Monthly Archives: September 2007

PIRATE DAY

So yesterday I was working on a project in my studio.

I had our remaining cockatiel riding on my shoulder all day. He has scanty feathers in his crest, and he’s a pearl-faced cockatiel–he’s mostly grey and white, looks a lot like a little parrot.

I’m wearing my aircast on one foot, and my left foot is bare–which means there’s an almost two-inch difference in my legs. So I’m lurching around my studio with a wide swagger.

The doorbell rings. It’s the UPS guy. They never stick around long, so I hurry as fast as I can to the door before he can take off. I swing the door open.

He looks at me and there’s this funny look on his face. I suddenly remember the big air cast, the rolling run, and the bird on my shoulder.

Zoe, who is unsettled and lonely since Bella died, starts shrieking at the UPS guy. Right. In. My. Ear.

With a straight face, I say, “I’m a pirate.” (I resist the urge to add, “arrrrrgh…”)

He says, “Oh.”

I get a little flustered, and actually sign the receipt with my maiden name (which, coincidentally, also has some “U’s” in it.

I say, “Oh, gosh, I goofed up! I signed my maiden name instead of my married name!”

He looks again with a funny look on his face, and says, “What’s your married name?”

“Udell”, I say.

And he says slowly, “Are you sure?”

I hope the next time he comes, I’m in my normal phase.

8 Comments

Filed under funny, humor, life, pets

THE STUPID QUESTION

Bruce Baker has made it smart to be nice.

What do I mean by that?

Well, if you’ve ever hung out with a group of craftspeople who do shows, or participated in an on-line forum discussion about shows, you’ll recognize an all-to-common topic:

The stupid things our customers say.

It’s always a hot topic, and the posts will often outnumber any other thread in the forum. Except, of course, the one on the difference between art and craft. (A word to the wise: Don’t go there!)

It’s true, of course–people will say the oddest things in your booth, ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. They may say baffling comments, stometimes verging on the insulting.

I always held back from sharing. Because I have a guilty secret.

First, because people rarely said things I thought were stupid or insulting–just lucky, I guess. Or maybe I it was the quality of shows I was doing. Remember, I quit doing those small retail shows early on.

Second, I myself was fairly new to the craft world. I didn’t know any professional craftspeople when I started out, nor any artists. I figured people weren’t saying anything out of the ordinary, or anything I wouldn’t say under the same circumstances.

In fact, that’s my third point.

I’m one of those stupid customers.

There have been times when I’ve been in an artist’s booth and asked that same “stupid question”–only I knew I didn’t mean it to be stupid, or offensive. I knew I liked the work and honestly wanted to know more about it, or the artist.

I can tell I’ve asked “the stupid question” because I get the heaved sigh, the eyes rolling heavenward, the smart ass retort that makes me feel like an idiot.

My most embarrassing memory is standing awestruck in an artist’s booth at a fancy high-end retail show, just blown away by this guy’s work. I couldn’t tell what it was made of. I didn’t want to touch it–it looked special–and there wasn’t a single sign or card in the entire booth explaining his process or technique. (I guess the art was doing that “speak for itself” thing….)

The artist was standing with his arms folded glaring at us. I said, “These are beautiful! Are they painted tin or wood?”

He glared at me in silence, and then HE TURNED HIS BACK ON ME!

I couldn’t believe it. I also couldn’t figure out what the heck I’d said that had made him so angry. Embarrassed and indignant, I left the booth.

So when those long lists of “stupid comments” come up, I keep quiet. Because obviously, I was one of those “stupid people” they were all making fun of. And I didn’t like it, because something didn’t feel right.

Bruce Baker, bless his heart, has vindicated me.

It’s either on his CD on sales and selling, or I heard it in his last seminar. He explains that whole dynamic of “letting people land” in your booth–they come in, take a look around, and settle in to shop. You give them a minute to catch their breath, greet them quickly, let them know you are available if they need you–and then back off.

You leave them alone. They shop. You remain available but busy, not hovering, not following. Just….available.

Then comes that magic moment when they decide it’s okay for you to talk to them. They will give you a signal. That’s your cue to start talking about the work.

Unfortunately, many, many craftspeople blow this opportunity wide open. They will take this cue and misinterpret it. They will respond with sarcasm, or anger, or indignation.

Because that cue is often “the stupid question.”

Did you see it in my own example? I liked the work enough to stay in the guy’s booth. I looked at everything in there. I finally made up my mind to engage the artist.

I asked him a question. I wanted to meet him, to talk to him. I hoped he’d share some insights about his work with me. Maybe he’d even convince me I had to have one! Maybe there was a really cool one at just the right price that could go home with me….

Instead, he let me know he didn’t even want to look at me anymore, let alone talk to me.

Now maybe he’d heard that same question a thousand times already. Maybe he paints on some rare rain forest wood and was insulted I thought it was cheap tin. Maybe he paints on recycled tin roofs from his boyhood farm and was insulted I thought it was cheap wood. Maybe it was some intricate intaglio process and he was insulted I thought it was paint.

I dunno. But now I’ll never know. And I don’t really care.

Because he missed his opportunity to answer my question (or NOT answer my question, as the case may be) in a way that would have started the sales process.

He could have have sent me off with a painted sculpture, a new balance on my Visa card, and added a new collector to his mailing list. Instead, he left me in a puddle of anger and embarrassment. And I’ve never felt the slightest interest in his work since.

For all I know, I have been the subject of his own “stupid customer” stories.

But I have my revenge. I get to make fun of him today. Here.

So the next time that topic comes up, think twice before getting caught up in that “stupid customer” thing. It doesn’t serve you, and it doesn’t serve your art.

Think hard before asking for a “snappy comeback” for those “stupid questions.” You’re going to feel good for awhile. But your bank account is going to feel lighter.

Me? I have permission from Bruce to be nice.

And I’m gonna use it to the hilt!

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Filed under art, booth behavior, business, life, mental attitude, selling

NOBODY BURIED BELLA!

Okay, this is totally off-topic of business, craft, art or anything except general life craziness.

I have to write this rambling essay, because my husband said I had to. He said if I overlooked the chance to write a blog with the above title, he would write it himself.

Years ago we had a friend who was a serial pet owner. She would get pets and a year later, decide they were too weird and give them away. We inherited a pair of male cockatiels from her, named, ironically, Bella and Zoe. Which confuses our vets to this day.

Fortunately, we caught on the the “serial” aspect before we also inherited another cat and two very large dogs from her, too.

On top of all the other panics and health alarms going on in my life right now, one of the cockatiels, Bella, fell gravely ill recently. I found him fluffed up and trembling on his perch. I called a local vet who specializes in exotic pets. Just for your information, the word “exotic” in a business name is usually synonymous with “expensive.”

And so began a round of (very) expensive vet visits, on top of the flurry of MRI’s, x-rays and other doctor visits centered around my “lumpy neck” thing.

Bella’s symptoms worsened–paralyzed feet, lack of appetite. More tests were done, with no results. It was awful to see him deteriorate from a saucy, sassy, chirpy bird to a sad, quiet little creature.

Trying to keep all the doctor visits straight became an exercise in futility. I missed two consults with a foot doctor, who was going to find out why one foot hurts so much and why there’s a lump on the Achilles tendon on the other.

The bird doc prescribed a “holistic vitamin supplement” for Bella. They were out of it, but were going to get more in the following Friday. I was supposed to pick it up on my way to riding. But I had to reschedule my missed foot doc appointment, and she scheduled another MRI, this one for my foot, on Friday, so I didn’t go riding. So I didn’t drive by the vet on the way and I didn’t pick up the supplement. Got that?

On Monday I saw the foot doc for a follow-up. That’s when I found my Achilles tendon is compromised and in danger of rupturing. I was fitted immediately for something called a “cam locker”, a sort of air cast for immobilizing my foot. You can see a beautiful version here. Note how well it goes under jeans and normal clothing. (NOT)

It also elevates my right foot about 1.5″, necessitating me wearing a heel shoe on my left foot so I don’t lurch down the street like a seadog.

Temperatures are supposed to be in the 90′s the next few days. I’ll be wearing shorts (yay!), an air cast with a full-calf stocking on my right leg (boo hoo), and a heeled shoe on my left foot (double boo hoo.)

Now, I’d just taken off two months from my last surgery. I’m carrying..uh…a little extra weight. I was anxious about being inactive another month. “Can I ride?”, I asked the foot doc. No. “Can I climb?” No. “Can I walk?” Yes. “Can I swim?” Yes. “Can I do tae kwon do?” No. “Can I do some stuff in tae kwon do? Stretches? Balance work? Forms??” In exasperation, she said, “Whatever you can do while wearing that cast, you can do in tae kwon do.”

When I got home, I found the order I’d placed three months ago for little steel stands (for my sculptures), was not going to be done in time to finish two orders. In desperation, I asked the metal guy if he could cut down some taller stands so I could finish the orders. He said he could, if I came out immediately.

I was irked. The original order had been lost, then found. Then made up to the wrong specs. I took them anyway, but reordered the size I still needed. When I got the invoice for the mistakes, I found I’d been charged almost 50% more–because “the order was so small” and the set-up charges were high. I was a little irked when I got out there. He knew. He stopped what he was working on to recut my stands immediately.

While he did that, an elderly woman came by for what he was working on. It was a funky handmade woodstove pipe cover he was supposed to be repairing for her. While he cut down my stands, we chatted and she told me about the cover. It looked handmade–uneven, old, rusted, bent. She said it was really old, and had been repaired several times by different people. Our metal guy had already repaired the clips for it last year, and now he was reattaching the old rusted flange.

It looked like the kind of repair job that would drive almost anyone crazy. From her conversation, I didn’t think she had a lot of money, and wasn’t expecting to pay very much for the repair. She was also impatient. She said snippily to me, “He said it would be ready in a hour!”

I wanted to tell her I’d waited three months for my order, but that suddenly felt like tattling.

I felt sorry for the guy. I was just one of a myriad such fussy little orders he said “yes” to, because he wanted to help people with, for not very much money. He obviously found it hard to say no to the jobs he really didn’t have time to take on. It was time, I realized, to either wait to submit work during his slow seasons, or to find someone else who could more easily work with a “small potatoes” client like me. Metal guy was relieved I understood.

I thanked him for the cut-downs and left. I spent the rest of the afternoon finding someone else who could better deal with my little stands. I found someone, and shipped off samples that afternoon.

I remember that I forgot to pick up the miracle holistic vitamins for Bella. I drive out to the expensive–I mean, exotic–vet, and pick it up.

I kept checking in on Bella. He looked the same. I decided to go to tae kwon do that night.

I couldn’t do much. But I did a jillion sit-ups and wall push-ups. I did strength work. I did balance work. I did stretches. I felt good about persevering through yet another injury.

But while I was gone, Bella died.

I felt awful. If I’d known he was that close, I would have stayed with him. I cried a little, wrapped him in a cloth napkin, and found a shoe box to bury him in.

I asked my son to dig yet another hole in the back yard for our latest pet casualty. He said he would.

But he forgot.

I asked him if he could do it before he left for school on Tuesday, and he said he would.

But he forgot again.

So on Tuesday morning, I’m lurching around the house and finding I can barely get up and down stairs with my new clubbed foot. A friend who’s a carpenter was over repairing a door jamb in my studio that was rotted out. He called me out repeatedly to share increasingly disturbing revelations about the extent of the damage. It had permeated the huge timber foundation my studio is built on. It went further back than he thought–he was going to have to replace that entire section. It was worse than he thought–there were carpenter ants. Uh oh…a huge NEST of carpenter ants. He was going to have to spray immediately, even before we could get an exterminator.

As he headed to the hardware store to get deadly poisonous spray for the carpenter ants, I realized our chickens are only a few feet away from where he’ll be spraying. So is my surviving, cockatiel, Zoe. We’d better move them! We set up a temporary cage in our mudroom for the chickens. When Doug got home from school, he and I chase chickens and carry them to the mudroom. I also haul Zoe’s cage out there–all this in the air cast, mind you.

As I rush through the dining room, I see the little shoebox with Bella, still on the table. “Dang!”, I think. Doug still hasn’t dug a hole! I remind him again. He says he’ll do it later.

Jon decides we need to go out to dinner. Doug says he’ll go, but Jon has to finish something first. By the time he’s ready, Doug doesn’t want to go. He says he’s no longer hungry. I find out why later. The large “party size” container of roasted red pepper hummous is gone. So is a new box of party crackers. And an entire loaf of bread. Living with a teen-aged boy is like living with a bear who’s fattening up for hibernation. A lot of food disappears steadily into a very gruff and fuzzy creature who only speaks in grunts and disappears for long bouts of sleep in a dark and smelly cave.

Jon and I go to Subway alone. I bring the leftover half of my sub home to Doug. He eats it immediately. I notice the shoebox with Bella is still on the dining room table. I beg Doug to dig a hole. He says he will.

I remember that I’ve forgotten to attend a good friend’s artist presentation at a local gallery. DANG!!

We do some other household chores, and Doug trundles off to bed. Jon and I settle in to watch TV. Or rather, we settle in to our usual fight about what we’re going to watch on TV. I’m a serious CSI addict. He prefers the unrelenting, unresolved tension of 24. We snipe about each other’s curious drama preferences. Finally, yawning, it’s time to go to bed.

In the dining room, Bella’s shoebox coffin is now suspiciously on the floor, and our two large cats flee with that hunkered down posture that, in cats, denotes a guilty conscience.

The box is still closed, thank goodness! But in the midst of air casts and warped walks, carpenter ants and potentially poisoned chickens, we had left out for grabs the most enticing feathered toy you could ever present to two formerly feral cats.

That they had merely swatted the box around and not actually gotten in and used Bella as the ultimate cat toy, may have indicated their restraint.

Or maybe just how hard it was to get the box open.

But it’s then I exclaim those immortal words:

“Ohmigod! Nobody buried Bella!”

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Filed under art, humor, life, pets

MOVING ON: You Must Watch This!

My husband sent me a link to this most amazing article and video called Moving On by Jeffrey Zaslow of the Wall Street Journal.

It’s about Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon University computer-science professor, and his presentation in the “Last Lecture” series there.

It’s good. It’s really, really, really good.

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Filed under action steps, art, business, choices, courage, inspiration, life

GOOD BOOTHS GONE BAD #16: Leave Me Alone!

Today’s essay isn’t actually about booth design (except for the unlocked case thing below.) It’s about booth behavior. But it’s actually just as important–maybe more important–than having the perfect booth set-up.

I’ve often called myself a poster child for Bruce Baker’s CDs on booth design and selling. I’ve learned so much from “the Master”, and still always find something new when I listen to him or his CDs.

He’s made me a keen observer, too. I now pay attention when a sales situation or a booth is annoying me. In turn, I try to ensure I don’t do it to MY customers.

So today I’m sharing a common mistake craftspeople make when customers enter your booth.

Leave them alone!

Quit being so damn friendly, especially when they first come in.
Give them a few minutes to get their bearings and see what you’re about.

And when you do talk, don’t ask them stupid questions.

People know how to shop. Assuming that they don’t is insulting.

A few days ago I drove two hours to Boson to attend a Rings & Things trunk show. This company is one of my personal favorites. They sell beads and jewelry findings, and they are one of my sources for antique trade beads. They aren’t always the least expensive, but their range of products and customer service often makes up for it. And their trunk shows are wonderful! Check out their trunk show schedule to find one near year.

On the way back, I stopped into a promising dealer antique store I’d seen on the way down. I walked in after driving for many hours, through rush hour traffic and without stopping to eat. I was wired, tired and hungry.

But ready to shop!

And was immediately bombarded with joviality and perkiness by the store owner.

The door hadn’t even shut behind me when the pounce happened. I say “pounce” because that’s just what it feels like when sellers start selling the second you appear.

JUST LET ME LOOK.

The nice lady in charge asked me how I was enjoying the beautiful day. (I wasn’t. I’d just spent four hours in my car with a cramped leg and two hours inside a hotel convention room shopping.) I murmered, “Fine, thank you.”

She said the store was filled with lovely things I was sure to love. (Please. Let ME be the judge of that.) I said something like, “How nice!”

She said she would be happy to show me anything I liked. She talked on about some other stuff–by that time I was blocking well. I put an attentive face on my focused inattention, something we all learned to do in fourth grade geography class. I kept saying, “Oh, how nice.” “Thank you.” “How nice.”

Now, imagine this little dance.

I’d been looking forward to visiting this shop all day, since I’d seen it passing by that morning. I start to look at something–and the manager tells me something, or asks another question. I have to stop looking and answer her question, or it would feel rude. I’m responding in a neutral voice, clearly indicating I’d rather be shopping. The questions are sort of mundane and predictable, but I feel forced to respond.

I look like a little sideways bobbing doll, turning to look, turning back to answer, taking a step or two away from her each time, hoping I’ll be out of talking range eventually. By the fifth comment/question, I can actually pretend I can’t hear her anymore–and I proceed to shop more attentively.

This poor woman! She thought she was being a good salesperson. She thought she was being gracious and welcoming. She thought she was “selling”.

She was actually keeping me from shopping.

I wanted to say, “Look, lady, I’ve been shopping since I was four years old. Over fifty years now! I don’t need your instruction or your encouragement. Just let me look!”

In short: “Leave me alone!”

DON’T JUST SAY YOU’RE GONNA HELP, BE READY TO HELP.

Now, ironically, ten minutes later, when I’d had a chance to look around and found something in a case, she was so deeply engaged in pleasant conversation with another customer about personal matters, I couldn’t get her attention. I stood patiently, waiting to catch her eye while she ignored me, finally resorting to saying, “Excuse me…..”

A MATTER OF TRUST.

And though the case was unlocked, when I finally got her attention, she insisted on opening it herself, and handing me the items–clearly signaling she did not trust me. She actually said,”You tell me what you want to look at and I will hand it to you.”

When I selected several pieces of jewelry to examine, she said brightly, “Well, it’s clear that you love vintage jewelry!” For some, that may have been another conversation opener. To me, as tired as I was, it was another “well, duh!” statement.

Later, I took an item up I knew to be an unmarked McCoy vintage pot. Unasked, she told me firmly that she’d originally thought it was a McCoy, but it wasn’t marked “McCoy”, so it wasn’t–showing me clearly that she was not very knowlegable about McCoy pottery.

So was I going to trust her judgment on another item she assured me was “genuine” something or other, but I suspected was not?

DON’T LIE TO ME.

When I went to pay, I pulled out my debit card–and was told that they didn’t accept credit cards or debit cards. (I’m sorry, in this day and age, that smacks of either a business running “under the table” as far as reporting earnings, or someone not very savvy about credit cards and how much they can increase your sales. I understand an emerging craftsperson perhaps not wanting to pay the extra percentage and fees….but a store??!!

Further proof of the of the lack of professionalism was the excuse that it was “impossible to split up the charge among the group dealers with credit cards”–something I know to be untrue, not only because I shop at group stores all the time with my debit card, but also because my daughter works for a group dealer antique shop.

IF YOU DON’T TRUST ME, THEN TAKE REASONABLE PRECAUTIONS.

The final indignity was being asked to put my phone number and drivers license number on the check. Myself.

Now, if someone is going to demand my drivers license for ID, then they can look at it to see if the photo matches me, and write down the number themselves to show they checked.

But not looking at it at all, and having me write down the number? Come on! If I were a dishonest person looking to rip you off, wouldn’t I also simply write down an incorrect ID number?

The exercise was pointless and mindless.

So she’s showing she doesn’t trust me, she doesn’t trust me, she doesn’t trust me, while gushing friendliness and “helpfulness”, all the while showing I shouldn’t trust her.

Not good.

Here’s how put-off I was by the whole experience. There was one item I kind of wanted, but it was overpriced. Usually I would ask if the price were “firm”, a nice way to ask if there is a discount or bargaining room.

I didn’t even ask.

GOODBYE. I WON’T BE BACK.

At the end of the transaction, she offered me a chance to win a gift certificate that would have paid for the item, if I would sign up for the mailing list.

And I turned it down, because I didn’t want to hear from the store again!

Learn from this.

Let your customers shop.

Don’t ask stupid questions. Or at least limit yourself to only one! Trust me, people come in your booth because they can tell you are selling something. They want to decide if it’s something they’d like to buy. They already know how to look and how to shop.

Be available to help if you’re needed. (Bruce’s “trademark” sentence, “IF I can help you, just let me know” is perfect.)

If you don’t trust your customers, fine. I respect that. But handle that gracefully and discreetly. Don’t make it clear you don’t trust ME. I’d actually prefer a locked case that says they don’t trust anybody, rather than an unlocked case I’m not allowed to touch.

Don’t treat your customers like they’re stupid. It only reflects badly on YOU.

Am I being hard on this poor woman? Probably. After all, I did manage to find a couple of things I liked, and I persevered and actually bought them.

But do you want to put your customers through a gamut like this? Do you want to risk them running out of patience and moving on to another booth, with items just as lovely and enticing as yours?

A booth where they can shop, shop, shop to their heart’s content–and actually buy a lot of stuff?

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Filed under art, booth behavior, booth design, business, craft, craft shows, customer care, Good booths gone bad, selling

LOSER

I submitted a proposal for a public art commission a few months ago. I got really excited about it. It seemed like a perfect fit for my work. I poured my heart into my proposal.

A friend who was familiar with the venue vetted my ideas. She thought it was a good proposal. She warned me, though, the competition for this particular venue would be tough.

Sure enough, I didn’t get it.

I “lost”.

I’ve been thinking about the process, though. I realize that in many ways, I won. I learned good stuff along the way:

1) It’s good to be ready.

It’s a lot of work to submit a proposal. This one came up fast, too. I found out about it less than a week before the deadline.

Fortunately, I have tons of slides and digital images of my work. I have artist statements ready. I have reprints on hand of my publicity.

I was able to pull my proposal together in a couple of days.

2) I work well with guidelines.

I liked the idea of the commission–enough structure so I didn’t have to start from scratch, enough leeway to come up with an extremely original design. I liked having guidelines I could challenge and stretch ever so slightly, too. My proposal would have asked people to step just outside their normal expectations of an “art quilt”. And it would have encouraged them to think about the national park in a slightly different, more intimate way.

3) I play well with metaphors.

My friend said the metaphors I provided in my proposal–balancing the “big grand feature” of the park with the smaller intimate moments that are just as important to those familiar with the park–was perfect. It’s nice to know I “got” that when I read the project guidelines and thought of ways to connect my work with them.

4) I learned what could give me an edge in future proposals.

(Hint: Especially in areas of limited opportunities for artists, they might prefer to award these proposals to local or regional artists.)

5) I think I’d like to do more.

This had a different “feel” than many other promotional and sales opportunities for my work. I realized I liked everything about it: The potential for “winning” the commission. Having a big chunk of time (and money!) to devote to it. Having to make ONE THING instead of an ongoing body of work (for an exhibit or a gallery, for example.) The start-and-finish aspect. The idea that thousands of people from all over the country–and the world–would see my work.

I realized I’d like to submit more such proposals!

6) The parts that were hard are the places I need more work.

I realized I would need to finally master my new big-format sewing machine in order to create the pieces. So I need to get going on that, if I want to make those bigger works.

7) I found the passion in my work again.

It was challenging but fun to put together the proposal. And I found myself excited by the idea I proposed.

I realized that the notion of my work having a home, BEFORE I even finished it, was exhilarating. It’s been hard finding the right way to market the fiber. So I often feel it’s hard to devote a lot of time to something that may not sell for several years (as opposed to filling orders for jewelry and sculpture, which need to be done NOW.)

Knowing I was working to make a piece for a specific place, a specific purpose, with enough guidelines to get started but enough creative leeway to be interesting, really fit the bill.

It’s funny sometimes, how much you can learn from losing!

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Filed under art, business, mental attitude, organization, proposals, public art proposal, taking chances

LOST MUSCLES

I’m finding another benefit to wall climbing.

I’m finding muscles I never new I had. I mean this in two ways.

I’m hurting in places I never knew could hurt.

And I’m stronger than I think in places I never knew were strong.

It turns out women are actually better than men at first when it comes to climbing. We tend not to have as much upper body strength. So we naturally rely on our legs more. We literally get a “leg up” because we aren’t relying on our arms and shoulders to come to our rescue.

The surprising weariness in my hands, fingers and forearms after a climbing session was my first clue that something else was changing. Turns out our hands don’t really get a good workout in daily life. A few climbs gripping the hand holds showed that!

Soon, we tackle walls where upper body is really important–where the wall starts to curve towards you rather than away from you. Suddenly, what you’ve always depended on–your legs, your foot holds–don’t save you. It’s about holding on.

I realize that this is going to be good for me! This is going to help my writing/keyboarding, my Tae Kwon Do, my normally weak shoulders.

It occurs to me that staying in our normal comfort zone–doing the shows we’ve always done, making the designs that always sell, approaching the stores that always want our work–also keeps us from flexing muscles we may need later on.

I’m not saying we should drop everything that works, nor that we need to risk everything, all the time. But the last few years have shown me that things that “go wrong” force me to try something different–with interesting and positive results.

The second thought, being stronger than I thought, is important, too. I realize I may be worrying about my upcoming retail shows–driving myself long distances, setting up a simpler booth in a lot less time, introducing my work to a crowd that knows nothing about it.

But as some of you pointed out in your comments to my “Booth Confession” essay, I’m probably going to do just fine.

So the next time you find yourself in a log jam or a dead end with your art–whether it’s in design, self-promotion, shows, wholesaling, whatever–simply look at it as a wonderful opportunity to cross train.

You, too, may find muscles you never knew you had.

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Filed under action steps, art, choices, climbing, life, mental attitude, risks, taking chances

GOOD BOOTHS GONE BAD #15: Booth Confession

I’m doing my first SMALL retail craft show in ten years in November.

It’s the first out-of-state show I have to drive to, with only a few hours’ set-up. (I usually ship my booth, or have two days’ set-up time.)

I can only take about 25% of my regular set-up, and I can’t even get most of my walls in my car. The most electricity available will only be enough to light my cases, not my walls.

I’ll only be taking jewelry cases and a few propanels, and a couple of lights. I’ll be using the show pipe-and-drapes.

It will be a very “watered down” booth. It feels like I’m taking a huge step backwards in my booth set-up.

I’m terrified everyone who’s been reading my series will come in and take a look and say, “THIS is the person who’s been telling US how to make a great booth?!”

So if you visit the Westport Creative Arts Festival on November 17 and 18, please come see me.

And please be kind.

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Filed under art, booth design, booth display, business, choices, craft, craft shows, Good booths gone bad, jewelry display, selling

MORE THAN ONE WAY (TO CLIMB A WALL)

I’ve written before about the climbing wall at our local Y: CLIMBING THE WALLS In that entry, I was exhilarated by the notion that you cannot fall when wall climbing. I mean, it’s almost impossible.

The freedom that comes from realizing that was astonishing. I began to take chances I never dreamed of–trying a tricky foot hold, leaping for a just-out-of-reach hand hold, using my shoe directly on the flat wall to scamper to the next hold. Me! Scampering! Leaping!

Yesterday, while tackling a new wall, I was struck by another notion:

There’s more than one way up a wall.

You can go straight up. But that’s not necessarily the “best” way. You can also veer off to the left or right, if you can find a better hand hold or foot hold there.

If you get stuck, you can even double back and try another way. It just doesn’t matter.

In fact, any way you can get up a wall, is a good climb.

Later that day, I realized how true this is of our professional paths in art, too.

We get so stuck on the “right way” to move our art forward into the world. Should I do the show circuit? What are the good shows? How do I get into them?

Should I sell to stores instead? What’s the best way to approach them? Or should I sell on-line? Should I even try to sell my work?

What about exhibits? Do they really help get my name out there?

We constantly strive for validation of our work. Is it good enough? Then why haven’t I ever won an award? And why does so-and-so always win?? Their work isn’t any better than mine!

Climbing the wall reminded me of all these questions that used to hound me about my artwork (and sometimes still do!)

In reality, whatever gets you up the wall is good. Whatever gets your work out there, and works for you, is good.

It’s okay to want to make money from your art. It’s okay to not sell your art. It’s okay if you are successful. It’s okay if you don’t pursue success. It’s even okay if your definition of success is different than my definition.

Your art is probably “good enough” right now. Sure, it could be better. Sure, there are many, many other people whose work is better than yours.

But this is your art. And this is your life. No one else can tell you what it means to you, or what to do with it, or how you should do it.

Each “climb” in our life gives us the opportunity to think about how it went. To find the good in it, whether we reached the top or not. We get to think about how we could do it better next time. Or, if not better, perhaps how we could do it differently.

But in the end, what makes any climb a good climb is simply getting to the top.

And then, coming back down. So we can do it all over again.

Because the best thing about any climb, is simply the thrill of doing it.

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Filed under action steps, art, business, choices, climbing, courage, fear of failing, fear of falling, life

SELF-HELP BOOK, HEAL THEYSELF!

I was scrolling through someone else’s blog roll today, out of curiousity. I came across one by an artist who was bemoaning the fact that she never really finishes most of the self-help books she starts. I got the feeling that she felt really bad about it, that it meant there was something wrong with her. That maybe if she actually finished the books, she would be a better person and a better artist.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with her. I think she’s doing exactly the right thing.

Actually, I’m now a sucker for self-help books, too. Didn’t used to be. In fact, for years I deliberately avoided them. I used to work in business environments with lots of other people. Every self-help book that came out followed the same pattern in my workplace.

One person would read it and report back at lunchtime. “It’s amazing! I never knew I had XYZ syndrome, but I’m practically crippled by it! But this book–I’m cured! You should read it, too!”

One by one, everyone would read it, and be amazed that they, too, had XYZ syndrome. They would discuss the book and quote it at length. Everyone would nod and share their personal anecdotes, and their favorite quotes. It became all we’d talk about at lunch.

It was like watching people being converted to a new religion en masse. Or a pandemic at work.

Finally, the thrill would wear off, the interest would wane. Maybe even a little healthy skeptism would seep in. (“Well, I tried that thing the book said, and it didn’t work at all!“)

Finally we’d return to normal topics of conversation–TV shows, boyfriends or marriage, kids, our stupid bosses, etc.–until the next self-help best seller appeared on the horizon. With its same promise of rescuing us from our own lives.

Part of the reason I never read these books was a) this was before Amazon and Half.com, and I couldn’t afford them, and b) they were so badly written and formulaic, I lost interest after the first couple of chapters.

Nowadays, there are so many self-help books out there now, it’s hard to NOT read them. And I have to admit, there are some really good ones out there, including some just for artists. Now that’s tempting!

But I still rarely finish them. Here’s why I think that’s a good thing:

1) A book either “speaks” to you or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, why waste precious time finishing it?

2) You sense it might be useful, but you don’t really get it.

You may just not be ready to hear what that particular book has to say. You may find it more informative at another time.

3) Once you get the gist of what it’s about, that’s all you really need to know.

Most self-help books are repetitive and wordy, hammering the author’s point home til there’s no room for any other “diagnosis” for what’s wrong with the world. Many are filled with tons of anecdotes to “prove a point”. (Please remember that many authors are paid by the word. Do you think they will write a concise book?)

I’m so not into finishing books that I’ve actually never read one of my favorites, The Nibble Theory completely all the way through–and it’s less than 75 pages long! (And it’s one of the best ones, too.)

I like to skim enough to get why and how the author arrived at their insight, then skip right on to the consequences and suggestions. Most of the time, simply knowing what you are doing, and why it’s holding you back, are enough for you to consider changing the behavior. Otherwise, you are getting something powerful out of holding onto that behavior, and change isn’t going to be easy.

4) In the end, with a self-help book, it’s always about the book, not about you.

I’m going to pick on The Artist’s Way which is actually a really nice book for artists who have totally “fallen off the path”. It’s beautifully written, personable, encouraging and interesting.

The book is about making space–mentally, spiritually, physically, socially, time-wise–to make your art.

So why does the focus of the book seem to be about the exercises?

There are so many exercises, tasks, and recommended readings in the book, it would probably be 75% smaller if these were removed. If you actually did all the exercises, tasks and recommended readings, it would probably take you about seven years to really finish the book.

I have issues with the damn exercises.

Many of them are excellent. I did a couple while reading the book, and they were helpful. But after doing one or two, I quit. I got the point.

I’ve seen so many people fall into focusing on doing the exercises in the book rather than doing their art, they’ve defeated the whole point of reading the book.

Here are the two main themes I’ve taken away from the book: Create your own support system of people who love the artist in you. And think/write about the things that are holding you back, so you can work your way through them. Those two things have been powerful themes in my life since then, and I am grateful for the book.

You may find something different to take away. My point is, you don’t need to “take away” the entire book.

I can’t think that Julia Cameron really intended for people to spend hours and hours following the tenets of her book at the expense of doing their art.

5) Finally, beware the chocolate with the poison center. Yes, self-help books are fun to read. They promise an instant diagnosis and a quick solution for your problems. But as my friend Lee warned me several years ago in my blog essay Stormy Weather eventually, it all comes down to you. Me. Making the art.

As Lee put it that fateful day, when I told him how good the book ART AND FEAR was: “Quit reading about the fear!” he exclaimed. “Be ordinary! You are creative—make your art!” He bent over to stroke Bunster, and his voice became gentle again. “Be like your bunny. She’s fearful—but she has a place in this world…”

We don’t have to be brave, or extraordinary. We don’t have to be perfect. We don’t have to “have it all together” or “have it all figured out.”

All we have to do is show up. And do what we’re supposed to do, the best we can, as we can.

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Filed under art, creativity, life, time management

55 ALIVE!

Today is my birthday, and I’ve hit the speed limit–55! I was 22 when, according to Wikipedia, the National Maximum Speed Law was enacted in 1974. This entry says it was in response to the gas crisis, which I remember fondly. Isn’t it odd how it was about saving gas, not lives (which was its greatest legacy?) And isn’t it funny how the crisis then “disappeared” for 30 years?

The title? If you’re my age, you remember this slogan from those days–”55 Alive!” Which is also a good slogan for this year, come to think of it.

I digress. I just wanted to add that I’m glad there are no speed limits in how we live our lives. And that sometimes, the legacy we create is not the one we intended.

Today I’m pointing to an old essay I now refer to every birthday, the one I wrote on September 11, 2001. It’s as poignant and meaningful to me as it was that day. It’s become my “secondary artist statement.”

As for the sympathetic murmurings I get that this happened on my birthday, I just want to say that:

1) Everytime something bad happens in the world, it happens on someone’s birthday.

2) Having a birthday to be sad about is better than having no birthday at all.

3) And not even I have an ego so huge, I think 9/11 is all about my birthday. (Although, I hasten to point out, it is entirely human to think so. We are the center of our own universe…)

So here is my essay. It’s a little stilted, as I reread it after all these years. But it’s exactly what happened to me that day, it’s exactly how it happened, and I still believe it.

Enjoy the day!

An Ancient Story for Modern Times

P.S. Even spookier, I see today, is the reference to global warming. The latest article I’ve read says we will probably lose polar bears, and soon. For some reason, this saddens me almost as much as everything else going on.

I cannot imagine a world without polar bears.

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Filed under art, artist statement, choices, courage, life, mental attitude, writing

GOOD BOOTHS GONE BAD #14: Food Fight!

Another small topic in the “Good Booths Gone Bad” series, but one I’ve also given a lot of thought to. Artists often supply candy or munchies for their customers. Today I’ll share my experiences with having food for customers.

I’ve run the gamut with the food thing, and I’m currently down to nothing. No food in the booth. And I have different feelings on food treats at retail shows and wholesale shows.

Here are some of the good stories about food in the booth:

Offering treats to your customers is a nice gesture and can break the ice. In his seminars and CDs about selling, Bruce Baker describes how this helps create an air of hospitality in your booth, by “taking care of your customers.”

This really can be a powerful thing in your booth.

My friend Mark Rosenbaum, glass blower extraordinare from New Orleans, brings homemade pralines to his wholesale shows for his customers and his fellow exhibitors. It’s southern hospitality at its finest–and Mark is originally from Connecticut. As a nice side effect, Mark’s pralines create quite a buzz at the show. Buyers see you with a praline and exclaim, “Oh, I have to get down to Mark’s booth for mine!”

Here’s another great example: At one wholesale show, a buyer burst into my booth. He was obviously exhausted and agitated. He’d had a long, hard, frustrating day.

He’d just flown in from the other coast, his plane had been delayed, he’d been up since the wee hours, and he’d missed a couple of meals. Before I even gave him a chance to look at my work, I offered him a clementine and a chair. He took a seat gratefully, ate several clementines and almonds, and told me about his day. It was a wild one!

We had a pleasant chat, and he left with a “be back” tomorrow. I didn’t really think I’d see him again. It had been a slow show, and we hadn’t even talked about my work or his store.

But he came back the next day to thank me for simply taking care of him. He couldn’t believe I’d put selling on hold and just treated him like a fellow human being. He ended up placing a big order. A REALLY big order!

Other ways food can work in positive ways:

Food treats can provide a welcome distraction to children, giving Mom a few minutes to actually look at your wares.

It can also break the ice with a difficult visitor–say, the bored husband who is doing all the shlepping and none of the actual buying.

Now for the downside of offering food in your booth.

Figuring out what to offer is mind-boggling.

And lately, I’m finding that food, like demonstrating, can attract non-customers to your booth.

Let’s start with food choices.

First, anything you offer should either be individually wrapped, in small packets or naturally “wrapped”–like oranges. Otherwise, you have health issues with people eating things that other people’s hands have touched.

This isn’t too hard, though it can be tricky finding anything other than candy that’s packaged this way. Health food stores and the organic sections in supermarkets are great places to look for healthy snacks. Halloween is a great time to look for individually wrapped treats! Stock up for your winter shows then. Lunch box snacks are also a good alternative, like individual boxes of raisins and such.

Now you have a wrapper to dispose of. This can be another nice little touch–”Here, let me throw that away for you!” But still, it’s just more about the food.

Then there’s the issue of food allergies and sensitivities. These are becoming much more common, especially with children. No peanuts! Or anything that touched peanuts. Or anything that looks like it might know a peanut. I’m jesting a little, but I know that peanut allergies are serious business.

Chocolate is off-putting to people watching their weight. (Also the age-old debate: Dark, milk or white?) It’s also messy in really hot weather. Sugar in any form is a no-no with diabetics (and with our aging demographic, including moi, adult-onset diabetes is an issue. People are really trying to watch their sugar intake.)

Very small children can’t have hard candies, so whatever you provide, you may end up with small lollipops for them.

Cheap, out-of-date, bargain basement candy can be like wilted, bedraggled flowers–yuck!

If treats are chewy, they can’t be too chewy–watch those fillings! If they are hard, they can’t be too hard–jaw breakers have limited appeal to middle-aged people. If they are salty, they can’t be too salty–now I need a drink of water!

Clementines are healthy and juicy, but also messy. You not only have lots of pieces of rind to dispose of, you have a customer with sticky fingers. (I had a packet of baby wipes handy for the guy at my wholesale show.) And even though clementines are small, sometimes people just don’t want to eat a whole one.

Werther’s butterscotches were the perfect choice for many years–individually wrapped, quality candy, a flavor almost everyone likes. People loved them! But the last few years, hardly anyone took them. Again, too many people watching their sugar intake.

You think I’m being fussy about this? A few years ago at a wholesale show, a buyer actually complained to me that too many artists at the show were offering chocolate as a treat! (To his defense, he was trying to watch his weight….) So many of us were providing food that we were overfeeding our buyers.

Here’s the next to last item to chew on. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) Snacks at retail shows can attract people who have no intention of shopping in your booth.

I’ve had people cruising by in the aisle dart over to my booth to snag a handful of candy as they pass by. They often don’t even look at me as they snag a handful of candy. It feels weird–like I’ve paid $1,100 to be at the show so I can assuage their hunger pangs.

I’ve had the kids of fellow exhibitors discover my “candy stash” and help themselves liberally at every opportunity–until I gently pointed out that the candy was for my customers. (To give them credit, they cut it out once I mentioned that. They aren’t bad, just young.)

And as for distracting children for their parents’ sake, we’ve seen that people with kids are rarely actually shopping. We’ve noticed over the years that people who are taking care of other people are usually at the show for the edutainment factor. I don’t begrudge them this. I’m glad they’re there, exposing their kids and companions to the beauty of handmade craft.

But amusing their kids so they can shop is more a function of me being a sympathetic mom than actually thinking a purchase is going to come of it.

I don’t mean to sound cold-hearted and soulless about selling. I don’t expect everyone in my booth to buy something. I love schmoozing with people and I love taking care of people in my booth.

But I’m also there to make a living selling my work. I’m not there to feed or entertain the general public endlessly. When I started to feel like the kind lady at the office who always has a bowl of candy on her desk, who realizes people are simply standing around eating her candy, I knew it was time to do something else.

Now I’m more likely to simply share MY food with customers who really need it.

I tend to bring the same kinds of food anyway–things that are small and bite-sized, easy to munch on between busy times. Things that are as healthy as I can manage at a show. Things that are comfort food.

And the notion of sharing MY food is even more powerful than that bowl of candy. If a customer really looks hot and tired, it’s nice to say, “Hey, I was just going to have a clementine–would you like a few sections?” Or “I packed an extra packet of raisins–have some!”

It also says I see them as an individual who may be tired or hungry, and not just as a customer. It actually makes me feel more kind than just having a bowl of candy out.

My last and biggest reason for not having candy in the booth?

I EAT IT!!

So again, food for thought. (Sorry! Sorry!!!) If none of this resonates with you, then do what’s working for you.

But if you find yourself nodding your head to any of this, then don’t feel guilty about pulling the food treats. Think of other ways to engage and take care of your customers.

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Filed under art, booth behavior, booth design, booth display, business, craft, craft shows, customer care, Good booths gone bad, shows

BLACK BELT PEAK

I had a talk with my Tae Kwon Do instructor the other night. I can’t remember the proper title for him, and sensei isn’t it. I’ll try to find out before I post this.

We were talking about my goals for my study, and whether I should/could/would strive for black belt. Part of me wants to do this. Another part recognizes that my age and physical condition will make this difficult–and certainly a very different process than that of an 18-year-old or young adult.

He shared with me a concept that really got me thinking. He talked about the concept of perfect black belt peak.

He said that ideally, a black belt candidate has reached a certain peak of physical and mental/spiritual perfection.

Sometimes, though, those peaks just don’t coincide. A very young candidate has reached a level of physical perfection–but perhaps the mental/spiritual aspects need more time to mature. Older candidates–those who come to the sport later in life–may have missed that window of physical perfection. But they may also bring a rich and deep level of mental/spiritual perfection.

Ideally, a program accommodates all three kinds of candidates. The young black belt continues to grow and mature. The older candidate struggles constantly to do the best they can with their growing physical limitations.

At first I felt a rush of disappointment. Yes, I’ve definitely missed that perfect black belt peak. I’ve missed many windows in this art! And, in a quick burst of dismay, I realized I’ve missed so many other “perfect peaks” in other areas of my life.

I never went to art school. I never traveled much as a young person. I didn’t take a lot of challenges when it came to work, or so many other things in life.

Just as quickly, I came back to myself. My life is what it is. And there are some areas in my life where I have found that window, and I have been brave, and I have taken risks.

And the biggest obstacles in my life have been when I’ve given up because I felt I’d missed the opportunity for the perfect peak.

Do you do this? Walk away from your dreams because you see that the opportunity for the perfect peak has passed?

I hear it all the time. “It’s too late to go back to school.” “I’m too old to do that.” “I don’t want to try that, I wouldn’t be good at it.”

Life isn’t always about the perfect peak. When it happens, it’s a small miracle. Most of the time, though, we are dealing with missed windows, missed opportunities, imperfect peaks.

What matters is that you want to try–because it’s important to you.

I’m pretty sure what my answer will be about the black belt test. It terrifies me! I know that everything I’ve ever said “no” to, everything I’ve said I’m not good at, will be on that test.

Because that’s what a black belt test is–testing what’s left when your strength, your endurance and your wind is gone. The test isn’t just about how good you are.

It’s about what you do when you think there’s nothing left in you.

For me, it will be about knowing my limits. But it will also be about not giving up.

I hope the next time you hear yourself saying, “I’m too old”, “I’m not good enough”, “It’s too late”, that you’ll take minute to stop and really think….

“How badly do I want this?”

and “What am I willing to do to get there?”

and “Do I really care how long it takes me to get there?”

and “What would it mean to me to be on the other side? To be able to say…..”

I DID IT!

P.S. Just to give you context for where I am in martial arts, here is the last time I blogged about my goal for black belt: Leaving

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Filed under art, choices, courage, life, martial arts, mental attitude, taking chances

LOOKING FOR A HORSE

When I had my little cancer scare a few weeks ago, some surprising things came of it.

I’ve been through this before–suddenly realizing you may not be around for another Christmas, another New England spring, another round of baby bunnies. Maybe there won’t be “plenty of other times” to take the family to a silly movie, or go get ice cream.

It brings you up short, this little calling card from death. It makes you think really, really hard about what is really important. And what you really want to do today. Today.

It’s a great wake-up call.

So it was interesting when in the middle of my first talk with my dear husband, when I had my first panic attack, about what this might mean for us if the news got bad, what popped out was,

“Can I have a horse?”

We both laughed as soon as I said that. I sounded like a kid. It really took me back to my childhood, when I would have given anything to have a horse.

But maybe it’s not so funny.

After my last round of knee surgeries five years ago, I actually promised myself riding lessons as a way of getting me through my long recuperation and physical therapy. I’m been happily riding once a week since then, and loving it.

Recently I’ve been riding Missouri Fox Trotters with a friend of a friend. It’s deliriously fun! Their trot is like a fish wiggle. Trail riding is a wild, exuberant dash up and down our steep New Hampshire trails. I LOVE it!

And of course, an ancient little horse is where it all began for my art.

But actually own a horse? Be responsible for the care of such a large and expensive animal every day, in summer and winter, rain or shine? During black fly season???!!

Well, maybe I’ll lease a horse instead.

But it’s still a thing of wonder. Over the years, I’ve heard incredible stories of women who went looking for their horse, and incredible stories of how their horses found them.

The stories are beautiful and moving and powerful–because horses can be hugely healing and profoundly powerful animals to be around. (A little too huge and profound when one is standing on your foot….)

I know when it’s time for me to have a horse, a horse will appear. And it will seem as magical and wonderful as that sentence sounds.

So here we are, two very busy professional people with kids still at home and aging parents and full personal lives.

Jon is waiting for a dog.

And I am looking for my horse.

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Filed under art, courage, horses, life, risks, taking chances

IT CAN WAIT

So a few days ago, I found various lumps that may or may not be cancer. I went into the understandable emotional nosedive. I was on the phone with my doctor’s nurse and heard myself crying and saying, “I’m scared! I’m so scared!” I’m already on my way into that nebulous world of clinic visits, testing, waiting for test results. I’ve been there before. It’s not a fun place to be.

I’m also here, putting my thoughts together to write a column on booth design.

So why am I writing about how to display your work when I should be focusing on whether there’s a chance I won’t be here in a few short years?

Because the cancer can wait.

I don’t mean I’m in control of that. In fact, I’m NOT in control of that. I either have it, or it’s something else. Whatever “it” is will involve weeks of testing, pain, discomfort, waiting, no matter what…and probably there will be no clear answers or final resolution.

But I’m not here on earth to have cancer.

I’m here to do a lot of other things. And I’ve got to focus on doing them as much as I can, as long as I can, until that’s no longer under my control.

I pitched my old column recently to a new magazine editor.  I was asked to describe it.  I wrote, “I write how becoming an artist has made me a better person.” I meant that.

Focusing on making art–and being becoming a martial artist–with passion, and honesty, has helped me become a more authentic person. Someone who things carefully about what I want to say and who I want to be. It’s made me want to share the process, so others, if they are so inclined, can do it, too.

The desire to continue this process, and writing about it, has made me not only a better artist, but a better wife, mother, friend, person.

The threat of cancer has only made that desire burn more fiercely yet.

I wasn’t going to tell anyone, not yet. I hate the drama queen approach to life. I don’t want to drum up a ton of sympathy when it’s not even certain what’s going on.

Yet the last time I tried to carry something like this alone, it got weird. People knew something was terribly wrong–and assumed it was our friendship. Then I had a lot of back story to give out, and a lot of explaining to do. Painful.

And of course, there was the resentment that I hadn’t considered them enough of a friend to tell them. Ouch! In trying to spare people anxiety, I had increased mine (by going it alone) and insulted them.

So this time I’m letting people know.  And letting them know what I need right now.

And letting them know what I don’t need.

I don’t want a lot of cancer stories. Yet. Maybe that will change. But right now, I don’t want to hear the long, involved, courageous battle stories. I don’t feel very courageous. And I’m sorry, but I’m totally involved with MY story.

I don’t want a lot of sympathy, either. A quick hug will do it.

I don’t want people to disappear, either. Some people don’t know what to do. (I’m always one of those people.) They don’t know what I want. Hey, I don’t know, either.

Last night, though, I thought of one thing I do want.

I want authentic moments.

When I’m with people I care about and like, I just want them to be their own selves.

If they are being whiney or pissy or silly, I now have the freedom to tell them that. I don’t mean the cancer trump card–like, “You don’t get to complain, I might have cancer” thing. That’s selfish. People are entitled to their own lives.

I mean I get to encourage people to be their authentic selves. Like “You are so incredible and you have such wonderful gifts–what’s holding you back in this situation from you being the most wonderful “you” you can be?”

Life is short. Life is achingly sweet. Why spend time and energy digging a hole any deeper, when you can dig some steps and get out of the hole?

(I’m so compulsive about my metaphors being perfect, I have to add, “Unless your goal in life is to dig holes”, in which case, keep on digging.)

So this ordeal is not the hole. It’s just a little water in the bottom, encouraging me to dig those steps a little faster.

P.S.  I wrote this a couple weeks ago, when I first got the scary news.  I’m through the first round of testing, and so far the results are encouraging.  Looks like there’s nothing to be scared of, for now.

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Filed under art, cancer, choices, courage, life, mental attitude, writing

GOOD BOOTHS GONE BAD #13: Stay In Your Booth!

Today’s topic isn’t a no-no in the sense that it will reduce sales. It’s a no-no regarding your professionalism, and consideration for your fellow craftspeople.

Stay in your booth.

You have signed a contract for the use of a 10′x10′ space (or however big a space you paid for.) It’s amazing how many people interpret that to mean “….and whatever else I can get away with.”

It’s 10′x10′. Period. Your booth must fit inside this space. Most commercial booth set-ups are actually a smidgen less than 10′x10′ for this reason.

That means if you construct your own booth, any bolts, bracing, floor plates, light bars, etc. must fit inside your own space–and NOT stick out into your neighbor’s.

There’s sometimes a little leeway in the airspace–IF you check first. Even then, you must be thoughtful of what is going to cause problems and what will be okay. A banner above your booth may be fine. A banner that hangs over into the aisle and gently whaps people passing by in the face is not.

Although sometimes shows set height limits for booths, these are often ignored by craftspeople. Sometimes I’m the shortest booth in my row. This usually isn’t a problem, if the backs of the booths towering above me aren’t too ugly. Most of people’s attention does stop at the top of my walls and lights.

Once, though, an artist with a very tall booth behind me got the bright idea to use the BACK of their booth as exhibit space. They put artwork up. (Yes, I know my noun/pronouns don’t match up. I’m going so far to protect their identify, I’m not even mentioning their gender!)

My first clue something was wrong was when a gentleman in my booth looked up, pointed to his wife at something above him–and both of them abruptly left. It happened a few more times. I stepped out from behind my counter–and saw several pieces of artwork displayed prominently above my booth wall.

Not nice. I complained to the show management, and the offending work was taken down.

In fact, this is a good guide for judging if you have crossed the line or not. When someone is in my booth, nothing in your booth should attract them out of it–except, of course, the “regular” view they would have of your booth across the way.

This guideline explains why music could be considered the same kind of infringement, and why some shows ban music being played in your booth.

In a way, it’s too bad–I would love to create a total environment for my booth using music, as I do in my open studio events. But the reality is, it’s hard to do that without at least 3-5 other exhibitors also being able to hear your music (your neighbors and abutters, front and back.) If customers love your music, they will be pulled from your neighbors’ booths into yours. And if they hate your music, you will drive everyone’s customers away.

And if you don’t think that’s a big deal, wait until it happens to you. At another show, someone rows and rows away from me began playing a guitar–and customers streamed from booths all around to go see what was happening.

Also, think how it would sound if everyone played music–even soft music–in their booth. Can you say cacophony? (I can say it, but I couldn’t spell it. I had to look it up.)

Another common “trespassing” offense is exhibitors who use the aisles to display work. If the work is on your booth walls, that’s usually okay. But if you put a rack of clothing out in the aisle, that is usually verboten (or should be.)

Not only does are you taking up more floor space than you paid for, but you are actually affecting the traffic flow of customers in the aisle. People are either slightly blocked by the rack–and pause to look, or even decide to go into the booth. Or worse, they swerve around it–and the swerve can actually move them totally past the entrance to YOUR booth (if you have the misfortune to be next to this craftsperson.)

Even sitting on a chair in front of your booth has this effect. In fact, it can be worse. I’ve stood at the end of a row of booths and watched people apparently swerve nonchalantly around a seated artist.

I say “apparently” because several things are actually going on. They are not only avoiding the artist’s physical space, but his emotional space. When you walk around someone, you tend to avoid eye contact–like maneuvering down a crowded sidewalk. It’s the way we peacefully navigate in crowded spaces. We avert our eyes slightly, murmur an apology if necessary–”…’scuse me, pardon me”–and move on.

Except when people avoid eye contact, they tend to look away–and miss looking at the booth next to that artist’s booth. Ta da! Your six seconds of opportunity to visually attract people into your booth is gone. Six seconds or LESS, because that’s how much time it takes to walk past a booth.

The rack people usually know exactly what they are doing. In fact, at one show I did, the person (not coincidentally, a buy-sell guy) asked to put a rack in my booth and offered me $10 for every garment I sold. (I thought it was odd at the time–I was very green–and said no. Now I know how totally bozo that request was!)

Although usually high-end shows, don’t allow racks in the aisle, the first artist to ever block entrance to my booth was a very famous artist, who does all the top shows. The rack actually extended several feet across my booth. (**fume**)  This person ought to have known better.

Show management is usually good about trying to keep the aisles clear, for fire safety rules if nothing else. If you’ve asked the person nicely to move the rack, and get no response, show management will handle that one for you.

The chair people….I dunno, I don’t have a great solution for that one. Except to ask nicely if they would move to the other side of their booth, away from your side. I’ve done this before, and it works reasonably well. At outdoor shows, it’s possible to sit outside the aisle, and then everyone is happy (and the aisles are clear.) Again, sometimes show rules come right out and say “no chairs in the aisles”, and again, they will handle this if asked.

Another way you should stay in your booth is vocally. When you are talking to your customers, it’s easy to get excited. And some of us do get a little exuberant–and loud. Please, please, lower your voice. Do try to remember that this really isn’t fair to your neighbors who are also trying to talk about their work. It’s a small space–even if you want to talk to one person so that the person browsing in the other corner can hear you, it doesn’t take much volume in a 10′x10′ space. If people three booths down can hear everything you’re saying, you are being too loud.

One artist near me was so exuberant one year, customers came while they were away from the booth–and I could do their pitch for them perfectly. (Okay, that should NOT be read as encouragement to bellow. I’m not going to do that for you if you keep it up.)

Another way to stay in the booth is to keep your bad mood and complaints to yourself. Let me say that again, in big, bold letters:

KEEP YOUR BAD MOOD AND COMPLAINTS TO YOURSELF.

I am astonished at artists who rant at the drop of a hat, especially during a fair. It’s bad enough to have to be around people like this in any circumstances. Set-up and breakdown are stressful enough. We all have our moments, of course. But someone who is unhappy and determined that everyone else needs to know that, is a total downer.

It’s hard enough to listen to this before and after a show. But during a show, it’s criminal. Nothing breaks a happy fair shopping mode than listening to someone else complain.

If you are a show complainer, you may think your fellow artisans are admiring you for your amazing insights and cutting words. They aren’t. They are sitting there wishing, hoping, praying that you will suddenly be struck down with laryngitis. Or worse.

Because you are bringing everybody down, down, down. And “down” people do not buy stuff.

Save it for later. Save it for drinks with friends. Organize a meeting and get your complaints in a row. Hey, bring some solutions, too! Those are always helpful.

If you must complain, do it Q-U-I-E-T-L-Y, so the only shopping mood destroyed is the one in your own booth. Please, please, please, don’t muck up ours.

Which brings me to the last “stay in your booth”, which is simply, “stay in your booth”.

I’m so guilty of this. I’m so used to the flexibility of my life, being able to move in and out of my studio at will. Staying in my booth all day, every minute, especially at my nine day retail show, is really, really hard.

But it never fails. The minute I leave, someone who came in especially to see me invariably drops in. And I’m not there. “Where were you??!!” hisses my daughter when I come wandering back.

It’s so hard. There are so many temptations, so many lovely things to look at, so many delightful fellow craftspeople to catch up with. I love schmoozing with people, and many are folks I only see at shows.

But try to remember why you are here. This is your big chance to see your customers, those wonderful people who think your work is marvelous, and prove it by buying it. Customers are the people who make it possible for you to even make this work, by providing you with income so you can stay home and make it. Customers are the people who come back in with stories of how your work has made them happy, beautified their home, enriched their lives. They are the ones who bring you photos of your work on their mantelpiece, and bring their friends in to meet you.

This is their time.

I’m really trying to make time for fellow craftspeople after the show, getting together for dinner, etc. It’s hard–they are so interesting!–but it has to be done.

Of course, we could always solve this problem the obvious way–and simply go to a show occasionally as a customer!

Make the most of your show hours. And be a good booth neighbor.

Stay in your booth.

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GOOD BOOTHS GONE BAD #12: Drama Queen Flowers

I can’t think of big huge categories to talk about anymore. Let’s talk about flowers in your booth.

WHAT BEAUTIFUL FLOWERS!

I am so conflicted about flowers. I love them. They add a festive note to your booth, to be sure.

But they can be a huge distraction, too.

Some common mistakes with flowers:

1) Common flowers. Some flowers just scream “grocery store purchase!” Skip the mums.

2) Fake flowers. We’re trying to sell art here. Or fine craft. Or at the very least, handmade stuff. What do plastic flowers say??!!

3) The wrong color flowers. Make sure they fit in with your color scheme. It’s amazing, but an “off” color in your arrangement can really grab the eye in a not-good way. (Yes, I have made this mistake.)

4) Overkill. Too many flowers. It looks like you’re actually selling flowers. Or the flowers overwhelm the vase they’re in. Potters do this sometimes–the flowers are more attractive than the pots. (This is not a slight to potters, just that they’ve picked flowers that are not fitting in with their work.)

5) Underkill. (I know, there’s no such word, but I couldn’t resist.) Scraggly, ungenerous displays spread too thinly throughout your booth. Potters do this all the time, too. They show dozens and dozens of vases, and want to show that the pieces are, indeed, vases. So they take one or two nice bouquets and break them apart, sticking a few stems in each vase.

The look is one of a person who collects so many vases, they no longer have enough money to spend on flowers to put in them.

6) Too, too beautiful. This is the worst thing. You have only a single beautiful display of flowers, and you don’t sell vases, you are just decorating your booth.

The problem here is, the flowers are the most eye-catching thing about your booth.

Some people think this is a way of pulling people into your booth. Yes, it works. The catch is, WHO are you pulling into your booth?

People who love flowers, that’s who.

One year I spent big money to have a local artist make me a gorgeous arrangement for my booth. The colors were great, it looked great in my booth. And I got lots of people coming in, asking me all kinds of questions.

About the flowers.

They’d ask if I’d grown the flowers. When I said no, they asked who did. I told them about the fabulous flower person in my home town. They’d ask about the flowers (miniature gladiolas.) Where did I get them? Did I have a garden? They’d tell me about their gardens and gladiolas.

Which led to long, involved conversations with people who actually had very little interest in my work.

If I were a gardener who was selling flowers, it would have been great. But I’m not.

By the second day, I got it. I took the lovely flowers home to grace my home. I substituted a plain vase of dried reeds. You can see this vase in the back left hand corner of my booth here.

It was just as good a “prop” for my little environmental display in that corner, but it did NOT distract from the art anymore.

Even if you are at a wholesale show, where presumably buyers are a little more focused, an incredible display of flowers can be a huge distraction.

I saw one jeweler at a high-end show who had the most fantastic display of orchids. As I walked by her booth (we were on the same aisle), those orchids caught my eye every single time. I kept going into her booth to look at her work–and all I could look at was the damn orchids. It was like an enchantment.

Lose the drama queen flowers.

And just in case you think I’m exaggerating….

Two years ago, AmericanStyle magazine did a huge article on me and my studio. Page after glorious page of images of my work, my worktable, the artwork in my home. Lots of pictures of me, me at work, me next to a fabulous wall hanging.

The photo shoot, which you can read about here was a day-long affair. The photographer brought two bunches of tulips from a flower shop in his neighborhood. They were the only tulips he could find in Boston, and because they were not fresh, they were cheap. We used them in several shots–in my studio, in my home–switching the vases around, etc.

I cleaned my house for weeks. My studio looked fabulous! You could see the floor!! There were no shoes or dirty laundry piles in my home. We looked civilized! Or at least like we had no kids or pets. My artwork looked incredible!

I have a jillion copies of the article, and I show it proudly to anyone who visits my studio. I even made a poster out of it.

And there’s always someone who says, “Where did you get those lovely tulips?!”

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GOOD BOOTHS GONE BAD #11: That Free Milk Thing

Today I’ll share some of the perils of selling and demonstrating in the same booth. The subtitle refers to that old adage, “Why pay for the cow when the milk is free?” My titles are getting convoluted, aren’t they?

Our state craft guild has a special kind of booth situation available to exhibitors at our annual craft fair. It is a combination sales and demonstration booth, and it’s HUGE–20′x30′. It’s unusual because usually demonstration booths (which have a greatly reduced booth fee or even pay the craftsperson to demo) are not allowed to actually sell product. In this booth option, we pay a greatly reduced fee, but we are allowed to demo and sell our work.

Traditionally, sales suffer greatly in this hybrid mode. Bruce Baker talks about this in his booth design CD. Once you start demonstrating, people expect to be entertained and educated–edutainment. It can be hard to turn that passive “amuse me” energy around back into active shopping. It can be done, but it’s hard.

Whenever Bruce says this, or when I mention it to other craftspeople, there are always some who protest that they are highly successful demonstrating and selling their work at the same time. But to me, it sounds like the people who claim they sell well enough without taking credit cards. Ask them again a month after they have a merchant service account. They grab your arm and gasp, “I had no idea…!!

In other words, you may be doing well enough, but you could be doing even better. (For those of you who are not selling your work, it’s like someone who buys their first microwave after never having had one before…. Sure, you can get along without one, but you just don’t know what you’re missing.)

To support this observation, traditionally our fair committee had to beg people to do the sales-demo tents. No one wanted to do it because sales were so poor in those tents (even though they are on the “main drag” of the fair.”

It got so bad, some people were allowed to do the same demonstration two years, three, even four years running–and more. (It’s supposed to one-to-two-year-max, temptingly large space at an unusually low price, to offset poor sales.) Often our pool of applicants was new exhibitors who simply couldn’t afford a full booth fee.

One or two applicants might be more established exhibitors who figured they could take a hit for one year, in order to boost their visibility and reputation for years to come. When I interviewed these past participants in the program, they always said they did not do well sales-wise, but it was worth it for the increased sales in later years.

The year I decided to do a sales-demo tent, I actually made an appointment for a consult with Bruce. He gave me some valuable insights in addition to those I’d absorbed from his CDs on selling and booth display.

My sales-demo booth provided record sales for me at that show two years in a row. In fact, I was doing so well that we now have a huge pool of applicants every year for those tents.

What other exhibitors saw those two years was a constant crowd of visitors–and buyers. They saw people actively shopping almost every time they went by the booth.

Unfortunately, though I made it look “easy”, a lot of work and thought went into that design process.

The biggest design problem was how to handle a space that was as big as SIX regular booths. I followed most of the guidelines in the other essays in this series. Here are a few issues specific to sales-demo booths.

DON’T LEAVE ME!!

Most people have the right idea of separating the sales process from the demonstrating process. But many exhibitors carry that to an extreme. The booth ends up looking like the brains of those unfortunate people who have continuous seizures, where the surgeons actually disconnect the two halves of the patient’s brain.

The exhibitor splits the booth right down the middle. On one side is the craftsperson, making his stuff. On the other side is a little store where you can buy the stuff he’s making.

Unfortunately, there isn’t any intuitive flow between the two. You have to leave one world and enter the other. The most extreme case I saw, the divide was so physically complete, you had to actually leave the booth on the demonstration side, and re-enter it on the little store side.

Please do not make people leave your booth and come back again in order to buy something from you. Can you see this in a regular store?

Customer: “Oh, look, I just love this! I’m going to get it! Do you take Visa?”

Sales clerk: “Why, yes, we do! Now, you just run across the street with this to the other store, and they’ll ring it up for you.”

I know it’s “only a few feet” in a tent, but it is halfway around the world psychologically.

How did I bridge the gap between these two worlds?

With traffic flow, signage and display.

TELL, TELL, TELL

As I talked during my demonstration, people listened. In fact, we soon found there were two kinds of people to be found in my tent: Those who came in only to watch and listen–and a totally different group who came in to listen as they shopped.

Oh, and I didn’t have to speak loudly, either, as some exhibitors do during a show. Research shows we are hard-wired genetically to hear the human voice–which is one of the reasons you can hear a single opera singer over an entire orchestra. (Isn’t that COOL??!) So please only raise your normal speaking voice a notch or two, even in this very large space, okay?

I had my demo area right up near the front of the booth. Bruce suggested this, so people didn’t have to commit to even coming far into the booth to see if what I was doing would interest them. They could hang out for a few seconds, then choose if I were engaging enough to stick around.

If they chose to stay, they had several options.

They could sit and watch and listen. But immediately off to one side, there were a series of display areas. These were filled with interesting supplies–piles of fabrics, strands of trade beads, baskets of buttons. A stash of beaver-chewed sticks and antlers. Books showing examples of cave art.

It was visually dense and appealing–like my work! Appealing, colorful, touchable, FUN.

I had signs. Everywhere! Signs explaining what everything was and how I used it in my art. It had the feel of a museum display, except people could actually touch the fabrics and play with the beads.

As people followed this “trail of interest” around the perimeter of the tent, they came to a few environmental settings of my art–a large wall hanging on a “wall”, with a beautiful table underneath, flanked by vases of flowers and my sculptures. “This is what I look like in your home” was the message.

Finally, the whole thing segued into a true shopping experience. The rest of the booth looked like a gallery, with islands of shelving filled with jewelry and sculpture, and more wall hangings on the walls. Lots of lights kept the space bright and easily viewed.

For those more eager to get to the shopping part, the center and front of the booth, right next to the demo area, was set up for sales, too.

People could also come into the booth at multiple points. But once inside, everything was different enough that they wanted to see the entire booth before they left.

BE THE ARTIST

This is one of the few opportunities for you, the artist, to totally immerse yourself in that role. Yes! Your dream, to simply sit and create, and let someone else sell for you!

Use it.

When I am in my regular booth, it’s simple to talk about the work, how I make it, why I make it, and sell it to people who connect with that. When I am demonstrating, the move to selling mode is a total “spiritual disconnect” with most people.

This phenomenon was so visibly profound, my sales team finally told me to stay in my chair when people were in the booth. The mere act of me rising from my demonstration station was enough to send people running from the booth. (Okay, I heard that in the back row!) My sales team even brought potential customers over to my demo table with questions, rather than call me over to them.

It was a subtle but powerful thing: Here is the artist at work. We will have an audience with the artist. We will approach with respect, catch her at a good point, and ask her about this wonderful piece she made.

I’m not saying I sat in my chair hoity-toity with an attitude. If you’ve ever been in my booth, you know me better than that! I’m just saying there was a palpable difference in artists between actually making art and actually selling art–and customers were sensitive to that difference.

In fact, I think when some artists say they hate the selling or business side of their art, they are having a hard time transitioning to that aspect. When we can embrace the creative aspect of selling–as the end result of making stuff–we can perhaps feel more comfortable with it.

Because selling is really just getting our precious work into the hands of people who love it but can’t make it themselves–and so they are willing to trade their time (in the form of money they’ve earned) for our time (the time we spent making it.) Pricing is just establishing the ratio whose time is worth what.

The change in energy from showing/sharing to selling was palpable, even if I knew I was just getting up to offer assistance or answer a question.

TRAINING DAY

So hire–and TRAIN–a sales force. I hired a team of five people to split shifts and work the entire fair for me. That sounds like a lot, but it’s a nine-day show. Every day, I had at least two other people working that booth with me.

First, I picked people who were….I was going to say “people people”, but that just sounds silly. People who were good with other people. This is not a job for terminally shy people! They don’t have to be extroverts, but they have to comfortable in their own skin so they don’t make your customers feel awkward. (You know the kind of person I mean.)

If they’ve had any sales or marketing experience, that helps. And if you ask around, you’ll be surprised how many people do.

Be careful about picking spouses or family members. Best case, they love you so much, they may hound people to buy your work. Not good. Worst case, they don’t really want to do it but can’t say no.

Be careful about picking friends who are also artists. They must be able to set their own art aside and sell yours! You’d be amazed how hard this can be for people. Don’t hold it against them–but if they can’t do it, don’t ask them to! This is YOUR time and YOUR real estate–not theirs. They must not lead conversations around to THEIR work or use precious selling time to market THEIR art. (Hint: If they wear THEIR jewelry or clothing while selling in your booth, big red warning light there.)

I invited them over for dinner before the show. I gave each person a packet of information about me and my work, prices, magazine articles, etc. The purpose was not for them to memorize everything, but to familiarize them with my work and story.

I gave them talking points and selling points. But in the end I told them, “Tell customers why YOU like my work. If what you say is true for you, they will sense that. And that will be more powerful than any prepared sales spiel I could give you.”

So they shared with each other what they loved about my work. BTW, I learned a lot from this, too! They told me great things about my work I’d never thought of.

Then I gave each of them Bruce Baker’s CD on selling craft. I suggested they simply listen to it as they did dishes or on a long drive. If they had time to listen a few times, that would be great. And I included this “listening time” in the number of hours I was paying them for. Though Bruce is so easy to listen to, some of them said they listened for fun.

My investment in this sales team resulted in doubling my sales at this show.

The first year I did this, I couldn’t afford to pay my team what they were worth in cash. So I offered minimum wage and a generous trade option. They could chose the money and $x in goods, or $3x in straight goods. Or if they found another artist’s work at the show they loved, I would offer to trade my work with that artist.

The first year, everyone chose the trading for my work, and one person took me up on trading with another artist. The second year, everyone simply wanted my work. That worked out well for me! But do give people the money option, because some people simply need the cash.

I also bought everyone’s food at the show, and had them over again for dinner after the show. This “wrap-up” dinner was great! Once again, they shared observations about my work, and customer dynamics, that were extremely helpful.

Once again, I hope some of my personal experiences help you rethink what’s not working for you now.

And as always, if what you’re doing is working for you, don’t change it–unless you think it could be better.

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GOOD BOOTHS GONE BAD #10: Mystery Product

Have you ever walked by a booth and couldn’t quite tell what they were selling?

Worse, maybe the booth was full of people, which intrigued you. But the booth was so full, you couldn’t get in. And you couldn’t see the product for the crowd. “I’ll come back,” you may have thought.

But with no visual clue to even remind you later, you probably didn’t.

This is the booth with the Mystery Product.

When your work is very small (like jewelry) or your display or display fixtures are as visually domineering as your product (you make picture frames but not the images you display them with, for example) or if your booth is constantly full of people blocking the view from the aisle, it’s important to signal to people outside your booth exactly what it is you’re selling.

I struggle with this constantly. My wall hangings are vibrant and easy to see. But it’s not always obvious what makes them special–the fine detail, the embellishments, the incredible stitching and layering of fabric.

Also, it’s not immediately obvious I also sell jewelry. This is because I love to display my jewelry on tall stands and cases, with the pieces laid on paper backgrounds or display bean bags, as if you were looking down on a museum display.

But this means no one can actually see my jewelry until they come into my booth.

So how do I let people know?

Big, big pictures.

I started using large-format photos as posters early on, and it has helped hugely. My photographer has a huge printer capable of printing out big images of my work. But places like Kinko’s and Staples can do this quite easily, and cheaply, too.

If you don’t have such a resource near you, try on-line vendors. There are a lot of them nowadays! I just googled “poster from photo” and found services starting at under $20 for a 24″x36″ print.

You can use inexpensive and lightweight poster frames to finish off your print. I had my first few professionally framed in black metal frames, the kinds where you buy two sets of two “sides” and screw them together. What are those called???

Your photographer or a graphic arts service can also print out your poster text–it’s good to at least have your name on it–but in a pinch, you can even just print out one huge word at a time on your home computer. (I vacillate between “Luann Udell” and stuff like “Luann Udell fiber and polymer” or “Luann Udell Mixed Media”.)

If you are neat about it, you can just cut and paste the individual words onto your poster since one word printed in a GIANT FONT will obviously fill an entire sheet of paper. (The original cut-and-paste function, pre-computer!) From six feet away, it will look all of a piece.

One or two posters, hung just high enough to be visible over a crowd, will be easily seen from the aisle.

And now everyone will know what you sell.

Many people use one of their jury shots–a straight-on shot of a single item, on a neutral background. But you can get creative here.

An environmental shot shows something in an appropriate environment. This is great for stuff that doesn’t have an immediately discernible scale or purpose, like, say, a floor cloth. It could be a card, a place mat, a rug…. But do a shot of a big floor cloth on a floor in a room, and it instantly reads as “Floor cloth! In YOUR home! Making YOUR home look as great as THIS!”

A model photo of someone wearing your clothing or jewelry is compelling. One big mistake, though, is focusing on the model over the work. Avoid having the model actually looking into the camera, or even looking out. Make sure any lighting highlights the WORK, not the model. Leaf through fashion magazines. Pay attention to what compositions let you focus on the jewelry or clothing, and which are the ones where you find yourself staring at the person wearing them. Avoid shots like the latter.

Detail shots show a small part of your work. Sometimes it’s obvious what you’re selling (clocks!) but what’s charming about them is small (hand painted flowers!) Here’s where the opposite image can help–a beautiful detail shot or close-up. My photographer has a signature photo style–he will intentionally have the image bleed off the edges. Oh! That sounds terrible! I mean he will show the image partly out of the frame. It gets you “closer” to the product, allowing for more detail, but you can still tell what the item is.

One of the most intriguing posters I ever saw was in the booth of an artist who did simple, enigmatic wooden folk dolls. The image was a small grouping of them, but only from the shoulders up. I borrowed this idea for one of my best known images. You can see it here on the far right of the banner: My home page It’s still one of my favorites, too.

In fact, some people use an actual banner in their booth instead of just a single poster or two. I have one, with my name and some images of tiny details of my work. I had a local graphic arts service design A Sign Stop (their site loads slowly in this preview pop-op, try opening in another tabe or window for best results) and I think they did a beautiful job. But I think my posters look more “upscale” and my banner looks more “craft show”. “Banner” just doesn’t say “art gallery”. That’s just IMHO, though. I do use my banner at shows, but above my sales station now.

Lately I’m experimenting with more “vertical” ways of displaying my jewelry. I’m actually thinking of going back to those plain black velvet upright displays. I think a few of them might help signal that there are cool little wearables somewhere in there….

But for now, a couple of great posters–one showing a beautiful detail of my wall hangings, another featuring a glamor shot of my daughter wearing a stunning necklace–will tell the story for me.

For good images of detail shots, do check out the banner on my home page once more: Banner on my home page You will see close-ups of my fiber work, jewelry and sculptures. If you explore the site, you’ll find many other images that would work well as posters. You’ll see examples of plain jury shots and detail shots in the jewelry section, an environmental shot with detail shots on the wall hangings page. I’ve posted the model shot of my daughter before, but here it is again: Robin looking gorgeous

I hope it inspires you to get creative with your own ideas.

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MEAN PEOPLE SUCK #2a: Professional Jealousy Part Deux

Tatjana – Submitted Aug 31, 2007

I have lost more friends to jealousy than to any other disease.
(quote from Robert Genn’s “Painter’s Keys” website Painter’s Keys archives “Evaluating Art” clickbacks.)

I came across the quote above while browsing through Robert Genn’s newsletter archives. It was so true, it made me almost cry.

There’s something no one will tell you, when you start your journey pursuing your art.

It can get lonely out there.

I don’t believe in the “perfect relationship” anymore. I don’t believe in perfect marriages, perfect families, or perfect friendships. I think we do the best we can, until we learn to do better.

In a perfect world, relationships stretch and grow, accommodating all kinds of stress and obstacles. In reality, I believe sometimes a relationship is “good enough”, until it reaches a crisis that cannot be dealt with.

Jealousy is a big one in friendships.

As you grow in your art and begin to achieve success–whether it’s financial rewards, or professional recognition, whatever–you will lose friends along the way. I am not saying you will lose all your friends. But you may lose some, including some that will surprise and dismay you.

The mentor relationship is especially delicate. I’ve found incredibly generous people who helped me tremendously along the way. Until, that is, I began to surge ahead. I didn’t get ahead by stepping on them–far from it! My greatest sin has been encouraging them to come further on their own journey than they were ready to go.

But the damage is still there.

Outshine your teacher, and it’s the rare person who won’t resent you for it. (Remember, it’s okay to feel resentment–it’s how you act on it that can preserve or wreck that relationship!) It’s astounding how badly some people will choose to act….

I think this tendency is why I get almost obsessive about remembering to thank people. I try to always give credit to people who have shared techniques, insights, support. It’s my way of trying to divert any jealousy they might accrue.

But it only helps to a certain extent. What I’ve found is, you cannot control how another person thinks, feels, acts. They truly have their own journey.

If jealousy raises its ugly green-eyed head in their life, you cannot stop that. If they choose NOT to use that to further their own work, you cannot control that. If they began to engage in passive-aggressive behaviors that undermine your friendship, you will find it difficult to turn that dynamic around.

You will know your gut feeling is right when these friends start saying things like, “Oh, you’re just too sensitive.” Which is another way of saying, “I totally deny your right to HAVE feelings.”

I have frequently referred to a little book called THE NIBBLE THEORY by Kaleel Jamison. Here is an entry from my old blog about this delightful little book: THE NIBBLE THEORY: A Big Little Book

If you are a truly independent artist/person who can operate fully without a rich support system of family, friends and peers, you will not need this book.

But for the rest of us, who feel real physical pain at how wrong a friendship can go, you need to read this book. It will help. It will explain.

And in the end, it will help you with your art. Because you will be able to recognize the ways a good friendship can–and SHOULD–support you in making your art. (Hint: It doesn’t have to be the big stuff, either!)

One of the most powerful things anyone ever said about my art was from my sister, who says she knows nothing about art and not much about my world. But when I was having a total lack of confidence in my work, and hesitant to enter it in a exhibition where its chances of acceptance were slim, Susan said something I’ve never forgotten.

“Your job is not to judge what you make. Your job is to make it, and get it out into the world. Others can judge it once it’s out there, but you can’t hold it back by judging it beforehand.”

Talk about channeling Martha Graham! It was an astounding thing for a self-confirmed non-artist to say.

Because Martha Graham said:

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening
That is translated through you into action,
And because there is only one of you in all of time
This expression is unique.
And if you block it,
It will never exist through any other medium,
And be lost.
The world will not have it.
It is not your business to determine how good it is,
Nor how valuable, or how it compares with other expressions.
It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly,
to stay open and aware to the urges that motivate you.

I know for some people there will always be conflict: How much art to give up for the sake of friendship. How much friendship to give up for the sake of art.

I still struggle with this.

In the end, I realize I am the only person responsible for my art–I am the only one who can bring it into the world, just as I am the only mother my children will ever have.

My children come first. My art comes first. Friendships have to align themselves somewhere around these non-negotiables.

But I still try to be aware of the different loads my various friendships can handle–and which loads they can’t.

It’s worth a try. It’s part of me to try! But if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t make me feel like a failed human being anymore.

Just a human being who tried–and failed.

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