It’s Saturday morning which, until last week, meant wake up eventually, then breakfast and blog. As of last weekend, Saturday mornings became wake up early and devote hours to art, selling art. Or, from another perspective, getting to spend a day hanging out with artists, folk who don’t care about convention (unless it is about what is “art”), but who do care about exploration, innovation – and how to make a living from passion. An art sale blends idealism with realism. Here’s a bit of what it’s really like to be an artist.
Breakfast – It has to be hearty. It’s spring in the northwest. It snowed this week. Sitting beside my art for hours is not very active or warming, unless it happens from within. What a great excuse for a cheese omelet and bacon. Unfortunately, I had to give up wearing shorts for the day.
Packing – Prints, satins, books, racks, stands, and hanging hardware, are obviously going into the car. Chairs, plural, because I need the second one as a foot rest; plus food, a thermos of tea, the computer for blogging, the camera for practicing candids, and undoubtedly other paraphernalia that all unconsciously add up to about eight trips to load the car. Selling art includes the art of sitting back and letting the people browse and shop while being available. Computers are handy. I can focus on mine while surreptitiously watching the traffic, in other words, being productively sneaky. Practiced nonchalance involves as much material as the art. A mastery of zen might make it easier, but then maybe a zen master wouldn’t be selling anything material.
Setup – I’m lucky. Most of my art is on paper. Books and prints aren’t as fragile as the work being set up by sculptors, potters, and metalsmiths. Glass, ceramics, and thin metal can dent, bend, scratch, and shatter. My art merely wrinkles, and doesn’t weigh nearly as much. I could set up in about ten minutes, but socializing stretches it out to about thirty. I’m done before the event’s begun, because I got here early to get a good spot. That leaves about an hour of sitting and typing as others busy themselves before the public arrives. Cold fingers though.
Open – The door’s open! The garage door’s been open since we got here, which is why the air isn’t balmy. Oops. I brought the wrong satins. Oops. My first visitor noticed that the prints were put in the stand backwards. The first one was faced out, but the rest weren’t. Maybe I set up too quickly. The first sale of the day! One of the painters just moved to the area and this is her first show in Washington State. And she sold art. During a break in the traffic we all celebrate.
The kiln and furnace are firing up. Paul Petersen hosts this event in his studio as much out of community support as anything else. He sculpts in metal and glass, but the space he’s rented is larger than he needs. (Susan Jensen gets thanks too for her organizing skills.) We fill the rest. We haven’t decided whether we’re the show and he’s the sell or if he’s the show and we’re the sell. No matter.
Artists, in general, even if they are competing, support each other. There’s safety in numbers, and it gets better from there. Gaps in traffic are times for stories, suggestions, maybe a bit of gossip. Can they really knit a doily big enough to cover a police car? Who can entertain the eight year old the longest? Ouch, someone says as they singed their eyebrows as they got too close to the kiln. Where’d the traffic go? It must be time for the sketchers to start sketching. Sketching is the new trend.
Art, in general, is becoming a new trend, and not only for the sake of art. Baby boomers are retiring, and many of those who don’t revert via consultancy or dive into golf are becoming writers, photographers, painters, sketchers, sculptors, and weavers. Seattle’s lucky enough to have Daniel Smith Art Supplies. As Starbucks was to Denny’s, Daniel Smith is to Michael’s. Visits are made to the suburban store but pilgrimages are directed towards the main store in the Industrial District. Paints and papers, brushes and canvases, portfolios and easels pull in professionals and passionate enthusiasts. Within the writing world, the number of writers is increasing even as the number of readers is decreasing, though maybe the maturation of the e-book industry is turning that around.
Despite the drop in art education, younger folks are also turning to art independently. Partly it may be a frustration with jobs and available careers, but I think it is also because they are encouraged and enabled by digital media and communities. Their posts are going to be embellished with appealing graphics, videos, and words; entry arts into the more complicated addictions of three-dimensional physical art.
I think art is also appealing because it allows for expression, and many organizations and corporations have become bureaucratic, stifling creativity. Art doesn’t require bureaucracy. Self-expression can be judged by self. And if someone wants to buy it, the artist gets paid to make more. Jobs and careers may only deliver paychecks. Sold art generates self-esteem and revenue.
The sales part of the day is winding down. Sales happen. Compliments are more frequent. My photos have a very high compliment to sales ratio. We’ve all found new inspirations and ideas. Paul even succeeded at his first attempt at a new type of lamp. Big smile there. We’ve even spent some time as a real estate news center. Evidently people are shopping, getting ready to buy. Well, architecture is art too. (Check out Ross Chapin’s new book.)
Late news. Another Paul piece sold. Smile again.
Soon it will be time to tear down, pack up, and drive home to metamorphose into a dancer for tonight’s dance, yet another art, but just for the fun of it. Nothing to sell. No need to be showy. Lots to share, and that’s worth a lot.