Alright guys, I am slowly but surely ticking off my artist checklist. I can finally mark the "FIRST BIG ART MARKET" box with a big, fat X. To be honest, I was hesitant to even sign up for a marketplace event. I knew I had what it took to make the product, make a lot of different products, and make something targeted toward a small town crowd. But it still felt very daunting.
My biggest concern was that no one would buy anything. That seems kind of obvious to me. It's like with anything we try for the first time in life - rejection is always a scary reality we may have to face. Luckily for me, I have a very sweet support system and they all assured me that even if I sold nothing, it would be great exposure. So let's dive into my takeaways. Woo!
1. The products that people loved was split FOUR ways.
So the people who attend Mistletoe Market in Perry, GA come from all across the southeast. This makes it difficult to pin-point the consumer because with an audience that broad, you can't target what items you need to sell that people will go crazy over. Do they want floral paintings, hand-painted ornaments, prints, or large original abstracts? They only thing I knew they wanted for sure were GIFTS! So to dodge this issue I essentially created FOUR different products with four very different price points. Some items I only created for the show and offered reduced pricing on my originals as a "show special" to cater to this specific market's consumer. I wanted to make sure that no matter what someone's paycheck may be, they could leave with a piece of original artwork by me.
Original abstracts on paper (8x10 and under) framed and sold as a "ready to go gift", abstracts on HDF board framed in distressed wood, florals on mini 6x6 canvases, and hand-painted quotes + coordinates. I used to practice hand-painted modern calligraphy a few years ago and brought back these quotes only for the show.
This Abe Lincoln quote was VERY popular!
2. You must channel your inner sales gal.
The only job I've ever had is in retail. So selling is something I REALLY know how to do! However, I've never had to sell my OWN product so I found this challenging within the first five seconds of the doors opening. I try to be humble and not boast about my work. This can often come across as not being confident. Perhaps it's both? Needless to say, when hundreds of people were walking by my booth and looking, touching, and enjoying my artwork I would let them walk away. I didn't know how to reel them in! Wouldn't I sound cocky if I talked about how great my artwork is? Finally I convinced myself after I let this happen with the umpteenth person that I needed to get over myself. I am a salesperson and who knows this product better than me??! Once I got my sales pitch down, things went a lot better and I felt much more comfortable being my biggest advocate. I had SO much fun talking about framing, fabric pairing, and creating gallery walls with my customers. I was able to combine all of my strengths into single conversations and not only have satisfied customers but make new friends and clients over the next two days!
3. It takes a team and a LOT of planning but it's worth it!
I'm definitely not the best planner in the world. I'm still working on this every day. But with a couple of lists and a few weeks, you can totally make your market dreams come true. And this is coming from someone who also has a retail job on top of making art! Learning how to juggle your time the week prior to the show is huge, too. I recommend delegating any tasks that can be taught in 20 seconds or less you to your mom, friends, or husband. For instance, Brandon packed the car with all of our gathered items for our booth while I finished up adding the final touches to three paintings upstairs. Asking someone else to do your tasks is NECESSARY. You, as the artist (or boutique owner, plant shop aficionado, or hair stylist supreme) must take care of the things ONLY YOU can do. Everything else that's easily teachable i.e. tearing down paper, wrapping breakable items, or even running those last minute errands, need to go to your team! You can thank them later with a group dinner, on you!
4. People might not always understand what you do but they will always support you.
This one is kind of specific but coming from a small town and then heading back there to participate in this market was not only a big deal for me, but it was a big deal for Perry. I come from the land of pecan orchards, corn fields, seeing everyone you know at the one good restaurant in town on Friday nights, and then again in church on Sunday. I love this little place (15,000 isn't THAT little but it's no Atlanta.) Perry doesn't produce a ton of creatives. They don't discourage them but it's just not in our blood. However, if you've read my bio, you know my parents are entrepreneurs and have always supported my creativity. And my art teacher, Cathy Heller, was a huge advocate for my abilities. I even visited her class on Thursday before set-up and spoke to her AP art class. So needless to say, the sweet people in my community always saw me as a shining star for my artistic talents. And for this reason, I really, REALLY wanted to make them proud when I came home for this marketplace.
I haven't spent a ton of time in Perry after I left in 2015 so it was kind of a coming out party for me as a REAL artist to a lot of people I haven't seen since I was 18. I can't tell you how many people came up to my booth just to hug me and say how unbelievably proud they were of me. It meant more than its weight in gold to hear those words. My biggest takeaway from this part? Never underestimate what you do and how people perceive you. Also, small town love is a strong thing and I am so proud to be from my little corner of the world.
After the market was over, Brandon and I decided to put down our deposit for next years show. We met so many amazing, kind, creative people and saw so many old faces that it was an easy decision. I also felt the need to continue to inspire the people in my small town and use myself as an example that you can become whatever you want to be no matter what. Period. Plus, I like the idea of filling people's homes with beautiful things. All you need for a market's success is a support system, a little planning, and a LOT of coffee. So hop to it and good luck!