Lesson Learned


So, after a couple of bumps and bruises in December I have tried to expand my line of thinking as it comes to shows I should participate in. I got 3 rejections in a row from some of the nicer shows in the country, so while it stung, I swung the other direction and, in looking for work, participated in a show that advertised itself as being a Holiday Marketplace. You may grimace now as you may know where this is going...

I will try and make this short and just tell the juicy parts which completely leaves out the 11 hour Saturday I sat in my booth without making a single dollar. The entire weekend had disgusting weather, but that doesn't neccessarily deter people who live in the northern parts of the country. We all set up in a huge heated tent and if people in Michigan choose to not get out when the weather iss sludgy, they will never leave the house.

Now to call the tent "heated" is not a stretch when the heat was working. However, when the heat only works for about half the day (the middle part when its warmest outside of course) it gets a bit cold. Everyone stayed bundled up for the most part, but that didn't help cut the chill of my very very slow Saturday. While the cold weather doesn't put people off, the rain does, and I was well aware of how wet it was outside as the huge tent we were all under was tending to leak in all the right spots... right above my shoulder and right on top of my artwork.

So the foot traffic was pretty light thanks to the weather and the conversation even lighter for the loud holiday music (you know Im hard up if I am complaining about holiday music). It wasn't so bad when you got to talking to each other, but often left my greetings and "Thank You's!" unacknowledged.

I left the tent momentarily to console myself with a bag of warm cinnamon sugar doughnuts, but upon reentry I became a bit shocked with the idea that anyone was coming in the tent at all! I thought for sure there was a misplace port-a-potty or perhaps one had leaked somewhere, but dont worry... What I was smelling was just the welcoming aroma of every incense/ soap/ candle/ organic shampoo/ and candy makers' scents all having combined into one HUGE antiseptic attack on one's senses. Happy Holidays.

The scent you were bowled over with upon entry was an excellant indication of what you were about to find along this little lane of a Holiday Market. I am referring, of course, to the wares mentioned above, not the literal crap you would find in the port-a-potty... Shame on you! (Although a side lesson would be- do not actually asked any of the vendors with the smelly products if they thought it smelled like a bathroom too, then realize in front of them that they are the actual culprit... note taken).

At this Market, if you were not selling $10 gifts, then you were either a commercial corporation selling vacation packages or ATT services, or... you were me. I was actually one of 2 artists there selling anything over $30 which turned out to be WAAAAY over budget at this particular venue. Lots of interest, lots of complements, very very little money. Okay. Thats okay. It was my mistake for having haphazardly rushed into a show that I knew wasn't specifically for art. After the initial frustration with myself I chalked it up as a loss and tried to just keep smiling for the rest of the weekend. So one would think the low sales would be the worst part, right?.... Well, never underestimate the annoyance of commercial vendors in situations such as these.

So the various vendors around me were actually doing quite well. They were all part of bigger corporations selling mass produced items at rock bottom prices for the holidays and were able to unload a lot of inventory. Good for them... obviously not my type of show. However, these people absolutely could not restrain themselves from coming into my booth and expressing how sorry they felt for me and continued by each relating how they have, "Been in this business for years..." and "Could offer me some great advice on selling my product..." Great.

So I will try to spare you the rant on how art isn't necessarily the same as a "product" and how standing in the aisle similarly to my cohorts and screaming at everyone who walks by to come in and see the (insert cheap item here) isn't exactly what any artist would use as a sales tactic... However, my commercial counterparts saw this as a blatant flaw on my part and proceeded to- each at separate times- come into my booth and explain that if I would just "engage" my customers (by screaming at them- "Art for sale, come get your ART!") I would inevitably do much better business. Sigh.

As if ANYONE who is not having a great show really appreciates people who ARE selling well coming to tell them the secret to their success. Lord help the last schlep who trolled on into my space after having sold his 15th vacation package and announced, "Now I just dont get it... I dont know any of these people, so why would I pay a couple hundred dollars for a picture of someone I dont even know...?" Yessir- what I need is YOU to tell me how to sell a "product" you dont even understand. Then he asked about commissions and proceeded to flip through his cell phone pictures of his "girlfriend" with the judges from American Idol wanting to know if I could paint her with Randy Jackson, Mariah Carey, Nicki Manaj, and Keith Urban... Yes, I am completely serious. 

Unfortunately, after I laid into him a bit, I dont think he will be calling me for that job. 

Ok. So I swung a bit too far in the other direction for this one. I am narrowing the field down though. DO NOT apply to anything selling itself as a "Market" "Winefest" or "Booze Cruise" and perhaps dont be hurt when the rejections roll in from each of the "Number One Art Fair"s in the country ;).

You live, you learn.