Sunday, August 23, 2009

Selling myself short

My first time as a vendor in a fair! Sales-wise, not a spectacular showing, but not bad either considering the economy. I learned so much and I was so lucky to have a good friend to share it with.

I had made arrangements ages ago to borrow a tent from a friend and hadn't really given much thought to how I would display things. The week before the fair I was wracking my brain trying to think of a way to display it all. A neighbor friend offered the loan of a standing panel, like a woven shutter -and then I remembered the much neglected shutters in the shed of the big house at the farm. Lickety split I chatted with the current tenants and slipped three tall and four short shutters into the car. In the following week I painted them all white, Eric set hinges on the short ones so they'd stand independent and I muddled through with practice setups in the driveway. Not to reveal all my secrets but the tall shutters attached to the tent with rubber bands and hair-ties.

Originally I had thought I would just tack a few nails in the wood and hang the paintings like I do in the studio. That doesn't account for the wind though and then I realized that I could tie the canvases to the shutters with plain old kite string.

Friday evening we set up just the tent and then went home planning to set up the display the following morning. The mother of all storms hit about an hour later and I found myself barefoot in the pouring rain, bailing out Emer's egress window with a bucket. The gutter had clogged (right above it of course) and the view out her window became an odd kind of aquarium. I bailed the water from about waist height, back down to the rocks where it was supposed to be and then got the call from the fair that the tent had gone down and that's all they knew. They didn't know if it had blown away, been knocked down, broken. No details.

It was hard to sleep that night wondering what I had to look forward to in the morning. I packed up everything I would need to set up, all the paintings and rubber bands and kite string and decided to hope for the best.

Bern got there before me and did some of her own bailing, taking the water out of the canvas section on the top. Then we set into the work of putting the tent up again. One section was slightly bent and two pieces had come disconnected but this really nice Amish guy came along and helped us. He had a pocket knife, a beard and suspenders. After fixing the tent then we had the long process of setting up our display. The first day it honestly looked a little cluttered and busy and we hadn't yet figured out where the flow of traffic would go. By the second day the weather had improved and we streamlined the set up to be kind of a breeze through. I also put up some signs explaining who and what we were, and I threw caution to the wind, lowered my prices and talked more to customers. I was sorry to see the day end because I felt like I was just hitting my stride. The next event I have is Octoberfest in downtown Lovettsville where my new friend Kristin is trying to make a kind of art alley, Then Middleburg fair selling batiks with Mary, and then possibly the Waterford fair. I realize now though that most of these fairs are where people buy gifts for others rather than art for their own homes. With that in mind I plan to touch base with two antique stores in the area that sell things on commission since that is more my market. The pieces that didn't sell are re-posted on Etsy and I've dropped all my prices. A healthy dose of reality is good for that.

Another bonus of the fair was that I had the good fortune to meet some other artists in the booth next to us, one of which is a YA writer. And that got me to dust of the manuscript and have another go at it.

All and all it went pretty well considering I started the whole thing underwater and overwhelmed.


  1. We don't know each other, but I just wanted to leave you a note to let you know that I've bought art for my home at the Waterford fair in years past. And seen others do the same. We always bee-line over to the Art Mart first thing. Good luck!

  2. So nice of you to share your experiences! Its very helpful for an artist like me contemplating doing my first craft fair.
    :) Hugs