Anne & Richard at Spirits in the Wind Gallery, Golden, Colorado April 2012
Art shows... We love 'em and hate 'em, but it's how most of us get our start, unless we have a rich uncle who could open those doors for us. For years I did outdoor art fairs and from those years I have amazing stories and a few disappointments, but mostly it connected me to the client and helped me define my brand.
There were always pluses and minuses. On the plus side: Stories like the woman who was moved to tears over the body of one of my hand painted poppy vases. Or the Des Moines, IA show where one of my pieces was presented as a surprise anniversary gift, producing tears, smiles and hugs all around. These are what makes it all worth while. On the minus side: The endless hours of work, shows where we froze our tails and ones where we nearly got heat exhaustion. Then there was the anxiety produced by wind, hail and rain storms (not a good mix with glass art).... and there were situations like in this video.
Nowadays our shows are a bit higher end and we only do gallery shows. Just being indoors is a big help but there are still quite a few challenges. First off, if it's a gallery that's new, it's often difficult to know the market and the customer base. To present the best show, we've learned to bring a spread of price points. But that's tricky for me because the pressure of the preparation always triggers new ideas and gets the creative juices flowing. Not the time when I want to be doing production work but it's important for the clients and the gallery owners to have some small sales as well as the bigger ones that may take a little more time!
Show Art assembled in the studio
Then there's the packing and/or shipping. We have a pretty good track record with this but at the last show in Colorado, my nerves felt every one of those bumps on Denver's weather beaten streets! I'm happy to say that in spite of my anxieties, we arrived with all art safe and sound.
So, we work for weeks or months creating a body of work, we pack, we travel. The gallery owners usually hang the show and we arrive and then we wait. The gallery advertises, ads are purchased, we post on Facebook and fliers are sent out; but no one ever knows how many will come. Other events are scheduled for the same night, there are storms and emergencies.....makes one almost long for the outdoor art fair days when the crowds seemed endless.....oh, wait.....that was a different economy, wasn't it?
Those shows sold a lot of small pieces to a lot of people. Gallery shows sell a few really good pieces to collectors, which usually means return sales. The other thing shows do is make lasting relationships with gallery owners. We have an opportunity to share about the process and that helps them better represent us. And, for me, it takes us to beautiful places where I can take photos that will lead to a new body of work for the next show.
At Spirits in the Wind Gallery
All in all, I love doing shows and meeting the wonderful people that make it possible for me to make a living following my dream. If you are an artist... or if that's your dream, I'd encourage you to step out and sign up for some local art fairs. It will push you to create a body of work and enable you to get immediate unbiased feedback which can help define your brand. If you're a collector or just an art lover, I hope you will head out to your next local art fair. Buy what you love and support some of the hardest working folks around.