Creative Entrepreneurship

Artist Responsibility

To read, click image to enlarge.

To read, click image to enlarge.

Earlier this year, some of our Rochester Artisan members put together a document for show organizers, Happy Artists are Returning Artists. Then we decided to add a document for artists, to suggest ways they can hold up their end of the successful show bargain, Artist Etiquette. Both are stored permanently on our Biz page.

As of this writing, there are 190 art and craft shows on our 2013 Shows spreadsheet (available to Rochester Artisan members only – see Join button in the sidebar). Those shows run the gamut from large multi-day outdoor festivals to smaller church bazaars, and everything in between. That’s a whole lot of organizers and artists! Each group needs the other one – so working together towards a common goal is absolutely a win/win.

What I wanted to address today was a couple of things that came up on the post-show survey for the Maplewood Y Craft Show. If you recognize yourself in any of these, I promise you, I’m not picking on you. I just want to offer a different way to think about things. As I wrote this, I noticed that Artist Responsibility became the theme.

If people are standing in or in front of your booth chatting, blocking the way for possible customers, kindly ask them to move. “Hi. Can I ask you to step aside for my customers please?” I’ve done it several times and the talkers are always more than happy to move.

If the artist next to you is encroaching your space, chances are pretty good they just don’t realize it. Whether it’s intentional or not, nicely point it out to them. “I don’t know if you realize, you’re over the line a bit right here.” Every artist is entitled to the real estate they paid for.

A show is not obligated to provide wifi. If you want to process credit card transactions, invest in a device that can do that for you, regardless of the conditions. I will amend this to say if the show has promised to have wifi available, it should work. (I’m not techy enough to know how guest networks work on the whole, but I suspect they aren’t meant to carry the heavy traffic a craft show might bring.)

A show is not obligated to provide lunch options. Lots do, but if you’re unsure what might be available, bring your lunch, just in case. In the case of the Maplewood Y show, we announced at the last minute that the International Food Club would be offering food for sale, then hardly any of the kids in the program showed up. Lesson learned – when kids are involved, expect the unexpected. If we had it to do over, we would not announce it ahead of time, but let it be a happy surprise if it works out.

The Maplewood Y show tried a Passport Program this year. Customers were given the show’s program with an explanation that if they get 30 of the artists to initial their booth location on the map, they became eligible for a drawing for gift card prizes. This program was met with mixed reviews from the artists, pretty much a 50/50 split. It’s under review for next year’s show.

Some artists felt that signing the passport was a distraction from interacting with customers. Why would you let that happen? Let the non-customer wait, clearly.

A suggestion was made to provide name tags for the artists. Non-profits who are fundraising are on a tight budget for obvious reasons.

In my opinion, it’s an opportunity for the artist to get creative and shine. My hand-stitched name tag is unique to me alone. Even if your craft is not conducive to making the name tag (and I’m hard pressed to think of a genre that couldn’t work up something pretty cool), it seems you could make something specific to you. Glue a couple of the thingamabobs you make, to a tag. Make a border around a printed name tag with obsolete but relevant parts you use.

Lastly, ask questions of the organizer, to get the facts before stating your opinion. Before I did shows myself, I worked for another artist, helping out at her bigger shows. I’d hear comments like, “They didn’t advertise at all!” and I thought, “I wonder how they know that?”

Or at Maplewood, I had an artist tell me there were too many jewelry artists. I was curious, so I looked at the program and did the math. We had 20% jewelry artists – that’s about average. I’ve heard some shows try to keep it at 15%, I’ve heard other shows are as high as 40%.

Take responsibility for your own career. Be professional, polite, have a backbone and use solid common sense.

Overall, we were so pleased with the return rate of the survey: 63%. I just read on Survey Gizmo that the average rate of return for internal surveys (employees) is typically 30-40%. In our follow-up meeting, we poured over every question and comment and made a “Lessons Learned” list for next year.


Comments on: "Artist Responsibility" (5)

  1. Thanks; you are so very professional!


  2. Great ideas and things to think about. You mentioned name tags. I was like, “duh, I should bring my own name tag.” So I just made one!


  3. Your name tag suggestion just hit me. Why have I never done that? I can’t very well pin a bar of soap to my shirt, but I can think of something!

    I might also add, “No complaining to customers or within earshot,” and “Engage your customers in a friendly way. Don’t sit down in the back of your booth and chat with the vendor next door or read a book.”


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