Thursday, February 3, 2011

The importance of art shows

The first time I ever did an art show, I was extremely nervous the night before. I had been up late getting all of the last-minute details taken care of, and there seemed to be a never-ending list of them. Thoughts of self-doubt and worry kept creeping up on me. "What if I forget something very important?", "What if I don't have enough artwork to show?", "What if I have TOO MUCH stuff for my tiny booth?" "What is my booth even supposed to look like?" "I'm probably way out of my league..." "No one is going to buy anything..." "This is a bad idea..."

The morning of the show I was panicking that we were running late. We stopped to get coffee (non-negotiable) which seemed to take longer than usual. I thought for sure that by the time I got to the show, everyones booths would already be set up and professional-looking and they would all point and laugh at the newbie rushing in and setting up her amateur-looking booth. This, of course, was not the case. We pulled up to the show location and crafters and artists were still unloading their vans (Phew!). Everyone looked busy, but cheerful, and my anxiety slowly started to disappear. As I began setting up, it was fun to see things starting to come together and to see my colorful little booth come to life. I finished in the nick of time and it wasn't long before the public started to arrive.

Things started out slow. Only about an hour had passed but I was already thinking the day would be a wash. No one stopped at my booth. Nervousness brought out bitter jealousy ("Really!? They want to buy THAT crap instead?!) but I had to keep reminding myself that it was only my first show, and it was all for the experience. However, as time went on, people started stopping. Then they started conversations. Then they started buying! Then, even requesting custom orders! Woohoo! "This day is getting better and better" I thought. The bitter jealousy turned into appreciation for all of the fellow crafters around me (funny how your own mood can affect how you see others...)

Overall, the day was amazing. The positive vibe of the whole event was encouraging. I took in everything-- every little "Oh that's cute" side comment, every question of "does this come in a bigger size?", and even the occasional, "that seems a little expensive" whisper among friends. I never got offended. I just listened and I learned. I learned that people are initially drawn to my booth because of the bright, vibrant colors. That kids have an incredible power to convince their parents to buy something. That teenage girls like journals, women like inspirational quotes, little boys like robots, and everyone appreciates a sarcastic owl.

The most memorable part of the entire day was interacting with my customers. It was an amazing feeling to see, in person, the people who were happily buying my artwork. I got to talk with people and hear their reassuring comments. It always blows me away to hear people say they are "fans" of mine. When they tell me they want to sign up for my newsletter to keep updated on my progress, I think, "Really? Little ol' me??" 

There are a handful of artists that I admire and look up to, and who I'm sure I'd be star-struck around if I were to meet them in person. But to hear people say they're my fans, reminds me that those artists I idolize are just people like me. People throwing everything they have into making their passion a career. And even though at times it's hard to keep plugging along, and difficult to tell that internal voice saying "this is pointless, you're never going to be successful" to just shut up already, I have realized that all artists at one point or another struggle with the same self-doubt, and many of those artists are the ones I look up to today. And perhaps one day, I will be lucky enough to be where they are, so long as I keep learning and growing. 

One art show at a time...

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