Sunday Adventures at Chastain

I’m really tired out after this weekend’s show, but I do have to share today’s unusual event. Andrea and I were interviewed on camera today by two students from the Holy Innocents’ School media program. They were interviewing some of the artists at the festival for a feature on the school’s closed circuit broadcast channel just before Thanksgiving. I’m not quite sure why they chose us, since I was off visiting the porta-facility when they arrived at our booth, but they did. We did a nice tag-team job of answering their questions and trying to follow their rules, though we are far from experienced interviewees.

You may get to see the finished version of our interview at some point. I did ask them to send us a copy of the video so we could post it on the Copper Dancer Designs web site, properly credited of course, so we shall see what comes of that.

Beyond that excitement du jour, there’s not much to say about this show. We made friends with our festival neighbors, saw several of our former ones, sold some but not as much as we would have liked, and of course had yummy pizzas (apple, and white) from S&J’s Wood-Fired Pizza. I found out I’d been practicing my knit stitch incorrectly, and corrected it only to find that the correction actually makes it rather easier. The time change has me all askew, so the time has come as of now to go flop into bed & let my head hit the pillow.

What Makes an Art Festival Good, or Not

This weekend is our last art festival of the year, at Chastain Park. Even though I do find them stressful, I usually enjoy the art festivals (at least when I don’t have four in a row!). Of course, some are better than others. So what makes the good ones good?

  • Easy load-in and load-out. Load-in sets the tone for the whole festival. By load-out I’m worn out and cranky and just want to get done and go HOME. Let me get as close as possible to my space, when I need to get there. Don’t let idiots block the roadway longer than absolutely necessary while they load in or out! Unload everything, move the vehicle, THEN come back and set up. Reverse at take-down.
  • LOTS of publicity. Get the word out, and people will come. If they come, unless we’ve totally misread the demographic, some of them will buy.
  • Vendor amenities. If you bring me water & a snack a couple of times a day, I love you. If you bring me coffee in the morning, my gratitude is boundless.
  • Good neighbor artists. There is very little worse than being next to a cranky sourpuss all weekend. Yes, it happens — the first bead show that Andrea & I did together taught us the importance of attitude! Good neighbors give you someone to chat with to pass the time, to share tips & ideas with, to watch your stuff when you can’t wait another minute for, well, you know.
  • FOOD. The vast majority of festivals have crap food — you know the kind, corn dogs, funnel cakes, cotton candy, and nary a non-potato vegetable in sight. It’s not always feasible to bring your own food, and the usual crap food is really not what you need to get you through the day.
  • Well-behaved canine visitors always brighten the day with their tail wags and slobber :-).

Then there are the customers. Oh, the customers. Good customers, whether they actually purchase anything or not, make our weekend. We love big spenders, of course, but we also appreciate people that may just buy one small piece that they love. The kids that pick out one special key or vessel for themselves are totally precious. Sometimes the Right Piece isn’t there today for one of these people, but you know they will be back next time. The folks that look admiringly at our work but don’t have the discretionary funds today, well, that will change someday and hopefully they will remember and return. I love seeing my pieces go home with this kind of person.

At any show, we hope for plenty of those customers and not The Other Kind. You know them. They rearrange your display by picking up  and then just carelessly plopping items down wherever. They comment to their friends “oh, I could do that” (ah, but WILL you?). They look at your carefully crafted product and make remarks like, “Oh. That’s so…different.” Most annoying of all to me are the folks that start bargaining like you are at a flea market, making it clear that they have no concept that an artist’s time and skill are worth something. Those are the people that will not get a price break from me no matter what!

As for the weather, I take the outlook that I can’t do anything about it so I don’t let it bother me. I’ve been hot, I’ve been cold, I’ve been wet (not all at the same time, thank goodness), and I just try to take them all in stride.

There are festivals that I will return to whether I sell lots or not; there are festivals I won’t apply to again because they were a pain in the rear. Now you know why.



Why I haven’t been blogging

There are multiple reasons, of course. It’s not like I’ve been totally incommunicado. I do post a lot on Facebook and I Tweet fairly often. That isn’t blogging of course; much of it is just curating & sharing other people’s links & photos & articles.

I have been busy doing things, just not blogging. Andrea & I have been trying to grow Copper Dancer Designs, with a reasonable amount of success. We are In Good with one of the Atlanta-area art festival promoters, which sets us up for a nice show schedule. That means that, given the lousy economy, we are doing well locally. The next step is to beef up that online presence…in my spare (YAH! RIGHT!) time. We are both realists and know that this will never actually support us, but it should be good for a nice little supplemental income in the long run.

I’m still dancing. Bellydancing. Who would have thought it? In fact, bellydancing spun off its own semi-collaborative blog last spring, Thursday Nights at Windy Hill. I say semi-collaborative because I asked all the Thursday Night Ladies if they wanted access to write. So far Mary has put up one post but that’s it. Since it needs some love, I may do some of this month’s actual NaBloPoMo posts over there, with just a pointer from here. I have several topics for there that I just haven’t gotten to. I should really write out some of my current dancing quandary,  because that just might give me (and maybe others) some clarity.

I could write about work, I suppose, but why? It would just be kvetching, and no one wants to read my kvetching. Hell, *I* don’t want to read my kvetching — it’s just so much of the same sh*t, different semester. BLEAH!!

So what else? I battled depression all winter & spring, and Dad finally lost his battle with pulmonary fibrosis last month. Neither of those makes for good blogging huh.

It’s not all bad, though. I fell in love with Tybee Island over Memorial Day. I’m cleaning up my diet little by little. I’m teaching myself to knit. Mary & I did very well dancing at the Red Light Cafe show, bringing honor to the Older, Heavier Dancers (neener, neener).  The home life is quietly wonderful.

Maybe there is stuff to write about. Maybe writing about it will be another tool in the battle against the bad stuff.

I WILL Be Cheerful, Damnit!

Yes, today's weather was warmer. In fact, it was a GORGEOUS late fall day. But I'm far from perfect, and having spent the weekend feeling kind of like no one loved my work makes it hard to keep up that good attitude. This wasn't the worst show we've done, sales-wise, but it was close. I did get a couple of good ideas for new items from a couple of customers, so that helped my creativity. Our next-door booth neighbor loved one of my pairs of earrings, so I traded to her for a couple of prints of her paintings, which will go hang in my office to brighten it up. I saw an old friend from the Etowah Guild days, a fellow artist from the Avondale show, and my alternate-Friday-night-meds doppelganger there scoping out the show for a Good Mews booth next year. I had half of a fabulous cupcake, and a few REAL onion rings, the good kind. So there was good in it all.

Every show deserves a minimum of two chances unless it's a badly-run complete disaster. This was spectacularly run. So we'll give it another shot and see what happens. Sure, it may be that our work isn't right for THIS market, and if that's the case we'll move on. But the show itself is very well run, and just on that basis is worth another try.

Now to survive the week ahead, the CCSC conference & programming contest next weekend, and onward to the bead show in two weeks — THEN I can take a deep breath and go looking for my creativity once again.

Y'know, this business of being an artist is pretty damn tough, but then again, so am I!

Don’t forget the attitude!

Three years ago, at the first show that Andrea and I did together, we saw the importance of a good attitude to having a successful show. This weekend's show is certainly testing our resolve at sticking to that principle. It's pretty tough to remain cheerful and friendly when the chill has penetrated your very bones, you lost feeling in your fingers hours ago, you dread having to visit the porta-potty again because you'll have to bare your backside to the elements, and the many people that walk into your booth and say very nice things about your work then walk on without pulling out the wallet and taking a piece home.

So you look for what there is to be happy about. We did get into the show, even though we are pretty much newbies on the circuit. It's an opportunity to test out some of our new display and booth arrangement ideas. It's a local show — we get to sleep in our own beds with our own critters. We made SOME sales :-). Lots of people were asking if we'd be back tomorrow (of course; we're not going to bail out when we committed to the full two days). We got to meet and pet and snorgle LOTS of wonderful dogs throughout the day!!! We get a free cupcake to split tomorrow. We get free coffee and/or donuts tomorrow. It's supposed to be warmer tomorrow. We fall back to standard time tonight so I get an extra hour's sleep. The show doesn't open until 11 a.m. so I get yet another extra hour's sleep.

How'm I doing?

All set up, come on down!!

This weekend is a biggie for us — it's Copper Dancer Designs' first big outdoor festival! We're heading over to Chastain Park for the second annual Chastain Park Arts Festival tomorrow and Sunday. It's going to be coooooold, I expect, with tonight's low at freezing or just below. By the time I get there tomorrow around 9:15 or so, it'll hopefully be back above freezing. The high is supposed to be in the low fifties, but that's pretty darn chilly when you're standing or sitting around.

We set up for the festival this afternoon. It was in the low fifties, but it was damp and cloudy and a bit breezy. I wasn't miserable — I've been MUCH more miserably cold in my life — but it wasn't exactly pleasant. Once we got the tent up, we at least had some shelter from the breeze, and when the drizzle started we were under cover. We're confident now that the tent walls will block a decent breeze, which is comforting. Gary and I had to leave at 4:30, and leave Andrea to finish putting things out in the increasing drizzle (which was mixed with SLEET at points, eep!). The setup looks good, and this gives us a chance to work out more kinks in it, and get a better idea what is working and what needs changing. We can also get more pictures for our show applications for next year.

Oh, yeah, and hopefully we can sell some jewelry items and make a little money, too!!

Recent Doings

I know it’s been quiet here, mostly because I’ve been focusing a lot of my spare-time attention on the merger of my Art of the Firebird business with Andrea’s Four Tails Lampwork. After almost three years of doing shows together and managing money together without killing each other, or even a major snit, we decided that we might as well do an official business merger. A merger deserved a new name, so we decided after much debate on Copper Dancer Designs.

We’ve incorporated as an LLC, set up a website and a joint shop at Handmade Artists Shop, and are just waiting on that darn GA tax id to finish up the paperwork. We’ve also done three shows under the CDD name: ARTlantis 2010, Avondale Art-B-Que, and the June Down the Street Bead Show. We’re working on a bunch of applications for fall shows, so if you want to stay up to date on that, you’ll need to go over to our new website and sign up for our mailing list, or just keep checking the event calendar there.

Art of the Firebird is not going away, but I’ll keep most of the business-related stuff over at Copper Dancer Designs. That will let me post more personal things here, like my bellydance adventures, personal musings and rantings, and so on.

Photo Woes

I was trying to photograph some of my chainmaille bracelets tonight to get them listed at 1000 Markets and Artfire. Photography isn’t my favorite part of the process, but tonight was particularly aggravating.

One problem I’ve had in the past is getting a clearly focused picture because I run into depth of field issues. In automatic mode, my camera shoots at a low aperture, typically around F5.6, which means I don’t have a lot of DOF. If I up the aperture, the camera thinks there isn’t enough light. So I’d gotten a daylight fluorescent bulb for one of the regular lamps in the studio, and I added that to the two photo fluorescents I have in there. When I turned all three on, it certainly SEEMED bright enough in there, even with the photo tent filtering the light.

I decided to try to figure out Av mode (aperture priority) on my camera. Well, the user manual doesn’t exactly explain it clearly, but I finally managed. So I set the aperture to F16, but then couldn’t get it to accept a slow enough shutter speed. I generally use the two second timer on the camera, and have it on a tripod, so I should in theory be able to use a long exposure. But the camera just wasn’t happy.

I finally got some pictures taken, just to trial-and-error. When I downloaded them, I found that the ones on the black background seem a little over-exposed, if anything, and the ones on the beige tile background are a little dark. I’ll have to see how well that can be corrected in GIMP.

Some of the pictures seemed to focus through the full depth of field, but most didn’t — either the front part or the back part were still blurry. I really wish I had a “Photographing Glass and Metal for Dummies” guide so that the camera could do its job the way I want!

Show, Thoughts on Day 2

Today’s weather was nasty, so between it and the economy today wasn’t a lot better than yesterday at the show. I mean, we only made ONE sale (a rather good one, to be sure) between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Wow, just wow. It did pick up between 3 p.m. and close at 5 p.m., but that wasn’t enough to make up for the lack of sales earlier.

In talking to the other vendors, I’d have to say that sales were universally bad. I know that Audrey wasn’t happy, not just because of the slow traffic and closed wallets. Apparently the Cobb Galleria management told the wonderful “Miss Daisy,” she of the morning coffee and muffins and the afternoon HANDMADE CHOCOLATE TREATS that they “couldn’t” allow her there. Audrey, to her credit, promptly bought all of Daisy’s inventory and shared it with us vendors — props to her!

It’s not that people don’t appreciate and like our work for the most part. We heard the usual compliments and admiration. I did overhear one woman say to her husband that our work was nice but just cost too much; a couple of others were asking for discounts even though they were buying just a few little beads. I just figure that those people may not “get” the distinction between the mass-market importers, who will wheel and deal because they have substantial margins, and the artisans making one-of-a-kind items on rather slim margins with no real wiggle room. Plus there are the “Wal-Mart mentality” folks who aren’t happy unless they can get a bargain…but those people aren’t our target customer base anyway.

It’s very hard to keep up a good attitude under such a trying situation, but we did our best. We kept the snarky remarks between ourselves and a few other vendor-friends. Buying silly fleece hats, mine a blue camo cat-eared one and Andrea’s a leopard cat-eared one, from our friend Tara Roberts and wearing them all day helped. We weren’t the only ones, either. Sylvie had a tiger-striped one, and at one point I saw the Chinese man that I sometimes buy findings from in a red devil-ears hat! As we said to several people, “ALL the cool kids are wearing them today!”

I also made a second multicolor open roundmaille bracelet while we sat there, so I can say that I have open roundmaille down pat. I’ll photograph those and get them up on 1000 Markets or ArtFire soon for someone looking for a great holiday gift for someone special.

Show, Day 1

It was slow. What can I say? Pretty much we were all in agreement — even Audrey, when she came and browsed late in the afternoon, said it had been slow. Of course, we have had shows with slow Saturdays before, and they have usually been followed by good Sundays, so we shall remain optimistic.

In the quieter moments today, I had chances to chat with some of the other vendors there. I found out from Kim St. Jean when she will be teaching at William Holland Retreat next summer (the last three weeks of July!) so I can account for that in my summer plans. I had a nice little visit with my little buddy Chase St. Jean, who actually DID remember me from back in August. I even made another chainmaille bracelet, my first one in open roundmaille, using mixed color niobium rings.

Even though it wasn’t terribly busy I came home exhausted, so it’s really time to go ahead and turn in. Crossing my fingers for tomorrow!