. . . Ok, so maybe"behaving" is not the most fitting word to use for this post heading, but after you read at least one comment that was made in my booth this summer, you may not disagree with my choice entirely!
Since my last post, I've done a couple of art fairs that had my hopes high for reaching customers in some new areas. I worked hard on polishing up my display and decided to invest the last of the bills in my brown envelope marked "Art" in some risky ventures.
As I look back on my experiences from this summer, it dawned on me that I don't really know anybody personally who is making a living from creating art. When I graduated college, I knew I had to find a "real job," and I don't recall having any hopes for even paying bills with the money my art brought in. Almost twenty years later, nothing has changed, and I'm still not paying any bills on a regular basis with art funds-- so, why do we do it? Why do we lug all those tables, tents and bins around in borrowed vans and sit in our folding chairs with our bleeding hearts hanging out on the line day after day?
I will tell you why. . . it's because of sweet souls like Katie, who walked in to my booth at Winona Lake and did a Disneyland dance of wonder as she looked at my work. "I just love your aesthetic!" she said, picking up prints one after the other and exclaiming to her boyfriend, "look at this! Oh my gosh, look at THIS! I love it all!" I'll admit, I was pretty flattered that a twenty-something who probably walked down from the college on the hill would enjoy my work so much. Just her delight was enough to make my day, so I was kinda blown away when she came back later and ordered a custom illustration. See, it's not about the cash. It's about people "getting it," about feeling validated and sharing a love for something simple.
It's about how Tina in Valparaiso told me that her budget for art is small, but how important it is for her to support artists. She looked closely at each piece, asked questions, told her own stories about the subject matter and then decided on an unframed piece in her price range, just so she could go home with something from my collection. When no wifi could be found to process her credit card, she came back hours later with the last check in her checkbook to follow through on her purchase.
These ladies were star customers, but there were many who didn't make a purchase and were still encouraging to me. Here's how you can drop a coin in the makers' hats without spending a dime.
- Smile as you walk by -- better yet -- walk IN with your smile
- Look the artist in the eye and give them a compliment of any kind. Try anything short and sweet like "your work is nice," or "I like your style."
- If it's in your budget, buy at least "just a card." There's actually a national campaign for this act of kindness. Check it out HERE.
- Put your name on a mailing list, if you can't afford to spend
- Follow the artist on social media while you're in the booth (you might get a discount)
- Be honest -- it's OK to say you can't afford to spend, but do it in a kind way
After hours and hours of people watching this summer, I have some behaviors for you to avoid in response to the DO's in the list above:
- Be aware that your face might resemble that of an 80-year-old man driving through a Walmart* parking lot on Christmas Eve. Relax and realize that even if you're out of your element, that confused, squinty expression on your face is throwing us some serious shade.
- Don't completely ignore us as you walk through our booths like you do the Walmart* greeter on your way to finish up your Christmas shopping.
- Don't ask "Did you make all this?!" Of course I did!! I mean, seriously, what did I just do, go cram my cart full of prints at Walmart* and prop them up on a table to re-sell here?! A better response is "Are you the artist?"
- Don't give your kids lollipops and let them touch all of my stuff like the playground balls in the aisle at Walmart*. Instead, ask them questions about what they're seeing and hold their hands.
- Don't let your kids steal all of my business cards.
- If it's not in your budget, don't insult the artist. ANECDOTAL INTERJECTION: So when I left to grab a bite to eat at one of my shows last month, my daughter told me that a woman actually came in, looked at my biggest painting in the booth, which, mind you, took me about five hours to paint and was professionally framed and said, "This is beautiful, but I don't know if it's worth THAT MUCH." I swear, the Good Lord pulled me away from that booth as she approached, because I don't know what I would have done if she'd said that to my face!
*insert your favorite discount store
There you have it! Now you're prepared to get out there and pour some sunshine on the artists, makers and designers who bring so much diversity to our world. Practice what you've learned at Art Beat in downtown South Bend this Saturday!! Woo hoo!! All the details at www.downtownsouthbend.com/art-beat
I'll be in Scene A with a smile on my face and a metaphorical hat on the ground.