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.