Not long ago, I participated in an art fair out of town. I haven’t done outdoor shows for some time because they require schlepping a tent, display panels, tables, and all my product, either jewelry or digital art or both, and I am not physically strong enough to do all that. My tent doesn’t fit into the Saab story, anyway. For this show, another artist friend and I went together; she packed up the tent and boards in her van and I packed her ceramics in my car. Fortunately, I was in a sort of remission from the myasthenia, and was able to pull off the two days without any difficulty.
The zombie apocalypse is now. Seriously, I don’t know what is the matter with people. Why do they even come out? As visitors passed by our booths, faces glued to phones, checking messages, we greeted them with a cheery “good morning,” which most never bothered to acknowledge. Those few who did come into our booths asked polite questions and commented on what they liked, but they just didn’t open their wallets. The trend continued through both days.
When the patrons don’t shop, we artists have lots of time to see each other’s “stuff.” This can get us into a lot of trouble if we’re not careful.
As I wandered off from my empty booth, I noticed a ceramicist with a huge inventory. Pottery is the weak link in my chain. His work was lovely, but more what I would consider production pottery, rather than fine art. Nothing wrong with that, I just prefer something a bit more unique, one-of-a-kind. My collection of hand-made ceramics, traded at art fairs, some from when I owned my gallery, a few actual purchases, takes up more room than I had realized. Two years ago, when I was intending to move, I packed away my favorite pieces and put aside those that had not stood the test of time. I had estimated that I might have 35 pieces or so. By the time I finished, 67 pieces were safely packed away and another 12 were on the table for the estate sale I planned to have. (I have since added eight more pieces.)
This artisan’s booth was chock full of the usual art fair merchandise—bowls, colanders, mugs, cups, vases, chip & dip bowls and platters. Each one was meticulously detailed and beautifully, carefully glazed. His colors were delicious; I knew I would come away with something. As I looked around, I noticed a lonely little bowl stuck off in a corner, with a tag that said “reduced.” The potter approached me after I picked it up to examine it for flaws or any other reason why it would be discounted.
“Yeah, that’s my mistake of the week. As I was getting ready to glaze, I dripped some as the wheel was turning and I got all those spots. I don’t like spots, but I figured I’d fire it, anyway. I’ll take another five bucks off just to get it out of here. Fellow artist discount.”
I saw surprise register on his face as I turned to him, holding the bowl. Boy, howdy, did I love his mistake of the week and it must have shown in my expression. Soft teal greens and hints of blue, an exquisite, delicate shape, it was definitely a one-of-a-kind creation. As I stroked the textured interior and admired the wonderful splattered pattern, I knew it was “the one.”
“Save this for me. Soon as I make enough to cover it, I’ll be back.”
Back in my booth, I encountered a woman with a young girl studying one of my less expensive, small pieces. Her daughter was tugging on her sleeve. “No Mom, THIS one. I like this one.” Dutifully adjusting her view to her daughter’s choice, her eyes lit up. “Can you tell me how these are done? I love them. I think I’ll take these two.”
Packing up her purchases, I explained the process to her in basic terms. She and her daughter thanked me and took my card. Almost before they were out of my booth, I was on my way to the potter’s to make my own purchase. Five minutes later, with package in hand, I returned, optimistically anticipating more enthusiastic buyers, but hours passed without another sale. I began to question the wisdom of spending the first money I’d made on yet another pot, instead of waiting until I’d at least made my booth fee and expenses.
Toward the end of the first day, a sudden rush of guests passed through the fair and I was fortunate enough to sell enough to cover my booth fee. I hoped for better sales the second day. My artist friend and I set off for home, eschewing the Interstate for a back road with powerful rural scenery. A magical sunset guided us along the way. As I snapped pictures over the steering wheel with the camera in my phone, a profound sense of peace settled over me. (I don’t recommend or endorse taking pictures while driving.)
By Sunday morning, I had adjusted my attitude and was in love with my pretty new bowl, now displayed in my living room, along with seven other pieces on the coffee table in front of the couch. I had made my booth fee, covered my expenses (and my purchase) and had a few bucks left over by show’s end. Not a great show, as they go, but anytime I find something that calls my name, it’s a good show.