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Art fairs are hard . . . and why I’ll be back

Photo of Boston's Paramount Theater

The restored Paramount sign is one of the best theater marquees in Boston.

It’s been two months since my last post, obviously a huge violation of Blogging 101, so Happy Groundhog Day everyone.  I’m back.

February is a quiet month on my art schedule. The Etsy holiday rush is over, Holly Fair 2012 is in the rear-view mirror, and my next event is Newton Open Studios on April 6-7.  Time to regroup, order supplies, update my display, and take new photos.

And reflect. Every year around this time, when I’m warm and toasty inside my house, I think about art fairs. Specifically outdoor art fairs. And, specifically, whether I should pack it in.

Here’s how my thinking starts:

  • Art fairs are hard work. Until I started participating in outdoor fairs some six years ago I never thought about the mechanics of the operation. But art fairs are exhausting. The tent is heavy. The tent weights — 30 pounds on each corner — are heavier. And then come the display walls and the tables and a chair and, finally, the art.  Even though I’ve been doing this for years, it still takes me more than two hours to get set up in the morning.
  • Art fairs are dangerous.  I’ve injured myself  in all sorts of crazy ways.  I’ve dropped framed photos and cut myself on the broken glass. I’ve jammed my fingers more times than I can remember, discovered mysterious bruises on my arms and legs, and almost broke my toe when I dropped one of my tent walls on my  foot last year. Once my finger got infected after I cut myself setting up the tent.
  • It’s hot.  Or cold. Or raining. Or so windy that I have to hang onto the tent walls to keep my photos from flying off.
  • There’s no time to eat. Often we’re surrounded by delectable treats like the offerings from the food trucks at SOWA Open Market.  But on a good day, I’m so busy talking to customers that there’s no time to leave my spot to grab some lunch.  (And forget about finding the time to use the restroom.)
  • There’s nowhere to park.  Some shows make it easy for vendors to park (thank you Coolidge Corner Arts Festival). Others ask artists to find an on-street space, which can be a challenge in some of Boston’s more densely populated neighborhoods.

And yet, something draws me back in every year.  Here’s why I won’t be quitting in 2013.

  • Artists are a community. I’ve met many wonderful artists and crafters over the years, and it’s great fun to catch up, share successes, and trade notes with fellow artists.
  • Art is personal. Fine-art and craft fairs give the public an opportunity connect directly with artists.  Online venues like Etsy are great, but art fairs let me have face-to-face conversations with current and potential collectors.
  • People are fascinating (and their dogs are pretty cool). Not only do I get to hang out with wonderfully talented artists and crafters, but art fairs provide an unparalleled opportunity for people-watching.
  • Serendipity rules. I never know when a casual conversation will turn into something more. Maybe someone will tell me about a neon sign to photograph. Or talk about a class or a lecture or a gallery show. Or maybe I’ll encounter a long-lost friend.  Art shows create connections, and some of them are quite unexpected.
  • Art fairs are fun. Yes, I may have to get up before dawn and pop some Tylenols for my aching back, but here’s the bottom line. It is a privilege and a joy for me to be part of the art-fair world.

So, yes, I will be back this spring. And when you see me at a show this year, please say hello.  I’ll be the one with the band-aids.

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