Creative Entrepreneurship

The Science of Art

2013 Show Layout 404

Maplewood Y Craft Show organizer Sara Senour invited me to her house yesterday to help her determine the layout of the October 12 3rd Annual Maplewood Y Craft Show.

As you can see from the photo above, we went old-school cut & paste, so to speak. We wrote each artist’s name and space requirement on a Post-It Note, color coded by discipline. (We used blue for a variety of the non-major disciplines so don’t be concerned by the number of blues next to each other.)

There’s a real science to laying out a show. You want to make sure it’s high impact and visually appealing from the entrance. That’s nothing against any artist not in the front, not at all, but some pieces are more eye-catching and just display better. We know a lot of the artists that were juried into this show (by 3 independent artists not associated with the show). We know what their “booth” looks like. That stuff comes from experience – on the part of the artist who has been tweaking and improving their “booth” space over time. And it comes from the experience Sara and I have had, being artists ourselves and participating in and visiting lots of shows.

As an artist who has been near the entrance on occasion, I can tell you that doesn’t mean it’s a slam dunk for high sales. I’ve had many people tell me they like my work but they want to look around more and get the lay of the land before making any purchases. Of course I wish they’d buy on the spot, but I understand, – that’s how I like to explore when I’m a customer at a show!

So working from Sara’s floor plan of the gym at the Y, which included doors, emergency exits and electrical outlets, we laid out the “knowns” first – as in who wanted a corner spot. Then we filled in artists around the perimeter, just alternating colors. Then we filled in the 2 islands, putting the people who requested (and would pay a little extra for) the 2-sided ends of each island. Then we filled in the rest of the islands.

Then we got down to the most important task in laying out an art & craft show – making sure “like” artists are not near each other. For example, two jewelers should not be next to each other, even if their styles and techniques are completely different.

This took some serious thinking and shuffling! We also offer half-spaces so we had to make sure those worked out correctly.

We were pretty sure we had the final version but decided to take a break and then take a look at it one more time with fresh eyes.

When I arrived at Sara’s house, she gave me a little tour (she has amazing flower gardens). Then I asked to see her studio space so she took me downstairs to see where she makes her gorgeous pottery.

As she showed me around she showed me a pot she’d thrown that morning that was drying in front of a fan. “That’s for you”, she told me.

“For the Pharmacy?” We sell Sara’s pottery at the Fairport Pharmacy Gift Shop.

It turns out she meant for me personally! I’d forgotten all about this but a couple of months ago I gave Sara a bag of rubber stamps that I thought would be good for embossing pottery. These came from my dad’s downsizing his craft supplies and a few from me. I wouldn’t let Sara pay me so she offered to make me a vase. Perfect!

She had been drying this vase to the perfect greenware stage for my arrival and wanted me to do the embossing, using the stamps I’d given her. I hesitated and then agreed to give it a go.

Sara Senour Studio

So when we took a break from working on the show, we headed down to Sara’s studio and I got busy!

I had a potter’s wheel and kiln many years ago so I had a little experience. Sara let me practice on another piece of clay to get a feel for how much pressure I should use. I used 4 different stamps and created bands of designs. In a matter of minutes I was having fun and barking orders at my assistant, “Do you have that tool that’s for cutting noodles – you know, like a pizza cutter but wiggly?” “Where are your carving tools?”

The designs aren’t perfectly executed, but it’s definitely me. Sara was very patient and helped me rub out mistakes and start over. She promised to do a little clean up, like where the sides of the stamp made a slight impression.

Then came glaze decision time. Sara is the master of glazing! I should have taken a picture of her wall of glaze ingredients – it’s a perfect grid, so you know I was diggin’ that! It seemed a shame to bypass all her wonderful color combinations, but the embossed design is so delicate that it would have gotten lost with too much color. So we decided on a clear white glaze. When I asked if Sara could “antique” it with an underglaze that would define the design a little bit, she said that’s just what she was thinking. She said she’ll experiment on some practice pieces first.

Then we went back upstairs and reviewed our Post-It Note layout. We were still happy with it!

After taking a tour of Tom and Patty Zachman’s studios last week (he works with fused glass and she does enameling and cloisonne), I feel like I’m the host of a TV show, visiting artists in their natural habitat. One of my goals has been to organize a studio tour, where customers would get a map with a variety of Rochester Artisan studios marked and spend the day visiting whoever interested them. And of course, making purchases from us! If other artist studios look anything like mine, I should warn them 6 months in advance – start clearing a path now!


Comments on: "The Science of Art" (5)

  1. Norma Stahlman said:

    That is all so interesting as I have never even thought about how shows are organized. Of course, I only attend them as I am not a creative artist, I leave that to you dear daughter.


  2. I’m especially impressed that you know how to spell cloisonne. This is a very well written and interesting post. Clearly, you have a talent for putting thought to words and words to paper. Also, love the picture of you stamping your pot. Now I want to do one. Do you supposed Sara barters?


  3. I love your pot – the shape and the stamped designs. Can’t wait to see it when it comes out of the kiln.


  4. Great post! I love the back story of show organizing. Seems you had a great day. Organizing, creating, brainstorming… What fun. I think a studio your would be super cool, I LOVE that idea, but yeah I would definitely need some advance warning!


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