Before I did this show, I’d never thought of simply hanging this collaborative piece on my booth walls. (They were part of a luminary piece, and the frame broke during The Big Move.)
A reader wrote to me recently. They are an artist, a creative person who is just starting to explore the art show circus route. They’ve aced their first show, and wrote to thank me for my series on doing shows, and creating an attractive, functional booth.
This time, they wrote to ask me about a clusterf…. a show lacking any sense of professional organization some detail in the show guidelines. Here’s what I wrote back.
LOL, Oh, dear, excuse my laugh.
I feel your pain.
Shows are as different as….well, people.
No, what happened to you is not professional, and I would have torn the rest of my hair out.
Sadly, though, it’s not an isolated case.
It helps to realize that people organize and manage shows for a lot of reasons.
The best ones is, they enjoy it. They are good at it. And they truly love using their skills and expertise to help artists get their work out into the world. Artists and craftspeople owe much to the people who work to make this happen. Don’t forget to thank them whenever you can.
They may be the good kind of “shadow artist” (a phrase coined by Julia Cameron in “The Artist’s Way”.) They wish they were artists, too, or they ARE an artist, but haven’t gotten to the point where they ‘grow it’. But they sublimate that desire into helping others who are further along their path.
The worst reason is….well, that’s where the “lot” comes in.
They may be pompous er…idiots, who use the prestige of being the official ‘face’ of the show to bolster their own self-esteem.
They may be artists in their own right, who are jealous of other, more talented artists.
People who have not recognized the ‘lizard brain’ in their actions and act accordingly. (We all have a lizard brain that’s easily angered, always jealous, always afraid. Our spiritual growth means KNOWING this, and to choose to think–and act–in spite of it.)
They may be the passive-aggressive shadow artists, who are not putting their whole heart into their own art, and they are secretly jealous of those who do. There will be a million tiny cuts that turn you into a bloody pulp if you don’t recognize them and protect yourself.
They may have mental health issues.
They are simply NOT good at what they do, but it’s fun, and it pays well. (Okay, not likely, but it sure feels like it sometimes.)
They have been put on earth solely to try your patience and test your intentions.
Add your own speculation to the list.
The good news is, everything you’ll need to deal with this kind of behavior in the future, you will gain by going through this experience.
The next time you find yourself waiting more than a day for a promised email, you’ll be calling the organizers to make sure they have the right email address for you. You’ll find the person in the organization is IS organized, and professional, who will fill you in. You’ll contact a few artists who have been doing that show awhile, who will give you the information you need. Or, sadly, if you discover ALL the artists are brand-new, you’ll realize this is a show seasoned artists either don’t do, or don’t return to. Big clue, and one I miss a lot myself by not doing my homework.
And of course, the next time you run into a roadblock, it will be something entirely different.
I’ve NEVER gotten to the point where I took any show, large or small, for granted. Something always goes wrong. Sometimes it’s big. Sometimes it turns out to be pretty minor. Sometimes it makes me rethink something that needs to be rethought.
And sometimes it forces you out of your comfort zone, and creates something that works even better. Your best strategy is to learn, to be flexible, to be prepared for everything. And not panic when something new gets added to the “everything” that’s gone wrong before.
You’ll learn what works, and what doesn’t. Your booth set-up will get streamlined and efficient. You’ll learn wonderful new uses for all your tools and materials. (Duct tape/Gaffers tape, cable ties, etc.) Your best resources will be your fellow fair artists, who will be full of suggestions, remedies, and a great source for the tool you left at home.
And you will persevere. You’ll eventually have a battery of venues that work for you, and eliminate the ones that never do. That’s when you’ll add a new show or venue from time to time, to test the waters and explore a new audience.
Or you may realize, as I have, that most shows, especially small shows, don’t work so well for you. Although, for me, even “unsuccessful” shows are incredible for life learning experience, amazing connections, and the next opportunity for me to explore. Although, from your previous correspondence, it sounds like shows are going to be a great way to sell your work and grow your audience.
I hope this helps. What should help is recognizing the issues that aren’t yours vs. the things you can get better at. There is no grand signal from the universe telling you not to keep making your art. Especially just because someone else is being an idiot.

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.

5 thoughts on “THOSE DAMN ART FAIRS”

  1. Good information here. Thanks for throwing some light on the individual that was in charge of a show that I attended. Every time I see him I get a nasty look on my face, I just know it. Now maybe I can let it go. And of course to also remember that when he is involved to walk away.


  2. Great article.
    Whenever possible it is a good investment to go to the show a year ahead of when you want to enter and see how it is run. Observe, take notes and talk to people to see how they are treated and how well the show is advertised, organized and operates. What kind of attendance do they usually get, etc.?
    I went to a lot of shows with the idea of just researching how people hung their jewelry and came away with more of how Not to hang jewelry that then brought me to how I wanted mine to look in a booth.


  3. Excellent comments, Christine, thanks for sharing! Re: the jewelry display, yes, it’s easier to see what ISN’T working, for some reason.
    I always advise people to check out shows in advance, too. But I never take my own advice, especially since we’ve moved out here. :^D
    Mostly I’ve learned that small-ish shows don’t work for me. I thought I’d see if it were different out here, but no. People coming to my studio works best.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: