What do you get out of attending an art show when you are an artist?
This morning, my husband, my youngest son (16), and myself attended a juried art show on one of our local university campuses. My husband, who is a woodworker and creator of fine, solid wood furniture, has been in this show in the past. My son is an up and coming young artist who is currently working with oils, but has also worked with watercolors, pastels, and colored pencils. And, as for myself, my artistic skills are in the jewelry design and creation, as well as photography. We are artists. We like to support the arts, and artist endeavors of others in the area. We like to look, assess, appraise, buy, and come away with ideas of what to do and not do if any one of us are in this or any other juried shows in the future. Both my husband and I are encouraging our son’s artistic talents and think he should apply to be in this show in the future.
Art Fair on the Green: Our history with this show
When we first moved here, my husband and I would make a point of going to Art Fair on the Green each July when this show was held. Our anniversary is in July, around the time of the show, and we would go to buy a print or drawing or piece of pottery or glass as a present to each other to be displayed in our home. We went to the show many years for just this reason. Then, as my husband acquired a workspace in the form of a large barn, he applied to the show (I think it was five years ago) and was accepted by the panel of art jurists. By default and obligation, we both learned how much work goes into a show like this. Hours and hours were spent in the barn crafting fine pieces of furniture, bread boards, clocks, and jewelry boxes. The first year was great, with him selling almost everything we took for his booth. I think we came home with one rocking chair and a few clocks, not much else. The second year, of the three-year jury cycle, was not as successful. I benefited by getting the fine furniture not sold, which included a cherry bookcase, cherry tables, and some other pieces. Others benefited from bread boards that were produced in greater numbers than the first show because they had sold so well then but not so much so the second year. He let the third year of his juried approval, which would have been last year, lapse. Part of this decision was the lack of time to produce high quality pieces in enough volume to support a booth at a larger show. And, the other part of the decision was that people do not seem to be in the market for very reasonably priced fine wood furniture (that is not made of press board or MDF)! Go figure!
As for my jewelry, I tried to get juried in the same year my husband had success. But, jewelry is a glutted market. Although I got some nice compliments from the jury, I was told my creations were much the same as everyone else’s, and to some extent they probably were. I was not accepted to be in the show. And, as you can tell, once you have success being juried in, many artists choose to stay. So, there is not a lot of turn over of jewelers in this particular art show. For this, and other reasons, I have not applied again.
What did we get out of attending the Art Show today?
The answer to this question depends on which of the three of us you ask! For myself, I look at how other jeweler’s display their work, pricing, and tagging. I use the information I gather by just brief and casual observations at the booths to gauge my own craft. Over the years, I’ve learned by being in several non-juried shows, gift boutiques, and more recently juried art galleries (to which I have been accepted by a panel), that in general my pieces are under-priced. I am never sure what to do about this observation, because it has been a consistent one over the years. I know that if something is priced fairly for the components and work that is put into it to construct the piece, it might not be purchased. Do I accept that or undercut my creativity with less than optimal (for me) pricing? Obviously, the consumer benefits with this decision, but I do not. The other thing that I have learned to pay attention to is display. If your items, whether it be jewelry, furniture, or paintings are not displayed attractively, they will not sell. Display is everything! Tagging, or how an item is labelled and tagged, is a close second in importance. Today, I came away with new ideas for both.
The Woodworker’s Perspective
My husband goes to this show in part to appease me. He knows I enjoy looking and purchasing. He goes now to compare his woodworking craft to other vendors. No one had furniture this year, only smaller wood crafts like turned bowls, toys, bread boards, jewelry boxes, and games. There was, and still is, a place for his furniture. But, there needs to be someone willing to buy it. Last time he was in the show we came away feeling that it might not be the right venue or right community for his pieces. One lady did buy his solid hickory desk but only after some dickering on the price happened, which is somewhat inappropriate at a show like this. Craftsmanship costs. If you want a high quality piece of fine furniture, it might not cost an arm and a leg, but will cost you more than if you went to a major furniture store to buy it. Wood is not cheap. MDF is more affordable and that is what you’ll find if you are a discerning furniture shopper. My husband also goes to compare quality of the wood pieces offered and always comes away feeling like his makes a nice product. It is a feeling with which I absolutely agree!
The Up and Coming Teen Artist Perspective
My 16-year-old, who by the way was one of the only teenagers I noted at the show, was observant of techniques, use of color, price, size, level of detail, and more. He is honing his craft, taking in as much as he can from as many sources as he can. I was proud and pleased he went with us today, as much as I felt proud and pleased he visited the Minneapolis Institute of Art last week with me while we were in the Twin Cities for a soccer tournament. There is no doubt he is an artist. People who do not even know him are aware of his art. It will be interesting to see where it takes him in the future. One of the artists today was an 87-year-old man! He’s been painting his whole life. My son’s comment about that? “Art is a life long skill. It’s not like athletics where you have to stay young and fit, or have others to play on your team to be able to do it. Painting is something I can do my whole life.”
My reply? “Yes, yes, it is.”
Did we buy anything?
We did! Believe it or not, I spotted a charm I liked in a jewelry booth. I do not make my own charms, so I contemplated buying this one as we walked around the whole show! At the end, I went back to the booth and buy a tiny silver charm with three stacked stones inside a circle. Zen. It is my zen pendant and I am already wearing it! The artist was pleased I’d buy a piece of her jewelry since I am a jewelry artist myself! We had a nice chat about the mediums we prefer and how we still like to receive jewelry as a gift despite the fact we make jewelry! I also bought a small ceramic gift for my sister, but cannot divulge any more than that, lest she read my blog and find out! But, that was it. Our visit was mostly a morning out to support the arts, compare our craft with others, and enjoy the beautiful summer day!
The art show also helped me to decide to take action! Two strangers asked me about a subject that is a passion of mine and after the conversations, I decided that I am going to act on an idea that has been germinating. Stay tuned to find out more about my future endeavor – hopefully, to take place before the end of summer!