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may 6 {behind the scenes of my 1st art show}

Whew!  What a weekend.  I spent pretty much every waking moment either making art, immersed in art, or on an artful adventure.  Not a bad way to spend a jam packed 48 hours, but I'm exhausted in that oh-so-good, filled-to-the-brim kind of way.  The weather was sun shiny and stellar and perfectly cooperative for such things, even this morning's misty fog was a perfect, slow and easy start to the week after such crazy goodness.

Yesterday's show was a great experience on so many levels, from preparation to post show follow-up.  Mostly, it went fairly smoothy and the new adventure has stirred up a whole new avenue of possibilities for my creative life.  I am trying to slowly let it all sink in while savoring all the juiciness and momentum that's been stirred up.  It's what I love most about artful living, that one endeavor always shakes loose ideas and inspiration for another.  I'm looking forward to seeing what emerges from this experience!

Here's a bit of what I learned from participating in my very first art show:

1.  I actually really enjoyed the production work and final preparation.  One of the reasons I never wanted to do a show (or sell in my Etsy shop for that matter), is I thought that churning out products en mass to sell would be kind of a drag and a drain on my creativity.  Though actually it was fun to conceptualize and present my work from a different perspective.  Figuring out how I was going to show it was equally as fun as making it in the first place.  It was a creative project in and of itself, and used a lot of my old design and organizational skills for label making and other marketing bits, which I loved.  It was also fun thinking about the display and putting it all together, and it made me think that I might really like a merchandising job someday.

2.  Quality and consistency over quantity was key.  I was really careful to not dive into too many ideas as far as offerings (and I had a billion flying through my head), and to tried to keep things simple with the consistent through-line of just my mixed media work and photography.  It was tempting to get all crafty and have a lot of different fun little things to sell, but I realized pretty quickly, especially with such a short deadline that that would be a crazy-making and very bad idea.  As it was, I was working all weekend, both night and day up until it was time to pack up and go Sunday morning.  Next show, more time will be a blessing! But at least I know I can put together a good show on short time and little money, if I have to.  I think I only spent about $25 in supplies and everything else was sourced or repurposed from my stash.

3.  I actually have a body of work.  I have been making and creating things for years and I never really considered that I had a specific style or a point of view, or even enough work to really call it a "body of work" so to speak.  What I've made in the past, in addition to my most recent work when put together in one display clearly showed that I clearly have a distinct point of view and similar themes in all of my art.  And the work, as far as product design, is exponential...the more paintings and photographs I had (and I always considered my photos as peripheral but realized they are art too), the more different things can be made from those pieces - the possibilities being endless.  I know all of this is pretty obvious, but I never though about it in any depth before because I wasn't ever called to.  I was focused more on Wishstudio as a brand and not necessarily my own work as an artist.  It was a very pleasant surprise to stumble upon.  And now, I not only have a cohesive body of work, I have a bit of product stock as well.

4.  I could not have done it alone (and nor would I want to).  The biggest part of my success in this whole venture was absolutely, my family.  Alex held down the fort and ran the ship while I was locked up in the studio.  I appreciate so much the fact that when he's in charge I don't have to think or worry about anything and all and my brain cells can be put toward the task at hand.  He is pretty much made to be a stay-at-home dad and easily shifts into this mode doing fun things with the kids, all kinds of projects around the house, and even cooking and cleaning.  I know, I'm a lucky girl.  He even drove into the city to see me and take the kids out for ice cream.  Owen was a huge help as well by spending the entire day with me at the show.  Not only did he make a few fabulous things to sell from his own art, he manned the table, got us drinks, fed the parking meter, had great ideas for setting up the display, cheered me on with such sweet encouragement, and kept me in such good company I just wanted to hug him every minute in gratitude.  I thought that he'd get totally bored and at the end would tell me that he wasn't really into the whole deal, but he actually had a blast and is excited to do it again.  It was incredibly rewarding in and of itself, just to have shared this experience with him.  It makes my heart so happy.

5.  I believe in my work.  There is always the question about whether or not you think your work is good enough, or if people will like it, or if it's as good as other people's work and so on, but I realized while sitting behind my table with my art for all to see that I am really comfortable and proud of what I have to offer.  Even though I only sold one print, it felt good to stand beside my work and see how it really is a representation of who I am, what I have to say, and how I want to exists in the world.  Just realizing that and not feeling like I was only there to sell stuff to a crowd, made me see how my art and putting myself out there truly makes me happy.  The belief in my work outweighed the fear of judgement or the possibility of rejection.  It was pretty powerful.

6.  I'd do a few things differently.  Now I know to plan as far ahead as possible.  While 5 hours of sleep was what it took to get things done, I know that I can and should avoid really short deadlines if possible.  Since I discovered that I do like studio time in production mode, I know that I can plan and dedicate time to slowly building my product line and art offerings.  I also need to figure out a tracking system for sales and inventory.  It's not my favorite part of things, but I can see how it's essential to knowing how to best be prepare for a show.  The last thing is, I have to create some real marketing materials.  This isn't new news, and I have actually had this piece on my to-do list for a long time, but it is finally time to put some effort into creating business cards, packaging, and other small branding pieces to pull everything together.  I did this show on the fly, but in doing so I knew that it was just a temporary fix and that I will have to invest in a little more planning.  Luckily, I enjoy this piece as well. The harder part is mentally embracing and committing to the work and the financial investment that it takes to take this next step.  I realize that by only doing this on an as needed basis was a way of keeping things smaller and safe, and that I'm ultimately selling myself short doing things bit by bit by creating such a small container for my work.  It's not that I need to go into mass production mode, but I need to invest and grow in a more rounded way.


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