How I Chose to Display my Art. . .Finally!

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Every artist and graphic designer can tell you hard it is to brand one’s own work with a logo. Ever notice how easier it is to clean up someone else’s mess-(sans resentment that THEY didn’t do it) than your own? Somehow we get constricted, to the point blood flow stops finding it’s way up to our brain and we’re stuck in the awful limbo of Procrastination Zone when forced to commit to something involved with our identity.

I have a friend who recently put a pitch out to an online service for a logo design. When gathered at her Hannukah dinner she asked for input from family and friends. This exercise made it easier for her to pluck the winning concept out of the heap of other wonderful designs. the result? Fabulous!

But sometimes feedback isn’t always possible. Case-in-point. I plan to sign up for a few Open Markets this Spring, my goal is to do this one: Brooklyn Flea and this one Though my life would be much easier sitting at home and enjoying online sales, I need to get my work out in front of the public, get their feedback, see what sells. But how I visually present my work is key for sales. Figuring out presentation cut off the inspirational flow of blood to my brain, and I was stuck for weeks in Procrastination Zone. After all, I need to prepare now during these sleepy winter months so I’m good to go this spring.

I’d done an Indie Craft Fair in October of 2010. Unfortunately the venue left something to be desired, we were stuck in a dark hole of a club-kind of reminded me of a Van gogh painting-with little more than a few dim light bulbs and holiday lights to shine on our creations. Fortunately I brought a handful of branches with built-in battery operated rice lights. I popped the branches in an antique metal milk container and my corner lit up-not garishly so-but the effect was nice, the artisan to my right was thrilled as her booth benefited from the twinkling lights.

But the artisan to my left look perturbed. I’d offer her a few branches and she declined. She created lovely handbags from recycled cloth using cut off-tree branches for a closure. She artfully used brown paper bags for her tags. Only problem was she stood in the dark with her unlit inventory, people came by squinting-I surmised she felt so in-tune with being green that she didn’t feel it necessary to make it easier for potential customers to see her work. Besides, all my batteries are re-generated in a battery re-charger when they lose their zip, so I AM green too. At the end of the day, she sold nothing. Whereas I and the artisan to my right had sales.

But as I prepare for bigger shows this Spring, read: Pay higher booth fees, I worry about my success. This was the crux of my block. Once I figured out the source of my block I looked at the pile of baskets I’d acquired to hold my “merch”, I moved forward. I love the shabby chic color of off-white. But finding the right shade of ecru in spray can form-okay I”m a bad person-but I haven’t used spray can paint since 1986-proved difficult. So I finally went with white. White is the color of a blank canvas, and after all and isn’t that what one needs to show case their work? And my work is colorful so I don’t want a cacophony of colors to assault the buyer’s eye.

In other words think of something clever, but that doesn’t take away from your items.

I’ve also been to shows where artisans have simply plunked down their folded up hand-painted silk scarfs on a table. This lack of presentation visually suggests a flea market appeal, whereas a vintage mannequin artfully wearing a scarf–or scarves draped over a basket would’ve unconsciously told the viewer that the artisan valued his/her work. The more expensive the craft show, the more you see how successful artists/artisans present their wares.

I’m still in the throes of painting these damn baskets white, two of the larger ones were bright orange to begin with. I fear I stripped a layer of ozone while spraying the smaller baskets, so I’m now hand-painting the blasted things.

Because I love the retro look, and it figures strongly in my button and magnet designs, I purchased two wooden 7UP bottle containers. They’re white and come compartmentalized to hold a variety of my work. As luck would have it I discovered a vintage white 7UP cooler-at an antique mall in Pennsylvania in December. Husband-expert noticed it too. We purchased it forgetting we’d walked five blocks to the mall, and poor husband carried it on his back all the way to sister and brother-in-law’s home. If it’s vintage it’ll be sturdy AND heavier. Luckily we own hand trucks for transporting goods from truck to booth.

My photo above this post shows a few props plus some described here that I plan to use this spring. Where else to find props? Try Craigslist, Etsy-I got my second 7UP holder there, and eBay.

Now all I have to get is a Caravan pop-up tent. . .Caravan being the brand recommended by many ETSY artists for the quality over other tent brands.

And before I forget-check here for a pennant banner freebie you can use for your show display:FREE PENNANT BANNER TEMPLATE

If you have some clever ideas on how your display your work, do share in the comment section!

Here are a list of things that I carry to shows for set up:
• Fisherman’s line-clear line in two different sizes to hang pictures
• Tape: Masking and regular
• Guestbook: this book requests emails
• Hooks-all kinds including the ones that attach to ceiling moldings for gallery venues that don’t allow hammering hooks into walls
• Sketchbook-to work on designs if things get slow
• Change Apron-to wear to carry money securely in
• Hammer
• Pliers
• Regular wire
• Props for display
• Excel sheet of inventory at show, cross off when sold
• Small, discreet price stickers
• Spackle-comes in a roll on stick when taking down pictures roll over hole made in wall by nail
• Nails/tacks
• Battery Operated Lights
• Pens/Pencils
• Hand Truck
• Glue or Expoxy to fix anything that comes apart
• Pins-safety pins, stick pins-just in case
• Magic Marker/cardstock-for quicky signage
• Tablecloths
• Snacks/bottled water
• The Square to take credit card purchases
Be sure your props are all labeled with your name/ce# on them, i.e. “property of–”

About suzanneurban

ABOUT MOI: I was born in San Francisco, California to highly intelligent parents, and my sister is pretty darn smart too. It's unclear if I inherited the smart genes. I graduated with a B.A. in Art from Marymount College Over a couple of decades, I illustrated and designed for newspapers, greeting card companies, in corporate graphic departments and publishing empires. I reside with my antique dealer husband and two house rabbits in a the third oldest home in Connecticut–(honest!-no ghosts-bummer). My husband will be joining ETSY with his own shop called: "VintageUrban" soon. ARTIST STATEMENT: I seek to amuse. When I come up with something more profound I'll put it in here. KUDOS: Over the years my work in various forms has been published in: NYTimes, DollWorld, Contemporary Doll Collector, Doll Castle News, SCBWI magazine, Color! magazine, Jane Green's Down to Earth Blog, Doll World, Scholastics, Westport Magazine, Mail Me Art, and more. In 2007 I was invited to do something for the State Capitol's Holiday Tree by Governor Rell. I chose to needle felt a bear ornament rather than hang from the tree myself. I named him "Nutmeg" as Connecticut is the "Nutmeg" state. ASSOCIATIONS: I'm the founder of or Original Doll Artisans of Connecticut-we're on Facebook. I'm also a member of SCBWI-Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Licensing- my designs are finding favor with licensing clients my work will soon be seen on needlepoint canvases and gourmet ice cream labels. That's about it. Amusingly yours, Suzanne Search Engine Submission - AddMe
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2 Responses to How I Chose to Display my Art. . .Finally!

  1. Holly says:

    Great thoughts Suzanne! If any of your items are magnets you could display them on old cookie sheets. I certainly wish you the best on your sales!

    • suzanneurban says:

      Great idea! Now why didn’t I think about that? I’m going to use the vintage 7UP cooler to display them, cooler to heavy to lug down to basement where our photo studio is!

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