I participated in two outdoor events recently. The first was the Linvilla Orchard’s Arts and Music Festival on September 19th and 20th. This was for two full days, 9am-5pm, and has a typical attendance of 3,000 people for the weekend. I learned a great deal in my preparation for this event. Firstly, I did research on what items I needed in order to sell my art at a festival. I found a helpful amount of blogs by other artists and vendors that provided a checklist of supplies as well as other information about participating in art festivals. This one was particularly helpful. I think the number one thing I learned is the importance of accounting for wind! Even if it’s not a terribly windy day, an occasional breeze can send unsecured items flying. I found several supplies particularly helpful for the wind factor. Number one was museum putty. I used this to secure my artwork to the various display items in my booth. Number two was packing tape. I primarily used this to tape down my table cloths, but it also came in handy for holding some easels in place. Number three was coins! It turns out that the artwork on wood panels that I had displayed on shelves are not only easily blown over, but they are also front-heavy, so I secured them in place with museum putty and a few pennies under the front kept them from tilting forward (coin idea credit to my lovely boyfriend and assistant for these events). We also used coins taped to the bottom of my sign to keep it weighted down. And finally we found that rocks behind some items came in handy for holding them in place. Yes, It was a real MacGyver mission at times.
I signed up and was accepted into the festival about a month before it took place. Since this was my first festival, it was a big project getting all my inventory and display items together. I took a week off from my full-time job to dedicate to festival preparation. I learned from my research that it was a good idea to have various items and price ranges at festivals, so I decided I needed to come up with more inventory rather than just prints, artwork and cards. I came across an idea for how to make jewelry pendants with my artwork using scrabble tiles from Sun and Moon Crafts. I happen to be very lucky to have access to an awesome wood shop at my partner’s parent’s house, so I decided to make my own wood backings for pendants instead of using up perfectly good scrabble tiles! It was a time intensive process, but I was very happy with the results.I wanted to keep display costs to a minimum, and was lucky enough to have two close friends and family members that have participated in arts and craft festivals, who were gracious enough to let me borrow items for my display. I knew with certainty that I wanted a cupboard that could stand on its own to display my jewelry, and luckily my family friend had one for me to use!
And, although it was not a requirement, I wanted an EZ-up 10 x 10 foot Canopy tent for my booth to help shield it from the sun and weather, as well as to help make my booth look a bit more professional. My wonderful sister-in-law had a perfect tent for me to use for this purpose. I decided against purchasing the grid walls that are typically used to hang artwork, simply to keep costs down. I also purchased a couple of used wooden crates from the orchard for my display. If you are planning to be a vendor, I highly recommend checking in with your local farmers and orchards to see if you can purchase a couple of these wooden crates for your display purposes as well; they are multi-functional (can be used to carry items and display items), they are stackable, and they can be used at various heights. You can also buy them new from various department stores, but it will cost a significant amount more.
Of course I was excited to see how everything worked once I had all of my display items, so I did a practice run and staged all of my items in a way that I thought made the most sense. I was glad that we practiced, because it gave me a better feel for how much time everything would take, and if I needed any additional items.
Because Linvilla Orchards is a great place for families with little children, I felt I needed a final item that kids would enjoy. I talked it over with my family friend who has participated in festivals before, and she mentioned that she used to make magic wands for festivals. Being that my tagline is “The World is Full of Magic” I decided that was perfect! So I got busy painting and assembling close to 100 magic wands. This was a bit of over-kill in the end, but I am happy that I had them, because I ended up handing them out to some of the children, especially the little girls wearing princess outfits or tutus! I think my favorite quote from a little girl was when she exclaimed “Magic Wands, are you kidding me?!”
During the actual event, I learned a great deal as well. This particular show was interesting because, since Linvilla has so many other attractions, most people that came to Linvilla that weekend were actually not there for the art festival. Nonetheless, people walked through and admired and occasionally did buy some stuff. My first purchase was actually of one of my originals!
I also got to know the other vendors near my booth and they shared information about art shows that they thought I should try out. This particular art festival was not specific to “fine arts” so I was amongst mostly crafters and very few actual fine artists. I feel in the end this actually had its advantages, because I was offering something unique that stood out. I also learned a bit more about my customer-base, which were mostly girls in their early teens. They particularly loved my prints and loved asking me questions about my artwork. It was super fun getting to meet customers in person!
One final thing I learned is that it is worth investing in a more supportive chair. I spent a great deal of time sitting in a not-so-supportive folding chair and my back was not very happy afterwards. Many vendors chose to have a director’s chair, which would have been a better choice.
Overall, I had a great time. It was a ton of work, but worth the effort. Doing all the prep work helped me breeze through another event I participated in this past Saturday at local arboretum. Over the course of these past couple weeks, I met a ton of people, learned some valuable lessons, and even met someone interested in consigning my work in her store. Now I need to sort out which events I should do next!