, add a tent to the list. Art/crafts vendors have to (try to!) anticipate any potential needs, wants, disasters, surprises that might arise. It’s a lot, particularly if you’re doing it on your own.
The trade-off is interacting with the public. Getting to answer questions by fascinated passers-by about how your work is made. The oohs and ahhs, and shows of support by complete strangers, the curiosity. Chatting with other artist/vendors, trading tips about great places to eat nearby whatever gallery, church, street or store you might be in. Hilarious stories, about shows past, intriguing anecdotes. A fellow vendor at a recent show told a horror story of a craft show where an attendee, who was never caught, managed to swipe thousands of dollars in merchandise from the tables of artists vending there, just by casually blending in to the crowd, posing as a potential customer. I’ve watched vendors’ carefully-crafted displays repeatedly topple in the wind at an outdoor festival, merchandise rolling down the street while the owners chased after it. And then there’s the merch…
I’ve discovered such cool things, that I know I’d never have found elsewhere. Brightly-painted miniature coffee tables, with pompom bunnies and tassles adhered to them. Intricately-sculpted soaps, in the shape of fluffy cinnamon buns, complete with flecks of cinnamon and dripping icing. A chocolate gorilla head. Who makes a lamp out of cocktail umbrellas?! I saw these, by Bright Lights Little City, and had to have one! That’s a creative brain, that came up with that idea. I always encounter work that is so innovative, so interesting, and frankly, a little weird. Rather than purchasing from a store where thousands of other people will have the same manufactured piece, the idea that mine will be the only one exactly like it makes these pieces irresistible. Fern-inspired earrings made from re-purposed electronics parts? Yes please. I love that craft show artists are letting their imaginations run wild, creating whatever quirky weirdness strikes their fancy, crafting out of unusual materials, making, unmaking, redesigning and making again, getting inspired, and putting themselves out there. It’s a huge risk to put your stuff out there to be judged! You can only hope, that after the work you’ve sweated over is perused, handled, examined, and judged, someone will like your work enough to want to own it.
So Hieropice will be doing some shows this Spring. I’ll keep you fine folks updated, as to where and when. If you do come see us, show us some love! Perhaps you’ll find something special, that you just have to have. 😉