After months of planning and preparation, my first art fair has finally come and gone! The Salem Art Fair & Festival was a whirlwind over three days of talking with people, meeting other artists and sharing my art. It was melting hot at times, hard work in set up and take down, and long hours on my feet.
And it was So. Much. Fun.
If you ever want to feel good about your artwork, do an art fair. I heard the words “pretty,” “gorgeous” and “beautiful” more times than I could count. I got a new word to add to my description list, too: Ensorcelled. I really love that word as a description! I’m going to keep it, along with the phrase “layered, nuanced and hauntingly beautiful” used in the Statesman-Journal article. I heard how unique it was; how unlike anything they had seen before.
One woman told me she had chills, as she looked through my work. Another woman, with her husband and son dashing ahead, stopped in her tracks at the edge of my booth and just took a deep breath. She discovered she was left behind and smiled at me slyly, “They don’t know what they are missing.”
It was interesting to watch the people who resonated with my work. They might be in a busy conversation, but they would see something that caught their eye, and were reeled in, as if by an imaginary force. They would come in the booth and carefully look at each image, very quiet. It was if my booth was an island of calm in the crazy world just beyond.
Which, if you’ve ever read my artist statement, is exactly what I am hoping to achieve. To see that reaction physically play out in so many people was incredible. To have my work going home with some of them, knowing they would enjoy it for a long time to come, was even better.
Along with sharing my art with the public, I got to meet some really wonderful artists. There was a breakfast every day for the artists, and I learned the protocol. Whoever you talked to at breakfast, you went by and visited their booth later in the day. It was a fun way to get to know artists in other mediums.
And then there were my neighbors! With three long days at the fair, you end up chatting with the artists around you a lot. On one side was Jennifer Mannila of Jenny M Studios, who made whimsical yet functional ceramics. On the other side was Nate and Mandie Fleming, the other Emerging Artists for this year. They make very cool art, furniture and lamps from recycled materials. Check them out at Velorossa Design.
I wish I had more pictures to share of all of the great artwork I saw! I barely had time to scratch the surface of the artists there. I’m going to have to do some artist profiles in the near future, because I met some artists creating amazing work.
And then… 5pm Sunday came along, and the magic ended. It was time for the tent city to come down. Two hours later, the booth was dismantled and packed up in a pile.
Which, miraculously, all fits into my Jetta Sportwagon! (OK, so for those of you who know me, it was not miraculous. It was meticulously planned and measured in advance. But it barely fit, and I was very worried when I packed it up the first time.)
After three long days on my feet, in the hot sun, barely eating, driving 45 miles each way, setting up and taking down a booth on my own, you would think that at the end I would have been exhausted, barely dragging myself home. But I wasn’t. I was buoyant.
You see, when you do something you really and truly love, you get energy, you don’t lose it. I left the fair feeling great. Sure, I was physically tired, but I cannot begin to describe how exciting the whole week was, from the newspaper article to the OPB interview and the whole art fair experience. Getting my art into the world, connecting with people through it, is something I love to do.
Next time I go to a fair, I will probably be doing what the other artists do: Comparing my sales or the weather or the crowd to the previous fair or the previous year. Looking to see who I know; who got in and who didn’t.
But this time, I had no idea what it would be like. I got to go in and enjoy the whole thing, start to finish, without expectations. I will never have another “first” art fair, I will never be the Emerging Artist again.
I have emerged. And I’m planning to hang around for a while.