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The art of fair weather business

The rain fell like exiting customers outside my tent at Art in the Park on Saturday. And I sat in the middle of it practicing the art of acceptance. I could do nothing but watch the gray cloud assembly line move in.

And then everything became clear – My sales were not going to cover my booth fee that day.

Everyone knows that it’s not supposed to rain on the weekend of Art in the Park. Some of the 130 10-by-10 foot tents were not prepared for rain, much less a two-day monsoon.



Our tent was one of the few without the waterproof sides attached – because we didn’t have any. All of our hard work and aspirations got drenched. Puddles of water drowned our spirits and unused receipt books.

OK, maybe it wasn’t as melodramatic as that.



At least my booth partner and I didn’t drive all the way from California to be in the show. Being in the arts and crafts show circuit is a full time job for many of the attending vendors. And weather is only one of the things that craftsmen cannot control.

It’s a tough artisan market out there. Most of the artists I’ve interviewed have another job to support their art habit. They’ve learned if you want to do what you love for a living, you have to be a businessperson (That’s why I’ll never make jewelry for a living).

Artists have to work just as hard to market themselves as they do to market their craft. They have to be aggressive, unrelenting and oh yeah – talented. But talent has little to do with weather patterns.

Another natural obstacle of art shows is the wind. I was in Art on the Mountain last summer and a few strong gusts of wind continually knocked down my display, breaking at least five of my necklaces. I eventually learned the art of utilizing cement blocks and clamps.

I ran into a new challenge last weekend. It involved having the presence of the overbearing tent manager, aka my father. My parents were in town for the show and my dad did a great job of keeping score of all of our sales and sales techniques.

After each customer left, we got pointers on how to seal a deal. And we got tips on how to arrange the merchandise, talk to customers and basically do everything that we weren’t doing.

Everyone has a different salesmanship style. Mine is more of the laid back variety. While my mother told one customer how the necklace matched her shirt, her hair color and complimented her complexion, I watched the African dancers perform. We made a great team.

That’s the beauty of art shows – everyone supports each other. All of the tents make up a mini colony of artisans trying to brave the elements. We watch each other’s booths, we lend each other duct tape and we recommend each other’s products.

After all, we are all in it together. So when the clouds never opened up to sell us their bright blue skies, we packed it up and exchanged our goodbyes and good lucks. We may not have experienced record sales or cleared out our inventory, but we ate a lot of kettle corn and shared much needed laughter in the rain.

Every art show represents an accomplishment just for putting yourself out there and risking failure. Nobody packed it in early and every one of us at Art in the Park relearned the art of fair weather success.


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