At The End of 2016

You might have noticed that I haven't written about any of the shows that I've done since the end of the Summer. Most of them were disappointing, unfortunately. Whether you want to blame that on the election or the overall decline of arts festivals, people just weren't buying much from artists at shows across the board. I stopped writing about them because it was really getting me down to only be reporting on negative experiences! I'm generally an extremely positive person and the whole experience has been messing with that vibe. 

This year I did 19 shows. That was far too many. I was working 80+ hours a week, not sleeping enough, not seeing friends and family enough, and just barely making enough money to sustain myself. I used to think I love my job too much to ever burn out, but I've found that burn-out is a very real thing. I've decided to cut it down next year to 8 shows at the most, all of which I know for sure will be great for me. I've gotten a part time job at a coffee shop to supplement shows so that I can have a reliable income on the side. I've also gotten a couple of wholesale accounts and I'm looking into getting more with galleries and shops. 

I'm also working on designs for a lot of non-musical pieces! I will be getting rid of many of my musical ones as well. Flute mugs are here to stay, but the fates of the rest are undecided. I'll be posting photos and more information onto the site soon, probably shortly after the new year. Probably 90% of what I sell is flute mugs, so I don't think the other pieces will be missed too much. I want to explore other forms and functions while taking my surface designs further. 

In other news: I got a dog named Sadie last week! My boyfriend works at the Humane Society, met this pretty lady, and insisted that I meet her. She's a total sweetie and cuddlebug. We think she's a plott hound/lab mix. She'll be spending lots of time with me in the studio, so feel free to come by and meet her sometime! She LOVES meeting new people! 

This year has been CRAZY and WEIRD. But things are looking up, and I'm moving forward! I hope everyone has a lovely holiday season! 

Paint Creek Art and Apples Festival

September 9th-11th I went to Rochester, MI, for the Art and Apples Festival, run by the Paint Creek Arts Center. Here's how it went. 

You can scroll past The Narrative to see more succinct reviews of specific areas. 

The Narrative: I drove the five-ish hours to the park in Rochester to set up for the show. After navigating the load-in process, I set up and got ready for the Friday evening opening. We were only selling for a few hours on Friday, then all day Saturday and Sunday. The weather was so rough on Friday night going into Saturday. Windy and rainy, and all of the booths were in the grass so we had plenty of mud. The crowd wasn't amazing because of that, but it was still decent considering it. Sorry, I don't have a ton to add for this show because I put off writing about it for a couple of weeks due to being sick and moving to a new apartment, life stuff. Trying to be better about that going forward! 

The Hotel: I got a room at an Extended Stay America about ten minutes from the festival site. I used Priceline Express deals and paid $120 for three nights (that's the nightly rate plus service fees from Priceline). It was nice and clean, and I had a little kitchenette. Good stuff!

The Crowd: Mostly middle-aged to upper-middle-aged people. They weren't buying as much as I had anticipated (though that seems to be a theme this season), and there were a lot of people throwing out unsolicited advice. Obviously there will always be people with positive things to say and people with negative things to say, but in this bunch there seemed to be an abundance of negativity, and I was not too pleased about it. 

The Town/Venue: Um, Rochester is pretty fancy. The houses are HUGE. For those familiar with Pittsburgh, I'm talking 5th Avenue in Shadyside huge, but very new. Some were even still being built. The show was held in the municipal park, which was large and lovely. The only thing I wasn't a fan of was a rule that during special events, dogs are not allowed in the park. So disappointing. 

Other Vendors: There was a lot of unique and impressive work from the other vendors. It was great to be among such high-quality artists. That said, there were also some vendors who were DIVAS. There were a few ladies in particular selling clothing who were complaining the entire time about everything (load-in, the set-up, the weather, etc.) and gossiping with other vendors behind their booth. So silly. I'm sorry that you don't like some things, but wow, you're being dramatic about it. 

Load In/Out: Kind of tricky. There were two entrance points, and we were given a map marking them. But it was still confusing, so of course I showed up at the wrong one. Once I found the right entrance and drove into the park, I was able to pull my car fairly close to my spot. As time went on, the area filled up with cars and things got pretty hectic. I pulled my car away to the side so that it wasn't in the way, but there were a few vehicles with trailers that were taking up a lot of space so that other vehicles couldn't get through. Loading out was a similar situation. Not ideal, but I've experienced load-ins/outs that have taken longer or been less organized. 

The Staff: They were super friendly! Each section had a staff person to watch booths who came around to everyone to see if they needed a break. There was also a tent for artists to visit that had free snacks and drinks for us. 

The Dollars: $120 for hotel; ~$80 for about 2.5 tanks of gas; $450 booth fee; $60 electricity fee; ~$2100 in purchases. That's about $1400 profit. 

Liked: The staff, the venue, hotel.

Didn't Like: Crowd negativity and low spending, dogs not allowed (SO SAD), and load-in/out. 

Overall: 7/10. Not sure about this one. People have the spending power but weren't spending. It's hard to say whether I should blame that on the show or this overall slow show season. I'll see how I'm feeling in a few months before I decide whether to do this one again. 

Next is Oktoberfest in Dayton, Ohio. 

 

Life Right Now and On

This isn't a post about a show. This is a post about how things are for me right now and where I am going in the future. 

I've had a rough summer. Most vendors I've spoken to have said that this season has been incredibly slow for them compared to other years. Some of them attribute that to it being an election year, which can cause people to hold onto their cash a little tighter. I hadn't experienced "money stress" before this summer. I've made enough from shows to pay all of my bills and have a little extra spending money for the last year, but these past couple of months I've been juuuust scraping by. And it is incredibly stressful.

The "money stress" is nearly to an end, though. I just have to get through paying my bills this week. Then, in September, I have three shows that I know are great shows. I just keep telling myself that I only have to be dirt poor for one more week! It's not even that I mind being poor - I could be fine having almost zero spending money. But when it's completely unknown how much money I will be making every month, the fear that I won't be able to pay bills is very real. 

Now, if you don't already know this about me, I'll tell you: I have general anxiety disorder, it is absolutely a real thing, I'm on meds to help manage it, and I'm able to keep it pretty well under control most of the time (I'm also very open about this because it's misunderstood a lot). Anxiety and stress are two completely different feelings. But being under a lot of stress makes my anxiety more and more difficult to manage, and I've been in a bit of an emotional spiral lately. 

Even though the crazy stressful portion of the season is coming to an end, it has been hard enough on me that I know I can never go through it again. I don't personally know any other artists who make their money solely from selling their work who don't have spouses to back them up, someone who can help them out with the bills if things get rough (I'm sure they're out there though!). I have awesome parents who give me love and support and have even helped me out with bills from time to time, but I don't want to have to rely on them every summer to get me through a rough patch. So I've decided to step back a little. 

I've already done 12 shows in 2016, and I have at least 7 or 8 to go. Once this season is over, I'm going to get a low-stress job at a coffee shop or something, get a dog, and limit myself to one good show a month. I've been working 90+ hour weeks all year. It's fun work, but I don't sleep or eat enough or very well. My stress level is only climbing and I feel pressure to succeed all of the time. I love the challenge and the adventure of it, but it's taken a huge toll on my health, mentally and physically. I might work back up to more shows eventually. But for now, I need to start making my well-being a priority.

I know a lot of people admire me for taking the leap into being a full-time artist. It's fun and crazy and pretty scary. I love doing it. But I can't keep it up. I've said before that I keep waiting to burn out because I'm working myself so hard. I don't think that I've burnt out, I've just become emotionally exhausted from managing it all. Try not to be disappointed in me or think of this as giving up. I'm trying to move forward into a more balanced way of life. Don't worry, I'll still be making and selling tons of work, just under slightly less pressure. 

Yorkfest

This past weekend, I went to Yorkfest in York, PA. This wasn't the most eventful show for me (in a very neutral way), but here's what happened. 

You can scroll past The Narrative to see more succinct reviews of specific areas. 

The Narrative: I started out my trip with an unexpected adventure: my car overheated. The temperature gauge wasn't even up halfway, but the temperature light came on. I pulled into the next rest area and did some research with my car manual and the internet. Opened up my hood, and my coolant level was low. Got some coolant, refilled it, and got ready to go. It was just my oil overheating, not the engine. And as far as car problems go, that could have been a lot worse! 

Once I arrived in York, I found my booth space, pulled right up to it, and set up my tent. Then I headed to my hotel and passed out. The show started at 10am on Saturday, so I arrived about an hour early to do some final prep and take advantage of the free breakfast the show was offering its vendors (I know, I already had free breakfast available at the hotel, but I'm always up for a little extra coffee). The breakfast was GREAT. They had quiche, cinnamon sugar pretzel bites, juices, danish, etc. I was really just expecting donuts and coffee. Sales were okay, not stellar. The crowd was slow but steady with lots of people stopping to chat but not buying very much. On Sunday, I sold a few more things than I had on Saturday. At 4pm, we all tore down, packed up, and headed home. I didn't have any especially interesting customer interactions this time, so I'm sorry for the lack of wacky customer tales!

The Hotel: I got a room at a Best Western about ten minutes from the festival site. I used Priceline Express deals and paid $132 for two nights (that's the nightly rate plus service fees from Priceline). It was clean, modern, and had a mini fridge and microwave, so I was happy with it!

The Crowd: Mostly middle-aged people who seemed like they had money. Some groups of students came through, too, because there are a couple of colleges in and around the town. Not a huge crowd. Vendors who have done the show in previous years said that the crowd this year was half of its usual size. People were super friendly and excited about my work, even if they weren't buying it. That's what really makes a show a positive experience for me. 

The Town/Venue: York seems a little bit like Richmond, VA, or parts of Pittsburgh. For those of you who are familiar with Pittsburgh, it's like the business district of Lawrenceville/Bloomfield (unique restaurants, breweries, boutiques, galleries, etc.), with the green of Regent Square (trees and such). For those of you who are not familiar with Pittsburgh, GET FAMILIAR, IT'S AWESOME. So yeah, York seems really cool. The festival was held in the park, along the creek and bike trail. I love when shows are right on the water!

Other Vendors: There was a good mix of experienced and inexperienced artists, and everyone's work was high quality. Good stuff!

Load In/Out: SO EASY. I pulled my car right up behind my spot for loading in and out. I also parked in the field behind my booth. Super convenient. 

The Staff: They were great. They gave the vendors free water and snacks. Other than that, I didn't see too much of them, but everything was so convenient that I didn't need to. 

The Dollars: $132 for hotel; ~$50 for 2 tanks of gas; $175 booth fee; ~$1000 in purchases. That's about $640 profit. Not awesome, but fairly typical turn-around given the low booth fee.  My average profit (not total sales, but profit) based on last year is 4 times the booth fee, so this one hits right below the mark. 

Liked: The staff, the venue, the crowd, the vendors, the load in/out process, hotel.

Didn't Like: Small crowd, dogs not allowed (SO SAD). 

Overall: 5/10. Not a huge success, but definitely not a total bust. It was a positive experience, but I'm honestly not sure whether I will do it again next year. Solid maybe. 

Next up is Art and Apples in Rochester, MI, September 9th - 11th. It's supposed to be an awesome show, and I'm excited!!

Flats Festival of the Arts

I went to the East Bank Flats in Cleveland for a show. Here's the show site: ffota.org , and here's what went down. 

You can scroll past The Narrative to see more succinct reviews of specific areas. 

The Narrative: Due to a personal situation, I almost didn't make it to this show. It began Thursday evening with a preview party/benefit, then continued until Sunday evening. I was given permission by the show director, who was so very kind, to set up late. I arrived Friday afternoon at the venue, talked with some of the show workers (who were also so kind!), and then set up in the spot that the director found for me. Guys, don't go to a show late. This isn't something I've done before, and it was extremely stressful and embarrassing. Nobody wants to be that person, no matter the reason. As for my reason, that is another story. But rest assured, everything is fine now! Anyway, I set up, met my neighbors, and got to work! I pulled my car onto a street behind my booth, so it was an extremely easy load-in/set-up. Things were pretty slow, and I sold six mugs that evening. We closed up at 10pm, and I headed to my hotel. I was at University Hotel and Suites in Midtown, about ten minutes from the show. It wasn't as nice as the hotels I usually stay in, but I don't think I contracted any diseases, and I had a safe place to sleep.

In the morning on Saturday, I found my way to the designated parking lot for artists. Each of us had a parking pass for it to display on our dashboard. The lot was about a five minute drive from the festival site, but an artist shuttle was provided to take us to there, which was excellent. I arrived at the site around 10am, and the show didn't open until 11, so I walked around town a bit. The Flats are right on the water, which was lovely, and there are tons of restaurants/bars there. I saw a coffee and donut shop called Magnolia, and I thought I might stop in for a caffeine fix, but it wasn't open. Confused, I looked it up, only to find that it was a 'speakeasy' type bar/nightclub masquerading as a coffee shop. I ended up getting coffee from the food truck near my booth instead, which also had gelato and waffles. It's called the Sweet Spot, and it basically had everything I needed (coffee and ice cream). 

The day went at a steady pace, and I pulled in about $1000. That's a decent day. I met someone who had been given one of my mugs for Christmas last year, and she told me how much she loved it! That's a huge bright spot for me. I send out so many mugs and then don't hear about them afterwards. I only hope that they find loving homes and that people learn to play them and enjoy doing so. Hearing about someone using one and loving it just warms my little heart!

A group of people stopped by towards the end of the night and chatted, taking my card. I received a phone call and voice mail soon afterwards, then an email, from one of the guys in the group. He was perfectly nice, but I don't especially appreciate that attention when I am at work and alone in a strange city. What I really didn't appreciate was when he showed up first thing the next morning at my booth. I pretended to be on the phone so that I wouldn't have to talk to him, and I didn't see him again. He's probably harmless, but you never know, and I don't have anyone nearby to call for help if something crazy happened. So I'm always extra careful. And you can be sure that my phone number will be gone on the next printing of business cards. 

Sunday again started at 11am, and I sold about 12 items that day. I packed everything up, then took the shuttle to get my car and load up. It was extremely windy all weekend, and that made tearing down more difficult. The tent walls were flapping and billowing, then not cooperating when I took them down and tried to fold them. My tent was lifting off the ground when I took the weights off (and I dropped a weight on my foot). As my neighbor, Starlily Creations said, you need to have the tenacity of a cockroach to live the festival life. Amen. 

I was more nervous for this show than usual. Partly because I just had a bad show, which plants a seed of doubt in my brain and leaves me worrying that maybe all shows will go that way in the future, and partly because it was the first Flats Festival of the Arts. First shows are super risky but I took the chance because I've done well in Cleveland before, and I had the weekend open. It ended up being an incredibly positive experience, and I'm so glad I did it. 

 

The Hotel: My hotel was in Midtown, the University Hotel and Suites. I wasn't a fan. Things were very outdated with peeling wallpaper and carpet. So maybe don't stay there if you go to Cleveland. But it was hard to find any hotel deals there this weekend, probably because lots of parents were moving kids into college, so a lot of places were booked. 

The Crowd: Why were so many people wearing heels? Like, everyone. It wasn't a large crowd, but the people there were there to buy. I only had two or three people tell me that my work was too expensive, meaning it was a fairly affluent crowd. Most people appreciated my pieces even if they didn't buy it, which is what I like! There was also a ten-week-old Cavalier pup who showed up (so great). There was an admission fee, which definitely thinned the crowd from what it could have been. The $10 to get in went to the non-profit organization H.E.L.P. and The Cleveland School of the Arts. Great cause, but I'm not a huge fan of charging admission to shop, especially when it's a first show. 

The Venue: The Flats East Bank is a bunch of bar/restaurants and apartments. Very new buildings. It seems like a hot spot for people to go out on dates or in groups. I would have tried some of the restaurants, but I'm moving this month, so eating out doesn't fit into my budget. It's right next to downtown and right on the water. Really a great venue for attracting crowds of people who have spending power. And we had electricity! Having lights was a necessity since the show went until 10pm, and having a fan and a way to charge my phone was an added plus. 

Other Vendors: I typically only interact with a few vendors each show, which was still pretty true. I'm starting to see some of the same vendors that I've seen at other shows, so my circle of vendors that I can chat with is expanding. My neighbors were particularly great this weekend. I've had neighbors in the past that don't say a word to me the entire show, but these artists were just lovely. On one side I had Erik with beautiful black and white photography of dancers. Check him out at danceprints.com. On the other side was Jen with gorgeous crocheted pieces (scarflettes, dream catchers, hats, etc.). Check her out at starlilycreations.com. These two were nothing but friendly and wonderful the entire time, and it was a pleasure to show next to them. I had one unpleasant vendor experience, which was with an older woman who worked in clothing.  On the way to the parking lot, the shuttle driver, she, and I were having a conversation about the fundraiser/admission aspect of the show, and she did what a lot of older women vendors have done: dismiss what I'm saying, cut me off repeatedly, all but ignore me. I want to label this as ageism, since it has occurred so regularly. Interestingly enough, these are the same women who voice their concerns that vendors are getting older and not enough young people are picking up the profession. (Of course there have been some older women vendors who have been very kind to me, too! But a significant number haven't been.) Anyway, all of the work that I saw was high quality! The show definitely had high standards!

Load In/Out: Fairly easy. The distance to the cars made things a little more difficult, but I've dealt with much worse. 

The Staff: The staff were SO GREAT! First, the workers set me at ease as they chatted with me when I arrived, and I had pleasant interactions with them for the rest of the weekend. Then, when I met the show director, Scott, he was so kind and understanding of my situation. He also complimented my work and introduced me to his wife later in the weekend (she was great too). The security personnel were wonderful, always smiling and waving back at me. I also met the electrician on site who was running around all weekend making sure everyone's electricity stayed on. He checked in with me several times throughout the weekend and we chatted. If I had had any electrical issues, I feel fairly certain that he would have made helping me out a priority. Always make friends with the staff when you can! Sometimes they even buy things from you just because you were nice to them! That's happened to me more than once. 

The Dollars: $262 for hotel; ~$40 for 1.5 tanks of gas; $300 booth fee; $39 show insurance policy; ~$1500 in purchases. That's about $860 profit. As I've said to several people, it's not excellent, but I can pay my bills this week, and that's what's important. 

Liked: The staff, the venue, the crowd, the parking shuttle, the food truck, my neighbors, the load in/out process

Didn't Like: The hotel, the admission cost. 

Overall: 8/10. Even though my profits were fairly average, considering that this was a first show, it was an EXCELLENT show. I've been to some first shows that have absolutely tanked. I'm sure that there will be some tweaking for next year's show and things will be even better. Money aside, the entire experience with the show and the people there was overwhelmingly positive and I would most certainly do it again. 

Next up is Yorkfest in York, PA, August 27-28. If you know someone in the area, send them over! I'll let you know how it goes. 

 

Allen Park Street Fair

This is the first show I'm writing about, and I was hoping it would be a good one. It wasn't. 

You can scroll past The Narrative to see more succinct reviews of specific areas. 

The Narrative: I arrived in Allen Park, MI, around 7pm on Thursday, August 4th. Check-in was from 5-8, and then I could set up for as long as I needed to. Easy check in, drove right up to my spot to unload and set up. I hadn't counted on the mosquitoes that ended up joining me for this portion of the evening, but at least I had company. I drove to my hotel, a Quality Inn & Suites near the Detroit airport that I booked through Hotels.com for $68/night ($206 for three nights after fees and all). It was clean, and their staff was friendly. My room even had a mini-fridge, a microwave, and a couch. In the morning, I enjoyed a standard continental breakfast (not exceptional, but free!) and headed to work. This show was all day Friday and Saturday. All day being 10am til 9pm, which is a painfully long day if things are not selling, which they weren't. Really, I sat there all day Friday and sold one cup. In the middle of the day, there was a sudden downpour. I had one of the side walls of my tent taken down for airflow, so I got soaked putting it up. Before I could get it up, one of the soaked curtains on that side was whipped by the wind onto a shelf, creating a domino effect in mugs. RIP, five mugs that were smashed and/or chipped in this tragedy. Unfortunately, that's something I've learned not to get too bent out of shape about. I've broken too many things at this point to give it much worry. Besides, there were more important things to worry about, like how I would look like a drowned rat for the rest of the day while interacting with potential customers. I was also supposed to have electricity (I paid $40 extra for it). However, the outlets were at the tops of the streetlight poles, and they could only be reached by a tall ladder (that I didn't have). Initially, I was sharing an outlet with the booth the town's police department had across the street from me. They were running a fancy police simulator of some kind and blew the circuit, so they unplugged us both and moved to another outlet, plugging themselves in but not me. After that, I didn't see any staff person until Saturday afternoon, so I had no way to get re-connected to electricity. So, no fans or lights for me! Like I said, I sold one cup all day on Friday, nothing more. Naturally, I was feeling pretty down, so I just got some wine and ice cream to keep me company that evening before bed. Saturday was a bit of an improvement. I sold eleven mugs, one shot glass, and seven pocket flutes/napkin rings. I also won 2nd place (who won 1st??), so I got $200! At 5pm, a church group showed up and decided that on the sidewalk next to my booth would be the perfect place to do some preaching/yelling. I'm all for free speech and all, but people maneuvered to the other side of the street to avoid them, thereby avoiding my booth as well. Also, they were LOUD. One of them came into my booth to give me a pamphlet and try to talk to me about Jesus. I just smiled and nodded, telling him exactly what I knew he wanted to hear to get him out of my booth as quickly as I could. I know Jesus is important to you, but can you not try to evangelize me while I'm working, please? It was also just so negative. All fire and brimstone, accusatory stuff. They left after three hours. At least one nice woman with them bought a mug. At the end of the night, I packed up in about two hours and went back to the hotel, watched a little tv, and left for home in the morning. I didn't go out to eat, drink, or be merry anywhere, partially because of the show hours, partially because I didn't see anywhere that really piqued my interest, and partially because I was feeling salty that the town didn't want to support me by buying my work, so I didn't want to support their economy back! All in all, I'm disappointed, and I'm ready to move on to my next show and forget all about this one. 

The Crowd: Not a huge crowd. Interesting group. Not afraid to tell me that they thought my work was too expensive. Not enough people had dogs with them. One woman suggested to me that I put leaf imprints on my pots because they do that in New York and maybe I don't know about that technique. Well, dear, I don't want my pots to be like everyone else's, sorry not sorry! The people here are not music people, a lot of them just did not get what I do. 

The Town: Strip malls. So many run-down strip malls. Not very interesting. Some cute houses though!

The Music: They had live music at two stages, one of which I could hear from my booth. The groups that played all had pretty decent sound (not actually sure if it was different groups or just one group?). They played all covers of a lot of classic songs. I didn't love it, but it was good for what it was. 

Other Vendors: Honestly, I didn't see a lot of original work. If you want generic art fair objects at low prices, this might be the place for you. 

Load In/Out: Easy! Best part of the show. I could pull my car right up to my spot, and I didn't even have to deal with the usually vendor traffic jam. 

The Staff: Extremely inattentive. I didn't have the electricity I paid for because I didn't ever see them. I saw them at check-in, then on Saturday when a couple came around for judging. That couple were so kind, though! They talked to me for a while about my business and how it was going, and I told them about it honestly. They came by twice more later in the day, once to deliver my award, and once to buy some things. So kind.  

The Dollars: $206 for hotel; ~$90 for three tanks of gas; $200 booth fee. $200 award; ~$600 in purchases. That's about $300 profit. Not good. 

Liked: My hotel, the load in/out process, that one staff couple.

Didn't Like: No electricity, no enforcement of buy/sell rules (there were definitely buy/sell vendors there, despite the rules in the show descriptions banning them), inattentive staff, low customer interest. 

Overall: 1/10. Definitely not going back. Very unimpressed. I feel that the show description given was untrue to what the show truly is. It is probably an appropriate arts festival for the area's demographic, but the description should have more accurately depicted it. Show description given with application here.  

My next show is in Cleveland, and it should be an improvement. Check back in two weeks and I'll tell you about it! 

 

 

Intro

Hi! Welcome to my blog!

Here, I'm going to be talking about my experiences as a full-time potter and what it's like to travel to arts festivals selling my work. I'm going to be very upfront about everything, including money, a topic that people tend to avoid. Hopefully this will give people some idea of what this career choice is like (as I jumped into it blind!), and, if nothing else, will be a place for me record my experiences and keep any interested parties informed. 

My goal is to write following each show that I attend. I'll review the show and any places I visit to eat or to entertain myself while I'm at the show. I will also include some of my favorite quotes from artists or festival attendees (which will probably be a bit of a venting section). 

My next show is the first weekend in August, so come back then to see how it went!