It’s the beginning of the crazy holiday season for artists, crafters, makers and other creatives and I just wanted to give a shout out to all of us who are heading into a busy couple of months. There are art shows every weekend, holiday concerts to play, events and end-of-year fundraisers and all of them are piled up in the next few weeks.
I had a show on Saturday, which was great, but on Sunday I spent most of the day feeling like I’d been runover by a truck. The show was awesome, but there’s a lot more that happens than the 6 hours you see me smiling in my booth.
I spent the week leading up to the show making things. Every artist I know does it; you frantically make inventory up until the night before because you feel like you need just those few more things. I waited impatiently for things to arrive: the packaging for my coaster kits, the ink cartridge because my printer was low, the business cards that I didn’t realize I was almost out of. I posted to social media. I sewed velvet keyfobs, packaged new stickers, made some new scarves, assembled kits, and added stickers and price tags to things.
Wednesday, I ran to the bank to get change. I updated the firmwear on my card reader gizmo. I charged my backup battery. I double checked the sales tax rate and the settings were all right and updated a few items in the checkout system.
Thursday, I took the tags off all of my scarves and ironed them. They get a little creased after sitting in storage between shows, so I gave them all a little fluff and press. Friday, I organized everything so I could pack it into the car. I double checked my inventory against Etsy to make sure I wasn’t going to accidentally oversell something I was low on.
Saturday I got up at 5am to get everything packed and the car loaded. There’s an elaborate system of what order to pack everything into the car so I can see out the back windows, everything fits and nothing gets damaged. The grid wall displays I use weigh approximately 11-million pounds so it takes a lot of trips. This venue had a small flight of stairs so every bag, box, grid and display piece went up 8 stairs and back down again at the end of the day. (No need to go to the gym that day.) It takes me about 2 hours to get everything carried in, set up, signs hung and ready to go.
Staying upbeat, friendly, chatty and saying the same “Hi, let me know if you have any questions” over and over takes a lot of energy. I love in-person shows and getting to chat with people about what I do, but it takes a lot of stamina to do that for an entire day. (I talk about that in this post about an introvert’s guide to surviving an art show.)
Do I get to wander around and see the show? Nope. Hardly ever. I saw a couple of friends and we waved at each other and flashed thumbs-up from across the room. I hear there were food trucks, but I had an apple and some granola bars at my booth and my thermos full of tea. I had awesome booth neighbors and we chatted when things were slow.
At the end of the day, packing up also takes about 90 minutes and then another hour or so when I get home to put it all away in the garage and my studio. And today I re-organize and re-inventory so I can update my Etsy shop, order anything I am low on, and do minor repairs (tags get ripped or dirty, something needs a thread trimmed or fixed before I put it away again.) At some point I will enter everything into my bookkeeping system.
I always post a thank you online to the people who attended and organized any show I do. I’m going to add an additional thank you here to the people who were kind. A little kindness to yourself (like sleeping in that next day after a show) is important. But also, remembering that every artist you see at a show has busted their tail feathers to get there. We are tired and probably didn’t get to eat any lunch. A little kindness like laughing at the zipper bags and telling me how much you love the sheep pun, asking a question because you want to learn more, or saying “I recognize your stuff!” is what makes all the difference.