The title of this post is actually a quote from C.S. Lewis, “failures are finger posts on the road to achievement”, a phrase I need to keep hammered into my skull as I continue experimenting with this idea of publicly exhibiting my work in art/craft type venues.
This weekend was my first ever attempt at running an exhibit tent in an outdoor art-craft/music festival in the Kankakee area. To be sum it up in a sentence, if you measure the outcome based on the basic formula of Income – Expense = Profit, the show was an unequivocal bust.
I had been planning and anticipating this event for the past couple of months and I can honestly say I approached it with enthusiasm and a sense of optimism. Even my wife was reminding me at times to keep my expectations in check. My plan was simple, present a professional image and drive business opportunities for photography sessions, and convince people to buy fine art prints from a quality exhibitor.
I started exhibiting in a mall in the Kankakee / Bourbonnais region earlier this year, but up to this point, the expenses and time spent in this particular market have been running way ahead of any genuine income. It tends to be a sporadic market at best. I was fully aware of the market dynamics going into this particular event, so I recognized I had a pretty good chance of getting skunked. I went ahead anyway since I needed to get myself started down that road.
In the run up to the show, when I wasn’t busy with my regular work week, I spent whatever time I could to research art fair strategies, display recommendations and presentation tips. Wanting to do things right, after I was armed with knowledge, I set myself on a mission to acquire a decent exhibit tent, nice display racks and professional signage, all the while devising a master plan in my mind as to how it would all come together in a cohesive display. I even had to contemplate how to pack all of this “stuff” into a modestly sized Mazda 6.
Though I was buying conservatively, it definitely wasn’t “cheap” to pull a photo exhibit tent together. But hey, you got to invest if you are going to get any gain, right? Of course for all the planning I did, I would ultimately have to face the realities of weather and the vagaries of a market with a speculative, if not somewhat elusive, interest in art.
On the weather front, Illinois is having possibly one of the most inclement spring seasons ever and the week prior to the show was prolifically wet. I mean tropical wet! The week-long rains left the grounds around the exhibit area quite moist and made the air heavy and damp. The forecast of “partly sunny” veered heavily towards “persistently gloomy” and over the course of the exhibit day, the damp air progressed into a chilly, sporadic drizzle. It was June 2nd and we were shivering at 55 degrees! Brrrrr!
As far as the people at the show, well, what can I say? One really big lesson learned here; Make sure you really know what the event is geared to and know the audience that frequents it. Don’t take the word of event organizers about what the show may hold as a promise. Their goal is to get booths on the grounds and draw audiences. On the next event, I will try to look up prior year exhibitors.