Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The Darker, Damper Side of Art

Many people get excited when they hear I do outdoor art fairs. "Oh, that must be fun for you!", they chortle, imagining a festive, colorful booth in some beautiful shady park, teeming with happy, enthusiastic, and wealthy shoppers.

I have experienced fleeting moments of fun at these affairs, but more often than not they turn out to be hellish battles with the elements, or profoundly dull endless periods of sitting, while watching people drift past with suspicious looks, peering into my booth as one might size up a dark alley in a lonely part of town. One recent fair had both the excitement of a lashing rainstorm, followed by an oddly tranquil period that reminded me of that old movie "Night of the Living Dead".

If you are thinking of breaking into the art and craft vendor world, I have a few basic suggestions:

1) Work in mediums such as plastic, stainless steel, or marble. Stay away from materials that might be affected by driving rain, hail, high winds, blistering heat, etc.

2) Unless you enjoy answering questions, limit yourself to producing artwork that is "accessible", such as images of pigs, flowers, children, or perhaps a combination. "Garden Art" formed out of rusted trash is also good.

3) Spend the money and buy a good quality, easy-to-set-up booth. DO NOT save money and buy a used booth from the mid-60's, like I did. I have to drag 200 pounds of heavy pipe, fittings, and tarps to my site, spend an hour fitting the
pipe together, and then another couple hours lashing tarps to the roof and sides with bungee cords, wire, tape, clamps, shoelaces, and whatever else is handy. My neighbors usually have new, state-of-the-art booths that unfold by
themselves, like a huge unbrella. All they do is stand back. As I'm wrestling with a 10 x 10 tarp in the wind they're off to a leisurely breakfast.

4) Whet your appetite for a smorgasbord of comments and questions from the public. Most people are nice, and polite, even if they despise your work. Other people, perhaps bitter and angry artists themselves, feel the need to share their observations. Your ego should be as impermeable and thick as the neck of a steroid-sucking weightlifter.

Well, I hope these thoughts are useful to you. Happy selling!