Aug 23 2016
I don’t do nearly as many shows as some artists do. I re-met some friends at a show in Steamboat Springs this weekend who do 35 shows a year. (35!!!!) This year, I think I did 3. It was a pretty light year. Last year, my heaviest year, I did 7 or 8.
There’s a lovely special feeling when you’re at a show. Your neighbors are your friends. You talk to them, you chat about their work/your work, you talk about other shows, how they were good/bad. You talk about the nuts and bolts of booths — where did you get yoru tent? How long have you had it? Does it do OK in the mountains? You have HOW much weight on each leg! Those glass display cases are lovely. The talk can go on and on (and it does, depending on how busy the show is!)
When I’m setting up for a show, or breaking down, that is when I feel like I must have an idea of how carnival folks live, with of course, major differences. We put up tents, decorate the tents to be enticing to passers-by, and set up a little mini version of “life” behind the counter where we sit all day, with all the necessary accouterments to sell for 1-3 days and be comfortable and keep busy at the same time. Scissors are lent to neighbors and step ladders are borrowed. Help is given with that wall that just doesn’t want to zip on properly.
And then when the show is over, everyone breaks everything down, says goodbye, promises to write — as if it’s the end of summer camp, which in a way it feels like it is (except without nearly as much fun).
My first show in Colorado was up in Breckenridge 2 Labor days ago and I tell you, I was a HOT MESS — disaster-town!! I forgot my cheapo folding tables (I had to run to Lowes and buy some), I had a cheap tent that was a $200 popup from Costco, not enough weight, and if it hadn’t been for the guy selling wooden spoons named Rich across from me, I would have packed up and left. The winds that would suddenly blow bent one leg of that cheapo tent, and my kind neighbor Rich got some dog spiral stakes and tie downs from his van and helped me secure it so at least it wouldn’t blow away. The same wooden spoon guy was across from me at my show last weekend – two years later! – and we chatted again. He remembered me from that show, and commented, “you look pretty professional now!” because BOY my entire booth had changed from that horrible show! I have good tent that has to be put together pipe by pipe, but can handle the sudden Colorado mountain winds and storms without any issue. I have professional outdoor carpet covered tables that are 42″ tall, perfect height for folks stopping by to browse my jewelry (as opposed to making my customers get a backache from leaning over folding tables!) Plenty of weights holding my tent securely in place. Banners and curtains adorn my walls, and I’m behind my tables in my director’s chair, keeping busy. My booth is always a work in progress, but I’m not lost at sea as I was at that first show. And it because of the giving artists willing to offer a hand to the new gal that helped me to keep at it and give this show thing another go. I’m always trying to lend a hand to those who are just starting out or just need a hand — just like a hand was lent to me.
I feel like I’m at the next stage of not just improving my game at shows — but my game in my overall jewelry business. I’ve known this was coming for a while but it was just too scary to consider seriously. I want to get into higher end shows, but my work is much too scattered to get me into them. I have been doing chainmaille for so long but my heart isn’t in it anymore. Sure, I love sitting down and making a piece now and then, but take this weekend for example. A slow show is the perfect time and place to get a lot of chainmaille pieces made. I had the pliers with me, I had the rings. But I just couldn’t bring myself to work on it. It has lost the appeal, it bores me. I would rather be enameling! I would rather be stone setting! I would rather be soldering! I know that I need to expand on the work I am really enjoying, and start phasing out the chainmaille. I need to work on a cohesive line of enamel jewelry that works together.
I saw a painter friend who pointed at one of my newer enamel pieces and said to me, point blank, “That is where your artistry lies, my friend. That is where you should be spending your time.”
I knew she was right, and I’ve known it for over a year, but when everyone comes by your booth to purchase your chainmaille jewelry, it’s hard to give up your main revenue stream.
But when another show-friend (who’s opinion and advice and experience I greatly respect) reiterated the same thing.. it is really sinking in. It’s time to give up what I’m bored by doing and move in the new unknown direction — even if it doesn’t feel safe. Even if it’s dangerous and on uneven ground. It’s time for me to take myself seriously and get to work on what I love, especially when that work opens up more possibilities in my future, instead of being dead-ends. We’ll see how it goes from here.
In good news for customers, I’ll probably be having a closeout sale on lots of chainmaille by years-end!
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