This weekend was my a big milestone for me as I head down a new and unknown career path as an artist: my first show!
First of all, I want to start by saying that I am so grateful for my setup/tear-down/booth-babe helpers over the span of the weekend, and all of the pendant-fishing-line-tying/purple-table-cloth-sewing/graphic-design-making help leading up to the main event. And I am so appreciative of the friends and family who came to show their support.
Getting ready was stressful, but seeing the booth all setup was really rewarding. I’ve never seen my work displayed together, all at once like that before. As soon as we were done setting up, I had an overwhelming feeling of pride. I made those! We did that! As my Dad said at the end of setup, “this is the biggest school project you’ve ever done…” to which I responded, “I better get an A.”
But the feelings that followed that initial pride were a bit of a rollercoaster. The first morning was excruciating. People would walk by my booth, smile at me or comment on how beautiful my work was, and keep walking. I felt like I was holding out a tray with my heart on it and I might as well have been saying, “Anyone? Does anyone want a piece of my heart?” It was one of the most vulnerable moments of my life. It was almost like an audition where you put your heart and soul out on the stage and you have no idea whether the director is impressed or suppressing laughter. Rejection was a very real possibility.
After a couple of hours, I had barely made any sales. Thank goodness Navin was there with me to remind me that even when I go to shows, I will often walk around the show first to get my bearings and then go back to the booths where I saw something I wanted to buy. I’m not sure whether that was true in this case, but I love him for saying it and calming me down. And I’m so lucky that several of my loved ones came in those early hours to give me encouraging vibes.
But then something amazing happened. Someone came (pretty much skipping) over to my booth, clearly excited to find me. I didn’t recognize this person. This was not one of my loved ones there to give me a pat on the back or a congratulatory hug. This was someone I didn’t know. She came over to the booth and told me that she had found me online and came to the show ESPECIALLY FOR ME! She complimented me on my work (and my prices) and proceeded to point her finger around my booth… “I’ll take this one… and this one…and my daughter wants this one…” Suddenly, my first real sale was a flurry of activity as my mom and I wrapped up her pieces and rang her up. That one person (okay, let’s call her a fan) made up for the entire morning of vulnerability and doubt. That night, she went on Facebook and wrote an unsolicited review on my page, and commented, staking her claim, on every piece she bought.
The show was in no way a run away success. I didn’t lose money but I didn’t make much either. But I figured out how to display my work. And I think I found my #1 fan. Plus I almost ran out of flyers for custom orders and my upcoming open house, so maybe I found a few more fans too. I also had a bunch of people ask me, unsolicited, if I would be teaching classes and give me their names and contact info so they can sign up when I do.
Overall, it was a great experience. This was a huge leap for me, leaving my career in technology marketing and becoming an artist. I never thought it would be easy, and so far it hasn’t been, but after this past weekend I feel validated and motivated and encouraged.
Thanks to everyone who came out! On to the next one…