I know we aren’t there yet, but we will have Shows and Festivals again. They may not look like they did before, but we will get there. In the meantime, here are a few things that I found to be either a challenge, or invaluable.
1) Plan for Bad Weather
When we (Mom and I) started doing Art Festivals and Shows it was winter. In South Florida that means sunny skies with a light breeze and highs in the upper 70’s. With a few Perfect weather shows under our belts we began to feel a bit cocky about our set up. I guess Mother Nature caught wind of this (get it? wind) and delivered a piece of humble pie. That day the wind blew over every display on the tables, both racks of Paper Ornaments were toppled and we had to take the sides off our tent to reduce the wind resistance. We were lucky, a guy a few rows over lost his tent to a big gust and half of his art was on the ground. The couple across from us, who had been doing shows for years, helped us recover and gave us some great advice.
Two weeks later, after a lot of trial and error, we were ready for a show on the Treasure Coast. Here’s what we did: two sand bags and pegs* on each corner of the tent, pool noodles in the top corners for rain, bar clamps to hold down the table top displays, thin wirewire to hold down the jewelry busts and decorative weights (or rocks) for pamphlets. Basically what you want to do is make damn sure your tent is pegged* and weighted, if the wind is really bad pack up and go (it’s not worth a ruined booth and possible injuries). Next, treat your tables like anchors for your Display Props, then use your Display Props as anchors for your Product. Surprise, Surprise, the wind was relentless (25 mph sustained winds with 40 mph gusts), but we were GOLD! Aside from the sand we had to brush off, nothing moved.
*If you cannot use pegs bring extra weights
2) Don’t worry about Looking “The Part”
Yeah, not even going to pretend that I didn’t feel the need to do this. I was so worried about looking the part that I spent the first few shows itchy, miserable and exhausted. Guess what? No one cared if I looked like a tortured soul who lived on the fringe in pursuit of my muse. They cared about my work and wanted to have conversations about that with me.
Dressing to fill a role only made it harder to relax and show the real place my art comes from, inside of me. I don’t think there is anything wrong with having that “look” if it’s who you are, but if not, just be you-that’s who people want to talk to. After that I wore my style of clothes, chilled out and had fun!
3) Bring a Side-Kick
You should also bring someone to help you. My Mom goes to every show with me and I could not do it without her. You will eventually have to use the rest room, get a drink, have a surge of buyers all wanting to check out at once or you just need stretch your legs. It is also a HUGE help when setting up and breaking down (both figuratively and literally). My Mom knows my work so well, she is in charge of the focal displays on each table.
Having that person there is invaluable. If the Robin to your Batman is like my Mom and won’t take money for their help, buy them something from the show and dinner. Be as generous with your gratitude as they have been with their time and work.
4) Be Friendly and Smile Even if You Don’t Feel Like it
As a hard-core introvert I understand the pain of socializing. It feels uncomfortable and can drain you to that foggy headed point. I get it, but you can sleep it off the next day. The day of your show you have to be approachable and friendly. Remember: You set up a booth at a public event, no one forced you to do it. Suck it up and smile!Another good reason to be welcoming to everyone (as if the money-I mean good vibes wasn’t enough!) is that you can’t be sure that the guy who just stepped into your space and asked about a piece isn’t a judge or an event co-coordinator. This is where the side-kick comes in. When Mom see’s me getting a bit spaced out she takes over and I can step out for a couple minutes. Trust me, it makes a difference.
Outdoor shows are so much fun and I encourage any one with interest to apply. Check your weather for the date(s) as soon as it’s available and plan accordingly. Be safe and have fun!
I know I have skipped a lot of things like: be nice to your booth neighbor, don’t start packing up early and keep your cash box safe, but these were the four things that I either struggled with or couldn’t do without.
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