My Trimline tent arrived a few days ago, and I've had a chance to set it up. Well....sort of.
Like building the jugsaw puzzle?
Not at all. Assembling the pieces and figuring out what goes where wasn't so bad. I've heard lots of reports that it's quite confusing, even after you've done it many times. In fact, at one show earlier this year, there was an artist working on his trimline when I arrived, and by the time I set up my entire booth (almost 2 hours) he was STILL working on it because he kept putting it together wrong.
So, after this I was expecting it to be a bit of a horror. I was thus relieved that it wasn't so difficult. In fact, I read through the instructions once very carefully, and then went about assembling it. I immediately knew where every piece went and didn't have to refer back to the instructions at all.
Granted, my spacial perception and mechanical assembly abilities are quite adept. I'm good at visualizing things and assembling them in my head. That may give me an edge in the process, and may explain why it was so easy for me. Other's experiences may vary.
First off, my goal for building it my first time was to do so on my own. I will be doing a show by myself this weekend, and I wanted to see if I'd be able to handle the booth on my own.
Putting it together for the first started off pretty good. I had the roof frame fully assembled in about 15 minutes. It took another 15 to attach the sta-bar, unroll and align the roof, and play with the vents to see how they worked. This all went pretty much without a problem.
Next step was to attach the legs. This is where things didn't go so well, at least not by myself. I think this wouldn't have been so bad for a 7 foot tent, but I got the 9 footer. Getting it raised that last foot or two was the really difficult part. I finally managed to get it on my 3rd try, but it wasn't easy. Hopefully this will be like most things and get easier with experience.
Next, I put on stabars, the awning frames for the front 30" and the rear 54" awnings. I attached the rear awning. Zipping it on was a bit of a pain. The material is quite heavy, and it's hard to hold up while getting the zipper started. Once the zipper starts, it's a piece of cake.
This is as far as I got. UPS arrived laster than I'd hoped, and after unpacking, reading instructions, and getting oriented, I had only a few hours before sunset. In fact, by the time I got the poles bundled up and ready to carry inside, it was almost dark enough to require a flashlight to check the lawn for left behind parts. So I didn't get a chance to attach any of the walls or zipper strips.
Issues I had
I only ran into a few small snags during setup. The first was that the canopy roof changed slightly, but the instructions haven't been updated to match. It seems they replaced some adjustable clip straps with velcro instead, but the instructions say nothing about it.
I also screwed up putting the roof on. I didn't notice until I had it up on all 4 legs, but the roof was slightly crooked. I didn't lay down the material perfectly. I wouldn't have even noticed it, except that the zippers (for the walls and awnings) don't lineup correctly, and my awning didn't go on right.
Attaching and detaching the sta-bars was also a little tricky. It was just a matter of finding the correct angle. Something I'm sure will get easier with experience.
The only other problems I had were failure to follow directions properly. I put the easy riser L brackets on backward (extremely minor...had no ill effect), and I forgot to attach the riser poles before I put on the roof material.
Using the canopy at a show?
So now the question is...am I ready to use this canopy at a show? I was hoping to use it at my show this weekend. However, plans have changed, and I'll be handling the show by myself, including setup. So far, the weather is looking good for the weekend, so I'm debating if I want to try setting it up by myself, or just use the easy up for another week. After that, I have a few more weeks before my next show. That will be a little extra time to practice setting up.
Before I started, I realized the first setup was going to be extra difficult while I learned correct techniques. However, even taking that into account, it was still more difficult than I imagined. I'm wondering whether the 9 foot height was overkill.
I'm hoping my doubts will quickly subside. After all...when I did my first couple shows last year, it was a lot of work, and I do remember thinking "my god...what I have I gotten myself into". I wasn't sure whether I'd want to continue on doing shows, considering how difficult it was. Yet this weekend I did my first solo setup for a show (my wife was sick). In addition, I did it in the morning of the show, not the previous night, and I had only 2 hours to get it done. The surprise is that I managed to get it all done no problem, without any sign of panic. Hopefully, with time, setting up this new canopy will become as routine and unstressful.
...click here to read more!
Thursday, August 30, 2007
My Trimline tent arrived a few days ago, and I've had a chance to set it up. Well....sort of.
Posted by Ron Frazier at 6:30 AM
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
In my last post, I discussed the many reasons why I decided to upgrade my canopy. The next step in the decision making process was deciding which tent to order, and then which options to order it with.
The field of candidates wasn't very large to begin with. My starting options were
Trimline (by Flourish)
Craft Hut (now owned by Flourish, also)
Light Dome (by Creative Energies)
Finale (also by Creative Energies)
Show Off (by New Venture)
There were lots of differences to consider between models, and many of them weren't better vs worse choices, but rather a tradeoff with advantages on each side.
The Light Dome is built with a more or less dome shaped top (thus the name). Every other canopy uses a barrel shaped design.
The Light Dome FAQ explains that the dome shape is better because it offers less wind resistance. However, considering that a closed up tent already has a 10'x7'(or larger) flat surface exposed, I don't believe the tiny extra bit on the end of the barrel canopy adds to that significantly. And as far as when your booth is opened, the dome would seem to act as an umbrella, whereas the barrel shaped canopy all have vents (either standard or as options) to relieve air pressure.
In addition to my intuition, the fact that every other canopy in this comparison uses the barrel shaped design gives me a bit of pause about the possible merits of the dome.
The Trimline tent uses a steel frame construction. Every other tent uses an aluminum frame. This is one of those areas where there is a definite tradeoff.
Aluminum has the advantage of being easier to work with. It's lighter, thus easier to handle and transport, and easier to lift as you are assembling the frame. This can be especially important for people with injuries, or older/smaller people without much strength.
Steel frame, on the other hand, has the advantage of being more solid. Its added weight is a definite advantage when it comes to standing up to strong winds. It's also more durable...being more resistant to bending. Even with the added weight, I've spoke to other artists using the steel Trimline tents, and even some late 40's, smaller women told me they were able to set it up on their own when necessary.
Being that I'm a relatively young guy in good shape and health, the added weight posed no hindrance to me, thus I saw steel as an advantage.
Available Options & Pricing
Most canopies had roughly the same set of options, but with slight variations in implementation. All have various size awnings. With the exception of the Light Dome, all have vents and skylights (either standard or optional).
Again, in pricing, all of the booths start in roughly the same price range...about the $825 (give or take $25). However, digging a little deeper, I began to see more variation in pricing than was immediately obvious. The Trimline includes an assortment of options in the base price that are extra on most of the others. Roof vents are $70 extra (each?) on the Show Off, and the Finale doesn't list a price. Skylights are also standard, but cost $70 extra on the Show Off, and the Finale (again) doesn't list a price. Awning can zip on any side of a trimline, but require optional zippers to be installed on the other tents.
When it comes to options, again the Trimline seems to have the price advantage. For a trimline, a 2.5 ft awning is $105, and a 4.5 ft is $115. Compared to the Show Off, thats a bargain. Showoff awnings start at $135 for a 2ft and go up to $225 for a 4 foot.
In the future, I'll likely want to upgrade to a double wide tent. Most of these tents have a rain gutter option so that you can buy two 10x10 tents, place them side by side, and then connect together with the gutter. The Trimline takes a different approach. Instead, you buy extra parts and a 10x20 canopy top and use that instead of your 10x10 top.
Each way has advantages. The rain gutter option advantages are:
1) Setting up a smaller 10x10 is easier than a 10x20, which can be a bit awkward and is definitely a 2 person job.
2) If you want to use the tents separately you can. For example, if you are a husband/wife team, it would be possible for you to each take 1 tent to different shows one weekend, and then the next weekend put them together to do a 10x20.
The advantages for the Trimlines combined 10x20 are:
1) Fewer parts...there are no redundant legs in the middle. This means less weight to carry, and fewer parts to assemble
2) Slightly faster to assemble than 2 individual canopies.
3) Less chance of leakage in the middle connection (not that I've heard of any cases, but it's one less possibility)
4) More open. Since you don't have the half circle ends in the center, the roof appears more seamless and your booth more open. Supposedly this gives better airflow, too.
On the above matters, its sort of a draw to me. I can see the merits of both systems, and it's difficult to say which I'd prefer.
One option that's been on my list has been to get a tent taller than the standard 7 foot design. This gives the opportunity to have more wall space inside the booth to hang more pictures. The Trimline tent has options for an 8 foot or 9 foot tent. The Light Dome and Finale say they have taller options, but aren't explained in detail on the website. The Show Off does not (as far as I could tell) have any option for taller canopies.
Marketing and Presentation
This is where I really have to give a huge applause to Flourish. The Trimline tent is very thoroughly explained, with each feature and option covered in great details. You can see every option available from the website along with it's price. Everything from extra illumination tops, lighter or darker awning materials, darker side walls, zippered walls, zipper strips to zip up without removing awnings, etc. When I finished reading their website, I felt almost as if I had already assembled one of these tents in person. I knew what the parts were, how they go together.
About the only thing missing from Flourish's site were more detailed prices for when you order the 8 and 9 foot tents. They give you the upgrade price for the base model, but don't mention how much extra the wall zipper options are.
The Light Dome and Finale were on the absolute opposite end of the scale. The website included prices for the base model and absolutely nothing else. I have no idea how much an awning is, or a vent, or a skylight, or extra stakes, or a replacement part, or ANYTHING AT ALL. Certainly I could call them up and get pricing, but thats not the way I work. I like to have a full list, and look over it many times, considering different options and the value of each one. Sometimes I'll be lying in bed and think "you know, what if I went with this...how much extra is that feature". If I need to talk to a salesman to get even a rough estimate of cost, thats a big turn off to me.
As far as descriptions go, the Light Dome and Finale weren't described in much detail. I could get the basic overview, but nothing more than I could have learned from a tri-fold pamphlet.
The Showoff is more in the middle. All of it's options are laid out with prices. However, it had very little in the way of descriptions.
In terms of website design and ease of use, the Trimline website was by far the winner. It was very professional looking and the easiest to navigate in terms of layout. The Light Dome and Finale web site way by far the worst. Horrible to navigate and felt like it was designed by someone who made their first website. Once again, Show Off was somewhere in the middle. While something like this shouldn't really matter when evaluating the canopy, I can't help but think it does tell you something about the company that designed and will service that canopy.
Making a Choice
It's probably obvious by now that I had a lot of really good impressions about the Trimline, and that is indeed the choice I made. However, I'll give a quick summary of each anyway.
The Craft Hut was never much of an option. Although it is still sold and serviced through Flourish, and I'm sure they do an excellent job of supporting it, I can't help but feel they treat it like a second rate canopy. I could foresee a day when they stop supporting it, but the Trimline will likely enjoy a much longer life.
The Show Off was eliminated by it's much costlier options. In addition, it didn't appear to have the taller height options.
The Light Dome was eliminated because it seemed to have fewer options available, and its unique design didn't seem to bring much to the table. In addition, the frame design seems a bit more flimsy to me.
The final decision was between the Trimline and the Finale. In light of all the things discussed previously, I felt the Trimline offered a better deal, and I was more comfortable about knowing how it was designed and what I'd be able to do with it.
Here is what I decided to go with for my trimline:
10x10 booth with the 9ft tall option
enhanced illumination top
stabar kit (strongly suggested for a normal booth, more so for the 9 foot).
easy riser kit (to make it easier to put up by myself)
1 wall with a middle zipper
1 wall with a 2 zipper universal door wall
3 awnings - a standard 30", a standard 54", and a black out 54"
substitute 3 way connectors instead of L-brackets on 1 awning (so I could use all 3 at once)
4 zipper strips (so I can close up the booth without removing the awnings)
extra pair of spiral stakes
The tent came out to $1660, and then another $130 or so for shipping. I was told it would probably ship Monday unless some parts were not in stock (the 9 foot booths aren't as common, so parts may be less readily available). Being that it's now Tuesday night and my credit card has yet to be billed, I presume something was indeed out of stock. However, I was told that I would definitely have it before my Labor Day Weekend show. I'll post an update sometime in mid to late September to say how I like it.
...click here to read more!
Posted by Ron Frazier at 8:29 PM
Monday, August 20, 2007
When I started preparing for art shows a few years back, my objective was to minimize my entry investment so that I didn't lose too much money if things completely flopped on me. In order to achieve that goal, I had to make sacrifices in several areas. One of those areas was my canopy. With the better canopies running $1000 and up, getting a cheap ez-up style canopy for $200 was a great way to reduce my up front costs. However, upgrading to a better canopy was always on my agenda.
I've had a few good shows recently, and this run of good fortune has allowed me to build up a bit of savings in my bank account. With the bank balance growing, it certainly is tempting to walk away with the profit (or should I say, recoup some of money I've previously invested). However, I decided to reinvest the money back into my business and buy a better canopy.
Pressing my luck
In anticipation of rain problems, I've already made some modifications to my booth. Although they've worked so far, they are far from perfect.
Even with the modifications, I've already had one incident of rain leakage. Luckily I got off easy on that one, only suffering minor damage to about $20 worth of mat board. Since then, I've been keeping an eye on the weather before each show, paranoid of another storm. A few shows ago, I went out and bought some waterproof spray (2 bottles at $8 each) and recoated my canopy. I've been calling my wife at home each night before I close, to have her take a last minute look at the radar. If it looked like something might happen, I put away my expensive items each night.
At my last show, there was rain scheduled for Sunday, but as of Saturday night it wasn't forecast to show up until mid Sunday afternoon. I figured all was well, but the next morning I woke up, checked the radar, and already the area was covered by a giant green blob. Fearing the worst, I made the 45 minute drive from home to the show, leaving an hour earlier than planned so I had ample time to clean up whatever mess there was. Luckily for me, the showers ended up being scattered, and they completely missed the show area. Certainly a relief, but I think I've pushed my luck too far. And besides, I could have used that extra hour at home.
Other reasons to upgrade
In addition to being paranoid about the rain, there are other issues with the cheaper canopy. First, the legs wobble a bit, and it's sometimes difficult to get everything setup straight so that the 4 walls zip up. Even when you do get it right, all the walls seem like they are each about 1/2 inch too small, so zipping up the last corner is a real pain.
My canopy came with one of the nicest awnings I've seen on an ez up. Most ez-ups have no awning or a cheap awning, but mine has an awning thats very nicely built. Unfortunately, the walls won't zip up when the awning is retracted, so you have to leave it up. Sometimes thats not a great idea, though. Especially in windy weather, or when you are concerned another patron may drive through and hit it with a car. In those cases, I needed to unscrew the awning supports from the frame and reattach it the next morning.
Attaching the walls each time is a pain. They velcro around the frame in 5 places on each wall. It's time consuming and tedious. To make it easiest, I've resorted to attaching these walls before I fully extend the legs. However, that doesn't work on windy days, and I'm left spending 20 minutes attaching the velcro from the top of a ladder (a bit awkward, tiring, and stressful).
Some of the velcro that holds the top in place has started to wear down and come loose in windy weather. I've sewn on some additional straps with snaps to counteract this, but it's not perfect.
I'm sure there are a few other reasons I'm missing, but I think the point has been made clear enough. The cheap canopy fulfilled its purpose and got me by for a year and a half of shows, but it's time to step up to something a little better designed and with a bit more peace of mind.
Next time I'll talk a bit more about what canopy I chose and why, and also what options I went with.
...click here to read more!
Posted by Ron Frazier at 6:07 PM
Monday, August 13, 2007
In the couple years doing shows now, I've been fighting with the trick of rolling up the wall tarp of my canopy. When my wife is there to help, it's not a problem. However, when I end up having to open by myself, it can be a real pain.
Previously, the way I did it on my own was to:
1) Start rolling up the wall at one end.
2) After you roll it a few times, you'll see that the other end of the wall isn't rolling. At this point, I put a clamp onto the rolled up wall so I can let it go without it unrolling
3) Move to the other end and repeat the process.
4) Move back to the first side and repeat steps 1-3 until the wall is fully rolled up
This works, but it's a huge pain.
Lately, I've been looking at upgrading my canopy. In the process, I was browsing the flourish website and I found a gem of a tip in there. In case that link ever stops working, I'll summarize the process here:
Grab the 2 bottom corners, one in each hand, and fold them inward onto the canopy until they form a point at the bottom middle of the wall. If you are having trouble visualizing it, think of how you make the first folds of a paper airplane to create the pointed nose.
When you get the point made, use one hand to hold both corners together, and use the other hand to grab the newly formed point. Step back as far as you can so that the wall is as close to horizontal as possible. Let go of the 2 corners with your first hand and use both hands to start rolling up point. Once you get it started rolling, the entire wall, edge to edge, with roll up with it.
What once used to take a frustrating couple of minutes is now just an easy 15 seconds of work. Its a small tip, but it makes things less stressful, and if you are ever late opening your booth in the morning, less stress and an extra minute or 2 is a great thing.
...click here to read more!
With regards to my Sterlingfest show report and the credit card that I mentioned was declined, I am happy to report it has been taken care of. On Friday, I received a check in the mail for the full amount, so that made Sterlingfest officially my most profitable show yet.
However, that title wasn't long lived. I did another show this weekend and beat my sales record by $10. In addition, expenses for this show were slightly lower, and it was a shorter show. I think I probably blew away my previous records from just about every aspect. I'll post more about the show in a few days.
...click here to read more!
Friday, August 10, 2007
After going through the first year of shows with declining sales, and then starting this year with the worst 2 shows yet, I then had my best show ever. Now this past weekend, I've continued this positive trend by having another great show. It almost squeezed its way past the Wyandotte show to become my new most profitable show, but one thing didn't pan out, so it will be my second best.
The show was 3 days long. The first 2 days, the weather was quite hot (90+ degrees) and very humid from the storms that hit the area the day before. That made the show quite uncomfortable. However, day 3 was more tolerable, with temperatures in the high 80s and humidity a bit lower.
Attendance was pretty poor for most of the first 2 days, though it did pick up in the evening. Most likely, the extremely hot weather can be blamed for that. There were several cases of heat stroke, and the local TV stations covered the story telling people to stay home instead of going to the show. The third day saw considerably better traffic.
The show ran from 10am to 8pm each day. Each night, there was a free concert scheduled right as the show ended. As a result, many people were showing up for the concert and walking through the show. The concert Saturday night was actually pretty good...the lead singer of Styx performing several Styx songs (that kept us entertained as we tore down the booth). As a result of all the extra people, many booths stayed open past the 8PM closing time.
Sales were alright the first day. Not spectacular, but not terrible. About inline with what I anticipated for the first day of a 3 day show. I stayed open 20 minutes past close but didn't make any sales. However, I did have a lot of people come in, and its hard to say whether or not any of those people came back to buy another day. The extra time may or may not have been worth it.
The second day was a bit better in sales. I stayed open almost 1 hour past close. Again, I made no sales after close, but I don't know if any of those people came back on Saturday to buy.
On Saturday (the final day) I was expecting sales to pick up considerably. Initially, I thought they would. The first 2 days I didn't get a sale until about 1PM. However, this time sales started immediately, and I had several sales the first 2 hours. After that, traffic continued to be very nice, however I went on a 6 hour stretch without a single sale. After those first few hours getting my hopes up, that was a very discouraging 6 hour letdown. After that, I had a few more sales, but when the show reached it's 8PM close time, the final tally was that day 3 was my worst day. I felt very disappointed.
After having no sales the previous 2 days after close, I was tempted to just start packing up right away. However, traffic was incredible, and I kept my hopes up and decided to stay open longer. About 30 minutes after close I had a good sized sale, and then more came in. We started packing up about 45 minutes after close, and while we were, we got a few more customers. By the end, we ended up making over $400 in sales in the final extra hour.
When I got home and added it all up, it appeared that this was my best show yet, surpassing my last show by about $75. However, when I got to phoning in my charge slips, I ended up with one problem: a $120 sale was declined. I waited until monday and tried it again and it was still declined. I mailed a letter to the customer on Monday asking her to call me back, but as of right now I still have not gotten a response. Although I still have a bit of hope that I can get it resolved, as of now I'm counting it as a loss, so this is only my second best show. Thats still great...I'm more than satisfied.
A Few Accomplishments
Its always great when something notable happens at a show...something I can remember later on. This show had 2 of those moments.
Before my first show, I picked out 25 photos in a variety of styles and printed them up in 3 different sizes. Over the previous 8 shows, there have been about a half dozen of those prints that have never sold a single copy. I was starting to give up on them, but on Friday I ended up selling one of those photos. That was quite memorable. However, even more memorable was when I sold a second copy of that same photo on Saturday.
The other accomplishment was selling a framed photo. Selling something framed is pretty rare. Yet on Friday I sold a framed copy of my most popular photograph. I had my wife run up to the store and get me another one of those frames so I could replace it for Saturday. I ended up selling the second one on Saturday night after the 8pm close time.
Other notable events from the show include a guy who looked at a photo that I sell for $345 matted/$585 framed and offered to take the framed copy off my hands if I'll give it to him for $285...it took all I had to not laugh at him and tell him to get the hell out of my booth. Then there was the lady that got pretty upset with me because she found a couple of prints that didn't have labels and thus she didn't know where they were from. I'm not sure why she got so bent out of shape about it...I was standing right there and when I noticed they were missing the tags I immediately told her where they were from. I think some people are just searching for something to be unhappy about.
The show was pretty well organized. Things were laid out decently. The show was a bit smaller...under 100 artists, so it was a bit more personal feeling, rather than being some giant fair. The show was held in front of the library, which was opened the whole time, so we had air conditioning to retreat to every now and then, along with bathrooms with running water and a refrigerated drinking fountain. Even after the library closed, the lobby remained open so we could get to it all.
There was plenty of artist parking immediate behind all the booths, so nobody had to walk very far. In fact, I was able to park my trailer directly behind my booth. That was quite convenient.
It was a good show for me, and I'll definitely be back next year. I made enough money from this show that I think I can now afford to upgrade my EZ up canopy to something much better.
...click here to read more!
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
I just returned from a vacation a few days ago and realized I never posted my show review. Better late than never.
After starting the year off with my worst 2 shows yet, I went into my next show in Wyandotte a bit concerned, yet hopeful and with a promising gut feeling. When it was all said and done, it was a long 4 days, but my best show yet.
When I went to setup Tuesday night, it was very windy. There were scattered thunderstorms in the area, and although it looked like they weren't going to hit the show area, there were some very strong winds that did affect the area.
When I arrived, before I even turned onto the street, the first thing I saw was the bent up frame of an EZ up sticking out of the dumpster. Not a good sign. As I turned the corner onto the street where the show would take place, the road was blocked by 2 more tents lying upside down in the road.
Being that I also have an EZ up style tent, I was a little concerned. However, I chose to setup anyway, because 1) My tent was a sturdier design than a lot of other EZ ups, and 2) once setup with my weights, gridwalls, and cross braces, I've got around 250 pounds holding it sturdy. My tent had survived through stronger winds in my backyard (however I didn't have the advantage of anchoring it the grass as I did at home).
Setting up was a bit of a chore, and when I was done with the tent and walls, I decided it probably wasn't prudent to be setting up merchandise yet, so I just left everything in rubbermaid containers in the middle of my tent and closed up.
I went back early the next morning to start hanging up frames, filling the print bins, hanging signs, etc. When I got there, the front corner leg of my booth was pushed in about a foot. At first I thought maybe some idiot had hit the booth with a car, but there didn't seem to be any indication of damage (no dents, marks, scuffs, etc). I concluded that the wind must have just pushed that corner in overnight.
A Long Show
The show was quite long. My longest so far had been two 8 hour days. This show was four 11 hour days. 44 hours total, plus driving back and forth each day, plus time to replace inventory at night. All said, I had almost zero time to rest (though I made sure to get plenty of sleep...didn't want to be sleep deprived for such a long show).
The show ran from Wednesday to Saturday, and I was really expecting most of that time to be a waste. I honestly didn't think there would be very many people there on Wednesday/Thursday. However, I was very wrong. Every day except Friday was pretty well busy from about 15-30 minutes after open until 15 minutes after close. For Friday, the traffic didn't really pick up until about 1PM, but was pretty steady after that. Other than that, there were very few lulls in the crowd on any of the 4 days.
First day sales were terrible, but that was exactly what I was expecting for day 1. Most of my sales were cheap gift cards. Day 2 sales were pretty decent. It would have been disappointing had it been a weekend show, but given that it was a Thursday, it actually exceeded my expectations. Day 3 I was expecting to be considerably better, but I actually had lower sales...about the average of the previous 2 days. The final day ended up being a great day, though...over twice the previous 3 days combined. While not a spectacular amount for a long 4 day show, it was my best show ever, so I consider that a success.
Mostly Well Organized
Overall, I was very pleased with how well the show was organized. I'll start off with the few small complaints I have. First, the setup seemed like it could have been a bit smoother. Unlike most other shows I went to, there was no check-in...just show up and setup your booth. That wasn't a problem for me, but other artists had issues. A few artists couldn't locate their spot. Others had someone else already setup in their spot. Asking other artists if there was someone around to help with setup just resulted in shrugged shoulders. Now, perhaps there was someone running things further down the street (the show was 4 blocks long), and all one had to do was go down and find them. However, if so, this was still in contrast to most of the other shows I've done, where the volunteers were very visible during setup.
The other complaint I had was regarding parking. With 350 artists at the show, we were given a lot big enough for maybe 50-100 cars to park and then just told in the informational packet "there is plenty of parking around the downtown area". True, there was plenty of parking in lots and streets, however almost EVERYTHING was labeled as 2 hour parking. I figured the police would not be enforcing it for the show, however, if that was the case then the welcome packet didn't say a thing about it. I chose to play it safe and ended up finding a free (and mostly empty) lot about 15 minutes later.
Other than the 2 small complaints, things were handled nicely. Booths spaces were only 10'x10', so that meant no back space. However, the show had booths laid out in 2x2 quads, which meant that every booth space was a corner space (for no additional fee), and double booths were double corners.
In the morning, there were free cookies, donuts, and coffee in the city hall. Several times a day, volunteers would come by and hand out free water, cheese or peanut butter crackers, or mentos. They had teams of volunteers come by every hour or so to sweep up any trash. In addition to the standard awards, they had an additional award where artists could choose their favorite artist. My only complaint was that you were allowed to vote for yourself (and artists were expressly told so), so I imagine most artists voted for themselves (I certainly did). The award would have been more meaningful if that were prohibited. Finally, on the last day they gave out a free battery operated fan to anyone who filled out the show survey.
Quality and Variety of Vendors
While there were a few booths with low quality "arts", overall I felt most of the booths seemed to be good quality. In addition, despite this show being much larger than the other shows I've been in, they kept a good variety of arts in the show. The number of photographers in the show was about what I've become accustomed to in shows half the size, and their wasn't a whole lot of overlap in subject matter. I generally felt the same way about the other categories, too.
Talking to Other Photographers
Early on Saturday morning, I left my wife in charge of the booth and went to speak to some other photographers. The first one I spoke with had stuff similar to mine. He complained about how poorly he was doing, and when he stated his sales so far, my heart sank a bit...3 times what I had done. When he told me he had been doing art shows for even less time than I had, it sank again a bit further. However, when I continued on to talk to a lot of other photographers, many of them weren't having a whole ton of luck. That was a bit reassuring, but still, it definitely made me stop to reevaluate a lot of what I do. If someone with even less experience and comparable work was doing better, there are definitely things that I need to change.
When it was all said and done, I felt that it could have gone better for me, but since it was better than anything I had done so far, I was satisfied. I'll almost certainly be going back again next year.
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