Wednesday, August 8, 2012
I've had a few weeks since Artscape to rest up and reflect.
It was a fairly overwhelming experience and this was mostly because of the pressure I put on myself leading up to the festival. But by the time the three-day/twenty-nine hour event was over, I had settled into a groove and realized I had stressed myself out for no reason. Yes, I was tired, yes there was a lot of travel, but I did it (with a LOT of help from Larry) and I need to remind future me that if I ever have the chance to participate in something like this again, I'll be just fine.
One of the most important skills to have when vending at an art market is the ability to be flexible and to improvise. This is a lesson I have learned repeatedly at every market my shop has been a vendor at. There will be unexpected conditions. You will forget things. However, 99% of the problems you encounter can be fixed with bungee cords, duct tape, clamps, or zip ties. At one market, I had to use a piece of rope as a belt.
The best analogy I can give is that it's kind of like a wedding - things will go wrong. What matters is how you deal with those things when they occur. And in the case of Artscape, well, let's just say it rained on my wedding day. In fact, it rained for two straight days. There was a river flowing through my tent at several points during the weekend and our electrical cords were completely underwater (Yikes! Don't touch!). And it was cold. Cold enough to wear a fleece in July. I'm pretty sure that has never happened around here before!
Of course, you can't fix the weather with a bungee cord, so we just had to hunker down, protect my artwork, and make the best of it (ie: scarf down Jamaican beef patties and Maryland crab cakes from the neighboring food vendors). Yes, the rain put a damper on business, but I was amazed at how many people braved the wet weather and came out sporting ponchos and umbrellas. Thank you, brave souls for coming out in the rain - it can get lonely being a sole proprietor, and I loved having people to talk to!
The first lesson learned happened on Friday morning as we (by we, I mean Larry) packed up the car to make the trek up to Baltimore for Day 1. Larry told me "Ok, the car is full." Problem was that NONE of my art was in the car yet. The car was completely packed just with equipment and gear. Not being able to bring my art would obviously be a big problem! We considered renting a van but were eventually able to remove some unnecessary items, rearrange things, and squeeze the necessities and ourselves into the Mazda. It's been getting harder and harder to do these markets with just one tiny car and I've been frustrated that I just don't have the room to transport a large fancy display system, but almost not being able to transport my art (plus the fact that my vendor neighbor drove up from Florida in a cargo van!) confirmed the fact that we need a bigger vehicle if Funnelcloud Studio is going to continue vending at art markets!
Between the weather and the warnings I had heard about theft, my biggest concern for the weekend was protecting my art. (My second biggest concern was avoiding use of the porta potties!) I heard several horror stories including the sad news that an acquaintance had some paintings destroyed in the storm, and that a vendor neighbor had their cash box stolen. (I didn't even bring my DSLR with me because it would've been one more thing I had to protect from theft and rain, so I apologize for the grainy camera phone photos!) I watched my booth like a hawk and packed everything up and took it home each night and considered myself very lucky to not lose any of my work to thieves or water.
By Day 2, I had added a couple of strings of colored lights to my booth to try and brighten up the drab interior of the tent. Unfortunately, the fuses on both strings were blown. Wop wop.
Seeing my name on a sign (spelled correctly, too!) was definitely a highlight:
The state map prints have been my best seller at every market since I unveiled them last Fall, but I was delighted that my second best seller at Artscape was my brand new Things That Are Awesome illustration!
But my favorite part of the weekend was the people! I met some amazing people, and got some of the funniest and most random comments, along with some blush-worthy compliments. A few laughs:
* Several people read my Dodo print as "I'm such a DOODOO" instead of "I'm such a a DODO." Dodo = Extinct bird. Doodoo = poop.
* Two girls walked into my tent and one exclaimed "You Big Fish!" The other turned and said "What did you call me?!" Hilarious. All three of us got a good laugh as she pointed to the print and her friend said she thought "You Big Fish!" was some new kind of insult.
* A man walked by and shouted into my tent "DO YOU HAVE ANY PURPLE WOLVES?" Sorry, I sure don't!
* However, a woman came in and asked if I had any ostriches. Why, yes, I do! She said her teenage daughter loves ostriches and was disappointed that they hadn't been able to find any ostrich art at Artscape. Her daughter walked into my booth a few minutes later, made a beeline for the Ostrich In Cowboy Boots and exclaimed "I want this!" So fun to find an ostrich lover! I also met a woman who's husband loves warthogs, a lady who used to work as the hippo keeper at the Baltimore Zoo, several sloth lovers and a couple who bought my Octopus illustration because they have an octopus-themed kitchen. Totally awesome!
* Chicken & Waffles was the most controversial item on my Things That Are Awesome illustration. Half the people (northerners) had no clue what chicken & waffles were and cringed at the description (You put fried chicken ON A WAFFLE?! With syrup?!) The other half of the people (southerners) were delighted to find chicken & waffles on the print and agreed that they are awesome. Yum.
One of the challenges of being a vendor is not being able to enjoy the festival as a spectator. While Larry manned the booth, I did take a jaunt around the Artscape campus on Saturday to quickly check out the other goings-on, but other than that, I spent the entire three days in my booth. In addition to the art market, there was festival food, concerts, art installations, and carnival rides:
I loved the art cars, especially the Big Banana Car:
By Sunday, the weather was beautiful, we could open up the tent walls, and the Christmas lights were finally working (thanks to a replacement fuse):
And the best part - lots of people were out, too! Thanks so much to everyone who stopped by my booth - I loved getting to meet some customers and other artists in real life and chatting with such friendly and complimentary people. Your kind words kept me smiling and got me excited to apply to Artscape in 2013!
As for Larry, yes, he worked his butt off for me, kept me hydrated and fed for for three straight days, and did all the heavy lifting and driving, but he also was well rewarded. 24 oz Molson, anyone???
I am also proud to report that I achieved my goal of avoiding using the porta potties throughout the entire weekend. Success! Bladder of Steel for the win!
Thanks Baltimore, for a great weekend. You continue to be my favorite artsy city and I'm looking forward to doing it again!
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