This summer, I had the opportunity to help a friend sell costume jewelry at a local Barn Sale.
“You should sell your canvases,” she offered.
I thought, How hard can it be to set up for a festival? I might as well try it.
The day before the show, I got $10 in singles, and I filled a baggie with nuts and fruit and yogurt.
Before the sun came up, I drove over to Sara’s house and helped to load her car with tables and chairs, bins and shelves, baskets and… oh yes, the humongous canvas canopy.
When we started driving, I realized that I no idea where we were going. As I followed Sara’s car, I cranked up the radio and enjoyed the morning breeze. But it was August, people. After we’d unpacked our cars, moved them to an adjacent field, and hiked back to our reserved spot, I noticed my shirt was sticking to my neck. It was hot. Damn hot. I wished I’d thought to bring a sundress.
The rest of the day was punctuated with little moments that kept reminding me I didn’t know anything about how to prepare for an outdoor festival.
Our sale took place in and around a barn.
In the middle of a field.
It would have been a good idea to have brought sunscreen. And wasp spray. And a fly swatter. A hat would have been a good idea too. And tissues. And lip balm. And Advil. I had no idea I’d need all those things to have a comfortable outdoor festival experience. Sara, a seasoned vendor, had everything: safety pins, zip ties, scissors, twine and tape, even bungee cords.
Did I mention I set up my display in 7 minutes?
It’s not enough to have a quality product. One must also have a degree in merchandising.
Besides a freshly pressed tablecloth, it’s necessary to have clear signage and extra-enticing displays.
I didn’t have any of these things.
Luckily, Sara how to artistically arrange her bling in bowls and baskets. She heaped bracelets on silver trays and draped scarves over wrought-iron racks. Sara’s tent was packed all day with women who couldn’t get enough of her inventory.
At one point, someone touched one of my canvases.
And then put it back down.
Long story short?
That day, I sold nothing.
Not one thing.
I pouted, I’m never doing another festival as long as I live.
Four months later another opportunity presented itself for me to sell my stuff, and well… it seemed like a good idea to give the festival thing a second chance.
This time, the event was indoors. I felt more confident. No bugs. No heat. Plus, I had a better display and a pile of cute business cards. I’d brought plenty of change, and I was prepared to take credit cards.
They say you only need one customer. That one person to make your day worthwhile, and guess what? My customer showed up. She was looking for some special gifts, and I was just thrilled to have been able to help her with her holiday gift-giving.
I’m still trying to decide if I want to continue doing festivals. I certainly have a new respect for artists who participate in them regularly. It takes a lot of work to research and prepare for a show, not to mention the labor involved with setting up for and traveling to and from a show. You also have to have a kind of mental fortitude because strangers sometimes make unintentionally hurtful comments.
Right now, the honest truth is that as long as I’m connecting with other people and making some money while doing it, well… that’s a great day for me.
What’s something you’ve done that had a sharp learning curve?
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Oh, and it’s a good day for Lisa Kravetz! She commented on my blog and won the HOME canvas. I couldn’t be happier for her. Lisa, please email me at email@example.com and provide me with your snail mail address so I can send that canvas out to you as soon as possible.
please tweet me @rasjacobson