I’m just about recovered from my first art festival this past weekend. I could use a few more hours of sleep, but I’ll catch back up eventually. So how did it go? Splendidly! I exceeded my sales goals, and the feedback I received was way better than I expected. Not that I expected it to be bad. I figured there would be a relatively small group of people who really connected to my work and a big group who weren’t really interested, but more on that later. The weather ended up being beautiful all weekend, and overall I think it was a success. I planned on visiting and taking photos of other artists and musicians, but the reality is that I barely left my tent. So instead I've put together a wrap up for those that are curious, and touch on a few things that I discovered through this process.
Putting together the display for my tent wasn’t an easy task. What I had in my head wasn’t easily achieved with soft walls. The perfectionist in me had grand ideas for a 10’x10’ tent. I also didn’t want to invest a ton of money in display boards and hard walls for my first festival. I ended up securing unfinished boards to my tent sides, and hung my artwork from them. I kept the palette white and everything very simple. Overall I think the idea worked well with a few drawbacks.
The all white and simplified display was a nice contrast to the other artists around me. I was easy to spot from far away (at night my tent glowed) and lots of people commented on how different (good different, not bad different) it was. I would regularly see someone walking across the square, stop, lean in, and change directions to check out my work. Also, I was in a prime location. I’m not sure how I scored that spot, but it was ideal.
The drawback was that my artwork didn’t contrast well with the background. I also didn’t get the shadows like I do when they are hung indoors on a wall. I love the white on white appeal for the subtle texture it gives, but I know a lot of people like that high contrast look. I pulled down a piece and set it on my black chair, and the buyer commented on how great it looked against the black background. Maybe next time I will keep it neutral but bring in some black and gray for contrast.
Working and selling my artwork online prevents me from seeing how people react and engage with my work. It was something I didn’t even know I was missing. I quickly learned that the majority of the visitors to my tent weren’t exactly sure what they were looking at, some thought it was painted or etched glass. They would stand, put their nose against the glass, and stare at my pieces trying to figure it all out. When I explained that it was hand cut paper, I usually received the funniest exclamations and facial expressions. I'm sure I could have posted a sign labeling my work, but it was much more fun and engaging to have a conversation with my visitors. Everyone was so interested in my process and wanted to learn more about my work. To say it warmed my heart is the understatement of the year.
Also, the huge map of Lafayette was a great idea. It pulled people into my tent, and most people viewed it as a challenge to find their location. Visitors would linger to figure out the streets and pinpoint their home. Who knew my work could hold an adult's attention without screens or funny cat videos! (This large map is still available if anyone is interested.) Even though I was in Lafayette, my New Orleans inspired pieces were the first to sell. People just love that city and for good reason.
Will I do it again? Probably. The unpredictability of the weather really stressed me out, and the few times the wind became strong I pictured my tent and months of hard work flying away. There isn't much I can really do about it, other than, secure my tent and artwork as well as possible. I think next time I will do a one day event. Three days is tiresome, and it wasn’t easy finding help for the whole weekend. Although being at such a big festival did give me lots of exposure. I’m not sure how other artists do this every weekend, especially traveling to get to and from each event. I’m tired just thinking about it.
The overwhelmingly positive feedback I received from visitors, other artists, and designers was unbelievable. The festival gave me a chance to share my work with people who appreciated the love and patience I put into my pieces. I think I gained quite a few fans and made new friends over this past weekend. Some whom I hope to work with in the future. A great success in my book.